Sunday, July 31, 2005

Frist's Gun-Control Sneak Attack

Gun Owners of America is one of my favorite organizations. There are a few truly sound organizations mobilizing public opinion, in an effective way, to stop bad policy, and to advance good policy. In the interest of full disclosure, I was an executive with one of them -- the National Right to Work Committee -- and I am president of another, the National Pro Life Alliance. GOA is one of those fine organizations.

Click on the headline to go see how our phony friend Majority Leader Bill Frist (I think he's running for Secretary-General of the UN or something) is allowing the gun-grabber camel's nose under the tent...

What holds you back? (Sunday homily)

All the Scriptures we heard are very inviting:
Come and eat; come and drink; don’t worry.
It’s all very inviting, isn’t it?

In the second reading,
St. Paul gives us every reason not to worry.

And yet, we worry, don’t we?

Isaiah asks, “Why spend your money
for what is not bread,
your wages for what does not satisfy?”

I dunno; but we do, don’t we?

We can come to Christ, we can let it go;
We can have peace—in any circumstance.

Yes—any circumstance!

When Christians were thrown to the lions,
When they were burnt alive,
They had peace—they sang!

In Mexico and Cuba, in just the last century,
Christians were beaten, deprived,
Every effort made to destroy their hope.

Led, finally, before firing squads,
Do you know what they said as they died?
Viva Christo Rey! “Christ the King LIVES!”

Even in the Gulag; even in Auschwitz,
People somehow found peace!
How, I don’t know; but they did.

So whatever problems you and I face—
If they did it; so can we.

What holds us back?

Sometimes we’re not desperate enough.
Sometimes really have to be at the end of our rope,
Before we finally just cry out.

This is what the 12 Steps
of Alcoholics Anonymous are about.
First, admit you’re powerless;
Second step: Only God can save you!
Third step: turn it over!

It’s so simple; and it works;
Yet how many hold back, hold on to their addiction?

Why do we hold back?

Our holy father, Pope Benedict,
Asked this question, in his first homily as pope,
and offered this answer.

Here’s what the holy father said.

My mind goes back to…when Pope John Paul II
began his ministry here in Saint Peter's Square.
His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!”

The Pope was addressing the mighty,
the powerful of this world,
who feared that Christ might take away
something of their power if they were to let Him in,
if they were to allow the faith to be free.

Yes, he would certainly
have taken something away from them:
the dominion of corruption,
the manipulation of law
and the freedom to do as they pleased.

But He would not have taken away anything
that pertains to human freedom or dignity,
or to the building of a just society.

The Pope was also speaking to everyone,
especially the young.
Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way?
If we let Christ enter fully into our lives…
are we not afraid
that He might take something away from us?

Are we not perhaps afraid to give up
something significant, something unique,
something that makes life so beautiful?

And once again the Pope said: No!

If we let Christ into our lives,
we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing
of what makes life free, beautiful, and great.

No! Only in this friendship [with Christ]
are the doors of life opened wide.
Only in this friendship
do we experience beauty and liberation.

And so…I say to you, dear young people:
Do not be afraid of Christ!
He takes nothing away,
and He gives you everything.

When we give ourselves to Him,
we receive a hundredfold in return.
Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—
and you will find true life.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A new planet?

NPR reported today that scientists believe they've discovered a 10th planet out beyond Pluto, that has the additional interesting quality that it rotates on a very different plane from the rest of the known planets. Other scientists question the claim; some said there were even more planets, but they are counted as asteroids.

All this points out how much influence the business of how things are classified -- how reality is "sliced-and-diced" -- has on our perception of reality. Philosophically, Immanuel Kant latched onto this with his distinction between the thing-as-perceived, and the thing-in-itself. (But don't ask me too many questions about Kant; it was late in the academic year when we got to him, the instructor was clearly out of his depth, and a bit bored as well, and so were we seminarians, and the improving weather outside had its distracting effects...)

An example: when did the Roman Empire "fall"? Well, there are many possible answers, but the one that is best known is almost certainly invalid. Post a comment to find out why.

Well anyway, I really wanted to suggest something interesting: a "Name the Planet Contest." What should we call it. (And, does anyone know who actually gets to decide?)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Not real estate but relationship (daily homily)

The first reading describes a tent
as the place of worship for God’s People.
But notice: no provision for anything more permanent!

Now, we think of the temple;
but that is nowhere mentioned here.

King David proposed a temple;
do you recall God’s response?

“I have not dwelt in a house from the day
on which I led the Israelites out of Egypt to the present,

but I have been going about in a tent under cloth.

“In all my wanderings everywhere among the Israelites,
did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges
whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask:
‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'”

This is a subtle theme:
David and his successors spoke of a house,
meaning a physical temple;
God spoke of a “house,” meaning a lasting heritage,
built on faith in him.

It’s the same lesson

God’s People leaving Egypt, will learn:
It’s not about
real estate;
It’s about our relationship with God!

We know Solomon built the temple.
Let me recall a parallel development in the story:
how God’s People came to have a king—
because they’re connected.

God put “judges” in charge.
God’s People came to Samuel, and said:
“appoint a king over us, as other nations have.”

That wasn’t God’s plan, but God said, OK.
and it would be the same with the Temple.

Now, recall how that happened:
Solomon built the temple, right?
Solomon was the apex of the kingdom:
he exceeded his father, David—
more of everything.

Remember how it ended?
After he died, the people came to his son, and said:
“Your father put on us a heavy yoke.
If you now lighten the harsh service
and the heavy yoke your father imposed on us,
we will serve you."

Gee—doesn’t that sound a lot like
what they left behind…in Egypt?

See the larger theme?
It’s all about not going back there!
go into the unknown; but don’t go back;
Jacob goes down to Egypt; but he tells Joseph,
don’t leave me here!
Joseph says, take my bones out!
Moses said: Don’t look back!
Samuel said: God is your king!
God said to David: I don’t need a house!
You need a house—built on Me!

The tent is a key image:
because it’s not the building, but what’s in it:
it was where God’s Glory dwelt!

One final note—you might not realize,
these are the concluding lines of the Book of Exodus!
It’s as if the author is saying:
this is where our journey from slavery to sin leads us:
not to real estate, not to worldly glory;
but to the Dwelling of the Glory of the Lord!

If we have that, it does not matter
where we pitch our tent, or what we call home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

God alone makes us radiant (today's homily)

Moses “went up” to meet the Lord;
he stepped away from the crowd, the noise,

the usual, daily agenda;
he went to be with the Lord.

Every one of us needs this;

but we can get along without it—
it’s not good for us, but the effects are gradual:
we get caught up in the daily stuff,
we forget what it’s like to be to be radiant.

We need to go be with the Lord for that.

The radiance of Moses’ face was so intense,

“they were afraid to come near him.”

Sometimes, we can be too intense about our faith.
We should not think a powerful spiritual experience
justifies our being a pain-in-the-neck!

Our Lord said, be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.

This passage doesn’t say that Moses was in any way offensive;
Only that they took offense at him.
If we let God’s radiance in us speak for itself—
Then, if someone takes offense, it’s not about us;
It’s between that person, and God.
And that’s how it ought to be.

I pray that I never get in the way
of what God wants to do in others’ lives.
I am sure I do, however;

for that I ask God’s mercy on me,
and his help to the other person.

One more reason to be sure we do as Moses did:
to step out of our ordinary, daily grind,
to be with the Lord.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Wash Post Joins Fight Against Roberts

Today, the Washington Post began providing serious ammunition to the pro-aborts who are determined to give Judge Roberts a pitched battle. They dug through the papers the Left forced the White House into providing and discovered . . . GASP! Roberts really is a conservative!

The Left will treat this as a "smoking gun"--they will use this to claim he hates civil rights, he likes pushing little old ladies in wheelchairs down flights of stairs, etc.

This could be very good. The rougher they are on Roberts, all the better, assuming he gets confirmed. Then he'll know -- as Justice Thomas does -- just how important it is to have the Washington Post say nice things about you.

This is the first really good news I've gotten about Justice Roberts...

May I help you climb out on that ledge?

The Wall Street Journal Opinion Page today offered a helping hand to Big Labor.

Now, that's rich.

"Feeling bad, are you? Oh, too bad. Have you tried this hemlock? It's very refreshing..."

(Via RealClearPolitics, of course.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Call her 'Progressella'

Picture the scene...

The wicked Stepfather, Benedict, has just left
after giving poor, progressive Cinderella a tongue-lashing. She labors away, unappreciated, finding it so hard to keep hope alive!

And then, a song rises in her heart...

Someday, my Council will come!
Some day we'll have women priests!
And how thrilling that moment will be
To contracept at will and so free!

A new pope to see things my way
Oh, for that new day!
Women priests and gays married true;
Oh, Vatican III, I have high hopes for you!

Though every voice tells me no,
The New York Times says it's so;
How can it be out of range--
Doesn't God know it's time for a change?

Some day my Council will come
Somewhere waiting for me
There a god I'm longing to see
And it's me! Me! MEEEEE!

(posted at Amy Wellborn's Open Book by yours truly...)

William Westmoreland, RIP

The New York Sun has a fine editorial tribute, via RealClearPolitics, to General William Westmoreland, who went to his eternal reward last week.

In Vietnam, he had led what became one of the largest military expeditions in American history. He'd been sent to Saigon in 1964, after the catastrophe of the coup that President Kennedy had authorized in 1963 and that had resulted in the murder of President Diem, precipitating the war that defined a generation. Free Vietnam, in the years Westmoreland was there, faced and fought off one of the fiercest assaults any government has ever sustained. Millions of enemy soldiers were backed by both the Soviet Union and Red China. And when the general was in the thick of that fight, he asked his country for 200,000 more troops, only to be, on the recommendation of his civilian superiors, denied.

It is sometimes said that Vietnam was the first war that America lost. But there are those who understand that it wasn't lost on the field of battle. What needs to be said at the time of Westmoreland's passing is that he won, for his country and the Free World, the battle in the field. Even on Tet, in January 1968, when the enemy threw all its forces into an offensive that astonished the world, even then, the Americans and South Vietnamese and their allies were victorious in military terms. The enemy was devastated. What needs to be remembered is that the defeat came in the political arena when, early in 1975, Congress voted to halt the resupply of our treaty ally, precipitating the retreat from the Central Highlands and the final communist conquest.

The Sun is right; it certainly does need to be said! Over and over!

I will never forget those days in April, 1975, watching the reports of the collapse of South Vietnam; of course, the most vivid memory is of the people of South Vietnam, fleeing southward, in terror. Where did they go?

They fled to Saigon, to the U.S. Embassy. They broke down the gates; they clung desperately to the helicopters as they took off, until there were no more. Then they threw themselves into the sea, with nothing! Only the hope that America would rescue them.

I was deeply ashamed; I could not believe what my nation was doing to those people.

Some episodes of our nation's history have been presented to us enshrouded in a thick cloud of lies; this is one of them.

Power, not dignity

Unions to Quit AFL-CIO
-- in today's Washington Times

Two comments. doubt we will hear from well intentioned, but misguided folks, how this represents a "weakening" of Big Labor, yet another sure sign of its "decline." But don't be misled.

This is simply re-arranging the furniture in the torture chamber.

As long as the federal government gives Big Labor the astonishing power to pick millions of workers' pockets every payday, and essentially spend the tens of billions generated however they choose, Big Labor's core power remains undiminished. Because this power is fundamentally political, and it is protective.

Yes, it's true that the political landscape has changed a great deal in recent decades. I'm proud to say I had something to do with that: I worked at the National Right to Work Committee when we formed up a no-compromise wall against the Pushbutton Strike Bill in 1994, and stopped that "sure-to-pass" power-grab with a filibuster, despite Big Labor controlling both houses of Congress and the White House. That fall, we made sure millions of Americans knew how their representatives and Senators had voted and--alas!--over 40 of those forced-unionism water-carriers were given pink slips on Election Day.

Then, in the new Congress, we went on the offensive with the National Right to Work Act. And when we finally gained a Senate vote, though we didn't pass it, we did get more politicians on the record. And again, many of them were found wanting by their constituents.

And yet, Big Labor remains a power to reckon with.

How else explain the GOP's knee-knocking ways? Too many Republican pols look for ways to curry favor with union bigwigs, either by looking for ways to appease them, or by double-dealing with the National Right to Work Act: promising constituents they'll back it; but undercutting, behind the scenes, every effort to bring it to a vote.

Second. Did anyone else notice the hypocrisy in the story linked above?

Hint: what did these four union bosses do, that they have workers fired, beaten up and even worse, for doing?

Answer: they chose!

Now, it's true, these union heavies didn't quit paying union dues. But, if they follow through on their plans, they will stop sending their dues, and the dues of millions, to the AFL-CIO.

What happened to "solidarity"? What happened to "majority rules"? What happened to "paying your fair share"? Aren't these folks what they routinely call individual workers who choose to do likewise? "Freeloaders" and "scabs"?

If you think the union isn't listening to you, you don't like how your money is being spent, either strictly in matters of "organizing," or in political activism, are you allowed to opt out of the organization, and no longer send the money; and seek other ways of pursuing your cause, including on your own if you so choose?

The answer is yes...if you are a powerful Union Don...

But if you're a run-of-the-mill working stiff, the answer is "S**** you! Get back in line, or you'll see what we do to your family! See what we'll do to you!"

American deserves the right to choose to affiliate, or choose not to affiliate, with any union, or no union, as he pleases.

It's called Right to Work.

Update: I looked a little closer at the picture I posted above; though there are four union caporegimes leading their familias out of the AFL-CIO, the four pictured above are not them; the two men in the center are Don of dons John Sweeney, and his Luca Brazzi, Richard Trumpka, head of the Mine Workers Union.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Santiago Mayor

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. James the Greater, the son of Zebedee who was so eager to be great with Jesus, that he rashly promised to drink from his cup of suffering. And he did: he was the first Apostle to be martyred.

Since my blog is heavy with text (no surprise there), I thought an image of Santiago (as they call him in Espana, where his name was the rallying cry for the reconquista from Islam) would be appropriate.

The one I chose is Saint James the Greater in the Battle of Clavijo, by Juan Careno de Miranda, 1660, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest; I found it at the excellent Patron Saint Index.

Interestingly, a traditional mode of depicting St. James is "mounted on horseback, trampling a Moor."

No surprise here...


The political description that
fits you best is...


LIBERTARIANS support maximum liberty in both personal and
economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one
that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence.
Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose
government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate
diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.

The RED DOT on the Chart shows where you fit on the political map.

Take the quiz...

A good word on Roberts

My skepticism about Judge Roberts continues, but Michael Barone, whom I respect a great deal, had this to say in a post at Powerline:

As for Justice Roberts, he seems clearly to be a man who will not be moved away from his convictions by his clerks. This, even though his opinions and the accounts of him by those who have worked with him indicate that he pays respectful attention to those who disagree with him. In reading his opinions, I have been struck by how carefully and fairly he presents arguments for the positions with which he disagrees. This is not a guy who is going to come out the way I would like in every case. But it does seem to be a guy who will come out the way he would like in every case -- and is not going to be buffaloed by Professor Tribe's hand-picked law clerks any more than he is buffaloed by Professor Tribe.

Marriage hypocrisy

My fellow blogging priest, Father Jim Tucker at Dappled Things, offered a thought-provoking post today, about couples writing their own marriage vows, but no longer promising "till death do us part" but rather,

"Vows like 'For as long as we continue to love each other,' 'For as long as our love shall last' and 'Until our time together is over' are increasingly replacing the traditional to-the-grave vow -- a switch that some call realistic and others call a recipe for failure....

Fr Tucker, in addition to pointing out this is annullment-bait, asks, "Why should my tax dollars be spent on government recognition of these kinds of unions, which I'm morally opposed to and aren't really marriages at all?"

Where's the outrage, Fr. Tucker asks -- where's the legislative crusade? "The same thing goes for the strings of divorces and remarriages, or for unions that deliberately exclude children, or for "open" marriages where both parties are free to be as unfaithful as they please," he adds. "Civilly approved parodies" of marriage are outrageous, whether heterosexual or homsexual, he observes.

"Give them both a pass, condemn them both, or get the government out of the approval business altogether. But at least be consistent."

A thought-provoking post, hence this post today: I did think about it, and I shall continue to do so.

Should government get out of the marriage business?

The state is in the marriage business because society has a valid interest in promoting marriage, and state encouragement of marriage benefits society at large. As a libertarian-leaning type, I think I'd like it if non-governmental sanctions sufficed to induce marriage (although maybe I wouldn't, if it unleashed snooping, Mrs. Grundy types policing people's private affairs); but that isn't likely to happen any time soon.

And the law is a teacher; it not only protects values, it inculcates them.

Further, while Fr. Tucker is correct that all the deviations are "parodies" of full, real marriage, not all "parodies" are created equal. Would a household resulting from a divorce-and-remarriage be equally problematic, for children, as a household effected by an "open marriage"? I don't see that.

I don't know, but I suspect Fr. Tucker would agree with me in not wanting government to be too zealous in eradicating the parodies he speaks of; so then it comes down to the government -- if it does anything -- acting to deter more forcefully the worst parodies, and -- if possible -- deter mildly the less-bad ones.

That is, after all, what government has done; unfortunately, the public will for such things has declined, so we have looser divorce laws as well as much less social disapproval for breaking up homes and so forth.

But because the public will isn't there to support a fully consistent policy, doesn't mean there's no point in doing anything. By that logic, we shouldn't outlaw any abortions until we can outlaw all of them.

But Fr Tucker is surely right in asking if the moral outrage is selective, and why.

And those who are up in arms about gay marriage: have any of them divorced, and remarried without benefit of a declaration of nullity? Do they contracept? Are they single, but shacking up? Maybe they should stop wagging their fingers; their own sins against marriage and chastity are quite serious.

'You can't cheat an honest man'

Authorities search for Ohio man they say swindled United Nations

What can I say?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Venture of Faith; the Pearl of Great Price (Sunday homily)

The Gospel describes finding a treasure
in the field of the world:
the treasure—the priceless pearl—
is Jesus Christ.

To have that treasure, the price is high:
we must give up everything.

Will we pay that price?

To bring the question home to our own lives:
what have we given up,
that we might have Christ?
Have we given up, or said “No” to anything,
that we wouldn’t have given up, or refused,
either way?

Cardinal John Henry Newman,
the famous convert
from Anglicanism to the Catholic Faith,
once preached a sermon called
“The Ventures of Faith”—
and I’d like to draw liberally from him.

We cannot doubt, he says,

“that the ventures of all Christ’s servants
must be returned to them at the Last Day
with abundant increase.

"This is a true saying:
he returns far more than we lend to him,
and without fail…”

Where Cardinal Newman speaks of “venture,”
we would say, “risk”; and he asks:
isn’t this exactly what faith is:
that we put something at risk?

Something that would be lost

if it turns out that Christ is a false Messiah—
if Christianity is all a fable?

So there’s the question:
what have we put at risk in that case?

Newman says, “let everyone who hears me
ask…How would he be a whit the worse off,
supposing...[Christ’s promise] to fail?”

He says, “we think, perhaps, at present,
we have some hope of heaven.
Well, this we should lose, of course”

But beyond that, “how should we be worse off
as to our present condition?”

“I really fear,” Newman adds,
“it will be found that there is nothing we resolve,
nothing we do, nothing we do not do,
nothing we avoid, nothing we choose,
nothing we give up, nothing we pursue…
which we should not resolve, and do, and not do,
and avoid, and choose, and give up, and pursue,
if Christ had not died, and heaven were not promised us.”

Wow—he’s pretty tough, isn’t he?

Now, it’s true that many of us do give things up:
many give up more lucrative jobs,
to work in our school, or our parishes.

Parents have a larger family,
because they heed God’s call to give and share life.

Women who take vows as nuns
could have sought promising careers.
They, and priests, give up marriage and family.

In many parts of the world, people still risk even more:
in Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia,
you can and will be jailed—lose everything—and killed—

for sharing faith in Christ.
In Red China, priests and bishops sit in jail for decades,
because they will not renounce their loyalty to the pope.
Now that is taking a risk of faith!

So, what about us?
What have we really risked—
what would we lose, if Christ were not real?

How much you and I value the Treasure of Christ,
found in the field of the world, waiting for us,
is revealed by what we venture, what we risk,
to obtain that treasure.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Be fair to Mary Magdalene

In my homily today, I pointed out that Mary Magdalene might not have been the "sinner" she has been depicted as being.

Pope Gregory the Great it was, if memory serves me, who linked her with the "sinful woman" who anoints the Lord's feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. That may be valid, or not; but nothing in Scripture explicitly points that way (unless someone says different, in which case, I'd love to hear from you). All Scripture says of her "past" is that she had seven demons cast out of her.

I don't mind defending Pope St. Gregory's prerogatives in interpretation, and that's all that is at stake; but we take it on the chin from the Wicca-Goddess-Feminist crowd about "defaming" Mary Magdalene.

Actually, the whole line of reasoning emanating from that particular fever-swamp is, well . . . let's just say, calling it "reasoning" it beyond generous, and leave it at that.

I just think it's worth pointing out we really don't have anything invested in this particular claim about Mary; if St. Gregory was mistaken, it does not undermine his sanctity or his credibility, or that of the Church; contrariwise, if she did have "a past," it does not reflect badly on her at all.

What today's Gospel does show us is worth more attention: how much she loved the Lord. Several times she is asked, "woman, why do you weep?" It seems to me she weeps because she feels the absence of the Lord -- and would that each of us had such intimacy with him!

Note: I failed to credit the lovely image above, in the mistaken belief that clicking on it would take the viewer directly to the webpage from which I borrowed it. Well, I discovered that is incorrect (as, doubtless, many experienced bloggers already knew); so I apologize for failing to credit the picture to:

Stained Glass Photography

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Race against Roberts

All the talk since Judge Roberts' selection for the High Court is about how nice a fellow he is, with such impressive credentials, both professional and personal. He appears to have allied himself with no controversial or socially unacceptable causes or opinions.

The Left is fuming about this -- and make no mistake, they won't give up without a hard look.

Let us name the demon, as my former pastor used to say: it is all about Roe and gay marriage; Roe for the long-term, gay marriage in the short-term.

But, the Left knows they can't derail him on that alone; certainly not on gay marriage. "Oh, whatever you do, don't throw me into that briar-patch," said Brer Rabbit; right-wingers would love to have the Left throw us all into the briar-patch of the opposition to Roberts forming up because he won't approve gay-marriage!

What the Left needs is something that will make Democrats truly fear straying, and makes Republican knees knock. And only one issue does that: RACE.

What's more, this is the one vulnerability of nominating a white man: you can accuse a white Republican man of the most outrageous things, and get away with it; where with anyone else, it would be considered indecent.

Therefore, I predict: the Left is scouring, searching, far and wide, for anything that can be offered to implicate Judge Roberts as "insensitive," or better, "a racist"!

It may not happen; but it would be their best play.

Failing that?

Something to make him look kooky; and anything that suggests he's hiding an "anti-privacy" (read Roe and gay marriage) agenda.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fred Barnes on Roberts

Fred Barnes, a bright and measured, solid conservative commentator, said this (via RealClearPolitics) at the Weekly Standard. Read it carefully.

The Roberts nomination didn't prompt conservatives to jump for joy, though he was widely praised. Cornyn called him a "solid pick." Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma offered no praise at all. He said the Senate must examine Roberts' "loyalty to the Constitution and its strict construction." Sounding a bit like Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is sure to spearhead the opposition to Roberts, Coburn said senators have the right to ask "any appropriate question."

Social conservatives were hoping for more. No doubt they'll line up in support of Roberts when Democrats like Schumer and groups such as People for the American Way begin to attack him. But they dream of the day when there are five votes on the court to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. Now there are only three. Is Roberts likely to join a anti-Roe bloc on the court? Probably not.
(Emphasis added.)

More on Roberts

While champagne corks are popping all around me, I'm holding back.

Judge Roberts may be wonderful; there are certainly positive signs, no question.

But here's why I'm not so eager to proclaim victory:

Remember why so many are cheering. Of course the White House is; of course elected Republicans are; no surprise.

Many of the conservative lap-dog organizations -- whose main selling point to their donors is that they have an "in" with the GOP -- are doing that.

So discount all that: Orrin Hatch would say almost the same oily, smarmy stuff had Clement been nominated, or Hilary Clinton, for that matter.

OK, who's still cheering; and cheering loud?

The GOP Business Community.

Now, don't get me wrong; they're not enemies. But do they want Roe overturned? They would certainly rather not.

It's clear, they did not want someone "scary" -- i.e., another Bork. I suspect the White House decided that Edith Jones would be another Bork; and they may have wondered if Judge Janice Brown would just pop off at the Senators, and say more embarrassing things like the New Deal was socialism. That kind of stuff makes the business community really nervous.

They got their man.

Does that make him a bad guy? No; but neither does it make him a good guy, on the salient, jurisprudential issue of our time: Roe v. Wade.

Consider what John Yoo -- a conservative, wired-in-to-the-Bush-White-House academic, said to the Washington Post: read his praise of Roberts carefully:

John C. Yoo, a conservative professor of law at University of California at Berkeley who served in the Justice Department in the current administration, emphasizes what he called Roberts's traditional approach to the law. In the 39 cases that Roberts argued before the Supreme Court -- 25 of which he won -- Yoo said he never pushed the court to adopt "big new theories" but rather argued the facts of his cases.

"He's the type of person that business conservatives and judicial-restraint conservatives will like but the social conservatives may not like," Yoo said.

"What the social conservatives want is someone who will overturn Roe. v. Wade and change the court's direction on privacy," he added. "But he represents the Washington establishment. These Washington establishment people are not revolutionaries, and they're not out to shake up constitutional law. They might make course corrections, but they're not trying to sail the boat to a different port."

Hmmm . . . doesn't that sound a lot like . . . ANTHONY KENNEDY?

Behind the Rehnquist Rumor

You can tell I lived in Washington D.C. and worked in politics for awhile: in typical Washington-politics fashion, what fascinates is not the story itself, but the story-behind-the-story: the "process" story, or the "what does it mean" story.

(It's really funny: most newspapers in the U.S. write the lead, "President Bush named Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court..."; in D.C., it's more something like, "Conservatives and moderates struggled until the last minute to tip the President's choice to the Supreme Court, but in the end the choice was a surprise--or, maybe not such a surprise . . . " And the actual facts you care about will come in maybe paragraph 3 or so!)

Well, here's another story-behind-the-story...

How did Robert Novak get the Rehnquist story so wrong?

It's easy to dismiss the media; but Novak doesn't stick his neck out for an anonymous source. No reason to. Yet Novak reported not only that Rehnquist would leave, but that he'd announce by such-and-such a time and day. And it never happened.

Novak doesn't commit himself to something THAT specific without a really good source, because he can't afford to have it blow up in his face (as it did). No "inside politics" reporter is sanguine about that.

Was Novak's source wrong? Again, Novak himself thinks of that; that's why it had to be someone really good -- i.e., if not Rehnquist himself (the best source, of course), then someone really, really, close to him. And that person doesn't "get it wrong."

Remember, political reporters, especially longtime ones, know a lot of these rumors and anonymous tips can be about inner political and power struggles: feed a phony rumor to that guy, let him get burned when he gives it to the media, then his stock goes down with the congressman, and the media. I don't think Novak gets duped...

By anyone but the Chief himself. That's who I think it came from.

Now, why might the Chief dangle the story of his stepping down, then not do it?

Well, he might just have changed his mind; it's possible.

Or, perhaps he was interested to see what clues surfaced about the White House's pick for his replacement.

If true, the anonymous tip was no more than a ruse to surface that information, so the Chief could try to discern the White House's thinking -- would they go for a "ticket," a conservative and a moderate? Maybe resignation was never a real option; or maybe he pulled back when he saw, or heard, something he didn't like.

If all this is true, it seems to me he now has more information -- and far better. He has Bush's actual, first nominee. He knows Bush didn't pick a woman or a Hispanic, when there was pressure on him to do so. He might infer that means Bush won't play the diversity game; or that he will -- with the next pick.

If this is right, it leads to one intriguing possibility: Rehnquist may yet step down.

I can guess wildly at what he might see that would induce that, but it would be totally blind: does he step down because he likes the cut of Roberts' jib? Does he step down because he infers who Bush's choice for chief justice would be? Who knows?

But if Rehnquist WAS Novak's source of the resignation story, it suggests to me he may have done it to learn something. Perhaps about Bush; perhaps about how the confirmation process might go. If this is true, he may step down if he's learned what he wanted to, and liked what he learned.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Judge John Roberts: awfully stealthy

Well, it would appear my prediction that it would be a woman was -- most likely --incorrect. However, politics is full of surprises, and one must not be hasty.

The Clement boomlet deflated quickly; I stand by my comments below: I suspect someone floated that, to try to tip the President's decision--why not? Someone like Specter would be a likely suspect.

Another explanation would be that someone in the White House was deliberately fed this, to see if he'd leak it, which he did.

(I'm assuming the Clement thing came from someone supposedly "in the know"--because the Washington Press corps generally wouldn't give so much credence to this unless the source was really credible. Of course, it could just be a quirk. I suspect you'll see stories about how the Clement rumor got started, if you watch for them.)

Why not a woman? Two guesses, and that's all they are: he may want to pick a woman to succeed Rehnquist; or he may have found, that among the women, his choices were someone too controversial (i.e., Jones or Brown), and someone too milquetoast (i.e., Clement). Roberts -- as he is being presented -- is inbetween.

Should prolifers celebrate?

Not so fast. Consider this AP headline at Fox News:

Roberts Could Go Both Ways on Roe

Roberts is being cited as describing Roe as wrongly decided -- but that's the brief he wrote for the previous Bush Administration: no reason to assume that reflects his own beliefs.

But here's what he did say, concerning his own views, before the Senate: "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."

That one word -- "settled" -- that's the bugbear.

What does it matter? Answer: because it means, in legal-speak, that the case in question either shouldn't be overturned, or is so sacrosanct because of time, that the bar is set awfully high. That's why pro-aborts press the nominee to say it: it boxes them in. Don't tell me it's meaningless.

Either he said it to get the pro-aborts off his back; which makes him somewhat insincere, and that's a bad sign; or, he believes it; and that's an even worse sign.

Make no mistake: all the pressure will be not to take on Roe; remember Justice Anthony Kennedy. We now know, from the memoirs of Roe author, the late Justice Blackmun (may God have mercy on his soul), that Kennedy actually cast his vote -- intitially -- to overturn Roe in 1992, Casey v. Planned Parenthood. He was the fifth vote. Then, inexplicably, he changed his vote, and there it stands to this day.

Now, in the days to come, you will hear all sorts say, "don't worry about that 'settled' comment. He was just playing the game." Consider from whom you hear it.

From the White House? Discount that. From Senate Republicans? Discount that. What do you expect them to say? Of course the White House will only promote and defend the nominee; and what Republican Senator -- absent a smoking gun -- and I mean, in his hands, with a dead body at his feet -- will whisper a word against Roberts?

I'm not saying Roberts is a bad guy. I'm saying, don't be too impressed by the endorsements he racks up pretty quickly.

I have to say: it's troubling not to know more. We've had our fill of "stealth" candidates. We may not like boxing in the President so much, but given the record of GOP nominees to the Supreme Court (remember, GOP appointees not only upheld Roe in 1992, they gave us Roe in the first place!), we don't have much choice. If Republican picks like Roberts -- safe and stealthy -- haven't almost always turned out badly, we could afford to "trust."

Put it another way: when has a stealthy nominee like Roberts turned out good for prolifers?

What do we know about Edith Clement?

The sudden buzz since late last night is Edith Clement for the Supreme Court. What should prolifers think of that?

Well, my sources in Washington tell me she went a lot farther, in testimony before being confirmed a federal judge, in describing Roe v. Wade as "settled" law, and in affirming a constitutional "privacy" right.

Meanwhile, observers scanning for a sign pointing to antipathy to Roe so far find nothing.

The term "stealth candidate" is being used about Clement.

It must be recalled...exactly the same thing they said about David Souter.

Let me recall a prediction I made . . . hmmm . . .
well, it appears I didn't make it here, but rather posting at Amy Wellborn's Open Book . . . and you'll just have to take my word for it:

Here's what I said: what if the talk of Gonzales was all a stalking-horse? I.e., get prolifers in a froth, fearing Gonzales, seeing him as "the worst" -- then, when he gets pulled back, they'll be so relieved, they give a lot less scrutiny, let alone criticism, of the eventual pick.

Hmmm . . . could be what's about to happen.

Of course, the Clement rumor may be wrong.

Which raises the question: where is it coming from? Why would the White House float a rumor involving a less controversial choice, only to follow with a more controversial one?

Basically, the White House wouldn't do that.

Who would?

Only one answer: someone within the GOP trying to force the choice in this direction. So SPECulate To yER heart's content about who that might be...

Which one will it be?

Three possibilities for the U.S. Supreme Court:

Judge Priscilla Owen: "Senator, I'm prepared to come over and slap you right now...", or:

Judge Edith Jones: "Was it the U.S. Supreme Court, or the Confederate Supreme Court, you had in mind?"

But could it be...

Judge Janice Brown, whom People for the American Way (are they sure?) accuse of calling the "New Deal" the "triumph of our own socialist revolution." You go, girl!

(Thanks to Southern Appeal for the pic of Judge Jones. I won't say where I got the other ones, because they stole them from somewhere else anyway!)

Gonzales out?

Via How Appealing, and then the Supreme Court Nomination Blog, The Hill reports that the White House has told conservative supporters, "message received" about nominating Alberto Gonzales to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

The same story reports that the names put forward are all of women; if true, it would match what I predicted on this blog only days ago.

There you have it--you read it here first! (Um, unless you read it first someplace else, such as by Tom Goldstein at the SCNB.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

If I make a word-play on 'Allah,' will my blog get bombed?

A reader suggested I post a discussion on

the teaching of the Church re the God of Islam, and whether He is the God of Christianity? I think this needs some thought and open discussion and it may as well start with you. Yes, I know what the CCC says, but in what sense are we to understand teaching?



Well, in all honesty, its not a topic that gets my motor running, however, since I am shamelessly doing whatever it takes to get people to read my blog (as evidenced by the picture of the Danish cheesecake below), I thought: "why not?"

But now, I have to go look up the section of the
Catechism he mentions . . . hmm . . .

I think the relevant paragraph would be:

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims.

The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.

(I copied this from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Picayune, Mississippi, thanks Fr. Snyder, the pastor!)

Before I comment, let me just say, I don't wish to get into a big argument about this, because at the end of the day, we preach Christ, crucified, as St. Paul said, and Christ our Lord revealed his divinity, and the Trinity. So however we approach our Muslim friends, we still invite them to faith in the triune God, and in Christ, the fullness of the triune God's revelation to man, and humanity's only salvation.

I think what the Catechism is saying is that, the actual differences between Muslim and Christian understandings of Christ, and God -- which are fundamentally important and significant -- notwithstanding, we acknowledge the intentions of Muslims to be to worship the one and only God there is, who we Christians believe to be YHWH, revealed in the Old Testament, and come in the flesh in Jesus Christ -- who told us of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (I don't get to call Him that very often, so indulge me.) And, to that extent, God "gives them credit" for at least believing partially in him. And, insofar as there is only ONE truth, any truth found in Islam, comes from the one, true God.

I note the paragraph says, "they profess to hold the faith of Abraham"--a nice touch, insofar as it irks me when a priest, or a catechist, casually refers to Islam as an "Abrahamic faith." Well, let's wait and ask Abraham about that, shall we?

Now, perhaps someone wants to comment on this. Have at it.

Stare Decisis Is Fo' Suckas

Over at the Evangelical Outpost, which I check a couple times a week, is this hilarious post.

This is about stupidity, or compulsion, or both...

This is an all-too-familiar headline:

"Tri-State Man Caught In Internet Sex Sting"

What boggles my mind is it appears -- regularly -- on the Internet!

Think about this.

You "surf the 'net" . . .
Thinking about "Internet sex" . . .
Wouldn't you notice a headline like this--at least, maybe, the 10th or 20th time it appears?

Of course I'd hope folks seeking this sort of thing would avoid it for reasons of conscience; but if not...Dude, you're gonna get caught! That girl is really a cop--maybe paunchy, middle-aged...get a clue!

And, seriously, this is yet again an illustration of the power of addiction--so if Internet-sex guy is reading this, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, or Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. Find some relief in surrender to the Higher Power.

War of the Worlds

I went to see War of the Worlds last evening (in golf shirt and shorts; sorry to disappoint anyone contributing to the "what should clergy wear" thread below), and I enjoyed it, despite the supposed political subtext to it, about which John Leo, of U.S. News & World Report, writes hilariously here (thanks to RealClear Politics for linking this).

*** warning ***

Read no further if you don't want to read my description of the movie, or have my negativity influence your decision...

I liked War of the Worlds despite its many improbabilities; yes, I know--"it's science fiction," you say -- inherently improbable. But there are different improbabilities. Sci-fi, at it's most intriguing, poses things that could be. In this case, the invasion from outer space is inserted into our present day. Certain assumptions about what the aliens can accomplish and try to accomplish strike me as inherently implausible. They planted machines here, eons ago, all over the world, then left, and waited for however long, to return and take over? Why didn't they stay in the first place?

And why in the world do the aliens feel the need to hunt down each and every human? If to kill them, wrecking the infrastructure and then letting chaos and starvation do the trick would be a lot more sensible; because they're raw material? Again, not a very sensible strategy. These aliens are supposed to be smarter than we are?

(Speaking of invasion from outer space, I recall reading once an intriguing, but rather dense argument about whether there's intelligent life elsewhere, able to come here, making reference to probabililities, and the nature of time, etc., etc.--and though I got kind of lost in it, the fairly convincing argument boiled down to something like, if there's intelligent life out there, and its possible to get here, someone would have done it already. Or something like that; it's been a few years.)

Today's movie? Either Fantastic Four or Batman Begins.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Pro-U.S. rallies in Europe!

Powerline reports pro-American rallies in Denmark! Nice to know someone likes us!

Of course, getting people to like us isn't a very worthwhile objective; doing the right thing is the goal, whether or not we are liked...

A point considerably too subtle for the mainstream media and many of the whining politicians in Washington.

...And, yes, I did post this picture because research shows men like looking at pictures of pretty girls (who pays for this research, anyway?). Shame on me!

Weeds & Wheat (Sunday homily)

The first reading tells us God is “lenient to all,”
the Almighty judges with clemency.

The Gospel shows us the field of the world,
sown with good seed, and bad,
and one day, God’s angels will come
and cast all the weeds into the fiery furnace.

The two pictures seem to be in conflict:
Happy-happy God, vs. the Fire-and-brimstone God.

There has to be justice in God:
When we have suffered
because of the sins of someone else;
we lost a job, we lost our good name,
we’ve been abused, or a child loses innocence:
Oh, then we ache for justice;
We aren’t satisfied for God to be lenient.

There has to be a reckoning.

On the other hand,
You and I usually don’t feel good talking about sin;
Or, when someone else talks about sin,
And it cuts too close to home!

People ask: does the Church still teach
Some things are mortal sin?
Do you Catholics really believe
some things can send you to hell?


It’s funny: some of us hate to talk about this;
Some of us can’t seem to talk about anything else.

But do you notice, how different
different people’s ideas are
about what “the worst sin” is?

Is it about sex; is it about neglecting the poor?
Abuse of power, by parents, business, or clergy?
Is it what we fail to do?
Is it when we fail to believe?
Is it what we say; or our bad example?
Is it violence, with hands or with words?

Did I leave any out? Sure I did!

But you know something—that list I just gave?
At some point or another,
the Lord referred to each of these—and more—
as sins that can send us to hell!

God say’s he’s just; God says he’s lenient.
We want both, don’t we?
It’s no use pretending there’s no tension.

Let me say it this way:
It doesn’t mean much to talk about God’s mercy,
if we don’t take sin seriously—
Because what’s he being merciful about?

Same way, we can’t demand justice,
And then soft-pedal sin:
Because where do you think the INjustice comes from?

God says he’s soft; God says he’s hard.
Good wheat, and bad weeds,
both get their due.

How do we solve it?

Here's how God solves it…

God can do something you and I can’t do:
God can turn weeds into wheat!

God can turn sinners into saints;
God can take away sin, and lift the burden,
He can cleanse the heart,
He can wipe the slate clean.

You say, “well, that’s the mercy, sure—
But where’s the justice?”

See the Cross? There’s the Justice!

When you and I contemplate how precious his Blood is,
One drop
was enough to pay for every sin
there ever will be, or ever was!

Not only the mercy of God,
But also the justice of God,
Takes what is awful, and horrible:
And he doesn’t just pay for it,
He transforms it.

The Cross: it’s awful, it’s horrible.

But he transforms it:
He chose it; and he didn’t stay dead;
He rose from the dead—he lives!
The “Last Word” isn’t suffering and death;
It’s life and power in the Holy Spirit!

His Cross pays for our sins;
And his Spirit can transform our cross, our ugliness,
Into something beautiful as well!

And that’s why
the Cross is something awful-made-beautiful;
That’s how our awful stuff can also be made beautiful;
That’s how weeds get turned into wheat;
That’s how God’s justice and mercy meet.

What should clerics wear (in and out of Mass) and why?

Stimulated by a thread at Amy Wellborn's Open Book, I invite a discussion of what should clerics (bishops, priests and deacons) wear, both in liturgy and outside of it.

Around the world

create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

If you are very observant, you'll notice I visited North Korea. Ask me about it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Rehnquist stays; what will Bush do?

Over at Human Events, John Gizzi confirms what I sensed: the White House can't get any conservative enthusiasm for a Gonzales nomination.

Now, to be clear, I'm assuming the White House actually tried to get conservative opinion-shapers on-board, which would be the obvious move if a Gonzales nomination is a live possibility. If they made the effort, it has failed.

With Rehnquist out, now Bush's decision focuses. As The Supreme Court Nomination Blog rightly points out, this makes the President's decision simpler, but not easier. A side-note: the SCNB seems to buy the conventional "wisdom" that a "ticket" of a conservative and a "moderate" (read: anti-Roe, pro-Roe) would sell.

Assuming the White House is going to try to satisfy a "quota" objective, then it seems it's a choice between a woman and an Hispanic. Which will it be?

Well, my first question is, does the President want to keep the possibility of a Gonzales nomination alive? Because if he chooses an Hispanic, that greatly dampens expectations of a Gonzales nomination; it will be interpreted to mean the Attorney General was passed over.

And regardless of what the President actually wants, what Gonzales wants, I don't see a reason to kill the possibility of a Gonzales nod. If Gonzales is open to the idea, why dampen his hopes? How does it help Bush to take that hope away from Gonzales?

Keeping Gonzales' name in play, if not for this, than the next, keeps the Right, especially prolifers, energized. As long as he could be nominated in the future, they stay interested, and that helps Bush in the confirmation battle.

Plus -- quite contrary to the public message -- it greatly helps Bush that prolifers are making a lot of noise about Gonzales. If he is going to name him anyway, he's going to get this flak, either way; but if wants to name someone more solid -- and hence more controversial -- he has to deal with those in the GOP who dread that move. The complaints from prolifers enable him to shrug his shoulders, and say, "well, I'd like to help you, but what can I do?"

Maybe taking Gonzales off the table helps if he thinks the wave of relief from prolifers will enable him to sneak through a stealth candidate. But I'm doubtful that will work, and besides; not picking Gonzales has pretty much the same effect, doesn't it? So again, why not keep the possibility of naming Gonzales alive?

So, if I'm correct, if the pick isn't Gonzales, I doubt it will be another Hispanic. That means, if it's going to be about getting credit for satisfying an ethnic or gender expectation, then the pick will be a woman.

Preaching: how & why

Sometimes people ask, "how do you decide what to preach about?"

As you might notice from below, frequently my daily homilies are more Scripture-focused--that is, because we have continuous readings at daily Mass during Ordinary Time, I find it is a good time to do some "Bible study."

I like to focus on the first reading (though not exclusively), because it alternates each year, while the Gospel (at daily Mass) remains the same; the Gospels, therefore, tend to be more familiar. Also, frequently our Gospel is a homily from our Incarnate Lord himself, and as I sometimes say to the congregation, how can I add to that homily?!

I'm not sure, but I think with daily Mass-participants, being a little more "studious" about Scripture is more likely to bear fruit: these are folks who have their own copies of Magnificat or a daily missal, and who are more likely to read the Bible on their own.

Of course, none of this is an iron law. A priest-friend of mine generally focuses on the saint of the day, which I do from time to time. Sometimes, I focus more on the Mass itself, as I did somewhat in today's homily. And, yes, sometimes I am more focused on doctrine or spirituality, which is where my Sunday homilies end up.

People hear all sorts of things about what the priest (or deacon) is supposed to preach about. The truth is, the preacher has very wide latitude (in no order): the Scriptures, the liturgy itself, the season, some doctrine of the faith, a saint, even topical events -- all insofar as it relates to "the Faith."

The goals, broadly, are "kerygmatic" and "catechetical" i.e., the call to faith/conversion and instruction; and you can get into lenthy, arcane discussions, if you really want to, about which is more important, etc.

One more thing: while preaching is required on Sunday, it is not -- although encouraged -- at daily Mass. I generally do preach, though sometimes I just invite people to reflect on what they heard, and I sit down for a few minutes. I don't know what people prefer; I go both ways in my own mind about it.

'The Passover of the Lord' (today's homily)

If we meditate on the Passover meal,
Or the Exodus, of course we see connections with what we believe:
An innocent lamb is taken, and broken;
His blood is on the doorposts, turning away destruction;
You eat it, ready for a journey,
Ready to go—when the Lord says—from slavery in Egypt,
To the journey of faith in the wilderness.

Notice, there was a lamb for each household.
But we have just one Lamb,
because we are all one household.
This is the Lord, the Lamb of God, slain at Passover!
This is the Cross, and the Mass, the Eucharist,
and our daily journey with God!

Let me just call attention to part of the Mass:
After the Eucharistic Prayer,
Jesus is present on the altar,
We pray the Our Father, and exchange the peace.
Notice what comes next:
The priest holds up the host, and begins our prayer,
“Lamb of God”—and as he does so, he breaks the Lamb!

The body and blood of the Lamb is mingled in the cup;
The meal is prepared, the sacrifice for us to share.
And just before we do, the priest shows the Lamb,
Saying, “Behold the Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sins of the world.”

As St Paul says, this is our Passover feast.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Population Crisis

Over at Human Events Online, I found a "Breakpoint" commentary by Chuck Colson, about the true "population crisis" now undeniable: the developed world is having too few babies, and it will become a crisis before very long. (See last Sunday's homily in the archive that mentions this.)

Here's an exerpt from Colson:

In Germany, the population of some villages has shrunk so much that “there are now too few people flushing for the sewage to properly flow.” As a result, the government has had to spend scarce resources on retrofitting sewage systems.

Elsewhere in Germany and the rest of Europe, the emptying landscape provides an opening for an unlikely immigrant: the wolf. German biologists expect the growing packs to head soon toward Berlin.

Although I think Chuck Colson is a straight-shooter, am I wrong to be just a little skeptical of these claims?

Still, the larger problem is real.

The pill and the condom: anti-sacraments for secular man.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

T-shirt poll

Back when I worked in politics, I would have bought and worn shirts like this in a New York minute. But I'm not so sure they're just the thing for the new pastor here.

What do you think? Which shirt should I get?

The Slavery of Egypt (today's homily)

This week we hear from the Book of Exodus.
This sets the stage for the first readings
we’ll hear from now, through mid-August!

This story, and the journey from Egypt,
Through the wilderness, into the new land,
With the ups and downs that came there,
Ending in Exile(!)...

Was most likely told from a much later perspective:
We don’t know for sure, but it’s very possible
It was told at, or after, the Exile.

And that means that the real slavery
Wasn’t the forced labor:
It was the going down to Egypt in the first place!

Throughout the Old Testament,
“Egypt” stands for everything
that seduces us away from reliance on God.

Was it ever God’s plan that his people move to Egypt?
I don’t find any evidence of that.

Remember how they got there:
Joseph’s brothers’ sin sent Joseph there;
What kept him there?
Food, and power, and security!
And that’s what brought his brothers and father there!

Remember that:
Because even after God’s People
are freed from forced labor,
They will keep looking back to Egypt!
They will even plot—against Moses—to go back!

When we pray the Our Father in a moment,
We’ll say, “give us this day our daily bread.”

In addition to the Eucharist,
this recalls how God, in the desert,
provided his People with bread one day at a time!

In Egypt, they knew where their food would come from:
They might be slaves, but life held few uncertainties.
Freedom meant uncertainty and reliance on God.

The slavery that Egypt represents
Is not mainly forced labor and physical cruelty;
It is all the ways we seek security, and certainty,
In our world, rather than in our trust of God.

What “Egypt” do you and I look to fondly?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Pro-life drug policy

At the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Dimitri Vassilaros has this column about the FDA and drugs for the terminally ill.

I didn't see him say anything about marijuana for the terminally ill, but it's the same issue.

He's right. The right of sick people to have access to treatments that might work -- and in the case of mary-jane -- that gives them comfort -- is more fundamental. (Over at Reason Magazine, I saw an item making the argument that the Meth problem is a result of drug-prohibition; meth is uncannily similiar to old-time "bathtub gin.")

Benedict, ora pro nobis!

By the way, today's St. Benedict Day, made more special by our Holy Father; let us unite our intentions with his especially on this day.


I didn't see any of the weekend talk, so I just checked in with the Washington Post today; say what you like, it mostly all shows up there.

Pro-abortion Sens. Schumer and Specter are trying their best to salvage partial-birth abortion by latching onto the expectation of two vacancies, and urging the President to "split the ticket" a conservative like Rehnquist, and a "consensus" pick like O'Connor. Alternately, Specter suggests offering O'Connor the top job, hinting she'll keep it a year or two. Meaning: she'll be there to cast the decisive vote this fall, saving partial-birth abortion.

Meanwhile, here and there one sees the "smart" suggestion that Bush should "split the ticket": a conservative, plus Gonzales. Notice: these folks think you and I are morons. We can't count to five!

By the way, you've heard how, because prolifers were so mean to Attorney General Gonzales (reportedly, he's been seen bursting into tears unexpectedly all over Washington), the President will gosh-darn just show those pesky prolifers and put his amigo on the court for spite!

Don't you believe it!

Let's analyze this. First: you really think the President is stomping around the White House, fuming about this? C'mon. Second; he's going to make a key appointment in a fit of pique?

This remindes me when I worked for the National Right to Work Committee, in D.C. -- we would urge our members to send letters to Capitol Hill, and the pols would say, "we don't pay any attention to those." Translation: we don't want to have to deal with it, so we discourage you from sending them! Same here.

Naturally, Bush is getting pressure from all sides. He knows he can't please everyone, but he'd like to please as many as possible. Who wouldn't want to make the "brilliant" choice that elicits oohs and aahs from all quarters? Failing that, what politician wouldn't like to get a "pass" from one group, while he tries to earn points with another? You don't think pastors consider such things? How about employers, considering the "factions" at work? How about parents, trying to deal with their children?

When prolifers pour it on--right now--we make it easier for Bush to do the right thing: he can say: "I tried, Al, you saw I really tried! We'll have to wait..."; "we floated all manner of options; those pesky prolifers shot down every trial balloon..."

Prolifers: lock-and-load, and keep plenty of dry powder handy!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Kiss of Death

In the Washington Post today, "conservative" columnist George Will endorses Judge Harvey Wilkinson for the High Court.

Gee, I thought Wilkinson was supposed to be a good guy!

Barone on Redistricting

Michael Barone is consistently insightful and generally immune to cliches and cant, unlike so many political commentators and professional media-talkers.

Check him out at U.S. News & World Report on redistricting (thanks to Real Clear Politics for linking it).

Contra so much nonsense we hear, Barone rightly points out that partisan gerrymandering is not the problem; because he shows that the best-laid plans of gerrymanderers so often go awry; they are not the omnipotent political gods their critics make them out to be.

Whining about gerrymandering is an example of the "trick play" to which so many in conservative politics fall prey: instead of doing the hard, and time-consuming work within our astonishingly wonderful political system, they look for a cheap, quick solution; often failing at the stated objective, and creating new problems. E.g., the execrable referendum/initiative in so many states.

Tanned, Rested & Ready

Their Will Be Done
How the Supreme Court sows moral anarchy
, by Judge Robert Bork, appears today at Opinion Journal.

Why not Bork, Mr. President?


G.K. Chesterton said somewhere -- I think in Orthodoxy -- that Original Sin was the one Christian dogma that was empirically provable.

The Washington Post has an article this morning on an important, tragic reality: addiction to methamphetamine.

Anyone who doesn't believe how intensely powerful addiction can be should read this article.

One excerpt:

It wasn't long before meth took violent control of Parker's life. Married young, he and his wife would use the drug. She was high on it, he said, when she died in a car accident in 2003.

When The Washington Times first spoke with Parker, he was going through a drug rehabilitation program in Bowling Green, Ky., while serving a jail sentence on meth-related charges. Despite the loss exacted on him by meth, his eyes lighted up when he was asked about the process of concocting the drug.

"I didn't get as high off meth itself as I actually did producing it," he said. "I still think about it all the time."

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Be Fruitful! (Homily for 15th Sunday)

It would be hard to miss the point of the readings:
Be fruitful!

God sows his Word: and it will be fruitful.

Consider an example:
Do you have dandelions in your yard?
Or, does a neighbor have them?
Then, you’ve noticed: they will be fruitful, won’t they?

I happen to like dandelions—
When I was a boy,
I’d collect bouquets of them for my mom!
Whatever you think of them,
God did create them,
And, in their own way, they reveal his glory.

They are tenacious, aren’t they?
Try pulling one up: it’ll grow back!

One dandelion bloom scatters seed everywhere:
If you and I could plant Christians that way,
How fast would our world change?

And if you pick the bloom,
Out comes another one:
You can’t discourage a dandelion, can you?

The whole natural world operates this way.

There’s a message here: God is on the side of Life!
God is fruitful—he’s not afraid of it.
We should be fruitful—and not be afraid of it.

Humanity is afraid of “too much” life:
“Do we have room?”
“Can we afford it?
“Will our resources be enough?”

God’s answer is: if you do it my way,
There will be abundance!

Some years back, “experts” predicted we’d run out of food;
That we faced a “population crisis.”

Now, it’s true—in many parts of the world,
People are hungry, and desperately poor.

But look around:
what is the “food” problem in the U.S.?
Not, of course, that we can’t grow enough,
but rather, we grow so much,
our farmers have trouble selling it all!

Do you know what the experts are admitting, now?
Our “population crisis” is no longer, “too many”—but
too few!
In Europe, the downward trend appears irreversible.
It will mean lower economic growth,
Social tensions with immigration,
and a harder time funding retirement and health care.

Same here: the concern with Social Security
is all about too few workers coming into the system,
in relation to those retiring!

Human wisdom vs. God’s:
We say, “too many people!”
God says, “I will give abundance.”

God’s Word creates that abundance.

God is the Sower; Christ is the Seed he sows;
the Holy Spirit is the Water that nourishes growth.

God always sows his Word in our lives.
He invites us to clear the ground:
Let the Spirit water it,
Give God space, and time…
So that Christ will grow in us.

Mass is a time for that.
If we do nothing else,
For this one hour a week, let’s agree together
we will let this be a time to let Christ grow in us.
This is no time to rush;
No time to think about anything else.

I know: maybe you’ve brought heavy cares today;
Lay them at the altar.
Let Christ minister to you for this hour.

Now, let me say something about “distractions” at Mass.
Not to embarrass anyone, but we know what happens:
Someone drops a kneeler;
A cell phone goes off;
A child cries out.

Now, here’s the thing:
That is not the distraction!

The distraction comes right after—
In our reaction!

If we go right back to praying—
We forget it, don’t we?

But if we start working our minds…
“Why did that person do that?”
That’s the distraction,
that’s the weed that chokes off God’s Word.
Nobody does that to us; we do that to ourselves.

That was
me, fresh out the seminary!
Slowly, I’m learning to tune it out—
Just like you parents do!

This is our time, once a week,
To let God sow Christ in our lives.
Let me say, here: I commend you!
There is always such prayerfulness here at St. Boniface!
That creates good soil for us all!

Remember those dandelion seeds:
so tiny, so ordinary.
Just a handful can make a huge change.

If a dandelion can do that,
What can the Seed of God do?

Solid so far...

Over at Amy Wellborn's Open Book, I made this comment last week:

Something occurs we may see in the next few days . . .

If Bush wants to pick Alberto Gonzales -- knowing conservatives and prolifers have a problem with him -- the smart thing to do would be to get conservative pundits and columnists to start writing about how misunderstood Gonzales is, that he's actually sheep in wolf's clothing, that he'd actually turn out to be kind of "secret weapon" because he's actually great, but misunderstood, and so picking him would be really good news, because the liberals would think he was pro-Roe when -- just entre nous -- he's a secret prolifer, etc.

It may not happen; but if you see pundits and columnists telling this story, watch out!

I'm pretty sure the White House and the GOP have tried this; but so far, the Right is staying solid as far as Gonzales and the Supreme Court.

Today, I read this by Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard. I worked with Fred when I was in Washington and was impressed with him.

I have to say, too many of the "conservative" pundits and opinion-writers I met or worked with, while well intentioned, ended up being unreliable for various reasons. Either they were not sufficiently informed, or their judgment was too shallow, or they are suckers for "trick plays" that are offered as substitutes for the long, often arduous work of actually winning the policy in view.

Or, they were too susceptible to the GOP's self-serving claims: the GOP, naturally, wants to co-opt various movements and causes the conservative movement pursues, and wants the supporters of those causes to see the GOP as the certain and utterly trustworthy advocate of those causes. GOPers shriek like scalded cats whenever anyone dares to question their commitment to causes like pro-life, Right to Work, lower taxes, smaller government, gun rights, property rights, and so forth. Or they weep copious tears to think they are so misunderstood, so unloved.

This is not to bash the GOP, though it is tempting; pro-lifers should never, ever forget that the Supreme Court that has given us Roe v. Wade, and any number of pro-abortion rulings since, has been a Republican-dominated court! So it's simply absurd to accept the "Trust us" response from the GOP. The Republican Party's job is to build its own organization and power. The job of citizens who got involved in politics, and GOP politics in particular, because they care about issues, is to hold the politicians', and the party's, feet to the fire. Always, always, always.

President Bush may not like it that pro-lifers question Attorney General Gonzales' suitability for the Supreme Court, and he may prefer it if we nodded docilely like those dog dolls people used to put in their rear windows, but sorry, no deal. Mr. Gonzales has a record as a judge in Texas, and he cast at least one pro-abortion vote; and it was then-Governor Bush who put him on the court there. It's fair game.

It may be the job of the GOP, including our GOP President, to tell pro-lifers to pipe down "for the sake of the party"; but it's the job of pro-lifers to respond, "with respect, Mr. President, you work for us; we don't work for you."

Friday, July 08, 2005

Blood Feud

Over at James Glassman's (who I met in my work in Washington; he's first-rate) TCS: Tech Central Station, a really interesting site, there's this article:

War in Pieces: the Blood Feud by Lee Harris

Harris poses a provocative question: is "the War on Terror" actually a war?

Doublethink by Bruce Reed at Slate

Over at Slate, Bruce Reed offers a chatty, oh-so-insiderish piece about what "savvy" people in the GOP should do, including the President: lie to your friends about your true position on abortion.

Bush won with crucial support from prolifers; even so, stick it to them! That's Reed's "savvy" advice.

Reed actually thinks that Bush would pick Gonzales in a fit of pique. Sure. Right.

Remembering President Reagan

I wrote this last year, watching the late President's funeral. I didn't have a blog, then, on which to post it.

With the death of President Reagan, and his funeral rites unfolding, unhurried and majestic, before our eyes, memories awake, and tears form, unbidden.

I did not think it would be so.

I put those memories away long ago when he left office. It had not ended as it had begun. A whimper, not a bang; so much hoped-for, left undone.

Reagan did not grow old in those years, but we did. We began as fired-up revolutionaries in our teens and 20s, out to change the world. Everything seemed possible in those early days.

We inherited a movement we knew nothing about. Goldwater? “A Time for Choosing”? “Viva, Ole!”? We soon became part of something greater than we realized. How exciting it all was!

How could we not be disappointed? A vast agenda, gradually whittled down. Tax cuts won, were nibbled away. And the rest? “Later, later,” said the President’s men. Mostly, later never came.

What a memorable disaster the “third term” was! Came Clinton, came Bush II, and what seemed so fresh was now so remote. We knew this much: “No, not the same. Not close.”

Does anyone remember all we hoped for, fought for, back then? Shall the “Reagan Revolution” come down to this: a new face on the $10 bill? Where’s the rest of our Revolution?

And yet . . . and yet what dreams that dreamer had! Do you remember?

A nation of hope, and not of self-doubt. “We will not contain communism, we will transcend it.” A new dawn of economic possibility; a future full of promise. A world not bristling with weapons of nuclear terror. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

These were his dreams. We made them ours. And he made them come true. How did we not realize he meant them? When they began to happen, we did not believe our eyes.

But Ronald Reagan saw that far horizon. Today, they say, “of course”—but they did not say it then. They didn’t see. Only he did.

But what of the rest of the dream?

To have dreams dashed, and others forgotten, as conservatives have since those heady days, is not to have been wrong to dream.

We shall not “declare victory” and withdraw: we shall not pretend all we hoped for is ours.

We shall not mock the hope he made real by settling for half-measures, by a policy of accommodation: with Leviathan government, with the denial of human dignity, and—above all—with those who say it can’t be done.

“Each generation sees farther than the generation that preceded it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation,” President Reagan said to Notre Dame graduates in 1981. Indeed, how far we see, standing on his shoulders!

But those great shoulders are no longer available. It is time for another set. It is time for us whom he inspired, whom he brought this far, to take up his challenge, to espy the far horizons, to see, as he did, the impossible; and make it so.

In his words:

“We were meant to be…a people with faith in each other, courage to dream great dreams, opportunities to climb higher, and determination to go for the gold.”

“It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds…And after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans.”

Thank you, President Reagan, for what you dreamed, and what you made come true. May we continue to dream, to dream anew, and to keep reaching for the gold.

Why shouldn’t we do such things? After all, we are Americans.

Bush's "pragmatic" record in choosing judges

Here's an interesting Washington Post article today:

Pragmatism Drove Bush In Texas Judicial Choices

Now, lest you think that's just liberal spin from the Washington Post, I recall Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, made the same point in 2000.

I no longer remember the date or title of the column, but I wrote something about it back then, here's a paragraph:

Gigot tells us that Texas Lawyer praises Bush’s judicial choices as “political moderates” whose strength is “character” not “ideology.” Gigot adds: “This is what liberals like to say about Mr. Souter.”

Jacob's Journey (today's homily)

In the first reading, God speaks to Jacob at night.

The last time something like this happened,
Jacob had a dream as he slept at Bethel—
many years earlier, when he fled from his brother Esau,
after cheating him.

We recall, when Jacob went to live with his kinsman,
he, himself, was cheated;
And he connived and bargained,
and had all sorts of family troubles:
two wives, children by two maidservants: a mess!

I want to compare the earlier encounter—
back in Genesis 28—with this one, today.

In the earlier vision, he sees angels
going up and down on a stairway to heaven.
God promises land and many descendants,
and to be with Jacob—all the promises given Abraham.

Jacob responds:
“If you will be with me
and protect me on the journey…
and give me food and clothing,
if I return safely to my father’s home,
then you will be my God.”

Hear that bargain!?
God, in contrast, had no “ifs” in his promises!

Today’s reading comes many, many years later.
He is an old man now.

God speaks—
the text suggests Jacob hasn’t heard God in awhile;

maybe he wasn’t listening.

But all Jacob says, this time, is “Yes, here I am.”

God says, “Don’t be afraid…I will go with you…
I will bring your descendants back.”

And Jacob goes. No argument.

From Sea to Shining Sea

I love this story (from the Washington Post):

Walking Off the Fat, Across the Land
At 400 Pounds, a Californian Set Off for New York.
In Arizona, He's at 350.

Steve Vaught is walking across America.

If you want to help him in any way -- give him a place to sleep, some food, or a cold cup of water -- or just some encouragement, check him out at
The Fat Man Walking, where you'll find a way to contact him.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I find it hard to resist referring you to Bob Novak's latest column. I worked with Novak occasionally when I worked in Washington; I think he's one of the best:

Bush is Biggest Obstacle to a Conservative Court

The greatest thing in the blogosphere...probably...maybe...

I've decided to join Linkers of the Revolution -- click on the link to see how hugely important this is!

Stay Tuned

A couple of articles of note on the politics of the Supreme Court vacancy:

Real Clear Politics links to G.O.P. Asks Conservative Allies to Cool Rhetoric Over the Court, and The Political Case for an Anti-Roe Justice, by William Saletan at Slate.

(I'm still learning how to do these links this way, so sorry if it doesn't work.)

I both agree and disagree with Saletan. I disagree with him that the prolife issue is a negative; but I think he's on to something in the way higher-ups in the GOP think it is a negative, and want to promise overturning Roe without ever doing it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why? Because they are idiots

Real Clear Politics links "The Killing Machine," at
The New Republic, about Che Guevara, who's the focus of a wave of "radical chic" as Tom Wolfe so memorably put it over 30 years ago.

People in demonstrations in Lebanon, entertainers and other famous-but-not-necessarily-important people are showing up wearing "Che" shirts; and Alvaro Vargas Llosa asks why.

Why? (And I'll cut the political activists some slack, but...) Because they are idiots.

You and I are in a desert (homily for 11th Sunday)

This is from several weeks back.

"In those days, the Israelites came to the desert"—so began our first reading. They came to the desert. They "pitched camp." That is, they stayed awhile.

Now, when you’re in a desert, one advantage you have: you know exactly what you face. It’s pretty clear that food is hard to find; water, even harder. In short, you know: you’re in hostile environment; if you aren’t careful…you’ll die! It’s pretty simple.

Let’s talk about our culture in the year 2005.

In many ways, our culture is a desert. But the desert of our culture is dangerous in a way a natural desert is not: the desert of our culture can fool us in ways a real desert never can. Our culture readily offers us things that promise to be life-giving, but they’re not. In the desert of our culture, we may think we’re eating and drinking real food, but it’s a mirage: we’re eating sand; and what we’re drinking is polluted; and it pollutes us.

Like the desert in nature, living in our society is a daily challenge of realizing the sources that truly give life are rare: and we need to seek them out, bypassing all that is phony and unfit.

A desert isn’t a bad place. I’m not saying our culture is all-bad; but it can be a hostile environment. I can cite one example, but there are many: consider what comes out of our TV. I could talk about the stuff that is indecent, the numbing violence, the mockery of faith, things like Court TV or some talk shows that invite us to be voyeurs into the messes of other people’s lives. Or, the materialism—or, the way the "all-news, all-the-time" channels can make us forget that God really is in control!

And that’s just our entertainment media, in one 24-hour day! We could talk about our political process, our laws, many of our institutions; and then, there are things like sports, and work, and a thousand other things, that aren’t bad in themselves—but that aren’t enough to give us life.

One way we know this is a serious issue for our times is to look at a major—and growing—problem: the problem of addiction. Name almost anything you like—spending money, sports, work, sex, food, drugs, relationships—and there are people who are addicted to these things. It’s huge. If you’re not that person, there’s a really good chance someone in your life is painfully addicted to something.

One thing I think is true: when people "feed" themselves pornography, or alcohol—or whatever the addiction is—and they keep on and on and on, they’re feeding a real hunger. They aren’t imagining their craving—it’s real! And you might think the problem is the hunger, the craving. But the craving is not the problem!

No, the problem is, they haven’t found the right thing to feed it! And until they do, they keep pouring in the drugs, the abusive relationships, the food. Do you know what an addict is? An addict is a "well-fed" person who is starving!

If you’ve read any Flannery O’Connor, you know she had very odd characters in her stories; she said she did this to have those oddball situations be where the grace of God was found.

And, strange as it may seem, I submit the problem of addiction in our society likewise alerts us to God’s grace.

When all around us we see seemingly well-fed people who are starving for what really gives life, that’s a wake-up call for us all: in the desert of our culture, are we really finding the water that gives life?

Am I talking about church, about our faith? Yes, but that’s only part of it—there’s a lot more.

Certainly, if we don’t have time in our lives to worship God, to pray, to nourish our inner selves, we have to ask: why? What’s crowding it out?

It’s not easy; but to thrive in the desert of our times, we do need to drink the water of worship and prayer; we need to nourish ourselves with quiet time. And maybe we need to ask someone to help us do that.

One thing about a desert: you can’t be a loner. We need each other; and if our relationships aren’t healthy, we won’t be healthy. If we don’t give ourselves to others, we’re going to find ourselves emptier and emptier.

You and I are in the desert. It’s not an easy place to live, but the sources of life can be found. And the Good News is, God is there to lead us to pure water; he feeds us with Bread from heaven.

If we listen for his voice, he’ll lead us to Life.