Saturday, December 30, 2006

LOTR begins!

I have begun The Fellowship of the Ring , and, I must admit, I am enjoying it much more than I ever thought possible. It is very interesting to compare what the movie did with the characters as opposed to Tolkien's original conceptions (i.e., Sam as servant, etc. ). And, of course, some of the dialogue is just hysterical. I have read 100 pages (got the books last night) and will continue to read on. I am abandoning my usual practice of the "plow-through" and am instead reading slowly and thoughtfully the first time through, which I usually do not do. Usually I just try to get the thing down in one big gulp.

Will keep you informed...

Saddam's execution

Well, I can't really say, in all honesty, that I'm upset he's dead. The man killed who knows how many people and tortured countless others. It's not like he was really bringing Joy to the World, or anything. I know the Church's stance on capital punishment, but in my mind the country and the people are safer knowing that he's not around anymore. Maybe that's just me. In any event, I'm not going to waste tears on him.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

I hope you all had a glorious Christmas Eve and had fun at Mass. Our Mass went wonderfully--the Haydn rocked , and we were so proud!--and the Messiah pieces also went well. It can be hard to gauge the quality of sound since you're listening and surrounded by everyone, but we got a lot of nice compliments so I'm assuming it went well. But the Haydn just rocked. I am so proud that we got that down. Woohoo!!

Christmas morning here began at 8:00 and the Christmas Carnage began. :) After the gifts we had Mom's great Christmas breakfast of Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls and sausage links (mmmmm...if my blood sugar was low before breakfast--which it kind of was--it isn't now!) and coffee that I made for me and my siblings. Currently Dad and Bryan are setting up his new MacBook (I am sooooo jealous! I want one!) and Mel is being George Lucas with her Santa-given videocamera. I have been immersing myself in the new Pride and Prejudice gift set, which includes 3 DVDs (a bonus disc!) and the making-of book, which is very enjoyable. I am also looking forward to ravaging The Silver Spoon , the Italian cooking Bible with more than 2,000 (yes, 2,000 ) recipes. much good food, so little time....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

DeArdo family christmas

"Clark! Audrey's frozen!"
"All part of the experience, honey."
--National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

So, you may ask, what exactly does a DeArdo family Christmas entail?

Well since I've started singing Midnight Mass (Mom used to sing it when we were little, but we didn't all go together), that's the Mass we haul ourselves to. That means dinner is around 5, starts the baking festivities in the am, usually around 10 or so (as I write the marble cakes have been baked and smell yum-o....mmmmmmmm). We usually have ham, a pasta bake, some potatoes (we're Irish, come on), bread (mmmmmm) and this year we have a jell-o/pretzel concoction, which I'm sure will be good (Mom's a Heilmann, and all Heilmann events must have some sort of jell-o thing. It's a rule or something.). We will also have sparkling red/white grape juice (yeah, OK, Emily can't drink the good stuff right now, give me a break) and then the cakes and cookies Mom's made over the past few weeks post-Mass.

The gifts have alredy been placed under the tree, divided into recepient piles so that no one accidentally opens someone else's gift and causes confusion/havoc in the wee hours.

After dinner, we usually watch some sort of Christmas-y movie, like A Christmas Story , which we all love. I am also partial to Meet Me In St. Louis since it has one of the best Christmas songs ever, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas , and Judy Garland looks so great, sitting there in her red velvet dress (mmm) singing it to Margaret O'Brien. Great stuff. AMC or TCM usually has it on, so check if you don't own the DVD. But we love A Christmas Story. We watch it all the time...I've probably be watching it several times a Christmas season since I was about 6. Great, great movie. I don't care what anyone else says.

Around 9 or so we'll probably start to change into our Mass clothes, and I'll get my music ready. I'm sure a nap will happen this afternoon so I don't fall asleep tonight. At 10:15, I'll leave and my parents will show up sometime before 11:15, when we will start our program with the fantastic Haydn.

Yeah, I'm excited. :) :) Good times!

One down...

and goal to go!

Sang the 9:00 Mass at SPX, which went pretty well. We actually had a nice-sized crowd; not as many as the 10:15 but more than the 8:30. Before Mass ended, Fr. Ochs (our pastor) made an appeal to us to help move the billions of poinsettias from the Bride's Room to the sanctuary to help get ready for Christmas, as the first Vigil Mass is at 4:00. Nice to see so many people helping...we come when we're called!! Hopefully they can get the rest of the church ready in time.

I have to be at church by 10:45 but, knowing me, I will probably leave the house at 10:15 to 1) get good parking and 2) get there early to whip my troops into shape. :) Not that we need it, at this point. The time for practicing is gone, and now we just have to have fun with the music we've been working since August!

I will blog tonight/tomorrow morning and let you know how it goes...I know you are all breathless with anticipation. :)

Awesome Mary picture

Check that is awesome.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Swimming with scapulars

OK, I've read it again, and confirmed my first impression: good book. However, there is a point I'd like to quibble with re: music in Mass.

I agree w/ Matthew that waaaayyy too much of the music has gone 1) prosaic 2) too "teen pop" and 3) boring. Glory and Praise has some nice tunes, but too many of them are just 1970s quasi-pop junk we need to stop singing. Let us move on and sing more of the "Warhorses"--"Holy, Holy, Holy" , "Holy God We Praise Thy Name", "Be Thou My Vision", "The Church's One Foundation", etc. Nothing wrong with sappy; sappy can be good. For example, I love "Here I Am, Lord." Great tune. I like "On Eagle's Wings." But there have been one too many singings of "Though the Mountains May Fall." And for the love of Pete, can we sing Advent songs during Advent? And Lent songs during Lent?? Please?

Anyway, to my quibble: Matthew talks about his issues with the choir singing up front, as opposed to in a choir loft, applause from the congregation when a song is over, and the idea that it's more of a "performance" than anything else. Now I obviously cannot speak for all choirs and I am sure that in some places this happens. But let me relay my experience.

First off, my church was built post Vatican II. There is no choir loft. We used to sit on the altar but then we got a new pastor and he vetoed that. So now we sit in a section of pews by the organ. The problem with this is that our sound is affected because we're basically singing to a wall. The congregation really can't hear us, or at least not the way we're intended to be heard. For some numbers we did go "up front", and that worked. The congregation liked it. But then it got vetoed. So now we're back to the pews for everything and we have to do all sorts of fancy mic work to make sure we can be heard. Which means spending money on good mics. It would make a lot more sense to just have us up front and eschew all the fancy-schmancy technology, or at least some of it, because we wouldn't need it anymore.

People who are not musicians tend to downgrade how much work it is being in a choir/band/orchestra, whatever. They assume we practice, but they don't know the intensity of it. Our choir rehearses at least and hour and a half a week. The closer we got to Christmas, the longer practice got. Sometimes we are beginning at 7:15 and rehearsing until 10:00 or later. Not much later, and not often, but it does happen. We put a lot of effort into every piece we sing, and we do sing one choral piece every week. For Christmas we're singing a piece from Haydn's Creation and several movements of Handle's Messiah . We've been having twice a week practices since October to prepare. This is not fluff stuff. Our families know how much we practice, but the general congregation? Who knows. So if we're going to put all this effort into it, it's nice to have some appreciation. The congregation doesn't clap very often (we do two pieces that are guaranteed applause) but when they do, we appreciate it. We are there to help them worship. It's not like we're there to satisfy our humungeous egos. Some of us are classically-trained, some of us can't read music. But it takes a lot of work and commitment to do what we do. And a lot of the time, people just don't get it. If the congregation wants to applaud, heck, I'm not going to stop them.

This Christmas, take some time to appreciate any special music your parish does. I am positive they put a lot of work into it. And tell them if you liked it!! We like to know we're not just singing to the walls. :)

Monday, December 18, 2006


Some new arrivals at the Emily library:

--Swimming with Scapulars: Confessions of a Young Catholic : Just got this one today with a few other Amazon books. By Matthew Lickona, it's a memoir of growin gup Catholic, how his faith has shaped him, trials he has with faith, etc. It's refreshing honesty is very nice. It can be a bit sporadic and disjointed, but I kind of like that, since memoirs that tend to be strictly linear in their construction can be boring. He touches on all sorts of topics from Novus Ordo, The DaVinci Code, music at Mass, holding hands during the Our Father, and parenthood. He's 31, so I guess that still fits the "young" definition. Good first read, hope to get more insight the second time through.

I also got:
-- Cooking with the Saints from Ignatius Press: pretty self-explanatory. A great cookbook with patron saints, information about them and recipes associated with them. Lots of breads and desserts, and lots of German and Austria recipes. Some of them look really fantastic. There's even a recipe for suckling pig!!

-- Catholic Education:Homeward Bound by Kimberly Hahn (Scott's wife) and Mary Hasson. Since David and I like the idea of homeschooling (fitting in with our somewhat "crunchy" ideas), I thought I'd read this to get a leg up. I just started so I can't tell you too much yet, but anything Kimberly Hahn writes is good. :)

I am also going to start reading the LOTR books, due to some insightful posting over at Cubeland Mystic (link in the list) about which character you feel you are most like. There's been some really great discussion over there and I want to enter it intelligently, not just with movie knowledge, which, as we know, can be very, very wrong (although I don't think it's as wrong with LOTR as it was with, say, Troy . I will keep you posted.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gaudete Sunday!

Happy Gaudete Sunday, everyone!

OK, I bet half of you are looking at that going, "uh, Emily, it's the third Sunday of Advent. What the heck are you talking about?"

It is the Third Sunday of Advent. But it is also Gaudete Sunday. Ever wonder why the priest wears rose garments today? Why we have a pink candle admidst all the purple in the wreath? Well I am about to you my Catholic Education and tell you. :)

"Gaudete" Sunday is a derivitative of "Rejoice!", which comes from today's second reading (one of my favorites, by the way):
Philippians 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters: rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The LORD is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

As my seventh-grade teacher told us, if Paul is telling us to "rejoice!" twice, he means it! We are almost done with Advent, the peninential season is almost over! Christ is about to be born! We should be happy about this! That's why we see the pink candle..the somber purple shades are warming into the sunshine of our redemption. We should "have no anxiety at all" (clearly, Paul didn't have to Christmas shop!). And we celebrate that by changing the colors. Coincidentially, the Fourth Sunday of Lent (called Laertae Sunday) is the same principle.

On a somewhat non-related note: purple candles are to be used in advent wreaths because of their penitential connotation. So many churches (including, sadly, Catholic ones) are going to blue because it's less penitential. Um, that's the whole point of the season--to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. That's why we have penance services, why the readings tend to be so dour and focuses on preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ. We can't forget the real meaning of Advent--it's not just the countdown to Christmas. There is some preparation that (should) go into it.

Housekeeping: be sure to check out Amy Welborn's blog today--a great Gaudete Sunday Angelus meditation from BXVI. Today is also the day we start the "O Antiphons" and she's got a link to that, too! So check it out.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Meeting Fr. Barry

I met the new Children's chaplain yesterday, Fr. Barry, who seemed really nice. I believe he spent some time in London, and he's African, and I've always like African priests. There's just something about their spirituality that I really connect with. He's a lot of fun, soft-spoken but good.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

For the love of all things holy!

From today's Dispatch

For the love of all things holy! ---III
NEW ALBANY SCHOOLS Religious songs pulled from concert Wednesday, December 13, 2006David Conrad THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

After pulling two religious songs from a fifth-grade holiday concert, New Albany school officials found the program a little too short for prime time.

When Silent Night and Hayo, Haya, which celebrates Hanukkah, were removed from the program, the principal moved the show from Thursday evening to the afternoon.

The district said a Jewish parent complained that Silent Night, which contains the lyrics "Christ, the savior, is born," was included in the program.

So officials yanked the song and then pulled Hayo, Haya, which contains the lyrics, "Oh, sing our songs and praise the Torah, praise the Torah."

"We wanted to show respect for the religious sensibilities of all students," said Chris Briggs, principal of New Albany Intermediate Elementary School, which serves grades 4 and 5.

Briggs said that from now on, the two grades will include only cultural songs in their holiday programs.

Three nonreligious songs are left for Thursday’s concert.

The Columbus Public Schools took a similar stance a few years ago. In 2001, the district was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union after choirs sang Christian songs at two high-school commencement ceremonies.

The school system responded the next year by passing a policy that required holiday music to be "based on sound educational principles" and not "manifest in preference of religion or particular religious beliefs."

"I think the (New Albany) school made the safest decision that it could possibly make," said Gary Daniels, of the ACLU of Ohio. "A winter performance is a bad time to take a wrong turn from being at a choir concert to a church assembly." (WHAT?!)

However, Daniels also said that he doesn’t believe that schools need to do away with all religious songs.

"The key issue the courts look at it is whether the purpose of the performance was to enhance a particular religious message," he said.

"You’re not going to find a court decision that says you can’t have any religious songs. But if every song in a 10-piece holiday concert is about a certain religion, then you have a problem."

ME: Um, we have problems with Silent Night??? LEt's get real! When I was in high school I sang Jewish songs and I;m not Jewish! If you don't want your kid singing Christmas songs then just tell the director and boom, your kid doesn't sing them. Sheesh. But if they are in a choir and there is a holiday concert, chances are pretty good you're going to be singing Christmas songs! I know there are other holidays in December. When they have as many songs written about them as Christmas, then we'll talk. And these are little kids! Come on now. But of course, once the ACLU is involved....

Feast of St. Lucy

I've always loved the feast of St. Lucy,probably because the idea of more light in December in Ohio is a great idea. Course if I wasn't here in the resort I;d be home making my St. Lucia buns, which may be labor intensive (two risings!) and take hours to make, but they are quite yummy. Oh well, I'll just have to make them for Christmas instead...I get my recipe out of an old American Girl cookbook, but if you want to try them I;m sure Yahoo! foods or whatever would have a recipe, or Google. Mine have raisins, yeast, and some sugar, which make them sweet although you wouldn't expect it. I also think an egg wash is involved somehow.

Christmas bleg

Christmas questions
Stole this from Life In A Nutshell (; also listed on the blogroll..

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate, esp. since I just bought Hot Chocolate and a Hot Chocolate pot from Williams-Sonoma! (

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? That's Mrs. Claus and the Elfettes' job(Yes I just invented a word :))

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored, even though I don't have any up personally. My parents, however, have the awful retro 1970s big, colored bubls that have been in, out, and in again....

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I would if I could find some!

5. When do you put your decorations up? Thanksgiving weekend, but usually the weekend before since we're not here Thanksgiving weekend...what can I say? I love my tree!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? The cinnamon rolls and sausage links mom makes for Christmas morning breakfast.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Tye year I got the Care Bears kitchen set I wanted and thought I didn't get. I had opened everything--no set. My parents had hidden it in the basement. :) And you know, we still have parts of it that we use to store books/ it's lasted! And Pittsburgh Christmases...see below.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was about 8, I think...not very traumatic or anything.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Now we open one gift on Christmas Eve since I sing Midnight Mass and we all go to that. Opening one gift keeps us enteratined and hopefully awake. But when Iwas little Christmas was a three day extravaganza. We opened family gifts Dec. 22 or 23rd, went to my dad's mom's house to do Christmas with them in Pittsburgh (Corapolis) on Christmas Eve, where there would be great cooking in both kitchens (wish I had that now!) and we'd open gifts from my grandma and my two aunts. Then we'd head over to my mom's parents' in South Hills/Baldwin, where a few of my aunts still lived until they got married. We'd do presents there Christmas morning. Oh it was good times.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? My colored lights and two strands of Target garland, one gold and one white (kind of snowflakey), and, of course, my ornaments, including Glinda in her bubble, Lucy and the wardrobe, a talking Ariel, Christmas carol ornaments,'s fun!

11. Snow? Love it or Dread it? As long as I can stay inside, love it.

12. Can you ice skate? Yup, I can even do fancy stuff.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? The highlight reel: the Coach evening bag I got last year; American girl dolls (various years); the first edition Virginia Woolf diary; my Coco Mademoiselle perfume (mom got me the really good stuff, not just the eau de toilette, so I only use it very , very rarely).

14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you? Seeing my cousins! And exchanging gifts with Tiff and Milia.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? My spicey cookies, the Snickerdoodle cake. The new chocolate chip cookies I made Sunday are good, too. I also like my St. Lucia buns, which are making a Christmas return this year,.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Singing Midnight Mass, opening gifts with my family, the Heilmann reunion.

17. What tops your tree? An angel I got from my mom.

18. Which do you prefer - giving or receiving? Both have their joys, but I really can't wait to see Tiff, Milia and David's reactions to their gifts this year.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? The original "have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in Judy Garland's range! (also know as: not the really high one all the arrangers wrote so that wimpy little Sopranos could sing it. Not cool) Also: All Come, All Ye Faithful and O Holy Night.

20. Candy canes? They are enjoyable. :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Crunchy Christmas

From Rod's blog...

A Family Christmas, Crunchy Con Style
By Cary McMullen

For all you bleary-eyed shoppers out there, here's a story from author and blogger Rod Dreher. Before he was married, Dreher told me by phone from Dallas that he spent a Christmas in Holland visiting a family with three adult daughters, the Jeurissens.

"The family celebrated in a typically Dutch way. They got together on Christmas Eve and cooked a meal. We ate together and told stories. At midnight, they brought out gifts they had made for each other. Then we put on our coats and went to Mass, even though they were not especially religious. As an American, I was waiting for the big payoff, but that was it.

"It made a big impression on me. It was so stripped down. What mattered to them was family, and faith, too," he said.

I called Dreher because I recently read his book, "Crunchy Cons." (The book's subtitle would take up the rest of this column, but the title refers to countercultural conservatives, with emphasis on the countercultural.) Dreher, himself a conservative, has written a literate and much-needed critique of how America in general and a rabidly pro-big-business Republican Party in particular reduces its citizens to nothing more than consumers or potential consumers - "the sum of our desires," as Dreher puts it.

"We believe that modern conservatism has become too focused on material conditions, and insufficiently concerned with the character of society. The point of life is not to become a more satisfied shopper," he writes in point two of his 10-point "Crunchy Con Manifesto." Instead of blindly acquiescing to being regarded as walking pocketbooks, Dreher wants us to fight back. He argues for a way of life that stresses family, community, faith, simplicity, beauty and humility.

Although I didn't agree with Dreher on some of his political and lifestyle arguments, much of what he had to say struck me as healthy skepticism and right on target. Dreher is married now and has three children under the age of 7, and I asked him how he and his wife manage to be countercultural during the holidays, the biggest assault of the year on our consumer sensibilities, with children as special targets of opportunity. He admitted it isn't easy.

"We have a family ritual. We light an Advent candle (and) read Scripture and pray together. We do have a Christmas tree. We also made a vow not to smother the kids with presents on Christmas Day. It's amazing to hear about people going into debt just so they can give things to their kids," he said.

Even if couples manage to set limits on gift-giving, they may have difficulty enforcing that rule on extended family members, especially grandparents, Dreher said. Limiting the number and price of gifts goes against the ethos. It's our culture's everyday math: Love equals things.

"We're told if you don't go all out, somehow your children will think you don't love them," Dreher commented.

The Drehers even allow their children to be visited by Santa Claus, because they felt "we didn't have the right" to deny their kids an experience both Rod and Julie Dreher had enjoyed themselves when young. But they play down Santa's role in Christmas in favor of emphasizing the role of Christ, he said.

The decision to have a countercultural Christmas requires work, he went on, not just in constantly saying no but also in constructing positive alternatives.

"It's not just joyless and grim. There's a lot of light and color in the Christian tradition. The trick is to find a balance," he said.

The thing that intrigues me about Dreher's philosophy is that although he's a former staffer for the National Review, often he doesn't sound much like what passes for contemporary conservatism, and he describes in his book how ideological conservatives have attacked him as a closet leftist. For instance, because consumerism is driven by capitalism, Dreher is not a fan of one of capitalism's biggest engines, advertising. Television is limited in the Dreher household.

"The media - by which I mean entertainment and advertising - are designed to separate you from your values. That makes it easier to sell to us. It's not a grand conspiracy, but it's true," he said.

What Dreher commendably embraces is traditionalism. Recalling his Christmas in Holland, Dreher still expresses wonder over the gifts the Jeurissen family gave to each other. One daughter wrote a poem. Another sewed an article of clothing.

"They poured love and affection for their family into them. They took time and thought," he said. "It was tremendously affecting to me, coming from a country where Christmas meant more, more, more."

Cary McMullen is religion editor for The Ledger. He can be reached at or 863-802-7509.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Since today is her feast day, here's some more from Amy:
Today is the feastday of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On the morning drop-off route, I just stopped by the parish that's the locus of the Hispanic ministry (St. Patrick's, founded for the Irish who were working on the railroads more than a century ago. The wheel turns.). I should have put my thinking cap on last Saturday instead of yesterday - of course, as the sign told me, their major celebration was Sunday. Harrumph. They'd also evidently been having a novena that ended this morning of course - at 5:30 AM, followed by cafe y chocolate and so on. Oh year, perhaps.

Some Guadalupe-related news articles, and if you like, add your own experiences of any celebrations this week:

Sancta. org is the major umbrella website devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In Houston, a story of gratitude:

The work is his pleasure. Galvan believes Our Lady kept him alive during triple bypass heart surgery a few years back. She watched over two of his sons when they served in Iraq. He believes she will continue to watch over the young men when they return to the war-torn country next year.

"This shrine," said Galvan, 60, "represents the mother of God. She has pulled me through a lot of miracles."

The Arizona Daily Star has an overview, with some interesting photos

Here's kind of an odd column from the OC Register, which attempts to see the bright side. The columnist writes of an interesting parish tradition, in which a statue of Our Lady, purchased by parishioners on a road trip to TIjuana without the pastor's knowledge, goes from house to house. A marvelous compromise! Perhaps. The columnists comments on the
"austere beauty" of the interior in which there is hardly any statuary, except in a side chapel. So, basically - the powers that be don't want statues in the church. So, folks, keep it in your houses, okay? Ni-ice.

Oh, let's be positive, shall we?

The AP story on the Mexico City celebration.


Even though the warming weather created muddy conditions at Maryville's grass parking lot, cars continued to pour in through the evening. Organizers estimate that between 60,000 to 120,000 people will take part in the two-day celebration.

Des Plaines police had shut down Central Road at River Road starting 5 p.m. Monday to handle the crowds. It will reopen at 6 a.m. today.

"You do Maryville honor by coming here in such big crowds," the Rev. John Smyth said in his welcome address.

At times solemn and at times festive, Mass, which began at 8 p.m., was primarily in Spanish, as the celebration is largely attended by Hispanic parishioners. The ceremony was peppered with Mexican dancing and songs.

Las Cruces:

From the Arizona Republic, the perspective of Hispanic Protestants:

Twice a day, Jose Gonzalez used to pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe. But when he turned away from Catholicism, he let her go. Now, the Phoenix pastor speaks directly to Jesus.

"Traditionally, Mexican people believe that the Virgin of Guadalupe is a mediator between God and the people," said Gonzalez, 55, of Nuevo Nacimiento Church on 27th Avenue near Van Buren Street.

"We pray only to God, through Jesus Christ," he said. "The Virgin of Guadalupe plays no role. Not at all."

San Antonio, on the devotion crossing cultural lines:

The parish's Society of Guadalupanas, a ministry promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, has grown from just 12 members, mostly Hispanics, to nearly 140 men and women, almost half of whom are Anglo, the priest said.

Nick Young was devoted to the Virgin long before he came to St. Mark's in 2001, having overcome his early skepticism about some Marian devotions.

But it was here that he first learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"She has appeared in many different places, such as Lourdes and Fatima, and we have many devotions to her," Young said. "She's still Mary, the Mother of God. We can go to her and pray for her intercession under any of her titles."

He said the unusually deep devotion and dedication displayed by the parish's Guadalupanas attracted him to join the society. He said he'd never seen such devotion and reverence elsewhere.

"I'm doing OK, slowly," Martinez said, walking stick in hand, as he looked out over Las Cruces from the heights of Tortugas Mountain.

Martinez, born in San Miguel and now 81, is in many ways the embodiment of what the annual Tortugas trek is all about — faith, sacrifice and promises to a higher power.

Monday marked yet another occasion on which Martinez climbed Tortugas Mountain, also known as "A" Mountain. He was just one of hundreds who made the trip.

For 92 years the faithful have walked from Tortugas Pueblo to the top of the mountain in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, commemorating the day in the 16th century when the Virgin Mary appeared in what is now Mexico City.


Heredia has led the veneration, held on the eve of Dec. 12, the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, since she and her 84-year-old husband, Manuel, bought their now-sprawling Southwest Side home, which started out as a single-room brick dwelling more than 50 years ago.
"I have 11 children in all, and not one ended up in jail or gangs," said Heredia. "They've all been so good. For all that, I thank the Virgin."
The movie:
The movie, produced by Dos Corazons films and distributed by Slowhand Cinema, was not reviewed by major newspapers even though it was released to 150 theaters nationwide in major markets such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Miami.

Most of the marketing and distribution of the film was aimed at areas with high concentrations of Latinos and channeled through Spanish language radio stations and publications, said Sandra Eckardt of Sentir Marketing, a Newport Beach-based firm that promoted "Guadalupe."

The distributors were relying on word of mouth generated through e-mails and Catholic parishes, she said.

"The core audience are the Spanish-speaking Latinos that are religious," Eckardt said. "The movie has a lot to do with the Mexican culture and beliefs of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It has appeal to first-, second-, third- and fourth-generation Hispanics. It can help later generations tap into their culture and the way they were raised, especially from a religious standpoint."

The content of the movie could make it a big movie here," Carrillo said. "La Virgen is a very traditional symbol that at the same time is very contemporary and links Latinos in the United States to their culture and families in Mexico."

Constructed with documentary style and dramatic elements, the film introduces a modern plot surrounding two Spanish siblings who travel to Mexico for a scientific exploration of the 475-year-old story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It features some well-known Mexican actors including Eric del Castillo, Angelica Aragon and Pedro Armendariz.

The film's website (The trailer has a very DVC feel, btw.)

Molto propito (sp?) out soon...

From Amy:

The publication of the Motu Proprio on the part of the Pope which will liberalise the celebration of the Mass in Latin according to the missal of Saint Pius V is close` Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, member of the Commission Ecclesia Dei which this morning met to discuss the liberalisation of the Mass in Latin confirmed this. ” We have studied the document calmly” the cardinal affirmed. ” We have discussed together for more than four hours and have made some corrections to the text of the Motu Proprio” The next move belongs to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos ( president of the commission) who will present the text to Benedict XVI. Perhaps, added Medina, there will be another meeting of the Ecclesia Dei commission. Another member of the body, the Cardinal of Lyon, Jean Pierre Ricard did not want to make any comment, emphasising that he is “bound by the pontifical secret”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

confessional question

All right, this may be a little personal, but...

I have always disliked confession. I suppose that's normal human nature, to dislike telling a total stranger what we've done wrong and actually having to own to it. Hence the necessity of confession for conversion and all that. But still. I have a disinclination for the sacrament. But, I went last week, since I hadn't been in, oh 16 months.

Now here's a question. Once you've confessed sins, you're forgiven. (well, OK, once you do your penance, technically). But what if you still feel bad about it? No, I haven't done anything bad (well,OK, that bad. Obviously it was bad if it was confessed, right?). Anyone else ever felt this way? What did you do about it?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

the Pearl of Great Price

The “Pearl of Great Price”

November 29, 2006

[Editor's note: This coverage of the pope's visit to Istanbul is made possible by exclusive arrangement with Inside the Vatican Magazine.]

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." --Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Did you ever come to a place and time and sense, suddenly, with an odd certainty, that it was this place, this time, toward which all your travels had been tending? And at that moment, did you ever feel that your arrival was not "fated," "predestined," as if compelled by some iron law (because each step you had taken had been free, completely) and yet at the same time... not entirely your own work? As if your own free choices had "echoed" in their freedom, a mysterious providence, outside of and beyond you, that had been awaiting its revealing through the unfolding of your own free decisions?

Such an experience came to me yesterday, in a small Catholic church in Istanbul, as I awaited Pope Benedict's arrival in the city.

Yesterday, Benedict XVI did arrive in Turkey, and, against many predictions, all went well. In a last-minute change of plans, showing the importance of this visit for the Turkish government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met his plane.

The pope then visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. He wrote a message in a guest book calling Turkey "a meeting point of different religions and cultures and a bridge between Asia and Europe."

He next met Turkey's head of religious affairs, Ali Bardakoglu. By this the pope, who is head of a state and of a world religion, displayed his humble willingness to meet a government minister as an equal.

Delivering his first keynote address, to Turkey's diplomatic corps (all those diplomats from around the world accredited to Turkey) he said, essentially, that leaders of all religions must "utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of faith." He also decried terrorism and "disturbing conflicts across the Middle East" and ended by saying, simply, "I hope my trip will bring many fruits."

Then he retired to rest and sleep.

Today, Benedict will continue on to Ephesus, to see the house believed to have been the last home of the Virgin Mary, and then, in the evening, he will come to Istanbul.

I, waiting in Istanbul yesterday, could not be in Ankara to see Benedict. So I went to a morning press conference given by Bishop Brian Farrell from the Vatican and Metropolitan Demetrios, head of the Greek Catholic Church in the United States. The press conference was held at the Hilton Hotel, which will fill up tonight with the rest of the Vatican press corps.

In the lobby of the Hilton, busy with journalists and cameramen and security personnel walking to and fro, chatting on cell phones and walkie-talkies, I saw someone I hadn't seen for 15 years: François Vayne, editor of a journal called Lourdes which chronicles everything about the site in France of the miracle of St. Bernadette.


"Oui?" he replied, in French. For a moment he didn't recognize me, then, "Ah! Bien sur! Inside the Vatican!"

We shook hands and began to exchange news. He told me he was staying with the Dominican fathers who live by the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. (I did not even know there were any Dominicans in the city. I had been so focused on the Turkey's Orthodox and Muslims that I had forgotten the Catholics.)

"They are experts in Christian-Muslim relations," he said. "They have an important center in Cairo, and one Dominican, who lives in Iran, is Irish. He just arrived yesterday."

"Sounds interesting," I said. "Could I come over to visit and talk to them?"

"I see no reason why not. I'll ask them, and call you."

He gave me the address: Galata Kulesi Sok., #44, the Dominican convent next to the church.

I spent the next hour trying to improve my access to the upcoming events. The events in Istanbul this week will be so crowded that strict limits have been placed on who will be allowed into the various ceremonies. Journalists have been divided up, with small "pools" selected to represent hundreds of journalists who will not be permitted inside one or another of the churches or other venues.

I spend a considerable time talking with members of the American Greek Orthodox group I had seen the day before at Halki. The members are known as "Archons" because they support the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Istanbul; without their support, it might vanish. (The comparable term for Catholics might be "Knights"). They represent the wealthy, committed leadership of the Greek Orthodox community in the US, and have come to Istanbul especially for these historic days. They will have special access to some ceremonies, and I wonder if they might find a way to include me.

But they are having difficulties, too. The Turkish government doesn't like the fact they are using the word "Ecumenical" to describe the Orthodox Patriarchate, and is threatening to void their credentials if they don't remove the word.

If the patriarch is "ecumenical," apparently, he would have some type of "supra-national" identity, and might escape the legal cage the Turkish government has constructed for him: that he must be a Turkish citizen, with a Turkish passport, not a Greek Orthodox from somewhere else, like Greece or America. But the Archons have written proudly on their identity cards "2006 Archon Pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

"Government agents have taken down our banners downstairs," says Xanthi Karloutsos, a dignified middle-aged American Greek Orthodox woman who is staffing the accreditation table for journalists. (Her husband, Father Alexander Karloutsos, a Greek Orthodox priest close to Archbishop Demetrios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, is one of the leaders of the delegation of Greek Americans.) "They started to try to take them down up here and I said to them, ‘Don't you dare. The banners stay.' And they stopped."

But whether the dispute is over isn't clear.

I call François and he tells me the Dominicans will welcome me at their convent. I invite Dan Schmidt, an American Catholic philanthropist from Milwaukee, to come along with me, and in the late afternoon we set out in a taxi.

We reach the top of Galata Kulesi street. There is a huge tower which rises up into the darkening sky. I call François on my cell phone. "Nous sommes arrivés." "D'accord."

We start down the street, looking for #44. We don't see it in the dark, and pass by. I call François again. "I'm already at the tower," he says." "We're down below now," I say. "Come back up and I'll show you the way." (I am astonished at our phones; I am calling him on a number in France, and he is calling me on one in the USA, while all the time we are 100 yards apart on a dark street in Istanbul.)

Mary, Our Guide

We meet. We go in a dark door, down a dark corridor, and meet the Dominicans. There are four, two from Italy, one from France, and one from Ireland. His name is Father Paul Lawlor, about 50 years old, born in Kerry.

All four have devoted their lives to the east, and are experts in Muslim-Christian relations. And all describe a similar stark reality.

"Have you read the book From the Holy Mountain?" Father Lawlor asks. "It's the story of a journey from Mount Athos around the eastern Mediterranean toward Alexandria. Every place the author goes he finds monasteries which once housed 300 monks, convents which once housed 200 nuns, kept alive by a handful of religious, sometimes only one. The Christian presence in the Middle East is dying.

"Have you ever come to an old house where you and members of your family once lived, only to find it abandoned and decaying? That is the situation of the Christian churches in the Middle East. It is the end of a tradition. It is very sad.

"But it is a beautiful book, very well done, very moving. You must read it."

We watch the pope on the monastery television as he addresses the diplomatic corps, speaking of the need for religious faith to protect "the fundamental dignity of man." When the speech ends, we visit the monastery. The Dominicans of Istanbul have a vast library of Christian and Islamic texts.

Finally, we enter the chapel. And it is here that we come before the greatest treasure the church possesses: the famous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary Odighitria (the Guide).

The icon, set high on the wall, is splendid, the face of Mary expressive, tender, serene. The tradition is that St. Luke himself painted this icon, that it was taken to the Crimea, and then returned to this church in the 1300s by the Genovese, who for several hundred years controlled this whole section of Constantinople (the old name for Istanbul).

"But it is not authentic," Father Lawlor says. "It is a medieval copy."

"But how do you know?" I ask. "Did you ever do any sort of scientific study?"

The Dominicans look at one another. "No," Father Lawlor says.

"You could at least carbon date the wood," I say. "That would only take a very tiny fragment, and would give a result within a decade or so." But they do not seem interested.

Nor am I, to tell the truth. For me, the icon goes back to Mary, even if it is not the original. And beneath the gaze of those iconic eyes, time seems to stop, Istanbul in 2006 seems to fade away, and a whisper of eternity seems to echo through the church's empty nave.

Then we have to leave.

"It Was Completely Greek"

"Do you know," Father Lawlor says, "that in this area, 100 years ago, you could walk a mile in every direction and not hear a word of Turkish spoken? It was completely Greek. But now there are only a handful of Greeks left. They are almost gone. And there is a small Jewish community, descended from Spanish Jews who left Spain in 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews. There are five synagogues just in this area. In 2004, one was bombed and completely destroyed.

"Now the area is home to hundreds of Iraqi Christians, who have fled Iraq because of the war. The children are very excited that the pope is coming, but they are lamenting the fact that they will not have an opportunity to pray with him. I was talking to some of them yesterday. They wanted to enter the church with him, but there is no room; they will have to stay outside. They will go to the Church of St. Anthony of Padua up the street, and watch on a big screen."

We walk up the street, along one of the most beautiful and busy streets in Istanbul. There are many shops, clean, well-lit. We come to a sign that says "Sent Antuan Katolik Kilisesi, OFM Conv." (Saint Anthony Catholic Church).

"Hundreds of Muslims come here each day to light candles and pray," Father Lawlor says. "You know, many of them venerate the saints, and the Blessed Virgin. In Iran, where I have worked since the 1970s, there would be a million new Christians overnight, if it were not for the present government. Iran is the pearl of great price. It is so beautiful there, and the people are so wonderful. But if you find the pearl of great price, and decide to buy it, you have to give everything you have, keeping nothing back. You cannot imagine how one suffers there."

Dr. Robert Moynihan is an American and veteran Vatican journalist with knowledge of five languages. He is editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine.

B XVI in Turkey yesterday

November 29, 2006
Small Christian Communities

(Photo from PRF)

John Allen reports:

On a beautiful fall afternoon on a Turkish hillside, Pope Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff of the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, metamorphasized into a simple country pastor, celebrating an outdoor Mass for no more than 300 pilgrims – perhaps half Germans who belong to the nearby German-language parish of St. Nicholas.

It was the smallest crowd in recent memory for a papal Mass, though the turnout was mostly due to the remote location and the tiny size of Turkey’s Christian community. The event had an intimate feel, with the assembly physically closer to the pope than is often the case. The bank of concelebrating priests, bishops and cardinals almost seemed equal to the size of the congregation.

In a fitting pastoral touch, Benedict XVI spoke the opening collect of the Mass in Turkish, drawing appreciative nods from the assembly.

Predictably, the pope’s message centered on Mary. The Sanctuary of Meryem Ana Evì (the “House of Mary”) was founded by the Lazarist Fathers in the 19th century, based on the visions of the German mystic Anna Katherine Emmerick, who identified this spot as the place where Mary died.

Though even the official Vatican Radio trip book notes that there’s no archaeological evidence to support the claim, the sanctuary nevertheless boasts a unique distinction, in that it’s perhaps the only Marian shrine on earth which draws as many Muslim pilgrims as Christians. Inside are votive reliefs with quotations from seven passages of the Qu’ran praising Mary.

The Pope's homily:

In today’s liturgy we have repeated, as the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm, the song of praise proclaimed by the Virgin of Nazareth on meeting her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39). Our hearts too were consoled by the words of the Psalmist: “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss” (Ps 85:10). Dear brothers and sisters, in this visit I have wanted to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal Church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges and difficulties daily. With firm trust let us sing, together with Mary, a magnificat of praise and thanksgiving to God who has looked with favour upon the lowliness of his servant (cf. Lk 1:48). Let us sing joyfully, even when we are tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Roman priest Don Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration. Mary teaches us that the source of our joy and our one sure support is Christ, and she repeats his words: “Do not be afraid” (Mk 6:50), “I am with you” (Mt 28:20). Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany us always on our way! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! Aziz Meryem Mesih’in Annesi bizim için Dua et. Amen.

Nothing new under the sun...

China to Install Bishop Without Papal Approval

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2006; Page A19

BEIJING, Nov. 28 -- China's state-sanctioned Catholic church said Tuesday that it plans to ordain another bishop without approval from the pope, despite renewed diplomatic efforts to end long-standing hostility between China and the Vatican.

The ascension of Wang Renlei, vicar general of Xuzhou diocese in southern China, will mark the third time in seven months that a bishop has been installed by the government's Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association without Vatican approval. According to the association, he will be consecrated Thursday in a ceremony presided over by several bishops loyal to the government-sanctioned church.

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Liu Bainian, the association's deputy chairman, said that the imminent retirement of Xuzhou's present bishop, Qian Yurong, 94, made choosing a replacement urgent and that there was no time to go through the procedure for Vatican approval. "I believe Rome will understand what we did," he said in a telephone interview.

But Wang's ordination appeared likely to complicate already difficult efforts underway by Vatican and Chinese diplomats to restart a dialogue designed to restore relations after a long history of enmity that began almost as soon as the Communist Party took power in 1949.

The dialogue appeared to be heading for success earlier this year after the Vatican let it be known it was willing to break relations with Taiwan as part of an overall agreement on church-state relations with China. That was seen as a major concession by Pope Benedict XVI, leading to predictions that relations would be restored soon.

Discord remained on the nomination of bishops for the approximately 10 million Catholics in China, about a third of whom recognize the association's authority. But church authorities and academics close to the Chinese government said the remaining problems could be overcome with relative ease as soon as a political decision was made by the Chinese government.

The optimism flowed from a growing practice under which the state-sanctioned association was generally naming bishops already quietly vetted by the Vatican, according to Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, the senior Roman Catholic cleric in China. In addition, Chinese authorities have displayed increasing flexibility as Catholic worshipers and their priests have frequently moved among sanctioned and unsanctioned churches.

But last spring's ordinations of the two other bishops -- Joseph Ma Yinglin in Yunnan province and Liu Xinhong in Anhui province -- disrupted the trend toward accommodation. The Vatican condemned the ordinations as illicit and in a statement qualified them as "a grave wound to the unity of the church" that caused "profound displeasure" to Pope Benedict.

The diplomatic contacts stalled and hopes for a swift resumption of relations were dashed. More recently, however, diplomats had renewed their meetings in a fresh attempt at dialogue -- an attempt that appeared to be threatened anew with Wang's ordination.

The Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman in Rome, said the Holy See would have no comment until the ordination took place. But the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, director of AsiaNews, a service reporting on Middle Eastern and Asian affairs from the Vatican's point of view, said the Holy See was surprised and saddened by news of the upcoming ordination.

He said a Vatican delegation that visited Beijing in June came away with the impression that President Hu Jintao's government was eager to put the negotiations back on track. But the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, he suggested, appeared intent on building up a "hard core" of bishops loyal to the association instead of to the pope.

Special correspondent Sarah Delaney in Rome contributed to this report.

I'm a Mud Pie!!

You Are Mud Pie

You're the perfect combo of flavor and depth

Those who like you give into their impulses

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Tis the season to...not celebrate the season!

From Chicago via Rod:

News of the Christophobic
On the Right-wing Film Geek blog, Victor spies a particularly obnoxious form of seasonal Christophobia:

CHICAGO (AP) — A public Christmas festival is no place for the Christmas story, the city says.
Officials have asked organizers of a downtown Christmas festival, the German Christkindlmarket, to reconsider using a movie studio as a sponsor because it is worried ads for its film "The Nativity Story" might offend non-Christians.
New Line Cinema, which said it was dropped, had planned to play a loop of the new film on televisions at the event.
An executive vice president with New Line Cinema, Christina Kounelias ... said she finds it hard to believe that non-Christians who attended something called Christkindlmarket would be surprised or offended by the presence of posters, brochures and other advertisements of the movie.
"One would assume that if (people) were to go to Christkindlmarket, they'd know it is about Christmas," she said.

Victor points out that this is a classic example of free speech -- a benign form of it, one might add -- being chilled. And why? What sort of thin-skinned cretins are so sensitive that they're offended at being reminded of, you know, Christ at a German Christmas market, for crying out loud?! Here's a suggestion to the Christophobic and their spineless enablers in government bureaucracies: if you're offended by the idea of Christ, don't go to the Christkindlmarkt. For those of us, Christian and non-Christian, who actually enjoy the season, leave us alone. Victor adds, accurately:

Christianity = "controversial"; other religions = "celebrate our diversity."

From First Things : "I am not a saint"

Wesley J. Smith writes:

Like Fr. Neuhaus, I too was taken with the article “I’m Not a Saint, Just a Parent” by Simon Barnes in the Times of London. It recalled to my mind a speech I gave several years ago to a medical school in which I urged the students to always look at their patients through the lens of universal moral equality.

After the speech, an earnest young man approached me. “I am a genetic counselor,” he said. “What am I supposed to do when I meet with a woman carrying a baby with Down syndrome? I mean, I have to counsel her.” I suggested that perhaps he could bring in parents who have actually lived the experience of parenting a child with Down to keep the “counseling” from becoming a one-way street.

Barnes’ loving tribute to parenting a Down child is precisely the kind of input that I had hoped the earnest young genetic counselor could provide to his clients. Five-year-old Eddie has Down syndrome, and Barnes reports that he “is not to be pitied” for having to father a disabled child “but to be envied.”

Here are three key paragraphs from Barnes piece:

By the way, I hope you are not too squeamish. This piece is not going to pull any punches. If you find the idea of love uncomfortable or sentimental or best-not-talked-about or existing only in the midst of a passionate love affair, then you will find problems with what I am writing. I am writing of love not as a matter of grand passions, or as high-falutin’ idealism, or as religion. I am writing about love as the stuff that makes the processes of human life happen: the love that moves the sun and other stars, which is also the love that makes the toast and other snacks. Love is the most humdrum thing in life, the only thing that matters, the thing that is forever beyond the reach of human imagination. . . .

What is it like to have Down’s [sic] syndrome? How terrible is it? Is it terrible at all? It depends, I suppose, on how well loved you are. Like most other conditions of life. Would I want Eddie changed? It’s a silly question but it gets to the heart of the matter. Of course you’d want certain physical things changed: the narrow tubes that lead to breathing problems, for example. But that’s not the same as “changed,” is it? If you are a parent, would you like the essential nature of your child changed? If you were told that pressing a button would turn him into an infant Mozart or Einstein or van Gogh, would you press it? Or would you refuse because you love the person who is there and real, not some hypothetical other?

I can’t say I’m glad that Eddie has Down’s syndrome, or that I would wish him to suffer in order to charm me and fill me with giggles. But no, I don’t want his essential nature changed. Good God, what a thought. It would be as much a denial of myself as a denial of my son. What’s the good of him, then? Buggered if I know. The never-disputed terribleness of Down’s syndrome is used as one of the great justifications for abortion: abortion has to exist so that we don’t people the world with monsters. I am not here to talk about abortion—but I am here to tell you that Down’s syndrome is not an insupportable horror for either the sufferer or the parents. I’ll go further: human beings are not better off without Down’s syndrome.

By contrast, let us now consider Peter Singer’s harshly sterile views about the options parents should have if faced with a Down baby. One acceptable answer, Singer asserts in Rethinking Life and Death, is establishing the right of parents to have their unwanted Down child killed if they would prefer not to raise a disabled child:

To have a child with Down syndrome is to have a different experience from having a normal child. It can still be a warm and loving experience, but we must have lowered expectations of our child’s abilities. We cannot expect a child with Down syndrome to play the guitar, to develop an appreciation of science fiction, to learn a foreign language, to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen movie, or to be a respectable athlete, basketballer or tennis player. Even when an adult, a person with Down syndrome may not be able to live independently. . . . For some parents, none of this matters. They find bringing up a child with Down syndrome a rewarding experience in a thousand different ways. But for other parents, it is devastating.

Both for the sake of “our children,” then, and our own sake, we may not want a child to start on life’s uncertain voyage if the prospects are clouded. When this can be known at a very early stage of the voyage we may still have a chance to make a fresh start. This means detaching ourselves from the infant who has been born, cutting ourselves free before the ties that have already begun to bind us to our child have become irresistible. Instead of going forward and putting all our efforts into making the best of the situation, we can still say no, and start again from the beginning.

What a stark difference between the attitudes of these two men toward the weakest and most vulnerable among us, a difference that can be described literally as the distinction between loving and killing. And indeed, for those familiar with Singer’s writing, it is striking how often he writes of satisfying personal desires and how rarely he writes of sacrifice and love. Which, when you think about it, provides vivid clarity about the stakes we face in the ongoing contest for societal dominance between the sanctity/equality of life ethic and Singer’s proposed “quality of life” ethic: The former opens the door to the potential for unconditional love, while the latter presumes the power to coolly dismiss some of us from life based on defective workmanship. The choice we make about these contrasting paths will determine whether we remain a moral society committed to the pursuit of universal human rights.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He is currently researching a book on the animal-liberation movement.

BXVI in Turkey

Tips from Amy:

The trip
Keep your eye on American Papist and Papa Ratzinger Forum

So far, the Pope has met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (in which he voiced his support for Turkey's entrance into the EU) at the airport, visited the tomb of Ataturk, and met with the Turkish president. Other meetings with government officials to follow. He will address the President of Religious Affairs and the Diplomatic Corps.

Allen reports:

In a brief visit to the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, Benedict XVI laid a wreath and wrote a brief message in the "Golden Book" maintained at the site. The pope wrote: "In this land, a meeting point among different cultures and religions and a bridge between Europe and Asia, I willingly make my own the words of the founder of the Turkish Republic, expressing the wish for 'peace in this country and peace in he world.'"

And the hits just keep on coming...

Memo to Bishop Schori: Open mouth, insert foot :)

From the Get Religion blog:

Presiding bishop wronged by shallow newspaper
Posted by tmatt

Thanks to the energy of GetReligion reader Greg Popcak, we now know that the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church does not share my enthusiasm for the contents of that strange little New York Times Magazine mini-interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

According to a letter from Robert B. Goodfellow, the new presiding bishop’s media aide, the brilliant primate, scientist and airplane pilot was quoted out of context by reporter Deborah Solomon and, if the remarks were read in context, all of those Roman Catholic and Mormon breeders out there in the blogosphere would not be as upset as they are at the moment (click here for background and URLs).

Here is the key part of that letter:

I am writing to thank you very much for the candid expression of your concern regarding the Presiding Bishop’s recent interview published in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

The reality is that media interviews do not always convey the whole nature of a conversation had between interviewee and interviewer. A few paragraphs of text cannot distill with complete accuracy a lengthy conversation.

I can also assure you that the Presiding Bishop does not think other Christians uneducated, ignorant, illiterate, or somehow or otherwise not smart simply because they are not Episcopalian.

Note the presence of the words “simply because” in that latter statement. Classic!

Now, I have — back in the days before I was a columnist — been involved in a few of these exchanges with the media aides of brilliant, nuanced, complicated mainline Protestant intellectuals.

Note that Goodfellow does not claim Jefferts Schori was misquoted. The controversial quote stands. In other words, the new leader of the Episcopal Church did, while discussing membership losses in her church, truly say:

Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children. . . . We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

Jefferts Schori’s office simply wants the world to know that she said many other things and that, as a reporter, Solomon did a poor job of selecting material from the longer interview when she was assembling this edgy little Q&A. I am told by people who spend more time than I do in The New York Times Magazine that this interview with the archbishop is a perfect example of Solomon’s style, which strives to humanize public figures by asking questions that are more personal and casual.

But here is my final observation. Many elite thinkers on the theological left have learned how to surround their beliefs in a kind of nuanced theological fog that serves as a protective barrier. Insiders know what the symbolic word clusters mean, but this strategy prevents many people in the pews — the kind of ordinary people who write checks — from understanding what is going on. There are exceptions, of course, such as the retired Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong of Newark, who never used a fly swatter when a baseball bat would do.

The problem for reporters is that when you select one crisp quote out of the fog this allows the offended intellectual to say, in effect, that the reporter simply wasn’t smart enough to understand the rich tapestry of the total interview and, thus, misquoted the speaker, even though the quote was accurate. It’s a sad thing, don’t you see, when leaders have to communicate high thoughts through such a low medium — like The New York Times.

Our sympathies go out to the poor reporter, who will surely learn from her error.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Jefferts Schori continues — Spong style — to fire away as freely in interviews with news organizations that she trusts.

A Crunchy Thanksgiving

A farm-life story fromt he Dispatch . Go Crunchiness!!!

Thankful for farm life
Rural move gave family new direction — and most of their Thanksgiving dinner
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Matt Tullis

Kim Wilhelm checks out Henrietta, a female turkey she is keeping to breed. The Wilhelms call all the female turkeys Henrietta and all the males Tom.

Acey the cat hitches a ride on 14-year-old Missy Wilhelm’s shoulders as Missy’s mom, Kim, prepares to feed some of the family’s animals at their farm outside Canal Winchester. Missy’s brother, David, 10, is a bystander.

he Toms and Henriettas ran
Taround the grassy yard, gobbled up food and ran from a dog named Henry. It was little more than a week before Thanksgiving, and the end was near. Come Thursday, one of them will be the guest of honor on the Wilhelm family dinner table, and another will be in a freezer awaiting Christmas. The other 21 have been sold and will be on other dinner tables throughout this holiday season. "The taste and texture are by far the best," said Kim Wilhelm, who along with her children has cared for the birds the past six months on the family’s 28-acre farm outside Canal Winchester.

Because they raise almost everything they need, the family’s Thanksgiving dinner grocery list is a short one: dinner rolls and cranberry sauce.

The Wilhelms are living their dream of a self-sustainable lifestyle. But they wouldn’t be if not for a rough patch five years ago.

Roger and Kim Wilhelm’s painting business went bankrupt after three major customers failed to pay for jobs.

The couple paid for things with credit cards and took out a second mortgage to get through the lean times, but new business never emerged. They lost their Westerville house and a new pickup.

They moved to Kim’s father’s farm, which had fallen into disrepair since her mother died.

Roger already had rebuilt an old pig barn on the farm, with plans to use it as an office for his painting business. Instead, he has turned it into an apartment, where the family lives, and a woodshop from which he operates a home-remodeling business.

Kim reconnected with the rural lifestyle she loved as a young girl, when she spent summers at her great-grandmother’s farm near Marietta. She has passed that love on to her children, Missy, 14, and David, 10.

Now the farm has a new life. There are turkeys, steers, horses, goats, ducks and chickens. There is a vegetable garden that, among other things, yielded 63 pounds of green beans this past summer.

"Since we’ve been here, it’s drawn our family closer," Kim Wilhelm said.

Missy and David treat the animals like pets, up until the end. The family doesn’t think twice about eating the animals they raise. The children are home-schooled and handle a lot of the daily chores. They also do several 4-H projects each year.

Missy, who was bottle-feeding a calf one morning last week, said she "loves on" some of the animals. David said he likes the young bull named Meatloaf, a moniker that no doubt foreshadows its future.

"When an animal is meant to be food, we’re going to eat it," Kim Wilhelm said. "At least we know they’ve been raised in a healthy environment, and they were happy and well cared for."

The 23 turkeys, ranging from bourbon reds to royal palms and blue slates, have been on the farm since they arrived as dayold chicks. The males all go by Tom, the females Henrietta, Missy said.

"There are just too many to name," she said.

Of all the animals, the turkeys are probably the easiest to care for, Missy said. "We just let them eat and get fat."

Less than a week before the holiday, the birds were trucked off to an Amish farm where they were "processed."

The family loves the lifestyle, Kim Wilhelm said, but they worry about the constant pressure in the neighborhood to develop. They fear that open land across the road one day will grow houses instead of corn.

It’s a challenge making a small farm financially successful, but the family is committed. Kim Wilhelm likes what a self-sustaining lifestyle can teach her children. David, for instance, can learn valuable lessons as he nurses a duckling back to health in his bedroom.

He named it Lucky Duck because its six siblings were killed by an "evil rat."

Luck can carry a duck only so far, though, especially at the Wilhelm home. Lucky Duck is a Muscovy duck and has a very tasty, steaklike meat.

When he is well enough, Lucky Duck will go back outside. And when he is big enough, Kim Wilhelm said, even Lucky Duck will be plucked.

Eschatological realism

From Catholic Exchange....deep stuff!

Eschatological Realism


Jesus said to the chief of the Pharisees who had invited him to dinner: “Whenever you give a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or wealthy neighbors. They might invite you in return and thus repay you. No, when you have a reception, invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind. You should be pleased that they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” — Luke 14:12-14.

“Eschatology” is the study of the “last things” — death, judgment, heaven and hell. The Church speaks of these matters in order to train us to think of them as real. The more we do that, the more strength we find to shape our lives today in such a way that death and judgment will bring us to the joys of heaven. I call it “eschatological realism,” that is, the habit of taking into account today the “last things” in a way that’s just as real and influential on us as today’s weather.

Jesus advocated “eschatological realism” in the passage quoted above. He said that a consideration of what we would receive on the day of the resurrection should influence whom we invite to our next dinner party. And what he said also applies to our pro-life work. After all, the principle is the same. Just as we should be happy that the beggars whom we welcome to dinner cannot repay us, so we should be happy that the unborn children, for whom we speak and work and fight, also cannot repay us. “You should be pleased that they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” The unborn are even less able to repay us than the beggars and the crippled and the lame and the blind. At least these people know that we are loving them, and can say “Thank you” and can pray for us. But the unborn cannot do any of those things. Indeed, love for the unborn is the most selfless form of love. Nothing comes from them in return.

Congressman Henry Hyde, one of the greatest pro-life advocates ever to serve in Congress, expressed this eschatological realism in relation to pro-life work when he uttered these famous words:

“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!’”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Even at the OSU/UM game...

There is a Catholic angle. One of AMy's readers writes:

A reader writes:

This falls way down low on the scale of importance, but as an Ohio State fan, I wanted to pass this along.

Buckeye Coach Jim Tressel is Catholic. When I was living in Youngstown and he was still a coach at Youngstown State , I used to see him at mass downtown at St. Columba Cathedral on Holy Days.

At the end of the game last night, the reporter put the microphone in his face and asked him about the win. I couldn’t hear what he was saying over the screaming fans (on the TV and in my house), but one word did get through: Humility. He was talking about humility after one of the biggest wins of his career.

Like I said, this is all unimportant, but he is a highly visible, well-liked individual who is Catholic. I wish someone would ask him about how his faith influences his coaching. I was a reporter in my youth, and I think a bio piece that focused on his faith would make a great story...

The pope and Music

As a musician, I just had to post this (h/t: Amy)

Last night, Pope Benedict attended a concert given by the Berlin Philharmonia Quartet, "hosted" by Federal President Horst Koehler of Germany. He said, in part (translated by Teresa Benedetta at PRF):

When soloists make music together, each individual is required not only to give all his technical and musical capabilities in playing his part, but at the same time, to remain attentive in listening to the others. Only when each player does not seek to stand out but rather seeks to perform in the service of togetherness and makes himself an 'instrument' through which the composer's thought becomes sound and can reach the listener's heart, only then can a great interpretation occur - as we have just heard.

That is a beautiful image even for us, who work in the Church, to be 'instruments' or 'tools' to transmit to our fellowmen the thoughts of the great Composer whose work is the the harmony of the universe.


The compositions we just heard have helped us to meditate on the complexity of life and its little daily happenings. Every day is a weave of joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, expectations and surprises, that alternate eventfully and raise within us the fundamental questions of 'where from", "where to" and the real sense of our existence.

Music, which expresses all these perceptions of the spirit, offers the listener, within an hour like we have just spent, the possibility of scrutinizing, as in a mirror, the events of our personal life as well as universal history.

But it offers us more: through its sounds, it carries us to another world and harmonizes our intimate being. Finding thus a moment of peace, we become able to see, as from a high vantage point, the mysterious realities that man seeks to decipher and which the light of faith helps us to better understand.

In effect, we can imagine the history of the world as a marvelous symphony that God has composed and whose excution He Himself leads as a wise orchestra conductor. Even if to us, the score may often seem complex and difficult, He knows it from the first to the last note.

We are not called on to take the baton into our hands, much less to change the music according to our taste. But we are called, each in his place and according to his capacity, to collaborate with the great Master in executing his stuoendous masterpiece. And in the course of its execution, we would also be given gradually to understand the great design of the Divine score.

And so, dear friends, we see how music can lead us to prayer: it invites us to lift our minds towards God to find in Him the reason for our hope as well as support in the difficulties of life.

Faithful to His commandments, and respecting His salvific plan, we can construct together a world which will resound with the consoling melody of a transcendent symphony of love.

The same divine Spirit will make us all into well-harmonized instruments and responsible collaborators in the admirable performance through which the plan for universal salvation is expressed through the centirues.

Wow! Nice to know you, too!

From Rod:
Lovely, kind words from Bishop Schori of ECUSA, re: CAtholics and kids.

Comprehensive -- that's today's euphemism for "as eager as possible to drive this sucker off the cliff with the windows down and horn blaring." Here is is used by Presiding Bishop Kathleen Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, in an Q&A interview with the NYT Magazine:

Your critics see you as an unrepentant liberal who supports the ordination of gay bishops. Are you trying to bolster the religious left?

No. We’re not about being either left or right. We’re about being comprehensive.

Woo! Madame is even more enjoyable here:

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?L

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

Translation: We Episcopalians are too smart and care too much about the planet to have all those kids, unlike those troglodytic Catholics and Mormons.

They may be dying on the vine, but at least they'll go out thinking well of themselves. Since there's apparently no hope of stopping the ongoing suicide of the Episcopal Church, I think I'll probably have to stop worrying about it on behalf of the good and long-suffering Episcopalian friends I have, and learn to enjoy this kind of thing. You really can't make comic characters like Bishop Schori up.

Gee, how's aobut "well, we don't have a comprehensive doctrine, we really don't beleive what the Bible teaches, and we've long since given up on having any actual positions on anything...that's why there's only 2.2 million of us left."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

MOre than "natish, brutish and short"

All of this talk about preemie babies and "deformed" (or whatever PC term you'd like to use) kids, and their status, has given way to some deep thinking on my part.

Given my own circumstances, it is hard for me not to be moved to anger/frustration/resentment when I read these articles. So many of them are just poring with condescension and "we know better than you" attitudes. The phrase "Nazi-like" or "Hitler-like" (or their derivitatives) are so often overused today, but in these cases, they ring true. This is precisely what occured during WWII. It is precisely what people said would never occur again, that we have to respect human life and not devalue it to such a base and worthless thing. And yet we do, step by step. And we do it by sugar-coating it in terms like "the dignity of life," "dying with dignity", or that we're "saving" or "preventing" these children from suffering tremendous pain, or from being disabled. We read nice stories in Oprah's magazine about how old, dying women in Oregon get their deadly drugs perscriped by a doctor, filled at the pharmacy, and then just wait for the 'opportune' day to die, because they just can't live like this anymore. In Holland they commit infanticide regularly. Euthanasia on demand is a fact of life. Britain seems to be heading that way now. And in Oregon you can do it. Dr. Kevorkian did it for years before he was sent to jail. What used to be relegated to the Hemlock Society and the fringes of ethical debate is now something that mainstream medical journals (such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the British OB/GYNs talk about quite calmly and rationally. And there isn't any huge backlash. No editorials in the papers denouncing it. No shocked anchors on the news.

Is it because we, as a society, as a people, have become so unused to suffering, to struggle, to really feeling pain, that we can't abide thinking about it at all? Is it because since we know we have the technology to "take care" of these problems we can- and should- use it? I think it's just one more sign of the pervasity of the Culture of Death we are surrounded in. It is almost Darwinian. If you're too slow, too old, too sick, then we don't want you. You serve no purpose for us. But where does that leave us?

I know that suffering is not a picnic. It's not something anyone would wish to undergo. I don't wake up in the morning going, "Yay! How can I suffer today?" It just doesn't happen. But I have never, ever wished I was dead. Or that my parents had killed me when I was born, instead of giving me the rich, full, incredible life I've had. My parents say the same thing (we've discussed this). Have things be hard? Heck, ya! My parents and my siblings and I have done things, learned things, seen things and endured things that most people never will. And yet we are stronger for it. Life is a wonderful gift we cherish.

Think about your life for a minute. Think about the every day existence of it, the great things we take for granted. The first snowfall. Rain int he spring. Flowers blooming. A sunrise. A sunset. Playing with little kids. A baby's smile. Your first kiss. Eating chocolate. :) We are saying that some people are not worth having these experiences. That their lives are too disabled. They won't "Get it." How arrogant is that? Sure, maybe they won't experience it like you. But you know,they probably experience many, many more things on a more profound level than you do. Because they know than any day it could go to Hell. (heck, any hour it could go to Hell) Helen Keller once said something to the effect that the view from the mountain top isn't as rewarding if you haven't gone through any valleys. And she's right.

One of the things that can be gleaned about the value of suffering to the human experience can be seen in literature. In The Little Mermaid , the mermaid wants love so much that she gives up her family, and eventually dies, to become human. She suffers greatly as one, and knows she may, but still becomes human anyway. If you've seen the film The Last Unicorn , you know that the magician turns the unicorn into a woman to save her life and allow her to save her fellow unicorns from the ocean trap they've been placed in. At the end of the movie, she says that she's the only unicorn in the world who has known regret and love. She doesn't regret what happened...she regrets missing her true love, Prince Lear. There are other examples, I'm sure, but this is what I've got right now. (I guess Pinnochio could be an example, too) The human experience is full of love, joy, pain, suffering. The ying and yang of life. Yet we are willing to deny that to some of these. We are killing them, not even giving them a voice, or a chance to experience what we take for granted every day.

When we die, I wonder what these children will say to us? I cannot imagine God is pleased. He has given us this great gift and we treat it so callously, throw it all away. He gives us chances to grow, to become closer to Him. And we deny them. What does that say about our character?

"God loves those to whom he can give more, those who expect more from Him, those who are open, those who sense their need and rely on Him for everything." --Mother Teresa

new podcast!!

Got this in my email box today and checked it out....looks good!!! LIsa sent it to me:

I was hoping you may be interested in a new Podcast we are doing as part of our apostolate for the Third Order of Carmel (Secular Order). It is called Meditations from Carmel and features short meditations directly from authentic translations of the saints of Carmel like Sts. Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of the Andes.

If you could stop on by for a listen that would be GREAT! If you might let your readership know about us that would be even GREATER! We are trying very hard to get the word out, but it is slow going.

Please take a moment and visit us at:

Meditations from Carmel


How this man is ethicist...

is beyond me. ...

OK, I've read Arthur Kaplan for a few years now and he always, always ALWAYS manages to "get my dander up." Always. And his writing on the brouhaha in England is another piece of work:

American law was intended to protect the rights of the disabled. For many years children born with Down syndrome or spina bifida were not given aggressive treatment if their parents did not want it or if doctors deemed it inappropriate. But in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration and the famous Surgeon General C. Everett Koop protested these practices, resulting in the passing of a law that stopped discrimination of the disabled in the neonatal nursery.

But the federal law went too far. In its effort to ensure that children were not allowed to die simply because they had a disability, Congress wrote a law that was overly restrictive.

A 22-week-old premature baby is not in the same medical circumstances as a child born with Down syndrome who simply requires a surgical repair of his digestive tract to survive.

Extremely premature infants are the nightmare of every neonatal hospital and obstetrician. Medicine does not know how to save them and when it tries, if often produces a child whose life is very short and whose suffering is beyond description.

Oh, my goodness. Suffering beyond description. Life is very short. So let's just kill them! Yes, that's the answer!

We are so afraid of suffering, as a people. it really makes me kind of sick. Everyone suffers. Everyone has pain. There is no way to escape it. So let's just kill them before they can experience it? Eh??? Where do you draw the line? Who are we to decide these things?

There is a limit to what medicine can do. Tiny preemies should not be forced to endure care that does not work and that only prolongs dying, and most major religious traditions understand that. Existing American law is too restrictive — we wind up giving treatment when common sense and basic respect for human dignity say we ought not.

The new British report has the courage to take on this problem. It may go too far in the other direction of prohibiting care. The right answer lies somewhere in between

"Giving treatment when common sense and basic respect for human dignity say we ought not?" Look, I'm not going to listen to this guy lecture me about human dignity. His track record doesn't give him that much credit. This is the same guy that didn't want to give Terri Schiavo food and water. So y'know.

So the Brits have "courage," huh? Yup, courage to encourage infanticide. What in the world are we talking about? Can anyone else not read this and go, "we're crazy. Absolutely nutty." Because I sure can't.

Respectable baby killing

Respectable Baby Killing
Support builds for legalizing euthanasia for ill and disabled newborns.

By Wesley J. Smith

The push to permit infanticide has entered the mainstream. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (RCOG) has recommended that a debate be had about whether to permit “deliberate interventions to kill infants.” The recommendation, which was widely reported in the media, was in response to a query from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics concerning ethical issues pertaining to health care which prolongs the life of newborns. It was at the urging of the RCOG that euthanasia of infants was added to the topics that the council would consider. As reported by the London Times, the RCOG’s recommendation states:

A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late term abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.

The article goes on to quote a number of British doctors and professors who support euthanasia.

Consider carefully what has happened here. A prestigious medical association has seriously suggested that killing some babies because they are seriously ill or disabled might be ethically acceptable and, at the very least, is worthy of considered and respectable debate. It is about time that people start paying attention to this. Those who think that legal infanticide is unthinkable and preposterous are being naïve. Infanticide advocacy is no longer limited to rogue bioethicists, such as Princeton University’s notorious Peter Singer, who has famously argued that parents be given as much as a year to decide whether to keep or kill their babies.

In fact, it has been some time since Singer was the dominant voice of infanticide advocacy. In recent years, articles aimed at normalizing the killing of disabled babies have appeared in some of the world’s most established medical publications. For example, the March 10, 2005, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Dutch physicians who have admitted to having euthanized 15-20 disabled infants. The NEJM provided them with a respectable forum in which to propose formal regulations to govern what amounts to eugenic infanticide. The so-called “Groningen Protocol” (named after the Dutch hospital where the infanticides took place) posits three categories of killable infants: babies “with no chance of survival”; infants with a “poor prognosis and [who] are dependent on intensive care”; and “infants with a hopeless prognosis,” including those “not depending on intensive medical treatment but for whom a very poor quality of life…is predicted.”

Such journal articles were reported on approvingly in the mainstream media. For example, the July 10, 2005, New York Times Magazine published a column by frequent contributor Jim Holt proposing the merits of the Groningen Protocol. Holt suggested that the decision to kill ill or disabled babies should be governed by “a new moral duty,” namely, “the duty prevent suffering, especially futile suffering.”

The debate over infant euthanasia is usually framed as a collision between two values: sanctity of life and quality of life. Judgments about the latter, of course, are notoriously subjective and can lead you down a slippery slope. But shifting the emphasis to suffering changes the terms of the debate. To keep alive an infant whose short life expectancy will be dominated by pain — pain that it can neither bear nor comprehend — is, it might be argued, to do that infant a continuous injury.

At first blush, this might seem reasonable, but Holt’s game of semantics does not provide him with traction on the slippery slope. The concept of suffering is not limited to pain, but must also take account of “quality of life,” as more liberal advocates of infanticide would surely point out. More insidiously, Holt’s advocacy could lead to a perceived duty to kill disabled babies since he argues that not killing a disabled baby could be to inflict injury upon the child.

Such arguments are really a veneer for the real issues, which are money and commitment. Disabled infants are expensive to care for, particularly if they don’t die young, and they require all sorts of attention. The nub of the issue isn’t about our supposed inability to alleviate the suffering of infants — a false supposition— but rather, about our not wanting to spend the financial and emotional resources it would take to do so. This position is clearly central to the RCOG’s statement — and was explicitly ratified in a November 9, 2006, editorial in The Economist calling the RCOG’s call to debate infanticide “brave” and urging that infanticide be seriously considered because “Disabled children are nine times more likely than others to end up in the care of the state.”

Infanticide, alas, has become a respectable notion, at least among some elite opinion makers. History shows that this is how baby killing begins — by convincing ourselves that there is such a thing as a human life not worth living, and hence, not worth protecting. By calling for a serious debate about infanticide, the RCOG has badly subverted the foundational moral principle that each and every human being has equal moral value simply and merely because he or she is human.

— Wesley J. Smith, a frequent contributor to NRO, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His website is

Rod on the bishops and "Courage"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Does it matter, anyway?
It occurred to me this morning, listening to an NPR report on the Catholic bishops' statement about homosexuality, that activists and interested observers on both sides are probably too worked up over this policy statement. Love it or hate it, does anybody believe it will actually change anything at the local level? It's not like the Catholic Church has been silent on its position on homosexuality. I believe that dioceses and parishes will do exactly as they have been doing, for better or for worse. One thing that struck me as someone coming to Catholicism from the outside years ago was how there is much less to the dogmatic and hierarchical nature of Catholicism than it appears. I thought that priests and bishops, at least, took marching orders from the Pope and from the Magisterium. Ideally, yes, but that's not how it works out in practice. For me, it was a real shock to discover, when I was living in the Archdiocese of Miami and preparing for marriage, that you couldn't find a single parish that taught Natural Family Planning. I found a Couple-to-Couple League teaching couple, who told me that they had been formally turned away by parish after parish, with the message that Catholic couples preparing for marriage didn't need to hear what they had to say.

The point being that the Pope's teaching, the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church, and even the official positions adopted by the bishops, can and do get undermined at the diocesan and parish level, by the diocesan bureaucracies.

What do you think? Do you think the bishops' teaching on homosexuality will filter down to the diocese and parish level? That is, will it make a bit of difference?