Universalis, About this blog

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pray without ceasing

Lots of intentions to go around. Mercy for Saddam and his cohorts. Peace in the Middle East. Justice for the oppressed. Charity in all hearts as we start a new year. But at the core of it all should be this: that we may see the face of God. LumenGentleman Apologetics offers a great piece on prayer. Yes, even for busy people. Perhaps even more so, in fact.
[Link found via Julie D. at Happy Catholic.]

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The madness behind embryonic stem cell research advocacy

Maureen L. Condic, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, tells us that it's boils down to something simple (emphasis mine):

The assertion that embryonic stem cells in the laboratory can be induced to form all the cells comprising the mature human body has been repeated so often that it seems incontrovertibly true. What is missing from this assertion remains the simple fact that there is essentially no scientific evidence supporting it. Experiments have shown that embryonic stem cells are able to participate in normal embryonic development, an observation that is also true of cancerous embryonal carcinoma cells. When injected into early mouse embryos, both embryonic stem cells and embryonal carcinoma cells randomly contribute to every tissue of the developing body.

Please read the full article from First Things. Comments in Amy Welborn's blog are often very insightful.
[Link found via Amy Welborn's blog, Open Book.]

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A very Merry Christmas to all

Tis Christmas Eve, and late at night,
my boys have gone to bed.
My wife has, too, and soon, must I,
to rest my sleepy head.

Dreams and scenes of Heav'nly glory,
I pray the Lord would send;
brilliant visions of Gracious love,
for dark and gloom to end.

In dazzling scenes of majesty,
his power, fire and might,
may I see the wondrous vision:
a babe born on this night.

Babe born in the city of bread,
in Virgin's arms held fast,
our Savior, Lord, our King and God,
has come to us at last.

In countenance of that sweet child,
the love for any race
and peace and joy, in my own sons,
are mirrored in each face.

And in that vision shall I sleep
in joy like radiant sun,
the promise that Christ may become,
my children, yes, each son.

Lessons in scruples

Mark Shea answers a reader's queries about scruples, and Mark's answers were well worth reading -- and utterly significant to me.

The Donut Man, a Catholic conversion story

Or, as musician Rob Evans prefers, his discovery of the Catholic Church. Just goes to show that you shouldn't believe those stories told by non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics about the Catholic Church. Here's the interview with the National Catholic Reporter.
[Link found via The Curt Jester.]

Rights for robots... but what about the unborn child?

I hope the folks in this government commission can broaden their minds a bit and be consistent.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Driving an unhealthy obsession with embryonic stem cells

This story from the BBC is sad:

Healthy new-born babies may have been killed in Ukraine to feed a flourishing international trade in stem cells, evidence obtained by the BBC suggests.

Disturbing video footage of post-mortem examinations on dismembered tiny bodies raises serious questions about what happened to them.

Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world.

There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases.

But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies.

[Story found via The Catholic Report, 2006-12-18. TCR comments here.]

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christians in Mosul, Iraq are being persecuted severely

“We are living the period of Advent, the happiest of the whole year, as if we were in prison. The world is preparing to celebrate while we prepare to die. Who will listen to our cries, who can help us now that we feel like strangers in our own homeland?”

The Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans (Catholic), Emmanuel III Delly, asks for days of fasting and prayer interceding for Iraq and Iraqi Christians under persecution in Mosul. David Hartline reports that

Mosul is the heartland of Christianity in Iraq and specifically Catholicism. It was here that some of the apostles passed through centuries ago as they spread the faith. That same faith is now being attacked in Mosul and in Baghdad because of its history and message. However, it hardly gets a mention.

[Link found via The Catholic Report.]

Friday, December 15, 2006

Let's be consistent

This is logical. If there are rights for the disabled, then those rights should consistently cover the unborn who are disabled.

What lies behind the drive to abort on the basis of the unborn's disability? The attitude that drives one to advocate such a decision will also advocate a decision to destroy the disabled who are already born. If one thinks that death is preferable for an unborn with a disability, then that extends to the living. As the message from Feminists for Life below asks, will you tell that to someone to his face? To extend this a bit further (consistency allows for that), what does this say about wanting to abort any unborn, even a healthy one? I'm not talking about cases where women are forced into abortion, or who are lied to about abortion as the only option, or as something trivial. When a carefully deliberated decision is made to abort, does that reason also extend to those already born?

Towards Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Unity

This is a very good development.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After centuries of allowing themselves to grow apart, Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox must seek forgiveness and learn to work together for the good of the world, said Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece.

The pope formally welcomed the primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece to the Vatican Dec. 14, solemnly signing with him a commitment to preaching the Gospel together and to working for full communion.

Here is an insightful interview with Monsignor Dimitrios Salachas of the Greek-Catholic Apostolic Exarchy of Athens by Zenit News Agency.
[Link found from The Catholic Report. Combox here.]

The real tragedy in disability..

.. is when people believe that death is preferable. But have they really thought about that? Here are a few thoughts from Feminists for Life:

From: info@feministsforlife.org
To: infolist@lists.feministsforlife.org Feminists for Life Information List

Disability� what if the fetus is or could be disabled?

It is natural to want to "save from suffering the unborn innocent" as was written in Susan B. Anthony's Revolution. (http://www.feministsforlife.org/history/foremoth.htm)

If actual or potential disability is a reason to devalue children before birth, what cruel message does this send to persons with disabilities who are already born?

Would you say to someone in a wheelchair that s/he should never have been born? That's the message people get when they talk about "gross fetal anomalies."

How many artists, musicians, writers with disabilities or no fault brain disease have enriched our world? Would artist Toulouse-Lautrec�s paintings have had a bigger impact if he were taller in stature? What would our world be like without the contributions of artist Van Gogh, musician Beethoven, or writer Sylvia Plath?

This is the information list for Feminists for Life.
Are you a member and is your membership current?
Go to http://www.feministsforlife.org/support/index.htm and join online or donate today!
Feminists for Life - PO Box 20685 - Alexandria, VA 22320

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sex selection: no. Human-animal hybrids: yes.

They're half right, but they're still half wrong. All it means is that they are half guilty of a crime against human dignity, not to mention that, for each crime, a human life is created (hybrid) and destroyed for the sake of research. Now I have nothing about research at all, but what is the point of this dabbling in things best left alone when viable treatments can instead be found via cord blood and adult stem cell research, which has resulted in 72 successful treatments already? Why this obsession with embryonic stem cell research which has achieved zero treatments so far?

[Link found at Mark Shea's blog. You may wish to visit his combox for a healthy discussion.]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where are the defenders of women's rights?

How come they can defend a woman's right to abortion but not a girl's right to be born and grow into a woman? This is a report based on worldwide demographic data:

According to Eberstadt, natural birth rates are about 105 males for every 100 females born. Some regions of the world are experiencing upwards of 115 boys born for every 100 girls, some are as high at 150 boys born for every 100 girls. He warned delegates that this could just be the beginning and that the world is “moving to the realm of science fiction” as the ratio of baby boys to baby girls was already at levels “beyond nature.” Citing a recent study, Eberstadt said that even now there are 20 million “missing” baby girls in Asia alone, that sex-selected abortions have permanently skewed the demographic balance of China and are in the process of skewing the demographic balance of India. He also showed the way that the trend has crept into Eastern Europe and Latin America, and that almost every African state is showing signs of vulnerability to the phenomenon.

[Link found via the Catholic Report. David's combox here.]

Are the Greens so obsessed with pro-abortion legislation?

How can what purports to be a competent political party be so obsessed with abortion?

"They're the ones I'm a bit worried about. They're basically a single-issue anti-abortion party," he said.

"It's a real worry that they would simply take that as their (sole) negotiating item."

Mr Barber said he feared Premier Steve Bracks could shelve plans to decriminalise abortion to secure the support of the DLP members in the upper house.

"I think the whole legislation agenda could be distorted if they (legislate) through a single framework," he said.

Is pro-abortion legislation the only thing that the Greens are fighting for?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Catholic Answers needs our help!

A little advertisement for a good cause:

Here's how you can get a Catholic Answers SHOPPING SPREE Worth Up to $120.

Dear Friend of Catholic Answers,

It's time for us to pay the bills again.

We really need you to join us as a supporter of the extremely effective Catholic Answers Forums site.

We reach more than 100,000 people a month through this Internet site. That's over 1,200,000 visitors each year!

But since this site doesn't yet pay for itself, we need outside help from people like you who care enough to keep it going.

And, to make it worth your while, we want to “reward” you with a very special offer:

A Catholic Answers shopping spree where you can buy anything you want from our catalog!

How does this work? It’s very simple:

  • For your monthly donation of $15, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $35!
  • For your monthly donation of $20, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $50!
  • For your monthly donation of $35, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $85!
  • And for your monthly donation of $50 or more, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $120!

All you have to do is let us know that we can count on your support of Catholic Answers Forums.

Specifically, we need your help every month.

That's because we host and manage the site EVERY DAY of every month. And every month it costs a lot to keep Catholic Answers Forums on the Internet.

But the site does not pay for itself. In fact, Catholic Answers Forums runs a big deficit every month.

We simply must find more supporters.

Therefore, we're hoping that you will pledge your support of just $20/month--or more if you can--so that we can meet the shortfall.

I think you'll agree that $20 a month is a small price to pay for access to a top-notch Catholic apologetics community forum that helps so many seekers.

Twenty dollars is just a few cups of coffee at your local coffee house. Or a few gallons of gas, for that matter!

But to us, $20 a month is our lifeblood.

It's what keeps us going. And it will keep us online so we can continue to reach thousands of people every day with the truth of our faith.

I wish you could hear the phone calls we get and read the letters and e-mails we receive from people whose lives have been changed by Catholic Answers Forums.

Here are a few samples of what we receive:

* * *

"I came across the Catholic Answers Forums very recently and spent many fruitful hours viewing the Ask an Apologist forum. It provided a treasure trove of information and answered many questions that I have had about the faith. I have been studying Catholicism for nearly a year now and I have decided to become a Catholic.

I pray for blessing and guidance in this journey and for all of you as well!"

* * *

"After years of reading the postings at Catholic Answers, its now time to make my first post.

For many years I have wandered lost in sin and confusion. Three years ago, by the grace of God, I woke up. Through your work and cooperation with the Holy Spirit, your posts led me back to the fullness of our faith, and last Easter I came home (along with my wife, daughter, and son-in-law)."

* * *

Other folks tell us how Catholic Answers Forums have helped them to start going to church on Sundays and holy days, to go to confession for the first time in years, to receive Holy Communion again, to pray the rosary, to bring their faith into their daily lives, and to share their new spiritual awakening with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

* * *

Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few"
-- Matt. 9:37

This shows how much God depends on all of us to get his work done!

He desperately wants to reach all the lost sheep who are wandering in the fields and in the desert.

And Catholic Answers Forums can reach them.

But the forums will die on the vine if not nourished and supported.

This is where you come in.

God works through human instruments. He does not send money directly from heaven.

So he relies on you. He relies on me. And I rely on you.

In return for your generosity, God bestows graces and blessings upon you and your loved ones.

To join with thousands of your fellow Catholics who are giving $20 or more each month, just click here to make your online pledge:


It’s fast and easy—and you’ll be rewarded not only with God’s abundant graces, but we’ll also give you…

A SHOPPING SPREE from the Catholic Answers catalog—worth up to $120—yours FREE!

Just in time for Christmas, we’ll send you a special voucher gift certificate—either by snail-mail or e-mail (your choice)—so that you can go shopping through our Catholic Answers catalog and get whatever you want!

Choose from books, videos, CDs, tapes, and much more!

And the more you give us, the more we give YOU!

  • For your monthly donation of $15, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $35!
  • For your monthly donation of $20, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $50!
  • For your monthly donation of $35, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $85!
  • And for your monthly donation of $50 or more, we’ll give you a Catholic Answers shopping spree worth $120!

This is our way of saying thank you for helping us keep Catholic Answers Forums going strong.

Again, just $20 a month will be the amount that blesses our ministry so that we can bless others.

Won't you respond and sign up today?

Sincerely in Christ,

Karl Keating

P.S. It's easy to pledge your support. Just click on the link below: http://www.catholic.com/forums/support.asp

Got Questions? Get Answers. Catholic Answers!
Catholic Answers, 2020 Gillespie Way, El Cajon, California 92020 USA
Phone: 619-387-7200 | Fax: 619-387-0042 | Sales: 888-291-8000
http://www.catholic.com    http://shop.catholic.com

Statue of Pope John Paul the Great "violates.. law on the separation of church and state."

Prayers for Victoria

This is shaping up as a disastrous summer for Victoria. Please pray for people who are in danger during the bushfire season, and for the heroes out there trying to contain the fires at risk to their own lives.

And pray also that no one else starts fires as someone apparently has, disrupting fire service operations during these difficult times.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A voice in the wilderness

Today our parish priest, Fr. John, talked about speaking the truth, as the prophets Baruch and St. John the Baptist did. Rather than the cynics and doom-sayers, prophecy and speaking the truth is not about condemning -- at least, not exclusively. For example, the crucial other half, after condemning wrongdoing, is to proclaim the salvation that is accessible after repentance. He also talked about the wonderful lesson of of St. Francis of Assisi to Brother Juniper, who so wanted to gain the same eloquence that St. Francis had in preaching. But to his surprise, the blessed saint's lessons were not given in Church, or in a library or classroom, but in the streets of the towns where St. Francis went about greeting people, helping them in their physical labors. I didn't hear Fr. John make the connection, as my attention was on my son from time to time, but I can certainly see a connection. When St. Francis preaches in his fashion, he is not there telling people that they are condemned, or that they are accursed for their sins. He is there telling them that God loves them, that he loved them, that help was at hand. In other words, he does not state the obvious -- that we can all use some help or kind words -- but goes on to the stunning conclusion: that the help and loving kindness of God was right there.

Exciting development?

Former Church in Massachusetts has been sold and will become (after renovations) a Mosque. Why am I not as overjoyed as the priest of the nearby parish is? After all, the fact is that one parish was merged with another -- either a shortage of parishioners or parish priests. Not stellar news to me.

Dangerous and heretical liaisons

So Rev. Sun Myung Moon is a sponsor of excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and his "Married Priests Now!" movement. Are the supporters of the movement, silent or otherwise, absolutely sure that they're following Jesus Christ?

Misinformation on stem cell research

My wife called me over to watch the TV documentary (ABC) which at that time showed Dr. Paul Brock, advocating for embryonic stem cell research. He is quick to point out that he used to be a Marist, a Catholic order, but rather than bolster his arguments, I find that to be simply sad. He has obviously lost his faith, so the Marist and Catholic credential is no longer his. What I still find incredible is that people like Dr. Brock would speak of stem cell research as if there were only embryonic stem cells to speak of. In this particular article I found, he is reported to have claimed that adult stem cells have yielded nothing while embryonic stem cell research offers the best hope. That's exactly the opposite. Adult stem cell research has yielded 72 successful human treatments, including for neural degenerative diseases, while embryonic stem cell research has yielded none. Not a single one. Add to that the problems that people haven't yet addressed with embryonic stem cell research: that in trials with animals, embryonic stem cells were incredibly difficult to harvest and mostly useless because they caused cancer that kills the subject.

So what I still find incredible and frustrating is the obsession with embryonic stem cells when the empirical evidence points to this as a futile avenue.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Prayers and prayer resources for soldiers

I remember a whinge on MX, a Melbourne daily newspaper distributed free to train passengers coming from the CBD. The complaint was about what was claimed to be too much attention drawn by the recent death of one pilot, an officer, who died in a helicopter accident. The complainant felt that the officer was no more than just another Australian worker, and the publicity for this officer's death was therefore unfair to every other Australian worker who dies during a workplace accident. Obviously, this unhappy person does not understand anything about what is involved in becoming a soldier. This is a profession where personal physical danger is a daily and deliberate reality, accepted as a necessary part of their profession to serve the country. It brought home the sense that PC has really gone crazy. We must make intercessory prayers for our soldiers, especially those on the battlefield. It is with this thought that I am passing this on, as found at Mark Shea's blog (CAEI):

  "Yes, Father," the young Catholic medic wrote, "it was a hell of a battle."

"We were pinned down on the bridge in a wide-open killing field. There were over thirty of them and just five of us. While bullets rained down on us from three directions, I prayed.

"Thank you for giving me the Wartime Prayer Book. I always carry it with me. Twice now, I've used it to pray for the dying: first for an Iraqi woman with her face blown off, and then again yesterday.

"I did my best to stabilize the sergeant. Then, just before we loaded him onto the litter, I prayed the Prayer for a Dying Comrade and then the Commemoration of the Dead.

"After the mission, our whole platoon said the Prayer on Coming Through Battle Unharmed, and then again the Commemoration of the Dead.

"My Prayer Book is a little bloody now, and some of its pages tattered, but I don't think I'll part with it."

* * *

This young medic's words echo those of the old soldier who called me five years ago: "Dr. Barger," he said, "I'm sending you my only copy of The Armor of God, the prayer book Bishop Sheen wrote for us G.I.'s in the darkest days of World War II."

"I prayed with it on lonely troopships crossing the Pacific and in bloody battles on islands whose names I've forgotten. My copy is in worse shape than I am, but the prayers are still strong.

"Maybe it's time to draft The Armor of God back into military service."

* * *

I agreed, and in 2003 I brought The Armor of God back into print with a new name: Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book.

For four years now (and for just a few pennies more than it costs us to print them), I've sold copies of it to a non-profit organization called Catholics in the Military, which sends free copies to chaplains, and to soldiers, sailors, and airmen across the globe.

We provided the free copy to the young medic who said, "My Prayer Book is a little bloody now, but I don't think I'll part with it."

Indeed, through Catholics in the Military, we've provided free copies to 75,000 other men and women in our armed forces.

Today, with casualties rising sharply in Iraq, chaplains there are clamoring for thousands of copies more.

* * *

But now I may have to stop printing The Wartime Prayer Book.

Although we here at Sophia Institute Press have spent the last two decades publishing faithful Catholic books, including hundreds of classics of our Faith, slow sales and weak responses to my recent fundraising letters have left us with an empty checkbook and more debt than we can manage. Our overdue bills are hovering around $40,000.

War doesn't care about our financial problems, and the devil delights when young men go into battle without the armor of God.

Which is why I'm writing to you now: If I don't pay these overdue bills soon, I'm going to have to cease printing the Wartime Prayer Book and turn all our efforts to more profitable projects.

* * *

You know, the chaplain who forwarded this letter from Iraq didn't include the young medic's name or indicate whether he's still in combat or even still alive. So please join me in praying for him in particular.

But he's just one of tens of thousands of Catholic soldiers overseas who are fighting not merely for their country but also for their souls, while praying for their buddies and even for their enemies.

Souls hang in the balance here -- and the Wartime Prayer Book is tipping that balance toward God.

Can you make a small contribution today to help us keep it in print?

Before you decide, click here and take a few moments to browse through the prayers in the Wartime Prayer Book.

You'll quickly discover that that old soldier was right:these prayers are as strong as the day Bishop Sheen drafted them. If your sons and daughters were heading off into combat, this is the prayer book you'd give them.

To ensure that the Wartime Prayer Book doesn't go out of print, I'm sending this emergency e-mail appeal to 250,000 Catholics, asking each of you to donate $1 at our website or to print the form there and send your dollar by snail mail.

If every one of you donates just one dollar, we'll stay in business and we'll continue to equip soldiers with this strong armor of God -- for free!

That's a lot of value for just one dollar!

We ordinarily sell Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book for $10, but for every $5 we receive in contributions, we'll ship a free copy to Catholics in the Military which will send it to a soldier overseas.

If you contribute $20 or more, we'll send you a free copy, too.

Whether or not you can donate, please do two things for our men and women in the Armed Forces:

1) Please pray for them.
2) Please forward this e-mail to others who might help.

Thank you, and please pray for us, too.

Sincerely yours,

John L. Barger, Publisher
Sophia Institute Press

Also, have a look at the other publications from Sophia (link above). This is a good source of worthier reads than what you would normally find at a secular bookstore.

Mysticism and the Blessed Mother

I think one of the reasons for Mariaphobia among Evangelical Protestants is the fear that Marian devotees get sucked into mysticism. It conveys a sense of something mysterious, akin to magic, enchantments, wishes and wishes granted. But it came to me that some people have it backwards after all.

But let me point out first that this fear of mysticism, if coming from a distaste for the supernatural, and preference for enlightened discourse, should not belong to a Christian. Being Christian is supernatural, and being enlightened supernaturally. My main point, however, is that the burden of mysticism is not on our Lady. What matters to us is that it is on us Christians. Because everything that we must become, in a mystical, supernatural way, was fulfilled first, physically and directly, but also mystically, with our Blessed Mother.

We are temples of the Holy Spirit? The Blessed Virgin was physically so, which bore physical fruit in the Incarnation of the Word in her flesh. We are in the body of Christ? Our Lady was there before us, physically one with the physical body of Christ. We are to be sanctified so as to become Christ and to become Christ-like? Our Lady was there ahead of us also, bearing Christ physically so that the world might be saved. We are to receive the fullness of grace? She was there first, as the archangel addressed her by title, rather than name: kecharitomene -- full of grace. We are to have the fullness of faith? Again, our Lady was way ahead. As St. Elizabeth exclaimed, "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." As the Lord affirmed himself: "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" We are to be intimate with our Lord and Savior? Which man or woman has been as intimate with the Lord as the woman who was his mother, raising him up from infant to man?

So it isn't that mysticism surrounds Marian devotion. In fact, it surrounds us as well, and that is even more relevant to us. Every Christian should know the Lord's mother intimately. She is God's masterpiece among his creatures, whom we can look to for inspiration on what we must become as Christians.

So we shouldn't worry about mysticism and the Blessed Mother. What should worry us is whether or not we have enough mysticism in us. The right sort, like the Blessed Mother's.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Immaculate Conception

Today is the happy 7th birthday of my son, on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Sadly, this dogma happens to be one of those things that keep Evangelical Protestants away from the Catholic faith. But it's not as incredible as they think. In fact, nothing can be simpler, because one simply has to think of Mary as the very first Christian. She was the first to be in the body of Christ, and physically more than anyone else. Her Immaculate Conception is no more (and no less) than God's gift of salvation, except that God bestows it upon her at the moment of conception. If one believes in infant baptism already (as any Christian should), as in the continuation of infant dedication and circumcision, then salvation at conception is not hard to understand. After all, it is all grace, is it not? And without any deliberate acts of sin, how can one reject grace?

No, I think what drives Evangelicals to reject the dogma, sometimes with such intensity, is a fear that it makes of Mary a deity. Nothing can be further from the truth, since what makes the conception immaculate is the grace of God. They also cannot see that celebrating Mary's blessedness is celebrating God's graciousness, at the same time proclaiming the holiness of the Incarnation of the Word. After all, anything precious must have a beautiful vessel. Being the vessel of the Word made flesh, Mary cannot be anything less than made holy -- not only declared to be holy, but truly made holy. I suppose that this, in itself, is a challenge to Protestant theology, at least for those who hold that justification is truly in declaration only, not in truth. But I've always though that, in this, their hope falls short of what our blessed hope really is. For what God declares, he does. If he declares us justified, and calls us sons and daughters at baptism, then we are not only declared holy, nor are we only perceived holy by the eternal judge: we truly are washed clean, truly made holy. God's words do not proceed from him in vain. To believe otherwise, I think, does not give the mercy of God enough credit.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mark Shea: "Concupiscence and the Battle of the Spirit"

Mark writes a thought-provoking piece at Catholic Exchange. He begins thus:

  One of the big differences between Catholic teaching and a great deal of the sort of dilute Protestantism that floats around in our culture is the Church's teaching on temptation and failure after we become Christians. Not a few Protestants have been troubled over the years by the fact that their faith in Christ did not seem to have "fixed" them. That worry can and has taken the form of the question, "If I really believe, why do I keep sinning?" Various approaches are taken to deal with this troubling reality. If the sin is committed by one's self, then the tendency is to wonder if I "really meant it" when I committed my life to Christ. Alloyed with this is an often uneasy doctrine of "once saved, always saved" which attempts to paper over the anxiety by proposing that it is impossible to lose your salvation once you have made a sincere confession of faith. However, the question, "Was I really sincere?" goes on haunting the tender consciences of many Evangelicals whenever they are confronted by the ongoing fact of their weakened will, darkened intellects and disordered appetites.

Yes, he is starting from an Evangelical Protestant angle, but this is relevant to all of us. For concupiscence does not disappear in the twinkling of that altar walk or the sprinkling of baptismal water. There's a reason why the New Testament writers, and the Lord himself, spoke about "patience", "trials", "perseverence" and "tests" that have much bearing on our salvation. This piece is a must read.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Therapeutic cloning for embryonic stem cell research passes Australian Parliament

A dark day for Australia.

The decreasing respect for human life is getting scarier and scarier. People don't see the big picture: this is called "sliding down that slippery slope". It used to be appalling to consider destructive experimentation on human beings. The cloning crowd has just found a way to get around this: they will create human beings that people cannot relate to, because they do not look like human beings yet. But pretending doesn't change facts. They are human beings. They have 43 chromosomes. They are alive. And passing this bill is a catastrophe, because the slip down that slope will not stop there.

Didn't know that about St. Nicholas

Very good read from Dr. Warren Throckmorton on Saint Nicholas: a patron saint of chastity, a champion of women.

Update: Great website about the man: "Discovering the Truth about Santa Claus", from the St. Nicholas Center. Got this link from David Hartline at the Catholic Report, who got it from Amy Welborn.

Blegging for the Carmelite Sisters in L.A.

One of Rick's readers at Amateur Catholic asks for support for this good cause:

  This is not the usual blegging email. I'm writing you so that maybe you might include this in the "main" Amateur Catholic blog.

This is a fundraiser for the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles (http://carmelitegeneralate.homestead.com/). As anyone can see by their website, the Carmelite Sisters are a good, solid, holy, orthodox bunch and they need our help. To help fund their Religious Education efforts they are selling handcrafted Christmas cards, $2/each and $17.50/10 cards.

The whole thing (with pictures) is at http://jmgarciaiii.blogspot.com/2006/12/like-blegging-but-not-really.html and I'm not making a penny off of this!

If everyone who reads this could buy just one pack of cards, it'd fund the next semester of Religious Education for kids who otherwise couldn't afford the books and fees and so forth.

Thanks in advance!


Imagine that: TIME omits data from its report

Sloppy reporting from TIME? For peer-reviewed scientific conference proceedings and journals, such an omission would mean a rejection of your paper.

style="font-style: italic;">Seven peer-reviewed research studies published in respected medical journals including Human Reproduction (March 2004), British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (April 2005), Obstetrics Gynecology (Dec. 1999), International Journal of Epidemiology (2000), American Journal of Obstetrics Gynecology (1981), New England Journal Of Medicine (1986) and UK's Lancet (1983) have found that prior induced abortion "increases the risk of preterm births, particularly extremely preterm deliveries."
How could TIME have missed them? How indeed?

I don't suppose that this glaring conclusion had anything to do with it:

style="font-style: italic;">Researchers found that "women who reported having previous abortions [more than one] had a 70% higher risk of delivering an infant before 28 weeks gestation, compared with women who had never had an abortion." Those with at least one prior abortion almost doubled the risk of giving birth "very prematurely" [defined as born before 33 weeks gestation].

Nicaragua steps up for the unborn

Abortion has been officially outlawed in Nicaragua! I wish the Philippines would do the same, instead of deliberating the merits of a proposal to aggressively reduce births through contraception, and pro-abortion laws will be quick to follow once the contraceptive culture is entrenched. We already have the unborn's rights in our constitution, and the fertility rate is already down to about 3 children per family (about 2 in Metro Manila, the capital region).

God's blessings on the Nicaraguan government, and the citizens who bravely put their faith and future in God and in their children, rather than anti-life propaganda. May the Filipino lawmakers and citizenry have the same courage and inspiration.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"Why Isn't Homosexuality Considered A Disorder On The Basis Of Its Medical Consequences?"

Read this sobering article written by Kathleen Melonakos, M.A., R.N.Delaware Family Foundation. She writes based on her research and her own experiences as a nurse. File this under "when lobbying prevails over science" or "when true compassion is exchanged for appearances thereof." Why the latter? Because when you let your sons to go ahead with what they think makes them happy, even if it kills them and makes them miserable in the end, you're not being compassionate; you're just letting yourself off the hook. This is especially horrible when you consider that there are many with same sex attraction who have been helped or managed to get into better lives -- yes, often through a stronger spiritual life. Just check out John Heard and David Morrison.

Update: I've had to rethink what I wrote above. I oversimplify when I say that people let themselves off the hook by letting any man they love go down that path. I reconsidered this and I think it is far more common that people believe what the modern culture tells them, that embracing the gay lifestyle is as benign as any lifestyle choice, e.g., being married to the complementary sex, or living in single blessedness. What really should happen is for facts that burst this delusional bubble to be circulated and discussed more widely. My apologies if I had offended anyone in that short tirade. This will teach me to think hard before pronouncing judgments. Mea culpa. I will stop, I think, at facts. Let the article cited above, and the testimonies of people like John and David, stand on the merits of the facts and their experiences.

Celibacy, briefly clarified

A few words of clarification from the new prefect of the Congregation for Clergy:

  • "This question is not … on the order of the day for ecclesial authorities"
  • "In the Church it has always been clear that priests' obligation to celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary norm."
  • "it is also clear that the norm prescribing celibacy for priests in the Latin Church is very ancient and is founded upon consolidated tradition and upon strong motivations, both theological-spiritual and practical-pastoral, as reiterated also by Popes."
  • "during the recent Synod on priests, the most widespread opinion among the fathers was that a relaxation of the rule of celibacy would not be a solution even to the problem of the lack of vocations, which is, rather, to be linked to other causes, in the first place the modern culture of secularization. This is clear also from the experience of other Christian confessions that have married priests and pastors."

What the mainstream media don't seem to report is that seminaries are filling up in places where there is orthodoxy, not a departure from it. The shortage is due to the latter, in fact, that having been the norm (dissent from the Magisterium of the Church) in too many places. But the shortage is temporary, for the seminaries are filling up, which means that we will have more priests right after these new batches of seminarians are ordained.

Note also that there are places where there is no shortage of priests at all, e.g., Poland, where priests find themselves assigned overseas where there are shortages. Still it doesn't hurt, and in fact it is entirely for our benefit, that we ask the master of the vineyard to send more workers, for the harvest is ready. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.

And I must mention again my fond dream of the Orthodox Church filling up the slack in places where there is a shortage of Catholic priests and/or parishes. If one day, God willing, the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches came back into full communion.. wow.. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Humanae Vitae predictions (prophecies?) -- and the checklist full of checks

Louise points out the elephant in the room: Pope Paul VI (of happy memory) made several predictions about what will happen if contraception became entrenched in society. As far as checklists go, this one was fairly easy to verify.

On a separate thread of thought, I'd always marveled at the Enemy's widely successful deception. Sadly, the victims are women, and the cause of true feminism, where women gained their rightful place in society: free, cherished and loved. The Enemy, through the 60s and 70s it seems, noted that man's often cruel and truly unjust exploitation of women was now being challenged. There were women's rights movements all over western societies. The Enemy used this to its advantage by twisting the whole struggle. The result is a continued (and, in many ways, worse) exploitation of women -- but this time, through the willing complicity of women themselves. Women were discriminated against by men, but by making women fight for the right to become men, i.e., behave like men, women are now being discriminated against by other women. This is certainly how I perceive the ultra-feminist disdain for motherhood. There was the struggle to make men take more responsibility with having children, but contraception is entirely about men avoiding the responsibility. The burden of being contraceptive, including the devices or drugs necessary, falls on the shoulders of women. That also includes the health risks, e.g., the cancer risks of chemical contraceptives and abortion, as well as the psychological risks of the latter. The strangest twist of all is that women used to struggle against the objectification of the female sexuality for the lust of men -- now women are trained to think that men must behave that way (they do not!) and that women are okay with that.

Have you read Humanae Vitae? If not, you should. In scientific circles, when empirical evidence backs up theory, people have to pay attention. The predictions of the encyclical have empirical merit. Sit up and pay attention.

Prayers for the Philippines

My poor country, the Philippines, is in need of prayers. So many lives lost, or ruined by loss of loved ones.

Update: The death toll gets worse at almost 400, and could reach 1,000. Prayers, please!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"Bella" is a message that needs more messengers

The message seems to be "life over death", and it's a worthy message to pass on. The film "Bella" captured an award in the Toronto Film Festival, but it needs help getting distributed in the United States.

I wonder if Mel Gibson could help bankroll the distribution..

A proposal for unity?

His Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, speaks of a proposal he has put forward, which he hopes will be accepted by Rome for a further step towards unity:


Bartholomew I: In this respect, I can say that I spoke with His Holiness of something -- something that we could do. I presented him with a proposal which I cannot now elaborate on, as we await an official response, but I can say that His Holiness was very interested and that he received it favorably.

We hope it can be undertaken as it is directed to that ecumenical progress that, as we have affirmed and written in the common declaration, both of us are determined to pursue.

Q: Why are you so determined?

Bartholomew I: Unity is a precious responsibility, but at the same time a difficult one which must be assumed if it is not shared between brothers. The history of the last millennium is a painful "memory" of this reality.

Veni Sancte Spiritus! May the Holy Spirit bring that unity to fruition in my lifetime, or my children's.

Church's Mission Is to Offer Christ

Once more from Zenit News Agency (as below), we cannot deny the strength of the Holy Father's words, given during the homily in the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

To Heal the Wounds of Separation

His Holiness, Papa Benedict XVI, continuing on with the mission given to him, as successor of St. Peter, to feed the sheep of Christ. Here, he reaffirms with the Armenian Apostolic Church that communion in the body of Christ which the same Christ commands.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pro-Woman Answers to Pro-Choice Questions

I am subscribed to the tutorial delivered by e-mail from Feminists for Life, and so should you. Here's today's very straightforward answers:


What you are about to read is part of a groundbreaking e-tutorial focused on the hard questions related to abortion.

Feminists for Life is a nonsectarian, nonpartisan, grassroots organization working to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion—primarily lack of practical resources and support—through holistic, woman-centered solutions.

FFL’s president, Serrin Foster, speaks at colleges and other institutions across the U.S. These are some of the questions she answers again and again.

For those who are just joining the e-tutorial, you may read the questions and answers from previous weeks.

This week, Serrin answer the question:

Isn't feminism about a woman having rights equal to those of a man?

Feminism is much more than that.

As a teen, I remember the electrifying call for equality during the '70's women's movement, and how it challenged and changed the nation. The idea was so compelling it still circles the world.

By definition, equality is a principle extended to all. When one group of people gets their rights at the expense of another, there is nothing equal about it.

The foundation of feminism is built on the basic tenets of nonviolence, nondiscrimination, and justice for all. Abortion is discrimination based on age, size, location, and sometimes gender, disability, or parentage. And it is often the result of a more insidious form of discrimination: the lack of resources and support that pregnant women need and deserve.

As I entered college, the women's movement continued to gain momentum. Cries for equality in the workplace were muffled by the even louder call for "abortion rights" and "pro-choice." You were either pro-woman or pro-baby. As a pro-life feminist, I felt very much alone.

When I found Feminists for Life I knew that I was "home." Then I learned that during the past two centuries, visionary women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Alice Paul had worked for justice and women’s rights—without choosing between women and children.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton is perhaps the best example of the in-your-face, you-will-accept-women-on-our-terms-and-we-are-not-accepting-less suffrage leaders. Stanton, the first champion of women’s suffrage and a mother of seven, said, "When you consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." [ Click here for more early American feminist wisdom.]

The early American feminists did not work to replace a patriarchy with a matriarchy. Women have a right to be women in the workplace and in school. Women shouldn't have to pass as men.

When women think they have to lay their bodies down or swallow a bitter pill for an abortion in order to compete in the workplace or make their way in the world—that is not feminism. In addition, abortion has hurt women by diverting feminist attention from other issues, particularly those that help mothers, such as affordable child care, comprehensive health care, and a living wage.

Finally, once a woman is pregnant, she is forever changed, no matter what the outcome—marital, partnered or single parenthood, adoption, abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth.

At Feminists for Life, we refuse to choose between women and children. We refuse to choose between our education and career plans and our families.

As pro-life feminists, our values are woman-centered and inclusive of both parents and children. And like the early American feminists, we are not accepting less.

We say "no" to the status quo. Let's aim for the best by advocating resources and support for women, and protecting both mothers and children from violence. Women deserve better.

Because women deserve better,

Serrin M. Foster
Feminists for Life

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hope for unity

This is a good sign of hope. No one can claim that it will be easy, but, if I may borrow the words in an entirely new context: Deus volt! God wills it indeed, for Jesus our King prayed in earnest, "that they may be one, as you [the Father] and I are one." Why does the Church need to be one and visible? Because the Lord wants the nations to have a sign of hope, that city built on top of a hill that everyone may see. That lamp that must not be hidden under a basket, but standing on a pedestal for all to see. Because a visible and visibly one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church might really go a long way in helping the world find peace. And let no Christian claim that it is impossible. The prayers of a righteous man -- and Christ is most righteous -- are most powerful. Add to that: he is King! If he wants it, who are we to go against it?

What a delightful read

Nothing like common sense to refresh one's mind, assailed as it may be in this modern age by ultra-feminism and political correctness. I love my missus, and yes, I do enjoy the feeling of ownership when she is referred to as Mrs. Tan. Selfish? Yes, most certainly, and fierecely protective of any threat to take her away from me. She is, after all, my better half. She is mine and I am hers and we are one.

The Light of Orthodoxy flickers

Not just in Turkey, per se, since this is Constantinople (Istanbul), the New Rome which is the home of the See holding a place of honor second only to that of Rome. Even today, this is where the leaders of Orthodoxy, her bishops and patriarchs, have studied and attained to their calling. Dr. Robert Moynihan reports just how dire the situation is, and how unexpected. We didn't think they had such open, legal and agressive discrimination against Christians in Turkey. Pray for the Orthodox! Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Veni!

Meet the new leader of the "noble Americans"

Does this mean that Americans now have a "shadow government" to balance its duly elected officials? It will be interesting to see how many "noble Americans" will be swayed by the Iranian president, who obviously has nothing but the deepest and most genuine concern for Americans and Iraqis at heart. Yeah. Right. Then again, despite the obvious love for the Democrats that Islamists have (and the obvious hatred towards the Republicans), many American voters did swing towards the Democratic party in their recent elections. Although, thankfully, many of those Democrats newly elected are conservatives, too. But I wonder how nervous they were, or should be, when they vote for the party that was publicly preferred (and campaigned for!) by some Islamist leaders, who have sworn to the destruction of the American way of life (and American lives). Hmm..

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Council of Ephesus

I just thought I'd mention it, since Papa Benedict will be visiting Ephesus during his journey to Turkey. This trip of his can really teach us much about history. The Council, held in AD 431, debated the Nestorian heresy which was contested by Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople (modern day Turkey) and St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria. The heresy of Nestorius, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is not difficult to define,

far as words are concerned: Mary did not bring forth the Godhead as such (true) nor the Word of God (false), but the organ, the temple of the Godhead. The man Jesus Christ is this temple, "the animated purple of the King", as he expresses it in a passage of sustained eloquence. The Incarnate God did not suffer nor die, but raised up from the dead him in whom He was incarnate. The Word and the Man are to be worshipped together, and he adds: dia ton phorounta ton phoroumenon sebo (Through Him that bears I worship Him Who is borne). If St. Paul speaks of the Lord of Glory being crucified, he means the man by "the Lord of Glory". There are two natures, he says, and one person; but the two natures are regularly spoken of as though they were two persons, and the sayings of Scripture about Christ are to be appropriated some of the Man, some to the Word. If Mary is called the Mother of God, she will be made into a goddess, and the Gentiles will be scandalized.

As it turns out, Nestorius' doctrines meant well. He was reacting to the vagueness and at times heterodoxy of Christology as it was faintly understood back then. But we note how even an eloquent theologian and bishop can get things wrong, no matter how well meaning. It's a daunting responsibility, being an apostle/bishop, and one hopes that such a one has really got the charism of teaching, wisdom, knowledge, and the true ordination of episcopal authority. The consequences are too awful to contemplate.

Philippine Congress will discuss the proposed contraceptive, abortive and depopulation act

I received this plea for prayers via SMS: the Philippine Congress interpellates House Bill 3773 this week. Symptoms of lobbying from overseas (perhaps from the UN and Planned Parenthood sponsors?). Fertility rates have been on a linear decline in the last 45 years, and they're still not satisfied. This Bill has a nasty bite: "any person who shall engage in willful disinformation with respect to reproductive health care and rights or the provisions of this Act or cause such disinformation" are threatened with jail time.Critics believe this clause to be a trap, lulling lawmakers to remove this particular clause while retaining the rest of it. But the entire bill is based on lies. It seeks to enshrine into law that contraception and abortion are healthy. No mention of fatal complications and cancer which are proven to be caused by them. It seeks to enshrine into law that the Philippines must reduce its population further. No mention of the fact that countries like Japan (with a larger population at present) are seriously worried about their declining population, causing closures of businesses, and economic and cultural decline, not to mention loss of tax revenues for nation-building.

We need prayers. Please pray for the Philippines and her lawmakers.

"We are not trained to kill."

Found this startling report from Prolife Philippines:

  PORTLAND, May 23, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A new study shows that the psychological effects of "helping patients to die" can be severe for doctors participating in euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS). The report by the group Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation (PCCEF) gleans data from a number of sources articles in independent medical journals, legislative investigations and the public press.

The study is among the first of its kind and says the effects on doctors of the inversion of their traditional medical function can be "substantial".

That elusive male contraceptive

BBC news reports that they are still at it, though. Some gems:

  • Fertility experts welcomed the work, saying it could mean couples could share contraceptive responsibility.
    -- Contraceptive responsibility as against parental responsibility. Nice.
  • "For women, it would be another form of liberation."
    -- No, it would be another form of exploitation -- of women.
  • "There is a need for something that men can take."
    -- Yes, they can take responsibility and use their will and reason. We're men, not beasts.

There's this sense of urgency in this field of research, because, you know, we're sexual animals, completely out of control, always fertile, the whole fertility cycle thing is a myth, and the evolution of man has not yet gotten rid of the reproduction side-effect. Until then, science holds the key to fruitless sex. Ah yes, science: pouring on more tax dollars to fund research into the ultimate pursuit: sexual pleasure!

No wonder entire cultures are in danger of becoming self-extinguished!

A little poison a day

will still kill you. So the only recourse to safety for heavy smokers is to quit. The philosophy is simple: half the amount of poison is still poison. Particularly since the onset of cancer does not remain small for very long. It expands.

Now why won't people use the same philosophy and science elsewhere? Surely everyone can appreciate that a minor contraction of HIV virus is still enough to kill you? How about hepatitis? Same thing, right? So how come people still risk, and advocate to risk, the contraction of HIV and STDs using condoms that do not and cannot guarantee protection 100%? What, not willing to gamble on the 3-14% risk? You betcha.

So what about finding a better way to contain the risk? There already is. The QUIT SMOKING equivalent to STDs is called chastity. Sex only with your spouse. Assuming good health, and neither of you have been promiscuous, then you should be STD free. Of course, if one already has HIV, then QUIT means QUIT, doesn't it? Otherwise, where's the love in the loving act if it means a death sentence for the spouse?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Pope's trip to Turkey

Prayers for his safety, and the success of his mission, and his intentions for the trip, are gratefully solicited -- despite mounting opposition (of varying natures) within Turkey. Beyond the anxiety elicited by such fuss being kicked up there, the article linked is also fascinating for its mention of names with ancient rings to them. The city of Ephesus. The Armenians, Chaldeans, Maronites, all eastern rite Catholics. What a wonderful trip this could be, connecting with our past like that. Reaching back 2000 years. How rich is the history of the Church!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A prest defends the charism of celibacy

Refreshing to see this public defense, whereas what we usually see in the media are the attacks on this great gift of the Holy Spirit. We are all called and gifted, but Christ does not ask the same service from all of us, just as the Holy Spirit does not grant us the same gifts. Is the ministerial priesthood the only means to do so? Not by a long shot. We are all called to the common priesthood, but we need not all administer the sacraments, nor are we all called to lead communities.

St. Paul's teachings on the Church

Papa Benedict gives the best summary I've read of the great apostle's thoughts on what the Church is. This is a must-read.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pray for Somalia

as flood waters and disease continue to devastate.

Perversion of mercy

A zoo routinely poisons lion cubs and sells them to taxidermist because there aren't enough resources to sustain them. I can imagine a great deal of horror among people who read about this. Surely they can be adopted by other zoos? Surely they can raise funds? Now if only the same people would feel the same way about aborted children. I remember the public outrage when videos of slaughtered seals were broadcast in the news, occuring regularly, I think, in that part of the world. It's a pity that the same sort of outrage is not directed at those who cull our unborn young. When videos or pictures of the abortion are released, the outrage is directed instead at those who would be so insensitive as to show them to the world. It is as if they are saying "we would rather not see how we massacre our unborn young, thank you."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Advanced Book Recommendation: The Tide is Turning Towards Catholicism

Do I really believe in this development? It is probably not happening everywhere, but I think it is happening in more places than one would expect. And not because of blind conversion or submission, but by prayerfully and carefully reasoned consideration. Let the book give you the specifics. David Hartline (of the Catholic Report) is a highly-recommended writer whom, I think, is truly aware of all events and developments happening around the Catholic world. The book's release is set for early December. For advanced orders call 1 800 932 3826 or cathsales@tds.net

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"the visible unity of the Church.”

That is "the aim of the ecumenical movement [that] remains unchanged" says Papa Benedict. I think that this is at the core of how we must understand the Lord's fervent prayer "that they may be one" in John 17. In the few conversations I've had with Protestants, I get the feeling that they'll only go so far, reluctantly, as to concede that visible unity is a good thing, but they'll be one step short and say that the Lord surely did not mean that it would happen on earth. It isn't possible, after all, given how frail we are.

What a lack of confidence in the God who saves, and a betrayal of the mission of the Church, and her establishment by Christ to provide the unbelieving world with a sign, a city built on a hill, a means to sanctify the whole world.

And so pride wins. Or perhaps despair. Or perhaps a lack of faith. Perhaps all three, but it usually gives me the impression that we just don't seem to have enough trust. Trust the Holy Spirit! We must acknowledge that what is impossible for us is very possible for God. After all, we who have been reborn of water and Spirit are no longer offspring of sin but offspring of holiness.

Illness in the family

My son Patrick has chickenpox, and so three other people, who have never had chickenpox, are likely to contract it: myself, Justin and Francis. Trix has had it, so we can at least be thankful that someone can take care of groceries and all that. Illness in this family always brings to my mind the responsibilities we have to people around us, especially our own family.

This generation's ideology and worship of personal choice in everything has always bothered me because its proponents are blind. They do not see that their personal choices are not truly so personal. Take smoking, for example. Smokers love to point out that it is their personal choice to smoke, and endanger their health. I can't believe they didn't get the memo about second-hand smoke that kills their infant children, their workmates, and even people who hang around the train platforms where they puff away as they all wait for the next train. It's no different from moral diseases that we take up on ourselves. It appears personal, but the collateral damage can be catastrophic -- except that the initiators are more caught up with their own situations, becoming oblivious to the people around them who suffer for or with them.

In my family, any debilitation I suffer -- moral, spiritual or physical -- will impact my family. I'd be really stupid to think otherwise. It's hard to believe that people entertain such wishful thinking -- both for themselves or for their loved ones whom, they say, should be given the free choice. This is particularly sad to see among parents who leave their children without any guidance whatsoever. It's their choice, they say, and so their children grow up knowing only that they are entitled to their choices, unaware of what distinguishes a smart choice from a dumb one. One of my heroes, Ninoy Aquino, once said that this generation was of people who are well aware of their rights but have no understanding of their duties.

It's all choice, no responsibility. It is chaos. And if it is not accompanied by an informed conscience and an appreciation of consequences, then it can be summed up in one word: stupidity.

Unforeseen problems with therapeutic cloning

Apart from the basic objections one must have to therapeutic cloning, which derives from the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, there's a further problem when the clones are NOT destroyed. We are mostly conscious now of the situation arising from embryos cloned and destroyed to harvest embryonic stem cells. It would mean creating human beings for the sole purpose of sacrificing their lives for the sake of research. It would mean putting billions of $$ into research that happens to promise very little, and the evidence suggests that it is totally futile: zero successful treatments so far, which is in stark contract with adult and cord blood stem cell research having already resulted in 72 successful human treatments.

No, there's more to it than that. We proclaim that human embryonic life is precious human life, and that includes cloned embryos. Regardless of their origins, cloned embryos are human embryos, even if they were derived from non-human oocytes. What? Note that I'm talking about cloned embryos that are 99% human, which appears to be the case with clones derived from human and non-human oocytes. Why? Because they've removed the DNA from the non-human oocytes and put human DNA in it instead. The result? Not a 100% human being but a being with 100% human DNA. Sounds very human.

Now since we claim that all human embryos are precious human beings, then so are these chimeras. We protest at cloning that creates embryos with the one aim of creating organ raw material (and they are destroyed in the process). Once those embryos are created, we must protest at their destruction. Assuming that scientists capitulate, what do we do with the chimeras? Implant them into surrogate wombs? I suppose that is the logical conclusion, and then we give birth to living, breathing chimeras. How horrible! many would say. But I can't see any other way through this dilemma. Once they're created, it would be murder to destroy them. And that might just be the trap that enemies of life might lay for defenders of human life. They would expect many of us to compromise in this situation and prefer to destroy the chimeras, because, you know, they're not natural. But what would God expect us to do? Here is a new class of the most marginalized, the least of our brethren.

I'm reminded of the story of creation in David Eddings' Belgariad. The children of Ul go to their father-God, asking, I seem to remember, to destroy the creatures that they reject because of their unseemly appearances. And Ul tells them to grow up, and take responsibility. Once made, they must not and cannot be unmade. The young gods are stubborn, and drive the unseemly beings from their midst. In the end, of course, Ul, in compassion, eventually adopts these unseemly beings as his children and subjects.

There are sadly too many Catholics and Christians who consented to the rationalization for therapeutic cloning, and perhaps even clones involving non-human oocytes. They do not realize that, once made, they become a responsibility of all of humankind. Their creation occurs, and cannot be erased in history. Centuries from now, a more enlightened and civilized society will study our history and shake their heads in bewilderment at the wanton irresponsibility of our sadly unenlightened generation. It is a generation where anything goes, perception trumps truth, and subjective goals matter more than objective sensibilities.

Of course, this could be no more than paranoia. Perhaps chimeras can never be created. Evidence suggests, however, that they can create these cloned embryos, only that they will have to go through hundreds of embryos before they can find one to live long enough to harvest embryonic stem cells from. The death toll will be catastrophic and the fury of heaven and our descendants will be more than we can bear. And so the so-called enlightened among us prefer to close their eyes, stop up their ears, and refuse to see, and to hear.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Is this disinformation, or what?

Papa Benedict is reviewing the Church position on condoms? My conclusion is that this is at least misinformation. The same sort of story was circulated April 2006, which turned out to be just the musings of Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health and Pastoral Care, presided by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, responded, reiterating the same position: no to condoms even in the face of the AIDS crisis. Condoms are not the answer to AIDS. It is not unprotected sex that causes AIDS: it's uncontrolled sex with multiple partners. If you have AIDS, then why would you risk infecting your husband or wife, whom you profess to love? After all, condoms can fail up to 75% of the time, and even when used properly, can still fail due to manufacturing defects, which allows for up to 0.6%. 0.6% is a small number, but will you actually gamble with your spouse's life? Is that love?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Prayers for Ian Frazier, MP Linda Kirk and the whole Australian Senate

The debates are still intense and the vote is uncertain. MPs like Linda Kirk who are decided in supporting "therapeutic" cloning must realize to two things:

Perhaps they are blinded by ignorance as well as a utilitarian view of human life. Perhaps they are deceived. Whatever the case may be, they need prayers. For what they decide may well become law, and what is legal often becomes mistaken for something that is good, and therefore to be encouraged and advocated. One generation from then, we will find our children looking at their aged and disabled parents, perhaps wondering why we should not also be harvested or otherwise disposed of "for the greater good".

Election deception

After explaining the words of Jadis the witch to Digory after the latter had picked the fruit for Aslan (The Magician's Nephew, "An Unexpected Meeting"), my 5-year-old asked me: "can bad guys pretend to be good?", referring to Jadis. My answer was a most emphatic "oh, yes!" I might have pointed out that it is most rampant during election time, but I didn't want to complicate it for him. He'll find out soon enough, when he's old enough to are about voting. Why, it's all the rage in politics.

[Thanks to the American Papist for pointing out a good example.]

My house of cards theory

It's perfectly consistent in this modern age of quick fixes. There's a leak? Plug the hole. There are pests in the house? Just leave some poison for them. Back pain? Pain reliever! Muscle pain? Pain reliever! Why, there seems to be a quick fix for everything. We have long realized, however, that quick fixes bring in new problems. The problem is that we're so stubborn that we just design new quick fixes on top of the prior quick fixes. The result being a house of cards.

And here's the latest thread of quick fixes: newborn babies have serious disabilities? Just kill em: so say members of a British medical college. Yet doctors are supposed to be scientists, so I'm wondering why they're not digging deep enough. Why are babies becoming increasingly disabled? Surely it's not the unbelievable smoking (or second-hand smoke) that mothers are subjected to, thanks to evil advertising. Surely it's not the poorly thought-out decision by more women to postpone pregnancy until they are in their late 30s, all the while assured by society and doctors that everything will be alright. Surely it's not the poor diet.

But surely there's a better solution than covering up the mess by killing the babies. Families with disabled children are threatened with emotional and financial hardship, true. But is it then just to foist the burden -- by termination -- on the disabled child?

Truly, this is modernism's culture of death: solving society's ills, one murder at a time.

[Link found via Mark Shea's blog. The American Papist also blogged on this.]

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The state of Christian and western demography

No, I'm not suggesting that it's them versus us. The problem would be us -- or, at least, the society around us. I'm an ethnic Chinese, native Filipino, Australian permanent resident. I have no problems with offspring. I already have three and would not mind more (but methinks God has other plans). My brothers and sisters have between two to four children, too. So do most of my cousins. And Melbourne is not doing so badly in that department either. But the greater Australian society, and the rest of the British Empire (and European culture) that it is part of -- that's another story. And the story is grim.

Supporting diversity in faiths and ideology -- except for Christianity

So what's new?

So these people are irrational beings, incapable of containing their lust in order to save their lives?

How scientific is this? The WHO report blames the Vatican and US aid policies for the onset of sexually transmitted diseases. Strange that this involves countries that are only about 4% Catholic (from what I remember). And even if they were entirely Catholic, one would have to wonder just how Catholic they were to have been engaging in promiscuity with multiple partners -- something which the Catholic Church teaches to be unacceptable behavior? How does the Catholic Church add to the problem then? Unless, of course, WHO is suggesting that people are really beasts who cannot help but have promiscuous sex whenever the irresistible need strikes them? How dare the Catholic Church teach otherwise!

Where does abortion end and murder begin?

That very hazy line between abortion and murder is sure hard to pin down. Probably because the line doesn't exist. This grizzly case is shaping up as a homicide, and completely preventable. So the abortion "failed" and the baby was born alive. Once delivered alive, the baby is no longer the subject of abortion, because it is already a separate medical patient. But, really, when they see what they're dealing with, how can they still insist that abortion is about a bunch of cells, rightfully tissues of the mother? How can they deny that the subject of abortion is not a woman's body alone but a mother's life and her child's life? How can they still deny that what they're really doing is ending the life of another person?

It's called Teaching Authority

Bishop Morlino wants his message to reach his constituents to the letter. So he's basically telling his priests to play his recorded message for the people -- or else! This sort of behavior will make many people cringe, shake their heads or say nasty things about authoritarianism. On the other hand, we have St. Paul's words to St. Timothy about how it is to be a bishop, how selective he must be about who to lay hands on to ordain as another bishop, and that he is to wield his authority as bishop when necessary. We have St. Paul's own example in his letters on how tough he can be as bishop. Christ told his disciples: he who hears you, hears me -- and he might as well have said, "if they're not hearing you, they're not hearing me!" We might take it for granted that both the bishop and his priests are disciples of Christ. We must never forget, however, that this was spoken to the Twelve, and it is their successors, the bishops -- episkopos -- who are overseers and teachers of the faith, and that priests -- presbyteros (I think) -- must always -- always -- work with their bishops. Why? Not because bishops are smarter. Not because priests know less. It is simply because the bishops were ordained to their role as teachers. Their authority does not come from their abilities -- we know how imperfect even the Twelve were. The authority is granted to them, so it comes from the one who granted the authority: Jesus Christ. If they fail in their teaching responsibilities, it is Christ who will deal severely with them (think millstone around their necks). However, if priests are to contradict those teaching responsibilities.. I shudder to think what Christ would say to these stumbling blocks...

Not so wise words of wisdom

We often take it for granted that words that look wise are truly wise, but that's not always the case. And such words lacking in the wisdom they seem to have can be dangerous. For example, today I saw this poster: It isn't the destination that counts: it's the journey. Sounds nice but something is wrong. It is temporal, and celebrates the moment. It is mortal, denying what is immortal. It is relativistic, saying nothing about what is objective. At its core is a reversal that turns delayed gratification on its head. It also turns logic on its head, because it suggests that the the journey has nothing to do with the final destination. It is not necessary to diminish the value of the destination in order to put some value to the experience of the journey. How we get there is as important as where we got to -- but not more so.

Jewish praise of the Latin Mass

Barbara kay, Jewish writer for the National Post, makes a positive comment about the Latin Mass, and I think about liturgy, in broad terms. This gem stuck with me:


But the ancient language and music of the liturgy, which unite the individual with his fellows in the sanctuary's space, also unite the individual with the eternal idea of peoplehood -- those who came before and who will come after -- in time.

What I find especially solid about Catholic liturgy and the Catholic Faith as a whole is that it's not only about us. Being ancient isn't about the number of years behind us: it's about the totality of lives around us. The men and women who came before us are still here. They are the cloud of witnesses whose prayers in the presence of God in Heaven constantly cover us, because, truly, they are the Church with us. They are not bygones. That's catholic in the truly universal sense: from every place and every culture, and from every point in time. Ditching ancient liturgy simply because they supposedly bore us is getting it all wrong. We must connect our liturgy now with the liturgy of yesterday, because the liturgy of yesterday is not meant to be temporal. Liturgy to the eternal God should likewise be eternal. Whatever changes we make to the liturgy now must not repudiate the past, for the past must never leave us.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Abortion, anytime

A clinic in Barcelona performs abortions up to the last minute -- even at the third trimester, past the sevent month. This is when the child is already viable, meaning that the baby can be delivered safely. And they falsify documents just so they comply with the letter of the law. Why does this happen? It appears that medicine is losing its conscience. It is becoming a science without soul. There is no morality. If it can be done, if it is desired, it can be done. Lump that together with might is right, folks. This is the false freedom of anything goes -- madness. Human beings have given up their humanity to become beasts.

[Story found via the Catholic Report.]

Murder victim brought it on herself

After all, she was verbally attacking the murderer's gay lifestyle. It was only natural and proper that the murderer defend himself with rape and violence. And naturally, the mainstream media do not have to report about this, since, as the murderer's defense says, the victim brought it onto herself. As supporters of the murderer have apparently said, the victim does not deserve sympathy, and this will hopefully send a clear signal that one's gay lifestyle should never be questioned, under pain of murder. And of course, the real victim is the young murderer, whose lifestyle was threatened so much that he was driven to commit murder. Yeah. Right. What a crazy world we live in.

[Source: CAE]

Something that doesn't exist is better than something that does.. Huh??

Good point here from Dr. Margaret Cottle: how can the secular members of society, who do not believe in an afterlife, point out that people in certain situations are better of dead? That's like admitting that God's existence cannot be disproven and then turning around and saying that God does not exist. Okay.. not so good an analogy. But I just couldn't resist.

All Saint's, All Soul's

Great piece from Mary Kochan at Catholic Exchange about All Soul's Day. A must read.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Family First Party website hacked

How interesting that this happens to the party that has put family values at the forefront -- at the start of the campaign period. The report says that they had fixed it by disabling the blogs, but now the website is down due to "bandwidth" issues. Is it some murky conspiracy? Probably not. Nevertheless, it makes for bad politics: instead of debating the platforms and issues, let's sabotage their website. Yeah. Right.


Female contraception is already an established hit, so they're now concentrating on male contraception. This is the second such development I've seen from BBC news in this month. The first was in early October, and I noted that it was almost funny when someone in the article was quoted as saying that it was about men who wanted to take responsibility and control of contraception. After all, the whole point of contraception is preventive damage control: to block what would be the natural consequence of sex, which is conception. The philosophy behind this is called Gratification Without Consequences. The premise behind it is that homo sapiens is an irrational beast whose appetites cannot be controlled.

powered by performancing firefox

NON-EMBRYONIC cord blood stem cells chalks up another success..

.. according to researchers from ConoStem, while embryonic stem cells still score a big fat zero. So why this obsession with legislating embryonic stem cell research?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

They're equating aborted fetuses with waste or discarded body parts

And I'm not just talking about the hospital who was found out to be discarding them along with their clinical waste. I'm talking about readers of the news item making their horribly nonchalant comments about it. In two words, many of them simply ask "so what?" Monstrous. [Link found via Open Book.]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New resource: The Church in History

Found this valuable resource through Karl Keating's E-Letter: The Church in History website "endeavors to make information regarding the involvement of the Church in history more easily available." All the resources were prepared by Dennis Barton in print, once upon a time, but he now provides them to the public on the website. Check out the site!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Now THAT is Catholic

It is also being down to earth as well as up in Heaven: making holy what is everyday and ordinary. [Link found via Open Book.]

Talking sense: between Evangelicals and Catholics

I should know because I wrote my thesis on it: shared conceptualizations and terminology are crucial in making sense of information from different sources (not the specific thesis, but the broad area I worked within). You cannot map them if you haven't got anything in common to map them together with. This blog was created in the hope of encouraging unity among Catholics and non-Catholic Christians (yes, because Catholics are Christians). This requires dialogue, and dialogue requires honesty, clarity, accuracy, and, to begin with, a common language. We all "talk Bible", but our doctrines can vary greatly. Add to that the fact that Catholics "talk Bible" in the light of Sacred Tradition, with the Magisterium providing the living voice of said Tradition. Even Protestants who believe in sola scriptura or "Scripture alone", without any Magisterium to refer to, can have wildly varying doctrines among themselves -- even when they use the same Bible translations!

So it is helpful when people like Mark Shea teaches us Catholics about "Evangelicalese 101", as an introduction to Evangelical thought and terminology. It doesn't cover everything -- that would probably work out as a huge volume or several volumes of books, but Mark makes a start and a point: we all need to be clearly heard and understood, and by acknowledging this for both sides, we can all hope to fulfill the will of the Lord that we may all be one as he and the Father are one.

Abortion has two victims

In this moving Catholic Exchange article, the author shares her story, her abortions, her tragedies, her redemption, and her lessons. The Enemy is very good at deception, and one such deception that plays out frequently is when we are made to box ourselves into an "either-or" situation. Such is the case when abortion is debated: people err when they think that it's a choice between the unborn's right to live and the mother's right to her life. That dilemma is false. Abortion is about both. The women behind Feminists for Life understand what is simple, practical and truly compassionate about the abortion debate: there are two potential victims, and there are two individuals who deserve life, and life to the full: mother and child.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Appreciating celibacy

A few years ago, I was fortunate to have caught Sherry Wedell facilitating the Called and Gifted Workshop here in Melbourne, a workshop that she developed with Fr. Michael Sweeney at the Siena Institute. In the workshop, participants like me are instructed on the gifts of the Holy Spirit -- what St. Paul calls charismas, and the sadly often forgotten, ignored or unknown calling for all Christians to be prophets of God, leaven, salt of the earth. I repeat what the institute tries to emphasize here: we are called and gifted by God.

One of the gifts discussed was that of celibacy, which St. Paul mentions in 1 Cor 7. It was not completely surprising when I found that this could be one of my gifts, for the simple reason that I'd long suspected it. No, it does not make me especially pure or chaste -- virtues that even married people can practice, by the way -- it simply means that I could be predisposed to a celibate life. I say that I could be because, for obvious reasons (I am happily married with three kids), there was no reason to delve into this possible gift. So we'll never know for sure.

But while I may or may not have that gift, I do have very strong opinions about it and how it relates to priests. Obviously, many among the priesthood have similar opinions to mine, particularly about how celibacy is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and how it rightly belongs among those who are most especially called to the service of Christ. Even married priests seem to share this belief. Like this one.

Before Darwinists get too excited

.. with the hyped up online production (the largest) of Charles Darwin's publications, here are a few words of sobriety.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The household of God

The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The mystical body of Christ. The household of God. The pillar and foundation of truth. Something came to my mind earlier as I was still digesting what Rod Dreher had said about his departure from the Roman Catholic Church towards the Orthodox Church: the picture of a huge mansion. Literally, a huge, sprawling house came to my mind, where all of God's children belong. Let's face it: it was never nor can it ever be the intention of God to have anything other than a single family, a household of faith among brothers and sisters, under the same roof and, beyond being in the same domicile, acting like, well, family.

The Church teaches that everyone who was baptized into the family of God are in. We're his children. We are in his family now, although whether or not we remain in communion with Him is another issue. Now if this is a SINGLE blessed family, then that has strong implications. That means that, no matter how far and how fast you run away from the west wing of the mansion, you remain in the same house. For there is one body, one Spirit.

But what of these divisions within that house? It seems to me that, while the two major camps have taken opposite wings of the house, still others hang back away from either wing. But they are moving away from the center, where Christ is, making up their own centers. However, it isn't up to us to set the center wherever we THINK it belongs. Christ built the house on top of a foundation that he chose: Peter, the rock. Those who deny this will hover at the edges of the house, still within its walls, but far from the center. In such a situation, I can only think of one word to describe what happens in the long run: attenuation, where the connection to the house diminishes, the farther one goes from the center. It becomes natural for the movement away from the center to gain momentum -- away from the center, and, at some point, away from the house. To me, that highlights a danger that is hardly even considered by too many. But taking a long view of things, I can't help but see it for what it is: a disintegration -- not of the house, for it was built to last until the end of time. But the inhabitants? They are always free to walk away -- but that is their peril: to one day find that they have moved too far beyond reach.