Universalis, About this blog

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas break

Merry Christmas to any who might venture into this blog! I myself am taking a bit of a break to spend time with my family. I need to compete well against the dazzle of toys, commercials and shopping malls, so my kids might retain a clearer picture of what Christmas is about. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fathers jailed for opting children out of sex education

This is just so wrong

At least eight Russo-German families in Salzkotten, Germany, have suffered heavy fines and now their fathers have been sentenced to prison, because they have refused to send their elementary school-age children to mandatory sexual education classes.
In one case, the Jugendamt, accompanied by 15 heavily armed police, forcibly seized 15 year-old Melissa Busekros in the dead of night from her family in 2007 against her will. However, legal intervention ensured that Busekros was legally permitted to return to her family upon turning 16.

Marriage: What is Marriage?

Couldn't resist that quotable from "The Princess Bride" -- although it was actually pronounced 'mawidge' in the movie, but.. never mind. For to the answer, comedian Chuch Nice had something interesting to say about it, particularly the aspect of fidelity in marriage. He refers to infidelity as a lack of character. On the other hand, Jenny Block from Newsweek wrote something else in "The Case Against Monogamy". Perhaps without realizing it, what she writes contradicts what she was actually writing about. The lesson she seems to derive from experience and the Tiger Woods affair is that one should simply have open marriages, i.e., no fidelity required:

 Frankly, I'm surprised anyone's surprised. Woods's entire life is based on winning; on having, doing, and being more. So why on earth would anyone think "settling down" was even in his vocabulary?
But marriage is about settling down -- committed faithfully to one's spouse. So perhaps one should not marry unless committed to what it entails, including fidelity. Not that one cannot fall, but there should be an absolute intention not to.
 Celebrity or not, cheating is human nature.
This is what makes marriage special: it goes beyond human nature. Don't we still celebrate heroism today, of those who go beyond what is typical and expected, beyond the mundane, for love, honor, or justice? What's more, fidelity in marriage calls for the supernatural, something that calls for our natural instinct towards romantic ideals of faithfulness, but pushing it through to heroic and supernatural fruition.
Of course, people can fail these ideals -- who doesn't? But here is more evidence of the supernatural: have human beings not also exhibited, from time to time, conversion and forgiveness?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Getting to the soul of the matter

The story of South Korea attempting to reverse the culture of abortion and contraception is not unique. The same problem exists in Japan, China (particularly Shanghai), Germany, France, and other countries. Note that it isn't only that this generation is refusing to propagate life to the next generation. In many countries today, despite the wealth and relatively higher levels of comfort and safety, people are also giving up on their own lives. Not only is depression and suicide more common, there's the push for euthanasia, and many voices for the termination of the ill, the handicapped, etc.

It isn't something that incentives can help with. The soul, in this case, has been corrupted. The solution lies in cleansing the soul. But what is a government to do when they no longer believe in that?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fascinating questions from my sons

have included these:

  • Would we have been born if Adam and Eve had not sinned and been removed from Eden?
  • Did it really take six days?
  • Is what my teacher said true, that it doesn't matter if you believe in God or not, or what you believe?
  • Why did God give me the gifts I got?

And the discussions we have had to have surrounding my answers were also quite interesting. I think it is these discussions that I enjoy the most in parenting.

Did Darwin kill God?

Sentire Cum Ecclesia blogger David writes about the so entitled interestingly balanced and informative (I though) tele-investigation documentary from (gasp) ABC. The video was still on the ABC website over the past hour or so. It's not bad at all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An interesting musical project

Fighting the culture of death attacking the Philippines

The eggs were probably laid long before the 60s, and here comes the onslaught against life. The Philippines is yet another country whose life values are being attacked not only in the shadows through pop culture, but for a few years now, through legislation. The "Reproductive Health" lobby is being heavily funded by groups such as Planned Parenthood, whose agenda is probably both financial and ideological. This blog is dedicated to thwarting those efforts in the Philippines. Manny Amador's blog is also in the fight. Please pray for the Philippines and for Filipinos: may God send more workers in the vineyard to sow and harvest life, not death.

More threats to religious freedom in Australia?

Just when you thought it was over, well.. it isn't.

Catholics and Halloween

This is as much a note to myself as it is for others on the true history behind Halloween, by Mike Flynn.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Twenty Anglican Parishes Coming Home? Wow!


 ROME, November 6, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In a move that is a surprise to no one, the UK branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the largest of the groups that broke away from the mainstream Anglican Church over the ordination of woman and the latter's support for active homosexuality, has been the first to formally accept the offer of Pope Benedict to enter into communion with the Catholic Church en masse.

Although the TAC is not large, being made up of only 20 or so parishes, the vote by the group to accept the invitation is expected to be a strong symbolic blow to the mainstream Anglican Church in its motherland of Britain, where it has been a leader in the acceptance of woman clergy and homosexuality. It is widely acknowledged that the Vatican's decision to extend its hand to traditionalist Anglicans comes in response to repeated requests, made public last year, by the TAC.

Of course, now comes the hard part. But God bless them for this first and most difficult step. May they all find in the Catholic Church the Christ who calls them onward.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Two Lungs of the Church

This is an interesting site: 2Lungs.com, dedicated to all things concerning the hoped for unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. With recent developments between the Catholic Church and the Anglicans, we can pray for similar developments with the Orthodox Church. God willing!

The Widow's Mite

The story of the widow who dropped two coins from all she had into the Temple treasury was made more interesting today in the light of what I heard from my son today. When asked how children show gratitude to their parents (don't ask why this was a topic), he said it was by enjoying what the parents give the kids. Which sounds nice but also sounded wrong. I have no idea where he got that from. It sounds like a very noble, self-sacrificing line that a parent might say, but something's wrong. One might go and say that he can show gratitude to the Australian government by simply enjoying what the government has to give. Something's wrong. I remember something about upholding the law and other civic duties in my citizenship oath. Gratitude is the stuff of breathing in and out, of receiving and giving back. I can imagine that one might suffocate from forgetting to breathe out from time to time.

What does this have to do with the widow that Jesus praised for her generosity? I think generosity comes from gratitude. I can't imagine how Jesus would have praised the widow if she had in her heart a notion of buying off God's favor. It's not for sale. He gives it as a gift -- and He takes the initiative. He gives so much to such undeserving creatures as us, and for us to realize that (not easy) makes it easier to respond with gratitude. It turns the relationship into a proper one: not a trader and a buyer, but a Father and His child. And if all goes well, day by day the child will come into his own and become as generous as his father, and pass that on to his children as well.

It's a tough act to follow -- but it becomes possible because there is help from the Father: the Helper, the Advocate. Perhaps it can all be generalized as a continuation of the obedience learned as a child so that the child becomes a father in the image of his father before him, in the same Holy Spirit, so in gratitude, he might also be generous and give from what he has, not from his excess.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Anglicans Come Home

LifeSiteNews reports that some consider this to be divisiveness. They conveniently forget that it was the Church of Rome that the Church of England decided to abandon all those centuries ago, which makes this an invitation to come home. How can that possibly sound like divisiveness? That's particularly funny coming from dissident Catholics.
I found this rather amusing:

 The Guardian, the voice of liberalism in the UK, wrote that the decision means the Pope has "launched a small craft to ferry the disaffected back across the Tiber, a move to asset-strip the Anglican communion of those bits the Vatican might find useful." The move, the editorial said, "ride[s] roughshod over 40 years of ecumenical work."

Dear Guardian: it's worse than you think. The Catholic Church isn't after bits of this or that Church: we want them all. That's what the head of the Church wanted, praying fervently as reported in St. John's gospel (Jn 17), uttered repeatedly a few times in that prayer, and emphasized by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint: that they may be one. Trust the mainstream media to miss the big picture when they don't do their homework diligently enough. This is really much bigger than they think, even against the backdrop of the Reformation. This mission of oneness in the people of God goes beyond just a couple of papacies. The Lord expressed his will on it, St. Paul emphasized it in his letters, as did St. John. Various Church Fathers from Clement onwards wrote about it. I mean, what does being consecrated mean anyway?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

God is Inviting Us to be Parents Again

And what can we say about our fourth one due in May? Fiat voluntas tua. My sons asked me if I preferred another boy or a girl this time, and I fall back to the fiat again. A daughter sounds great, but who am I to haggle?

Atheists might see this as a clear example of blind faith. I just call it being pragmatic: it isn't as if I can do anything about it anyway. :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baffling secularist comments

In one article in The Australian today, someone from the Sex Party (I kid thee not, that's what they call themselves) seem to have said the following:

  • radical religious groups -- not quoted, this appears to be in reference to a pastor-led Christian group, perhaps because the pastor had used the words like "witchcraft", "spells" and "black mass" someplace
  • "9% of the Australian public who claim to be committed weekly worshippers" -- I wonder where this statistic comes from?
  • "We are a secular society increasingly being run by religious agendas." -- an amusing statement because it is false, although many today probably think that the chronology is true

Friday, October 09, 2009

New site on prayer

A friend of mine has just launched a website that is all about prayer: God Answers Prayers. Please sample what it has to offer. I've only scanned it quickly thus far, and it looks very good.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Blogging around

Pretty much within a week, Ketsana devastates the Philippines and Vietnam, then a tsunami crashes into Samoa, then earthquakes shatter several Indonesian regions. So much destruction, with prayers and real aid in much need.

What an interesting study reported by The Australian: Climate change pinned chiefly on rich world. Here's a quote: “The study concludes that spending billions of dollars of aid on contraception in the developing world will not benefit the climate because poor countries have such low emissions. It says Britain and other Western countries should instead focus on reducing consumption of goods, services and energy among their own populations.

From MercatorNet, Parents wonder if cancer jabs are worth the risk. While there are reports that the recent death shows no conclusive evidence of being caused by the jab, I find the reaction from the vaccine advocates quite revealing: “Even if the girl’s death proves to be a consequence of the vaccination, and it is still a big ‘if’, only one death would be prevented for every 500,000 girls who decided not to be vaccinated – albeit at the cost of 700 deaths to cervical cancer.” After all, there is an alternative to this vaccine that is 100% effective while risking zero chemical side effects, i.e., abstinence or faithful relations as against promiscuity. That it doesn't seem to be an option in the minds of these people is also revealing. Such contempt for the human intellect, will and self-control!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Hierarchical Body of Christ

Someone I esteem highly told me tonight of her departure from the Church after a solid attempt to be Catholic for I think a year, and the part that the hierarchical nature of the Church played in her decision to leave. I believe this pertains to the perception of and lapses into officiousness in the Church via the parochial system of Catholic schools. It is a saddening revelation. It isn't the hierarchical structure that causes problems, as the structure itself is mandated by Christ and supported by the Biblical accounts of Israel's and the Church's organization. Officiousness would come from domineering, and an abuse of authority. Some of it may well be perception only, whereas lapses into it comes from human nature.

I've seen some of these lapses, and they are tragic, but should not put one off from the Church that Christ founded on Peter. This Church continues to minister the sacraments, through which life in the Holy Spirit is given to us. This Church continues to teach definitively, with the Magisterium coming from Christ's authority, and his insistence upon it.

Where else can one go? As the Son chose to be incarnated in flesh and blood, and to act upon the world in his body, the Church, why should it surprise us that the body, while yet being perfected on earth, is as presently human as we are?

Christians and Politics

Interesting report from WorldNetDaily. Very interesting quote from C.S. Lewis cited:

 Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says; we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party ..

And while such an attitude exists among Christians, we are not presenting a very coherent witness to a world that is drifting more and more away from God. Much of what we got right in the past are still there in the formerly more Christian West, but without Christ at the true center, they will all have sand in their foundations.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rosary Reflections: Remembering Baptism

Meditating earlier on the Baptism of the Lord, the first Luminous Mystery, and I realized just how important it was to be reminded of our baptism frequently. Perhaps it's human nature, given that we are time-bound beings, that we fail to appreciate past events enough. Baptism is something that probably most Catholics do not remember, as they were very young then. Yet this sacrament that was not only instituted by the Son (whose disciples went baptizing soon after his own talking to Nicodemus about baptism), but participated in by him at his own baptism. I think I heard Mark Shea describe on one of his past podcasts how this baptism had the wondrous affect on the water: whereas Jesus did not need to be washed, justified and sanctified, the element of water was thereby itself blessed by him as an instrument of grace. And each baptism is of such significance that.. our lack of appreciation for it is tragic. By baptism, we were washed, justified and sanctified. Original sin was forgiven, we were made right with God and made his sons and daughters, and we receive in ourselves the Holy Spirit. Thus, called and gifted, we should then proceed like Christ on our mission. This mission is one of those things lost or underestimated as a consequence of neglecting the wonder of baptism. Hence we might proceed in life, marked and consecrated, ignorant of our calling, gifts unused, lives unfulfilled.

Which is why the inclusion of this Luminous Mystery in the Rosary is such a blessing. We should remember baptism often, and hear in our minds the wondrous words uttered from above to the Son: "This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased." To think that the Father also said these words at our baptism is to remember who we are, and to confirm us in a life of mission.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fr. Bob: a question of will

There is, of course, the will of God as our ultimate guide. Ours is to conform to His, simply because, even by careful and painstaking analysis, especially with hindsight, His will trumps ours in all respects: efficiency, gains, timing, and so on.

There is the will of the Church, and likewise, the will of the (arch)bishop, speaking as the overseer of his diocese on behalf of the whole Church. This will is not of its own sovereign authority, but in lieu of the anointing by the Holy Spirit, it is taken to be conforming to the will of God. We can decide either way in Fr. Bob's case if the archbishop is himself conforming to and passing on God's will or not.

And then there is the will of Fr. Bob. That he would pit the will of the parish "elders" against that of the archbishop reveals a sadly rebellious spirit.

As for whether or not the archbishop (or canon law) is speaking the will of God or not, I suspect that the archbishop is being more prudent and discrete by not speaking of other reasons for Fr. Bob to retire. If only that he is beginning to confuse the Gospel and setting himself up as an idol, there is a very good reason for Fr. Bob to seek, not the will of his "elders" in the parish, but the will of God, the same God who instituted the office of bishops with his own authority and Holy Spirit.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Love demands honesty

Retired Bishop Rene Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, shares the thoughts of Phil Lawler from Catholic World News, concerning the recently deceased Senator Edward Kennedy. It may seem disrespectful to call out the sought after conversion (back to the faith of his youth) from the late senator, but that sentiment comes from the same place where we dread to call out a living person to repentance and truth. It is a deceptive place. What might be thought to be love, preventing us from speaking truth to spare ruffled feathers, even genuine pain, is not love when it does not seek to save one who hurtles towards destruction.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Population, Environment, and Thinking Things Through

Or perhaps I should say "and the Sky Isn't Falling." I was at the cafe of the Science Centre at the university earlier, and it just so happened that there was this huge, framed page from The Age about population being a menace to the environment. There was a big picture, the silhouette of a pregnant woman, that had the caption "A growing problem", I think. What a difference a few years can make. Time was when The Age worried over the economic viability of Australia having a small population. The pendulum has swung the other way for some, I guess. My impression is that some folks in the more affluent countries are too pessimistic. Instead of valuing both the environment and human beings, and putting them together, they seem to see a conflict where there isn't necessarily one. I mean, rather than focusing on culling the human race, why not focus on educating the human race? They might think that shrinking the gene pool is good for the earth, but I wonder if they realize how many future champions of science, the arts and other fields they'll be eliminating from our future. If we now have a few leaders in the sciences have emerged to sound the alarm and do something about the environment, what can be achieved if we invest in more of them?

Oh and I just noticed that we see a lot of prominent people sounding the alarm with.. not exactly the right credentials. Here is a professor of reproductive biology sounding off on terrorism and climate disaster. Here's a poet, and here's a population expert in there talking about CO2 emissions. Don't get me wrong: I'm not a climatologist myself, which is why I can't go gung-ho on my own opinion and limited reading. But I can say that it is wrong to blame it on numbers (of people on the planet) and seek to resolve it by population control in any which way.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reflections on the Sorrowful Mysteries

Earlier today, I visualized a certain transformation that should happen to us as we journey in faith. We begin our journey as sinners whose guilt rightly includes wrongdoing that the Lord atones for in his passion and death. So in meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries, it is our sins that unfold before Jesus, bringing him to tremble at the thought of his impending sacrifice. It is our sins that scourge him, and our hands that hold the scourge that flays and humiliates him in excruciating pain. Our idolatry of power, comfort, wealth and things of the world above right worship of God add to the thorns that adorn his crown, and add to the shameful verbal abuse of crying Ave! Ave Rex Iudaeum! with our hearts somewhere else. It is our sins that weighs down the cross that he resolves to carry through to Calvary anyway. It is our sins that nail him to the cross in a holocaust for our ransom.

But there is a transformation that should take place as we journey. The more we cooperate with grace and allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, the more we participate in the passion and death of Christ. Since we are in the Body, that same body that suffered and died for us, then as we are willing, we unite our own sufferings with Christ. We participate in agonizing for souls, making their pain and suffering (due to sin) our own -- a work of compassion. We join our tribulations and persecutions with his, as he foretold we would encounter as his disciples, bearing the scars of scourging on our backs, and humbling thorns on our heads. We carry our daily cross, and bear the burdens of others too, as best we can. Finally, we mortify ourselves, dying to sin, dying to ourselves and concupiscence. And we experience the tremendous grace that the Father sends through the Spirit, because of love. The Sorrowful Mysteries come alive in our lives more and more as we allow them to, and by God's grace and mercy, we slowly switch sides. Rather than the perpetrators whose sins wound Christ, we become participants of Christ's sacrifice, sharing some of the pain and redemptive work of love in our lives, with the hope of thereby sharing in the glorious resurrection one day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One small step for euthanasia in Western Australia..

.. can be the start of a long trek downhill or off a cliff. A quadraplegic who laments "a living hell" of a life was allowed by the Supreme Court to starve himself to death. I have many objections about this, not least of which is that a judicial or legislative ruling can be easily seen -- or actively promoted -- as a moral statement. It also turns life on its head, with death per se becoming preferred over life, even an extremely difficult one. But this is not a case of a dying man refusing extraordinary care. Not that I have any idea how difficult his life is, but I can imagine how other quadraplegics might see themselves, or may be seen by others, in the light of this ruling. The cynical view of physical disability can be very catching, or can be actively promoted. After all, if there is nothing inherently wrong with suicide for a man who sees life as "a living hell", then there is nothing inherently wrong with terminating the life of anyone in that situation. It becomes, purely, a matter of choice. But the question of who makes such choices is very hard to pin down. How often are one's choices made for them by someone else? The state may take children away from their parents. The state may incarcerate those it considers too dangerous to society. Banks may repossess someone's assets. Family members may choose to pull the plug. Parents may choose to terminate their own child anytime during the pregnancy. If deliberately ending a life is no longer inherently wrong, then the safeguards against unjustly doing so are on wobbly foundations indeed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For Deveny: Love, not Tolerance

Amazing that a woman would write this:

 .. let us use our powers for good and brainwash our children with tolerance, acceptance, rational thought and unconditional love ..

and months later, write this:

 Time for Communion, when bread and wine is turned into the actual flesh and blood of Christ by the priest. Because he's special. They call it transubstantiation; I call it bullshit." ..
When it was my turn the priest picked up a wafer and said: "The body of Christ." The expected response is "Amen". Instead, I said: "I have three children and have never been married. I've used contraception, had an abortion, use the Lord's name in vain, think transubstantiation is a crock and I'm an atheist. And I'm not sorry."
Actually, I didn't say that. I wanted to, but I felt sorry for the priest.

Her notion of tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love apparently does not extend to religious people, especially Catholics. Yes, she just insulted every believing Catholic for believing transubstantiation. Not to mention the ones who've believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for the last 2000 years. She also took Communion in contempt for it. Amazing what pride can do, such as convincing Ms. Deveny that she and some other "brights" alone can exercise rational thought, unlike the billions of Christians from 2000 years (and still going), numbering numerous theologians, philosophers, scientists, medical doctors, mathematicians, engineers and fairly intelligent people from all walks of life. Pride has also lulled her into thinking that she has a right to hurl insults at others with impunity. Ironically, instead of rational discourse, her writing resembles more the reckless, malicious bravado of a stage heckler. That and the fact that she gets so much wrong about the Catholic faith that she obviously did not bother to do the homework about her subject.

I invite all Christians to take the best course of action possible: pray for Ms. Deveny and her children, that she may yet be converted back to God, that she may learn what love truly is, and live it.

The Archbishop is indeed human

But the latest news splattered around about uncharitable words allegedly uttered are incredible sad. I consider them "alleged" until I see the actual court documents, but that he apologized would mean that something uncharitable was uttered. Not that it was unthinkable; bishops are no more immune to sin than any of us. No one claims perfection in this life: the sacrament of Confession is a recourse to all Catholics, bishops included. At the beginning of every Mass, we all (priest included) admit to our sinfulness and appeal to God's mercy. The worst thing that could be happening now is that all the heat is fanned against the words of the archbishop, whereas they should keep their eyes on the ball: preventing future abuse, healing victims, and justice for all. If the current model is flawed, then something better is called for.

I wouldn't know what that is, though.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Did Government Intervention Do More Harm than Good?

Read this and, truly, weep. How can well-meaning government actions now be blamed for waywardness among our youth? When those actions contradict common sense, perhaps. Not to say that the alleged would-be terrorist is without guilt, but that giving a 17-year-old the free pass to override his family's authority was probably not a good idea.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Religious freedom versus equal opportinity

There shouldn't be a conflict, but people seem to be whipping it up. Hugh de Kretser states his case for equal opportunity at the expense of religious freedom to some degree, stating good intentions but missing the point, I think. There is a misunderstanding of what religion is, with secular mindsets looking at it as a private matter. Being spiritual or faith matters, they may well contend that they should not affect the real world. But that is not what religions is to Catholics. Faith is not faith if action does not match it. Religion is more than good words: it is about good deeds. When we send our kids to Catholic schools, not only should they hear about the Catholic faith, they should also see it in the community they are in. If we will hire as members of the community people whose lives contradict the faith we are imparting, how shall we explain that to our children? Will we stigmatize the employee and declare to our kids "oh he's living in sin" in order to remain honest while affirming our convictions? Or shall we bury our heads in the sand and let our kids interpret that as ambivalence about what is right and what is wrong? Removing the exemptions for hiring in religious communities puts us in an impossible situation. We shall either end up stigmatizing other- or non-believing employees or compromising the religious education of our children. Secularists will not understand, but religious education is at the core of the education we want for our kids.

It is reasonable to allow discriminatory hiring on religious grounds, just as it would be in a for-profit organization to do the same in order to protect its interests. In a recent scandal, a TV network took out a popular media personality because a stunt he pulled on-air would compromise the family-friendly perception of one of their most popular shows. How is this reasonable and that of religious groups unreasonable? The only difference is that their interests are distinct: one is sbout profit while the other is about eternal happiness. Perhaps it isn't discriminatory hiring that bugs the secular-minded, but religion itself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Curtailing the Freedom to Religion

Peter Costello makes excellent and sobering points in this opinion piece on The Age today:

  .. a parliamentary committee has recommended options to extend the power of the state over the province of religion. One proposed change is to restrict the freedom of religious schools to choose their employees on the basis of their religious faith.

... The Federation of Community Legal Services told the parliamentary review .. "To allow religious organisations a broad exemption for conscience encourages prejudice..."

Just think about the moral vanity of that statement. According to these lawyers, a religious conscience leads to prejudice. How did the church arouse public conscience over slavery? How did Florence become a haven for the arts and letters? How did civilisation develop in the past couple of millennia without the Community Legal Services to guide it?

.. The question is whether the law of the land should require them to employ people who are indifferent or hostile to their religion in their schools. Parents who choose to send their children to a Christian school have a reasonable expectation that the child will get a Christian education. How could the school fulfill its obligation to the parents if it is required by law to employ non-Christian or anti-Christian teachers to provide it?

.. We are led to believe that the purpose of these charters is to stop arbitrary arrests, guarantee a free press and guard against dictatorship. .. In practice, it complicates the life of religious schools and opens lawsuits against the churches.

.. Once the churches and religious conscience are out of the way, lawyers will have a clear run. Lawsuits will be used to decide the great moral questions of the age. You can see what’s in it for the lawyers. But don’t think it is a step forward for liberty.

It's a very serious threat. More information can be found in this pastoral letter from the Victorian Catholic bishops.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rosary Reflections

but written below in rambling fashion..

  • In the Annunciation, what does a 14-year-old understand about what she is being called to? Not the specifics, not the nuanced implications, but she says "yes". What about us? Aren't we always called?
  • In the Nativity, neither Joseph nor Mary do anything spectacular to bring it about. They make no arrangements for Bethlehem, where the astute Jew knew the messiah would be born. God took care of that, with the emperor's census.
  • In the Finding at the Temple, how often do we think that Jesus is missing? A dryness, a feeling of desolation, and we get anxious. Where is the Lord? As the Father continues to work, so does the Son, though we may not see where or how. He is in his Temple on earth, both our bodies and in the Church.
  • In Gethsemane, in agony, the Lord's anxiety is real. And it had to be written about because anxiety strikes us at times, and it is real. And we may not be allowed to escape the bitter cup, but God sends an angel, his aid to strengthen us.
  • In the Scourging, we might picture ourselves holding the whip. But it may be the people around us whom we scourge unjustly with hurtful words or deeds. And what of us in the place of the victim, being members of the body that suffered scourging? Lashes for us, deserved due to our sin, but perhaps we can generously accept the scourging for others. As the body of Christ received corporal punishment for sin, we who are in the body.. can we not sacrifice our pain in union with his?
  • In the crucifixion, Christ is nailed into a position of total surrender, total embrace..
  • In the Descent of the Holy Spirit, there is a completely radical transformation from terror (from persecution) to bold evangelical zeal. And by this zeal, the Holy Spirit transforms..

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We are in complete control

.. or not. Carolyn Moynihan writes about the grief at the end of delayed motherhood and the promises of IVF. She is reasonably incredulous at "delaying adulthood". One might as well attempt to delay gravity -- which can meet with some success, but only up to a certain point. Motherhood at 45? IVF as a catch all? Time to rethink that.

Nature is resistant to many attempts at tampering. Time. Space. Mass. Energy. Particles. Things follow set laws that aren't easy, nor always safe, to mess with (report by Louise Hall, The Age):

 The chairman of the IVF Directors Group and member of the Fertility Society of Australia, Michael Chapman, said pleas to the Federal Government to fund a public health campaign about the increased risks of miscarriage and pregnancy complications for older mothers and defects in their babies had fallen on deaf ears.

This week the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Britain published a statement on reproductive ageing, reaffirming that biologically, the optimum period for childbearing is between ages 20 and 35.

.. the example of celebrity older mothers .. gave women the wrong impression ..

.. one thing that is not revealed in magazine articles is many of these celebrities are not using their own eggs, but a donor egg

Figures show that the live birth rate for women under 35 undergoing IVF is 31 per cent. This falls below 5 per cent for women over 42.

Andrew Chinn visits our parish

And a fun time was had by all! Please visit his website. His music (and performance overall) made me feel very much like a child again (not such a feat, my wife would say). The concert was a lot of fun, not least was the participation of the children. The man was clearly a gifted master of music and entertainment. His faith came alive in his music, and was rather inspiring. God bless the man and his ministry!

In Ireland: a legal matter on blasphemous libel?

Over at Slashdot, I found this link to Jason Walsh's criticism of Ireland's amended Defamation Bill. The slashdot post naturally elicited some criticism of Ireland's alleged return to the dark ages and so on, as well as quite a flurry about agnosticism, atheism and so on.

I posted a response because what Jason Walsh writes is incorrect. The bill's amendment wasn't about "shield[ing] religious belief from criticism". It defines what the Irish constitution does not, about what blasphemous matter is. Such vaguness caused a few problems in the past, apparently. The amended bill promises penalties for infractions, but significantly gives a definition of blasphemous matter (according to the Irish Times) as

.. matter "that is *grossly abusive* or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; *and he or she intends*, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage." (emphasis mine)

I repeat what I wrote in my Slashdot post:

Freedom of speech should not include grossly abusive speech that would take away from other people their own freedom to hold beliefs without anxiety about arbitrary gross insults. Engaging in healthy criticism and the debate that ensues is one thing, and is welcome. There is a meeting of minds and a clash of ideas. It is an entirely different thing to grossly abuse the beliefs of a group of people concerning what they hold to be sacred matter simply for the sake of insulting them.

It would be nice if governments didn't need to legislate such things, and for the citizenry to exercise common decency and engage instead in honest criticism whose objective is to right wrongs in the context of dialogue. Unfortunately, we have many published celebrities today who instead exercise their ego and vile contempt for those whom they disagree with, and copycats aplenty with blogs, YouTube accounts and art degrees at their disposal.

I truly do not think it ideal to have to enact such laws, but it's hard to blame lawmakers who look at things from a different perspective. Anti-religious bigotry are on the rise, in levels not seen in quite a while, and the world both watches and, sadly, emulates at times. I'm thinking about those museum exhibits involving Catholic personages and symbols in fecal matter, or urine. I also recall a fairly drawn out YouTube matter involving the consecrated host, abuse by bullet, blade, fire and what-not, and a college professor cheering and apparently paying for more. Who would welcome such vile contempt amplified in print?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Things parents don't tell kids anymore

.. will probably make up an interesting list. Catherine Deveny writes about one: vanity is unbecoming. She doesn't use those words, of course; her opinion piece is much better written.

What about the importance of modesty? Chastity? Humility? Ambition? Obedience? Right vs. wrong? Why drinking yourself silly every week at 16 years of age is dangerous? Watch your language? Respect the elderly? Moderation? Love thy neighbor? Thou shall not commit adultery (or fornication)?

It's a long list, and these topics have fallen into disuse more in some countries than in others. But that things have gone this way should be a concern, but I suspect it is being largely ignored by parents who are in a perpetual state of adolescent/teenage rebellion (despite being in their 30s or 40s perhaps. Poor kids (the children, not the parents).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Movie Review: Juno

It's a good movie, surprisingly positive and refreshingly honest. Juno is 16 and gets pregnant without being promiscuous. Yes, it happens. She initially sought abortion, which is probably a typical first consideration in first world countries today, but she gets a good dose of doubts about the rightness of this option. She decides to have the baby and put him up for adoption. Much of the movie is also about the couple that she chooses to adopt the baby. But it isn't that simple either, the couple not being perfect after all. I also liked the way her father and stepmother react to her news. They are supportive, which I think is always good. It bothered me that the stepmother seemed ambivalent concerning abortion, but I'm glad that neither she nor Juno's father pushed for abortion. The movie is realistic in one sense: teenagers in high school can't handle the responsibility just yet. The implications of this will hopefully penetrate most viewers. I found one scene to be rather profound: the first time when Juno wept, and perhaps was at her lowest point about her dilemma, was when she found out about problems between the couple who were adopting the baby later. This reveals the heart of the issue: what happens to the baby? The tears were not about Juno's predicament; they were about the baby's future.

DecentFilms has got a must-read review, but my two cents is that it is a good movie with good insights. I accept the reality that many young girls find themselves in this situation, much of which is avoidable if they had the time and training to think about the consequences of jumping into situations that they are not prepared for. But when a Juno finds herself in such a pickle, there can only be one response from the people around her: support. Should abortion be considered? Of course. And with calm and deliberate reasoning be summarily discarded as the wrong and worst possible option.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Derrick Jackson (smh.com) talks about something that today's cynical and oversexed culture may tend to disregard in cases of marital infidelity: what about the children? I wonder if this question gets asked enough? It's probably not the most important consideration for people (not necessarily the affected parents) who read about infidelity. We are, after all, steeped in many modernist fallacies. Does it not often seem, according to 21st century western culture, that romance is the end-all? Marriage and exclusive, lifelong commitment seem almost to be taboo subjects. Well.. what does one expect in that situation anyway? If it all hinges upon steamy romance then.. there's nothing for it but to walk away when the steam dissipates. Not that we can belittle the enormity of the commitment, and the magnitude of suffering when we fail to live up to the commitment. But.. that's exactly what sets marriage apart. It is indeed a huge deal. It isn't just a contract, nor is it about satisfaction or your investment back. Call me old-fashioned but that view of marriage is too calculating, too cold, and also too flimsy. What's so romantic about a situation where the door is open for walking away when romance wanes?

My kids often pray that they would love God or love their parents forever. I hope this does not hinge on sentiments, or we're in big trouble.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Interesting line from Starget SG-1, Season 2, "The Tok'ra": I think it goes like this: "The last thing he'd want is to have his daughter watch him in a losing battle." Dr. Carter is referring here to her father, who is dying of cancer. I'm not comfortable lecturing the terminally ill about feelings of humiliation at the thought of their loved ones witnessing their weakest moments before death. But I wonder what is responsible for making them feel that way. Why is dying seen as a humiliating defeat, rather than the bittersweet farewell that it is?

Judgment Day: One Person vs Another

A discussion I had years ago with a Lutheran (former Evangelical former Catholic) friend of mine came to mind the other day. It stuck in my head because it struck a discordant chord then, and it still would now. In his depiction of judgment day, being that we are all unworthy of salvation, Jesus would sort of interpose himself between us and the Father and say something like this: "This man is saved because I cover him over with my own righteousness." Yes, it's probably a depiction of forensic justification, which is probably popularly depicted by the mental picture of a snow-covered dunghill. It seems illogical to me because it almost makes the Father and the Son adversarial. It also suggests that the Father would declare what is not true, i.e., we are clean outside but unclean inside. It doesn't make much sense to me.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Time for Spiritual Reading

The Codex Sinaiticus, 4th century version of the Christian Bible, is online -- but the English translation does not seem to be available yet. You can read the original koine Greek though.

Papa Benedict XVI publishes his new encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate: On integral human development in Charity and Truth"

What I've been doing lately, however, is going through the Gospel of St. John (one chapter at a time) and the Catechism. That's what I love about commuting. It takes longer to get to work and back, though, but I do manage to spend the minutes more fruitfully. :-)

There's so much to read in my Palm Tungsten, but not much time for it. I've been fantasizing about Heaven lately, if, God willing, I get there. Mostly they're fantasies of eternity, which I can spend marveling at every bit of learning and wisdom that I can lay my eyes on. All those books, all the time to read them, perhaps even some virtual laboratory by which I can study the awesome universe God created. And why settle for a laboratory -- I can observe the universe and all its wonders firsthand!

Then it hit me: why would I want to learn all those things with eternity ahead? I guess my answer is simple: for sheer delight. The way I see it, the new Heaven and Earth are God's creations. And everything in it. And that makes them good.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Statistics of disadvantaged conditions

The Age recently published about the declining conditions of indigenous Australians:

  • "indigenous children were six times more likely to be abused or neglected than their non-Aboriginal counterparts"
  • "indigenous homicide rate was seven times higher than in the rest of the community"
  • "hospitalisations from domestic violence 34 times higher"
  • "Aborigines 13 times more likely to be imprisoned"

The Prime Minister describes the report that lays out these statistics as "devestating", and said the situation was "unacceptable and it requires decisive action." And he's right. In a prosperous nation, how can such conditions still remain unresolved at such levels?

But I wonder people would say about these other statistics from another part of the world?

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
  • 70% of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.

This is not a game of "beat that!" I just wanted to point out that all such statistics of declining and deplorable conditions are devastating and unacceptable. And not to be ignored for the sake of being politically correct. I'm just saying: these statistics cry out for help. How is that happening these days?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Planned Parenthood in Korea: pushing for more babies?

A very odd member of the Planned Parenthood family is advocating for families to have more babies. MercatorNet asks if this is one way for abortion to disappear. Maybe. But the interesting question for me is if, by this particular story, abortion and population control advocates are going in the right direction? I'm not so sure.

 But looking back, we recognise that the direction of policy had to be changed when the TFR reached 2.1. In fact, the change was not realised until 20 years later in the early 2000s. We can say that the one-child policy met the needs of its time but it did not change at the proper time.

The reasons for low fertility rate are late marriage, an unfavourable social environment for women to do "work and home" at the same time, too much money needed to raise children, and so on.

My understanding of the explanation from PPK (Planned Parenthood Korea) is that this is still a calculated move for an optimal population. The bottom line is still the system, not the person.

And the implications of the last sentence I quote above may not be sufficiently appreciated by PPK. Given that the low rates are based on attitudes about careers, marriage and children, on what grounds can PPK convince women to have more babies? Probably not by population targets, nor economics, nor even patriotism. Governments can throw in material or financial incentives all they want, but I doubt that they would persuade a woman who is convinced that motherhood is of second-rate value and fulfillment. As any parent knows, it isn't just the money. It's the effort, heartaches and pains involved in raising up a child that can put one off. What can offset those? I think only love can. Not that I'm brimming with it -- certainly not. But I do remember both my mother and father.

What was it that Mark Shea pointed out in one of his excellent podcasts? That God delighted to create Man. There are still parents around who are blessed with a similar (albeit imperfect) sense of this delight in parenthood. How do you bring that back after postmodern western society has been slandering the concept of marriage and parenthood for the past 40 years? Now that would be an interesting problem to form strategies about. But the Catholic Church has been largely unheard when they've been shouting the answer for years now: stronger marriages. Seems like Christ was on to something after all when he went so far as to reiterate the beginnings of marriage and giving it his stamp of sanctification.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Catholic Answers needs help

Please donate to this worthy cause for evangelization. We are all called to evangelize, but not all of us can be high profile, high impact evangelists. That's what Catholic Answers provides, and we can assist them in the work that Christ calls us to.

Justification debate

Read about it at Christianity Today, involving Pastor John Piper and Anglican bishop N. T. Wright. David at Sentire Cum Ecclesia covers some of the latter's views in this blog, which homes in on the distinction between "life after death" and "life after life after death". Confused? Follow the links above and think about it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Movie Review: The Blue Elephant

This was a good movie to watch. Notwithstanding some puzzled comments in Amazon and this blog, its flaws are in the production itself, e.g., some of the lines and dialogue were dry. The story itself is a good one. It includes some perhaps 16th century episodes in the history of Siam and Burma, but the war itself is not glorified. The critique suggests this, and seems to deliberately miss the professed point of war in the movie. The good prince in the move states clearly that they go to war, not because they want to, but because they have to. It is a twisted view of life and reality to actually denigrate self-defense as something to be ashamed of. The movie was also clear in differentiating the evils of aggression against the necessity of self-defense.

On another note, my kids enjoyed the movie, and I think they appreciate the message of the movie. I have no intention to raise extreme pacifists. While I teach them to avoid fights, and never to start them, I am not about to raise them up as victims. It's a tough world out there, and they cannot find happiness and peace as doormats. Of course, I'd have to teach them as well that it is God's right hand that brings victory in the end, not the strength of horses. I just have to find the opportunities for that lesson.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Twists and Cheap Imitation

I'd often marveled at how much of the crazy world out there is based on "almosts": almost true, almost good, almost rational. Tolerance is almost charity, but not quite. New age spirituality is almost about spirituality, but not quite. Pacifism is almost about peace, but not quite. Euthanasia is claimed to be about dignity, but not really. Today we have almost-marriage, almost-happiness, almost-equality, all just twisted and cheap imitations of the real thing.

Christ is the real thing. Charity goes where Tolerance dares not: charity risks one's self, and goes beyond lofty words. Christ offers the Holy Spirit, which is holiness and life. Christ offers peace that comes through charity and justice. Christ makes death a way in, not a way out. With Christ, because of love, suffering and death have meaning -- and through love, so does life. With Christ, marriage is a sacrament, a covenant giving of entire persons, not simply contract with strings and opt-outs. With Christ, happiness is eternal, and it is not about fleeting pleasures, but is about being who we are meant to be. And with Christ, there is true justice, not a lazy attempt that only bears a resemblance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The fullness of God: don't settle for less

This evening prayer's antiphon, taken from the first Psalm of tonight, Psalm 136 (137), cries with a passion that we should all share: If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Given that Jerusalem is a foreshadow of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of our hope, this sentiment brought to mind with some regret how we often settle for less. Settling for accolades from men, putting our ultimate trust in human reason, settling for purely natural notions of beauty and goodness, lust instead of love, material instead of Heavenly wealth. How ironic when the Lord seeks to give us abundance and fullness. In the evening prayer's reading, St. Paul wrote (Col 3:16), "Christ's message, in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct each other with all wisdom." There's too much in Scripture to quote which I don't even know off the top of my head (and any visiting reader might want to put them in the comments). But look at what he's given. The Hebrews wanted Saul, God gave -- not just David, nor Solomon -- but the Son of God. Many people believe in a spiritual resurrection, or a reincarnation. Christ promises a complete resurrection -- body and soul -- and Heaven.

With that offer on the table, how can we settle for less -- without even examining the offer thoroughly?

[Note: the readings above are based on Tuesday of the 4th week, rather than the vespers before the Feast of St. John the Baptist's birthday.]

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oh that we would stick to the truth

Some days, especially when it comes to TV or mainstream media, this seems to be wishful thinking... First order of business for anyone bent on destroying everything seems to be to make obfuscation an art form. A trendy, hip and popular art form.

From Eli Stone to Supernatural to the news, the boob tube is quick (or a quick and easy way) to portray truth as falsehood and vice versa. And people so easily take for granted what they see on TV. There is little inclination nor time to get to the truth. Or underestimating the effect of "a little" falsehood portrayed as truth on TV. Truly, how awful for those who do not hunger nor thirst for the truth!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Places in Heaven?

Mark Shea tackles a reader's question about this in his blog, and of course, great answer and comments. He quotes St. Thomas Aquinas ("I will have Thyself") and St. Therese of Liseux (who will take everything that God offers because she "will not be a saint by halves!"). For me, there are moments of blessed prayer when I almost whine in despair "but there's nothing else to desire!" Often this comes after repeating the Psalmist who says "Why cast down, my soul? Why groan within me? Hope in God, I will praise him still: my Savior and my God!" For some reason, this almost desperate admission makes me happy. :-)

Friday, June 12, 2009

but never despair

Today's First Reading is from 2 Cor 4:7-15, which includes these words of pragmatic reassurance:

 We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but not killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.

It struck me because these words of St. Paul were not assuring us of an easy life. Such would be meaningless to us because we all suffer difficulties. Far from the New Age gospel that blames our ills on our own "negative vibes", St. Paul tells it as it is: life is difficult, but God is with us. And the latter makes all the difference. As to why life is difficult, it would be senseless to blame it on any one single thing. It would be just as senseless to think that we will always have the answer. Quite often, we won't, but we need not despair. God is with us.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stem cells restore eyesight: ADULT stem cells, that is

But Seven News does not give the complete story, which you can find elsewhere, this one from biotechnews.com.au:

 The research team from UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences harvested stem cells from patients’ own eyes to rehabilitate the damaged cornea.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What sort of world arises when there is no concept of right and wrong?

Something like this, perhaps. The 60s and 70s folks took up the fight for no taboos, no rules, no boundaries, and what did they expect to happen? Can peace, order or love flourish without the notion of good and bad? When all they teach children are consequences and how to escape or suppress them, then we can expect no less than this sort of insanity.

Oz Conservative talks about the same problem here, concerning the Christchurch woman who consented to a night out with seven football players at once. His point is simple and correct: obtaining consent cannot take the place of morality. He cites Andrew Bolt in his Herald Sun column who states what should be obviously alarming:

  Consent also means it’s every man for himself. That you can do whatever you can force some silly or intimidated woman to agree to, however much it will hurt them.

It isn't just that concepts of objective good and evil are relevant to society. They certainly are, but so those concepts make sense, there should be love -- charity. If that had won out over lust, perhaps one or more of those football players might have spared a thought about the woman herself, her welfare, whether they would be causing harm to her -- or themselves.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Urgency of Sanctification

One of the things I've come to realize as my parenting years went by is just how daunting my accountability really is, as a parent. While I can look to the Holy Spirit to be the ultimate illumination and sanctification of my children, I do have a great deal to do with how their characters shape up. Just as they inherit genetic aspects of mine, so they also inherit behavioral traits. I'm not proud of my less than stellar control over my temper (and my mouth, when the former slips). I see the fruits of my trespasses in my children, who can be emotional and/or grouchy as a result. In a truly horrifying way, "my sin is always before me". Which brings me to my point: I need sanctification. Thank God for his free gift of the Holy Spirit who is the Sanctifier, but I'm not making the job easy. And my other point is that this need to be made holy, set apart for God and consecrated for good works, is an urgent need. I have a long way to go in ridding myself of my attachment to Sin, and that's a big problem, for nothing unclean may enter the Kingdom. But it isn't just that I might die tomorrow and I'm not ready. I think it is a bigger problem that I might still be alive tomorrow and I would have left my children with unresolved bad examples to follow. I'm not exaggerating my role in their upbringing, for I know that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of their growth in the faith, hope and love. But I do know how my actions have badly affected their behavior in some ways.

I don't want to define the boundaries of my sons' ideals based on my failures. That is simply not fair to them. Like me, the inheritance marked out for them is of the best: Heavenly glory. My bad example pulls them down and away from that! I've often thought of it in terms of health and hygiene. If I needlessly risk my health, I might fall ill and either fail to care for them due to some debilitation or.. bring home a virus that will in turn infect them.

Which is why sanctification is urgent for parents. We must cooperate with grace and do our darnedest best to become holier men and women. It's a matter of life and death, joy and misery, and it isn't just mine that's on the line.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Galactic Catholic: very interesting posts

I found Sarah's blog, Galactic Catholic, via her response to one of my posts below. Very interesting posts in that blog, and a good tendency to respond to God's invitation: "let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18), by looking at Science and the physical universe. She has one up there now on Biology. Please visit!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Non-evidence on preventing AIDS by condom: in mainstream media (of course)

Not that I expect to see this printed, but I sent the following letter to The Age in response to "The evidence on preventing AIDS is clear", which was full of unclear assertions with few details and no references:

Professors Toole and Moodie wrote assertively about AIDS in Thailand and the Philippines without references. That circumcision reduces the risk of AIDS is not conclusively proven (see http://www.cirp.org/library/disease/HIV/, which provides references to studies). Something else about the Philippines was unmentioned: men are sexually conservative by western (and Thai) standards. This is the most avowed Catholic country in the region.

The good professors also failed to cite Dr. Edward Green's studies on Uganda (see http://www.usaid.gov/pop_health/aids/Countries/africa/uganda_report.pdf, an official report submitted to USAID). He is the Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project of Harvard University. Dr. Green recently cited "no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.” (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5987155.ece). Instead, the Guttmacher Institute was cited. But Alan Guttmacher was president of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion and contraception provider in America, whose international projects include spending money and lobbying for legal safeguards in the Philippines for abortion and contraception (http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_filipino_front_in_the_culture_wars/).

Finally, condom success in Senegal was cited, but a USAID report cites abstinence education, partner reduction along with condom use (see http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/aids/TechAreas/prevention/condomfactsheet.html) as deciding factors.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Mystery of the Annunciation

I wonder if Evangelicals would sometimes consider the significance of the episode of the angel Gabriel's annunciation to Mary. When I was praying the Rosary earlier, in contemplating the mystery of that event, I was struck as I often was: this annunciation is now to me! I am not kecharitomene or full of grace as Mary was, but I am given grace. Unearned, undeserved grace, given in baptism, a free gift of justification and sanctification begun. Graced in every sacrament and Eucharist, every And the announcement is simply unbelievable, that I should somehow bring Christ to the world. I shall have to ask with Mary: how can this be? For I am a sinful man! But Gabriel provides the answer: it is the Holy Spirit's work, for what is my body if not, as St. Paul says, a temple of the Holy Spirit. And as St. John says, if I have love, then God lives in me and I in Him. And, again, St. Paul declares, that I am a member of the body of Christ. Whatever else I may bemoan of my unworthiness, I must never forget: this is the work of the God who raised the dead, brought inexplicable healing, gave men the power to cast out demons and change hearts and minds. We're talking about the God who became man, after all. What have I to fear and fret about? I cannot fathom it, but the Word does not return to the Father in vain. I have but one logical answer to give to the God who loved me first: fiat -- "be it done to me according to thy word."

And it only makes sense to ask our Lady who especially lived through this mystery, and knew our Lord best through those years, to walk with me and teach me the ways of her son, our Lord. And may he be made flesh in me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation

I shall always miss my days in De La Salle University, Manila, where the chime tolls twice a day for the Angelus (noon and 6 pm), and most everyone stops and at the very least listens to the prayer. It is the threefold celebration of God's mercy and love towards man:

  First, it is he who loves us first, and promises salvation for mankind. And his graciousness means he does not override our Lady's will, but permits her to respond freely.

  Second, she responds for all mankind with the only response we should rightly give: fiat -- let it be done. We must respond with docility to God's will, with faith, even if we do not fully comprehend.

  Finally, as God promises, his Word does not return in vain, but accomplishes as it proceeds. The Word is made flesh, and that is also his promise to all who respond to His grace.

Each time we pray the Angelus, we go back to the mystery of the Incarnation, and renew its fulfillment in ourselves -- we who are called see and love Christ in the least of our brethren, and for them to receive Christ's love through our love, which we give for His sake.

Did Pilate invent irony?

Jesus answered, “.. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Someone listening in might have said “Exactly.”

'or something worse may happen to you'

In the gospel reading from last Tuesday, Jesus heals a man who was apparently unable to walk for many years (John 5:1-3,5-16). Afterward, Christ warns him:

 ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’

I'd read in some commentary someplace (can't remember by whom) that sin and sickness were commonly associated in ancient times. But it would not be a very Christian attitude to allude irrational superstition to the Son of God. There is, in fact, a lot of empirical evidence for the association.

I can think of a few sins that involve behavior that risks one's health. Violence has its own risks, and a violent life, and certainly when unwarranted (not in war or law enforcement), carries unwarranted extra risks. Substance abuse? Sexual promiscuity certainly comes to mind, too. It is now considered conventional medical wisdom (for example) that there is a strong correlation between promiscuity with multiple partners and STD contraction. If environmentalists can cite violations against the ecosystem, why can't we cite destructive human behavior, too? It doesn't even take being a Catholic to understand that. Perhaps all you need are facts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


My household has been somewhat plagued with bird mites for the last 3 weeks. I am ever so thankful to God that my wife and kids have been spared the worst of the little critters, but found it almost unbearable to be their human host (the birds were gone, their holes around the house boarded up) of choice. Lack of sleep, paranoia, and overall general discomfort. It was at this time (of Lent, too!) that I realized how weak my trust in God was.

Thank God for two people: my wife, and my doctor. First, my wife was incredibly patient through the tons of laundry she had to do at overdrive right after the house was sprayed with insecticide. She was also much less worried about the mites than I was, and was a source of strength. My doctor, while not an expert in bird mites, did give me good general advice in dealing with the discomforts, but moreso with the weakening faith. He shared the exegesis of his pastor (Evangelical) about Job's plight that had at its origin neither God nor Satan, but in fear. Job exclaimed somewhere in his soliloquy that his worst fears were realized in his trials.

Ecclesiastes 10:8 speaks of a hole in the hedge, whereby a serpent shall come through. Well Satan challenges Job's faithfulness by remarking to God and the hedge that He built around Job, explaining the latter's faithfulness. What hole then did Job make through the hedge? His fear of misfortune, taking away all his riches and happiness. In my case, it was already dawning on me that my confidence in God's protection was too easily shaken, whereas my wife's was rock solid. The anxiety was certainly taking its toll on me in many ways. And while the infestation is not yet over, it has died down without any help from my anxiety. Instead, it was just a matter of time. Meanwhile, I just needed to relax, sleep better, cope, and foster some hope. Not one thing about my problems would be helped by my worrying.

Why are you cast down, my soul, Why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, My savior and my God. (Psalm 42)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tolerance ain't Love: not even close

Ms. Juliette Hughes makes a big opinion splash out of the mess in St. Mary's Brisbane parish. It's a rather judgmental piece, which is ironic, and it's also loose with facts, which is.. well.. perhaps standard fare for too many writers when the topic is religion. Her piece revealed too many misconceptions about the Catholic faith, and I sincerely pray for her and her parish priest and/or bishop. They should get together and clarify some rather pressing issues. Foremost of these was the disastrous confusion between love and tolerance.

Tolerance is a postmodern buzz-word. It falls horribly short as a noble cause. Tolerance is about "live and let live". It makes rubbish of responsibility (there is no sense of it) while allowing everyone to feel good about themselves. Love goes much further. Love means accepting an appropriate amount of responsibility. Love means caring beyond the feelings of the loved one. Otherwise, the latter may feel wonderful about their lives while harming themselves in various ways. Leaving them in such a state is not love. Encouraging them to remain in that state is not love. What Ms. Hughes should really be considering are the Catholicism's claims in the case of St. Mary's. She does not sound interested. She dismisses the bishop's views with one short quote.

She prefers tolerance to love. But rejecting love in favor of tolerance rejects so much more: sin (the absence of which accounts for why tolerance must be infinite), forgiveness (since there is no forgiveness if there is no such thing as sin), correction (nothing to correct, eh?), healing (what's to heal if everything is fine?), salvation (if there is no sin, what is there to save us from?). No, ma'am, tolerance ain't love. Ask any parent and they'll tell you. If they've ever had to compel their child away from something clearly harmful, which their child did not understand as being so, they'll tell you: their children deserve love, not tolerance.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Population control and children as burdens: Japan may exhibit the logical conclusion

Startling firsthand account and statistics from Michael Thomas Cibenko in this New Oxford article about Japan's population implosion: http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0209-cibenko

"The starkest example I encountered was an elementary school that had been built for a student population of at least one hundred. There were several full-size classrooms, a large gymnasium, library, playground, swimming pool, and parking lot. But I was astounded to discover on my first visit that there was only one student. One student with one teacher."


"I later attended an autumn festival in my village at which elders traditionally take turns calling out the names of babies born that year. But that portion of the festival was very short and somewhat awkward, as there were dozens of senior citizens but only three names to be called."


".. I witnessed the bizarre sight of elderly women cuddling robotic dolls. It was explained to me that women buy these expensive dolls because they have no grandchildren to dote on. The dolls, which apparently sell in huge quantities, tell their owners how much they love them, and welcome them when they walk back into the room."


"In 1950 there were approximately twenty-eight births for every thousand people in the population; in 2007 that number was only eight births per thousand. When one pauses even briefly to consider it, the difference is staggering. It is also interesting to note that the average number of children per Japanese family today is, low and behold, one -- the same as in China. The difference being that in China it's by state mandate; in Japan it's by choice."


"Japan's population peaked in 2005, and will plunge from its current 127 million to just 89 million in 2050 -- a decline of 30 percent. In terms of median age, Japan is currently the oldest nation on earth. The median age in Japan today is 43 years old, which, from the data I've read, is twice the age of many African nations. Japan will continue to hold this title through the year 2050, when the average age in Japan is projected to be 61 years old."


"An increasing number of Japanese leaders are looking for the "easy way out" of the dilemma of over-aging, as evidenced by the Japanese Association of Acute Medicine's 2007 recommendation to allow euthanasia for the terminally ill."


"... in 2007, the government soberly noted that the number of children in Japan has declined for the twenty-sixth consecutive year. Over the past decade more than two thousand junior and senior high schools have closed due to lack of children. Many of these have been converted into homes for the elderly. ... more and more Japanese pediatricians are switching to geriatric medicine."


"One recent poll revealed that a staggering 70 percent of young Japanese single women say they have no intention of getting married, many of them stating that babies are simply "too much trouble.""


".. the only real solution to the plague of depopulation is also rooted in another, yet altogether different, aspect of Western culture, that of Christianity. What Japan really needs to experience is a radical rekindling of the love of God, and as a consequence, love of children."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Power in Sacraments

My niece, who is leaning towards Evangelical Protestantism these days, asked me earlier if I had heard of "Power in Praise", which appears to be this particular book. No objections to the power of praise, and I've been to pentecostal services too (both Evangelical and Catholic). I'm not a great big fan, but I don't mind, assuming it doesn't stand to replace what Christ never meant to be replaced. I'm talking about sacraments.

Such as the sacrament of reconciliation. As the Holy Father explains, it is a restoration of our communion with the Father. We were indeed washed, justified and sanctified in baptism, a sacrament which St. Peter declares saves us, but as we journey through life, we dally with sin on occasion. St. Peter cites the example of someone who once again takes up his vomit. But Christ is the healer, and as he declares to the leper, "of course I want you to be clean". He goes beyond declaring us clean though. He stretches out his arm, touches us, and makes us clean.

Physical. Sacramental. Not because the priest is holy, but because Christ is holy.

And don't get me started on the Eucharist. On second thought, please do. The source and summit of our faith indeed, the Eucharist. Unless we eat of the flesh and blood, meat indeed and drink indeed, then we have no life in us (John 6). Physical. Sacramental. Not because the bread is yummy, or the wine makes us feel good, or that the worship service has great praise and worship music. No, it's because Christ declared it so. His body. His blood. We can't really understand it completely, and it isn't obvious. We might regard it with complete skepticism (or cynicism) as did the Pharisees when they beheld the poor, unknown carpenter from Nazareth. Nothing spectacular to look at. No bells and whistles. As plain as ordinary bread. And that's enough Truth for me.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Rosary Reflections; the agony in the garden

Mantegna's Agony in the Garden, Musée du Louvre, Paris Prolixius, I think I read from St. Josemaria Escriva's book on the Rosary. The Lord was kneeling, and in a "bitter agony." In the mp3 I use as a prayer aid, Mother Angelica invites people to "agonize with Him for souls!" It was perhaps a month ago when I realized just how remiss I was with this: to have grave concern for the salvation of others. My family. My friends. How often do I pray for them? How often do I offer assistance? Encouragement? Advice? Not that I want to be pushy, but neither can I afford to shrug off any responsibility and say "live and let live." And then it hit me: the postmodern culture we have is often about that. Along with "whatever floats your boat" or "if it makes you happy." The unfortunate corollary is then a tendency towards individualism.

And yet there is the Lord in the garden, taking on the sin of the world, so that all may be made anew. The awesome responsibility unfolds before him, one that he embraces completely, as so he does also with the cost, which he should not have to bear. Who is he doing this for? Me. In my sins. But largely unasked and unappreciated, he accepts the yoke. In agony, but committed.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Prayers for Michael Dubruiel..

.., evangelist and writer, and husband of blogger/writer Amy Welborn. He collapsed at the gym and could not be revived. I've only read one piece of Michael's, and it was good and very insightful. Our Sunday Visitor posted this tribute to Michael on their blog.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Blogging around the Net on Humanae Vitae Issues

Some interesting snippets I found tonight:

  "We are told to have sex any time we feel the urge. Condoms are handed out in grade schools. Promiscuity is not only condoned, it’s tacitly encouraged ... But if you should get pregnant and it’s just not a ‘convenient’ time for you, don’t worry, there are Family Planning Services. ... That inconvenient fetus can be surgically ripped from its uterine moorings, ground up and tossed into the trash like so much garbage.

"Problem solved, and the mother can resume her egocentric lifestyle. But the scars on that woman’s soul will never quite heal. I’m a man, but I’ve got them on mine."

Responding to those who call for abortion to be "legal but rare," Graham asked, "Why rare?

"What’s wrong with abortion, that you think it should be a rare occurrence? I’ve had moles removed from my skin. Doctors don’t tell us that a mole removal should be rare. So what’s with this ‘rare’ business? Or is it a tacit agreement that abortion … is plain wrong?
 -- Actor Gary Graham rejecting abortion
  Djerassi, a chemist, novelist and playwright, said that in most of Europe there was now “no connection at all between sexuality and reproduction” he said, “This divide in Catholic Austria, a country which has on average 1.4 children per family, is now complete.”
 -- Dr. Djerassi comments on low birth rates in Austria.
(Note the MercatorNet article posted an update where Dr. Djerassi clarifies errors in previous reports.)

I must say I found the comments in the last link somewhat bizarre, for the most part. They range from despair to cold materialism, with a smattering of environmental extremism thrown in.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

SSPX Bishop Williamson

As Fr. Z says, he mans up with an apology about his "imprudent comments" about the Holocaust. Insightful enough to be politically sensible, I guess, but I doubt that people would ever let him get away with it anyway. But I have to say that, while the media furor was understandable, I thought it was a teaching moment, too. The bishop was ordained in schism, after all. Lifting the excommunication was because the schism was deemed to be over. The bishop's historical perspectives and actions in publicizing them are obviously wrong, and, yeah, he should be sorted out on those. But I don't want to see excommunication being the blunt instrument used against political, historical, social and various other commentaries, even horribly wrong ones. Perhaps some other disciplinary action to keep him from offending again?

In any case, Israeli Jews seem to understand that Bishop Williamson is (very) wrong and the pope is rejecting his Holocaust views and commentaries.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

We've got ants

And the interesting thing is that having a minor ant infestation (they're coming in because they can't handle the 43 C heat outside) helped us discover a few things about the house. Like where we've been sloppy with crumbs. Or we've been holding on to one last chocolate wafer in a pack that is just sitting there with a bag of choc chip cookies. Both packs are several weeks old, up to a month, and no one wants to eat them but the ants. And of course who's been eating in front of computer and dropping crumbs into the keyboard?

Kinda corny drawing life lessons from our problem with ants, but I'll take these lessons anyway. At least they make sense.