Wednesday, November 22, 2006

resquiescat in pacem

Lewis died at 5:30 p.m. at The Kilns, one week before his 65th birthday on Friday, November 22, 1963; the same day on which President Kennedy was assassinated and Aldous Huxley died. Every year at this time, for my Thanksgiving treat, I read Peter Kreeft's _Between Heaven and Hell_.

Most of you will have it--it was the first Kreeft I ever read. If you don't, get it. It's a delightful mythical dialog between JFK--playing the role of modern humanist--Huxley--the "New Ager"--and Lewis. It's a sort of Areopagus scenario with Paul battling Epicureans on one side and Stoicism on the other. It's barely over 100 pages and super-easy reading. It's still my "go to" book for people outside the academy who want to read something on the reasonableness of Christianity.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Brave New Britain?

Respectable Baby Killing -- Building Mainstream Support for Euthanasiaby
Wesley J. Smith

The push to permit infanticide has entered the mainstream. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (RCOG) has recommended that a debate be had about whether to permit “deliberate interventions to kill infants.” The recommendation, which was widely reported in the media, was in response to a query from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics concerning ethical issues pertaining to health care which prolongs the life of newborns. It was at the urging of the RCOG that euthanasia of infants was added to the topics that the council would consider. As reported by the London Times, the RCOG’s recommendation states: A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late term abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome. The article goes on to quote a number of British doctors and professors who support euthanasia. Consider carefully what has happened here. A prestigious medical association has seriously suggested that killing some babies because they are seriously ill or disabled might be ethically acceptable and, at the very least, is worthy of considered and respectable debate. It is about time that people start paying attention to this. Read the complete story.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Difficult Pastoral Pickle Indeed

The document also takes up the issue of baptizing the adopted children of gay couples, saying that while the matter "presents a pastoral concern the Church does not refuse the Sacrament of Baptism to these children" if there's reason to believe the children will be brought up Catholic.

11/14/2006 (link)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Pope on the Limits of Science

Benedict XVI addresses the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the occasion of their plenary assembly being held in Rome.
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2006 (

As some of the papers presented in the last few days have emphasized, the scientific method itself, in its gathering of data and in the processing and use of those data in projections, has inherent limitations that necessarily restrict scientific predictability to specific contexts and approaches. Science cannot, therefore, presume to provide a complete, deterministic representation of our future and of the development of every phenomenon that it studies. Philosophy and theology might make an important contribution to this fundamentally epistemological question by, for example, helping the empirical sciences to recognize a difference between the mathematical inability to predict certain events and the validity of the principle of causality, or between scientific indeterminism or contingency (randomness) and causality on the philosophical level, or, more radically, between evolution as the origin of a succession in space and time, and creation as the ultimate origin of participated being in essential Being.At the same time, there is a higher level that necessarily transcends all scientific predictions, namely, the human world of freedom and history.

Whereas the physical cosmos can have its own spatial-temporal development, only humanity, strictly speaking, has a history, the history of its freedom. Freedom, like reason, is a precious part of God's image within us, and it can never be reduced to a deterministic analysis. Its transcendence vis-à-vis the material world must be acknowledged and respected, since it is a sign of our human dignity. Denying that transcendence in the name of a supposed absolute ability of the scientific method to predict and condition the human world would involve the loss of what is human in man, and, by failing to recognize his uniqueness and transcendence, could dangerously open the door to his exploitation.

In short:
*humans have free will and so their behavior cannot be--and will not ever be--perfectly predictible merely from observations of the natural order.
*That we cannot predict certain *natural* phenomena does not mean that they are not caused.
*That we evolved along a certain course does not explain why we did so. *That* we did and *why* we did are two separate questions. The natural sciences are capable of addressing the first but not the latter question.

For more on this see Stephen Barr's excellent pair of essays in First Things: The Design of Evolution and The Miracle of Evolution.

The Crisis in Ecclesiology

I was discussing with a friend the nature of dissent and how hard it is to dissent correctly--future book project: _The Diffident Dissident: How to Disagree with the Church_--and I ended up expressing what I thought was perhaps at the very root of the crisis in catechesis.
Again, my worry is that the biggest part of the problem is catechal: people have very little idea what—or more importantly why—the Church claims authority. From what I can tell working with religious ed with teens and with undergrads at the Newman Center is that the average Catholic’s idea is this: The Church is there to tell us to fight racism and other forms of discrimination, basically to love each other and be decent. They also tell us some theological stuff which is presumably true but so arcane that I’m not interested. However, they clearly overstep their boundaries when they invade my personal life, especially my sexual life. They are almost all—almost without exception—very old white men who have never been in a meaningful relationship with a woman—but who are probably secretly gay—who are so completely out of touch with the modern world that there is no reason to listen to them about such matters. In my heart I think probably a lot of the theology is outdated as well, but as long as I’m not teaching that we should just keep out of each others way.

I think that's an accurate description of a *lot* of people's attitude toward the Church and it is not without some reason that they have that attitude. It's hard *not* to have that attitude if you are not very historically and philosophically minded. When one is primarily concerned with the historical and philosophical aspects of the Faith one's mind is constantly drawn away from the concrete present moment either into abstractions or the "glory days". Now please keep in mind *I* am such a person, so *I* often overlook the concrete present. But when I do, it is not always a pretty sight. Since most traditional Catholics are very historically and philosophically minded, they tend to under represent to their consciousness the concrete present and all its particular scandal.

It is *right* to put present concerns in proper historical and philosophical context. And when you do, the picture which emerges is a people struggling to follow God often wandering far from the path but always called back to it and full of Saints and sinners along the way. But we can't blame people for being distracted by the bad stuff in front of them or for tending to believe a story our essentially anti-Catholic culture has been telling them all of their lives. Someone doesn't have to be stupid or evil to accept it. People claiming to be from the Church--weeds among the flowers--have given them plenty of reason to believe it.

Key words: dissent, authority, cateches

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Meet Me in Saint Louis

Google has an interesting service which allows you to see the search stats on high-volume search strings.

Being a growing Catholic I first searched for "Pope". Not too surprising was that Ireland was in the lead. Saint Louis was 3rd. Saint Louis was also #3 in "Catholic" and #1 in "catechism" and #4 on "priests" and #5 on "Mary" and #7 on "Saint" (most here were from Europe). It did not, however, show up on "relic," (unless restricted to US) "angel," or "apparition" (all France).

They were also #10 on "Bible" and #3 on "God" as well as "Jesus".

Dublin and Pittsburgh were the only two cities I noticed showing up a lot.

You are free to draw your own conclusions, but somehow I think this shows that Saint Louis is just right!

Categorical Defeat for Pro-Lifers

Today's Headlines from
• Abortion Advocates Capture House, Appear to Have Senate Too
• Missouri Voters Appear to Have Approved Human Cloning Measure
• California Voters Reject Parental Notification on Abortion Second Time
• South Dakota Voters Defeat Statewide Abortion Ban on Tuesday
• Oregon Voters Opposed Parental Notification on Abortion Measure

I'll be pondering this over the next couple of days, but I suspect that moral failure among Republicans was the main cause.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Electioneering? Maybe.

Serious possibility? Definately

Bottom Line: There may be one more supreme court justice to nominate in the Bush administration which will need to be confirmed.

Possible Supreme Court Retirement Shakes Up Election Last Minute
Washington, DC ( -- Speculation that a pro-abortion member of the Supreme Court may be planning to step down soon is providing a last-minute shake up in a hotly contested Congressional election that is expected to go down to the wire. The head of a judicial watchdog group says political observers believe Justice John Paul Stevens may retire. Stevens, an 86 year-old judge appointed in 1975, has been battling health problems and several reports have appeared in recent days that his health has taken a turn for the worse. Stevens is a member of the five justice bloc of judges on the high court who back legalized abortion and his retirement could potentially pave the way for the confirmation of a justice who could be the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade. However, should Democrats capture control of the Senate tomorrow, President Bush would likely have a tough time securing the nomination of a justice would strictly interpret the Constitution and not read a so-called right to abortion into it. Sean Rushton, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, writes about the Stevens retirement possibility in a national editorial yesterday. "It points out what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the 20-year movement to recast the court with a constitutionalist majority," Rushton said. Rushton urged voters to consider the potential for a Stevens retirement when they vote and to keep control of Congress in pro-life hands. Read the complete story.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The News You Won't Hear

The Big Stem Cell Research Breakthrough The Media Won't Discloseby
Wesley J. Smith

Did you see the size of those headlines? "Stem Cells Used to Create Artificial Liver," the New York Times screamed on its front page. "Breakthrough! Stem Cells to One Day Create Organ for Liver Transplant," was how the Washington Post put it. "Stem Cell Breakthrough Demonstrates Viability of New Science," yelled the Los Angeles Times. "Stem Cell Hope for People with Liver Disease," agreed USA Today. The story was so big that Katie Couric narrated a special report, expressing her profound gratitude for the hope these dedicated stem-cell scientists had brought to suffering humanity.

What's that? You didn't see those headlines? You say you somehow missed the story? Well, don't blame yourself. You are not out of touch. The above headlines never appeared, the stories have not been written. Don't get me wrong: The breakthrough described in the fictional headlines is real. British scientists have created an artificial liver--from scratch--using stem cells. The research does offer tremendous hope for the alleviation of human suffering. But you probably didn't hear about this amazing achievement because the stem cells the scientists used to build a human liver did not come from embryos: They came from umbilical cord blood.
Read the complete story.

UPDATE: I verified this on Google News and the search reveal 21 stories. Of those, not a *single* one was a US news agency. It was reported in Australia, the UK, and India, and it was reported by three pro-life research groups. If this story is going to get out, it’s going to have to be via email and the blogosphere.

MO Update

Missouri Amendment 2 is a Fraud, It Promotes Human Cloning
by Cathy Ruse
Constitutional Amendment 2 is a fraud. It purports to ban human cloning, but the fine print actually creates a constitutional right to human cloning. It purports to ban the purchase and sale of human eggs, but the fine print actually gives a constitutional safe haven to human egg trafficking. It purports to keep its hands out of taxpayers' pockets, but the fine print actually puts biotech special interests above the law and gives them constitutional arguments for public funding. The first big deception involves human cloning. Page one appears to ban human cloning, but deep in this 2,000-word amendment is a provision giving biotech firms the constitutional right to conduct "somatic cell nuclear transfer." That's the scientific term for cloning, the same method used to clone Dolly the sheep. But don't take our word for it. The National Institutes of Health says, "somatic cell nuclear transfer is the scientific term for cloning." And the Food and Drug Administration explains how a Scottish scientist "successfully used a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to create a clone of a sheep." Read the complete story.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Truth about Two

In this regard please see Frank's comments on the post below.

Missouri's Amendment 2 Endorses Human Cloning Science Experts Say
Jefferson City, MO ( -- Over two dozen experts in science, medicine, law and ethics have released a joint open letter saying that Missouri's Amendment 2 endorses human cloning, despite claims from its supporters to the contrary. They say Missouri voters are being misled into thinking that it actually prohibits human cloning when the opposite is true. "Amendment 2 creates a constitutional right for researchers to engage in human cloning. Efforts to deny this are misleading and deceptive," they write. "As individuals who have studied this issue in depth, we hold that it clearly authorizes and promotes human cloning." In their letter, the experts conclude, "the people of Missouri should know what they are actually voting on." The signers include experts in embryology, microbiology and maternal/fetal medicine, as well as past and present members of the President's Council on Bioethics and several founding members of Do No Harm: the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. Read the complete story.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Can someone tell me why this is happening?

Missouri Embryonic Stem Cell Research Amendment Leads by 10
Jefferson City, MO ( -- The measure to promote human cloning and embryonic stem cell research in Missouri now leads by 10 percent among likely voters there. A new survey shows opposition to Amendment 2 is higher than in the last poll, but support for it is up as well. A new SurveyUSA poll conducted for KSDK-TV St. Louis and KCTV-TV Kansas City finds Amendment 2 leads among likely voters by a 50-40 percentage margin. Compared to a week ago, opposition to it has increased from 36% to 40% but support for the proposal is up 5 points, from 45% to now 50%. As voters solidify their views on the controversial measure, its lead has risen one point and time is running out for pro-life advocates to encourage Missouri residents to shy away from perhaps permanently having their state support human cloning for research purposes. Just 10 percent of likely voters are now uncertain how they will vote on the measure, down from 18 percent in the previous Survey USA poll. Rural and Suburban voters back the Amendment slightly while urban voters back the Amendment decisively. Women (51-39 percent) are slightly more likely to favor Amendment 2 than men (49-42 percent) and older voters, black Missourians, Democrats, backers of pro-abortion candidate Claire McCaskill, and lower income voters are more likely to support the proposal. Read the complete story.