Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Benedict XVI: Christian Radical

By Samuel Gregg

As the condom-wars ignited by Benedict XVI's Light of the World abate, some attention might finally be paid to the book's broader themes and what they indicate about Benedict's pontificate. In this regard, perhaps the interview's most revealing aspect is the picture that emerges of Pope Benedict as nothing more and nothing less than a Christian radical.

Those accustomed to cartoon-like depictions of Joseph Ratzinger as a "reactionary" might be surprised by this description. But by "radical," I don't mean the type of priest or minister who only wears clerical garb when attending left-wing rallies or publically disputing particular church doctrines.

The word "radical" comes from the Latin radix, meaning "root." It's in this sense Benedict is radical. His pontificate is about going back to Christianity's roots to make, as Benedict says, "visible again the center of Christian life" and then shining that light upon the world so that we might see the truth about ourselves.

At Christianity's center, Benedict states, is the person of Jesus Christ. But this person, the pope insists, is not whoever we want him to be. Christ is not the self-help guru proclaimed by the charlatans of the Prosperity Gospel. Nor is he the proto-Marxist beloved by devotees of the now-defunct liberation theologies. Still less is Christ a "compassionate, super-intelligent gay man," as once opined by that noted biblical scholar, Elton John.

According to Benedict, Christ is who Christ says he is: the Son of God. Hence, there is no contradiction between what some call "the Christ of faith" and "the Christ of history." In Light of the World, Benedict confirms that underscoring this point was why he wrote his best-selling Jesus of Nazareth (2007). "The Jesus in whom we believe," Benedict claims, "is really also the historical Jesus."

Such observations hardly seem revolutionary for a Christian. But the context of Benedict's remarks is a world of biblical studies dominated by what's known as the historical-critical method. Among other things, this involves placing scripture in its historical conditions and exploring the different literary genres used by biblical authors... Read the whole article.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Outside the Magic Circle

Tension builds between the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and orthodox Catholics.

By Dominic Scarborough

The Holy Father’s September visit to the United Kingdom was widely regarded as a great success, both as a tonic to British lay Catholics and as a wake-up call to the country’s secular society. But the visit also highlighted the tension that exists between his pontificate and what dismayed English Catholics call the liberal “Magic Circle” of bishops who make up the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (BCEW).

Several of its number are known to be deeply opposed both to this papacy and to that of John Paul II. The first reason for this opposition is that the members of the BCEW have been largely self-selecting from a small pool of like-minded “insiders” who come through lines of patronage that can be traced back to one man, the late Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool. At the Second Vatican Council, Worlock had been one of the first of the English bishops to promote a new liberal vision for the Church.

The vision appropriated the structures, cultural loyalties, and financial contributions of the old, inward-looking, triumphalist “ghetto” Church to build a new, outward-facing Catholicism that focused on social climbing and liberal politics. Ultimately, Worlock’s vision aimed for the broader acceptance of Catholicism by the secular elite.

This post-conciliar vision of a more visible Catholic presence is, however, at odds with Pope Benedict’s conceptions of what visibility and presence require. The BCEW’s vision ever since the days of Archbishop Worlock has aimed at “liberating” Catholics from their past and helping them to embrace the values of secular society. But Pope Benedict’s vision aims at fostering orthodox Catholics who can act as a “creative minority” in the wider culture. The differences between these two visions are ultimately irreconcilable and go to the heart of the debate over the meaning of Vatican II.

The second reason for the tensions with the Pope is the structure of the BCEW, which appears to undercut the individual bishop’s teaching role in favor of presenting a common front on every issue. The BCEW has mimicked the power structures of the traditional British trade unions that look anachronistic today. The BCEW is a rigid bureaucratic structure centered on the idea of the central committee and employs a plethora of professional lay and clerical sub-committees, all paid for by the ordinary Catholics it claims to represent. The irony is that the pursuit of this agenda has been to the detriment of halting the decline of the very working-class, “grass-roots” Catholicism that once gave the bishops a legitimate voice on issues of real social concern.

This “grass-roots” Catholicism has been decimated by a collapse in religious practice among the indigenous Catholic population, which, if it were not being buoyed up by massive levels of immigration from Eastern Europe and the developing world, would have already signaled the end for many parishes and even dioceses.

The BCEW may have succeeded in opening up the doors of the Church to the world, but instead of the world walking in, Catholics have walked out, especially those who have grown up in the post-conciliar era never knowing the safety of the “ghetto” Church and who prefer to take their worldliness from the world itself rather than from a self-consciously worldly Catholicism. For many Catholics the Church now exists only to “hatch, match, and dispatch” and retains the nominal membership that it does largely because it runs the best free schools in the country.




Read the whole article here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

America's Forgotten Newman?

by Joseph P. Duggan

It is accepted wisdom that the newly beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and his associates in the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement were influences in the faith formation of members of the Episcopal Church in the United States, including some who followed Newman's path of conversion to Roman Catholicism. Less appreciated are the stories of made-in-the-USA Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholic converts, contemporary or even antecedent to Newman, and probably influential in the Cardinal's own spiritual odyssey.

Though there may not have been a "movement" in America of scope, celebrity, academic prestige and literary heft to compare with that of the Oxford divines, there were notable moves by individuals that deserve their place alongside Newman's. To give two clichés some well deserved mangling, not all of the great 19th-century Crossings of the Tiber took place Across the Pond.

During the early days of the American Republic, when much of the Empire State was still frontier territory, Christian clergy of every church and denomination were pressed to emphasize pastoral duties above intellectual pursuits. John Henry Hobart (1775-1830), an Anglo-Catholic and one of the first leaders of the Episcopal Church following American Independence, was exceptional in his integration of scholarship with pastoral and charitable endeavor. As assistant minister at fashionable Trinity Church in lower Manhattan, he inspired a parishioner, a young society matron named Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, to deepen her faith and involve herself in direct care for the poor. Arguably the most startling event during his tenure at Trinity was Mrs. Seton's conversion in 1805 to the humble parish of St. Peter's, the only Roman Catholic church in New York City.

As Episcopal Bishop of New York from 1816 until his death, Hobart became founding dean of the General Theological Seminary in New York (1817). In 1822, he founded the institution in Geneva, New York, today known as Hobart College. That same year he gave his daughter Rebecca's hand in marriage to Levi Silliman Ives (1797-1867) and ordained Ives a deacon. In 1824, Bishop Hobart traveled in Europe, spending several months in England and dining and conversing with young English churchmen including the 23-year-old Newman, then preparing for his ordination as deacon... Read the whole article.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The key to the Pope's success in Great Britain

by Phil Lawler

Most of the reporters writing about the papal visit are clearly surprised by this outcome, and more than a few are betraying their disappointment. A week ago the same reporters were predicting a debacle, and some of them were relishing that prospect. The Pope would face angry protesters wherever he turned, they said. The crowds would be small and subdued. There would be empty seats at the Pope’s public appearances. The staid, jaded secular world of Great Britain would listen skeptically, perhaps nod and clap politely, and then quickly move on to other things, dismissing the old man from Rome.

But Pope Benedict didn’t follow that script.

In every particular, the predictions were wrong. The crowds were loud and enthusiastic. The protesters were there, but even their friends in the mass media had trouble locating them among the tens of thousands who lined the streets to cheer for the passing papal motorcade, or thronged around Hyde Park to join in an evening prayer vigil. Britain’s political and intellectual leaders watched and listened carefully as the Pope spoke, and his words had an obvious impact. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for an entire nation when, at the conclusion of the papal visit, he told the departing Pontiff that he had made Britain “sit up and think.”

Now the analysts who had predicted a disaster—or perhaps, at best, a polite irrelevancy—are struggling to explain how the Pope confounded their expectations. I think I can explain.

When they predicted an unsuccessful papal visit, analysts were basing their judgment on an assumption. They took it for granted that Pope Benedict would respond to the criticism that had dominated the British media during the last few weeks before his arrival. They assumed that the Pope would be worried about the protests and nervous about the likelihood of popular rejection. Clearly he was not... Read the whole article.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beyond the Beatification of Cardinal Newman

Pope Benedict's trip to England is an outreach for reunion, too.

by C. John McCloskey III

This month Pope Benedict XVI will travel to England for an unprecedented state visit to the United Kingdom, meeting with the Queen at Balmoral Castle and giving an address to Parliament. The occasion for this historic event, however, is not church or international politics—although political issues will doubtless be touched upon—but the beatification (the penultimate step towards sainthood) of John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Newman, whose long life spanned most of the 19th century, was perhaps the greatest religious figure of the last 200 years of British history. Converting from Anglicanism to Catholicism at the age of 44, he wrote cogently and beautifully under both religious affiliations, and was a lightning rod in the passionately argued religious controversies of his time, such as infallibility of the Pope or the legitimacy of Anglicanism as the state church.

Valuing his religious influences as a thinker and evangelizer of the highest caliber, Pope Benedict has made an exception of his thus-far universal practice of not participating in beatification ceremonies. Hence his trip to Great Britain.

En route to this honor were the standard ecclesial steps: the examination of Newman's life and writings; a declaration that he had lived a life of extraordinary virtue; and official approval by doctors and theologians of a miraculous cure after prayers that Newman would intercede with God on the sufferer's behalf.

The miracle in question holds special interest for Americans, being the recovery in 2001 from a debilitating back condition of the Massachusetts lawyer and deacon Jack Sullivan. His cure was a very modern "media miracle" provoked by a series on Newman on EWTN, Mother Angelica's Catholic broadcasting network. At the end of each episode, a prayer card for Newman was displayed on the screen. Mr. Sullivan prayed for the long-dead cardinal's intercession before God for a cure. The rest (following rigorous medical and ecclesial examination) is now history.

Although Newman was a devout and humble man of great personal warmth and sensitivity, it is difficult to think of him apart from his public career. The author of seminal books of theology and philosophy, such as "The Development of Doctrine" and "A Grammar of Assent," he also dashed off the greatest autobiography in English, "Apologia pro Vita Sua" (a media sensation in his time), in a matter of weeks after personal attacks on his honesty... Read the whole article.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's in a Word?

by Peter Hannaford

"Dawa" may be an unfamiliar word to you. It is to most Americans, but we had better learn to understand it for it is almost certainly the motivation behind the drive to build the "Ground Zero" mosque in Manhattan.

It is an Arabic word. As Andrew McCarthy, the former U.S. prosecutor who put the "blind sheik" and his allies in prison for their part in the 1983 World Trade Center garage bombing, puts it this way: "Dawa, whether done from the rubble of the World Trade Center or elsewhere, is the missionary work by which Islam is spread...The purpose of dawa, like the purpose of jihad, is to implement, spread and defend sharia."

The leader of the movement to build the 13-story mosque and "community center" 600 feet from the hole in the ground where the twin towers stood, is Feisal Abdul Rauf, imam of one of New York City's 100 or so other mosques. The site where he wants to build it is owned by Sharif el-Gamal, who, until a few years ago, was waiting tables in New York restaurants. He now owns several expensive properties. The sources of his wealth are unclear as are the sources of the $100 million that must be raised to build the structure.

Imam Rauf, now on a U.S. State Department-sponsored "good will" tour of Muslim countries, is widely considered to be an example of "moderate" Islam; however, among his more memorable quotations are these:

…United States policies were an accessory to the crime (9/11) that occurred.

…the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children.

While Rauf does not endorse violence, he professes to understand its roots; that it is the reaction of oppressed people to authoritarian regimes supported by the U.S. He has declined to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Rauf has been heading the Cordoba Initiative which professes to create "an atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect." That should appeal to many Americans, but they should note also that the name of the proposed mosque-community center is Cordoba House, is derived from the Cordoba, Spain mosque built on the ruins of a Catholic church after the Muslim conquest of Spain in the 8th Century. The Christians reconquered Spain in 1492 and Islam lost "al Andalus."

This is one of the "humiliations" that ardent Muslims want to avenge. Thus, the name "Cordoba House" stands for "conquest" and the siting of it is an example of dawa in action: Islamist triumphalism... Read the whole article.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Greatly Ghastly Rand

by Jason Lee Steorts

‘From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged,” Whittaker Chambers wrote here 53 years ago, “a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber — go!’” What he did not write is that Ayn Rand throws in a gas chamber.

It’s about two-thirds through, in a chapter called “The Moratorium on Brains,” than which I reread no farther. (Our president seems to have inspired — which is not quite the word — half the country to read Miss Rand, and I wanted to remind myself what she was teaching them.) A train is carrying 300 passengers through the Rocky Mountains to San Francisco. America is falling altogether to pieces, its citizens starving to death, because the prime movers — Rand’s term for the productive men and women on whom economic creation and therefore life-or-death depend — have called a strike. They are hanging out in a mountain valley that their leader, Mr. John Galt, has cleverly hidden from the world by means of refractor-ray shield.

The world scarcely has diesel locomotives. When the one attached to that train breaks down, the only replacements are coal-burning, which is a problem, because the train is about to pass through an eight-mile tunnel that is not properly ventilated for locomotives of this type. It happens that an important looter — Rand’s term for the half-wits running and ruining the country — is on the train and has strong feelings about getting to San Francisco. His name is Kip Chalmers. “It’s not my problem to figure out how you get the train through the tunnel, that’s for you to figure out!” Kip Chalmers screams at a station agent. “But if you don’t get me an engine and don’t start that train, you can kiss good-bye to your jobs, your work permits and this whole goddamn railroad!”

This is persuasive. “The station agent had never heard of Kip Chalmers and did not know the nature of his position. But he knew that this was the day when unknown men in undefined positions held unlimited power — the power of life or death.” And so the station officials, knowing that the loss of their jobs means the loss of their lives, call in a coal engine, procure a drunken engineer, and condemn every passenger on the train to death by asphyxiation.

But that isn’t why I stopped reading. I stopped because Rand thinks they deserve it.

It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet [that’s the train] were not guilty [note that word] or responsible for the thing that happened to them.

The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 1, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence. . . .

. . . The woman in Bedroom D, Car No. 10, was a mother who had put her two children to sleep in the berth above her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives, which she defended by saying, “I don’t care, it’s only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children.” . . .

. . . These passengers were awake; there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas.

Now there are two important defenses of Rand. The first is that it is the looters, not the prime movers, who make the gas chamber possible and send the train into it. The second is that Rand’s philosophy is incompatible with totalitarianism, and no one who believed it would ever send anyone to a gas chamber. Both are true. Neither has anything to do with what troubles me about this gas chamber, and about Ayn Rand. And to explain that, I must say something about Rand at her best, which I believe is to be found in the second half of The Fountainhead, a book I did successfully reread...Read the whole article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Separation of Islamophilia from State

by George Neumayr

By modern secularist standards, Barack Obama's boosterism for Islam violates the "separation between Church and state." Had George W. Bush held a rosary and modest fish dinner at the White House to mark the beginning of Lent, the ACLU left would have freaked out. But these same secularists didn't mind Barack's "Iftar dinner" last Friday night.

That is, until he wimped out on his endorsement of the Ground Zero mosque. Now his dinner looks to them more like the production of Ishtar, as finger-to-the-wind Dems cravenly scramble for cover. The search is on for a "compromise." Perhaps the self-styled Solomonic Obama can convince the mosque planners to transfer their property rights to NASA. Administrator Charles Bolden could then turn the land into a satellite office for contractors who pursue the space agency's "perhaps foremost" mission (as explained to him by Obama): "to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science…and math and engineering."

The moment one thinks this presidency has hit the bottom of grim parody it finds a new one. It is hard to keep track of them at this point, but any list of the White House's greatest Islamophilic hits would have to include: wanting a civilian jury trial for the 9/11 planners, refusing to identify radical Islam as a terrorist motive, endorsing the concept of jihad, fretting over the loss of "diversity" after the Fort Hood shooting, and vacationing through the fallout of an aborted Christmas day bombing over Detroit.

The White House's ideologically willful self-delusion about radical Islam is staggering. Here, for example, is its self-reporting at whitehouse.gov about the Ramadan dinner: "Last night, President Obama continued the White House tradition of hosting an Iftar -- the meal that breaks the day of fasting --celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room." Continued a tradition? Exactly which White House tradition is that?

The answer: Obama was referring not to a White House "tradition" but to one distant event that he carefully left vague: Thomas Jefferson's war negotiations with Tunisian envoy Sidi Soliman Mellimelli.

Jefferson, desperate to end the Barbary war with Islamic pirates, invited Mellimelli to Washington for negotiations. According to Gaye Wilson, the visit put Jefferson and his staff on the spot: James Madison, then the Secretary of State, had to field Mellimelli's request for "concubines." Jefferson told shocked colleagues to calm down; after all, peace with the Barbary pirates required passing "unnoticed the irregular conduct of their ministers." Mellimelli, in his own way, was grateful. After hearing some gossip about the wan mood of the childless Madisons, he "flung his 'magical' cloak around Dolley Madison and murmured an incantation that promised she would bear a male child. His conjuring, however, did not work."

The war negotiations happened to coincide with Ramadan. Consequently, a scheduled dinner at the White House had to be moved back from "half after three" to "precisely at sunset" in order for Mellimelli to show up...  Read the whole article.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What if the Constitution is unconstitutional?

by Diogenes

Thank goodness Judge Walker has enlightened us. All those years we thought that marriage was a union of a man and a woman, but now we know that was "an irrational classification." Not just irrational but harmful. Not just harmful but unconstitutional.

But there's a problem with Judge Walker's logic. If it is unconstitutional to disallow same-sex marriage, why was the old, unenlightened, restrictive, pre-Walker, irrational definition of marriage upheld by the very men who wrote the Constitution? Most of these men were members of legislatures; they could have revised the laws of their own states to make the legal definition of marriage match the principles that they were setting forth. Yet they didn't. Why not? Were they being irrational?

And if the authors of the Constitution were irrational men, what other nasty surprises might we have in store for us? What other emanations might emerge from the penumbrae of the document, leading us to discover a meaning apparently quite different from the Founders' own understanding? The men who gathered for the Constitutional Convention would have recoiled in horror at the idea that abortion, sodomy, or even contraception could be tolerated in society. Yet we now know, thanks to the infallible logic of contemporary jurisprudence, that these are fundamental rights, guaranteed by the document which these same men wrote. If they were so irrational-- if they were capable of crafting and enacting a document so totally at odds with their own beliefs and practices-- it's impossible to say what other time bombs might be hidden in the Constitution. It's safer to assume that they produced a document full of contradictions: a document at war with itself.

Judge Walker didn't go far enough. It's not just the definition of marriage that needs to be re-examined. There's bigger game in this legal forest. The real challenge for Judge Walker and his peers on the judicial bench is to determine whether or not the Constitution is unconstitutional. 

This is the whole article.  Read the original here.

Sacrilege at Ground Zero

Even Mayor Bloomberg acknowledges that the rules are different when it comes to sacred places.

by Charles Krauthammer

A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).

When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there — and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized, or misappropriated.

That’s why Disney’s early ’90s proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition fearing vulgarization of the Civil War (and wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.

And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place, it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.

Even New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers “to show some special sensitivity to the situation.” Yet, as Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message, or show “special sensitivity” to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely, that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and, therefore, unique criteria govern what can be done there.

Bloomberg’s implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by “insensitive” Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction.

But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque? Moreover, as a practical matter, there’s no guarantee this couldn’t happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won’t one day hire an Anwar al-Awlaki — spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and one-time imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?

An Awlaki preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Awlaki preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege.

Location matters...  Read the whole article.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Obsolescence of Barack Obama

The magic of 2008 can't be recreated, and good riddance to it.

by Fouad Ajami

Not long ago Barack Obama, for those who were spellbound by him, had the stylishness of JFK and the historic mission of FDR riding to the nation's rescue. Now it is to Lyndon B. Johnson's unhappy presidency that Democratic strategist Robert Shrum compares the stewardship of Mr. Obama. Johnson, wrote Mr. Shrum in the Week magazine last month, never "sustained an emotional link with the American people" and chose to escalate a war that "forced his abdication as president."

A broken link with the public, and a war in Afghanistan he neither embraces and sells to his party nor abandons—this is a time of puzzlement for President Obama. His fall from political grace has been as swift as his rise a handful of years ago. He had been hot political property in 2006 and, of course, in 2008. But now he will campaign for his party's 2010 candidates from afar, holding fund raisers but not hitting the campaign trail in most of the contested races. Those mass rallies of Obama frenzy are surely of the past.

The vaunted Obama economic stimulus, at $862 billion, has failed. The "progressives" want to double down, and were they to have their way, would have pushed for a bigger stimulus still. But the American people are in open rebellion against an economic strategy of public debt, higher taxes and unending deficits. We're not all Keynesians, it turns out. The panic that propelled Mr. Obama to the presidency has waned. There is deep concern, to be sure. But the Obama strategy has lost the consent of the governed.

Mr. Obama could protest that his swift and sudden fall from grace is no fault of his. He had been a blank slate, and the devotees had projected onto him their hopes and dreams. His victory had not been the triumph of policies he had enunciated in great detail. He had never run anything in his entire life. He had a scant public record, but oddly this worked to his advantage. If he was going to begin the world anew, it was better that he knew little about the machinery of government... Read the whole article.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Applauding Immaturity at Hunter College High School

A graduation speaker blames the messenger.


by Thomas Sowell

A graduating senior at Hunter College High School in New York gave a speech that brought a standing ovation from his teachers and got his picture in the New York Times. I hope it doesn’t go to his head, because what he said was so illogical that it was an indictment of the mush that is being taught at even our elite educational institutions.

Young Justin Hudson, described as “black and Hispanic,” opened by saying how much he appreciated reaching his graduation day at this very select public high school. Then he said, “I don’t deserve any of this. And neither do you.” The reason? He and his classmates were there because of “luck and circumstances.”

Since Hunter College High School selects its applicants from the whole city on the basis of their test scores, “luck” seems a strange way to characterize why some students are admitted and many others are not. If you can’t tell the difference between luck and performance, what has your education given you, except the rhetoric to conceal your confusion from others and perhaps from yourself?

Young Mr. Hudson’s concern, apparently, is about what he referred to as the “demographics” of the school — 41 percent white and 47 percent Asian, with blacks, Hispanics, and others obviously far behind. “I refuse to accept” that “the distribution of intelligence in this city” varies by neighborhood, he said.

Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood, but actual performance — whether in schools, on the job, or elsewhere — involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society... Read the whole article.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unbelievable

by Jeff Miller

I was looking through Florida statutes and I discovered that those who impersonate police officers, sheriffs, government officials, etc have committed a felony and the circumstances determines if it is first, second, or third degree. Sentencing for this can be 30, 15, or 5 years with longer sentencing for a life felony. These crimes are covered under statues 775.082, s. 775.083, here in Florida.

Looking over some other offenses I was shocked to find that unlawful sexual activity with minors while also a felony came under the exact same statues in regard to punishment! Or the fact that aggravated assault or battery is also a felony along with child sexual abuse and rape.

I tell you I am totally shocked that Florida law equates child sexual abuse with impersonation of a government official. Unbelievable. How dare they equate these two crimes as both felonies. I urge everybody who is a resident of the state of Florida to write their state senate and state congress to have this changed. Even more disturbing is that it seems that this is not just a fluke for the State of Florida, but seems to have infected all states in that they see this impersonation a felony just like child sexual abuse.

The conclusion to think that each state considers impersonation of a government official to be equated with child sexual abuse is a reasonable conclusion if you have the same mindset of those who freaked out over the revised norms (Normae de Gravioribus Delictis) issued by the Holy See that codify seven modifications originally made by Pope John Paul II and confirmed by Pope Benedict in 2005. The conclusion of so many bigoted and uninformed pundits is that the Holy See is deliberating equating child sexual abuse with the attempted ordination of women. No other conclusion is possible for them... Read the whole article.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's an Anti-Catholic Catholic?

by Tim Drake

There’s an intriguing phenomena going on in the culture these days. Over the past several weeks, I’ve read a variety of articles by “Catholics” who to want to define, for themselves, what the word “Catholic” means.

Most recently, writer Charles Pierce, takes this topic up in his lengthy Boston Globe article, “What I Believe.”

“The institutional Catholic Church, for me, has no concrete form, no physical structure, no hierarchy except that of ideas,” Pierce states in the article. He continues, “Even my attendance at Mass is largely contemplative, the priest presiding in a supervisory capacity, his authority dependent wholly on the primacy of my individual conscience.”

In other words, for Pierce, the Church has no authority other than that which he himself deems to give it.

In the article, Pierce goes on to quote Catholics such as Garry Willis and Father Richard McBrien in support of his idea that the hierarchical Church is dead and “irrelevant.”

He quotes McBrien as saying that, ‘the hierarchy is largely irrelevant to any intelligent, educated Catholic.’ That’s curious, given that as a priest of Christ’s Church, Father McBrien himself is part of the hierarchy. Using logic, one could conclude that if Father McBrien were correct, then he himself is irrelevant.

Pierce says that the most fundamental rule of his “Catholicism” is that, “nobody gets to tell me that I’m not a Catholic” - no priest, no bishop, not even the Pope.

He even goes on to say that while he’s still a practicing Catholic, that he’s grown up to become “an anti-Catholic Catholic.”

Perhaps because the Catholic Church is something Pierce was born into, he feels he has the freedom to define for himself what it means to be “Catholic.” As a Catholic convert, I know differently. It wasn’t until I was able to say that I believed everything that the Church taught and believed, and was thinking with the Church, that I was permitted to join her. I’d like to think that anyone claiming to be an “anti-Catholic Catholic” is actually Protestant.

Coming into the Church meant believing that which Christ and His Church proposes to teach and believe. It meant being humble enough to admit that I do not have all the answers, but being willing to submit to a higher authority. It meant being part of a community, a vast communion made up of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before, the Saints and angels, the Holy Father and the magisterial Church, the College of Cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons that surround him.

Reading Pierce’s definition it’s difficult to imagine anyone - an apostle or saint - laying down their life for the kind of Church he describes.

Pierce wants a Church without a hierarchy. He doesn’t believe that there’s an authority, outside of himself, that can tell him what he can or cannot do. He wants Christ without His Church, which really isn’t possible... Read the whole article.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Real Education

The speech every American high-school principal should give.

by Dennis Prager

To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.

I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers, and against our country.

First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow, or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian, or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.

The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity — your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.

If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial, or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race-, and non-American-nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values — e pluribus unum, “from many, one.” And this school will be guided by America’s values...  Read the whole article.

Targeting Free Speech

By Mark Hyman

Any doubts about the administration's designs on reducing First Amendment opportunities may no longer exist due to officials' remarks and government actions including a recent decision by President Barack Obama. The administration's resolve to tamp down dissent was signaled in a June 28th presidential memorandum that would lead to the end of all free, over-the-air television.

Fortunately for Obama he has various federal agencies, the Democrat-controlled Congress, a judiciary hostile to the Constitution, and a compliant liberal media at his disposal to help him usher in speech controls.

Obama's disdain of political dissent is well documented. He has differentiated himself from all other modern presidents by publicly calling out by name the handful of journalists that have criticized his presidency. Senior White House staff have served as his Praetorian Guard against media critics.

While presidential name-calling is indeed troublesome, it does not rise to the level of the concern created by the administration's plans to control the nation's telecommunications platforms.

Obama's Harvard Law School classmate and current Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has been directing a multi-pronged effort aimed at increasing government control of news, information and entertainment.

First, is the FCC's ill-conceived National Broadband Plan, which is designed to end local television broadcasters' use of the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e. the radio spectrum) to deliver free, over-the-air television and eventually move the nation's 1,600 TV stations to subscription-only platforms such as cable. Cable is a much easier to control than 1,600 geographically dispersed television transmitters.

The goal, claims Genachowski, is to make the spectrum available to other wireless platforms such as cellular telephones. The single largest beneficiary of the FCC scheme would likely be Verizon. Unfortunately for Genachowski, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg panned the NBP and found the FCC's "looming spectrum shortage" claims to not be credible.

"I don't think the FCC should tinker with this," Seidenberg told the Council on Foreign Relations in April. "I don't think we'll have a spectrum shortage the way [the National Broadband Plan] suggests we will."

To bolster support for its National Broadband Plan, the FCC announced a broadcast engineering panel to examine the technical aspects of its proposal. The June panel convened by the FCC was notable for who the Commission excluded -- broadcast engineers. The FCC relented at the last moment after the Society of Broadcast Engineers waged a fierce PR campaign to be added. To exclude broadcast engineers from the panel would have been the functional equivalent of bureaucrats rewriting detailed medical procedures without consulting a single doctor... Read the whole article.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Cowardice of His Convictions

By James C. Capretta

The reason the health-care debate has been so polarizing is that there is a deep and fundamental divide over what should be done to fix the problems in American health care, especially with regard to rapidly rising costs.

On one side of the debate are those who advocate a decentralized, market-based reform program. Rep. Paul Ryan is among the leaders pushing for such a consumer-driven solution.

On the other side are what you might call the “governmentalists.” The governmentalists believe the way to “bend the cost-curve” is with a centralized, government-led effort to micromanage the entire $2.6 trillion health sector from Washington, D.C.

President Obama, his top aides, and his allies in Congress are all quite clearly health-care governmentalists. The evidence for this is on full display in the bill they jammed through the legislative process. It is filled to the brim with provisions that shift power and authority away from states, individuals, employers, and the private sector to the federal government.

The federal government is now the nationwide regulator of all private health insurance. Federal bureaucrats can pick and choose which insurers are allowed to sell to customers in government-managed “markets.” The federal government will determine what health benefits every citizen and legal resident must secure to avoid paying a punitive tax. The federal government will also decide the appropriate level of cost-sharing for government-certified insurance products.

The new law is also filled with provisions which the sponsors contend will slow cost growth with “delivery-system reform.” The federal government has been put in the driver’s seat of a sprawling effort to force doctors and hospitals to quite literally change how they care for patients and conform to the federal government’s view of what constitutes cost-effective medical practice. Medicare’s administrators will be using new authority to reward those who toe the government’s line and hit budget targets, and punish those who don’t. Government reimbursement will be used to prevent the introduction of medical technologies considered excessively costly.

Although President Obama is quite clearly a committed and enthusiastic health-care governmentalist, he has never admitted as much in public, nor is he ever likely to. He avoids engaging in direct debate over the merits of his position with the market-based reformers. Instead, he argues, as he did at the so-called “bipartisan summit” back in February, that there is no great disagreement over substance; it’s just that those dastardly Republicans are against progress on his watch... Read the whole article.

Obama's Milky Way

by George Neumayr

Barack Obama is not a Muslim, said Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign, adding slyly, "as far as I know." Reeling from losses that followed this whispering campaign, Obama denied its implication and faked up an eager interest in Christianity. "I was sworn in with my hand on the family bible," he pouted.

But once safely ensconced in the presidency, he renewed his Islamophilia. Last year in Cairo, he tried to wow his audience by saying that he hails from "generations of Muslims" and that he had marinated for "several years" in Islamic Indonesia, where he "heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk."

By secularist standards, Obama's Islamophilia constitutes a blatant violation of Church and state. His presidency largely exists for the benefit of one religion, the only religion he appears to consider blameless and holy -- Islam, and not even its moderate variant... Read the whole article.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Christian Adams Blows Whistle on Progressives and Race

by Jeffrey Lord


Christian Adams and Bill Clinton.

Who would have thought a heretofore unknown career Justice Department lawyer and the famously garrulous former President could combine to turn the spotlight on the centuries old -- if never formally acknowledged -- alliance between progressives and racism?

President Clinton first.

In winging along in his eulogy for the late West Virginia U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, former President Bill Clinton decided (impulsively?) to address the much commented upon knowledge that Senator Byrd spent part of his early career as an "Exalted Cyclops" of the Ku Klux Klan....Read the whole article.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Declaration of Independence


IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Friday, July 2, 2010

Byrd Tributes Go Overboard

Why do liberals worship the late West Virginia senator?

by Jonah Goldberg

It is a good rule of thumb not to speak ill of the dead. But what to do when a man is celebrated beyond the limits of decorum or common sense? Must we stay silent as others celebrate the beauty and splendor of the emperor’s invisible clothes?

You probably know why I ask the question. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving member of the Senate in American history, died Monday. It was truly a remarkable career. But what’s more remarkable is how he has been lionized by the champions of liberalism.

On Thursday, Byrd’s colleagues took the unusual step of honoring him with a special service on the Senate floor, where he would lay in repose — with some irony — on the Lincoln Catafalque, the bier used to hold the slain body of the president who freed the slaves. The irony stems from the fact that for much of Byrd’s life, his allegiances were with Lincoln’s opponents in that effort. More on that in a moment.

Not long ago, the assembled forces of liberalism were convinced that the Senate was “broken,” that the anachronistic filibuster impeded progress. The Senate itself, with its arcane rules and procedures, had become undemocratic and was in need of vital reform, according to all of the usual voices. John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress and a sort of archbishop of liberalism these days, drew on his deep command of political theory and social science to explain that the American political system “sucks,” in significant part due to the unwieldiness of the Senate.

Well, who better represented those alleged structural problems than Byrd? Nearly every obituary celebrates his “mastery” of the rules. This is from the first paragraph of the Washington Post’s obituary: Byrd “used his masterful knowledge of the institution to shape the federal budget, protect the procedural rules of the Senate and, above all else, tend to the interests of his state.”

Yes, what about his tending to his state’s interests? For several years there’s been a lot of bipartisan indignation over the perfidy of pork and “earmarks.”

Who, pray tell, better represented that practice than Byrd? The man emptied Washington of money and resources with an alacrity and determination not seen since the evacuation of Dunkirk. There are too many of these Byrd droppings in West Virginia to count, but we do know there are at least 30 buildings and other structures in that state named for him. So much for Democrats’ getting the message that Americans are sick of self-aggrandizing politicians.

And so much for the idea that Washington has become calcified by a permanent political class. Better to celebrate the fact that he cast his 18,000th vote in 2007.

And then, of course, there is the issue of race. The common interpretation is that Byrd’s is a story of redemption. A one-time Exalted Cyclops of the KKK, Byrd recruited some 150 members to the chapter he led — that’s led, not “joined,” by the way. (If you doubt his commitment to the cause, try to recruit 150 people to do anything, never mind have them pay a hefty fee up front.)

Byrd filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As Bruce Bartlett notes in his book Wrong on Race, Byrd knew he would fail, but he stood on bedrock principle that integration was evil. His individual filibuster, the second longest in American history, fills 86 pages of fine print in the Congressional Record. “Only a true believer,” writes Bartlett, “would ever undertake such a futile effort.”

Unlike some segregationists’, Byrd’s arguments rested less on the principle of states’ rights than on his conviction that black people were simply biologically inferior.

Sure, he lied for years about his repudiation of the Klan. Sure, he was still referring to “white niggers” as recently as 2001. But everyone agrees his change of heart is sincere. And for all I know, it was.

What’s odd is what passes for proof of his sincerity. Yes, he voted to make Martin Luther King Day a holiday. But to listen to some eulogizers, the real proof came in the fact that he supported ever more lavish government programs — and opposed the Iraq War. Am I alone in taking offense at the idea that supporting big government and opposing the Iraq War somehow count as proof of racial enlightenment?

Robert Byrd was a complicated man, but the explanation for the outsized celebration of his career strikes me as far more simple. He was a powerful man who abandoned his bigoted principles in order to keep power. And his party loved him for it.  Read the original article here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kagan’s Abortion Distortion

How the Supreme Court nominee manipulated the statement of a medical organization to protect partial-birth abortion.

By Shannen W. Coffin

When President Obama promised in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place,” he never explained what that rightful place would be. Documents recently released in connection with the Supreme Court nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan suggest an answer: wherever it can best be used to skew political debate and judicial outcomes.

The documents involved date from the Clinton White House. They show Miss Kagan’s willingness to manipulate medical science to fit the Democratic party’s political agenda on the hot-button issue of abortion. As such, they reflect poorly on both the author and the president who nominated her to the Supreme Court.

There is no better example of this distortion of science than the language the United States Supreme Court cited in striking down Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000. This language purported to come from a “select panel” of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians’ group. ACOG declared that the partial-birth-abortion procedure “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” The Court relied on the ACOG statement as a key example of medical opinion supporting the abortion method.

Years later, when President Bush signed a federal partial-birth-abortion ban (something President Clinton had vetoed), the ACOG official policy statement was front and center in the attack on the legislation. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, one of the three federal judges that issued orders enjoining the federal ban (later overturned by the Supreme Court), devoted more than 15 pages of his lengthy opinion to ACOG’s policy statement and the integrity of the process that led to it.

Like the Supreme Court majority in the prior dispute over the Nebraska ban, Judge Kopf asserted that the ACOG policy statement was entitled to judicial deference because it was the result of an inscrutable collaborative process among expert medical professionals. “Before and during the task force meeting,” he concluded, “neither ACOG nor the task force members conversed with other individuals or organizations, including congressmen and doctors who provided congressional testimony, concerning the topics addressed” in the ACOG statement.

In other words, what medical science has pronounced, let no court dare question. The problem is that the critical language of the ACOG statement was not drafted by scientists and doctors. Rather, it was inserted into ACOG’s policy statement at the suggestion of then–Clinton White House policy adviser Elena Kagan... Read the whole article.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Unengaged President

Obama’s lack of interest in the world is evident in his handling of the oil spill and the Afghan War.

By Mark Steyn

What do General McChrystal and British Petroleum have in common? Aside from the fact that they’re both Democratic-party supporters.

Or they were. Stanley McChrystal is a liberal who voted for Obama and banned Fox News from his HQ TV. Which may at least partly explain how he became the first U.S. general to be lost in combat while giving an interview to Rolling Stone: They’ll be studying that one in war colleges around the world for decades. The executives of BP were unable to vote for Obama, being, as we now know, the most sinister duplicitous bunch of shifty Brits to pitch up offshore since the War of 1812. But, in their “Beyond Petroleum” marketing and beyond, they signed on to every modish nostrum of the eco-Left. Their recently retired chairman, Lord Browne, was one of the most prominent promoters of cap-and-trade. BP was the Democrats’ favorite oil company. They were to Obama what Total Fina Elf was to Saddam.

But what do McChrystal’s and BP’s defenestration tell us about the president of the United States? Barack Obama is a thin-skinned man and, according to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, White House aides indicated that what angered the president most about the Rolling Stone piece was “a McChrystal aide saying that McChrystal had thought that Obama was not engaged when they first met last year.” If finding Obama “not engaged” is now a firing offense, who among us is safe?

Only the other day, Sen. George Lemieux of Florida attempted to rouse the president to jump-start America’s overpaid, over-manned, and oversleeping federal bureaucracy and get it to do something on the oil debacle. There are 2,000 oil skimmers in the United States: Weeks after the spill, only 20 of them are off the coast of Florida. Seventeen friendly nations with great expertise in the field have offered their own skimmers; the Dutch volunteered their “super-skimmers”: Obama turned them all down. Raising the problem, Senator Lemieux found the president unengaged and uninformed. “He doesn’t seem to know the situation about foreign skimmers and domestic skimmers,” reported the senator.

He doesn’t seem to know, and he doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t care. “It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama’s foreign policy is no heart at all,” wrote Richard Cohen in the Washington Post last week. “For instance, it’s not clear that Obama is appalled by China’s appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. . . . The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.

“This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?”

Gee, if only your newspaper had thought to ask those fascinating questions oh, say, a month before the Iowa caucuses... Read the whole article.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Latest Thievery: Best Friends

Removing best friends from childhood is a barbarous and inhumane act.

by Jonah Goldberg

There’s a great moment in the 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. Ben Kingsley plays a coach for a seven-year-old chess prodigy named Josh. Kingsley wants the boy to stop playing chess in the park and devote himself completely to Kingsley’s tutelage. Josh’s mother doesn’t like the idea, because she’s a jealous guardian of her son’s childhood. “Not playing in the park would kill him. He loves it.”

Kingsley complains that her decision “just makes my job harder.”

“Then your job’s harder,” she responds.

As the father of a seven-year-old myself, I think of that scene all the time — most recently, when I read a profoundly depressing story in the New York Times about how “some educators and other professionals who work with children” don’t think kids should have best friends.

“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at a St. Louis day school. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

“Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend,” she continued. “We say he doesn’t need a best friend.”

As a result of this thinking, best friends are broken up. Buddies are put on separate teams, assigned to different classes, etc. It’s not quite the sort of thing cult leaders and North Korean prison guards do, but in principle it’s not too far off either... Read the whole article.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Barack Obama's Square Box

By Daniel Oliver

When John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crashed into Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in July 1999 some observers said he had gotten himself into a "square box," meaning that he had run into the limits of his experience and his imagination.

Barack Obama is in a square box, and observers are now beginning to talk about his inevitable crash.

There was some question about JFK Jr.'s flying experience. There's no dispute about Barack Obama's executive experience: he has none. In fact, he is the least qualified person ever to be elected president.

Prior to being elected, he had done almost nothing. Certainly nothing requiring, or teaching, executive ability.

He served in some capacity as a "community organizer," which Sarah Palin might say is like running a Sunday-school picnic, but without the kids.

He worked as a civil-rights attorney, whatever that means. And he taught at a law school, which may be why he always sounds as if he's lecturing to twenty-somethings.

He served in the Illinois legislature for a few yeas, but spent most of his time voting "present." Then he served in the U.S. Senate, but for only two years.

Would the directors of any mid-sized company have asked him to be its CEO? He wouldn't even have qualified for -- in Ross Perot's memorable phrase -- middle management.

He is a man without significant executive experience in life.

He also seems to have little imagination. His supporters say he is tremendously brilliant. Maybe. But how do we know? Obama has never released his college or law-school grades, and, given the educational institutions he attended (Columbia College and Harvard Law School), we are entitled to assume he may have been an affirmative-action admittee. As he was to the White House.

Besides, the relationship between brains and imagination is not clear. Harvard brains are obviously not a necessary condition for a fertile imagination. President Reagan went to Eureka College. But he had the imagination -- the vision -- to reduce taxes and win the Cold War. He inspired America and was the most successful president of the 20th century. (Roosevelt only won a war. Reagan won a war and saved the economy.)

Certainly nothing Barack Obama has done since becoming president shows much imagination. He is a complete knee-jerk liberal. Not a single action he has taken makes you say, "Wow, that was clever."

His economic policy is straight from the FDR-progressive mold. And although, like Roosevelt's, it has failed miserably (skyrocketing deficits, persistent unemployment), he lacks the imagination to try something else. Even his speeches are turning into liabilities. Exhibit A (or are we up to Exhibit Q now?): his Oval Office speech on BP, which his friends panned... Read the whole article.

Monday, June 14, 2010

N. C. Congressman assaults a student...



Last week, Democrat Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC2) attended a fundraiser headlined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was asked by some students on the street whether he supported the “Obama Agenda.” He didn’t take it well.  Read the article here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The well-trained President

Bo, the White House dog, has the President trained to sit up and beg...


Friday, May 28, 2010

Archbishop Gomez analyzes future of Hispanics in US Catholic Church

Los Angeles, Calif., May 28, 2010 / 06:02 am (CNA).- As he prepares to lead the largest archdiocese in the United States, Archbishop Jose Gomez, spoke with CNA in an exclusive interview addressing the role of Hispanics in the U.S. Catholic Church.

The full text of the interview can be read below:

CNA: What is your own background?

Archbishop Gomez: I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. My father was a medical doctor in Monterrey. My mother was raised in San Antonio, Texas, where she completed high school. She also went to college in Mexico City, and although she completed her course, my mother married my father instead of graduating. Education was always very important in my family.

I am both an American citizen and an immigrant, born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. Some of my ancestors were in what’s now Texas, since 1805. (At that time it was still under Spanish rule.) I’ve always had family and friends on both sides of the border.

CNA: As the next Archbishop of Los Angeles, you will be the most prominent Hispanic prelate in the Catholic Church in the United States. What is your view of the state of Catholicism among U.S. Hispanics?

Gomez: The number of Hispanics self-identifying as Catholics has declined from nearly 100 percent in just two decades, while the number who describe themselves as Protestant has nearly doubled, and the number saying they have “no religion” has also doubled.

I’m not a big believer in polls about religious beliefs and practice. But in this case the polls reflect pastoral experience on the ground.

CNA: What questions do you see as key for Catholic ministry to U.S. Hispanics?

Gomez: As Hispanics become more and more successful, more and more assimilated into the American mainstream, will they keep the faith? Will they stay Catholic or will they drift away—to Protestant denominations, to some variety of vague spirituality, or to no religion at all?

Will they live by the Church’s teachings and promote and defend these teachings in the public square? Or will their Catholicism simply become a kind of “cultural” background, a personality trait, a part of their upbringing that shapes their perspective on the world but compels no allegiance or devotion to the Church?

Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church.

All our pastoral plans and programs presume that we are trying to serve Christ and his Gospel. But we can no longer simply presume Christ. We must make sure we are proclaiming him.

We should thank God every day many times for the good things we have been given. But we also need to give thanks to God through service, through works of mercy and love.

CNA: What is the most serious problem Hispanic Catholics face in the U.S.?

Gomez: The dominant culture in the United States, which is aggressively, even militantly secularized. This is a subject that unfortunately doesn’t get much attention at all in discussions about the future of Hispanic ministry. But it’s time that we change that...  Read the whole article.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Copernicus re-buried: an interesting but misleading story

by Phil Lawler

An interesting AP story is making the rounds this week, reporting that the Catholic Church has finally given due honors to Copernicus. Unfortunately the story is chock-full of statements that are severely misleading if not downright wrong.

Start with the opening sentence:

Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer whose findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, was reburied by Polish priests as a hero on Saturday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.
That sentence implies that Copernicus was denounced as a heretic before he died, and thus deprived of a proper Christian burial. In fact he was never denounced; he died in good standing with the Church. He was buried not in a pauper's grave but in the cathedral in Frombork (a city that is now a part of the Archdiocese of Warmia, Poland).

The heliocentric theory that Copernicus advanced was indeed controversial during his lifetime. So controversial, in fact, that Copernicus delayed for years before publishing his masterpiece, De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium. Yes, he delayed because he feared an adverse reaction-- not from Church leaders, but from his fellow scholars. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Copernicus was worried about a hostile reaction from the Church. De Revolutionibus was published under the auspices of a Catholic bishop; it was dedicated to Pope Paul III.

Nor did Church leaders turn on Copernicus after his book was printed. Actually they didn't have time. Because of the author's delays, De Revolutionibus did not appear in print until the astronomer was on his deathbed.

There is a grain of truth to the notion that Church authorities were suspicious of Copernicus during his lifetime. At one point he was suspected of keeping a mistress; later he was suspected of Lutheran sympathies. But his scientific work never caused him any conflict with the Church.

Later, during the unfortunate and avoidable dispute over the works of Galileo, De Revolutionibus was placed on the Index of prohibited books. (The book was soon republished with a few sentences amended, and taken off the Index.) But the questions raised about the Copernicus book in 1616 obviously did not affect his burial in 1542.

Copernicus was buried in the Frombork cathedral, where he had held the title of canon. At the time, burial sites for such officials were not precisely marked, and in that sense it's true that he lay for almost 500 years in an "unmarked" grave. But a plaque in the cathedral testified to his burial there, and the circumstantial evidence pointing to his gravesite was sufficient to guide the search that, in 2005, pinpointed his remains.

The truth about Copernicus can be found, even in the AP story, by those readers who persist beyond the first few sentences. After the unusual ceremony honoring the great astronomer, an honor guard took the coffin and "lowered it back into the same spot where part of his skull and other bones were found in 2005." The mortal remains of Nicolaus Copernicus now lie exactly where they had lain for most of the past 500 years: in a place of honor, in a Catholic cathedral. Read the original story here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pope's In-Flight Briefing with Journalists

"The greatest persecution of the Church comes from within"

by Edward Pentin

Below is the full transcript of Pope Benedict XVI’s briefing with journalists on the papal plane to Portugal this morning, courtesy of Vatican Radio:

Q. - What message will you bring to Portugal, a deeply Catholic country in the past and a bearer of faith in the secular world of today. How can the faith be announced in a context which is indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to the Church?

First of all, good morning to all of you. I hope we will all have a good trip, despite the famous ash cloud which we are above right now.

In terms of Portugal, first of all I have feelings of joy and gratitude for everything this country has done and is doing in the world and in history, the deep humanity of this people which I have come to know through a past visit and so many Portuguese friends. I would say it is true that Portugal has been a great force for the Catholic faith, and it has carried that faith to every part of the world. A courageous, intelligent, creative faith, it has known how to create great cultures, we see this in Brazil, in Portugal itself, but also the presence of the Portuguese spirit in Africa and Asia.

On the other hand, this presence of secularism is not entirely new. The dialectic between secularism and faith has a long history in Portugal. By the seventeenth century, there was already a strong current of the Enlightenment. We need only think of names such as Pombal. In these centuries, Portugal lived this dialectic which today naturally has been radicalized and is reflected in all of the signs of the current European spirit. This seems to me a challenge, but also a great possibility. In these centuries, the dialectic between the Enlightenment, secularism and faith always had people who wanted to build bridges and to create a dialogue. Unfortunately, the dominant tendency was to see a contradiction and to see one as excluding the other. Today we can see this is false. We have to find a synthesis and be able to dialogue. In the multi-cultural situation we’re all in, it’s clear that a European culture which aims to be solely rationalist, without any sense of the transcendent dimension, would not be in a position to dialogue with the other great cultures of humanity – all of which have this sense of the transcendent dimension, which is a dimension of the human person. To think that there’s a pure reason, even a historic reason, which exists entirely in itself, is an error, and we are discovering this more and more. It touches only a part of the human person expressed in a given historic situation, and is not reason as such. Reason as such is open to transcendence, and only in the meeting between transcendent reality, faith and history is human life fully realized.

I think the mission of Europe in this situation is to find a path to this dialogue, to integrate faith, rationality, and modernity in a single anthropological vision of the concrete human person and render that vision for the future of humanity.

For that reason, I think the task and mission of Europe in this situation is to find this dialogue, to integrate faith and reason in a single modern anthropological vision of the concrete human person and thus also render it communicable to other human cultures. So I would say that the presence of secularism is a normal thing, but the separation, the opposition between faith and secularism is anomalous. The great challenge of this moment is that the two meet, so they may find their true identity. It is a mission for Europe and a human necessity in our time.

Q: - Thank you, Holy Father. Continuing on the theme of Europe, the economic crisis has recently gotten a lot worse in Europe, especially in Portugal. Some European leaders think the future of the European Union is at risk. What lessons should we learn from this crisis, including at the ethical and moral level? What are the keys for consolidating the unity and cooperation of the European nations in the future?

I would say that this economic crisis, with its undeniable moral component, is a case of applying and making concrete what I said earlier, that is of two separate cultural currents meeting, otherwise we will not find a path to the future. Here, too, I believe there is a false dualism. There is an economic positivism that thinks it is possible to realize itself without an ethical component, a market that regulates itself according to its own economic strength, by a positivistic and pragmatic reasoning of the economy. Ethics is something different, something extraneous. In reality, we can see today that a pure economic pragmatism which ignores the reality of the human person, who is inherently ethical, has no positive ending, but creates irresolvable problems. This is the moment to recognize that ethics is not something exterior, but rather interior to all forms of rationality, including economic reason.

On the other hand, we also have to confess the Catholic-Christian faith often has been overly individualistic. It left the concrete things of the economy to the world, thinking only of individual salvation and its religious aspects, without recognizing that these imply a global responsibility and a responsibility for the world. So here too we must enter into a concrete dialogue. I tried to do as much in my encyclical Caritas in veritate, and the whole tradition of the social teaching of the church moves in this sense, broadening the ethical aspect of the faith from the individual to a responsibility for the world, to a reason that is perforated by ethics. On the other hand the most recent events on the markets, in the last two or three years, have amply shown us that the ethical dimension is an internal one and that it must enter into economic action, because man is an one. A healthy anthropology that takes everything into account. Only in this way will we solve the problem. Only in this way will Europe deliver and succeed in its mission.

Q: Thank you. Now we come to Fatima, which will be the spiritual culmination of this trip. Holy Father, what meaning do the apparitions of Fatima have for us today? When you presented the Third Secret of Fatima in a press conference at the Vatican Press Office in June 2000, many of us and other colleagues asked if the message of the secret could be extended, beyond the assassination attempt against John Paul II to other sufferings of the popes. Could the context of that vision also be extended to the suffering of the church today,for the sins of the sexual abuse of minors?

First of all, I want to express my joy to go to Fatima, to pray before Our Lady of Fatima, and to experience the presence of the faith there, where from the little ones a new force of the faith was born, and which is not limited to the little ones, but has a message for the whole world and all epochs of history, and touches history in its present and illuminates this history. In 2000, during the presentation, I said there is a supernatural impulse which does not come from the individual imagination but from the reality of the Virgin Mary, from the supernatural, that impulse which enters into a subject, and is expressed according to the possibilities of the subject.

The subject is determined by his or her historic, personal, temperamental, situation. Therefore, supernatural impulse is translated according to the subject’s possibilities to see, imagine or express it. But in these expressions, formed by the subject, a content is hidden, that goes beyond, goes deeper. Only in the passage of time is the true depth, that was clothed in this vision, revealed to us, only then is it possible for concrete people.

Here too, beyond this great vision of the suffering Pope, which we can initially circumscribe to John Paul II, other realities are indicated which over time will develop and become clear. Thus it is true that beyond the moment indicated in the vision, one speaks about and sees the necessity of suffering by the Church, which is focused on the person of the Pope, but the Pope stands for the church, and therefore sufferings of the Church are announced. The Lord told us that the Church will always be suffering in various ways, up to the end of the world. The important point is that the message, the answer of Fatima, it not substantially addressed to particular devotions, but is the fundamental response: permanent conversion, penance, prayer, and the three cardinal virtues: faith, hope and charity. Here we see the true, fundamental response the Church must give, which each of us individually must give, in this situation.

In terms of what we today can discover in this message, attacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. In one word we have to re-learn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. That is how we respond, and we need to be realistic in expecting that evil will always attack, from within and from outside, but the forces of good are also always present, and finally the Lord is stronger than evil and the Virgin Mary is for us the visible maternal guarantee that the will of God is always the last word in history... Read the original.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Open Letter to Hans Küng

Apr 21, 2010
by George Weigel

Dr. Küng:

A decade and a half ago, a former colleague of yours among the younger progressive theologians at Vatican II told me of a friendly warning he had given you at the beginning of the Council’s second session. As this distinguished biblical scholar and proponent of Christian-Jewish reconciliation remembered those heady days, you had taken to driving around Rome in a fire-engine red Mercedes convertible, which your friend presumed had been one fruit of the commercial success of your book, The Council: Reform and Reunion.

This automotive display struck your colleague as imprudent and unnecessarily self-advertising, given that some of your more adventurous opinions, and your talent for what would later be called the sound-bite, were already raising eyebrows and hackles in the Roman Curia. So, as the story was told me, your friend called you aside one day and said, using a French term you both understood, “Hans, you are becoming too evident.”

As the man who single-handedly invented a new global personality-type—the dissident theologian as international media star—you were not, I take it, overly distressed by your friend’s warning. In 1963, you were already determined to cut a singular path for yourself, and you were media-savvy enough to know that a world press obsessed with the man-bites-dog story of the dissenting priest-theologian would give you a megaphone for your views. You were, I take it, unhappy with the late John Paul II for trying to dismantle that story-line by removing your ecclesiastical mandate to teach as a professor of Catholic theology; your subsequent, snarling put-down of Karol Wojtyla’s alleged intellectual inferiority in one volume of your memoirs ranked, until recently, as the low-point of a polemical career in which you have become most evident as a man who can concede little intelligence, decency, or good will in his opponents. Read the whole article.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Moral Consequences of Episcopal Sin

by Fr. Edward T. Oakes, S.J.

[Editor’s Note: The following is an adaptation of a homily delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2010 at St. Alphonsus Church in Chicago.]

A preacher is often faced with the burdensome task of confronting the discrepancy between the texts from Scripture assigned for the day and the headlines that have been blaring during the past week. For example, how does one reconcile the news of God’s love with the news of the earthquake in Haiti?

Something like the same dilemma faces me today, when I must preach on this verse from today’s first reading, where we just heard: “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. They used to meet in Solomon’s Portico. No one dared join them, even though they were esteemed by the people” (Acts 5: 12-13).

Such a situation hardly obtains today, where the successors of the apostles are neither feared nor esteemed. I presume you have all heard the news or read the headlines about the revelations of sexual abuse of minors by priests which have recently come to light in Ireland, Germany, and elsewhere, and which are so reminiscent of the revelations of similar crimes committed by American priests that came to light in the Long Lent of 2002.

Given how devastating must be the effect of these crimes on the victims, I cannot help but be struck—as has been the world—by the collusion of bishops in covering up these crimes, lest they cause “scandal to the Church.” Even now, explicit confessions of guilt in that sin have been remarkably muted. At least, those expressions of remorse come tinged with both embarrassment and defensiveness. All too rarely does one hear the ringing tones of, for example, Buti Tlhagale, the Archbishop of Johannesburg, South Africa, who had this to say during his homily at the Chrism Mass last week on April 6, 2010:

In our times we have betrayed the very Gospel we preach. The Good News we claim to announce sounds so hollow, so devoid of any meaning when matched with our much publicized negative moral behavior. Many who looked up to priests as their model feel betrayed, ashamed and disappointed. They feel that some priests have “slipped away from the footprints of the Apostles.” Trust has been compromised. The halo has been tilted, if not broken. What happens in Ireland or in Germany or America affects us all. It simply means that the misbehavior of priests in Africa has not been exposed to the same glare of the media as in other parts of the world. We must therefore take responsibility for the hurt, the scandals, the pain and the suffering caused by ourselves who claim to be models of good behavior. The image of the Catholic Church is virtually in ruins because of the bad behavior of its priests, wolves wearing sheep's skin, preying on unsuspecting victims, inflicting irreparable harm, and continuing to do so with impunity. We are slowly but surely bent on destroying the church of God by undermining and tearing apart the faith of lay believers. …

The upshot of this sorry state of affairs is that we weaken the authoritative voice of the church. As church leaders, we become incapable of criticizing the corrupt and immoral behavior of the members of our respective communities. We become hesitant to criticize the greed and malpractices of our civic authorities. We are paralyzed and automatically become reluctant to guide young people in the many moral dilemmas they face.

Under such circumstances, when allegations after allegations are made, when scandal after scandal is brought forth, as clergy, we probably feel much closer to Judas Iscariot and his thirty pieces of silver. “Alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed” (Mk. 14.21). Or perhaps like Simon Peter, we are deeply buried in denial; we curse and swear when we hear the words: “You are one of them.” We answer: “I do not know the man you speak of.” Each time we toss our vows in the air, each time we break our fidelity, we betray Christ himself.  Read the whole article.

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Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.