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Friday, September 29, 2006

Sterility Tax for Russia?

Why do they have to do this? Just another unforeseen consequence of the horror that is the postmodern understanding of sex, marriage and the family: viewing children and parenthood as undesirable and least-priority commitments. All in the context of a society where men and women are in it for themselves and for enjoying "the moment".

Christian Courage

This is a story of Christian courage: Sr. Leonella Sgorbati's dying legacy, after being shot by two men just days after Pope's Regensburg lecture. What grace must have worked in her to prompt her to speak of forgiving her killers as she lay dying. It is courage born of charity (love).

But a bitter part of me laments the lack of outrage over this senseless murder, from the same people who were outraged, scandalized or embarassed over the Pope's few words, taken out of the context of the lecture. Why are they not being as vocal about this, the death of an innocent?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Aussie bloke and toss-bags

Not that I understand Aussie-speak at its best, a "toss-bag" being unfamiliar to me, but it is worth noting that some of Mark Latham's comments are very interesting -- even refreshing.

The Pope and the Muslims

They met and, I think, the proper words were spoken. Papa Benedict respects the Muslims, and so we all should. It doesn't change what is a universal truth, ugly though its historical implications may be: "religion and violence do not go together, but religion and reason do". This is true for Christians and Muslims alike -- for any person of any background. We've all had days of infamy, when religion and violence were somehow justified together. The worst thing we can do is to deny that. The best thing we can do is to admit that, be truly sorry, and make amends if possible. And with what we've learned, we move on, and pass it on. I know some people have gloated at the Catholic Church for the sins of her children, but they forget that the Gospel was built on top of sin: built, that is, to come out on top of sin. We forsake the Gospel when we forget that the first half of the Good News was a saga of infamy.

News overload

These days, news headlines will invariably include reports of people having died from accidents, sickness, or violence. In one instant, deaths can number in the dozens. A few years ago, in the thousands. But even if the news only reported one tragic death, how is it that I can usually breeze through that reading without feeling anything significant? How desensitized have I become?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

All smiles at Sunday Mass

For me, that is. How can I not smile so much? I was greeted at the door with the smell of sweet incense. There were perhaps nine concelebrating priests and two deacons. Our music was as alive and full of worship as our young choirmaster was energetic. The priests sung parts of the liturgy! The readings were also perfect for what we were celebrating that day, and it was a beautiful homily about service to God and peacemaking, given by the rector of the Corpus Christi seminary. My sons behaved rather well during the entire Mass, which means that there wasn't any running around or crawling around, and the chatting wasn't too loud and wasn't too frequent, and they actually asked about things they saw during the Mass. (I hope that the sight of those priests, models of service to God, made an impression on them.) And of course, regardless of what I or anyone felt that day, Heaven touched the earth, the glory of the Lord overshadowed us and the eternal Son -- body, blood, soul and divinity -- was with us in the Eucharist. The celebration after the Mass was also very good. We had great nibbles in the big hall after the Mass, thanks to the wonderful folks who took care of it, to celebrate the ordination of our former deacon as a priest. And someone told me that, five years ago, there were only a handful of children during the morning Mass. These days, we are filled with families and small children (including ours). Twas a good day. :-)

From Lutheran Bishop to Catholic Priest (to be)

Great story, found on Mark Shea's blog.

George Weigel on THAT papal lecture again

I've probably posted six times in this here blog, plus comments elsewhere, about the outrage over Papa Benedict's Regensburg lecture. Like the many who offered only soundbites, polemics and/or death threats, I have been missing out on the meat of his lecture. I've read it, of course, in its entirety, about three times, but I was focusing on THAT particular quote from the Byzantine Emperor, and why the violent reactions can only be over-reactions. Luckily, people like George Wiegel are here to point out the truth behind the sensational headlines. [Link found on Mark Shea's blog.]

Friday, September 22, 2006

Still shooting themselves in the foot

Straight out of mosques, at that. What are their clerics telling them in there??

St. Matthew's Feast (Sept 21)

Today, the Church celebrated the feast of St. Matthew: apostle and evangelist. At Mass earlier, the homily touched upon what St. Matthew might have been thinking when he was willing to reveal that he was a tax collector, counted amongst the most sinful in Judea at that time. And perhaps the intention was to encourage us, sinners alike, to hope in the mercy of Christ. The Lord knocks at the doors of our hearts everyday, inviting us to follow Him at every turn down the journey of life. Today I realized that I had not, for the longest time, rebuked myself for an uncharitable thought -- and I have had many; several in the course of a day. Each is a misstep, and I fall away from Christ a little each time.

You will show me the paths of life, the fullness of joy before your face, and delights at your right hand until the end of time. [Psalm 15(16).]

Prayers for Three Christians to be executed

These people need our prayers. May the justice of God Almighty prevail even where human injustice may rage.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Outrage over That Quote giving way to reason and understanding

At least some, reported here at Open Book. It will continue to rage for many others, for a while yet, primarily because they have strongly held presuppositions. We need open minds and open hearts.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Papa Benedict XVI and the theology of two brothers

An interesting thought popped into my head today as I read "Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God". I was reading through Chapter IV: The Church as the Family of God by Father Pablo Gadenz, and was struck by what he describes about Papa Benedict XVI's theology of two brothers. This is interesting as this deals with his views about non-Christians and their relationship to the family of the Church. Father Gadenz asks ".. we see that the difficulty between family and universality [as pertaining to the Church] begins with the covenant with Abraham. This covenant introduces a tension as the children of Abraham are separated "as a special family from the great human family of the children of Adam (or, rather, of Noah)." How is the reunion of the whole human family to occur if some children are elected through special venants while the others are seemingly rejected? He quotes the following from then Cardinal Ratzinger:

  '"At important points in salvation history there appears pairs of brothers, the election or rejection of each of whom is strangely connected. These are, in particular, Cain and Abel (and Cain and Seth), Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob."
Father Gadenz explains: The term "brother" may also refer to a collective entity: The nation of Israel, among all the brother nations, is God's elect -- Israel is God's "first-born son" (Ex. 4:22). In the New Covenant established by Christ, the Church becomes the new Israel, the bearer of God's election. There still remains a boundary between Christians and non-Christians, between the brotherly community or family and those "outside" the family. While there is a boundary, there is an openness to those "outside." The brotherhood of Christ is not yet universal, but it seeks to become so. Men, in general, are not yet brothers in Christ, but they can and must become so. Father Gadenz reveals the thoughts of Cardinal Ratzinger here, as quoted from him:
 In relation to Christian brotherhood this means that, however important it is for the Church to grow into the unity of a single brotherhood, she must always remember that she is only one of two sons, one brother beside another, and that her mission is not to condemn the wayward brother, but to save him. The Church, it is true, must unify herself to form a strong inner brotherhood in order to be truly one brother. But she does not seek to be one brother in order to finally shut herself off from the other; rather she seeks to be one brother because only in this way can she fulfill her task toward the other, living for whom is the deepest meaning of her existence, which itself is grounded wholly in the existence of Jesus Christ.

This does not agree with how Papa Benedict XVI is currently perceived by outraged Muslim leaders. There is no contempt or hatred behind his thoughts on Islam. It is brotherly love, which includes harsh frankness at times in order to help the object of that love: the other brother. The question now is whether this brother will focus more on what was said, rather than on what the proper response should be.

They're still at it

and they still don't get it. All the threats and calls for violence are exactly what that Byzantine emperor was warning about -- keeping in mind that his city was at that time besieged by Muslim invaders. This has got to stop, and that was il Papa's point when he mentioned it: that faith enforced by the sword is unreasonable and must be abandoned as a practice. Yet these groups calling for violent attacks over the quoted lines are still only making the point for that commentary.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

History makes clarity

Postwatch puts things in historical perspective that should put things in perspective. We can be certain that the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus was critical of Islam when he said those words and engaged in that tyrade against enforcing religion by the sword. But he had good reason to do so:

.. when was the emperor Manuel writing this down? As Benedict says, but Shadid does not, during a siege of Constantinople. Not even the allegedly offensive Benedict underlines the plot: A siege against the crown of eastern Christianity by the Muslim Sultan Bayezid I.

What the headlines don't say about the context of Papa Benedict XVI's remarks is that he was lecturing against being unreasonable, because it goes against the reasonableness of God Almighty.

What Papa Benedict XVI was getting at

.. is best presented by this post by Christopher Blosser. It is really not possible to properly engage what was said until it is carefully examined. In one of the comboxes someplace, perhaps Open Book or American Papist, it was mentioned that the translations being read by some angry Muslims out there were perhaps not accurate. The address was given in German, I think, and the popular stories carried around mainstream media were in English. Add to that the question of whether the soundbytes and headlines were all that sparked the outrage. Then it really pays to read the whole thing, but even better to go to Christopher's post linked above, as it contains thoughtful commentaries from various people.

Making the point for themselves

I just wish they could actually see that point:

"We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life," said the message posted in the name of the Mujahedeen Army on a Web site frequently used by militant groups.

..anger among Muslims remained intense. Palestinians attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza over the pope's remarks..

By saying and doing things like that, they are only making their own outrage meaningless, and proving the 14th century Byzantine emperor's point. This sounds much more promising:

Turkey's top Islamic cleric, Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu, welcomed the Vatican statement. "He says that he respects Islam and didn't want to hurt the feelings of Muslims. I find that a civilized position," said Bardakoglu in an interview posted on the Web site of Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

What does "mentality of the Crusades" mean anyway?

I'm not sure what they mean when they say that. I know what the Crusades were meant to be by Pope Urban II when he called for it, at least based on his own words, and I'm not oblivious to the disaster that came from the enterprise, including the betrayal of its objectives by many leaders of the Crusades. But when people dennounce the Crusades -- and usually it's secular anti-Christians or anti-Catholics who do so, associating it with Mussolini and Hitler, I get the feeling that they don't know what they're talking about.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Shoddy journalism, reaction without verification, and Papa Benedict XVI's remarks

Amy Welborn has enough to clarify what he really said, so I'd rather not drag it all here. The moment mainstream media got it all wrong (deliberately shoddy, if not deliberately malicious), we sort of knew what we were in for. Outrage without carefully studying what the Pope really said. Fr. Khalil Samir puts things in perspective, as reported here by Amy. I think we can all do with a dose of criticism, since none of us are perfect. Catholics should have no problem being criticized for the tragic consequences of the Crusades, which were supposed to be rescue missions to liberate captives and restore their lands which were conquered by the sword. We don't have a problem being criticized for the consequences of the clerical sexual abuse and episcopal coverups, none of which should have happened at all. Tell us where we're wrong, it will hurt us deeply, but that can only make us better -- from the moment we accept our errors and resolve to make amends. We can do no less but to point out how wrong suicide bombers are who claim to be doing Muslm work by violence. Even Muslims are aware of that.

Mark makes a further point that there's something wrong with this outrage at something which the Holy Father is saying, which I sum up like this: there's something wrong with a faith that must be ruled by the sword. And they're disagreeing with that?

Update: The Anchoress speaks clearly. Jimmy Akin points out this outrageous contradiction by an outraged Muslim: ""Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence." Oh.. and the way Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam spoke the words "Mulsims", "tolerance", "Jews" and "Spain" together in the same thought is.. remarkable -- given the history between Spain and Islam.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sydney Morning Herald: a case of shoddy journalism

Here's an example, about words and sentiments allegedly coming from the Vatican, "the exorcist", and Papa Benedict XVI:

  THE Vatican has never been a fan of Harry Potter, but its chief exorcist has gone one step further and condemned J. K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard as downright evil.

"Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil," says Father Gabriele Amorth, the Pope's "caster-out of demons".

The books contained numerous positive references to the satanic art, falsely drawing a distinction between black and white magic, he told the Daily Mail in London. In the same interview, Father Amorth said he was convinced that Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler were possessed by the devil.

Last year the Pope, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, described Harry Potter as a potentially corrupting influence.

Luckily, the truth was not hard to uncover with a little research, as done in this post from Jimmy Akin's blog.

Benefit for Jazz Music, Washington DC, Sept. 14

This is late, and there are few visitors to this site, but just in case, there is a Jazz benefit tomorrow ($25 entry) for the Traditional Jazz Educators Network (TJEN) here at Washington DC tomorrow (Thursday, Sept 14). Activities of this group include scholarships and the promotion of jazz music to young people. It will be at 1440 16th Avenue NW, on the Penthouse, from 5 pm. This is the headquarters of the American Federation of Jazz Societies, I believe. It's a shame that I won't be going, myself, as I'm flying out tomorrow for Chicago.

They also have a conference afterwards from Sept 15, Friday 9 am until Sept. 16, Saturday noon, same place. The registration for the confefence is not free, but we're not sure how much it is. The conference agenda is in their website, and will focus on (of course) making more people, particularly young people, educated about Jazz music. Their website is at http://www.afjs.org/, for those who might be interested to see what else they've got on.

For those who can help out: thanks!

An understanding between Evangelicals and Catholics

Peter Feuerherd is a Catholic, and God has blessed him to understand Evangelicals. May we likewise be blessed (and reading his book, "Holy Land USA", when it comes out might just do the trick), and may Evangelicals be blessed to understand, not dismiss, Catholics. And may this bring us into the fruition of Christ's priestly prayer in John 17: "that they may be one!" Amen.

Bless this Muslim

Link found through Catholic and Enjoying It!

Catholic Library Online

Found that through Mark's blog. It looks good! Thanks Mark.

Natural Law for Evangelicals

I think that Stephen J. Grabill makes an excellent case for Evangelicals to look more closely and speak more firmly about Natural Law:

 The challenge for pro-life Evangelicals is to develop systematic moral reasoning that can be applied to a range of issues including embryo adoption, human embryonic stem-cell research, ART, “therapeutic cloning,” genetic engineering, and birth control. Evangelicals tend to be pragmatic, wedding political activism with biblical appeals, but this has resulted in moral reflection operating on a mostly private and intuitive plane. The tragic pitfall with this style of ethical decision-making is that adverse spiritual and moral consequences often go undetected.

I can cite two things: the lack of a unifying voice of authority, like the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (ordinary or papal), and this unhealthy paranoia suffered by many Evangelicals about the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Shunning what is said just because the speaker is a Catholic leader should not prevent Christians from examining what is spoken -- which is avowed to be spoken in the name of Christ. Thankfully, there are also those Protestants who are willing to look into the Catholic Church, encyclicals and all, with an analytical but open (and prayerful) mind. For example, the Lutherans behind the Journal of Lutheran Ethics were willing to examine the recent encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. I pray that more Protestants would do the same and be assured that, guided by the Holy Spirit, they may "test all things, hold fast to what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). They might just find that everything pronnounced (to the universal Church, on faith and morals) by the Magisterium (not just any Catholic leader) is too good to ignore after all. ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Papa Benedict XVI celebrated ecumenical vespers with Orthodox and Lutherans

Gerald from "The Cafeteria is Closed" posts the holy father's homily. It's a worthy read.

And just in case you're not aware, the holy father's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, is being read by some Lutherans, too. That links to the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics. It appears that they have follow-up articles for September, but they haven't posted that in a unique URL just yet. Just visit the JLE main page for now and that should show the September issue. In October, when they have updated the main page for October articles, use the option to browse by Issue (by month).

"How can I judge someone else's faith journey?"

From Amy Welborn's blog, Donna Marie Kennedy was reported to have made that comment to a Toronto newspaper:

 Donna Marie Kennedy, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, says students in the separate school system are taught Catholic values as part of the curriculum, but are not graded on their level of adherence to papal edicts.

"How can I judge someone else's faith journey?" she asked. "That's a personal relationship."

And I suppose that they don't have detention in that school, either. Is it too much to ask that they at least facilitate the students' assimilation of Catholic values in a Catholic institution?

Harvesting embryonic stem cells without involving an embryo

Hard to believe, but these scientists believe they can do it -- eventually. And yet, when you consider the delays cited (up to 10 years away), and when you think about the real treatments successfully applied on people from adult or cord blood stem cells, I get the feeling that fighting for the right of the unborn takes more than citing the dismal track record (not to mention the negative outlook) of embryonic farming (via cloning) and stem cell research. All the truth must be told, starting with this: from the moment of conception, embryos are human beings. Before conception, you have 23 chromosomes in both the sperm and egg cells. After fertilization, the result is the blastocyst, with 46 chromosomes -- human! Even before getting implanted on the uterus walls -- human! Furthermore, the DNA fingerprint of the blastocyst is unique, which will be retained by the same being (there is no transformation, only growth) as growth takes place. A human being!

Australian MPs to hear case, and propose legislation, to allow therapeutic cloning

That's according to The Age. I find this particular line to be laughable, from the chief scientist arguing for cloning:

 Dr Peacock last month warned the government's cautious approach to stem cell research could prevent a scientific breakthrough.

If he wants a breakthrough, he should reconsider his position: not a single embryonic stem cell treatment has been succesfully applied to people since attempts were made years ago, while successful treatments using adult stem cells number 72. Surely this scientist is aware that pluripotent stem cells can be extracted from adult human tissue (links to article by Wolfgang Lillge, M.D.)? It is difficult not to cite dishonesty among scientists who persist in selling the embryonic stem cell doctrines, despite the scientific evidence against them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Away on a trip, no blogging for 10 days

Not that there are any regular readers, but just in case, I'll be away for a conference overseas for a week plus. DC, then Chicago. Prayers for me, and my family (sadly, not coming along) would be appreciated. Please visit my favorite blogs (blogroll further down, right-hand-side of screen), especially Mark's, Jimmy's and Amy's. And.. ahhh.. just visit them all. It'll be worth it. :-)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Passing on a prayer request

Dear Friends,

I'm writing to ask for your prayers for a little boy named Peter. Peter is almost one year-old, but has been in the hospital for most of his life. He has had many surgeries to try and fix a number of complications in his abdomen. Over the last week, things have taken a turn for the worse, and Peter needs your prayers.

The doctors had planned to perform a surgery to put him "back together" for lack of a better term. His bowels and intestines are all disconnected because of previous surgeries, and they have been feeding him directly into his intestines. This surgery was to be a big step in his road to recovery.

The problem is, they found a small hole in one of his intestines, and now the surgery needs to be postponed. If this hole doesn't heal in the next couple of weeks, they'll continue to feed him only through an IV, and that may result in his liver eventually shutting down, forcing them to do a liver transplant.

I ask that you please pray for the specific intention that this hole in the intestines heals, so the doctors may be able to do the surgery that is needed. Peter's family has four children, and they have a very heavy cross to bear, so I thank you so much for your prayers and support.

Please pass this on to anyone you may know that could pray for Peter and his family.

Sincerely in Christ,

Matthew Pinto
Ascension Press

Friday, September 08, 2006

Egg donation isn't as simple as it seems

I didn't know this myself: Women who have their ovaries stimulated with drugs to make eggs for harvesting risk a rare, but potentially deadly, condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Apart from that, it's not just a matter of donating eggs, which are gametes (23 chromosomes) and therefore not human beings (46chromosomes): Researchers will use the eggs to create cloned early-stage embryos, with the ultimate hope of extracting stem cells that could treat diseases. Once again, they are obsessed with embryonic stem cells and ignore adult stem cells which can also provide pluro-potent cells. Embryos have 46 chromosomes, and have DNA distinct from their parents: embryos are human beings. To date, not a single cure has been applied to humans using embryonic stem cells, while using adult stem cells already number 72 successful human treatments. 72-0.

Vegetative on the outside, communicative on the inside

That's what this report is saying: She was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, which meant even when she was awake, she was unresponsive. ... When the scientists compared her brain activity to that of healthy patients, who had been asked to carry out the same task, they discovered the patterns were "indistinguishable".

Bottom line? It's easy to assume that science knows what it's talking about, e.g., diagnosing a permanent vegetative state. But ask a neurologist sometime and you'll be surprised at how much more they don't know. Science is like that. It's a process of discovery by observation, and the instruments to gather data are never perfect nor extensive enough. If there's reasonable doubt, then we cannot make that decision to do something that cannot be undone: like ending someone's life because they might never recover.

Update: Amy Welborn posts more on this, with a link to another post by Wesley Smith. A question that just occured to me: did they do MRI on Terri Schiavo? From what I remember, no. They just did a CT Scan, something which drew strong reactions, being insufficient in their expert opinion. Ahh.. lots of things about Terri's demise are mind-boggling. Here's praying that Medicine will catch up quickly and avoid cases of sending people to their deaths too soon.

Update 2: From Wesley Smith's comment box comes these gems:
So, if you are unconscious, dehdrate because you are not a person. If you are conscious, dehydrate even more urgently because you are suffering. Heads we win, tails the disabled person loses. [WS]

It comes down to this: Can we love and care for imperfect people? [B]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Steve Irwin, A Most Loveable Australian

Not that I'm any expert on all things Australian, having only been here for six years (with a couple of visits prior to that), but I definitely found must to admire in Mr. Irwin. Even at height of protests over his wild antics, it was very hard to dislike him. The man had passion. He had great courage and seemed to be the epitome of love for life and adventure. Like me, he is a young father, and the thought of his wife and two kids going through this...

Heavenly Father, please gather Steve gently into Your arms and cradle his young family tenderly. May the consolation of the Holy Spirit be upon them and all who mourn Steve's death. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dr. D'Ambrosio on Tradition and Reform

Dr. D'Ambrosio makes an excellent case about what Christ thought about tradition per se, which is that he didn't condemn all human traditions. Last I checked, celebrating our birthdays was still tolerated, perhaps with the exception of the Iglesia ni Kristo or Jehovah's Witnesses. Traditions are inescapable human realities. Both Judaism and Christianity found their way across the centuries through oral and practiced traditions. The question is not whether they are human in origin, for much of those are benign and, in and of themselves, good and Godly. The question is whether they supplant the will of God. Dr. D'Ambrosio explains.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Haleigh Poutrue

Yet another reason to err on the side of life, but the culture of death is powerful. (source: Amy Welborn, Open Book)

Another betrayal of hope

As Mark puts it: "regarding creation as synonymous with sin." It's the same case when many Evangelicals object to the Real Presence of Christ -- body, blood, soul and divinity -- in the Eucharist. It is one thing to object to the Real Presence due to biblical evidence (which doesn't really square with that objection). It is quite another to cite that the dogma is "hocus pocus" -- i.e., something incredible. It doesn't make sense to proclaim one's faith in the Almighty God and say, on the other hand, that it looks and tastes like bread and must therefore be no more than bread. Nor does it make sense to view the physical matter of bread with contempt and say "Christ would never stoop so low" -- are we not referring to God who became Man, subjected himself to every indignity all the way to Calvary?

What is truth?

That's a tough one, eh? Will secular education always clash with Christian education? Yes, I think it will, unless it is made clear from the very beginning that Christ is the bedrock and Christianity is non-negotiable. Everything else will fall into its proper place if one has confidence that the place of all creation -- this physical universe -- is precisely that: the creation of God. There will be cases, despite the clear divine imprint and consistency in the universe, when the reach of the latter goes no further, because what is created cannot be greater than the Creator.

So what to do when secular knowledge, completely dislodged from Christianity, makes claims that conflict with Christianity? If you're a Christian institution, it certainly makes sense to stick to Christianity, doesn't it?


Amy Welborn notes the promising outlook reported by two parents about their respective kids who are starting college.