Monday, October 30, 2006

In South Dakota

From Amy...
South Dakota
A little more than a week away - the word from South Dakota is that the abortion ban is losing in the polls by a few percentage points, Planned Parenthood is pouring money into the state - the main group coordinating support of the ban would appreciate your help, if you can - they have a donor with a matching offer on board.

At the site you can, of course, watch some of their very powerful ads - but they can't run them if they can't buy the time.

Whatdaya know? A thoughtful response to B XVI

from Muslim scholars.

H./t: NRO

The Roberts court and partial-birth abortion

First case coming...

‘Partial-birth' cases test abortion rights' limits
Central question facing justices: Is procedure medically necessary?
By Joan Biskupic

NEW YORK — It was just after Mother's Day in May 2003 when Ilene Jaroslaw, about four months pregnant, learned that the fetus she was carrying had a fatal spinal cord and brain defect.

Jaroslaw, then a mother of two, says she was devastated but decided immediately to have an abortion. Because she wanted to have another child — and because she had had two previous cesarean-section deliveries and an unrelated surgery on her uterus — she agreed with her doctor's recommendation to undergo a procedure that would do as little damage as possible to the uterus.

“There was absolutely no hope at all,” says Jaroslaw, a 43-year-old lawyer in New York City who talked with USA TODAY about her experience. “This baby was not going to survive long.”

For Jaroslaw, having what Congress and critics of the procedure call a “partial-birth” abortion was an intensely personal health decision that led to a happier ending: In 2004, she got pregnant again and delivered a healthy baby girl.

The episode also made Jaroslaw a symbol of the ongoing debate over whether Congress' effort to ban “partial-birth” abortion violates a woman's right to end a pregnancy — a question that goes before the Supreme Court on Nov. 8. Under a federal law passed by Congress in October 2003 and tied up in the courts ever since, Jaroslaw could not legally have undergone the procedure because her life was not in danger.

Jaroslaw's reasons for having the procedure — to preserve her ability to have more children by avoiding the hemorrhaging and perforation of the uterus that can occur with other abortion methods — would not have cleared the legal hurdle set by Congress.

That's partly why the pair of cases that come before the Supreme Court next week are widely viewed as a major test of efforts to restrict abortion. The issue is not the fundamental question of whether abortion should be legal, first established by the court's ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Instead, the cases test the Republican-led Congress' power to limit the reach of that ruling by restricting medical options for women.

The law is called the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Lawyers for the two challengers now before the Supreme Court, Eve Gartner of Planned Parenthood and Priscilla Smith of the Center for Reproductive Rights, note that there is no medical procedure known by that name and contend that the phrase is needlessly offensive and misleading.

On a more technical level, the cases put on exhibit dueling medical opinions over whether certain second-trimester abortion procedures are ever necessary.

For the court, the cases — Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Gonzales v. Carhart — represent the first significant test of whether abortion rights in America will change now that moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a key vote in favor of such rights, has retired.

Six years ago, when the justices struck down state bans on “partial-birth” abortions because the laws did not include exceptions for when a woman's health was at risk, O'Connor cast the decisive fifth vote on the ideologically divided, nine-member court. Last term, she was replaced by Samuel Alito, a more conservative judge who, as a member of a lower court, voted for abortion restrictions that O'Connor later rejected.

The federal ban — which is similar to the state laws voided by the high court six years ago — has been rejected by three sets of U.S. district courts and appeals courts. The lower courts said Congress' ban violates women's rights to abortion because it lacks a health exception and is too vaguely written.

The lower court judgments conflict with Congress' assertion that “partial-birth” procedures are never the best option to preserve a woman's health.

“This is an excellent case to test the direction of the court on abortion rights,” Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett says.

Abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood say Jaroslaw and thousands of women like her personify the need to preserve the second-trimester procedures known in the medical community as “intact dilation and evacuation” (or intact D&E) and “dilation and extraction” (D&X).

The methods involve dilating a woman's cervix to allow most of the fetus to emerge into the vagina intact, rather than dismembering the fetus in the uterus by using forceps and other instruments. In the intact method, a doctor then suctions out the fetus' brain to collapse the head and allow delivery.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has reported that such methods increasingly are viewed as the safest abortion procedures for the second trimester of pregnancy, roughly the 13th to 26th weeks of gestation.

Second-trimester procedures account for about 11% of the estimated 1.3 million abortions performed in the USA each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. It's unclear, however, how many of those abortions are done with the intact D&E or D&X methods because no one keeps a precise count.

The Bush administration, in defending the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, has argued in court papers that Congress had solid grounds to believe that any procedure in which a doctor “partially delivers a (living) fetus intact … and then kills the fetus” is never medically necessary.

The government is appealing a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in a case begun by Planned Parenthood, and a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in a case started by Nebraska physician LeRoy Carhart.

U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement has told the justices that the “gruesome” procedure “resembles infanticide.”

Clement has said Congress' ban is not unconstitutional because there are alternative methods of second-trimester abortions that would remain legal. Those include a standard D&E procedure in which a doctor dismembers the fetus in the uterus, and another method known as “induction,” in which a woman is given drugs that cause her to go into labor and deliver the fetus.

Groups filing briefs in support of the administration include the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The association argues that such alternative methods are medically appropriate even for women such as Jaroslaw with uterine scarring from a prior cesarean section or other uterine surgery.

Elizabeth Shadigian, a physician affiliated with the University of Michigan's medical school who is president of the pro-life group, says there is little evidence to suggest that “partial-birth” methods are better in preserving a woman's health.

“There is almost no data on it,” Shadigian says. “It's not good enough that someone believes it's better. You have to prove it's better.” She said women should wait until studies are done on “the long-term effects of the procedure.”

In court filings, Planned Parenthood counsel Gartner says that if Congress' ban is allowed to take effect, doctors would not be able to give their patients the best medical care.

Physicians would be “chilled from continuing to provide these procedures, … (and) women's liberty will be infringed and their right to choose abortion unduly burdened,” Gartner says.

She also notes that the records from the cases now before the Supreme Court show several instances in which women suffering from serious medical conditions or carrying fetuses with severe anomalies would benefit from the intact D&E procedure.

“Even for women whose health condition is not compromised, intact D&E is a significantly safer method of abortion,” Gartner says.

Clement acknowledges in his filings that physicians disagree over the necessity for the intact D&E and D&X methods. However, he insists that the justices must defer to Congress' finding that “there is substantial evidence … that partial-birth abortion is never” medically necessary.

Jaroslaw, a graduate of Harvard College and of Georgetown Law School, says she came forward to speak about her abortion because “the issues aren't as simple as people think. Nobody in advance of a diagnosis says, ‘I want that procedure.' What people want is proper medical care.”

Jaroslaw, a native of Flushing, N.Y., married a fellow lawyer, David, in 1992. She gave birth to a boy in 1997 and a girl in 1999. She says the children were delivered by cesarean section because she previously had uterine fibroids and other gynecological problems.

Jaroslaw says that when she became pregnant in 2003, everything looked good in early tests. “So we tell our families I'm pregnant. We tell friends. A few weeks after that, I tell people at work. I wasn't worried.”

About 17 weeks into the pregnancy, however, a sonogram showed that part of her fetus' brain was missing. The diagnosis was anencephaly, which is fatal.

Jaroslaw says she and her husband considered abortion the only option. She says she did not want to wait a full nine months to deliver a child that would not survive.

“The idea of being pregnant for so many more months and having people ask about the baby, it would have been a nightmare,” Jaroslaw says. She was also concerned that her children would be traumatized by having their sibling be born and die. She says she talked with her rabbi, and he supported her choice.

Jaroslaw says her desire for a third child led her doctor to recommend that she have the fetus removed intact, to avoid trauma to her uterus. “When you've had so many cuts in the uterus, you want as little instrumentation and probing around as possible.”

Coincidentally, she underwent the abortion as Congress was debating its ban on “partial-birth” abortion. “I asked my doctor whether, if the bill passed, the procedure I was about to have would be illegal,” Jaroslaw says. “He said yes.”

Bush signed the bill into law in November 2003.

“I'm a family person,” Jaroslaw says. “I don't think I'm unique in my situation, except that I will talk about it. When I went back to work, people opened up to me with their own stories.”

So how might the Supreme Court — with Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts, who replaced the late William Rehnquist last year — view the most recent attempt to restrict abortion?

The “partial-birth” cases arrive at the court at a time when few Americans — 15% in a Gallup Poll in May — believe abortion should be banned in all circumstances. That poll, typical of nationwide surveys, found that most Americans (53%) believe that abortion should be legal but with restrictions.

The high court generally has reflected that sentiment since Roe v. Wade, upholding abortion rights while opening the door to limits. The current cases could provide a hint of whether greater restrictions might be imposed with the new justices on the bench. However, a veteran justice — Reagan appointee Anthony Kennedy — is more likely to be the key player.

In 2000, when the court voted 5-4 to strike down state bans on “partial-birth” abortion that lacked an exception for cases in which a woman's health was at risk, the bench was deeply divided. Kennedy, who had provided a crucial fifth vote in 1992 when the justices affirmed abortion rights, bitterly dissented in 2000. He said government should be free to outlaw the “abhorrent” procedure and that states had a legitimate “concern for the life of the unborn and for the partially born.” This time, a big question will be whether Kennedy, a frequent swing vote on the court, still supports a ban on the procedure without a health exception.

If he does, the court's reshaped conservative wing — Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, along with newcomers Roberts and Alito — could be positioned to uphold Congress' ban. Scalia and Thomas consistently have voted against abortion rights. Roberts' record as a lawyer in the Reagan and first Bush administrations and Alito's rulings as a lower court judge suggest that they also are likely to take a limited view of such rights.

Waaaay too fun!

Way too fun!

Got the link from Immaculate Direction--it's a new PBS show (yes, you read that right, PBS about a priest who teaches families how to slow down, cook a real meal, and enjoy it! Crunchy Cons unite!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Atheist evangelist?

One of the best oxymorons ever....

From the WaPo:

I love the lede:
There are really just two possibilities for Sam Harris. Either he is right and millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews are wrong. Or Sam Harris is wrong and he is so going to hell.

A choice bit:
"I think this country needs a sophisticated attack on religion," says Van Harvey, a retired professor of religious studies at Stanford University. "But pushing moderates into the same camp as fanatics, that seems like a very crude mistake." (me: a religious studies prof thinks we need an "attack on religion"? What kind of prof is that?)

Thoughts on the Missouri brouhaha

I've covered ESCR and cloning and all that goes with it many times on my several blogs. My basic position is that I am in favor of adult stem cell research. I am not in favor of ESCR because it destroys life. I don't care how tiny, how nascent it is. It's life, it's human life, so there. No go. I would never support, or use, therapies developed by ESCR. And I can say that without anyone going "well you've never been in that situation." Um, yeah I have. And if ESCR stuff would've been available I would've said "thanks but no thanks." I have CF-releated diabetes now, and people talk about how ESCR could "cure" diabetes. Well, I honestly don't think compromising my deep moral principles is worth not having to shoot up some insulin every night. Sorry. As I have said before, there is a limit to my selfishness. I'm not going to sacrifice someone else to save my own life. That's just the way it is.

Life is not something we should mess with. Birth and death are decided by God. He gives us life, he takes it away. That means no abortion, no euthanasia, and yes, I am against the death penalty (I accept the CCC's teaching on it). This leads us down a horribly slippery-slope path of deciding what lives are and are not worth living. What is "life" to someone else is not "life" to another.

If you've read Tuesdays With Morrie you can see what i'm talking about. Many people would not like to live the way Morrie did. But in doing so, in choosing life, he taught Mitch Albom and the millions who have read the book incalculable, beautiful lessons. The world is a better place for people like him. Yet there are those who would say he, and others like him, weren't really "living." That euthanasia is the best, the preferred, the humane way to treat these case. Life is the most wonderful and precious thing we have, and we treat it so cavalierly. People smoke their lungs away, drink away their livers, are willing to kill babies that make life "complicated" and that they are "not ready for." And on the other side, we are trying to create a world without suffering. it's not possible. But suffering is what gives life it's depth and breathdt. It makes it all worthwhile. I would not appreciate the small, tiny things of life if I hadn't had to fight so hard for it. It is a wonderful gift. But people abort their babies with down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities because they think that are "helping" the baby avoid a life of suffering. "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thoughts on Fr. Neuhaus II

Wow I realized after reading my last post that it was heavy on the court stuff and my own personal holiday pet peeves, not so much the hospital/clinic issues Fr. Neuhaus talks about. I got a little carried away. So here I respond to that...

If you are going to a Catholic hospital to be treated, then you should know some things, like EC, may not (indeed, should not!) be in play. I would hope the hospital demonstrates its commitment to its founding values at least that much. They are private institutions. Leave them alone. No one is making you go there and receive treatment.

Now, what if they are receiving federal funds (i.e., Faith-Based Initatives?). Well, they can't break the law, obviously. But they must still be faithful to their missions. And if the feds think that this will break the law/compromise the spending of tax dollars, then don't grant them to these groups. Doesn't that sound, well, easy?

That's the problem. Nothing with government is easy. Trust me. I work for them.

Reflections on Fr. Neuhaus

I do not claim to be an expert on the Constitution (I will leave that to Dr. Mayer, or David, thank you very much), but I did take enough Con Law in college to know that SCOTUS doesn't really have a coherent view on what those "sixteen words" really mean, or how to apply them in a societal context.

When I took Modern American Law, Dr. Mayer assigned us a case from the text that we had to prepare and present to the class. I was assigned Lynch v. Donnelly , which regarding the display of a creche on public property. The previously decided case of Lemon v. Kurtzman provided what is known as the "Lemon test" in American law, which is three-pronged:

1. The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion, and
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" with Religion.

All three prongs must be met in order for something to appease the "sixteen words." Well in Donnelly the Court decided that the creche met all those principles and thus was allowed to be displayed. So in that case the creche was OK. But the spotty application of the Lemon test has lead to a more case-by-case basis than an overarching standard.

(OK that was waaay more law-school geekery that I wanted to put in here. Oh well) So back to my point and Fr. Neuhaus.

The First Amendment's dealings with religion are mostly a result of the fact that England had (and has), as we know, a 'state-sponsored' religion (The COE)and the founding of America had its roots in the quest for religious freedom. They didn't want to see a similar religious tyranny here. So the government "endorsement" of religion means, pretty simply, that the President can't come out and declare, "since I am a Methodist, you must all be Methodists, or we'll tax/persecute/etc. you and your families for not converting to the national religion."

As Fr. neuhaus notes, there are two clauses: The "Establishment" clause (above) and the "free exercise" clause. And it seems to me that free exercise gets trampled an awful lot. If we're going to have a menorah and a star and all that good stuff, why can't we have a creche? Christmas trees are Christmas trees, not holiday trees! If a school is having a Christmas concert, they are going to sing Christmas songs , and this should not shock anyone. If you do not want your child exposed to this, do not enroll them in choir, or work it out with the director so they can not sing the Christmas stuff. When I was in high school we sang the Christmas stuff, as well as 1 or 2 Hannukah songs (which are hard to find, let me tell you). Why is it that when we're called to be tolerant of other religions, Christianity is somehow left out? That we must be tolerant but ask nothing in return?

It seems that in all this court wrangling, common sense has been forgotten. Will it kill us all if a bunch of third graders sing "Silent Night" at their concert? No. I'm sorry, but the vast majority of good music literature is religious in nature. Deal with it . Especially at Christmas. Besides, those songs have great, touchy-feely messages the libs should love, like "Peace on Earth" and all that jazz. Can we all get on board with that?

I cannot believe this.

WEll, OK, I can...but I don't want to.
From Amy...

See, the point is...
Endowing a Human Rights Chair for a proponent of abortion makes no sense anywhere.

But especially at a Catholic university. When the honoree is a priest.

Georgetown University Law Center has named a human rights chair for a controversial priest who has been actively supportive of abortion during and after his time as a U.S. Congressman.

Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff announced the establishment of the Robert F. Drinan, SJ, Chair in Human Rights at a formal ceremony Oct. 23; Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh gave the keynote address.

"Few have accomplished as much as Fr. Drinan, and fewer still have done so much to make the world a better place," Aleinikoff reportedly said. "This new Chair honors Fr. Drinan's lifelong commitment to public service and will allow us to bring distinguished human rights scholars and advocates to Georgetown Law.”

Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, has called the naming of the new Chair “deeply disturbing” and “hypocritical.” The university has established a human rights chair “in the name of a heretical priest who has spent much of his lifetime advocating for the most heinous of human rights violations: abortion,” he said in a statement.

Fr. Drinan has been a strong supporter of abortion rights, during his time in public office and afterwards as well, stating that while he was personally opposed to abortion, its legality was a separate issue from its morality.

It's hard to know what to say. This is so spectacularly expressive of that huge blind spot carried about by the tender-hearted who cannot see that when you deny human rights to any group, but especially the weakest and most defenseless, anything more you have to say about human rights rings hollow, empty, without foundation. The humblest workers in a Crisis Pregnancy Center, meeting women in their pain, looking them in the eye, offering them hope, working hard to hook up those women with resources to get them through, going home at night and pouring out their hearts to God in prayer for women and their babies - they are nobler advocates for human rights than Drinan could ever hope to be.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Too many children! Call the OP police!

From NRO:

Feeling Sexy at Harvard
And The Gap is here to serve.

By C. R. Hardy

The last time I lived in Cambridge with kids was four years ago. Back then I had just two of them — and was pregnant with my third. According to my fair-minded fellow Cambridge residents, I was an overpopulating nut-case. The snickers and sneers were insufferable — most especially when I was out with my boys in a double stroller, pushing them along with my pregnant, over-sized mid-section. You could see the astonished eyes looking first at the stroller, then at my belly, then quickly at my face (to see if I was real, I assume), and then embarrassingly shifting to a store front or a passing car. Then the person would whisper to a smiling companion, well within my hearing, “She’s having another one!” As if it weren’t already obvious.

That was the fall of 2002. Though we left Harvard just before my third son was born in 2003, we are back again this year, living in Harvard graduate-student housing — now with four children.

It’s even worse this time. I had figured Cambridge was already about as anti-natalist as it could be, but this is the city where progressives never sleep. In point of fact, election 2004 showed Cambridge had become even more “blue” than it was when I was last here. Middlesex County, to which Cambridge belongs, voted Democrat by an extra 2.5 percentage points in 2004 over 2000.

My favorite sign of the times is that in my absence the GapKids that used to occupy the second floor of one of the Harvard Co-op buildings in Harvard Square was replaced with a GapBody. For those of you uninitiated into the world of Gap-lingo, allow me to explain. The Gap is a ridiculously trendy apparel company that caters to young people, and adults who want to dress like young people. GapKids is a spin-off division of The Gap that sells ridiculously trendy (and incredibly cute) clothing for kids. BabyGap is a related spin-off store that sells ridiculously trendy (and even more incredibly cute) clothing for babies. GapMaternity outfits pregnant women in, you guessed it, ridiculously trendy styles. You get the idea.

GapBody is the newest spin-off. It peddles ridiculously trendy undergarments and comfy apparel for women, because, as goes their motto, “there’s no secret to being sexy...feeling good is the sexiest thing of all.” And so, considering that those marketing majors at The Gap are well aware that Harvard Square is student-territory, and since students don’t have many kids, out goes GapKids and in comes GapBody — all of which seems to be good reasoning.

Yet consider the assumption behind the exchange: While students aren’t having many kids (naturally enough), they are, apparently, having a lot of sex — or, if not, they are at least really interested in feeling sexy. And GapBody is here to serve. According to their website, GapBody provides everything a young woman needs to help her feel sexy, including, to my great astonishment, “playful intimates for under your daytime outfits.” Why in heaven’s name students should want something playful under their daytime clothing, I have no idea. The demand for playfulness in classrooms and labs never seemed to me to be particularly high.

But I digress. The point of all this is that the shift from GapKids to GapBody is reflective of Cambridge and blue America more generally. Simply put, maternity has become for them an exotic, often baffling, custom. I remember the last time I was in the GapKids store in Harvard Square before we moved away. I had my two little boys and was five months pregnant with my third. A customer behind me in line, looking me over and observing the two little ones in the stroller, asked me in all seriousness how I was going to get around once I had my third. Surprised, and mildly humored, I explained that I fully expected that my oldest would be able to walk by the time my third was born. It was a partly facetious answer for a mostly absurd question — my eldest son could already walk, of course, but, like all kids, preferred to ride if he could. Yet it was a revealing question. I’ll be the last to make light of the difficulties involved in transporting three little kids all about Cambridge. But the tone of the question bothered me, as if it was meant to imply: “Didn’t you think over the transportation issue before you got pregnant again?” As if getting around by stroller would ever figure into my calculations over whether to have a third child.

Perhaps that’s just the way in which blue America looks at childbearing — as a cost-benefit analysis performed with the most rudimentary and imbecilic tools of measurement. The benefits are somewhat obscure: How, for example, do you measure the benefits for society of a child that grows up to join the Sisters of Charity of Mother Theresa, ministering to the poorest of the poor around the world? Or how do you measure the benefit to society of a child that will spend 18 years studying and 50 or more years thinking, producing, working, and paying taxes? Or what about the child that will grow up to cure cancer, negotiate peace in the Middle East, or discover a renewable clean source of fuel? The fact is, it’s impossible and silly even to think about it. What’s the value of a human life, considered ex ante?

But the costs — oh, the costs are so easy to calculate! So many diapers, so much formula, so many inconvenient trips around Harvard Square with one extra little guy who doesn’t fit into my double stroller.

With no more GapKids, my trips to Harvard Square will be less frequent. Instead, I’ll have to throw all the kids in my big, gas-guzzling, liberal-infuriating Suburban and drive out of Cambridge to where people still have kids and still want them. Those places seem to be getting fewer and further between in Massachusetts, though they still exist. By and large they are high-immigrant areas and poorer areas. Children are still the wealth of the poor in Massachusetts, but not the wealth — or the ambition — of the rich.

Harvard students are more interested in sex — or in feeling sexy — than in kids. Feeling sexy, however, often leads to sex, and sex often leads to kids. Ahem. Or at least to pregnancies. Which is why blue America sweepingly (and coercively) supports choice. They want the sex, but not the kids. The kids are much too costly. To the pocketbook, yes, but most of all to a particular lifestyle more interested in today’s consumption than tomorrow’s production.

Enter defense of illegal immigration (workers need to come from somewhere), abortion and the Pill (for the sexiness without the kids), and support for gay marriage (because what does sex have to do with kids, anyway?). I'm reminded of Walker Percy’s 1971 summary of what the left stands for: LEFTPAPASANE —- Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, The Pill, Atheism, Pot, Anti-Pollution, Sex, Abortion Now, Euthanasia. Think much has changed?

So it is poignant that GapBody has replaced GapKids in one of the most highly charged centers of left-wing idea-production. Another generation of Harvard students will be weaned into adulthood on a steady dose of feeling sexy (even during the day) and covering up the consequences of all that sexiness by whatever means necessary. And it probably never will occur to many of the young women at Harvard that a legitimate (and even fun!) way to use their above-average talents is to bring new people into the world with above-average talents and nurture them with all the above-average gifts they possess.

— C. R. Hardy is a mother of four small adorable kids and a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University.

ESCR, brought to you by Alex Keaton...

K-Lo on NRO today:
Doc Hollywood on the Campaign Trail
What Michael J. Fox learned while on Spin City.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

First it was Missouri, today it is Maryland. Michael J. Fox has entered the political fray in both states’ hotly contested Senate races, taping commercials for the Democrats running there, Claire McCaskill and Ben Cardin, respectively. In the ads, while touting his candidates’ support for “stem-cell research,” Fox by implication furthers the most prevalent myth about stem-cell research: that those who oppose embryo-destroying research are against stem-cell research.

In the Maryland commercial for Cardin, Fox, the actor (he played teenage Republican Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties) who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, takes aim at both Republican Lieutenant Governor (and Republican nominee for Senate) Michael Steele and George W. Bush. Fox says:

Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

But George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research.

Fortunately, Marylanders have a chance to vote for Ben Cardin.

Cardin fully supports life-saving stem cell research. It's why I support Ben Cardin.

And with so much at stake, I respectfully ask you to do the same.

Even in an emotionally wrenching package — you see Fox very visibly suffering from his disease as he unnervily jerks back and forth — these claims are familiar and disingenuous. George W. Bush, Jim Talent, Mitt Romney … any politician who has taken any kind of lead in opposing embryonic-stem-cell research (and cloning, which is rarely spoken of, but is a necessary element of much of what embryonic-stem-cell advocates want to do) is all too often portrayed as being against stem-cell research — and hope. In truth, President Bush was the first president of the United States to authorize federal funding for any embryonic-stem-cell research. In correcting a writer from The New Republic back in 2004, my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, “Actually, Bush provided funding for the first time. Congress had essentially banned funding, the Clinton administration issued preliminary regulations getting around the ban, and then Bush imposed a policy of funding with restrictions.”

Further, embryonic-stem-cell research is currently legal and completely unrestricted in both Maryland and Missouri, and in the vast majority of other states. It is largely personal and institutional ethics that keeps scientists from cloning research. The debate we’re having is almost always about government funding or radical measures like the one currently on the ballot in Missouri (Amendment 2), which would write a right to cloning into the state constitution.

Additionally, embryo-destroying stem-cell research is by no means the only or the most promising stem-cell research. Alternative research — including cord-blood research and adult-stem-cell research — is already working, unlike the embryonic-stem-cell research we’re all focused on as if it were a proven cure-all. As Princeton professor Robert P. George, who sits on the president’s bioethics commission, tells National Review Online:

the ads exaggerate the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells beyond anything that Michael J. Fox or anyone else has reasonable grounds to believe they can be used to accomplish. Adult stem cells — stem cells that can be obtained harmlessly from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, fat, and other sources — have actually been used successfully to treat people. They have been used to improve people’s lives. Embryonic stem cells have not helped anyone. No one knows when, if ever, embryonic cells will be used in therapies at all. Indeed, not a single embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in stage one of clinical trials. That is because the tendency of embryonic stem cells to produce tumors makes it unethical to use them in human beings — even in experimental treatments. By contrast, there are more than 1,000 adult-stem-cell-based therapies in clinical trials. In his ads, Michael J. Fox hides these crucial facts, thus creating an appallingly false impression and slandering candidates against whom the ads are directed.”

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, a candidate in another hot race this season, is also — like Bush and Steele and Talent — pro-stem-cell research, but opposed to embryo-destroying research. In the Senate earlier this year, Santorum teamed up with his pro-choice, very pro-embryonic-stem-cell-research Pennsylvania colleague Arlen Specter to sponsor a bill that would fund research to find cells with embryo-like qualities. At the time, Santorum explained:

While there are different and passionate opinions on stem cell research, Senator Specter and I have come to an agreement that we can intensify pluripotent stem cell research without creating or destroying human embryos for research purposes. We are hopeful that additional funding in this area will open the door to significant advances in the medical and scientific communities.

Stem-cell research, while dramatically divisive — largely thanks to misleading emotional messages (i.e., the Fox commercials) — actually offers potentially fruitful opportunities for coalition building. That is, unless you’re of the embryos-or-nothing position. Unfortunately, instead of embracing non-controversial research earlier this year, Democratic Leader (soon to be Senate Majority Leader?) Harry Reid dismissed the Santorum efforts as “meaningless.” Proponents of embryonic-stem-cell research — those we’re supposed to believe really care about sick people — rejected, not for the first time, a chance to embrace non-ethically troublesome research; instead they said We only want embryonic-stem-cell research.

Political commercials are not known for their honesty or subtlety, but these Fox ads hit home in a particularly painful way; their blatant dishonesty does a terrible disservice to those whom they pretend to want to help and malignantly contribute to an already confusing and frustrating debate about basic issues of life and death. Claire McCaskill, Ben Cardin, and anyone else who chooses to play on voters’ emotions with these misleading ads (Fox has filmed one for Democrat Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, and he will be appearing at events for Democrats Sen. Robert Menendez and Tammy Duckworth, who is running for the House from Illinois, according to the Washington Post) ought to be ashamed of themselves.

As Professor George elucidates:

I have great sympathy for Mr. Fox and other victims of Parkinson's and similarly horrible diseases. I understand how desperately he hopes for a cure for what afflicts him and so many others. I have seen members of my own family suffer, and I too want to hasten the day when the great engine of science conquers the diseases that cause so much suffering. But the fact that Mr. Fox is a victim is not a license for him to mislead or manipulate the public. The truth — the whole truth — must be told. Those politicians who, for political gain, have run these ads in which the truth is distorted and people are misled deserve the most severe of reprimands. Win or lose, they have brought upon themselves disgrace.”

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

Oh, that First Amendment...

Fr. Neuhaus in First Things with a piece on those troublesome sixteen words...

Richard John Neuhaus writes:

Those sixteen words have taken a terrible beating in the past fifty years. For most of our history, they occasioned little controversy. That was when our culture and our polity seemed to be on more or less amicable terms. There are several possible datings of the change, but I think we can settle on the Supreme Court decision of 1947 Everson v. Board of Education, as the beginning of what would later come to be called the culture wars. That’s when the Court decided that ours is a secular society and began, by pitting the polity against the culture, a determined effort to create a naked public square.

The sixteen words, of course, have to do with the first freedom of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Religion Clause—note that it is one clause with two provisions, no-establishment and free exercise—has been turned upside down, with the result that free exercise, which is the entire purpose of the clause, is again and again trumped by no-establishment. In recent years, the Supreme Court has been increasingly candid about the incoherence of its Religion Clause decisions, admitting that they are riddled through with contradictions. There is reason to believe that the Court just may be ready to return to the original meaning of the text, which is to protect the free exercise of religion.

Meanwhile, however, the battles continue. Just yesterday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that religious institutions must cover contraception services in their employee health plans. The appeal of Baptist and Catholic groups for an exemption was denied. The ruling clearly burdens the free exercise of religion for those who believe that paying for artificial contraception is complicity in evil. Defenders of the decision say the decision only marginally inhibits the free exercise of religion. But free exercise means free exercise. When the exercise of religion is inhibited, it is not free exercise.

Last week the New York Times ran for four days in a row front-page stories, followed by two full inside pages each day, attacking religious exemptions from taxes and government regulation and control. The stories were written by Diana B. Henriques, and she has another big story on the same subject in Friday’s business section. This is an extraordinary amount of space for the Times to devote to anything. Under executive editor Bill Keller, this is known as the “blast” or “barrage” tactic when the Times understands itself to be launching a major campaign. This campaign is a take-no-prisoners assault on tax and other exemptions that historically have been deemed essential to the free exercise of religion.

The focus of the stories is on real or alleged abuses of religious tax exemptions. There is no shortage of such abuses, religion being as prone to scams and chicanery as any other human enterprise. But the Times is clearly after more than the correction of abuses. It is the very idea of religious exemptions that is under attack. Among the targets of the stories is the “faith-based initiative” of the Bush administration whereby, according to the Times, exemption from taxes and government regulation give religious organizations an unfair advantage.

The first director of the faith-based initiative, John DiIulio, writes in The Weekly Standard:

Times readers might be invited to imagine an America in which all of those ostensibly favored faith groups disappeared tomorrow. Who would suffer the most, and who would have to pay to replace the social services that they now provide? For instance, pick ten big cities, and ask how many low-income non-Catholics (Title I students, Medicaid-eligible patients, etc.) are served by Catholic elementary schools, high schools, colleges or universities, and hospitals? Next, try to figure out who is subsidizing or “accommodating” whom: How much would it cost to provide the same services without religiously mobilized volunteers and institutions in the mix? Studies being conducted by me and others at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University aim to estimate the “replacement value” of such Catholic “civic assets.” Stay tuned. . . .

Similarly, while federal funds finance much art and architecture that is patently offensive to many religious believers, and while federal dollars routinely pay to preserve other historically or architecturally significant properties, grand old churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious properties must go begging. Hurricane Katrina destroyed many sacred places frequented by religious people who were the first to supply basic services to the region’s victims. Still, in 2005, Congress barely passed new legislation providing funding to Catholic and other religious schools that had selflessly opened their doors to elementary and secondary students who had been displaced by the floods.

And, as I know from my own travels, in many cities, faith groups that seek to open after-school programs, run shelters, or otherwise serve their needy neighbors are still often kicked to the civic curb by local public housing authorities, state judges, and other government officials. The politics behind these actions is not always pretty. Big secular nonprofits and well-positioned for-profit firms–professional service delivery organizations that for decades have “won” government contracts while avoiding independent performance audits–suddenly be come interested in church-state issues when their oligopolies are threatened by competition from local faith groups. In many cases, the faith groups have been doing the work all along in return for public-funding crumbs from the “professional” groups’ tables. Much the same game has too often, and for too long, been played against grassroots religious groups by large private foundations’ favorite grantees.

In addition to the practical and political questions of elementary justice addressed by DiIulio, there are deeply principled reasons why religious exemptions are essential to our constitutional order. A classic text here is Dean Kelley’s 1977 book, Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes. The power to tax is the power to control. The practical applications of exemption are necessarily monitored by IRS and other government agencies, but the principle of exemption is deeply entrenched in law, and it is not likely that the Times campaign will change that. But it will not be for lack of trying.

The editorial purpose glaringly evident in the “news” section of the paper is backed up by the page that is admittedly editorial. “Religious institutions should be protected from excessive intrusion by government,” the editors say (i.e., Congress shall make no law respecting an excessive prohibition of religion). But the existing system of exemption, they continue, “amounts to an enormous subsidy for religion, in some cases violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment.” The editors are also exercised that religious institutions are exempt from regulations having to do with religious and gender discrimination in hiring and promotion. But the key point, invoked over the years by opponents of free exercise, is that tax exemption is actually a government subsidy.

The underlying, and nascently totalitarian, assumption is that everything in the society belongs to the state and should be under state control. Government exemptions from tax and control are a privilege granted, not a right respected. From which it follows that an exemption is, in fact, a subsidy. This is a long way from the Founders’ understanding of the independent sovereignty of religion that the government is bound to respect.

The editors write, “Like most special-interest handouts, these privileges exist in large part because the majority is not aware, or is not being heard.” No, these are not privileges but rights, and the majority, I expect, is aware and approving of the government’s respect for the free exercise of religion. Again, where free exercise rights are abused, the abuses should be remedied. The courts and legislatures are regularly involved in addressing these questions. But make no mistake about it: The Times is committing its considerable resources and influence to an all-out assault on the free exercise of religion.

One may reasonably assume that this would not be the case without the full support of executive editor Bill Keller. It is hardly incidental that Keller has, by his own admission, a religion problem. He calls himself a “collapsed Catholic,” and in a 2002 article in the Times (subscription required) he rails against the Church for having “replicated something very like the old Communist Party.” He says, “The Vatican exists first and foremost to preserve its own power.” The pope “has carefully constructed a Kremlin that will be inhospitable to a reformer.” Seminaries have been turned “into factories of conformity.” “What reform might mean is something I leave to Catholics who care more than I do.” But Mr. Keller obviously cares very much about the struggle “between the forces of tolerance and absolutism” in “the church that gave us the Crusades and the Inquisition.” It is not surprising that “a fraternity of aging celibates” opposes “the equality of women, abortion on demand, and gay rights.” He ends by wondering “how long faith withstands such a corrosive rain of hypocrisy.”

There is no anti-Catholic venom like the anti-Catholic venom of a collapsed Catholic. As I say, the Times’ campaign against the first freedom of the First Amendment is not likely to have much effect. It is yet another instance of the paper’s penchant to pander to the prejudices of a readership perplexed by the vibrancy of religion in American life. If the Times was half as important as it thinks it is, it would be twice as important as it is. Nonetheless, some attention must be paid.

Catholics and Evangelicals, unite!

Good news on the ecumencial/social issues front:

Catholic and Evangelical leaders who have issued a joint statement declaring that care for the vulnerable in society is an essential requirement of authentic Christianity which must reject any deliberate taking of innocent human life as murder.

“The direct and intentional taking of innocent human life in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic research is rightly understood as murder,” the document That They May Have Life declares, from Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

Published in the October issue of the Catholic magazine First Things, the statement identifies the biblical foundations of the call to protect and care for the unborn, ill and dying in the Divine command to “love your neighbor.”

“The love for the neighbor begins…with respect for the neighbor’s right to be, by honoring the gift of God that is the neighbor’s life. Thus the most basic commandment of neighbor-love is ‘You shall not kill’ …rightly understood as ‘You shall not murder,’” the statement declares.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things and a participant in drafting the document, said there was “intense” debate over the use of the term “murder,” in reference to abortion, in an interview with the Ledger.

“But we tried to be very precise, namely that any direct and deliberate taking of innocent human life is in ordinary language — and certainly in the language of the Western moral tradition — properly called murder,” he said.

The purpose of the statement is to “explain to our communities why we believe that support for a culture of life is an integral part of Christian faith and therefore a morally unavoidable imperative of Christian discipleship,” the authors write. “We believe it is of utmost importance that everyone involved in the public discussion of these questions understand the unbreakable connection between a Christian worldview and the defense of human life.”

“It is not the case that we wish to 'impose' our moral convictions on our fellow-citizens or, as some recklessly charge, to establish a 'theocracy.' Our intention is not to impose but to propose, educate and persuade in the hope that, through free deliberation and decision, our society will be turned toward a more consistent respect for the inestimable gift that is human life.”

The statement refutes the argument of compassion frequently used by those who promote abortion and euthanasia, saying:

“While we can sympathize with those who view their own life or the life of another as a burden and not a gift…there can by no moral justification for murder.

“We are determined to employ every legal means available to protect, in law and in life, the innocent and vulnerable members of the human community.”
The statement’s authors plead with the Christian community to recognize the central place of respect for human life within the beliefs of the Church, and call for a “reasonable deliberation” with those who disagree, in an attempt to move beyond “culture wars.”

“Our churches do not simply support the pro-life movement as a social cause. Because the gospel of life is integral to God’s loving purpose for his creation, the Church of Jesus Christ, comprehensively understood, is a pro-life movement continuing God’s mission until the end of time.

“We cannot and would not impose this vision of a culture of life upon others. We do propose to our fellow Christians and to all Americans that they join with us in a process of deliberation and decision that holds the promise of a more just and humane society.”

Catholic leaders who endorsed the statement include Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Fordham University, Fr. Francis Martin, a foremost Catholic theologian and member of Mother of God Community, and Mr. George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Evangelical leaders included Mr. Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, pastors Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, with the Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Church, respectively, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Read the full statement from Evangelicals and Catholics Together in First Things magazine.

(This article courtesy of

The Church and music

From Catholic Exchange...goes well w/ Amy's post from yesterday:

Monday, October 23, 2006

link to Mark's piece

For those of you who want to read Mark's piece, here's the link:

Pro-life and pro-woman

We pro-lifers are often accused on not paying attention to the woman in the abortion scenario. Here's a good CE article that talks about that:

Bishops and hymns

From Amy Welborn:

Bishops to Vote on Norms for Hymns at Mass


The US bishops will vote to establish norms for hymns at Mass during their annual November meeting in Baltimore.

The new norms, which will require a two-thirds vote by the bishops and subsequent recognition by the Holy See, are to ensure that liturgical songs will be doctrinally correct, based in the scriptural and liturgical texts and relatively fixed.

The norms are part of a new Directory for Music and the Liturgy for Use in the Dioceses in the United States of America. The directory responds to a recommendation of Liturgiam authenticam, the fifth Vatican instruction on correct implementation of liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council.

Specific norms state that

The approval of liturgical songs is reserved to the Diocesan Bishop in whose diocese an individual song is published. He is supported in his work by this directory and by the USCCB Secretariat on the Liturgy.

The Diocesan Bishop is assisted in his review of individual texts through the formation of a committee for the review of liturgical songs consisting of theologians, liturgists, and musicians. The committee shall assure that each text is suitable for liturgical use based on the principles articulated in this directory.

Within three years, the Committee on the Liturgy will formulate a Common Repertoire of Liturgical Songs for use in all places where the Roman liturgy is celebrated in the United States of America. While songs outside the core repertoire may also be used in the Liturgy, this core repertoire will be included in all worship aids used in the dioceses of the United States of America.
The directory is to serve not so much as a list of approved and unapproved songs as a process by which bishops might regulate the quality of the text of songs composed for use in the liturgy.
According to the proposed directory, theological adequacy may be judged in two ways:

• Individual songs should be consonant with Catholic teaching and free from doctrinal error.

• The repertoire of liturgical songs in any given place should reflect a balanced approach to Catholic theological elements.
The directory warns of doctrinal compromise. For example, it notes:

• Liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about the faith which are untrue.

• The doctrine of the Trinity should never be compromised through the consistent replacement of masculine pronominal references to the three Divine persons.

• Any emphasis on the work of the members of the Church should always be balanced by an appreciation of the doctrine of grace and our complete dependence of the grace of God to accomplish anything.

• The elimination of archaic language should never alter the meaning and essential theological structure of a venerable liturgical song.
The document also emphasizes that care should be taken that hymns and songs should take their inspiration and vocabulary chiefly from the Scripture and Liturgy.

The document said that the large number of liturgical songs that exist in the United States have benefited the liturgy, but also said that “a certain stable core of liturgical songs might well serve as exemplary and stabilizing factor.”

More information on the November meeting can be found at

Rod and orthodoxy

He responds to a post:

Responding to Mark
Though I'm trying to move on past my monster post on leaving Catholicism for Orthodoxy, Bnet has posted a link to it on the front page today, and my friend Mark Shea has kindly written a companion piece in response. In it, Mark says some things that I really must respond to, because I don't want to leave the impression that I agree with his interpretation of my words. To wit:

For instance, I don't believe that the personal charisma—or lack thereof--of a bishop is sufficient reason to leave the Catholic Church, just as I don't believe the sins of bishops and priests somehow de-legitimate the nature of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church any more than Judas' or Peter's did.

I can't figure out why some folks get the idea that I changed my church because Archbishop Dmitri is a lovely man. When I wrote about him presiding over the feast in his humble cottage like a "grandfatherly Gandalf," I was trying to paint a picture of a wise old man who acted not as a CEO but as the head of a family. The material modesty in which he lives is plain, and it told me something about his character. Likewise, he is quite close to his flock, and relates to them in a way that I'd never seen before. I presume this has more to do with him than with Orthodoxy itself, but I could be wrong. The point is, what I saw in him, and in the congregation, was a family -- and that's what Julie and I were so hungry for. I had reached the limit of where abstract reasoning could take me, and I was completely burned out. What I needed was a family. And God showed me one.

Like Rod, I converted to the Catholic Church as an adult. Like Rod, I was grieved and appalled by the sex scandals. Yet despite the despicable acts of Catholic priests and their episcopal defenders that have been uncovered in recent years, I don't buy the proposition that my children are in continual mortal danger from predator-priests and that the only way to protect them is to leave the church. The chances of any individual child's encountering an abusive minister in the Catholic Church are about the same in any Christian communion: which is to say remote. The notion that going to Mass or Sunday school is an act analogous to throwing your child into a pit of ravening wolves or sending him on a forced march through a spiritual desert is much closer to hysteria than to reality. Indeed, we Sheas have found the Church to be a rich fountain of living water--and in the highly troubled and frequently heterodox Archdiocese of Seattle no less!

I'm sorry, but this is very far from what I actually said. I have never believed that going to Sunday mass with my children was risking their abuse, though certainly the close encounter with the priest who had been put quietly into active service in the conservative parish (against diocesan rules, and without telling the bishop) was a breaking point for us. No, leaving the Catholic Church for the sake of my children was primarily about the spiritual protection of my children. You get to a point in which you realize having to tell your kids on the way home from mass that what Father (or Deacon) said in the pulpit is not actually true (that is, not what the Church teaches) is undermining their faith. More importantly, you come to understand, perhaps, that they are not actually being taught much in the parish other than that being a Christian is little more than a matter of going through the rituals and feeling good about yourself. And specific to my own situation, my constant anger over not only the sex-abuse scandal, but other things going on in the Church forced me to confront the fact that I was becoming a poor teacher-catechist for my children, or rather, that my anger and despair and near-complete mistrust of the Church that we actually lived with (as distinct from the Church that lives in books), was teaching my kids by example that the Christian life is primarily a source of anxiety and anger. For that, some fault lies with me, and I accept that. But I still had Christian children to raise, and after fighting this war inside myself for three years or so, I bailed. Anyway, to say -- as some Catholics have, and as Mark does here -- that I left because I thought Father Freakydeak was going to lie in wait in the confessional for my boys creates a straw man.

Likewise, I never thought Rod was realistic to demand, as he did in a op-ed essay a few years ago for the Wall Street Journal, that the pope remove and replace a huge portion of the American episcopacy "with the stroke of a pen," or to declare himself "let down" when the late John Paul II did not comply. If Rod had really listened to the author of Ut Unum Sint, John Paul's encyclical on the role of the papacy in the life of the church, he would have realized he was talking about a pope who had a more "Eastern" conception of his office than any pope in a thousand years: one who took seriously the notion that bishops are not just disposable middle management for the Vatican. In this, Orthodoxy fully concurs, which is why I don't see the sense of demanding an impossibility from the Holy Father and then joining an Orthodox communion that would have condemned the Holy Father for acting "unilaterally" if he had met Dreher's demands.

This is not a bad point, certainly, but the fact is, the Pope does have the power to do those things, and the fact that he couldn't even bring himself to speak about this horrible scandal, except obliquely ("the mystery of iniquity"), was to me, debilitating. If he had simply chastised them severely and publicly, that would have worked wonders, at least to my own morale. John Paul sure got rid of the French bishop Jacques Gaillot early in his papacy for teaching heresy, and it's a good thing the Pope did so, too. But look, if he can can a bishop for teaching error, why can't he can a bishop for allowing children to be raped? You know? [And yes, I don't expect the Orthodox bishops and priests to have clean hands either, but it is my hope that going into life as an Orthodox with a sadly more realistic idea of what I can expect from hierarchs will keep me from setting myself up for a great fall, as happened to me in Catholicism.]

Finally, when Rod wonders if his revised view of the papacy—that the pope can never speak infallibly—is just an ex post facto justification for a choice made mostly on emotional grounds, I have to say, "Yeah." Because I don't buy Rod's notion that something about Catholic teaching has suddenly been shown to be false. The fact is, the overwhelming bulk of Rod's testimony regarding his Catholic-to-Orthodox conversion is not about his questions regarding the truth or falsity of Catholic teaching, but about ringing changes on how the sins and "self-satisfied" average-ness of Catholics drove him and his family to distraction and how the various comforts and beauties of Orthodoxy made them feel.

Two points here: 1) I agree that my choice was primarily emotional, and that my intellectual reasons were flimsy (but let me say that I strongly believe there can be strong intellectual grounds for leaving RCism for Orthodoxy, though they did not apply to me in my particular case). I found in the filioque controversy, and later in papal infallibility, reason to doubt seriously what I had once believed as a Catholic. I didn't go into that in my long post because these reasons ultimately weren't determinative. Regarding emotion, I don't apologize for that. We are not Vulcans, but human beings, and living in a constant state of anger, anxiety, distrust and crushing spiritual depression had finally taken its toll on me. And the formulas and syllogisms no longer served to dispel them.

I do get really tired, though, of this canard that I'm some sort of snob who hates the "averageness" of Catholics, so had to rush to Orthodoxy. What I despaired of was the sense of alienation that I often had at mass, that we were all here because we had nowhere else to go. I despaired not because I was so good, but precisely because I know how bad I am. I needed people who shared my beliefs to help me find my way to being a better man. I needed spiritual headship and counsel. I needed a reverent, beautiful liturgy to lift me out of the everyday and put me in closer touch with God. Suddenly I find myself being accused of snobbery because I could no longer carry on in a parish where you couldn't tell who actually believed in Catholicism, and it didn't seem to matter to the clergy whether or not anybody believed, or learned, just as long as the process kept moving along.

I perfectly well know that the family I've now become a part of is, like any family, flawed and broken. I don't expect perfection, and I won't be disappointed not to find it. What I have found is a beautiful and holy liturgy, serious spiritual guidance and teaching, and a family. I didn't have that before. I do now. And it makes a big difference. Thanks be to God. If you find that in Catholicism, God has blessed you too.

The Bishops speak...

On voting...

The Bishops Speak

Title: Religion, Reason, Voting
Author: Cardinal Francis George — Archdiocese of Chicago
Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I wrote the last column to explain what I understood Pope Benedict to have said during his visit to Germany last month: that the path to genuine peace is marked by dialogue between faith and reason in every religion and in every culture on the planet. In our country, the dialogue between faith and reason becomes focused every couple of years in the decisions we make for choosing our elected officials.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church is based on divine revelation and on our understanding of the common good. Scripture tells us that we must love our fellow citizens and all others, even our enemies. Reason tells us that we love others by helping them participate in all the goods that are necessary for a fully human life: free exercise of religion, freedom from violence, access to the truth, productive work, leisure to play and to reconstitute our forces, opportunities for friendship and community and the like. The sum total of social conditions that allow people access to full participation in these goods is called the common good.

Conscience is not an excuse for doing something irrational. We are to form our consciences according to the social teaching of the Church and use that formation to make political choices. This is not easy, because principles are clear but practice often is clouded by confusion of fact and the distraction of various forms of self-interest. The first and most essential principle of Catholic social teaching is the dignity of every human person and one’s basic right to life from conception to natural death. Respect for human dignity is the basis for the fundamental right to life. This is a non-negotiable principle that is supported by our beliefs but is logically independent of our faith. Many non-Catholics think a society dedicated to the common good should protect its weakest members.

A Catholic politician who excuses his or her decision to allow the killing of the unborn and of others who can’t protect themselves because he or she doesn’t want to “impose Catholic doctrine on others” seems to me to be intellectually dishonest. The protection of every innocent human being’s right to life is a principle of reason, even though it is also a stand supported by Catholic moral teaching. Everyone understands, by way of example, that the state should protect property by forbidding stealing. This is a matter of the common good. It is not imposing Catholic morality on anybody, even though the Church teaches that stealing is a sin. Our present legal system protects stocks and bonds, as well as dogs and cats, more than it protects unborn human beings. This is contrary to the common good.

Other principles of Catholic social teaching are similarly based on both divine revelation and human reason. “The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” published by the Holy See in 2004, starts with God’s love for us and the dignity of the human person, and then sets out in about three hundred pages the full range of principles informing the Church’s social teaching: the common good, the universal destination of goods, the principle of subsidiarity, participation in society, the principle of solidarity, the fundamental values of social life — truth, freedom, justice.

I admit to a sense of frustration as I contrast this beautiful teaching with the political, economic and social order in which we now live. In the long run, God governs creation and the ideals of Catholic social doctrine are therefore possible of accomplishment. In the short run, we have to vote in a few weeks. The Catholic Bishops of Illinois are publishing a short statement on elections, conscience and the responsibility to vote. Its intention is to be of some help to Catholics who want to take seriously both their faith and their responsibility to the common good of our society.

It’s important to vote in a democratic society, even though much of our life is governed by decisions of unelected bureaucrats and judges and editors and economic players whose names we do not recognize unless there is a scandal of some sort. May each of us do the best we can, using the dialogue between faith and reason that takes place in our hearts, guided by the Church’s social doctrine; and may God protect us and our country. God bless you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Romney in '08?

K-Lo from Boston last night...I'm thinking I might be a Romney girl:

A good tidbit:
And what about the much talked about “Mormon problem”? Speaking to the British Times recently, when asked if his religion would be a problem if he chose to run for the White House, Romney said: “People used to wonder whether a divorced actor could be elected … or whether a Mormon could win Massachusetts, a state that is 55% Catholic.”

He continued, “There was probably a time when people cared which church you went to, but that’s past. People today look to see a person’s faith in the way they live in their home with their family.”

If Liberty Sunday in Boston is any indication, there may be something to Romney’s optimism — there may, in fact, be no Mormon problem. To put it less than Christianly: It’s the issues, stupid. Perhaps, despite polls and chatter suggesting hesitancy among evangelicals or others to vote for a generic Mormon, once they see that the Mormon is a politician with a in-sync record who gives a stirring speech, singing the right tune, at an already rockin’ black evangelical church, the so-called Mormon problem may be a moot point.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

New American Saint

Canonized w. three others today by B XVI:

VATICAN CITY - A French nun who provided education to pioneers on the American frontier and a Mexican bishop who fought anti-clerical policies in the 1920s were among four new saints named by the pope Sunday.


Also included in the new roll call of saints named by Pope Benedict XVI were two Italians: a nun who advocated public schooling for girls in late 17th century Italy and a priest who was a trailblazer for education of the deaf.

"The Church rejoices in the four new saints," Benedict told a crowd of several thousand people at the ceremony in St. Peter's Square. "May their example inspire us and their prayers obtain for us guidance and courage."

Ailing Chicago Cardinal Francis George was among those celebrating mass on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. He and other Americans were there to honor Mother Theodore Guerin, one of the new saints, who established St. Mary-of-the-Woods College for women in Indiana in 1841.

Despite decades of poor health, Guerin, who was born in 1798, set out with a handful of fellow French nuns for Indiana, where they founded a simple log-cabin chapel. For years, she resisted a local bishop's opposition to her plans to establish a local community of nuns.

"Mother Theodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord has called her to do," the pope said in his homily.

Phil McCord, the American whose restored vision was judged by the Vatican to be the miracle necessary for Guerin's sainthood, called the ceremony "overwhelming."

McCord, a 60-year-old engineer who manages the campus of Guerin's order, recalled how he had faced a corneal transplant after damage from cataract surgery. He entered the chapel at the college, asked Guerin for help and his eyesight started to improve the next morning, said McCord, the son of a lay Baptist minister.

Members of Guerin's order, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, also attended to the ceremony. "I've been praying for this since I was in the third grade," said Sister Estelle Scully. "And now I'm 80."

Also named a saint was Mexican Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia, who risked his life to tend to the wounded during the Mexican revolution — sometimes disguised as a street vendor or a musician.

In 1921, he renovated a seminary in Jalapa, Mexico, but the government later seized the building. He succeeded in having the seminary operate clandestinely for 15 years in Mexico City. He died in 1938.

Benedict hailed Guizar Valencia for working tirelessly, even facing persecution, to ensure that seminarians were properly educated "according to the heart of Christ."

At least 25,000 people paraded past the remains of Guizar Valencia all night Saturday and into Sunday in Jalapa, the capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

"We hope that (the canonization) will help people believe more easily in this Mexican saint," said Isidro Quechuleno, a Jalapa farmer. "We really feel like he's ours and he's part of our religiosity."

Guizar Valencia was a great uncle of the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ order of priests whom the Vatican restricted from public ministry this year amid allegations Degollado sexually abused seminarians.

Filippo Smaldone, an Italian priest who lived from 1848-1923, gained sainthood for his education and assistance for the deaf. He also founded an order of nuns, the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts.

Rosa Venerini, who died in 1728, gained sainthood for founding the Congregation of the Holy Venerini Teachers and pushing to establish the first public schools for girls in Italy.

Sunday marked Benedict's first canonization ceremony in nearly a year.

His predecessor, John Paul II, led several canonization and beatification ceremonies yearly, but Benedict has taken a less visible approach. Ceremonies for beatification, the last formal step before sainthood, are now led by local prelates in the country where the candidate lived or worked.

But Benedict has championed the call for John Paul's sainthood.

A few weeks after John Paul's April 2, 2005, death, Benedict announced that he was putting John Paul on the fast track for possible sainthood by waiving the traditional five-year waiting period before the process can begin.

Rod going over to Orthodoxy...

Over at Immaculate Direction (, Cubeland Mystic has exactly what I was going to say re: Rod's recent switch to Orthodoxy. But he says it better than I can. :) So read his if you want to know how I feel.

Update: OK, so maybe I do need to add my two cents, even though Immaculate Direction says it so well.

One of Rod's major reasons for leaving the Church (at least that he states) was the priest sax scandal. All right, true confessions here. That really hasn't had much of an effect on my faith. Sure, it is horrible to think about? Yes. But I guess I've always thought of priests as human, no better or worse than anyone else. Even though they are priests, and that puts them to a higher standard of behavior, I wasn't really surprised, in part because they're human and in part because of what I've read about the seminary culture during which these priests underwent their formantion (e.g., Michael Rose's book, Goodbye, Good Men ). It was not the 'best of times' in the seminary. That is not an excuse, but since i've read about it, I can't say I'm surprised by what's happened. Also I've seen this movement as something with which church reformers have taken like a puppy to a chew toy and just won't let go of, saying it's a sign of all this trouble in the Church and using it to bring up marriage and women priests and all that crap that does not belong . I just don't really understand how all of this could so shake your faith that you would want to leave the Church. Unless your faith just wasn't that strong or deep-rooted to begin with. Maybe Rod just wasn't really convinced that the Catholic Church has all the truth, I don't know. but I do know that Orthodoxy sure doesn't. The history of Orthodoxy is rife with political drama, and caesaropapaism (one of the major reasons for the schism, if not the major reason) is something I would have issue with. Essentially, it's who is more important? Church or State? Orthodsoxy says head of state. Rome says Pope. But this is an old argument that I'm not really educated enough on the specifics to get into here.

I am disappointed that the church scandal was such a problem from Rod that he converted. It also seems like the aesthetics of Orthodoxy appealed more to him. Well, yes, I'd like to have beautiful churches and perfect music and all that. But I think we can reform Catholic liturgy much more effectively from the inside than from saying, "I give up!" This isn't like big matters of doctrine. If you're pro-choice, or think women should be priests, then you need to go somewhere else because the Church ain't budging. But if it's stuff like music and the Mass, then we can change that. B XVI himself wants to change it. Let's see where these reforms go, especially with th enew translation due in a few years.

OK wow this was more than I thought I'd write. But it is disheartening because so much of what he writes in Crunchy Cons is based on Catholicism or the idea of Truth that is found in Catholicism. I was excited when I read his book, partially because he was Catholic. It sounded like this was something I could do. And I am still trying (I went to Trader Joe's today!), but I am a bit disheartened. Nonetheless, I will pray for Rod and his family, like he asked us to on his website.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Commuting vrs. family time?

OK yeah been doing a lot of Crunch Con-esque blogging lately, but here's an article from the WaPo about the cost of commuting, which may outweigh the cost of suburban living:

This is something Rod mentions in his book Crunchy Cons, that suburban life migh appear to have benefits, but how much family time are you actually getting with the 2 hours commute? He also mentions that if you homeschool then you're not held hostage to surburban living because of the better school districts--you can teach anywhere.

Valid argument? it's 1959...

Looks like B XVI might make it easier to say the Latin Mass again. I, having been born in '82, missed the Latin Mass (although my parents had it when they were little), and I'd like to try it out, at least once. There's a church here in Columbus (St. Pat's) that has one every so often, but I've never been. Sounds like a good idea to should at least be an option for people who miss it. Vatican II did some great things, but I think it also "threw the baby out with the bathwater," to some extent, and stripped away a lot more reverence, awe, and mystery than should've been removed. I would like to see women in hats and men in suits at Mass, no more Buckeye jerseys, torn jeans, bare tummies, and flip-flops!!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What about the youth?

How do we get youth to be excited about being Catholic, and stay Catholic? From Amy Welborn:

Whatever the numbers, the fact that people are concerned should serve as a caution to those among Catholics harboring evangelical-envy.

We discuss youth ministry often here, of course, and many of us have concluded that something is amiss. But what? Is it that the Catholic Church on the diocesan and parish level doesn't put enough resources into youth ministry? Is it that the resources that are available are misdirected into the wrong kind of activities? We don't do enough "for youth," but does what we do actually have any kind of long term effect?

That's the questions evangelicals, even those who don't buy the 4% figure are asking too - and it's good to listen to their conversations because for years, the "answer" to the youth ministry problem in the Catholic Church has been, in large part, to imitate the Protestant model: emotionally-oriented "experiences" imitative of pop culture styles, light on the catechesis.

The tensions within youth ministry are real and difficult. The essential one on the parish and diocesan level is this:

Our young people are poorly catechized. But if we center our youth programs on catechesis, they won't come. In order to get them to come we have to attract them with fun and fellowship, and maybe squeeze something substantive in there. The best we can do is to give them an experience that will teach them that Church is a good place, a caring place, and a place where they want to be.

(Incidentally, this is also the fallback position of many in parish religious education leadership as well, voiced in many a diocesan meeting I've been to. We know that there is only so much that can be taught in one hour a week to children of parents who hardly ever bring them to Mass, living in an aggressively secular culture. So...the best we can do is give them a positive experience of this place called Church. You may scoff, and yes, parish religious ed could do more - but the situation of these families is not fabricated. Truly - what can you teach in that circumstance? That's why my fallback position, more and more is that catechisis has to be a parish-wide orientation. After all - how did catechesis happen for the 1900 years before hardly anyone went to Catholic schools and religious ed? Family, culture, rich and diverse and powerful church life. Hard to rethink this in a completely new situation.)

Anyway - youth ministry does need more attention, and while many youth programs have been great and produced good fruit, the evangelical experience is a caution. As is this email from a reader:

Witnessed at a diocesan sponsored middle school youth rally:

At the opening prayer, without starting or ending with the sign of the Cross, we prayed the Our Father and were directed to hold hands.

After we were assembled into small discussion groups the keynote speaker (spoke for an hour-and-a-half - too long!) asked us to name two or three people in our lives who are good examples of faith. He said, "I don't believe faith can be taught. It must be caught."

The music leader was a nun but they never called her "Sister", but just used her first and last name. She was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and Teva's. (I told the kids in my group when they registered to go, even though it was a day-long event, that they couldn't wear shorts because there would be Mass at the end.)

Other than the Mass, there was very little speech throughout the day that would have even indicated it was a Catholic youth rally. It was 90% entertainment and 10% Christian life experience stories.

I felt sorry for the young priest who was detectably bothered with the amount of talking going on during the Mass. Another chaperone told me she had never seen so many people chewing gum as they were about to receive Communion!

I had to go into the crowd of kids at Communion time and tell several groups to stop talking and prepare to receive the Eucharist. They looked at me like I was from Mars. The entire rally was held in a school gym, Mass included, so the kids did not have chairs and it was sort of mass chaos. Why they didn't move to the nearby church for Mass was unknown. I kept thinking about how I would do it differently if it were my event to organize.

How about you? What would your format be if you had a captive audience of pre-teens to evangelize to for 6 hours?

A 90-minute keynote? For anyone - especially middle-schoolers? Yikes.

I don't have time to say all the things I've said before on this. I don't have an answer for "The Program," but really a suggestion for a (groan) "The Paradigm."

1. Do hard thinking about what "youth ministry" is - in the evangelical world it seems to have evolved into the idea that what is needed is an alternative culture - to mimic, as much as possible, what we think teens find attractive in secular culture, re-create it with a Christian theme, and keep them, therefore safe from the ill effects of the secular culture. So because teens tend to prioritize emotion and social relationships, our ministry will do this. Because teens like...whatever they like - certain music styles, skateboarding, working out, thinking about boys...we will throw up alternatives to every one of those things so they will not have to go to the secular world to get those needs and desires fulfilled.

Is this what youth ministry should be?

Is this the way we think about "adult ministry?" Perhaps, sometimes, yes. More

Evangelicals are questioning whether this works. Catholics should too - the question is - does it last? My answer would be, normally no, and for two reasons:

1) Teens grow up and get past those stages and needs.

2) The broader church experience does not function that way. What do you do when you have gotten into church because of Youth Masses and Programs especially designed for you and you get out in their St. Ethlebert's parish USA and find out that you're not going to be catered to, that Mass is not, in fact, designed with your preferences in mind....where does that leave you?

3) In the Catholic context - it's disconnected from who we are and what we should be about. The frantic panic to "serve the youth" reverses the Gospel. It is not the Church's job to "attract" anyone - it is the Church's job to be the Body of Christ and bring the Good News to a suffering world, and that means the members of that Body should be formed with that in mind.

4) In my mind these days, the ideal "youth program" in a parish is one in which "youth" are simply part of the parish, part of the Body, called to serve like everyone else - and given that opportunity, and encouraged to do so. Who are taught, first of all that their worship of the Lord and their prayers for the suffering and needy matter. Who are taught that Christ is present for them, here, now, to nourish, to reconcile, to forgive. Who are taught that the center of their daily life should be, as Paul says, to "pray without ceasing" - that they, just like any adult in the parish, are in the company of Christ every minute of every day, and can grow to see every encounter, every choice they make in that light.

When is the last time you heard a priest, in a homily, actually explicitly include young people from teens to college students - in the examples he offers in his homilies, or even recognize their presence? Ever?

That they are welcome to serve in every parish ministry that is appropriate, and if there is a dearth of such ministries...let's get going and figure out what we can do. How can young people get involved, in serving the shut-ins, in raising money for the missions, in teaching the young, providing music for liturgies? There are limitations, of course, some related to age and maturity, and some related to privacy concerns.

They are welcome and invited to participate in religious education. Bible study? Talks on apologetics? Reading group? If it's not during the school day...why not?

No, we won't have masses of kids. But do you know what we will have? The kids who are serious about faith that are seriously turned off by experiences described by my reader above. Again, that tension, which is constant and real in youth ministry, and with which I totally sympathize.

The problems with youth ministry are many, but I'd say that the answers, in the Catholic context, seem to lie in 1) more vigorous, serious liturgical and spiritual life in the parish, period, which young people are seen as an integral part, not as a special interest group 2) Assuming that young people are called, not to be served and catered to, but to serve.

I have also come to question - seriously question - the disconnect I see between the contemporary ethos of youth ministry and the historical understanding of what a Christian disciple is. A few weeks ago, the Revolve Tour came to Fort Wayne, Revolve being that magazine-like New Testament for girls we talked about a couple of years ago, in which the text is designed to look like Seventeen and is peppered with tidbits about dating, make-up and so on. I looked at the website and really had to wonder - what does this have to do with Priscilla and Junia, Perpetua and Felicity, with Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of the Child Jesus, Jane de Chantal, Mother Theodore Guerin, Dorothy Day...what?

Well, of course Revolve isn't Catholic, so what would you expect? But when I consider these women, and how they vigorously entered into deep friendship with Christ and what this friendship called them to, I really was left, despite my desire to be charitable and think, " least they've got girls thinking about Jesus and trying to live that out in the world..." ...not thinking that. And instead thinking...

...granted, the vast majority of young women will not enter convents or religious life or the life of the missionary. But it is still not unfair or unrealistic to make the contrast because what the witness of these saints represent is the fulfillment of an ideal, and ideal of serving the poor of this world, immersing themselves in some way in that, but while keeping their eyes fixed on Christ in a radical way. Christians through the centuries who had families and lived in the world knew that in some way, in some little way, this was their ideal too - the examples and witness of these women, while somehow beyond us, were also somehow not, and they represent, I think, a more profound and authentic connection to the call of Jesus in the Gospel than does, "It's cool and fun to be Christian." Because you know, it's not supposed to be fun and cool. Or maybe I missed that day. I don't know.

There are positive outcomes to youth "events" - the Steubenville events, for example, seem to have a more substantive feel to them and produce good fruit. And youth activities do have a place, and have every since the CYO was invented all those years ago. But the paradigm is flawed, as we have somehow convinced Catholic youth that the best they can do is look to the Church for entertainment and community....

This is not to critique the many fine people struggling in youth ministry, because I'm pretty certain that most of them would echo my questions. The answer, though, is not in their programs and should not be seen as resting totally on their shoulders. It is a problem of the Church - what are we here for? What is our presence in the world all about? Why do our parishes exist and why do we want people to come there?

From Crunch Cons--Swallows and Tradition

From Rod Dreher...response to First Things article:

Swallows and Tradition

Continuing the discussion from the last post, what prompted Maggie Gallagher's e-mails to me was her reading of Jody Bottum's long and rewarding essay from the new issue of First Things, in which he makes the failure in recent times of the famed swallows to return to Capistrano a metaphor for the death, or near-death, of Catholic culture in the United States. Bottum says that Vatican II's reforms cleaned out a lot of "nests" in the American Catholic Church, things that the would-be reformers thought were mere cobwebs, detritus, cultural bric-a-brac, but which were actually crucial carriers of Catholic culture. Here's Bottum:

An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals. They provided beauty, and eccentricity, and life. What they did, really, was provide Catholicism to the Catholic Church in America, and none of the multimedia Masses and liturgical extravaganzas in the years since—none of the decoy nests and artificial puddles—has managed to call them home. All the mission bells will ring, / The chapel choir will sing, / When the swallows come back to Capistrano.

True story: a few years back, Julie and I were visiting our friends the Mathewes-Greens outside of Baltimore. We attended the beginning of the liturgy at their Orthodox parish, and were knocked flat by the beauty and majesty of the service and the singing. Most of these people in this parish were converts, but they celebrated the tradition they had found with inspiring vigor. An outsider could hardly fail to be impressed by the beauty on display -- and that beauty (the beauty of the chanted psalms and ancient liturgy, the icons, the prostrations) carried within it an entire way of relating to the world. As someone who came to Catholicism out of a low-church Protestant background, I had come to understand by doing how all the aesthetic trappings of Catholicism were not just decoration, but carried within them the Catholic worldview. I came to appreciate sacramentalism not through cognition, at least not primarily, but by experiencing the Catholic tradition in rituals formal and informal. Anyway, we left the Orthodox liturgy after some time to drive up the road a bit to fulfill our Sunday obligation at the local Catholic parish.

It was quite a contrast. The 1970s building suggested Our Lady of Pizza Hut. Inside the rounded interior, a large molded plastic cross hung over the altar, which had been moved forward, like a theater in the round. The walls had been stripped of nearly anything identifiably Catholic, except for some modernist representations of the Stations of the Cross. It looked like some sort of badly-dated bus terminal from "The Jetsons." The white-haired priest processed in, trailed by a couple of altar girls, with the congregation mewling some Seventies-era hymn. You can imagine the rest -- indeed, if you are an American Catholic, you don't have to work hard to imagine it. You've seen it. Perhaps you do see it every Sunday. What finally made us leave during the mass was the priest's homily, in which he preached the exact opposite of the teaching of that day's Gospel, and something which I had enough sense to realize directly undermined Catholic teaching. We'd had it. We picked up Matthew, who was a toddler then, genuflected and left. We were both near tears on our way back to the car, and it wasn't so much over the blasted modernist disaster on display architecturally, liturgically, homiletically and aesthetically in that parish we'd just left so much as it was the contrast between Holy Cross Orthodox parish and that one.

Don't misunderstand me: I am not putting forth an argument saying "...and therefore Orthodoxy is better than Catholicism." What I'm trying to get at is that living truth is not just a set of propositions. The propositions are conveyed to us through Tradition, and that includes old rituals, old customs, and so forth. Though few of the people in Holy Cross had grown up with Orthodox tradition, they had been grafted onto its trunk, and were making it their lives. The crucial thing to remember is that there was an intact tradition for them to accept. I have a dear friend, formerly Orthodox and now Evangelical, who says he left the Greek church of his youth because all he could see was dead ritualism on display. I've no doubt that's true, and Tradition can become an idol. Still, a Catholic from 1960 who walked into that Catholic parish we visited would wonder what "bare ruined choirs" catastrophe had happened to render the Church so unrecognizable. One wonders: would a Catholic child raised in that kind of environment have a chance to grow up to be Flannery O'Connor or Walker Percy? Would an Orthodox child raised in the Holy Cross environment have a chance to grow up to be Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn?

The answer is fairly obvious to me, but Jody Bottum makes a key point here, when he says that there are new signs of life among younger orthodox Catholics, but he doesn't overpraise them:

For the development of a new Catholicism, this doesn’t look the most-promising start. Rich local cultures may produce great works, but few people in the United States have that kind of cultural wealth anymore. Certainly not many Catholics. The number of Americans who grew up in a profoundly Catholic setting is smaller than it ever has been before—which creates a problem for a new culture. If Catholicism is something elected rather than received, can Catholics achieve what earlier cultures did?

Their children, perhaps, will come from a thick-enough world that they can write the kind of strong Catholic novels, make the kind of strong Catholic art, prior ages knew. But in the meantime, a rebellion against rebellion doesn’t escape the problems of rebellion, and a chosen tradition is never quite the same as an inherited one.

And that was Maggie's point: that there is something of a "wannabe" quality to the neotraditionalism I advocate. Yet again, I go back to the "what else is there?" rejoinder. If I prostrate myself before the Orthodox icons on Sunday morning, and teach my children to do the same, or if I say my beads at the Latin Mass, it is an unusual thing. It is not the culture I inherited. The culture of my immediate inheritance is Our Lady of Pizza Hut. But it is a dead end and a dead thing. It won't last. The Orthodox liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Tridentine Mass in Catholicism -- and all the trappings and devotionals of those wondrous poems -- have stood the test of time. There is true life in them, and the culture(s) that grew up around them. We can never go back to the ghettoized faith and culture of the past. We can't unlearn, but we can relearn. It might be impossible for Catholics of my generation to write the Great Catholic Novel, but if they've been diligent in raising their kids, and (as Flannery put it), pushed back as hard against the age as it has pushed them, maybe in their children's generation. Or their grandchildren's. The only alternative I can see is to accept our rootless condition as fated.

[N.B., The point is not that we should worship Tradition for its own sake. That ends up in worshipping the Tribe, or worshipping Ritual, etc. Tradition (in religion) is only worthwhile insofar as it helps its adherents become saints. The right-thinking traditionalist must always keep that truth in front of him.]

The Kirk family is very traditional and Catholic. Russell KIrk's immediate ancestors were Swedenborgian spiritualists. Are we to tell the Kirks that they're faking it, that they're not really Catholic because the tradition was broken? Or did the recovery take place in a generation or two? You see?