Friday, January 23, 2004

Internationalization of our duties in Iraq

One of the most brilliantly ironic moments in President Bush's recent State of the Union address was when he said the following:
"Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq."
. . . and during the standing ovation that followed, and looking quite disgruntled . . . Hillary Clinton stood up.

In Short, I am "Moderately Pro-Choice"

In remembrance of National Right To Life Day, celebrated every January 22nd on the annual anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Roe vs. Wade (1973), and in honor of the thousands of protestors who annually drive to Washington, D.C., to march to the Supreme Court, and since I couldn't make it to the protest march this year, it seemed only decent and proper to come up with a "thought for the day" of some kind. Accordingly, I've retrieved from my files the following quotation from Princeton professor, Robert P. George:

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go as far as supporting mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even non-judgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity--not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately 'pro-choice.'"

[Dr. Robert P. George is George McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and earned his doctorate in philosophy of law at Oxford University. He currently sits on the President's Council of Bioethics and is author of numerous books on constitutional law and jurisprudence. And for any intellects dim enough to require an explanation, the foregoing statement is not intended to be taken at face value, but as a parody and reductio ad absurdum refutation of the fallacious reasoning employed pervasively by proponents of a "pro-choice" position favoring "abortion rights." ]

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Ill-advised attacks on Mel Gibson's The Passion may backfire

I have been amazed that the attacks on Mel Gibson's film The Passion, continue unabated long after the film has been acquitted of any shadow of anti-semitism by a broad spectrum of Christian, Jewish, and secular viewers who have been invited to preliminary screenings of the film. In fact, the vast majority of viewers, even those who went in fearing the worst, have been effusive in their praise of the film, many of them confessing that it reduced them to tears.

Despite this, the onslaught continues. The January 18th, 2004 issue of the New York Times, in it's Arts & Leisure pages, featured a malicious piece of mud slinging by Frank Rich, with the innocuous-sounding title, "The Pope's Thumbs Up for Gibson's 'Passion.'" While admitting that he has not seen the film and doesn't know if any of the charges against it are true, Rich impugnes the motives of Gibson and those involved in the promotion of "The Passion," derisively maligning their use of the Pope's personal remark after a private screening of the film, that "It is as it was." Rich writes:

What can be said without qualification is that the marketing of this film remains a masterpiece of ugliness typical of our cultural moment, when hucksters wield holier-than-thou piety as a club for their own profit. For months now, Mr. Gibson and his supporters have tried to slur the religiosity of anyone who might dissent from his rollout of "The Passion."

From another quarter altogether, Rabbi Daniel Lapin has warned that the glut of ill-advised attacks that have come out of Hollywood and the East-coast media establishment are not only unwarranted but mean spirited and may backfire on the Jewish community. Not only does he believe that the charges of anti-semitism made against Gibson's film have been utterly refuted, but he worries about the integrity of those raising such charges:

As an Orthodox rabbi with a wary eye on Jewish history which has an ominous habit of repeating itself, I fear that these protests, well-intentioned though some may be, are a mistake. I believe those who publicly protest Mel Gibson's film lack moral legitimacy. What is more, I believe their actions are not only wrong but even recklessly ill-advised and shockingly imprudent. I address myself to all my fellow Jews when I say that your interests are not being served by many of those organizations and self-appointed defenders who claim to be acting on your behalf. Just ask yourself who most jeopardizes Jewish safety today, people acting in the name of Islam or Christianity?

Again, Rabbi Lapin questions the motives of those-- especially Jewish critics-- who have been attacking the Gibson film:

I believe the attacks on Mel Gibson are a mistake because while they may be in the interests of Jewish organizations who raise money with the specter of anti-Semitism, and while they may be in the interests of Jewish journalists at the New York Times and elsewhere who are trying to boost their careers, they are most decidedly not in the interests of most American Jews who go about their daily lives in comfortable harmony with their Christian fellow citizens.

For the full article by Rabbi Lapin, see his article in National Review (September 26, 2003), entitled Protesting Passion".

When is a spade a spade?

On the uses of language

I have often wondered about the proper balance between decorum and honesty in language, whether it's possible to be honest yet tactful and decent, without losing the substance and force of what I want to say, or whether I must consign myself to forever surf the cusp of the curling wave between accuracy and decency, never saying quite exactly what I mean in the interests of civility, if not congeniality. Most of us are well acquainted with the experience of the husband who is called upon to respond to the wife's question: "What do you think of my new dress, honey?" Few of us, even if we thought it, would likely respond: "My dear, at best it looks the color of rotting algae, at worst like the vomit of a sow who's gorged herself on spinach."

Recently Dale Vree, editor of the New Oxford Review, has suggested that in view of some of the disgusting acts homosexual men involve themselves in, we ought to quit abusing the otherwise denatured and erstwhile cheerful word "gay" in our references to them and just call them "fags." Vree even did a sort of brief etymological analysis of the term to justify his usage of it, as I recall. Anyway, we all know how completely horrid such words sound in our ears when we hear them. Vree's question, however, was one about accuracy and honesty.

I had a friend in grad school who always said that honesty was an "overrated virtue," arguing that a bit more mendacious side-stepping of the truth might help us get along better and smooth things out with those who don't quite think alike. He may have a point. Nevertheless, the issue raised its head yet once again in a recent Reuters News article about an eighty year old Belgian Cardinal, Gustaaf Joos, who insists, as the banner headline of the article declares, "Most Gays Are Perverts." Says the Cardinal: "I am willing to write in my own blood that of all those who call themselves lesbian or gay, a maximum of five to 10 percent are effectively lesbian or gay. . . . All the rest are just sexual perverts." Not shy about stepping up to the plate and batting his opinion out into the grandstands, the Cardinal declared: "I demand you write that down." According to Joos, "real homosexuals" don't wander in the streets in colorful suits, but are people who have to live with a serious problem and need help. "We have to help these people and not judge them," said Joos. (For the full article see Reuters report).

It is true, as Joos says, that the Catholic church rejects homosexual practice, but not the homosexual person. It is also true that the Church has been far too lenient, if not cavalier, in its screening procedures for admitting men into the priestly ministry, allowing pederasts and other perverts into the sacristy. It is also true that the vast majority of sexual abuse cases in the Catholic priesthood have been between homosexual priests and young men, and that this fact has never yet been faced squarely by the public media for fear of the "gay lobby's" influence.

On the one hand, I find words like "fag" and "pervert" tactless and offensive, and I doubt that I would ever want to use them as ad hominems. On the other hand, after spending a semester in England amidst the oppressive "propriety" and ubiquitous "understatement" of the Brits, and amidst the pussy-footing political correctness of our own media spokes-HUMANS, I have to admit that a part of me admires an 80 year old curmudgeon who can say to hell with his reputation and call a spade a spade.

Monday, January 19, 2004

12 myths every Catholic should be able to expose

Recent promotions for Crisis magazine have included the following pedagogical questionnaire. How many can you answer?
  1. Christianity is no better than any other faith. All religions lead to God.
  2. Why should I believe the Bible? The Old and New Testaments contradict each other countless times.
  3. I don't need to confess my sins to a priest. I can go straight to God.
  4. People's memories of their past lives prove that reincarnation is true...and that the Christian view of Heaven and Hell is not.
  5. Properly interpreted, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.
  6. If the Church truly followed Jesus, they'd sell their lavish art, property, and architecture, and give the money to the poor.
  7. Catholics should follow their conscience in all things...whether it's abortion, birth control, or women's ordination.
  8. Dissent is actually a good thing, since we should all keep our minds open to new ideas.
  9. There's no such thing as absolute truth. What's true for you may not be true for me.
  10. I don't need to go to Church. As long as I'm a good person, that's all that really matters.
  11. Natural Family Planning is just the Catholic version of birth control.
  12. Someone can be pro-choice and Catholic at the same time.

For answers from Crisis magazine's editor, Deal Hudson, click HERE.

Things you've probably forgotten about Iraq

The following, with minor revisions, just in from the internet: You've probably heard that the ruins of ancient Babylon are just outside the city of Baghdad, but did you know the following details about the important history and roles that the region now called Iraq has played down through history?

  1. The Garden of Eden was in the area now called Iraq (though, of course, it sure doesn't look much like Paradise on earth today, thanks to Saddam)
  2. Mesopotamia which is now Iraq was the cradle of civilization!
  3. Noah built the ark in Iraq.
  4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq.
  5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq.
  6. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor which is in Iraq.
  7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.
  8. Jonah preached in Nineveh - which is in Iraq.
  9. Assyria which is in Iraq conquered the ten tribes of Israel.
  10. Amos cried out in Iraq.
  11. Babylon which is in Iraq destroyed Jerusalem.
  12. Daniel was in the lion's den in Iraq.
  13. The 3 Hebrew men thrown into the firey furnace were in Iraq (further, if you accept the interpretation that the 4th person mentioned in the firey furnace was Jesus, then you can say that JESUS has been in Iraq too !)
  14. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon saw the "writing on the wall" in
    Iraq (as Saddam probably did too).
  15. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Children of Israel captive into Iraq.
  16. Ezekiel preached in Iraq.
  17. The wise men were from Iraq.
  18. Peter may have preached in Iraq.
  19. The Babylon described in the Bible was a city in Iraq, as you have probably heard before.

    Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are Babylon, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, more exactly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Iraq, means country with deep roots. Indeed Iraq is a country with deep roots and is a very
    significant country in the Bible. Here's why:

  20. Eden was in Iraq--Genesis 2:10-14
  21. Adam & Eve were created in Iraq--Genesis 2:7-8
  22. Satan made his first recorded appearance in Iraq--Genesis 3:1-6
  23. Nimrod established Babylon & Tower of Babel was built in Iraq--
    Genesis 10:8-97 & 11:1-4
  24. The confusion of the languages took place in Iraq--Genesis 11:5-11
  25. Abraham came from a city in Iraq--Genesis 11:31 & Acts 7:2-4
  26. Isaac's bride came from Iraq--Genesis 24:3-4 & 10
  27. Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq--Genesis 27:42-45 & 31:38
  28. The first world Empire was in Iraq--Daniel 1:1-2 &2:36-38
  29. The greatest revival in history was in a city in Iraq--Jonah 3
  30. The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq--Esther
  31. The book of Nahum was a prophecy against a city in Iraq--Nahum
  32. The book or Revelation has prophecies against Babylon, which was the
    old name for the nation of Iraq--Revelation 17 & 18

No other nation, except Israel, has more history and prophecy associated
with it than Iraq.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Some news you aren't getting from Iraq

Nobody can argue that the daily announcements in the news of American deaths in Iraq since the official cessasion of hostilities in May of last year has been anything but horrible. Few of us, however, have been informed by the media of the widely ignored positive developments behind the scenes in Iraq. Some of these developments have been chronicles in a recent letter sent by the Commanding Officer at MWSS-171 to his Marines and Sailors, and accoring to all the "urban legend" sites on the net it appears to be true. Among the items of good news, it is reported that . . .

  • the first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on
    active duty.
  • over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.
  • nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are functioning.
  • the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.
  • on Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts-exceeding
    the prewar average.
  • all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are
    nearly all primary and secondary schools.
  • by October 1, Coalition forces had rehab-ed over 1,500 schools - 500 more than scheduled.
  • teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.
  • all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.
  • doctors salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.
  • pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons
    in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.
  • the Coalition has helped administer over 22 million vaccinations to Iraq's
  • the Coalition has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large
    and small, as part of a strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq.

For the complete report, click here.

A brief plea: keep your pants on!

My good friend, Donegan Smith, came by my office the other day with this noteworthy news item from The Guardian (London):

"A small chapel at Murtosa, in northern Portugal, is the only Roman Catholic church where it is acceptable to drop your trousers and show your bum. The reason? The local saint, Goncalo--a colorful 13th century priest--has a reputation for curing hemorrhoids. All you have to do is show him the affected region, say a prayer and, according to locals, the pains disappear. Now, here's a saint who gets to the bottom of things."

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Exposing The Davinci Code

Since the publication of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, I have been surprised by the number of people I've run into who have read it. Usually I don't give much mental space to popular publications of this sort, even when controversy surrounds them. But while my wife and I were recently visiting my sister and her husband, they said that they had each read the book and expressed great interest in a number of points in it raised about the Catholic Church, among them, the allegations made about the Catholic prelature, Opus Dei, which they seemed to regard as some sort nefarious and shadowy Catholic international KGB network. After further discussion, I determined that Brown's book was playing to a prevailing wave of anti-Catholic sentiment and, in fact, feeding the pervasive flood of public misinformation about the Catholic Church. In light of this, I was happy to find the article in a recent issue of Crisis magazine by Sandra Miesel devoted to a blistering expose and review of Brown's Da Vinci Code. Anyone who would like some guidance in sorting out the thesis and contents of Brown's book could benefit from reading Miesel's review, which can be found in the feature section of the September, 2003 issue of Crisis magazine.