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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dark Comedy

It was dark comedy on TV and it sickened me to think what it was really doing to people's heads. Specifically, their consciences. Here's a 14-year-old kid asking his mother's guest about his personal life, next he's describing to him the way his (the kid's) mother sounds while making love with his (the kid's) father. The guest's reaction is naturally one of livid outrage. However, this being a comedy, everything is portrayed as hilarious.

What's wrong with this? The show has once again successfully chipped away at the sensibilities of many viewers. What is outrageous was portrayed as outrageously funny. What was serious was portrayed as trivial. And because the subject was couched as comedy, the quasi-experience of the viewers ensure that the kid's behavior will be filed away in their minds under "funny" or "ho-hum" -- and will be recalled as such should this behavior ever be observed firsthand or from afar, e.g., told from another person's experience. A year ago, when I first encountered this "outrageously funny" series, my reaction was frustration. I knew several sensible people who found the show funny, and they're not aware that they are trivializing the seriously scandalous topics that was standard comic fare whenever they enjoyed the show. So my question really touches upon how human beings reach conclusions or form opinions about things. Without any contrivance, we can form very good conclusions and opinions about things based on firsthand experience, e.g., "Ouch, that hurts so I'll be more careful next time." Contrived quasi-experiences, by way of what we read about or watch on TV, can also be good in teaching us things, e.g., "perhaps I should also be more careful so that (which I've just read about) doesn't happen to me or the people I love." However, the contrivance in a show where adultery and even murder are portrayed as funny is dangerous because of the quasi-experience in having viewed that under the pretext of entertainment. You really do get confronted with the situation as portrayed on TV, but the way it is portrayed affects your judgment. One might never get involved in an adulterous relationship, but the quasi-experience of watching everyone on TV having one can certainly affect one's conscience. Everybody's doing it so what's the big deal? So when your brother or your sister or your best friend become adulterous, what will you tell them? Will there be enough shock and outrage to bring to mind the suffering and heartache experienced by their betrayed spouse or their children? Or will your mind react the same way it does when the same sort of development happens on your favorite dark comedy series? Will you grieve for the tragedy or will you shrug off just another fact of life (as seen on TV)?

I wonder...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Da Brown Antidote

A poorly named URL (just kidding), but this may nonetheless be a good resource. Just one of many resources out there, in fact. Every Christian and serious student of history should be capable of pointing out the flaws and outrageous lies peddled as "facts" in Dan Brown's work of fiction. When the movie comes out, and when the DVD comes out, the proper response should neither be to flame the DVC fans nor to join their ranks nor to sit quietly under a bombardment of DVC "facts". One should response charitably but confidently to correct the errors using historical evidence as well as logic. No, it's not necessarily to evangelize them on the spot. It suffices, I think, to dismantle the lies and fallacies in DVC to begin with. As I said, lots of resources out there, some online, including sermons by Orthodox Father Steven Tsichlis (part 1 and part 2), this article from The Greatest Journal, this article from Catholic medievalist Sandra Miesel. There are highly rated books as well, for example "De-Coding Da Vinci" by one of my fave bloggers, Amy Welborn.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Way To Go!

Big thanks to the Curt Jester for this story. These are MY bishops' conference at work:

 MANILA, Philippines, February 21, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The bishops of the Philippines have responded emphatically to growing pressure from anti-life activists, calling for accountability from Catholics on moral issues.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have rallied Catholic leaders throughout the country to educate parishioners on the immorality of artificial birth control methods, in response to a concerted onslaught by population control advocates.


In response, the bishops have called for greater accountability from parishioners on moral issues. Those Catholics who promote or utilize artificial birth control methods may not be able to receive communion or other sacraments.

The bishops have instituted a course for parishioners on the fundamentals of Church teaching, called the Basic Ecclesiastical Communities seminar. Catholics are required to take the course, which runs for eight consecutive Sundays, before receiving sacraments for themselves or their children, and upon entering adulthood.

The course includes teachings on the basics of the faith, Bible study, Christian leadership, family and life apostles, salvation history, and the changing Church.

Sister Regina Arguelles of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, who works with the CBCP in offering the seminars, said the Catholic bishops have been alarmed by the “continuing moral decay” that was eating up the society.

The bishops are firm on the necessity of participating in the seminars before being allowed to receive sacraments.

“That’s the idea. That’s exactly the Church’s message. If you want to be a Catholic, act like one and follow the Church’s teachings,” Sister Arguelles said.

Harsh, you say? Too much weighing in of authority? That may seem to be the case, but these, our fathers in faith, are besieged by entities like the United Nations and corporate giants who sell contraceptives and abortificents, including RU-486. They're pushing it on a country where the life of the unborn is protected quite explicitly in the constitution! That's not stopping them, however, so drastic measures seem to be called for. When one's children start behaving heinously (yes, because abortion is, after all, an act of murder for Catholics), then drastic measures are called for.

Like any father, I can only wish that things did not have to come to this, but they have, and something has got to be done. Otherwise, we might find ourselves following in the path of the United States, with over 30 million legal abortions performed over a span of 33 years.

The Daily Gospel

What you're missing for not subscribing to the Daily Gospel (check the commentaries at the bottom):

Thursday, 23 February 2006 Today the Church celebrates : St. Polycarp

Saint John Chrysostom : Paths for entering eternal life Letter of James 5,1-6.

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

Psalms 49,14-20.

This is the destiny of those who trust in folly, the end of those so pleased with their wealth. Selah
Like sheep they are herded into Sheol, where death will be their shepherd. Straight to the grave they descend, where their form will waste away, Sheol will be their palace.
But God will redeem my life, will take me from the power of Sheol. Selah
Do not fear when others become rich, when the wealth of their houses grows great.
When they die they will take nothing with them, their wealth will not follow them down.
When living, they congratulate themselves and say: "All praise you, you do so well."
But they will join the company of their forebears, never again to see the light.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 9,41-50.

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another."

Copyright © Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, USCCB

Commentary of the day :

Saint John Chrysostom (around 345-407), Bishop of Antioch, then of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church

Sermon on the devil who tempts

Paths for entering eternal life

Do you want me to show you the paths of conversion? They are numerous, varied and different, but they all lead to heaven. The first path of conversion is the condemnation of our faults. “You yourself begin by saying your faults in order to be justified.” And that is why the prophet said: “I said, ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’ and you took away the guilt of my sin.” (Ps 32:5) So you yourself condemn the faults you have committed, and that will be enough for the Master to hear you. For the person who condemns his faults will be more afraid of falling back into them…

There is a second path, which is not inferior to the first one. It is that we do not hold a grudge against our enemies, that we overcome our anger in order to forgive the offences of our companions in service, for that is how we shall obtain forgiveness for those which we commit against the Master. That is the second way of obtaining purification from our faults. The Lord says: “If you forgive th e faults of others, your heavenly Father will forgive yours.” (Mt 6:14)

Do you want to know the third path of conversion? It is the fervent and attentive prayer in the depth of your heart… The fourth path is alms; it has considerable and unspeakable power… Then modesty and humility are not inferior means for destroying sins by their root. We have the publican as a witness; he could not proclaim his good deeds, but he replaced them all with the offering of his humility, and thus he laid down the heavy burden of his faults (Lk 18:9f.).

We have shown you five paths of conversion…So don’t remain inactive, but use all of these paths each day. They are easy paths, and you cannot use your destitution as a pretext.

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Called and Gifted Workshops in Melbourne, Australia


By your baptism and Confirmation you have been called and gifted by God to fulfill a unique vocation.

Discerning your gifts can be a major clue in determining God’s plan for your life, as well as your role in God’s plan for humanity.


Catherine of Siena Institute The Called and Gifted workshop is a program of the CALLED AND GIFTED WORKSHOP 2006 The Called and Gifted Workshop has been developed by the Catherine of Siena Institute as a tool for helping Catholics discern their spiritual gifts. The program helps participants sort through their life experiences to identify patterns that may indicate a charism. The Called and Gifted Workshop is suitable for all Christians seeking to deepen their relationship with God. It is also helpful for those seeking direction in changing circumstances.

The Called and Gifted Workshop will be presented at various locations across Melbourne in 2006. FRIDAY MARCH 3: 6.30PM - 9.00 PM & SATURDAY MARCH 4: 9.00AM - 4.00PM
Where: 278 Victoria Parade East Melbourne
Presenters: Clara Geoghegan, Lorraine McCarthy and team
Cost: $80.00 includes materials, supper/morning & after noon tea/lunch.

FRIDAY MAY 19: 6.30 P M - 9.00PM & SATURDAY MAY 20: 9.00AM - 4.00PM
Where: St Mar y’s Par ish, Greensborough
Presenters: Clara Geoghegan, Lorraine McCarthy and team

FRIDAY MAY 26: 6.30 P M - 9.00P M & SATURDAY MAY 27: 9.00AM - 4.00PM
Where: St Joseph’s Parish, Boronia
Presenters: Clara Geoghegan, Lorraine McCarthy and team

FRIDAY AUGUST 25: 6.30PM - 9.00PM & SATURDAY AUGUST 26: 9.00AM - 4.00PM
Where: St Joseph’s Parish, Chelsea
Presenters: Clara Geoghegan, Lorraine McCarthy and team

For all enquiries please contact: Clara Geoghegan
by phone on: 9412 3343
or email at cgeoghegan@melbourne.catholic.org.au

And spread the word. Here's the flyer (Adobe PDF file -- Get Adobe Reader).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Daily Gospel

Highly recommended: subscribe to The Daily Gospel (C). Here's a sample of what they send you via email everyday:

Today the Church celebrates : The Chair of St Peter, apostle Commentary from Saint Augustine : “Your name shall be Peter” (Jn 1:42)

First Letter of Peter 5,1-4.

So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Psalms 23,1-6.

A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me;
you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.
You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16,13-19.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Copyright © Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, USCCB

Commentary of the day :

Saint Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo (North Africa) and Doctor of the Church Sermon 190

“Your name shall be Peter” (Jn 1:42)

“You are ‘Rock’ [Peter], and on this rock I will build my church.” This name Peter is given to him because he was the first to lay the foundations of faith among the nations and he is the indestructible rock on which rest the foundations and the whole of Jesus Christ’s edifice. He is called Peter because of his fidelity, whereas according to the word of Saint Paul, the Lord received this same name because of his power: “They drank from the spiritual rock that was following them, and the rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:4) Yes, the apostle who was chosen to cooperate in his work deserved to share a same name with Christ. Together, they built the same edifice. Peter planted and the Lord gives the growth; it is also the Lord who sends those who have to give it water (cf. 1 Cor 3:6f.).

As you know, beloved brothers, starting from his own faults, the blessed Peter was raised up at the time when his Savior was suffering. After he denied the Lord, he became the first with him. In weeping over the faith which he had betrayed, he was made more faithful, he received a greater grace than the one he had lost. Christ entrusted his flock to him so that he might lead it like the good shepherd, and he who had been so weak now became a support for everyone. He who had been questioned about his faith had fallen, and now he had to set up the others on the unshakeable foundation of faith. Therefore he is called the foundation stone of the Churches’ piety.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Abortion Advocacy Tactics 101

I can't hope to cover every trick in the book, but here's a sampling:

  1. Fudge up figures. For example:
    'Dr Lennon pointed out that the Senate enquiry on RU486 reported (8/2/06) that Reproductive Choice Australia had many factual flaws in provided information on their website. The Senate enquiry also noted that many of its affiliate organisations had used this flawed information in their submissions.
    The report identified what it described as "factually incorrect claims" by the RCA such as the adverse drug event rate for RU486 is very low at 0.137% and Claratyne (antihistamine) has an adverse drug event rate of 12% - over 87 times higher than mifepristone.
    In correcting the misinformation by Reproductive Choice Australia, the Senate committee report stated comparing all reported adverse events for each drug would give a 96% rate for RU486 based on the US Clinical trials(2) which is 8 times higher than the 12 % adverse event rate for Claratyne. (Read more..)
  2. Forget evidence -- make this up as a civil rights issue. For example:
    'Russo explained that the Christchurch study would have no effect on the APA's position because "to pro-choice advocates, mental health effects are not relevant to the legal context of arguments to restrict access to abortion."' That's Dr. Nancy Felipe Russo, asked to comment on the New Zealand study concluding that 'abortion was clearly linked to elevated rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior.' (Read more...)
  3. Make up urban legends. For example:
    'Dr Bernard Nathanson, joint founder of NARAL in the US (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) admitted when he changed his mind about abortion that the drive to legalise abortion was based on lies. He said: "We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the US. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000." (Bernard Nathanson, Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist)' (Read more... or view videos of interviews with Dr. Nathanson -- video requires a codec which I couldn't find)
Now why on earth would you believe big abortion advocates who resort to such untruthful tactics (what's the matter, got something to hide?) and who happen to make millions of dollars from abortions? Haven't you ever heard of the term "vested interests?" When it's your turn to consider an abortion for yourself or if someone you care for is going through that, shouldn't you take the time to do some serious research? If you are really concerned about your future and your health, or the future and health of someone you care for, shouldn't you do everything you can to make your choice a truly informed one?

A Sad Day: Parliament Passes RU486

The Australian House of Representatives passes the bill that gives the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) sole authority over RU486. The problem appears to be the nature of the TGA: there may be no way to even review a drug, regardless of health reasons to do so, once it has been approved:
 Pharmacist and Author of “A Consumers Guide to the Pill and Other Drugs” has today raised concerns about the TGA’s ability to exercise authority over RU486 if it is approved. “Initially, the TGA will rely on the overseas (sic) trials and data provided by applicants that has been proven to be seriously flawed,” Mr Wilks said.

“But worse, if RU486 is approved, there seems to be an apparent incapacity by the TGA to exercise authority over a drug once approval has been given.
“My own experiences with material I have supplied to the TGA support the view that it does not appear competent to act in the best health interests of Australians.”

It is clear that once approval is given for a drug, the authority of the TGA appears in practice to diminish.
Is that scary enough? But wait, there's more to this post. You see, what's happened in, first, the Senate, then the House of Representatives, is a case of the ol' switcheroo. I've seen several silly arguments tossed down for the sake of shutting up those who opposed RU486. They're designed to hide the issues that they don't have answers for. I didn't see the debate focus on what was wrong with RU486, e.g., confirmed cause of several deaths, ethics of abortion. Instead, they cite "facts" that are apparently incorrect. They also made it seem like the issue was the religion of the Health Minister, and built up the case that the Health Minister has no reason to exercise authority over a substance that has caused fatal side effects.

Actually this is all in the spirit of misdirection. Age-old tactic, still in use by lobbyists and politicians: when the going gets tough, change the topic, or make something up. Or ridicule your opponent's religion.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Leper Unclean

Thoughts about today's readings..

In both the first and the Gospel readings, we are faced with two approaches to lepers. They were outcast in the Old Testament, and as was explained in the Sunday homily at our parish, the priest acts as a judge to decide whether someone afflicted with suspected leprosy actually had it and must therefore live apart. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ our High Priest acts as a healer. In stark contrast with the casting out of lepers in the first reading, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. He didn't have to. With but a thought and a declaration, he could have cured the leper as he had done a number of times. But here, where it would perhaps raise the most eyebrows, he touches the afflicted. Our Lord is trying to tell us something. As our deacon explained in his homily, compassion makes another person's pain one's own. It is more than sympathy, because compassion is about getting involved, a personal investment, and it actually does something about the situation.

Please also check out Fr. Paul Scalia explaining these readings over at Catholic Exchange. Dr. Marcelino D'Ambrosio also provides reflections on suffering based on this story in the Gospels. As always, CE provides insightful reading.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Days of Infamy

"The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill that would give the Therapeutic Goods Administration control of the drug (RU-486)." -- from The Age.

Last night on TV a young woman (couldn't have been older than 18) was wearing, and reciting, these shameful words: "keep your rosaries off my ovaries." Imported from Planned Parenthood, I believe -- both the crass line as well as the time-tested tactic to obscure the debate by making people believe that this is a matter of religion or ideology. It is not. As with any abortion method, this is a matter of life and death. RU-486 is particularly dangerous as its dangers have been verified.

I'm amazed that the senators of Australia could be so nonchalant in dismissing the findings of medical experts about the deaths conclusively found to have been caused by RU-486. How many? There's this doctor's findings about ten cases so far, but I think the number has gone up to 11 as of last year. Not to mention unreported cases and excluded cases where the mother developed but survived the various complications. Fatal infections? Heart attacks? Septic shock? Ruptured tubes? Did the senators consider these at all?

 The RU486 pill is medically unsafe. Overseas, RU486 has been associated with the deaths of 10 women. Experience shows that many women who use RU486 suffer excruciating pain – excessive bleeding, sometimes haemorrhaging. Vomiting and diarrhoea are also common. Italy, has reaffirmed their ban. Canada suspended approval for RU486 after their trial of it because of the death of women. The USA Congress has a Bill being considered to ban RU486 'Holly's Law.' The Senate Commitee confirmed the figures we used are correct that RU486 has a death rate 10 times greater than women having surgical abortion (up to 8 weeks) as discussed by Prof Greene in the December 2005 edition of the Journal of New England Medicine. (from the AARU486 website)
This ain't over yet. Please visit the site of the Australians Against RU486 and keep up the fight. And prayers for Australia, please, because the House of Representatives will be voting on this soon.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Exposing Abortion

Fr. Frank Pavone at Catholic Exchange gives a specific list of what needs to be done in order to fight and end abortion. They are entirely about exposing facts about abortion -- facts that supporters of abortion on-demand are probably not aware of: the statistics, descriptions of abortion procedures, photos, testimonies of people whose lives were devestated by abortion, and facts about the rampant corruption in the abortion industry. (Fr. Pavone is the Founding Director of Priests for Life. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; Email: mail@priestsforlife.org; Website: http://www.priestsforlife.org.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Science and Religion

Or as Mark Shea puts it, Science AS religion. As the Catechism tells us, man is naturally inclined to search for God -- that is, to find religion -- and the Devil's strategy is as simple as it is effective: to warp, not destroy, religion. Mark is most likely correct, the Devil is merely amused when it is instead called by a scientific name. What matters to the Devil, as Uncle Screwtape tells us, is keeping the mind of man away from God. From the Enlightenment on, this has been happening, more keenly of late, by making science up as a religion that explains everything. Unfortunately, by its own rigid principles, science cannot explain everything, because its conclusions hinge on both logic and empirical data. Unless everything has been observed and analyzed rigorously, it cannot claim to explain everything. More from Mark's piece at Catholic Exchange.