Universalis, About this blog

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.

Next!

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.

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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.

The Curt Jester really cracks me up:

 Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us against Denial of Service attacks.
Be our protection against the bots and packets of black hats.
May thy firewall rebuke them, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Hosting Provider-
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into digital hell, distributed attacks and all buffer overflows,
whose packets roam throughout the network seeking the downing of sites.

The blog is dry

But is it drying up? I don't know. My fervent prayer is that nothing in this blog comes from me, but from the Holy Spirit. I've also had a strategy at the back of my mind from ages ago that I needn't really say anything original, only things already said (and better!) by others, e.g., from the Bible, Church Fathers, our dearest saints, the Church in her official decrees, as well as today's most talented bloggers and writers. I've had plans for this blog from the beginning, but I've rarely engaged the topic of Christian unity. It is either that I get easily distracted by other issues, in which case, as Og Mandino once warned in the God Memorandum, I was everywhere and went nowhere, or I am a coward. I hate confrontation, but ironically, it was a Baptist who was bludgeoning me with prooftexts and brimstone who told me that I'd have to step on toes in the process of saying something of significance.

It's been two years, and quo vadis, Jeff?

Who knows? For now, I'm just blogged out because work, family, the new house, the garden, a possible job change.. LIFE is becoming overwhelming, even as it continues to be more enjoyable and wondrous.

In the meantime, however, I strongly recommend my favorite blogs in my blogroll. Mark Shea, Amy Welborn, Jimmy Akin and Jeff Miller are my favorites.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Member of the B-Team: I'm an amateur Catholic

Ah.. only my second professional membership. Hmm.. perhaps it isn't a professional organization at that, what with "we barely do our jobs" being in the logo. ... (Gasp) What have I gotten myself into??? ;-)

Everyone beware: here comes amateur Catholic trouble!

Monday, October 09, 2006

This is almost funny

To many people, contraception is no laughing matter. But some of the things going on in the contraceptive culture are funny. This article inlcudes this claim, for example:

  Ms Lissner said men want to take responsibility and control of contraception.

She said: "At least in the US, the idea that men aren't willing to participate is clearly out of date.

"Men want to control their own destinies."

I'd be interested to see the conclusive data on that. I'm not saying that it's impossible, but it doesn't sound plausible. From the last half of the 20th century on, the trend has been more about hedonism without consequences, rather than responsibility. One can hope, of course, but if men really wanted to take responsibility, why pull punches? If they're really responsible, they can commit to marriage, with their wife plan (and if you're a believer, PRAY about) how many kids they should have, work out how many years in-between to space their births, and use the Billings Ovulation Method. It's probably not what most people think (the outdated rhythm method), and it can be learned together by the couple, who will share the responsibility.

There's another area of responsibility that's lacking in reality: what sort of man would opt to abort his own child and endanger the life and health of his wife? Both abortion and artificial contraceptives present serious health risks -- although it's true that many are not aware of this. What sort of man would have a sexual relationship with his girlfriend without first committing to marriage for life? This male contraceptive sounds to me like just another licence for sexual gratification without responsiblity.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ageing and Respect

This sort of thing wouldn't be as much a problem if society hadn't turned its back on the idea of basic respect for human beings. It's the whole notion that one does not deserve respect until it has been earned. I don't know when it started, but it should have been recognized as a precursor to things like age discrimination. When utilitarian views about our worth become the norm, how else can we expect society to view the elderly?

On St. Francis of Assisi

The Canticle of Chiara features several posts leading up to the feast of il Poverello, our beloved Saint Francis of Assisi. Chiara starts with Dante's song of St. Francis, Bonaventure on St. Francis, Chesterton's Jongleur de Dieu, a comparison between the films "Francis of Assisi" and "Brother Sun, Sister Moon", and ends with a post on the solemnity itself. Firefox (and perhaps Mozilla and Netscape) users may find what appears to be a huge blank post with only the top/title and left-margin links available. Just scroll down and the posts themselves are there. [Links found thanks to Dan from Holy Whapping.]

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How can the East and West be one again?

It just came to my head that perhaps the scenario isn't as complicated as it could be. I just realized what a great thing it would be for the Church to be able to pull out all our clergy from Orthodox sees and send them off where they are more sorely needed. After all, if the Orthodox Church comes back to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, it only stands to reason that they can take over the Catholic communities as well. After all, they already have valid sacraments and theology. And what a sign to the world it would be for the Schism to finally end!

Logos and Will

In this very interesting interview published by Zenit, Jesuit Father James Schall, professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, builds upon the Regensburg lecture, which he contends "was liberating and imperative." In it, he compares Papa Benedict's point about God as "Logos" and what he says Muslims believe of God as "Will":

 The Holy Father posed the fundamental question that lies behind all the discussion about war and terror. If God is Logos, it means that a norm of reason follows from what God is. Things are, because they have natures and are intended to be the way they are because God is what he is: He has his own inner order.

If God is not Logos but "Will," as most Muslim thinkers hold Allah to be, it means that, for them, Logos places a "limit" on Allah. He cannot do everything because he cannot do both evil and good. He cannot do contradictories.

Thus, if we want to "worship" Allah, it means we must be able to make what is evil good or what is good evil. That is, we can do whatever is said to be the "will" of Allah, even if it means doing violence as if it were "reasonable."

Otherwise, we would "limit" the "power" of Allah. This is what the Pope meant about making violence "reasonable." This different conception of the Godhead constitutes the essential difference between Christianity and Islam, both in their concept of worship and of science.
Please read the full interview.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Us Or Them: History keeps repeating itself

There is currently a documentary on SBS running, one that explores the minds of the soldiers who perpetrated the Jewish genocide during World War II and those who did the same against the Muslims and Croats in Serbia. The narrator cited that the "us or them" thought was common among all genocides. To such people, the prevailing thought was "to survive, I must kill you."

I realized with a shudder that this is exactly what pro-abortion lobbyists are saying about mothers and the unborn. "In order for me (the woman) to surive, I must kill you (the fetus)." It is a false dilemma, and a deadly one.

Our priest has always been a bit on the radical side

Which means that he often espouses a noticeable departure from orthodoxy. But not heresy, I think, as he is very careful to present his ideas as talking points, not as Final Answers. But two days in a row is straining my heart.

Sunday, he was talking about the shortage of priests, and suggesting that perhaps this is an opportunity for the Church to ordain married men. Okay, that's not too bad, given that celibacy is a discipline and a tradition (small 't'), but I had the impression that the numbers of seminarians were actually picking up -- particular in those places where people and their pastors were, you know, orthodox. Anyway, next he talks about broadening the role of lay people in ministry. No problem, not even when he talks about women in ministry. There's women who may be pastors and there's priests. Totally different things. I had no problem with a Dominican sister who was in charge of religious education in my school, or a lay woman (whom we lovingly called Mama Chu) was director of the university's campus ministry. At least he didn't mention ordaining them as priests. So I guess it wasn't too bad, but his homily raised my eyebrows some, but not too much.

Monday morning Mass and he's at it a bit more. It's a celebration of the holy guardian angels. Scripture is full of references to them, some of them are given names and big roles, while others were mentioned in general references only.

So why was our beloved (and we do love him) Father Michael talking about angels in Scripture as simply part of the "literary form" (therefore fictitious)? Why does he suggest that they were borrowed by the Hebrews heavily from Persian literature? The thought of a strand being pulled apart, unraveling the tapestry, came to mind. Take out angels and you wipe out a lot of Scriptural accounts, and a lot of theology. The untenability of his exegetical venture was accentuated by the liturgy itself, which, for this day, was full of Scriptural quotes about the holy angels. I don't know if he realized what a serious exegetical proposition that was. If angels were no more than literary devices, borrowed from Persian myths to provide form to the guidance of God, then what does that make of the Devil? If he's a literary form, what is he an agent of? Surely not our God! And what of the Lord's command to make figures of angels covering the tabernacle with their wings? Surely Moses did not risk the Lord's wrath and jealousy in order to provide the tabernacle with embellishments from figures of.. Persian mythological creatures!

I have no problems with a homily asserting that the holy angels are best seen in the light of God's providence, as agents of his constant care for his children. To Him be the power and the glory! Amen! But God is not so insecure as to require solo billing. He gets top billing, sure, and the angels themselves would be the first to ask this. But to lower the angels to the level of mythical beings included in Scripture by the Holy Spirit's inspiration as mere literary forms.. insults their Master as much as it insults them.

I am one of Father Michael's many happy children in our parish. He is a very able preacher, a compassionate confessor and my kids love him. But I think, in this instance, he may have let the academic in him get the better of the priest in him. Much as it happens to me a lot, being an academic myself. Sometimes, ideas, theories, exciting new branches of our sciences can get away from us.

There must be a reason why the Lord told his disciples not to worry about what they needed to say when they are brought into courts. Perhaps it is for the same reason that the Lord mandated the Magisterium,lest we each try our hand at pontificating, and give in to temptations of over-reaching and creativity in overdrive.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Right to Life Australia: email/phone/fax campaign (Victoria) 3-4 October

TOMORROW & WEDNESDAY: PRO-LIFERS TO DELUGE STATE PARLIAMENT WITH CALLS, FAXES & EMAILS.
Dear Friend of Life,

A quick reminder for pro-life people: we want to inundate the phones, faxes and email inboxes of the leading politicians listed below on the last two days of parliament (Tuesday & Wednesday).

Please fax, phone and email ALL DAY on these two days, and be part of a state wide grass roots campaign to alert State leaders to our view that abortion is a grievous crime against humanity.

Pro-Life flood: Tuesday October 3rd, Wednesday October 4th
The simple message, in your own words: "I oppose the decriminalisation of abortion. I cannot support parties or individuals who would vote for abortion up to the moment of birth. Please uphold the right to life of our brothers and sisters in the womb."

STEVE BRACKS - PREMIER
Tel: 9651 5000 or 9399 9022
Fax: 9651 5298
Email: steve.bracks@parliament.vic.gov.au

TED BAILLIEU - OPPOSITION LEADER
Tel: 9651 8512 or 9882 4088
Fax: 9651 8426
Email: ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au

ROB HULLS - ATTORNEY GENERAL
Tel: 9637 8855 or 9379 5879
Fax: 9637 8921
Email: rob.hulls@parliament.vic.gov.au

Campaign Meeting at Right to Life on Wednesday 4th October. 7:30PM, 45 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick. Please come and continue to help us in this campaign.
In life,

Marcel White
Campaign Director
Margaret Tighe
President

Chestertonian call to battle..

.. to love our enemies, i.e., those who hate us. And so we are challenged to pray for them, whenever we can. Can we pray that our enemies are wiped out by God? Absolutely: we pray that our X enemies are wiped out by a holy conversion of heart and spirit, and become, instead, X friends who love us as we love them. Best wipe-out there is: our enemies become our friends. [Link found via Mark Shea's blog.]

Prosperity Gospel travels by email

Because I received tidbits of it from a friend, I took a closer look. What a scandal to Christ! From their salaries of more than $300,000 USD a year, are they using all of that up on luxury? Saint Paul tells us [1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11]:

 "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness."
It isn't that their network is earning so much money. It is that the people behind it, effective as they might be in spreading the Gospel worldwide, appear to be thriving in opulence. What of the many people who die of starvation everyday? Saint James said [James 2:15-16]:
 "If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, 'I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,' without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that?"
Is it enough to simply tell the poor that they should pray for prosperity and it will come? Saint James disagrees. As would the Lord, who describes a harsh sentence for those who neglect to serve the poor with what they actually need [from Matthew 25:31-46]:
 He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
It is cold comfort to give words but not food, shelter and clothing.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Two pieces from Zenit

Father Cantalamessa and Papa Benedict XVI talk separately about our relationship with non-Catholics. I've often thought that the best blogging strategy for me was to point out what has been written by others out there, since my own writing needs serious work. Here they say things that need to be said, and better than any way I could have framed it myself. I'm glad I don't have their responsibilities. :-)

Children really should be the first consideration

But the world does not listen easily, and guess who loses big?

Muddles are meant to be .. well, un-muddled

Cardinal Pell cites bleak figures:

  ... 75% of young Catholics think it is proper to "pick and choose beliefs," while only 10% accept the notion that "only one religion is true." The overall impression left by the studies, the cardinal said, is that the beliefs of young Australian Catholics have gone "beyond tolerance and ecumenism and toward muddle."

That's a muddle, alright.

The mind of a Baptist blogger

I've run afoul of this blogger before, and it's really hard to understand his mindset. I gather from his commenting rules (and the way he's enforced it and/or waved it at me a few times now that nothing is up for debate. He knows what he knows and he's not out here to reason with people. He'll say his piece and you take it or leave it. It's alien to my way of thinking about evangelizing. I'm not quite into entertaining new ideas to make my own. I do know what I know but I don't know what the person I talk to knows. I am interested in what makes them stand outside instead of coming inside the body of Christ. Knowing that much about them can only help me help them get over what's stopping them. I believe in dialogue, and first of all, non-Christians (and non-Catholics) that I might dialogue with deserve the utmost respect as human beings. That they believe in God in some form is a plus. I believe in taking things from what truths they believe in, e.g., the sanctity of human life, the existence of a God who loves us, as the foundation for hearing the Gospel. It is entirely up to the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts, but the preaching will go better if there is a common language, common experiences and common notions that we can build upon.

For Rand the Baptist.. dialogue will not work because he won't let it begin. He does not wish to correspond nor to discuss anything. His mind and heart are closed. He knows what he knows. There is no testing the spirits for him. Only prayer can reach him.

I just wish he knew what he was talking about when he talks about anything Catholic. He attacks Catholics with his misinformed knowledge and experiences, and there is no defense allowed the hapless Catholic. As I told him before, it is like this: from inside his house, he shoots at Catholics outside. When confronted, he retorts that they have no right to complain because his activities are done within the sanctity of his own home. And there is no dissuading him about this injustice.

Dave Armstrong's Fantastic Discount Sale

Please visit Dave's blog, Cor Ad Cor Loquitur, and consider buying his heavily discounted books. I'm one question away from buying myself ("Honey? Could I please buy these heavily discounted books?")

Making disciples of all: where do we start?

It wasn't too surprising to find that some fundamentalist out there would find something to gloat about during the recent tantrums thrown among Muslims to protest Papa Benedict's Regensburg lecture. When our Pope clarified his position with the Muslims, and expressed regrets over the disproportionate offense taken by those who misunderstood, brother fundamentalist -- ex-Catholic Rand -- called it hypocrisy. What I found alarming was not quite what he had to say about the Pope and the Catholic Church -- it was expected. It was what he professed about Muslims and non-born-again Christians in general. Perhaps his understanding of evil is not the same as mine, but he asserts that there is absolutely no good, only total evil, among non-born-agains. Of course, in his mind, that includes me, but that's not the point. The problem is how he expects the Church (his notion or mine, it doesn't matter) to reach out to non-Christians. Respect is not a starting point for him, nor is the acknowledgment of something good -- even a minute amount -- in human beings per se: even babies, children, youth. Ironically, this was the point of that Regensburg lecture: God and reason go together, and one cannot profess a God who is entirely unreasonable. The example Papa Benedict gave was the irreconcilability of a reasonable God and violent or forced conversions. Here with Rand is another example of something irreconcilable: that God had created evil beings. By evil, I do mean that which is COMPLETELY anti-God, a total antithesis of love.

Perhaps he equates "evil" with "sinfulness", which is not the same thing. For we are all sinful by nature, due to The Fall, and are prone to evil actions. But we are also capable of good actions, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, even when we are not aware of it and do not acknowledge it.

What I do fear is that such a concept will not yield much evangelical fruit. Isn't it reasonable to say that all human beings, regardless of their fallen nature, deserve respect? Even God shows us that much respect, by prompting us with the Holy Spirit into willfully embracing faith, rather than creating us incapable of free will, automatons programmed to do only what the Holy Spirit prompts. There is a pre-requisite of respect that must precede the dialogue of preaching the Gospel to non-believers. One may affirm, as the Magisterium does, that non-believers deserve respect, and may have pieces of the truth in what they believe. The problem is not that they have no truth at all, for God creates us in his image and likeness, and that which is his image is good. The problem is that non-believers do not have all the truth, having instead a mixture of truth and falsehood. It isn't unreasonable to use the truths they hold as a take-off point in a dialogue, a means to anchor the truths they have never heard nor understood before. Do they believe in a benevolent creator rather than the neo-Darwinist notion of life as pure accident? Then we affirm that they have, as Romans 1:19-20 suggests, perceived God in what can be observed from his creation. But we must take it a step further, and explain more truths that should supplant the falsehoods and half-truths.

I just find it shocking that the same notion of a creator who is unreasonable and whimsical, can be found among Christians. I'm not sure if it's Calvinism or Occam's influence on Luther (and Calvin?). Whatever it is, there is a peril among Christians of such bent which renders their Christianity too similar to Islam in theology -- but thankfully, not in violent aberrations.