Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Bushism

US President George W. Bush said in an interview Tuesday he was forced to sacrifice free market principles to save the economy from "collapse."

"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system," Bush told CNN television, saying he had made the decision "to make sure the economy doesn't collapse."

Utter nonsense! Seriously, does this apologia make any economic sense? It was the wholesale abandonment of free-market principles, in favor of Keynesian bilge, central banks and the decimation of the US dollar, that led to this mess. Bush should know better. It's high time for him to go. Problem is, with Obama, we're going from bad to worse, far worse. A consolation prize is that, at least when Obama screws things up, as he is certain to, we can blame them and not our own.

Click here for the story

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Kennedy in the Senate?

Kennedy, like millions of Americans, fawning over The One.

Caroline Kennedy is making a run for Hillary Clinton's vacated NY senate seat. The daughter of JFK and Jackie-O, Kennedy seems like a genuinely nice person who has, for most of her life, bucked family tradition by assiduously avoiding the limelight in favor of a quiet family life. But does America (let alone the Catholic Church) need another self-described "Catholic" bearing the name "Kennedy" meddling in political office, advocating every moral abomination under the sun; i.e., abortion, human embryonic stem-cell "research," cloning, etc.? It's a rhetorical question. No doubt Kennedy will get the seat. Expect her to hold on to it for the next 30 years. A Kennedy running in New York is not likely to lose, ever. One can only hope the US bishops will wise up and be more pastoral in dealing with her voting indiscretions than they have been with her bloviating uncle Ted.

Gov. Jindal

From Newsweek:
Together, Jindal's adaptive instincts and intellectual drive fueled his conversion to Catholicism. At 12, an evangelical friend named Kent gave him a paperback Bible for Christmas. Raised in a "strong Hindu culture," Jindal considered himself "anti-Christian" and stashed it in a closet. But a crush, Kathy, soon convinced him to read the book "from cover to cover." Jindal gradually warmed to the Scriptures, and while watching a Passion film at Kent's church, he was suddenly "convicted" of his "sinfulness and [his] need for a savior." Most conversion narratives end there. But Jindal's doesn't. Ever the A student, he studied Kent's Bible "by flashlight" and even "learned bits of Latin, Greek and Hebrew." After a long stretch of soul searching, Jindal concluded that Protestantism lacked "scriptural cogency" and decided to become a strict Catholic instead. ("Bobby said he trusted God to put his own house in order," recalls Ahsanuddin.) Although critics have questioned the governor's motives—Hindu activist Ramesh Rao recently wrote that "Jindal knew well that [conversion] was the only way, as an Indian-American Hindu, he could achieve his political ambitions"—his deeply Catholic views, including a "100 percent" opposition to abortion "with no exceptions" for rape, incest or health of the mother, undoubtedly anger more voters than they attract. "If I wanted the aesthetics without the inconvenient morality," he wrote in 1998, "I could become Episcopalian."

Love that last line.

The Mind of a Liberal

"This is the Katrina nation: Our inclination is to ignore the warnings, wait for it to happen, and then blame the government for not doing more." -Mark Steyn
Shortly after assuming the presidency, Obama plans to give a "major address" in a Muslim capital. On that point, here's an excerpt from a great piece by Amir Taheri:
Most Muslims still regard him as one of their own: His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were Muslims, as was his stepfather - so he is deemed a Muslim by birth and thus a member of the ummah (the community of the faithful), unless and until he formally disowns his male ancestors' faith. If he were truly a convert to Christianity, he would have replaced his Arabic and Islamic first and middle names - Barack (blessing) and Hussein (beautiful) - with baptismal Christian names.

The president-elect should have better advice on religion with international politics. America faces groups and states that divide mankind into religious blocs and seek domination for their own Islamic camp. Obama shouldn't endorse that division but instead make it clear that his nation will fight any force that tries to impose its hegemony in the name of any faith or creed.

Finally, Obama should know that Islam is torn by several interconnected theological and political conflicts: Sunnis vs. Shiites, modernists vs. traditionalists, despots vs. democrats, moderates vs. radicals. There is, in fact, no such thing as "the Muslim world" that he can address as a single unit (let alone seduce into adopting America as a friend).

Click here for to read the entire piece

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


POZNAN, Poland - The UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland is about to face a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN. The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

Click Here for article

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On Liturgy

Have I posted this pithy observation already? If so, it bears repeating; that is, until I see a long overdue return to sanity in liturgical observance across the country, starting first in Milwaukee.
As a Catholic, I have abandoned hope for the liturgy, which, in the typical American church, is as ugly and as maladroit as if it had been composed by Robert Ingersoll and H.L. Mencken for the purpose of driving people away.

Incidentally, the modern liturgists are doing a remarkably good job, attendance at Catholic Mass on Sunday having dropped sharply in the 10 years since a few well-meaning cretins got hold of the power to vernacularize the Mass, and the money to scour the earth in search of the most unmusical men and women to preside over the translation.

The next liturgical ceremony conducted primarily for my benefit, since I have no plans to be beatified or remarried, will be my own funeral; and it is a source of great consolation to me that, at my funeral, I shall be quite dead, and will not need to listen to the accepted replacement for the noble old Latin liturgy. Meanwhile, I am practicing Yoga, so that, at church on Sundays, I can develop the power to tune out everything I hear, while attempting, athwart the general calisthenics, to commune with my Maker, and ask Him first to forgive me my own sins, and implore him, second, not to forgive the people who ruined the Mass
. -William F. Buckley Jr.

Here's to the extraordinary form of the Mass! Given what one is most likely to come upon at a typical American parish, with the de rigueur Sesame Street variety of Catholicism, who can blame individuals like the late WFB for having jilted commonplace liturgies in preference for the timeless liturgy of our ancestors, offered in Latin?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Looking Back on Solemnities in Rome

One of the many things I miss about life in Rome is the strong sense of a Solemnity like today being something important within the life of the city and its inhabitants. Whether it is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception or Corpus Christi, life in Italian cities reflects a subtle awareness of the special day without the occasionally strained Catholicism found at places like my alma mater, Christendom College. After Mass, I'd always do something a little extra with friends to commemorate the day, like go to lunch at a nicer restaurant, visit an art gallery or take a train for a short day trip. More shops in the center were closed in observance of the day and in those cafes or restaurants that were open, visitors would frequently part with a "buona festa" to the barista or waiter. Despite the advances of secularism, the culture is still stubbornly Catholic in countries like Italy, Spain, Poland, etc. In US cities, this awareness is notably absent outside the walls of churches. Something to take note of when meditating on culture.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Responding to a Letter from a Pro-Obama Religious

Inured to high drama and ample displays of liberal eccentricities in their backyard, or sanctuary, battle weary Milwaukee Catholics received an earful from one Sister Arlene Welding, SSSF in the freewheeling editorial pages of their local archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Herald. (November 27, 2008) Sr. Arlene’s aim was, as far as I can tell, to set the US bishops straight by offering an impassioned defense of President-Elect Barack Obama. How did this bold apologia pro Obama begin? Well, by reminding the bishops of the hearty number of their flock, some fifty-four percent to be precise, who voted for the former Illinois Senator. “It is time they [the bishops] begin to realize that 54% of Catholics who voted for him [Obama] do not agree with the bishops telling people how to vote.”

Sr. Arlene though, was not finished by any measure. After scribbling off the hackneyed and utterly banal line about the annoyance of bishops “telling people how to vote,” she meandered into the realm of the astonishing and unbelievable. Are you ready for a real zinger? Said the sister: "Obama may be pro-choice, but so is God. God gave everyone a free will and he does not pressure people into using that free will to do what is right.” Now, given the importance our society places on emotions, good intentions, glitz and bling and the corollary beaten-down state of rational argument and logic, Sr. Arlene’s screed shouldn’t epater the reason-inclined reader too much. More than anything else, Obama’s election is proof that style often trumps substance when reason would have otherwise. But the theological, let alone philosophical, reckonings offered here by Sr. Arlene elevate inanity to a level heretofore thought impossible, even in the age of Obama. So let’s knock down each fallacy, one by one.

Sister Arlene states unambiguously that, like Barack Obama, “God is pro-choice.” She stumbles upon this novel idea by asserting the truth (yes, there’s one in there) that man possesses a free will from God. Free will then, according to creative minds like Sr. Arlene, means that anything goes as far as morality is concerned, including the participation in an act that is intrinsically evil, i.e., the murder of an innocent human being. But the free will that Sister Arlene so vociferously aims to defend is given to man with the clear expectation that he use it well by choosing the objective good. To do otherwise would be immoral and hence wrong. So should every immoral act be verboten by the powers of state and therefore subject to penalty? No. As students of ethics know, there are certain evils that unfortunately roam free in society because efforts to snuff them out by the government would likely result in the emergence of police states, much like those in certain countries in the Middle East where “morality police” go door to door in search of every alleged violation of this or that code of conduct. However, when the evil is so egregious, as in the case of abortion, the state must, as a matter of natural law, step in and rely on the force of law to ensure justice by protecting the threatened party. Contrary to the contrivances of Sr. Arlene, free will is not a carte blanche to commit every atrocity conceivable, even if someone out there views this or that act as good “for him.” It is true that one cannot be forced to do the right thing, but it requires some impressive logical gymnastics to contort that claim to argue seriously that certain intrinsically evil acts cannot be outlawed by the state, just because man has a free will to commit them if he so chooses. Based on her own skewered line of reasoning, logic would have to guide Sr. Arlene to the embarrassing conclusion that any law enacted by a state restricting a serious evil, as in let’s say murder, fraud, stealing from nice old ladies, etc., is an unjust “imposition” by an external entity on the plenipotentiary free will of the individual.

There’s more to the story of Sr. Arlene and her novel interpretation of Catholicism and morality. Determined to outdo herself in exhibitions of malarkey, she continued in her tiresome screed: “Yes, abortion is the killing of an innocent life. So is war and violent killing on the street. I have often seen many starving babies in hospitals in Honduras and witnessed their pain. In these cases, abortion might have been the lesser of two evils, and even the most merciful alternative.” Where to even begin here? There’s just too much material. Well, we’ve unearthed another true assertion made by Sr. Arlene. (Sorry, this may be the last one.) The sister gets it right when she says, “Yes, abortion is the killing of an innocent life.” But once again, she sets fire to any gains made with that statement by following it up with yet another worn-out talking point, dragged right out of the 1960’s, when she morally equates abortion to war. Ah, the war/abortion, seamless garment bilge resurfaces. Not again! Once again, abortion, since it is an intrinsically evil act, can never be morally justified. Period. As anyone who has thumbed through St. Augustine or St. Thomas instantly knows, war is another shade in the field of ethics and requires a more nuanced approach than what Sr. Arlene offers the reader. As the Church has taught for almost two-thousand years (whether theological neophytes like Sr. Arlene care to admit it or not), war can, in certain well defined conditions, be morally justifiable. The successful martial exertion of the Allied Forces during World War II represents the most conspicuous example of a just war, most rational minds would agree. And there are certainly others, before and after. War per se is not an intrinsic evil, no matter how hard innovative yet wrongheaded individuals like Sr. Arlene may try to construct it.

Then, after a litany of low points that demonstrate marvelously Sr. Arlene’s discombobulated value-ranking system, she strikes the lowest of low points when she suggests, astonishingly, that abortion may be “the most merciful alternative” with regard to children likely to be born into poverty. Among some tough competition, this last puff takes the prize for most sad, most confused and most wrong of all Sr. Arlene’s sordid utterances. A study in comparisons would be appropriate here. Everyone remembers Mother Teresa’s impassioned plea to any woman considering abortion. Rather than abort the child, the Blessed would offer that he or she could be left with Mother Teresa or with one of her Missionaries of Charity. “Give me the baby. I will take him.” Unfortunately Sr. Arlene, in stark contrast to Blessed Mother Teresa, takes the polar opposite approach with her chilling embrace of “mercy” killing. Who doubts that no one in modern times better understood the pains of material poverty like Mother Teresa? Yet the utter poverty and destitution witnessed by this Blessed never justified in her mind the kind of cruel recourse proffered by Sr. Arlene in her letter.

Finally, for her curtain call, Sr. Arlene presumes in a tone dripping with arrogance to lecture the bishops, and the rest of us to be sure, on the need to reassess our priorities when it comes to singling out moral causes to take up. “I challenge our bishops to dwell more on unjust economic issues that both create and perpetuate the need for children to die of starvation, and for women to choose abortion. It would be better to aim at eliminating poverty rather than focus only on abortion. Poverty in our country and the world at large is a disgrace that cries to heaven for vengeance.” Once again we can turn to Blessed Mother Teresa for some much needed clarity and illumination. Had she read Sr. Arlene's letter, Mother Teresa would have no doubt kindly reminded her that spiritual poverty and not material poverty, is the greatest scourge of the modern world and that abortion, par excellence, represents the apotheosis of society’s waltz macabre with evil and the culture of death.

The decision by Brian Olszewski, the editor of the Catholic Herald, to publish such an error-laden, reason impoverished letter is yet another deeply troubling aspect to this unfortunate story. No doubt, the reply to a query calling into question the editor’s judgment would go something like this: The Catholic Herald does not endorse every view that is expressed in its letters to the editor. While we certainly don’t agree with Sr. Arlene’s viewpoint we nonetheless believe it is helpful to give voice to both sides of a position as controversial as this one. Default relativism emanating from a journalist, a kind of thesis-antithesis Hegelian-esque dialectic approach toward discerning the truth, might fly with a secular paper but it certainly should not be the guiding standard of a one that claims to be Catholic; at least, not one that is worth the paper on which it is printed. As a Catholic newspaper, certain commitments to basic principles must be assumed sacrosanct and the commitment to these principles should regularly be reinforced by the various articles that appear in its pages. Mr. Olszewski’s scandalous decision, whether arrived at through laziness or willful intent, to provide a forum to a religious like Sister Arlene to spout her poisonous view that God is pro-choice should be met by the collective outrage of all committed Catholics around the country. Just where is the editorial oversight when it comes to supervising the content of this ostensibly Catholic paper, so as to ensure its theological integrity and conformity to the Magisterium? Serious Catholics who subscribe to the Catholic Herald, if indeed there are any left given its precipitous drop in circulation, deserve much better than what is being offered by the current Herald staff under the direction of Mr. Olszewski.

Serious Catholics concerned about the future of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee can contact Mr. Olszewski at the following address:

Brian T. Olszewski 

The Catholic Herald

3501 S. Lake Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53235-0913

The phone number is (414) 769-3466 

Mr. Olszewski's e-mail address is olszewskib@archmil.org.