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Friday, December 26, 2008

Dad, you forgot to put the baby Jesus back in!

Yeah, I did. Little Francis noticed the day after. Not that I meant to, of course, but one of my other kids got so close to breaking it that I had to tuck it away, supposedly until Christmas day. But, naturally, I forgot about it. It probably wasn't a good idea to put it away so out of sight though. Which explains why I ended up forgetting to put it back in.

Which might explain why the same thing happens to lots of people. Even confessing Catholics and Christians forget about Christ when they find a pet cause and put that in the center of their lives. Think world hunger, the environment, self-esteem, feminism, patriotism, getting along with everyone else, political correctness -- it could be anything. And Jesus falls out of the picture and.. well, then all sorts of nuttiness comes from it. Luckily, the Lord is not a willing victim to that. He was done with that on Calvary, but now -- for our sake, not his -- he makes sure that he is being offered someplace to the world that thinks it doesn't need him. That's when you can be sure that it really needs him. And so we have Pope Benedict XVI. And we have wonderful (and typically Pentecostal) Evangelicals -- be they Catholic or Protestant. And we have mothers and children. And even when the world distills Christmas down to its bare jolly-elf-Santa and commercial Christmas-season-at-the-malls shadows, the world still gets more than it bargains for. Not that I like either versions of Christmas, but some osmosis might do secularists some good when, at the back of their minds, they mull over what Christmas really means or what is the point of giving love on Christmas. They might miss the point one year after another, but perhaps this Christmas is different. God willing, they'll have the baby Jesus in it this time.

Thanks to Jimmy Akin's blog where I found the nice painting that goes with this blog post.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent Reflections

How do we make straight the way for the Lord? It isn't in being a theologian, nor a lawyer, nor a scholar. What a humbling setting Bethlehem was, that stable, and what a humble beginning Nazareth was. How mundane and simple was the first royal audience given by the Holy Child to shepherds who were told by the angelic host! I wish I could make myself so small, simple and ordinary!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Amnesty International on the wrong side in Nicaragua

AI is soliciting support for "women's rights activists" in Nicaragua who helped a rape victim obtain an abortion. They consider the activists victims, persecuted for defending the right of women to abort their child. They're not mentioning that the activists helped the stepfather rapist escape to Costa Rica. With the rape victim. By whom another child was conceived (now a toddler, I guess).

You'd think that AI would know enough to recognize the real crimes committed here.

[More background details here.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A remarkable turn of events in Uruguay

What a refreshing development in Uruguay when their president vetoed an abortion law reform bill of sorts, despite the push from his own party in the other direction. Truth and no small degree of charity saved the day. In his own words:

  "There is a consensus that abortion is a social evil which must be avoided. Nonetheless, in those countries where abortion has been liberalised, it has increased. In the United States, in the first ten years, they tripled, and the figure has been maintained. It has become customary. The same thing happened in Spain.

Laws cannot ignore the reality of the existence of human life in its gestational stage, just as science reveals it. Biology has evolved greatly. Revolutionary discoveries, such as IVF or sequencing the human genome, show that from the moment of conception there is a new human life, a new being. So much so, that in modern legal systems, including our own, DNA has become the acid test of determining the identity of persons, independent of their age, even if the body is destroyed, or when practically nothing is left of the human being, and even after a long time.

The true degree of civilisation of a nation is measured by how the neediest are protected. Therefore we must protect the weakest amongst us. Because the criterion is not the value of the subject with respect to how others respond to him, or his usefulness, but the value which exists due to his mere existence...

This text also affects freedom of enterprise and association when it imposes upon medical institutions with legally approved statues which have, in some cases, been functioning for more than a hundred years, an obligation to perform abortions, expressly contrary to their foundational principles.

The law, furthermore, describes, erroneously and in a strained fashion, against common sense, abortion as a medical act, ignoring international declarations... which reflect the principles of Hippocratic medicine which characterise the doctor as someone who acts in favour of life and physical integrity.

In accordance with the particular characteristics of our people, it is better to seek a solution based upon solidarity which promotes women and their babies, giving them the freedom to be able to choose other ways, and in this fashion, to save both of them.

We need to tackle the true causes of abortion in our country which are rooted in our socio-economic circumstances. There are many women, particularly in the poorest sectors, who are alone in the task of raising children. Hence, we should protect abandoned women with solidarity, instead of offering them abortions.

As Feminists for Life have been saying for a while now: Women deserve better than abortion. And I would add: as do their babies.

[Source: MercatorNet.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Serbian abortionist comes to terms with the truth

Strange that an atheist who did not even recognize the name 'Aquinas' received visions of the saintly scholar. Regardless of how it came about, thank God that this man eventually learned the truth.

  "That same day a cousin came to the hospital with his four months-pregnant girlfriend, who wanted to get her ninth abortion - something quite frequent in the countries of the Soviet bloc. The doctor agreed. Instead of removing the fetus piece by piece, he decided to chop it up and remove it as a mass. However, the baby's heart came out still beating. Adasevic realized then that he had killed a human being,"

[Source: Lifesite News, CNA]

A logical extension to the principle behind abortion

.. appears to be a reasonable question as to who should be aborted? After all, if abortion is subject to no objective terms of morality, then there isn't really anything wrong with it. Hence, the mother may choose it, the mother's parents or boyfriend or husband may choose it over and above the mother's wishes (being a minor, for example), and perhaps even the government may choose it where it deems it advantageous to do so. And even if the government does not coerce the abortion, it can certainly make it more acceptable. It already does so from a socio-political standpoint, after all, when Victorian adherents in Parliament championed the Abortion Law Reform Bill in order to make the choice more comfortable for doctors and women to make. Why not economic then, such as this proposal to pay for the abortion of handicapped babies in order to save on welfare benefits?

  The Australian Parliamentary Group on Population and Development has been slammed by Queensland Senator Ron Boswell for holding to Nazi-style eugenic ideology on the abortion of disabled children.

...

The pro-abortion group had made a submission, signed by 41 Australian MPs, to the parliamentary committee that is examining the issue of abortion in Australia. The group said paying women a Medicare rebate for second-trimester abortions would save the government about $180,000 a year, due to the high costs of caring for handicapped babies who are allowed to be born.
Source: Lifesite news

Like a bridge crumbling when its supports are broken from underneath, one beam at a time: that's what happens to law and order when objective notions of right and wrong are discarded.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Karol: A Man Who Became Pope

Karol DVD This is a quick plug of five stars for the DVD. I loved it not simply because it was about a pope. It is simply an awesome story. This man lived through several tragedies, including Nazi as well as Soviet Socialist occupation of Poland. My wife commented later how incredible it was that anyone could possibly remain optimistic. But it isn't just optimism: it is hope. It is hope that comes through faith, and bears fruits of love, all three being gifts from God.

Should you get an opportunity to see it (it is out on DVD), you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Does Life Really Begin?

According to Associate Professor Maureen Condic: it begins at conception. Her white paper, "When Does Life Begin?", is online from the Westchester Institute. Here's an excerpt of an interview she gave Zenit.org (emphasis mine):

 

Q: You define the moment of conception as the second it takes for the sperm and egg to fuse and form a zygote. What were the scientific principles you used to arrive at this conclusion?

Condic: The central question of "when does human life begin" can be stated in a somewhat different way: When do sperm and egg cease to be, and what kind of thing takes their place once they cease to be?

To address this question scientifically, we need to rely on sound scientific argument and on the factual evidence. Scientists make distinctions between different cell types (for example, sperm, egg and the cell they produce at fertilization) based on two simple criteria: Cells are known to be different because they are made of different components and because they behave in distinct ways.

These two criteria are used throughout the scientific enterprise to distinguish one cell type from another, and they are the basis of all scientific (as opposed to arbitrary, faith-based or political) distinctions. I have applied these two criteria to the scientific data concerning fertilization, and they are the basis for the conclusion that a new human organism comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion.

Post-election Analysis of the Catholic Church in North America?

It's a pretty good one. More importantly, given that the situation in Australia is not much different, if behind by a few years, here's the big question: What does the Church in Australia do about it? We've recently lost the battle over the Abortion Law Reform bill in the state of Victoria, with a number of self-named Catholic/Christian legislators voting the wrong way. Debate over the Assisted Reproduction Treatment Bill is ongoing, but votes from the same group are once more up in the air.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Witness and scandal

Exit polls in electorates where Obama won showed self-professed Catholics voting mostly Obama. But in electorates where their bishops came out publicly and explicitly against Obama, even where Obama won, Catholics were not as supportive of Obama.

Will the bishops who deliberately stayed silent or left their statements vague remember what the Lord said about scandals and the lukewarm?

Truly, a problem of clear and authoritative teaching.

Update:Like I said.. it's about teaching.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Adopting into single parent households is not a trivial matter

Not as trivial as what was reported by a single parent in The Age anyway ("Single parents eligible to adopt Filipino children", 5 Nov 08, The Age Online):

 the evidence showed that children adopted by single people fared just as well as children in two-parent households.

Whereas there is considerable evidence otherwise:

 Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft from Sweden's National Board for Health and Welfare in Stockholm conducted the largest study ever performed on how children are affected by single-parenting. This study, released January 25, 2003 in The Lancet was conducted over the course of a decade (during the 1990s), involving 65,085 children living with a single parent, and 921,257 living with two parents.

...

 children with single parents showed increased risks of psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempt, injury, and addiction. After adjustment for confounding factors such as socioeconomic status and parents' addiction or mental disease, children in single-parent households were twice as likely to have psychiatric disease compared with those in two-parent households; relative risks of suicide attempt and for alcohol-related disease were also doubled. The risk of childhood narcotic abuse was increased threefold among girls and fourfold among boys living in single-parent households.

I'm not saying that they should not be adopting. Having a loving single parent is much better than being a complete orphan. But having a loving father and a loving mother is still the ideal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Culture of Death is coming to invade the Philippines

through a "reproductive health" bill with rather sinister designs all over it. We do need prayers for my former home.

  .. Access to contraceptives is already unrestricted in the Philippines. The government family planning service, which has been in place since the 1970s, has an infrastructure of workers all the way down to the grassroots. ..

So what is the purpose of House Bill 5043, which is entitled “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development” .. what makes it so objectionable to the church and those legislators and members of the public who are pushing from the other side?

The answer is, coercion. The contraceptive-driven fertility decline program of HB 5043 may be the most coercive ever designed outside China. .. it establishes an “ideal” family size, setting the stage for a proposed two-child policy; it imposes a national sex education curriculum at fifth grade level. Couples would be denied a civil marriage license unless they present a “certificate of compliance” from a family planning office certifying that they have been adequately instructed in family planning and “responsible parenthood”.

If before, quota-driven programs have led to gross human rights violations, this time around this bill could easily penalize with fines and jail sentences workers who will be unable to meet their quota. Employers who refuse to provide reproductive health care services to their employees will likewise be subject to penalties. Worse, it curtails freedom of speech, since any person who dares to talk against the program will also be subject to jail sentence and fines.

This program turns the Philippines into a veritable police state with the government using police powers to interfere in the personal affairs of its citizens. It will surely drive a wedge between couples since a health worker must provide sterilization services even in the absence of spousal permission -- or incur a penalty; and likewise between parents and children, since the latter can have access to reproductive health services without parental consent. In a generation or two, the six years of value-free sex education the bill mandates for school children will surely create sexually active adolescents.

They are all set to turn Filipino society on its head and brings it down the same path of ruin that many western societies now face: millions aborted every year, families broken up by instant gratification, promiscuity and adultery, women objectified, children abandoned in the aftermath of adultery and the pursuit of self-fulfillment with no commitment, etc. Oh what evils these proponents of that bill are toying with.

And if you follow the story in that link, here's a shocker (that isn't so shocking if you've been studying such lobbies worldwide):

  In the House, Congressman del Mar revealed departures from the established procedure in the handling of HB 5043. There were actually four reproductive health bills referred to two House committees. A first hearing on three bills took place on April 29 this year. By the second hearing on May 21, however, the committee chairman announced they would now consider “the substitute bill” (replacing all four bills) and, in the blink of an eye, the committees approved it. Usually a technical working group is convened to painstakingly put together the substitute bill. The question is, where did the substitute bill come from?

Former Senator Francisco S. Tatad, an incisive commentator, sources HB 5043 to the Philippine Legislative Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) — an NGO with offices in the same building as the House of Representatives. .. PLCPD is essentially a foreign body. A popular columnist, Jose Sison, reports that PLCPD’s 2008 lobbying fund of two billion pesos comes from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, IPPF and UNFPA the latter two both well known for their global agenda to legalize abortion.

IPPF -- the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Ring a bell?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

Perhaps Prof. Alan Trounson knows why, and so he pursues that. But Prof. Colin McGuckin is as puzzled as I am, and so he has given up on U.K. universities where money is poured into ESCR -- and no one is paying attention to adult stem cell research, despite thousands of successful human treatments. I guess actually treating patients is not the goal for these folks?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lest we be presumptuous

From today's Gospel reading, from St. Luke 13:1-9:

  At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them --do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!" And he told them this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?' He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Judge orders a 12-year old to abort her baby

There is so much that is wrong in this picture that I can't figure out where to begin.

Legislating for the next generation

That is precisely what legislators did when they voted for both the Abortion Law Reform bill (passed in both houses of the Victorian Parliament, only amendments may be possible) and the Assisted Reproduction Treatment bill (passed the lower house). These are votes to repeat the mistakes in other countries. A generation stolen from the womb, or a generation undergoing social experiment.

Update: Here's an argument for the social experiment of redefining parenthood and raising children with any number of parents. Good luck finding data to support that. Oh, that doesn't really matter, does it? That explains why they didn't bother with data.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beauty in the midst of madness

My past few blogs were rather morose, and the video below is so beautiful that it is almost a shock encountering it here. But perhaps it should be here, not so much to lighten the mood as to remind me of hope.

[Thanks to The American Catholic blog for this gem.]

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Abortion Law Reform bill was passed

This makes abortions legal in Victoria without restrictions up to the 24th week, and legal all the way through to full term if two doctors agree that it is necessary. It's a sad day, and I can understand the anger of those in the gallery, but their outbursts may be misconstrued, hurting the pro-life cause in the process.

What to do now? Amendments are now apparently welcome, but who knows which amendments, exactly?

The battleground now is the Victorian society itself. Regardless of abortion being legal, it remains illicit in the Church and unacceptable in orthodox Christian ethics. It now becomes a matter of educating ourselves and our children. This is where we lost the battle in the first place: mis-education or missed education. How many so-called Christians and Catholics advocated for this bill in Parliament? How many ordinary citizens did? How many actually had or facilitated abortions themselves? This is where we lost the battle one generation ago. The ethical deficiencies are self-inflicted, or inflicted by educators and parents who became relativists, conformists to modernity, who stopped challenging their children to be consecrated -- set apart -- for God. We reap what we sow.

The sanctity of human life should be part of catechism. Christians have often lived under unjust laws, but what matters is that they live in justice themselves, for we answer to the Heavenly authority, not civil ones. And then we become leaven. Only then will the secular society be transformed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Speaking objectively

I had been rather peckish today about vandals painting over the pro-life posters at the university and scribbling their own messages (some rather crude) instead of putting up their own oppositional posters. I had declared that these people weren't satisfied with counter-arguments and felt the need to conceal pro-life sentiments because the former group can't handle the truth. My friend Philip simply said "I wouldn't presume to know why they did that" (painted over the pro-life posters).

Mea culpa. I will try to speak objectively. Truth to tell, I do not know if the falsehoods circulating the arguments of abortion advocates are deliberate or accidental. I know that their logic, premises and data are indeed incorrect, but I have no mind-reading ability, hence I cannot judge them as liars. I have no right, and I am sorry.

IVF bill for gay and lesbian parents passes the Lower House

Ever get that feeling that we're getting hit from multiple angles? So while many are on the phone and email (among others) to their MPs concerning the Abortion Law Reform bill, this IVF bill has zoomed past. It still has the Upper House to hurdle, however, and I hope those who are concerned can muster the time to voice concerns to the Legislative Council about this one, too. Both bills are fraught with problems, e.g., lack of data, foresight, appreciation for the big picture, etc.

Incredible abortion statistics

As previously posted, much of abortion advocacy is based on lies. I'd like to temper that by saying that advocates are not always nor necessarily lying deliberately. However, they can be typically unwilling to dig deeper into the issues. I came into the university today to find that campus posters paint and scribbles on top of quoted abortion survivors (born alive after an abortion, fortuitously given medical care and now are scarred but competent adults). The quotes were painted over with red. Some angry scribbles were put in.

What sort of truths are out there? Note these statistics which apparently come from the Guttmacher Institute, itself a well known advocate for abortion "rights":

  UNITED STATES
Number of abortions per year: 1.37 Million (1996)
Number of abortions per day: Approximately 3,700

... Who's having abortions (income)?
Women with family incomes less than $15,000 obtain 28.7% of all abortions; Women with family incomes between $15,000 and $29,999 obtain 19.5%; Women with family incomes between $30,000 and $59,999 obtain 38.0%; Women with family incomes over $60,000 obtain 13.8%.

Why women have abortions
1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient).

...

So let's go back to facts: what is the abortion lobby about, really?

By their fruits indeed

Over the years, one would notice (if research is actually conducted sincerely) that much of the lobbying to legalize and facilitate abortion on demand is based on lies. When NARAL Pro-Choice America in the US was conceived (simply as NARAL), according to one of its founders, they deliberately exaggerated the number of deaths due to backyard abortions:

 "How many [maternal] deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L. we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always '5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.' I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. In 1967, the federal government listed only 160 deaths from illegal abortion. In the last year before the Blackmun era began, 1972, the total was only 39 deaths. [T]he actual total was probably closer to 500." [Aborting America, p. 193.] When it comes to lying, NARAL has continued being "tough and persistent, undiscouraged and unbowed."

The same lies are being used today in Mexico:

 Citing the number of women who had had abortions legally in the nation's capital since legalization, Velasco claimed, "What the 12 thousand that were served in the Federal District means is that it is probable that two thousand would have died" had legal abortion not been available.

However, Mexico City's own health department gives statistics that differ dramatically from Velasco's estimates of deaths due to illegal abortions. In the year before legalization, the health department recorded that only eight women died from miscarriages and induced abortions. The city does not distinguish between miscarriage and illegal abortions in its official statistics, so it is unknown how many of the eight deaths were caused by illegal induced abortions.

That's one problem I have with the abortion agenda: the obfuscation and outright lies. Here in Victoria is another one: hiding the fact that the Abortion Law Reform bill contradicts existing laws and international agreements. Why can't abortion proponents stick to the truth?

And has anyone else found this eerie echo between the so-called "Abortion Law Reform" bill and the "National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws" (the original name of NARAL)? Surely there is no connection -- it isn't as if the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (who earned about $115 million in profits, according to their last annual report) is planning to set up shop here in Australia. Right?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is the abortion debate steering off course?

The latest abortion-related issue is concerning Catholic hospitals. The debate on the parliamentary floor is on decriminalizing abortion completely, and extending abortion beyond 24 months upon the say-so of two doctors. Pretty soon the debate will likely be about partial-birth abortion. Nothing new here as this has happened or is still happening elsewhere. No one even blinks an eye anymore that a US presidential candidate voted against protecting newborn infants who survive an abortion. Abortion has become so mainstream that it is a wonder how its advocates are not even looking at the overwhelming evidence of abortion's devastating consequences to women, families and society at large.

What bugs me is that all these things are peripheral to the real problem: that deliberate abortion is wrong. The Catholic hospitals issue is already in itself a concession to a society that has legalized abortion. No society that legalizes abortion has ever really confronted the fact that abortion is unjust. Nor has it been seriously considered that other options are far more ideal, such as providing sufficient state support for women to see the pregnancy through to keep the child or have the child adopted. Women deserve better than abortions, but governments refuse to investigate further.

As it stands, with so many people getting it wrong on abortion, including Catholics, the job of the Church is to go on the offense: educating people. And this is a truly critical task. For we can now see far too many Catholics, including lawmakers, repeat the anti-Catholic lines about Church control. They're not even aware that their very dissent proves that the Church CANNOT exercise the draconian control that they are protesting. Ironically, the current debate is actually about how the State threatens to wield such dictatorial authority over Catholic doctors and nurses, who view abortion as murder, but will be compelled to be complicit to murder through referrals.

Update: Found this article with some data on late term abortions for psychosocial, no health-related reasons. This supports a separate thesis of mine, that people are not paying enough attention to where this is all going. Yesterday, restricted abortions. Today, if Morand has her way, unrestricted abortions, tomorrow, partial birth abortions?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Age Polls: Should Catholic hospitals be forced to comply with the new abortion laws?

I'm not sure what new abortion laws they speak of here, since the Abortion Law Reform bill has not yet been legislated. It has passed the Lower House, but must still go through the Upper House in a few weeks.

In any case, the poll as it stands now is a big "Yes", obviously from non-Catholics who find nothing wrong with the State dictating over the doctrines of the Church while at other times (when it suits them) crying "separation of Church and State". Please visit the poll and make your views count. Polls are a dime a dozen, but in this day and age, many people actually let polls shape their principles. Tragic, I know..

Update: this abortion law is about forcing hospitals to refer women seeking abortion to abortion providers. Our Archbishop has spoken out against this. We refer to this as cooperating with evil, which in itself is a grave and objective evil, given the nature of what is at stake (murder). The government would use the term "collusion" or "aiding and abetting" in other situations, but obviously not when it is an abortion.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stop the Abortion Law Reform Bill

Someone from the university has kindly prepared several PDF documents containing contact information about specific members of parliament and the legislative council, as well as letters urging them to oppose the Abortion Law Reform Bill here in Victoria. It is probably preferred that the letters are given a personal touch, but note that whatever is written must be given in charity and respect. These people are not enemies: they are public servants whom we should pray for and assist in their decision-making. Our role is not berate them, but to voice our concerns to them, in the hope that we will influence their understanding. Marcin (who prepared these documents) sends along this explanation for the various documents in the zip file linked to above:

  1. find out what your Legislative Council Region is by seeing "list_of_council_members-3.pdf" (Clayton is in the SouthEastern Region)
  2. open the PDF for your Council Region (western, northern, etc.) and fill out the forms with your Name and Address up the top and Name down the bottom (copy and paste will do the trick) for all FIVE members.
  3. find out who's your Assembly MP by seeing "assembly_members-4.pdf" and filling out and printing ONE of the letters in that PDF
  4. sign and send them (each in separate envelope with name of MP on the front) to Parliament House, East Melbourne, Vic 3002
  5. Or type up your own letters. Or, even better, hand write them. Or even better visit an MP or two in person.

This fight isn't about condemning women who obtain abortions. It's about saving lives: the mother's, the father's and the baby's.

Sydney lab cleared to clone human embryos

It did not involve the creation of a human life. "We are not creating an embryo for reproductive purposes," Dr Stojanov said.

-- The Age (online), 17 September 2008

So... creating an embryo does not involve the creation of human life? And these guys are IVF professionals? What's their batting average then??

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One body

First reading today from Corinthians 12,12-14.27-31.

 As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

And came a Jehovah's witness a-knocking at my door

.. and fool that I was, there I stood chatting with him at the doorway, leaving my work undone. :-) It was a pleasant enough chat, though it took almost an hour, it seems, and plans to bring the family to a barbecue were abandoned. I should have held my tongue, but I cannot do so when told that there is no immortal soul, that there is no eternal punishment, that the kingdom of God on earth started less than a century ago. Oh and the 144,000 in Revelations is taken literally, but not Christ's words about eternal punishment. Hmm... And my Evangelical wife stayed wisely indoors. But I didn't have the heart to hurry the man along. He was old enough to be my father, and kindly, and obviously sincere, if a bit inconsistent in exegesis.

The Glory of the Cross

Today we celebrated a feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Glory to God in the highest whose mercy and kindness was graciously given to us not only in spite of but through death and horror. As the poisonous serpents were foiled by the serpent raised up on a standard, so was the torturous horror of crucifixion foiled by the Savior crucified. O happy cross, too, that foiled thereby the wages of sin through the innocent Lamb who took the penalty of sin unto his own flesh!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Authority and Reason

Today's Gospel reading (Luke 4:31-37) relates the amazement of the Lord's audience at his authority to teach and command. He taught at the synagogue with authority, and he commanded the unclean spirit to depart the man it was afflicting. Behind all this is the divine power which is God's alone; I think divinity is the basis for authority. Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to consider that it is also the basis for reason, for what can be rational if it is not based on unassailable, perfect, eternal (and thus divine) Truth? What can be logical if it is not based on objective and true premises?

The commentary cited by DailyGospel.org from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) is worth repeating here:

  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI]
Lenten sermons 1981
"What is there about his word?"

The moment that the Bible calls «the beginning» points us to the One who had the power to create what is and to say: «Let there be...!» and it was (Gen 1,1-3)... That phrase «Let there be..!» did not bring mindless chaos into existence. The more we get to understand the universe, the more we discover a rationality in it whose ways, interpenetrated by thought, amaze us. Through them we find again that creator Spirit to whom we, too, owe our reason. Albert Einstein wrote that the laws of nature: «Manifest so superior a reason that all other rationality of human thought and will seem, by comparison, to be an absolutely insignificant reflection of it.»

We note that the infinitely great universe of stars is ruled by the power of Reason [Logos]. But we learn even more concerning this from the infinitely small, the cell, the fundamental elements of living things. There, too, we discover a rationality that astonishes us, so that we have to say with Saint Bonaventure: «Anyone who cannot see this is blind. Anyone who cannot hear it is deaf. And anyone who does not start praying and praising the Creator Spirit at this point, is dumb»...

Through creation's rationality, God himself confronts us. Physics, biology, all the sciences generally, have offered us an account of the new and unheard of creation. Such great, new images help us to know the Creator's face. They remind us, yes, that in the beginning, and in the depth of every being, stands the Creator Spirit. The world has not issued forth from darkness and absurdity. It resonates intelligence, freedom, the beauty that is love. Seeing all this gives us the courage that makes living possible and makes us able to take up confidently on our shoulders the adventure of life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Local News of Note

A few reports I've dredged up, plus my reactions. Please excuse me if I rant in some issues longer (and with more intensity) than others.

"Priest facing 33 charges of sexual offenses", and it appears that the man is guilty. It is logical to resolve this with a thorough criminal investigation.

A rebellion in the Brisbane Archdiocese from a parish where the sacraments, liturgy and goodness knows what else have been twisted, abused, misused, or applied illicitly. The news is grim indeed, which to me only drives home the point about being clear in doctrine and firm in pastoring. Being vague and soft only invites errors from well-meaning but confused or misguided folks.

New abortion laws introduced in Victoria. Many recognize that the current laws, which allow abortions only in cases where the mother's life is in danger, are not being applied consistently. The twisted logic is thus to normalize the infractions by decriminalizing abortion completely. It is incredible to read opinions that this will not affect the number of abortions. Those who hold such opinions will not be held accountable, of course, even if they are proven wrong. Sadly, the implications are too real for the unborn as well as their mothers, should abortion be considered. The Women's Affairs minister, Ms. Morand, is doing a disservice to women. Women deserve better. The minister is not giving them a solution, nor does she seem to have taken a close look at the devastation wrought by abortion on demand in other countries. The data is there, and it spans 30 years and more than 30 million abortions since Roe vs. Wade in the US. Why don't they simply take a look? The exaggerated reports of backyard abortions are dwarfed by the abortions legally carried out in the US today. I can't understand the stubborn refusal to look at the evidence. Abortion kills. Just look at what is extracted, or compare what happens between two pregnant women nine months later, where one has an abortion and the other doesn't. Or check the DNA of the aborted fetus, which is not identical with the mother's. The data is clear. It's the politics/ideology that happens to be shadowy.

[Sources: The Age, News.com, and Yahoo News.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When politicians make false claims

In Meet the Press recently, US Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the following about the her views on when life begins, within the context of abortion:

"I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition . . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose."

Mercifully, a quick response came from the Church, this time, via this very straightforward statement coming from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver. [Links to a PDF file] The short form of his response is that the relevant issue to address is the fact that the Church has always considered abortion objectively and gravely wrong. The Curt Jester posts about several responses from the Church, in fact. I can only add from what I know that some ancient Christian literature such as the Didache and The Epistle of St. Barnabas are clear about this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fascinating (and one of the few endorsed) Marian apparitions

From a village in Lithuania, this amazing story about Our Lady of Siluva. Evangelicals these days are not as hostile to the Catholic faith as Protestants were of less recent days. It is reasonable for one to ask why a Christian already sharing a personal relationship with Christ our Lord should even bother with the Blessed Mother. This answer may seem glib, but it's no less true: it is the design and will of God to do so. Just as, for our Lady, it is the design and will of God for her to take us under her motherly love, children won by the salvation of our Lord's love and mercy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Learning

Nursing a lively little bug that's so far gone through every member of this household, it seems. And now that it's hit me, here's a little insight prompted by watching "Batman Begins" on DVD:

 Why do we get hurt? So that we'd know how others feel when they are hurt.

[The inspiration comes from this nasty bug and Bruce Wayne's memory of this question: Why do we fall, Bruce?

Monday, August 18, 2008

All is quiet here.. but not in the real world

On the contrary, life has been fairly hectic. The fact that this blog speaks little of it is actually a good thing. At least my wife would say so. To give a very brief report, life for this little family simply goes on. Kids got sick, they got better. K1 still has authority issues, but that's life; he's eight. I still struggle to strike a balance between discipline and moral support. He is a lively little boy with (I think) advanced social skills for his age. K2 has moderation issues, both with his irrepressible sense of humor (at the expense of his brothers, usually) and his toys. But he has his deep thinking moments, and that irrepressible humor is always a blast of sunshine that is so enjoyable when I open myself to actually enjoying it. K3 is growing up a true gem so far, all five years of him. He is cheerful, except when his brothers are too harsh with him, and he is so alive. Swinging his head this way and that, and sometimes all his limbs, he virtually dances to the liturgy, right there beside me.

And that's a brief report! :-)

As for theology, liturgy, faith and everything else I used to blog so much about, that's all going on in the background. No time to report on all that at this point, except to say ancora imparo: I am still learning. There is so much to learn, after all, and I am such a tiny vessel.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Good Frisking of Bad Scholarship

Being an academic has its lows, particularly when I read about academics who, wanting to prove their pet thesis so badly, will sacrifice anything -- even their integrity. Mark Shea (as usual) gives a good critique of the latest attempt to discredit Jesus Christ and Christianity using whatever will gain publicity. Nothing is inappropriate when engaging in non-scholarship like this. Even my 6-year old will be puzzled at this sensationalized but utterly insignificant claim that Jesus was Jewish. He'll probably go, "Of course he is. So what?"

Have a read of Mark's frisking above. In the end, all we can do is shake our heads, smile knowingly about this age-old story of the world rejecting Jesus Christ, time and again. The truth is much simpler, but that would be too demanding. So they continue to reject Him. But for all the amusement factor in such stories, for goodness' sake, let's teach our children well. Lest the world fool them into rejecting Christ, too, when we're not looking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Talking Beasts.. Stop

In "The Magician's Nephew", Aslan gives a simple warning to the newly born Talking Beasts of Narnia: that they should not go back to the ways of beasts lest they cease to be Talking Beasts.

I was reminded of that in Catherine Deveny's article in The Age where she talks about having shed her faith (sandwiched between layers of exaggerated sarcasm and insults for Catholics and Catholicism). Ms. Deveny at some essay months ago casually mentioned that she was Catholic. Now it's clear: she was Catholic, but she became an atheist years ago. That liberating feeling she describes is indeed a form of freedom, but from what? Sadly, she may not have given that much thought.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Searching for human triumph

John F. Schumaker, clinical psychologist, makes very poignant observations and poses even more poignant questions in this article from The Age, "Triumph of the Trivial Life". He begins with this:

  THE RESULTS of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but there is a definite trend — triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no one is betting on survival.
 

Perhaps because the hope espoused by humanists cited were even flimsier than faith in God ever was:

  .. Erich Fromm .. forecast a utopian society based on "humanistic communitarianism" that would nurture our higher "existential needs".
  ..
  .. Carl Rogers .. believed that we — those "people of tomorrow" — would minister over a growth-oriented society, with "growth" defined as the full and positive unfolding of human potential.
  ..
  Maslow claimed that human beings naturally switch attention to higher-level needs (intellectual, spiritual, social, existential) once they have met lower-level material ones. In moving up the pyramid and "becoming", we channel ourselves towards wisdom, beauty, truth, love, gratitude and respect for life.

I do not consider myself a cynic, but the empirical data suggests that these hopes expressed by thinkers of the past century were futile. Perhaps in their exclusion of the supernatural, their conclusions have missed out by a mile. After all, premises count, and I suppose the incongruity between theory and experience can be explained by having assumed a false premise.

It isn't that I think mankind to be so far removed from nobility and greatness of spirit. It is only that what the Church has been saying for so long captures the true story. Man is made in the image of God, and so bears His greatness. But the Fall did compromise man's ability to be true to his own divine destiny. Without God to heal the rift, that destiny cannot be fulfilled, much less taken up deliberately.

In the end, Mr. Schumaker's essay seemed to me an incomplete story. His observations are as striking as his questions -- but the answer was left out. Man's greatness is obvious to anyone who is deliberately hates mankind, but this greatness is incomplete and insufficient. Our capacity for evil and savagery is a stark reminder of this. We bear a great wound in ourselves that separates us from the nobility we all share in varying degrees, but glimpsed among the greatest of our heroes. I sincerely believe that we are only healed through the One who took our fall into his body, by whose stripes we are healed. By his grace alone are we saved, and by His Spirit are we restored to who we are destined to be. Humanism is nice but let's call its greatest aspect by name: love. That which, beyond logic, beyond expectation, gives all for love.

But healing takes time -- a lifetime -- as well as nurture. If humanists were only to allow this thought: that the answer eludes mankind because that which will let us rise above the superficial is truly above us, that it is not natural but rather supernatural. That it has indeed come in the flesh and dwelt among us, in love, so that we, outsiders, may be co-heirs of all that is holy and all that is love. Then and only then will all our hopes of human destiny be fulfilled.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Prayer from the lips of children

I must say, I felt immensely joyful hearing my son Patrick reading from Psalm 85 (86) at bedtime tonight. And likewise when I saw that his older brother Justin had been filling up his reading journal (for school) with chapters from his children's Bible. Little saints in the making. If only their dad would stop getting in the way!

Thank you, Lord, for the three arrows in my quiver. They fill me with joy (when I stop taking myself too seriously), bring me to laughter, and fill me with hope. Through them, I catch a glimpse of the enormity of Fatherhood, a peek into the gift of Sonship, and a foretaste of holy Love. They hold up a mirror to me, confronting me with what it means to love and to be loved.

Sower and Seed, and the Soil

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio has an insightful essay about the parable of the sower and the seed.

Fr. Jerome Magat has his own insightful angle about being fertile soil.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Journalism has seen better days

If this is a measure of rigorous research among journalists, then how far they have indeed fallen:

And I thought objectivity was all that got thrown out of the window for today's brave new breed of journalists.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So what's new?

I am reading The Imitation of Christ and find it immensely edifying. The advice on admitting the distractions of the world around us is most apt. I suspect that a substantial amount of my time is wasted on such distractions, reading up news from at least three continents each day, a handful of my favorite blogs, writing my own blog posts ..

! oops

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Order and Discipline

It wasn't surprising that a 12-year-old would sue her own father for grounding her from a school trip for posting objectionable pictures of herself and chatting on websites against her father's objections. Just the logical conclusion of how things have been sliding down the politically correct slope where the superficial is replacing the substance of life, straining gnats while swallowing camels. Thankfully, the notions of order and discipline are intrinsic in human beings. Thus, there is hope, as when Kiwis have had enough of anti-spanking laws that take parenting away from parents.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Church of England no more?

The gospel has been attenuating in the Church of England, I suppose, but here is a turning point, an amplification of sorts:

  Dr Jensen said that the Global Anglican Future Conference was acknowledging that a new state of affairs existed within the worldwide Anglican communion, in which the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury was no longer considered dominant. "My way of putting it is to say that the British Empire has now ceased to be, and the British Commonwealth of Nations has come into existence, or the nuclear family has turned into an extended family. This is the new reality."

[Source: The Age, 22/06/2008

Dr. Jennings said that they held the conference in Jerusalem in order to discern "what God's mind is on certain matters" -- and that, I think, is exactly what makes it a turning point. Returning to the root of Church mission -- God's will -- is the only true guide. It won't be easy for the Anglicans (it hasn't been), but there is always reason to hope when that hope springs from faith in God.

The Language of the Liturgy

One might have thought it obvious that great care should be taken that the language used in worshipping the Almighty; that reverence and awe, focusing on the God we are adoring, is only fitting. So why are some bishops seemingly unhappy with endeavors along those lines? Happily, the arguments for maintaining the dignity of liturgical language are not hard to understand, and here given most excellently by Bishop Seratelli (with emphasis and comments by Fr. Z).

The arguments for keeping things simple, resulting in keeping them too simple, remind me of arguments for keeping doctrines simple, which results in watering them down. Like arguments for doing away with homework and examinations in schools, with the result of dumbing down education. They do the intended beneficiaries a disservice, condescendingly treating them as lesser beings than they really are. Baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, his grace gives us the impulse to be raised up to Heavenly heights. That, after all, is our calling. And if this is not reflected in our liturgy, then we're in trouble, aren't we?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Casting pearls amongst the swines

Or, in this case, a dog. I cannot see the logic of giving a dog 10 or even 2 million dollars when starvation ravages many parts of the world. Exceedingly bizarre.

Right to Life Australia is Protesting outside the office Maxine Morand

From RTLA's mailing list:
ABORTION IS NEVER HEALTHY!
COME TO THE PROTEST

The Brumby Government is attempting to redefine abortion from being a crime to a 'health procedure'. What is healthy about killing small babies and ruining their mothers' lives? Yet Maxine Morand, Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development and Women's Affairs - and a member of the notorious Emily's List - is guiding the Decriminalisation of Abortion Bill through Parliament.

This Minister is supposed to care for children and women!

We are going to let her know what we think of trying to pass abortion off as a 'health' item. Please come and join us outside Ms Morand's electoral office this Wednesday. Bring your children if you can!

WHERE: 1/40 Montclair Ave, Glen Waverley 3150 MEL 71 B2
WHEN: Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 18 at 11am

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Faith versus works

Or the dog that never barked, perhaps. Or the issue that never was.

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio delivers as good an explanation as any, if not better, about this artificial confrontation between faith and works. Many Christians assert "faith alone, but this faith is never alone" (or some permutation), and still find fault in the Roman Catholic position. The obstinacy is sad and frustrating. There is already a common, orthodox understanding of faith and works, not as opposing systems but as necessary components of what is expected of us: a living faith. To nevertheless maintain that there remains a contention hides what the issue really is.

Whatever that/those might be, the disappointments, heartache and frustrations that brought them on are real.

There is the city on a hilltop

I feel less and less inclined to wade into ecumenical debates. There's been one brewing at Cum Ecclesia between the Catholic and Lutheran positions. The primary issues at hand are authority and the question of where the Church is.

I can't count the number of times that I had prepared a lengthy comment in the comment box only to find myself aborting the comment in the end. Not because I wasn't sure of what I wanted to say, but because my comments seem futile in the end. The Lutheran position does not hold much hope to me of dialogue. It is too subjective, it seems, and the Lutheran sentiment of one's unbending stand gets in the way.

In the end, lazy as it seems to be, I am inclined these days to simply lift my arm and point to the Church Magisterium: there she is, the city on a hilltop. Don't take my word for it, take hers. In any other Christian denomination, my interpretation of the Bible is the sure foundation of my arguments. In the Catholic Church, the interpretation of Scripture and Tradition that is offered by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is the sure foundation. I have had the Iglesia ni Kristo or the Jehovah's Witnesses thrown at my face before, as an answer to this assertion of mine. Let me be clear then that I refer to Christian denominations who share the Nicene Creed and the pronouncements of the councils up to about the first millennium at least. Those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, the closing of revelation with the death of the Apostles, the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ's nature.

In predicting the demise of Jerusalem, the Lord told his disciples to scatter away. Going against prevailing practice at that time, they were to depart from Jerusalem, rather than to hide within and wait out a siege. No such warning is recorded about the Church that he built on the rock of Peter. He declares a promise that asserts the opposite: "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." St. Paul confirms this when he calls the Church the pillar and foundation of Truth.

If you pose a difficult dogma to me, I'll point to that city on the hilltop. I may not understand everything she tells me, I may fail to uphold my avowed obedience to her judgments, but I trust my Lord, who told me to trust that city. Even if I don't feel like it, even when I don't understand it -- even when I feel like dissenting. You see, at the end of the day, I just don't feel comfortable with the idea that I know better than all those popes, bishops, clergy, scholars, doctors and ordinary Catholics down through the centuries. Even if I were to consider that many of those popes, bishops, clergy, scholars, doctors and ordinary Catholics were individually sinful, and perhaps often individually wrong in word and deed, I'd be loathe to dissent. The Lord has already warned of what fate awaits those false teachers and leaders. I shall observe whatsoever the Magisterium teaches, but there will be times when I shall not do as they (of the Magisterium) do. God have mercy on them if they cause scandal, but I shall not make of myself a rebel. Some hats are simply too big for my head.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Prayer for Unity

Acts of unity such as these are always signs of grace:

  Vatican, May. 9, 2008 (CWNews.com) - At a midday meeting on May 9 with the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) looked forward to Pentecost Sunday and said, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church."
...
"Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit."

Amen!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The shortsightedness of self-centeredness

The headlines of MX Melbourne today asks the question: what are we willing to pay for the future generation? The issue lies with government plans to share the burden of paid maternity leaves to the public, to the tune of $5.70 per week for those who earn about $50,000 AUD per year. The comments included in the report seemed to come only from those who consider the idea unfair to them, i.e., single people. Lack of reflection is evident. They have not considered that they did not pay for their own public education and healthcare. Nor do they consider who will pay for their public healthcare and pension. They have not considered the people those babies will become. Nor do they consider who will care for them in hospitals, drive them around in buses and trains, serve them in restaurants, health clubs, libraries, cinemas, banks and various places of recreation.

Just as long as they don't ask my kids for services and tax dollars.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Still alive, but barely blogging

Luckily, that doesn't mean I stop reading. News and other blogs, mostly. Here, for example, is a sad case of a Catholic judging a Catholic convert (from Protestantism). Jimmy Akin happens to be an inspiring Catholic writer/blogger, whose lucid writing is always a welcome light when .. well.. emotional mayhem is ensuing around religious discussions. He understands the catechism very, very well, likewise canon law (though not a canon lawyer himself, I think), the Church Fathers, and of course, Holy Scripture.

Why on earth would anyone decide that being a Catholic convert is not Catholic enough? I don't really get it. After all, we're all converts. Not one of us was born a Catholic, not one of us was born a saint (with the exception of the Blessed Mother and, in a way, St. John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother). We are also called to conversion everyday, and in a special way during Lent. The problem isn't in a convert like Jimmy Akin (or Mark Shea, or Scott Hahn). The problem is the pride of Catholics who have become Pharisees, whose distrust of converts to Catholicism outweighs their charity and trust in God's gracious call for all his children into the fullness of truth.

Am I a convert, you might ask? Oh, yes I am. Ideally, right after every trespass against God and against even the least of his children.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Taking AIDS less than seriously

It is incredible how AIDS is both taken seriously and not seriously enough. In this typical example, with a global warming spin on it, there's the rightly somber tone that says "this is a serious problem that needs to be fixed!" And then the supposed solutions (after considering how long it will be before modern medicine can find a vaccine) are listed as such:

 "He said it was important to strengthen preventative measures proven to work, like condoms and circumcision, and continue to investigate other more hopeful avenues, like microbicide sex gels and anti-viral drugs to block infection."

Apparently, they don't take human beings seriously enough to consider that they might actually be capable of simply abstaining from sexually promiscuous lifestyles. Nor do they take the risks seriously enough to consider that the supposedly small risk of HIV contraction in spite of condoms is compounded by the unabated promiscuity that modern day morals and their apologists are tolerating, and, in effect, promoting.

There is something seriously wrong about this unwillingness to face the unpleasant and fatal truth: AIDS kills, and sexual promiscuity is a major vehicle of contraction.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pray for a Bishop in South Africa

I realized with some horror a few days ago that I do not pray enough for those who dissent from the Catholic faith, and/or oppress Catholics/Christians. Sometimes, the grace of God shines through and I do pray, but rarely so, since I have made myself dense through an excessively but unnecessarily busy life.

Well.. here's one to pray for. Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa needs prayers. His concerns over the HIV epidemic is not the problem. It is commendable, but he doesn't realize that promoting condom use promotes HIV transmission. Condoms are only effective by a percentage that fluctuates somewhere between 85-95%, it seems, and the increased use of condoms means a compounding of the chances of HIV contraction. He imagines the pope as the Pharisees who refuses to lift a finger, and himself as the non-Pharisee who practices genuine compassion. Pray that he realizes before it is too late that, rather than saving these women, he is instead pushing them onto the path of greater harm.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Authority

Authority has always been the key issue when it comes to the fullness of truth among Christians. Truth is a person, of course, and that person, Jesus Christ, is unassailable. But while he does not leave us orphans, he is not here in the person. So what do we do when Biblical scholars call into question the inspiration of canonical Scripture?

Michael Holmes, a professor at Bethel University, doesn't consider the story [of the adulterous woman] inspired Scripture. But he said he would include the story in the Bible, because of its long history and because the verses bear the marks of an authentic story about Jesus.

I'm not quite sure how one can be certain that it is an authentic story about Jesus if one is also certain that it is not inspired Scripture. But, moving on..

Such judgments raise questions about what words like canonicity and inspiration mean for evangelicals. If we reserve the word inspired for the text in the earliest manuscripts, yet accept that other material (such as the pericope adulterae) should be included in our biblical canon, are we implying that select biblical passages may be canonical yet not inspired? If so, what should we do with this distinction?

Biblical scholars do agree on two things: The Bible story should be set apart with a note, and Christians should be cautious when reading the passage for their personal devotions.

While these scholars (and those in the comment box of CT) may have had (or continue) to grapple with such issues, I think I'll just be grateful that Mother Church can resolve this for me. I have constant recourse to the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium) so as to free me from such worries. Almost as if (gasp) I had recourse to the authority of Christ in the Body. But why should this present any difficulty? After all, where does authority lie if not in that Body, the Church, the pillar and foundation of the Truth? (Timothy 3:16)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A conversion story to ponder

I love conversion stories, and I don't think it's the same thing over and over again. Jennifer's story is particularly thought-provoking in both simple and profound terms. He shares his train of insights that led him ultimately to the Catholic Church, and the path they took is striking.

He ponders the implications of human intervention in the form of Biblical translation, exegesis and preaching, and our own private judgment. And not only does he experience contradictions from different exegetes (whom we assume are all baptized, sincere and prayerful Christians), he actually sees that this is a non-trivial problem. But ultimately, the marvel in this story is the grace of God, who prompts a hunger for truth, uses a skeptic's quest for the truth, and brings him home.

[Link found via the Catholic Converts blog.]

Papa in America

Papa at the National Shrine, USA

The American Papist provides good reports. He's got Days 1 and 2 covered, including transcripts of interviews, reactions from the public, photos, etc. It appears that Papa is making waves, in that calm, academically serene manner of his. May his mission be a great occasion of grace. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quid est veritas?

My Latin may be mistaken, but this piece about truth is, to my thinking, as accurate as it is timely. Dr. Stan Williams is on to something that the sound byte generation really needs to ponder.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Eric Clapton finding prayer

This is an inspiring story about perhaps the greatest guitar player ever, the hard knocks of life, and finding hope.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One Date for Easter

I had promised ages ago to blog about this, and with sincere apologies to the people I made this promise to, here it is:

A group of Christians coming from different backgrounds, confessions, Churches and denominations are pushing for one date for Easter. The people behind OneDate.org are aiming for something small but hardly significant, so that all Christians may at least give common witness to the resurrection of Christ. The website offers some thoughtful insights as well as the historical background concerning the different dates used by the Church in the East and in the West. Well worth a look.

On the other hand, what divides us can bring one to tears, particularly in light of how petty it all looks when you consider the gravity of division's affront to the Lord's will, and when you think about how small those nitpicks look when compared against the mountain of common Christian witness. Not to say that those differences should be swept under the rug; this cannot be done because we serve the Lord who is Truth, and cannot thereby lie about the differences. But neither is it proper to treat other sincere Christians as enemies. There is only one real Enemy here, and, boy, is he pleased with the fruits of division: pride, paranoia, pharisaic tendencies, enmity, rudeness, polemics, hatred, in-fighting, contrariness -- all of which pervert the Church that Christ built.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This blogger is a baker

As an Anglican bishop teaches, (among other things) baking your own bread at home (which I do most days) has its advantages. Apart from saving money and providing freshly baked bread, there is in the baking a sense of relaxation, of having accomplished something tangible -- especially if I bake in the morning (the Filipino pan de sal today).

Bloggers, fire up your ovens! :-)

Christianity without Christ

And so the attenuation continues, for those who embrace progressiveness instead of orthodoxy:

  "Ms. Vosper has written a book, published this week – With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe – in which she argues that the Christian church, in the form in which it exists today, has outlived its viability and either it sheds its no-longer credible myths, doctrines and dogmas, or it's toast."

And so continues the scattering of those who refuse to gather with the stewards (faithful or not) who were told: "he who hears you, hears me; he who rejects you.." and so on..

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Anglican bishop says "Heaven is not our home"

Somewhat disturbing. He may be on to something when he points out how we are not to ignore the needs of the present in this world, but it seems to me that his conclusions go too far -- and off the edge of orthodoxy. I don't know about the actual book he wrote, but this article, which I assume to be a summary of sorts, does not seem to mention the book of Revelations at all. Now that's very odd if you're talking about last things.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Self-esteem unplugged (from objective reality?)

Msgr. Cormac Burke tackles the popular notion of self-esteem as espoused in western society today. I am not yet done reading, but what I've read so far is rather insightful, and probably quite apt.

Recommending Dave Armstrong

Dave Armstrong presents his latest book on the Church fathers. Click on the cover page graphic to take a closer look. Dave is one of my all-time favorite blogger-writers. He is particularly thorough and rational in his apologetics, and I must say that he has exploited electronic media well: he sells his works online -- which means a convenient and quick turnaround of requested titles. Visit Dave's site for great writing in electronic form, such as his bargain of $15 for eleven e-books. The book in the graphic is available in print or as an e-book via the Lulu Marketplace.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Calling off the global warming panic?

This is good news, or it should be for most people. For others, they'll have to find something else to panic about.

Easter Redemption

Something in Catherine Deveney's rant in The Age about Easter struck me as a little funny. No, I don't mean that this comedienne who refers to herself as Catholic actually delivered a good joke. She prophetically said something that turns out to be rather funny. Early on, she claims that "Easter's never really taken off. Two thousand years and it's still the B team of religious celebrations."

That certainly was a gaff for a Catholic to make, but I'm glad that I encountered it, since it elicited some rather good insights. I pray that other readers made the same connections.

Mass is a big thing among Catholics. It is an ever-present requirement for Catholics to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday, and a handful of major feasts during the year. Mass is also the singular vehicle of Catholic prayer, including weddings, funerals, ordinations, thanksgiving, and petitions. And yet each and every Mass revolves around the Eucharist: the consecration of bread and wine which are transubstantiated into the very body and blood of our Lord. At the very heart of this mystery is, no surprise here, the paschal sacrifice: Christ on the cross, once for all made, which elicits a major annual celebration during, no surprise again, the Easter Triduum. What of baptism, the first of sacraments? It is indeed an Easter sacrament, for in the waters of baptism, as Christ dies, we die, and as Christ rises from the dead, so do we. And let's not forget the very aspirations of Catholics, in taking up our daily crosses and dying to ourselves and to sin, for hope in Christ's promises of, no surprise again, our resurrection.

So although we Christians are wont to lose sight of the big picture, Easter is an opportunity to reaffirm, in faith, hope and love, what we believe, although it should not occur only on this occasion, but in every single day. But in a special way, Easter connects us to what the Lord has destined us for, and it connects our every celebration of the Eucharist. It is thus with confidence that we can assure Catholics who see nothing spectacular about Easter: it is most spectacular, in fact. Just take a closer, more prayerful look.

The Lord has truly risen: Alleluiah!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Justice and Mercy

Don't you just love having one of those "aha!" moments? I had one while watching "Jesus of Nazareth" on DVD the other night. It was that scene when the case of the adulteress was brought before our Lord:

  And the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou? And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

The "aha" moment was not about the Lord's brilliant answer to the scribes and Pharisees. It was when I considered both how the Law of Moses did indeed prescribe capital punishment and how the Lord showed the woman mercy. It's easy enough to thus conclude that the Law of Moses was mistaken, but crashes into the wall of the Law being both inspired by the Holy Spirit and assured by the Lord's own words: "amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5) Shocking as it sounds to 21st century Catholic sensibilities, there really is such a thing as mortal sin. But this is a death that the Lord does not take pleasure in, "but that the wicked turn from his way, and live" rather than die: for God is love. But the Lord is also just, and there is no other way to look at it: mortal sin is mortal, and that is the objective truth about the nature of mortal sin.

However, Christ is the Father's mercy. In him, justice is not set aside, but he himself expiates for the sin. When he said "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," that, too is truthful. Mortal punishment is merited by mortal sin, but no more is such punishment ours to mete out. It is his alone, and in his mercy and love, he metes it out on himself on the cross. His sacrifice is all the more incredible when we truly consider how our sins nailed him to that cross, and that this horrible death was our just punishment -- except that he took them from us unto himself instead.

And there is the "aha" -- and so we must pay earnest attention to our Lord's words to us: "Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more." And in each mortal sin we commit, we must remember that the same death is earned, but the same mercy is offered to us, again and again. And if we persist in such sinfulness, how utterly ungrateful we are, and how cheap we make the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for us. Becoming then numb to the graciousness of this mercy, we risk scorning its worth in innocent blood, making us callous, devoid of gratitude and, in pride, greeting such mercy with contempt instead.

Lord, may I never scorn your mercy! May I cling to your cross tightly, and respond to you in love -- then do with me as you will, only never let me leave your wounded side!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

There really is something to be said about these preparations that we make for Easter, as Malcolm told me earlier tonight before the Mass. The forty days in the desert of Lent leading up to the Triduum -- which I mostly squandered, sadly -- sometimes, we get in such a hurry to reach the goal that we miss out on the journey. Now I don't buy the idea that the final destination is insignificant -- by no means, if we're talking about our Heavenly home. We have to consider that both that destination and the journey are of God -- or at least, they ought to be, if we surrender all to him.

Earlier I prayed the Stations of the Cross for the first time in many years. That was a journey too.. and knowing what we know about God's deliberateness in the Incarnation, as in the Passion, and in the mystery of our redemption, that cannot be an insignificant journey. And any and every part of Christ's journey from Bethlehem to Golgotha -- including such apparent side trips as the Last Supper? No accident either -- not by any means.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Readings from Wednesday of Holy Week

Mass Readings
First readingIsaiah 50:4 - 9
The Lord has given me
a disciple’s tongue.
So that I may know how to reply to the wearied
he provides me with speech.
Each morning he wakes me to hear,
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord has opened my ear. ...
Psalm or canticle: Psalm 68
GospelMatthew 26:14 - 25
One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him. ...

Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours
Mid-morning reading (Terce)1 Timothy 2:4 - 6
God our saviour wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time.

Noon reading (Sext)Romans 15:3 ©
Christ did not think of himself. The words of scripture apply to him: the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

Afternoon reading (None)Hebrews 9:28
Christ offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.
[All readings from Universalis.com]

Friday, March 14, 2008

So you think you can trust polls?

This is rather funny. Mel Gibson's accent in Braveheart was voted second worst in cinema history, according to polls. What's funny is what is also revealed in the polls: several respondents nominated Sean Connery's accent as James Bond -- and their votes were disqualified since Sean is indeed a Scot. So why should we trust the results of the polls at all?

What isn't funny, however, is how people actually do put a lot of stock on polls. The problem, of course, is that some things are based on objective facts, not opinion. Yet many serious matters of law, right and wrong, life and death, are affected by polls, despite the fact that it is always possible to manipulate polls.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq still held hostage

I remember this story coming out early last week, I think, about the Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho being abducted by terrorists, who also killed three men traveling with him at that time. And he's still being held for ransom, apparently. Prayers are still needed for his safe return. He is apparently ill and is in need of medication. Something else that cannot be left unsaid is that the mainstream media doesn't seem to care.

Update:"Mosul, Mar. 13, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Bishop Paulos Faraj Raho of Mosul, the Iraqi prelate who was kidnapped by gunmen on February 29, is dead." Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lent is love: God's love

Rather than make too much out of the penitent practices, it is best to remember that Lent is about love: God's love for us. This is not a warm-and-fuzzy love, nor about being okay with each other. It is about what is good for us, which is what is behind the great love that God bears for us. The following come from today's readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, courtesy of Universalis.com

Mid-morning reading (Terce)Isaiah 55:6 - 7 ©
Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving.

Noon reading (Sext)Deuteronomy 30:2 - 3 ©
If you return to the Lord your God, if you obey his voice with all your heart and soul in everything I enjoin on you today, you and your children, then the Lord your God will bring back your captives and will have pity on you.

Afternoon reading (None)Hebrews 10:35 - 36 ©
Continue to have confidence, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why do Christians fast?

Bro. Austin G. Murphy, O.S.B. from Ignatius Insight explains why.

[Thanks to the blog, Against the Grain, for this link.]

Good deeds...

.. must have, at its root, love:

  If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause, we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision.

That's from Papa Benedict XVI in his Lenten Message this year.

[Thanks to the blog, Against the Grain, for this timely message.]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life

The above is said at the end of the Penitential Rite, soon after Mass begins. A Lutheran acquaintance complained a few weeks back about the said prayer because it says "may" when it is already a fact that God has shown mercy and forgiven our sins. This is a common understanding among Protestants for whom it is most important to emphasize that we have obtained forgiveness unmerited -- past, present and future. However, while it is true that the once and for all atonement in Calvary expiates all our sins for all times, it remains a proper posture for us to actually ask for forgiveness at all times. Protestants variably refer to this as being confronted by the Law and living out repentance for our entire lives, or, as some Evangelicals use the term, pleading the blood for forgiveness (among other things). None of them would deny the singular event on Calvary, but they mostly recognize that we all continue to sin, even after having become Christians (whether from baptism or, as others think, from praying the sinner's prayer). For these, which were not confessed when we first became Christians, we humbly ask pardon. And for our continuing attachment to sin -- concupiscence -- leading us to the same sin again and again, we must repent.

Therefore, I don't see that the above prayer is problematic at all. It would not have met with objections if ancient Christian liturgy and Scriptures are any indication. Here is an ancient Lenten prayer, which is also a commentary for today's Gospel reading (Luke 15:1 - 32) on the prodigal son:

  Saint Andrew of Crete (660-740), monk and Bishop
Grand canon of the Orthodox Lenten liturgy, 1st ode

"Here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father"

How shall I begin to weep for the works of my life?
What shall be the first notes of my mourning chant?
In your mercy, O Christ, grant me the forgiveness of my sins…

As the potter who moulds the clay
So you have given me, O my Creator, flesh and bones, breath and life.
O Lord who created me, my judge and Saviour,
Take me back to you this day.

O my Saviour, before you I confess my sins.
I have fallen beneath the blows of the Adversary;
Behold the wounds with which my death-dealing thoughts
Have wounded, like brigands, my soul and body (Lk 10,30f.).

I have sinned, my Lord, yet I know that you love mankind.
It is in tenderness you chastise us
And in your ardent compassion.
You see me weeping and come towards me
Like the Father welcoming the prodigal son.

Since my youth, O my Saviour, I have despised your commandments.
I have spent my life in obsession and heedlessness.
I call to you: Before I die,
Save me…

I have dissipated in emptiness the inheritance of my soul.
I lack the fruits of fervour and now I feel hunger.
I cry out: Father, full of compassion, come to me,
Take me in your mercy.

The one whom the robbers attacked (Lk 10,30f.)
Is myself in the midst of the wandering of my thoughts.
They strike me and wound me.
But you, O Christ my Saviour, bend down to me and heal me.

The priest sees me and turns away.
The Levite sees me, naked and in distress, but passes by on the other side.
But you, O Jesus born of Mary,
You stop to help me.

Jesus, I cast myself at your feet;
I have sinned against your love.
Free me from this burden for it is too heavy for me
And, in your mercy, take me to yourself.

Do not enter into judgement with me,
Do not uncover my deeds,
Nor inspect my motives and desires.
But in your compassion, All-Powerful one,
Close your eyes to my sins and save me.

Now is the time of repentance. I come to you.
Free me from the heavy burden of my sins
And, in your gentleness, grant to me tears of repentance.