Tuesday, August 29, 2006
This was forwarded to me with a note saying it was important. I agree. It takes six minutes to watch and could save your life or that of someone you love. (Note: I don't believe the phone lines mentioned in the segment are still open, but there is a Web site with more information on inflammatory breast cancer.)
Joseph Shipman, a longtime commenter to this blog, writes that his wife needs your prayers:
Lisa is in St. Peter's Hospital for tests -- she is in her 20th week, and earlier test results showed a possibility of pre-eclampsia. At the moment, both she and the baby are fine, but we need prayers that all will continue to be well.UPDATE, 9/1/06: Sad news from Joseph:
If you could post a prayer request on your blog I am sure it would help.
The baby was stillborn very early this morning. We named her Francesca Marie. Lisa is still in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Peter's, but is getting better. Please keep us in your prayers.Please pray for Lisa, Joseph, and the rest of their family.
Pre-eclampsia is a scary disease -- this spiraled out of control within 3 days even though she was in the hospital under constant observation. It is fortunate that she had a regular prenatal checkup on Monday and the doctor recognized the suspicious pattern in the test results even though she was not feeling particularly sick.
I would like to recommend the following charity, which was there for us today:
Monday, August 28, 2006
Planned Parenthood is often accused of attempting to sway clients with positive pregnancy tests to choose abortions, a charge the organization denies. In light of that, I found a Planned Parenthood representative's comments to a reporter doing a story on a pregnancy resource center, a parenting-class center, and a Planned Parenthood chapter, to be very telling.
Stephanie Veale writes in the Utica Observer article "Values and Consequences":
Planned Parenthood counselors facilitate the decision-making process by making sure patients know how a choice will affect them. If a young teenager wants to keep her baby, a counselor might ask questions like, "How will this fit in with school?" and "Who will take care of the baby every day?" Schenectady-based counseling manager Sue Wendelgass said.Do you think that if the teenager answered that having her baby would indeed make it hard for her to stay in school, or that she would have trouble getting child care, Planned Parenthood's Wendelgass would bend over backwards to connect her with social services? Would she do everything legitimately within her power to make keeping the baby as attractive a choice as possible, as do pregnancy resource centers such as A Bridge to Life?
"The goal is not to alter their decision, but to get them to look at it in the context of their lives," Wendelgass said. Sometimes a woman hasn't thought her decision through all the way, and counseling helps her do that, she said.
Nuh-uh. It's all about getting teens to look at at their unborn babies — I mean, as Planned Parenthood puts it, "pregnancy tissue" — within "the context of their lives." Meaning the teens' lives — because, kids, being pregnant is All About YOU.
When a teenager is encouraged to think of a human being inside her body as being subject only to her own desires, what is to prevent the teenager from persisting in such narcissism if and when she ever brings such a child into the world? After all, if the child only exists because it fits conveniently into her life, why should she bother to keep it alive when it becomes inconvenient? To an abortion supporter, the answer can't be because the child, once born, has unique human qualities; there is nothing substantial in the born person's humanity that did not exist in it when it was unborn.
Here's a classic clip of the New York City media wreaking (literally) sweet revenge upon veteran hoaxer Alan Abel. From the clip's accompanying description on YouTube:
In 1972, Howard Hughes appeared at the St. Regis Hotel in NYC, wrapped in bandages, claiming that he was going to be frozen through cryogenics and return when the stock market peaked. A press conference was held and a large group of reporters were in attendance. After questioning, Hughes was hurriedly wheeled out through the lobby and his wheelchair got stuck in the revolving door. A second press conference took place several days later, during which it was revealed that media hoxer Alan Abel was actually the man underneath the bandages. In retaliation, the media decided to play their own joke on Abel.I took part in one of Abel's minor hoaxes when I was in college. For five dollars an hour, I spent a couple of lunchtimes as an accomplice to the "Robin Hood magician," a young man whose gimmick was that he would perform magic tricks for strangers on New York City streets in which he would actually give them the five dollar bill that he would find in their ear, elbow, and so on. Abel wasn't present at the magician's performances, but gave him advice.
For more information on Alan Abel and his hoaxing career, visit www.alanabel.com.
I remember Abel as being very smart, gracious, and funny; wish I'd stayed in touch with him. You can see from this and other clips of him on YouTube that he's a genius.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Saturday, August 26, 2006
A little Saturday-morning treat for you:
Dick Shawn does his marvelous star turn as Lorenzo St. DuBois in "The Producers" (1968). I refuse to see the Broadway version because Mel Brooks cut this song out (he didn't write it).
I used to perform the song at an open mic in Greenwich Village, wearing a homemade Campbell's soup-can necklace just like Shawn's. I would wear a minidress with tights and fishnets over the tights, and I would have silk flowers poking out of the fishnets at odd angles. At the appropriate moment of the song, I would toss the flowers out to the audience. It was very hard to do that and play guitar at the same time.
(There's more on my dissipated years, and my recovery from them, in my upcoming book — which some wit at Amazon has appropriately coupled, in a "buy two/get discount" offer, with Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
Friday, August 25, 2006
"We at Planned Parenthood consider this day a victorious day for women's health," said Jeralyn Wendelberger of Planned Parenthood after the FDA approved the abortion-causing Plan B*, or morning-after pill.
A table on Planned Parenthood's own Web site shows that it takes as many as 40 ordinary oral contraceptive pills — all of which require a prescription — to equal the hormones in Plan B, which is now available to women as young as 18 without a prescription.
Some "victory for women's health."
So, riddle me this: Why do oral contraceptives still require a prescription, seeing as they're so safe that you can take 40 times the prescribed amount anytime you want?
*Plan B's prescribing information says it may act by inhibiting implantation of an embryo, which kills the new human life.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Today I began reading People of the Lie, the first book I've ever attempted by M. Scott Peck. I'm in Chapter Two and can tell that it's highly profound. If you've read the book, what do you think of it and its conclusions?
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
"Also, there is a strange dichotomy in this whole position about our courts ruling that abortion is not the taking of a human life. In California, sometime ago, a man beat a woman so savagely that her unborn child was born dead with a fractured skull, and the California State Legislature unanimously passed a law that was signed by the then-Democratic Governor -- signed a law that said that any man who so abuses a pregnant woman that he causes the death of her unborn child shall be charged with murder. Now, isn't it strange that that same woman could have taken the life of her unborn child, and it was abortion and not murder, but if somebody else does it, that's murder?"
— President Ronald Reagan, debating former Vice President Walter Mondale in Louisville, Ky., October 7, 1984
Monday, August 21, 2006
Despite a headline seemingly intended to sound foreboding, "Anti-Abortion Activists Eye Inner Cities" is remarkably balanced as Associated Press stories go, giving an unusually accurate depiction of what goes on in crisis pregnancy centers.
Of course, it has the requisite quote from a Planned Parenthood mouthpiece:
"These predatory fanatics don't lift a finger to help the children who are born unwanted and unplanned," said Jatrice Martel Gaiter, head of the Washington-area Planned Parenthood chapter.The story goes on to describe what the crisis pregnancy centers actually do for mothers who choose life for their children — which is quite a bit more than just what Gaiter would have one believe. But what does the Washington, D.C.-area Planned Parenthood do for them?
"In these centers of deception, they leave young parents at best with a box of Pampers and a prayer," she said. "They leave people even more vulnerable than when they walked through the door, without any information about how to avoid a future unintended pregnancy."
Here, taken directly from Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington's Web site, is a detailed list of Planned Parenthood's free products and services for new mothers and their babies:
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Some Bobby Darin for your Saturday, via YouTube:
Darin sings "Have Mercy Baby" with former Drifters great Clyde McPhatter.
This is a real treat, despite the blurry quality — Darin sings "Higher and Higher" live during his final TV special, a few short months before his death. He was so ill at the time that he had to go backstage between songs to receive oxygen.
Friday, August 18, 2006
A friend who read an advance copy of my book on chastity for marriage-minded single women commented to me that she was glad I mentioned the prospect that the reader might never get married.
She was being generous. The book mentions the possibility of a lifetime as a chaste single woman only in passing. At the time that I wrote the book, I didn't very well know how to acknowledge it without making it sound like a death sentence.
It wasn't until reporter Nadine O'Regan of the Irish Times asked me point-blank how it felt to realize that I might never meet the right one, that I began to articulate what had been at the back of my mind for a while.
""Experience has shown me that I'm not getting more unhappy. I'm getting happier," I said. "So, as depressing as it may be to think of another five years, or a lifetime, of not being married, the depression is only in me in the fear. Actually living out a chaste lifestyle indefinitely is not sad. I'm accomplishing so much with my life that I didn't think I'd be able to accomplish."
G.K. Chesterton writes that, according to the "Penny Catechism" he read before entering the Church, "The two sins against Hope are presumption and despair."
We don't usually think of hope as something that can be sinned against. But it is a virtue, and presumption and despair are its corresponding vices. More than that, it is, along with faith and charity, one of the three theological virtues, meaning that it is directed towards God.
A person living chastely while wishing to be married is living in hope. However, I'm realizing more and more that, while there is nothing wrong with longing for marriage — God expects us, after all, to look to Him to fulfill our desires — the kind of hope in which such a person abides is ideally not centered upon wedding vows.
Here again I run up against the difficulties of the language we use when describing the single life. I don't say that one desiring marriage should merely "stop looking," as advice columnists would have it, nor that one should "cultivate other interests" or "just be the best person you can be."
What I have in mind is something that's rarely discussed in our consumer culture, which is about entitlement, as in the mantra that Lucinda Williams wrote in her catchy song "Passionate Kisses": "Shouldn't I have this, shouldn't I have this, shouldn't I have all of this ... Give me what I deserve, 'cause it's my right."
To a child of the culture of entitlement, the following may be akin to telling a sugar-loving tot, "Perhaps your mission in life is not to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner." But it's striking me more and more, especially as I spend time with religious faithful and people who do charitable work that perhaps what I think are the most important things for me to accomplish in life are not necessarily those that God considers most important.
Everything we do here on Earth counts, for our salvation and that of others. There are certain things that we can do here that are unique to this life, and we should cherish the blessings of earthly existence while we can. But — what seems like an eternity for us is less than the blink of an eye in Heaven. Moreover, there are no marriages in Heaven. Neither are there parent-child relationships in Heaven as there are here. When we are greeted by our "children" in Heaven, it will be our spiritual children — those whom we have helped come to the faith — which, for a single person, could well exceed the number of children of a married one. So, while missing out on marriage in this life may feel like a tragedy, it won't affect one's future happiness.
The hope in which I strive to live, then, is that Jesus, through Mary, will enable the graces He has given me through the gift of conversion to come to full flower. This is the "hope [that] maketh not ashamed," as Paul writes in Romans 5, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
That love from God is expressed, as Paul says, through the Holy Spirit, which the Apostle writes in 2 Corinthians is what conforms the faithful to Jesus' image: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Make no mistake about it, I want to be married and experience the love and companionship of a husband on every level — physical, emotional, and spiritual. And, sure, I think about it a lot. But when I think about the short time we have on Earth — and time flies when you're over 35 — I feel the need to focus on discerning God's will for my life from day to day. It's a will that requires me to become more loving to everyone — as opposed to becoming more attractive to that special someone out there.
I have no idea how I can accomplish such a directive. Certainly, I can't do it from my own efforts; it's obvious from my blog that I stumble at it daily. But I look at the lives of saints like Maximilian Kolbe and I have to hope and trust that Jesus, through Mary, will grant me the grace to, as St. Maximilian put it, love without limits.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
"Yes sir. To Mr. Jerry Nutt, I just hope this brings some kind of peace to your family. I wish I could bring them back, but I can't. I hope my death brings peace; don't hang on to the hate. Momma, stay strong. Lord forgive me for my sins because here I come. Let's go, Warden."
— Jermaine Herron, just before he was executed on May 17, quoted in a must-read post by the Raving Atheist, "Last Words."
This is a remarkable end to a tragic mystery.
For those who can remember the media frenzy after JonBenet's murder, what do you think of this in light of all the suspicion that had focused upon the girl's parents? What does it say about the initial police investigation?
UPDATE: Apparently it's not the end to the mystery after all.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Via YouTube, here's one of Stan Freberg's classic commercials — a Chun King one circa 1964 that he created and in which he stars (he's the one with glasses). It includes a take-off on the Clairol slogan "Only Her Hairdresser Knows for Sure." Also, note the unusual device of a commercial within a commercial — a meta-commercial, as it were.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
One of the fun things about attending a Tridentine Mass is learning where all those highfalutin'-sounding Catholic blog names come from.
Reader Leif writes:
While commenting on [Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders'] "The Game of Love" on your blog and playing around with the lyric therein, "it happened long ago in the garden of Eden," I was surfing around on the topic and came across a set of photos of religious plays performed in England in the 1950s.
I thought you'd appreciate this one ...
[Click on photo for a much larger image]
[Click on photo for a much larger image]
... something's present in those images -- more than just a little middle school play.
"From [Fr. John Hardon's] bio of St. Maximilian [Kolbe], a quote from the holy man: 'I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.' That is unspeakably impressive isn't it? To ask for both? I'd probably ask if there were any tinfoil crowns available."
— TS, writing in his blog Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor
"One good thing about [the UN building] is that you're allowed to smoke - exceptional in tobacco-free Manhattan. But even this is for a bad reason: not because of any healthy indulgence of sin, but because of an inability to impose rules. In a world where everyone is equal, no one is allowed to exert any authority. It's like Hitler's bunker at the end of the Second World War - people knew the obsessive anti-smoking Führer was dead and that all authority had collapsed because everyone was lighting up."
— From "The UN has its place, but does it merit a building?" by Harry Mount, in today's Telegraph. Harry's a friend, and his article's brilliant; read the whole thing.
More posts coming later today.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
R.A.G.E. Media presents a "pro-choice campaign ad" for a candidate from Illinois.
When you're done, watch my all-time favorite TV commercial to see what the opposing candidate's up to these days. (Yes, I like it even better than Burt Bacharach's turn for Geico.)
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Feministe's Lauren presents an arresting broadside against those of her ideological compatriots who make cheap shots against parents:
I admit that I find a lot of the discussions of parenting in the feminist blogosphere — which only seem to pop up when a prominent woman has, oh, anything to say about her kids in print — sexist and condescending. Mythago has this bit covered well in the comments at Pandagon, language about how women “pop out” or “sh-t out” kids, people who think children are more of an economic dearth than a possible pleasure, and the refusal to recognize that “kid-friendly” isn’t the opposite of “adults-only.”All right, she loses me on that last point. But she adds:
And, fellow feminists, I f-cking hate the term “breeders.”She ends the post with a forceful request:
I call a truce. No more mommy drive-bys. In the absence of real danger inflicted on our children, we’re doing what we can to make our sometimes-charming, sometimes-irritating little people into productive and engaged big people and don’t deserve the extra shame and misogyny heaped on us by others who don’t have any interest in our lifestyles anyway. To each their own. How we raise our children — and how we feel about it — is always ripe for discussion, but I won’t pretend this mommy knows best. [Read the whole post for full context, including links omitted here.]At the heart of the post is Lauren's "theory of parenting":
Children: Little people making bad decisions.One missing piece to such a theory, in my opinion, is that parents are obliged to not only help their children make good decisions, but, when necessary, prevent them from making bad decisions. And I do find it interesting, given the relativism that permeates the writings of Lauren and her fellow Feministe bloggers, that she admits there is such a thing as a "bad decision."
Adults: Helping little people make less bad decisions.
Parents: Obligated to help, to the best of their ability, their little people make good decisions the best they can.
What do you think of Lauren's theory? I'd be especially interested in hearing from parents.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Last night, I discovered that I have an unlikely new pop-cultural hero: Billy Bob Thornton.
Until then, everything I had read about the five-times-divorced actor's personal life made him sound creepy. In contrast, his comments to Andrew Goldman in the latest issue of Elle reveal him to be surprisingly thoughtful and even downright charming. It's clear, however, that I'm not his type — which, all things considered, is no doubt for the best. A few highlights from Goldman's interview:
ELLE: Is there any man you've been around who puts your own power with women to shame?
BILLY BOB THORNTON: My buddy Jim Varney, God rest his soul, who played Ernest. He'd say things that would get most of us slapped, but women thought he was so adorable and funny, they didn't care.
ELLE: ... What thing could you find in a woman's home that would convince you that you weren't compatible?
BBT: A copy of "Star Wars."
ELLE: What does that really say about somebody?
BBT: That they contribute to the ruination of motion pictures by supporting things that rely on toys and gimmicks. You know, it's like finding a drawer full of vibrators.
ELLE: ... Ever have any unlikely crushes?
BBT: Ruth Buzzi.
ELLE: ... If for the night you could inhabit the body of any man, living or dead, to pick up women, who would it be?
BBT: Probably one of those cats in the Revolution, like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson.
ELLE: Ben Franklin had a reputation as an amazing swordsman.
BBT: Exactly. There you go.
ELLE: But so do you. Have you ever tried to compute your numbers? Are you in Wilt Chamberlain territory?
BBT: I'm not up there with Wilt. But I've never tried to do it. It makes it just seem like a sport, and I'm not like that, and these days I try not to be that reflective. Sometimes it's depressing, thinking about those times in your life when bad things happened.
ELLE: Are there any physical peculiarities you can't tolerate in a woman?
BBT: Really long toes, where they look like claws, you know what I mean? It looks like they have hands instead of feet.
ELLE: My God! I never knew hand-footed women existed.
BBT: Oh, they're out there.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Many, many thanks to Matthew Alderman of Shrine of the Holy Whapping, a recent graduate of Notre Dame's architectural program, who has given me the stunning portrait at left for The Dawn Patrol. Click on the image for a larger version.
I'm holding Hans Memling's "Allegory of Chastity." The "V+v=S" is Saint Maximilian Kolbe's formula for sainthood: Voluntas (God's will) plus voluntas (my will) equals Sanctitas (sanctity).
Matthew wrote me an e-mail shedding light on other symbolism in the portrait:
The device of the Shin added to the Tetragrammaton, which works out roughly to the same sound as "Yehoshua" if perhaps the spelling is different, appears in a digression in Oedipus Aegypticus, an Egyptological work published between 1652-1654 by the polymath scholar Fr. Athanasius Kircher, SJ, where he discusses the Hebrew language and its relation to Egyptian history.Matthew is just brilliant. Visit Shrine of the Holy Whapping for more of his artistry and observations.
Kircher is a bit of a hero of mine (I have recently christened my apartment the "Kircherianum" after his museum in Rome), even if he was horrible at translating hieroglyphics. Most of his conclusions are wholly fanciful, but he does include an astonishing symbolic insignia which contains a Christianization of the concept of the 72 names of God, which I think originates within certain Jewish mystical schools of thought. Kircher universalizes them by changing them to the name of God in 72 different languages spread across the world. These names radiate like rays from a central disk in which is written IHS (the Greek initials of Our Lord's name) with the Y-H-S-V-H written across the crossbar of the H. He is in this instance attempting to formulate an orthodox Christian response to the cabalistic beliefs of certain esoteric groups within Judaism if not within its mainstream. I think he also may have got the inscription from somewhere else, but I forget.
He was also a very devout man for whom science revealed God's wonders, and who spent the end of his life building a private shrine to the Mother of God, an inveterate prankster who flew dragon-shaped kites inscribed "FEAR THE WRATH OF GOD" over the Jesuit college to frighten the Dominicans next door, the inventor of megaphones, water-organs and other gadgets, not to mention being the author of speculations about space flight and life on other planets, books on geology, magnetism, China, Etruscan archaeology, universal languages, and just about everything else. He also got a lot of things wrong, but even his errors are fascinating.
The word at the bottom of the Memling is "chastity" in Greek, but written in a typeface inspired by Gothic lettering.
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Of the comments on yesterday's post "Their Bodies, Their Selves" (currently numbering 86), several take issue with my conclusion: "I believe the devil is always happy when people deface their bodies, because they are defacing the image of God." I'd like to address a few of them, and related issues, here:
- One commenter notes that "Satan in the Divine Comedy is miserable." While Dante isn't canonical, I agree that the devil is never truly joyous. Rather, he gloats. So, "happy" is indeed too strong a word.
- Committing any action that causes the devil to gloat is not, in and of itself, reason to damn one to hell. That's why I thank God for His forgiveness; I need it every day. The fact that I express my personal beliefs on tattoos and other practices does not, cannot, mean that I condemn those who take part in such practices as more sinful than myself. I do not know anyone's else's heart.
I think what's most sensitive about this issue is the fact that tattoos are visible, whereas other sins are not. It's true that I might see a tattoo on a woman and think that, at some point in her life, she did one bad thing to her body. She, on the other hand, could look at me and be unaware of thousands upon thousands of bad things that I've done to my mind, body, and spirit. Even so, that does not take away my right to share my perspective on a practice that I believe is morally harmful.
What most concerns me about tattooing is that it is the kind of sin against one's own body that is addictive, so that it can cause one to further separate oneself from the capital-B Body over time. (A commenter who was favorable about tattoos noted their addictive quality, which I've witnessed in those who have received such marks.)
The existence of God's forgiveness can't help one who is so separated from God that he or she does not wish to be forgiven. That, in my view, is the greatest danger to oneself posed by habitual sin, which includes the mutilation of the body — and yes, I would say, addiction to plastic surgery or the acquisition of multiple piercings. The actions do not necessarily cause significant moral damage in and of themselves (I say this as one who has pierced ears and does not particularly wish to let the holes fill in), but they may lead to the continued desire to deface oneself.
- And why is self-mutilation, which includes tattoos and piercings, sinful? Because man was made in God's image — which is why God commanded us not to kill (Genesis 9:6). That this teaching is to be taken literally has been stated by Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish theologians over the centuries. Here are two examples, first from the Vatican's International Theological Commission wrote in "Communion and Stewardship:
Human Persons Created in the Image of God," which was approved for publication by the commission's president, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger:
29. The central dogmas of the Christian faith imply that the body is an intrinsic part of the human person and thus participates in his being created in the image of God. The Christian doctrine of creation utterly excludes a metaphysical or cosmic dualism since it teaches that everything in the universe, spiritual and material, was created by God and thus stems from the perfect Good. Within the framework of the doctrine of the incarnation, the body also appears as an intrinsic part of the person. The Gospel of John affirms that "the Word became flesh (sarx)," in order to stress, against Docetism, that Jesus had a real physical body and not a phantom-body. Furthermore, Jesus redeems us through every act he performs in his body. His Body which is given up for us and His Blood which is poured out for us mean the gift of his Person for our salvation. Christ's work of redemption is carried on in the Church, his mystical body, and is made visible and tangible through the sacraments. The effects of the sacraments, though in themselves primarily spiritual, are accomplished by means of perceptible material signs, which can only be received in and through the body. This shows that not only man's mind but also his body is redeemed. The body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. Finally, that the body belongs essentially to the human person is inherent to the doctrine of the resurrection of the body at the end of time, which implies that man exists in eternity as a complete physical and spiritual person.And John Calvin, from "The Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill":
40. Scripture notes a twofold equity on which this commandment is founded. Man is both the image of God and our flesh. Wherefore, if we would not violate the image of God, we must hold the person of man sacred—if we would not divest ourselves of humanity we must cherish our own flesh. The practical inference to be drawn from the redemption and gift of Christ will be elsewhere considered. The Lord has been pleased to direct our attention to these two natural considerations as inducements to watch over our neighbour's preservation—viz. to revere the divine image impressed upon him, and embrace our own flesh. To be clear of the crime of murder, it is not enough to refrain from shedding man's blood. If in act you perpetrate, if in endeavour you plot, if in wish and design you conceive what is adverse to another's safety, you have the guilt of murder. On the other hand, if you do not according to your means and opportunity study to defend his safety, by that inhumanity you violate the law. But if the safety of the body is so carefully provided for, we may hence infer how much care and exertion is due to the safety of the soul, which is of immeasurably higher value in the sight of God.
When my friend Al suddenly lost his wife — she choked to death — one of the ways he handled his grief was by getting tattoos. Bit by bit, his arms became covered with crude images freighted with superstition, representing his feelings of being cursed — disparate objects like a goat, a yin/yang symbol, and a pair of dice.
I thought of him today when I saw a woman on the street whose left arm was taken up with odd, kitchsy imagery that could have been taken from Keane paintings — big-eyed little girls and cute animals.
The sight of the woman reminded me that often when I see images of young women at pro-abortion demonstration, they boast numerous tattoos. I wondered: Do they have tattoos simply because liberal women are more likely to have them, or does their desire to mark up their bodies represent, as with my friend Al, a desire to punish themselves and in some way compensate for their loss?
A Web search turns up a brief blog post on the subject by an abortion-rights supporter, featuring a photograph of an arm tattoo depicting the angel Gabriel giving the Virgin Mary a coat-hanger abortion. While the tattoo recipient's face is not shown, the arm appears to be that of a woman. What could possibly motivate a woman to imprint such an image permanently upon her body is beyond my understanding. I only know that she must need prayers.
After Abortion notes a story of a woman who had the image of a fetus-as-angel tattooed on her arm after she had an abortion.
Something tells me that there's a connection between the increase in abortions after Roe vs. Wade and the increase in tattoos. In any case, I believe the devil is always happy when people deface their bodies, because they are defacing the image of God.
Tumaini means "hope" in Swahili, the national language of Tanzania.
Hope is what we aim to provide to the many children in Tanzania who
have lost their parents due to the AIDS epidemic. We know many have
heard of the devastation brought about by the AIDS epidemic in Africa,
and we are deeply concerned about the future of Africa's children.
Our mission is to provide education for these children while meeting
their basic material and medical needs. The boarding schools Tumaini
supports house students who are either orphans or their parents send
them to the school because their villages are too impoverished to
provide a good education.
We want to share with you the great needs of these children for your
prayer and support. By helping them secure a basic education, these
children will have the opportunity to work towards self-fulfillment
The children at the schools are in need of everything from backpacks
and school supplies to running water so that they can take showers.
Our method of aid thus far has involved shipping large containers
overseas packed with school supplies, medical supplies, furniture,
bicycles and even a car. The reason for shipping the items rather
than sending money is that it is far more expensive to purchase these
same items in Tanzania than it is in the United States. The containers
are also useful shelters and storage that can be kept to help meet
Tumaini hopes to send another container shipment in September, and so
far we have had many generous contributors, both individual and
corporate, donate large amounts of material goods. Carle Hospital in
Champaign, Illinois, for example, has donated over 150 computers so
far. We are now in most need of monetary funds to ship these items
and to continue sending any and all future items. Our current
fundraising goal is $10,000. Would you please prayerfully consider a
tax-deductible donation of $100, $50, or even $20? Please send checks
to the Tumaini Foundation, 715 Erin Drive, Champaign, IL 61822 or
visit our website at TheTumainiFoundation.org.
Thank you and God bless you.
John C.A. Bambenek blogs at Part-Time Pundit.
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Time to go pro-life all the way: for reasons related to my opposition to abortion, I am adopting the "consistent ethic of life" and renouncing my support for capital punishment. I believe that the mere potential for good inherent in all human life is a sufficient basis for abolishing the death penalty. Whether it is expressed in religious, secular or philosophical terms, there is a something at the core of even the worst of us worthy of respect and protection.
The death penalty debate, unlike the abortion one, is rarely framed in purely religious terms. This is not to say that religious arguments, and passionate ones, are not sometimes raised by both sides of the controversy. What I mean is that advocating for one side is generally not viewed as "imposing religion" upon society. There is no slogan equivalent to "keep your rosaries off my ovaries" in the capital punishment arena. No one says "keep your Mass off my cyanide gas." When a legislature enacts or repeals a death penalty bill, objections based upon church/state separation generally do not arise. [They also tend to fade in discussions of late-term abortion or infanticide].
But reading Jill of Feministe's call to de-emphasize the problem of executing the innocent in favor of rejecting capital punishment on its face, I was struck by the parallels to my own allegedly "magical" anti-abortion position. The abolitionist -- one who puts aside questions of innocence, racism, age or retardation and the like in favor of a complete ban -- is arguing for nothing but life for life's sake. Such an argument against execution, it seems, could easily be easily be dismissed as "DNA magic," as a fetishistic obsession with the bare resemblance of the criminal's genetic structure to our own, or as an embrace of "ensoulment." Why not simply declare that the condemned, like the fetus, is "subhuman" or a mere "parasite"? Why protest against the perfectly "legal medical procedure" of lethal injection?
It is of no use to distinguish the prisoner by asserting that his clump of cells has developed to the point where he is a "real" human being with a consciousness. The consciousness only counts against the argument. Having metastasized into something evil, the creature's possession of a brain only aggravates the danger posed. Nor do arguments concerning the condemned's capacity for pain carry much weight. Any death can be brought about painlessly and instantaneously, with the subject experiencing no more discomfort than a blastocyte. It is magical thinking to say otherwise -- factually and scientifically false. And if the question "how would like it if your mother had aborted you?" is for some reason nonsense, then so is the question "how would you like it if the state had executed you?" In either case, you would be in no position to complain today.
These specious objections aside, the abolitionist position can rest only upon a respect for the core human identity and the potentiality for goodness it entails. It is a potentiality that may, unlike the fetus, take far longer than nine months to realize. Rehabilitation can be a long and expensive process. And it must be recognized that it is, in fact, only a potentiality, not an actuality.
But I believe that that is enough. Vengeance solves nothing, resurrects no one, and I seriously doubt that those inclined to kill are deterred (or necessarily even aware) of the prospect of the ultimate penalty. Every person can eventually serve to some productive use, even if incarcerated. I am persuaded by the reasoning of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium vitae that:
[We] ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.George H. Smith, author of the seminal work "Atheism: The Case Against God" comes to a similar conclusion with respect to capital punishment. He contends that the right to life is "inalienable" and that the death penalty is impermissible even in cases "where reasonable doubt is impossible and where the crimes have been especially heinous" [“A Killer’s Right to Life,” Liberty 10, no. 2 (November 1996): 46]. I concur that whether argued as a question of mere humanity or mere Christianity, we are better off with less killing than more.
In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Cross-posted at The Raving Atheist.
Back from San Francisco, jet lagged, and recovering from seeing works like this at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
What kind of mind does it take to see such a thing as worthy of a frame — let alone a $12.50 admission price?
"Savages and modern artists are alike strangely driven to create something uglier than themselves. but the artists find it harder." — G.K. Chesterton
Monday, August 7, 2006
Yesterday, during a brief trip to San Francisco for my cousin's wedding, I walked over to St. Patrick's Catholic Church to attend their Latin Mass. I'd been to one only once before — the Tridentine Mass at St. Agnes in Manhattan. This one was Novus Ordo, and it was a lovely service.
One thing that I loved, which I had witnessed once before (I think at Holy Innocents in Manhattan), was that during the moment of transubstantiation (there's probably another word for that point, which I forget), a church bell rang. What was new to me was that they rang a different bell for the wine than they did for the bread. It occurred to me that a shut-in who couldn't attend Mass could still feel as though they were part of the service by listening for the moment at which the bread and wine were transformed.
Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal begins his latest “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” adventure, "The Case of the Cribbed Crozier," with a visit from yours truly. In the immortal words of the Rutles, I'm "shocked and stunned" — and very honored.
Comment at Christopher's post.
Saturday, August 5, 2006
When left-wing blogs such as Pandagon and Feministe take on issues of sexual morality, what's immediately apparent is their outright anger for those who argue on behalf of marriage and premarital chastity. (I say "premarital chastity" because there is also marital chastity, which entails fidelity and openness to children — and no, such blogs aren't necessarily fond of those either.)
In a typical complaint, Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte threw around words like "sexist" and "anti-feminist" the other day as she tore into an item in the Independent Women's Forum InkWell about the Edith Stein Project, which the InkWell says seeks to "establish a forum for education and dialogue about the dignity of women and the problems facing women in contemporary culture, such as rape, pornography and abortion."
Noting that "one of the common complaints" of the Independent Women's Forum is the objectification of women, Marcotte writes:
Objectification is reducing someone to an object, end of story. Allowing that women are full human beings with desires and bodily functions that they have the agency to control — which is what reproductive rights advocates do — is not objectification.It's easy to spot the various straw men in Marcotte's arguments — from the popular left-wing claim that the chastity movement is centered upon "purity rings" foisted upon unwitting victims, to the assertion that "anti-feminists" view sex as "transferring ownership." Strip away the hyperbole and what's left is fear and animosity. Anti-feminists hate you, and they hate all women. They will turn you into property and destroy your way of life. One pictures Marcotte timidly hunting-and-pecking her entries on a Royal typewriter from a sealed bunker 150 feet beneath the streets of Seattle as an airborne Pat Robertson and Phyllis Schlafly drop smart-bombs containing Bibles, chastity belts, and lifetime subscriptions to Parenting.
However, slapping a purity ring on a girl’s finger and telling her that she should only “give herself” to her husband is in fact sexual objectification. Having sex with someone is not the same as “giving yourself”. The concept of giving is that one person transfers ownership of their property to someone else, who is free to do with it as they see fit. So the phrasing then means that the woman who gives herself is transferring ownership of her entire being over to her husband’s use as if she were nothing but an object, and the sexual contact is just the ceremony of his taking use and enjoying his brand new warm sex toy/breeding machine.
Having sex with someone and being able to do so without him gaining control over you as if you were a piece of property is anti-objectification. [Read the full post for context.]
Likewise, Feministe's Jill Filipovic has spent many hours of her blogging life bemoaning the value that some segments of the population attach to chastity, marriage, and parenting. In one such post, "Scorn for Parenthood," she writes,
The fetishization of motherhood is bad for those who have children and for those who don’t. It puts impossible expectations on mothers — that they should always be perfect parents, that they’re failures if their children don’t bring them eternal happiness, that any mistake will indelibly scare their offspring and turn them into axe murderers. And it requires that motherhood be an essential component of womanhood, placing any woman who is old enough to be a mother but isn’t in a category of other-ness. It leaves her open to questions, criticisms, and assumptions; it allows people ... to assume that they have the right to “suggest” that she reconsider her decisions.Amid Filipovic's many sweeping generalizations, it's possible to find some truth. There have been times when I myself, upon meeting fellow Christians — particularly Catholics — have felt an unspoken tension, as though they don't quite know how to relate to a woman over 35 who is neither a wife and mother nor a nun.
People who choose not to have children are regularly referred to as “childless” — as if they’re missing something. They’re depicted as lonely spinsters, not people whose lives are entirely full and happy — if they’re depicted at all. Usually, anyone over the age of 35 is portrayed as married and a proud parent. So save me the cries of, “But they called me a breeder!
But even granted that there are some people who harbor such prejudices against older single women or place unreasonable expectations upon mothers, I find it impossible to read Filipovic's writings on this topic without perceiving that she has a much larger axe to grind. Her true beef is not with popular depictions of women over 35, nor is it with those who would treat a "child-free" older woman as an "other." It is with the notion that requires, in her words, "that motherhood be an essential component of womanhood."
I can't speak for the vague masses that Filipovic's broadside appears to describe; there may indeed be some individuals who believe that a woman not called to motherhood should crawl into a ball and die. My faith teaches that, while married couples should be open to children, not all women are called to motherhood.
It's when a woman becomes a mother — a process that starts when the new life first begins within her — that her motherhood becomes an essential component of her womanhood. That's why the desire to separate the womanhood from the motherhood is at the core of the abortion-advocating philosophy of Filipovic and her ideological compatriots. Any suggestion of a spiritual, let alone physical, bond between a mother and her unborn child denies them their belief that the two may be painlessly separated. It's for this reason that many pro-lifers, myself included, see a hatred of babies behind the rhetoric of the fierciest abortion advocates. The very existence of a mother's bond with her born child calls into question abortion advocates' claims that no such bond existed between the two when the child was still in the mother's womb.
At the core of the left-wing bloggers' animosity towards chastity is, I believe, an uneasy awareness of what a culture that values marriage — by which I mean so-called traditional marriage — does to their lifestyle. I'm not talking about a return to the 1950s, but the culture that exists right now among those Americans who believe in marriage and premarital chastity.
In places where the overall culture has traditional values, those who refuse to be chaste can still live their lifestyle. What they miss — and Filipovic hits upon this — is validation from Hollywood and from others that they are in the moral right. (One can also see this in the gay "marriage" initiative, which is, at its heart, a demand for moral acceptance, since efforts to win such nuptials persist even when all the rights of marriage are available.)
But in places where the Marcottes and Filipovics prevail — which include where I live, in the New York City area, and much of the country — chastity and marriage are under constant attack.
Unlike the antagonists, it is not moral acceptance that chastity and marriage advocates seek. At the heart of the institution of marriage is children's well-being. A culture where children are exposed to sex at a young age, and where children see people use sex as a means to "child-free," commitment-free pleasure — even if that means is rationalized as "anti-objectification" — cannot produce emotionally healthy children.
Think about that the next time you hear people raise their voices against chastity and marriage advocates. They know in their hearts that their opponents, even if traditional values were victorious, would be unable to crush them. But to get what they want — socially sanctioned, legally enforced rectitude — they have to set their verbal phasers to "kill."
Friday, August 4, 2006
"Every age thinks that its problem is the exact opposite of the real problem."
— Rhys Tuck on comic artist Alan Moore. Moore, the author of a (porno)graphic novel about Peter Pan's Wendy, claims that our culture is not sufficiently open about sex.
Thursday, August 3, 2006
"I have a feeling the kind of people who tend to ignore and excuse the anti-Semitic screeds coming out of Hezbollah will also be the kind of people who regard every awful word Mel Gibson said while plastered as a true expression of what he really, secretly believes."
— Clinton W. Taylor, in the American Spectator online, "Braveheart's Tequila Sunset" (read the whole thing)
Hezbollah is using Christian villages to shield its military operations against Israel. Southern Lebanese Christian villages, such as Ain Ebel, Rmeish, Alma Alshaab, and others are being used by Hezbollah terrorists for launching missile attacks.
"Hezbollah is repeating the same pattern that it practiced against Israel in 1996," says former South Lebanese Army commander, Col. Charbel Barkat. "Hezbollah is hiding among civilian populations and launching attacks behind human shields."
A Christian from the village of Ain Ebel, who is nameless because he fears retribution by Hezbollah, discovered Hezbollah guerillas were setting up a launcher to fire Katyusha rockets from the rooftop of his home. Ignoring his pleas to stop, they fired the missiles. He immediately gathered his family and fled home, which indeed was bombed and destroyed 15 minutes later by an Israeli air strike.
In addition to having their homes commandeered for launching Hezbollah's attacks, there have been attempts to obstruct Christians from fleeing their villages.
On Saturday, July 28, Hezbollah fighters fired upon several Christians fleeing Rmeish with their families, wounding two, according to Christian sources in south Lebanon. Hezbollah has been the ruling power in the south since Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago. Christian villages suffer from extensive neglect of infrastructure under Hezbollah rule. Even though Christians pay the taxes for basic government services, such as road repair and other utilities, these services are rarely provided. On the other hand, Shiite villages supportive of Hezbollah do not pay taxes and benefit from infrastructure development and new residential and business construction. Once the majority, the Christian population in Lebanon since the civil war has declined to under 40 percent due to pressures by Islamic militias supported by Iran and Syria.
"Hezbollah is the issue," warns Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick, Washington representative of Christian Solidarity International and secretary general of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights. "A misrepresentation of the position of most Lebanese Christians is underway." Roderick recently traveled to Lebanon to meet with the leaders of the Cedar Revolution and Lebanese activists.
Sami El-Khoury, president of the World Maronite Union, says that reports on Christian support for Hezbollah are misleading. "Contrary to Western press reports, indicating high percentages of Christian support for Hezbollah, 90 percent of Christians, 80 percent of Sunni and 40 percent of Shiites in Lebanon oppose Hezbollah," says El-Khoury.
Christian Solidarity International laments the destruction and violence inflicted upon the Lebanese country and acknowledges that the international community must play a role in Lebanon's restoration. It also recognizes that if Hezbollah is not disarmed, the future of Lebanese Christians and all pro-democracy supporters will be bleak. "The Lebanese government should focus their rage against Hezbollah, not Israel," notes Tom Harb, secretary general for the International Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (UNSCR 1559).
CSI calls for the U.N. to establish a politically independent commission to investigate Hezbollah's violations of the Geneva Convention's provision for the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1). This protocol prohibits the use of civilians as military shields. CSI also calls on the U.N. Security Council to deploy without further delay an international force in southern Lebanon and eastern Lebanon to facilitate a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah, stop the flow of arms from Syria to Hezbollah, and assist the Lebanese government in fulfilling its obligation to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with UNSCR 1559.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
In an op-ed in Britain's Guardian, Jessica Valenti of NARAL and its BushvChoice blog quotes a line she read in The Dawn Patrol from my upcoming book where I say, "when you become chaste, you'll notice for the first time that women who have sex outside of marriage don't really appreciate men."
To that, Valenti says, "Don't get me wrong, reviving romance sounds great, and if you want to hold out on sex, more power to you. But can you really base a movement, a revolution even, on the idea that women's life goal should be marriage?"
I wouldn't say yes if the question specified "all women." Women who are called to marriage, however, which is to say the vast majority of women, have every right to make it a goal, Society should celebrate them, not put obstacles in their way — obstacles that include the sanctioning of sex outside of marriage.
As usual, G.K. Chesterton has the perfect reply — writing in 1920:
"In plain words, there is clearly something wrong in the calculation by which it was proved that a housewife must be as much a servant as a housemaid; or which exhibited the domesticated man as being as gentle as the primrose or as conservative as the Primrose League. It is precisely those who have been conservative about the family who have been revolutionary about the state. Those who are blamed for the bigotry or bourgeois smugness of their marriage conventions are actually those blamed for the restlessness and violence of their political reforms. Nor is there seriously any difficulty in discovering the cause of this. It is simply that in such a society the government, in dealing with the family, deals with something almost as permanent and self-renewing as itself."
"Saint Margaret is the patroness of Scotland, and she probably prays for you and all. But I'll bet she prays for me more. ;)"
— Dennis Schenkel, third-year Catholic seminarian, who just learned he is descended from St. Margaret of Scotland (and thereby related to Macbeth). Read Dennis's post for additional fun genealogical facts. I like it that his maternal grandmother was named Ethel Ransom — sounds like a character from a C.S. Lewis novel.