Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Intuitively Obvious to the Casual Observer" - by why is it missed?

From Michael Greaney, Personhood and the Ontology of Personalism, Just Third Way blog:

The point, however, is that if opposition to abortion is a purely religious issue, then support for abortion cannot be a purely civil issue. As a matter of consistency and of common sense, if opposition to abortion is a religious issue, then support for abortion is also a religious issue. Any form of support for abortion by government at any level would necessarily be a violation of the 1st Amendment as it would, in effect, establish a State religion.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Chancel Choir, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Christmas day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An evil power akin to Herod still seeks to dethrone Jesus

An evil power akin to Herod still seeks to dethrone Jesus
By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — The Advent season begins the Church’s liturgical year. We are already well into the fourth week of Advent, in fact, on the threshold of Christmas itself, and yet the work of the Advent season continues. I have focused my articles during this Advent season on the need to make room for Christ in our hearts and not just any room but room in the very heart of our hearts.

It is not uncommon to have some tragedy strike in life, which results in a temporary realignment of priorities. We may feel there is absolutely no possibility of us taking the time necessary to go to Mass on a particular Sunday and yet if someone in the family suddenly dies we are quite readily able to reschedule our lives to accommodate that family emergency. In other words, we can, if we choose, reorder our priorities. We set those things in priority positions that are the most important to us. Our attendance at regular Sunday Mass is an indication of how much we value faith, faith practice, Church and God. We make time for those things we value and we perceive as important. If someone makes little time for Sunday Mass this is a indication of how much it is valued.

Many more people seem to take the time necessary to attend Mass at Christmas than they do at other times of the year. This is not an entirely bad thing but it is not all that good either. For me, the practice of attending Mass only at Christmas and Easter is very confusing. It is a little like going to work only on the day after Labor Day and the day after Memorial Day and feeling like justice has been done to the employer. It is indeed good that someone chose to show up for work on those two days but no one would see that as exemplary or even adequate. Yet, it seems that there are some who take a rather lackadaisical attitude toward the serious obligation of Sunday Mass attendance. I would surmise that Christ does not reign in the throne of that heart. Something or someone else occupies the throne. Hopefully, the grace of Advent or Christmas sheds at least a little light on the usurper of the throne and provides some prospect of an overthrow of the reigning monarch so that Christ might truly reign.

Herod was on the seat of power in Bethlehem when Jesus was born in the lowly stable and laid in a manger. Yet, Herod, with all his power, was afraid of this newborn king and set out to find and destroy him. He even enlisted the help of the Magi under the pretext that he too wanted to come and worship the one who was the subject of tidings of great joy, but his motives were not pure. He wanted to make sure that his own throne was kept safe. Make no mistake, the same spirit who drove Herod to seek out the child with an intention to destroy him still works to assure that this same newborn king does not dethrone him now. That evil spirit is quite intent on retaining his share of the power of the throne and as long as things of the world or the flesh occupy the throne, he has his share of power. Only if Christ fully reigns does the spirit of evil get fully displaced. Christ, however, engages in that battle in the same way in which he engaged the battle with Herod. He does not seem to contend with Herod at all. He, in great littleness, appeals to hearts. He gently invites all to come to Bethlehem and see; to come and see him of whom angels sing. Even Herod wanted to come and see but the throne of his heart was already, and nearly irretrievably, fully occupied. Thus, he neither came nor believed. Unfortunately, even if he had come, he most likely would not have seen what both the shepherds and the Magi did see. This is the problem with only coming to see Christ at Christmas; He is not really seen at all.

This should not be surprising in our days when even physicians and nurses fail to see the humanity of a pre-born child. How can one who fails to see the humanity of a pre-born child see the divinity of the child in a manger at Bethlehem? I had a very touching conversation recently with a new grandfather. He told me of an experience he had with his, I think, 10th grandchild. He told me that he spent time really looking at the tiny, miraculous hand of that newborn. Every feature, down to the tiniest fingernail of the tiny little finger, was pure and pristine and beautifully formed. In that moment, while he was always completely pro-life, he said he became even more deeply committed to the cause of life. He came to Bethlehem anew and saw and believed. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe. How can the purveyors of abortion fail to see what is so exquisitely clear? The people who walk in darkness have not yet seen a great light and a light has not yet shone on the people who dwell in the land of gloom (Cf. Isaiah 9:1) It is not that the light is not there for them to see. As the light was there for Herod but he failed to see so the light of human life is magnificently displayed for all to see but it is not yet seen by all. Coming to Bethlehem at Christmas, coming to Church at Christmas, coming to see the child in the manger at Christmas does not automatically guarantee that one will see Christ nor that he will be invited to shed light on one’s darkness.

The remembrance and celebration of the coming of Christ at Christmas is a renewal and a rekindling of hope, par excellence. Every child comes with, and indeed is, a message from God that he still loves his people. The child, whose birth we celebrate with such great solemnity and festivity, brings that message in supernatural and extravagant abundance. I pray that this season for all of us is a season of light, hope and exquisite joy.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest. For the yoke that burdened them, and the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace, his dominion is vast and forever peaceful.” (Isaiah 9:1-6) Make a permanent place for Christ in your hearts. May God bless you abundantly this Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holy Father's "World Day of Peace Message"

Avoiding the extremes at both ends of the ideological spectrum, the Holy Father again shows that the answer lies not in "A or B" but "Yes"


While it has been rightly emphasized that increasing per capita income cannot be the ultimate goal of political and economic activity, it is still an important means of attaining the objective of the fight against hunger and absolute poverty. Hence, the illusion that a policy of mere redistribution of existing wealth can definitively resolve the problem must be set aside. In a modern economy, the value of assets is utterly dependent on the capacity to generate revenue in the present and the future. Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty, which must be kept in mind if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term.
click the title link to read the whole address

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Deadly Discrimination in Doublethink Disguise

The following article I am reprinting in full from Social Justice Review (Vol. 100, No 9-10, 2009)

Deadly Discrimination in Doublethink Disguise
Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.

Arbitrary discrimination and justice are mutually exclusive. This is a fundamental tenet of social justice. Considering all the current laws that protect women, minorities, the handicapped and disabled and various other groups from discrimination, one might think that America has tightly bound its anti-discrimination policies to social-justice principles. One would, however, be far from correct in so thinking. The will to discriminate is alive and well; it is simply disguised. In Current literature, the most salient and outrageous example of promoting discrimination by disguising it appears in the form of what its author and champion, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, calls "The Complete Lives System".

Dr. Emanuel first put forward his notions in 1996, in The Hastings Center Report (Volume 26, No.6) where, strangely enough, he linked justice with discrimination. Here, Dr. Emanuel argued that what he called "a just allocation of health care resources" should not be considered "socially guaranteed or basic" to "individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens". An "obvious" example of this, he went on to say, would be "patients with dementia". " A less obvious example", he added, "is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason."

The non-discriminatory notion, Christian in its essence, that human life is sacred and that all human beings possess unalienable dignity, is not present in Dr. Emanuel's thinking. Human beings, according to his reckoning, have no intrinsic value and justify their continued existence solely in terms of their supposedly and potentially positive contributions to society. One might rightly conclude, therefore, that Dr. Emanuel, by denying unalienable human dignity, discriminates against everyone. Nor does he appear to have much regard for either the U. S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence.

Dr. Emanuel's notion of "The Complete Lives System" was clearly, though less than convincingly, proposed in 2009 in The Lancet (Vol. 373, No.9661) in an article that he penned with two colleagues. "Consideration of the importance of complete lives", they write, "also supports modifying the youngest-first principle by prioritizing adolescents and young adults over infants. Adolescents have received substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Similarly, adolescence brings with it a developed personality capable of forming and valuing long-term plans whose fulfillment requires a complete life."

Discrimination, however, remains discrimination even when it is called "prioritizing". Or, as Abraham Lincoln once said, a dog still has four legs, even if you call one of them a tail. The order of naming may or may not coincide with the order of being.

In the context that Dr. Emanuel establishes, what does "complete" mean? The word is ambiguous to begin with, but in the hands of Emanuel et al. it contradicts the intended meaning. We say that something is "complete" either when it is fully present (a collection is complete when all the elements are present, as in a complete set of stamps) or simply when it comes to an end (a person's life is complete even though he dies at an early age; in this sense, he has run the complete course of his tenure on earth). Emanuel et al. draw on both of these meanings at the same time, favoring complete lives in some instances and incomplete lives in others: "Strict youngest-first allocation directs scarce resources predominantly to infants. This approach seems incorrect. The death of a 20-year-old young woman is intuitively worse than that of a two-month-old girl, even though the baby has [lived] less life."

Surely, not everyone will have this same "intuition", especially parents who look upon their infant children through loving eyes. Also, the infant stands to lose more future life than the 20-year-old woman. If we measure the tragedy of premature death in terms of future years lost, then the death of the infant is worse. At any rate, Emanuel et al. are saying that the more complete life of the twenty-year-old (even though potentially shorter) is somehow better than the less complete life of the two-month-old (even though it is potentially longer). They say this under the rubric of "The Complete Lives System", but how do they rationalize it? They write: "The twenty-year-old has a much more developed personality than the infant, and has drawn upon the investment of others to begin as-yet-unfulfilled projects."

Allegedly, we should favor those individuals in whom society has made substantial investment and who are more likely to have "complete lives". Yet, there can be no investments without investors. And a goodly percentage of the latter are older people who do not have much time left for ''as-yet-unfulfilled projects". Moreover, this calculus fails to protect adequately those in whom society has not made substantial investments. In other words, "The Complete Lives System" discriminates against both the young and the old: "When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantive chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated."

This is not exactly "universal" health care. It is, rather, a staggering form of deadly discrimination, disguised by doublethink, against the majority of Americans. Who would take such a system seriously? The matter becomes all the more serious when we realize that Dr. Emanuel is a chief advisor on health care to President Obama. He works in the White House Office of Management and Budget as a health policy advisor and is a member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. His brother Rahm Emanuel is White House Chief of Staff.

Doublethink, as George Orwell described it in 1984, is the act of believing two contradictory thoughts at the same time. Dr. Emanuel strains logic to the breaking point in a studied attempt to convince readers that his patently discriminatory proposal is not discriminatory: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds received priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 now was previously 25 years old. Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not."

What is the moral difference, the inquiring reader may ask, between being 65-years-old or older and having 65 or more "life-years"? Discrimination against the former is supposedly "ageist," but discrimination against the latter is consistent with "The Complete Lives System"! If we are to take the above paragraph seriously, we should have to conclude that it is permissible to discriminate against a 65-year-old because we did not discriminate against him when he was 25. It is probably only small consolation to elderly subjects of discrimination to think back and remember that they were not discriminated against as they passed between the ages of fifteen and forty.

Has there ever been a more strained, illogical, inconsistent, and unpersuasive proposal put forth in the guise of health care? The current moral vacuum created by the decline of Christian values in contemporary society is being filled by sheer nonsense. But it is a dangerous nonsense that threatens everyone's well-being.

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., Social Justice Review, Vol. 100, No 9-10, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Postcards from Paul

Paul O'Leary, Idaho Lay Dominican at large in Germany, sent the following postcards from Abbey Neresheim in Germany:

Paul writes:

By European standards the well designed and built church is fairly new (1747-92). The sprawling Abbey complex, built to house 1000+, is home to only 11 Benedictine monks, so vocational opportunity abounds. Spoken German a plus.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Couple excellent reads

For your reading info:

An excellent Advent reflection by Bishop Robert F. Vasa
The question is, who is sitting on the throne of your heart?
Christmas is the season when we celebrate Christ’s coming. Advent is the season when we are to prepare for his arrival. I find the “Keep Christ in Christmas” to be a nice reminder of the meaning of the season but making a place for Christ in our hearts is the best way to prepare the way of the Lord; the best way to prepare for Christmas. Then this preparation is not so much external as internal.

The following article is fascinating:

A graced bewilderment: The dark night of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta - Reflection based on recent book ‘I Loved Jesus in the Night'

Friday, December 04, 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The future is bright in Honduras!

A new president-elect, and a disposition regarding the deposed former president Zelaya. The Honduran Congress speaks (Click to read):

Honduras Congress: We have complied with the Accord

National Congress of Honduras rejects the restitution of Sr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales

The legislative body reaffirms its support for the constitutional succession that brought Roberto Micheletti Bain to the Presidency