Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Pre-emptive Capitulation"

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism," wrote Vaclav Havel. "It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." In accepting the Nobel Prize, he said: "In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot."

This short YouTube cry of frustration by Pat Condell may sound a little too like a pistol shot for many, but one has to factor in the level of frustration felt by people like Condell, who obviously sense that they are living in an asylum run by the inmates. It's easy for those of use not faced with this sort of irresponsible lunacy to tut-tut the exaggerated rhetoric of those who are, but we should not overlook the message they are desperately and sometimes shrilly trying to send.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Outtake: January E. R. I.

Another short outtake from the January session of the Emmaus Road Initiative:
Precisely because the content of the Christian revelation is the mystery of unimpeded giving and receiving of love within the Trinity, its transmission necessarily depends on a relationship of unguarded trust on the part of the recipient – which, of course, places a special onus on the transmitter, for if the recipient is docile to the transmission and the transmitter betrays the heightened responsibilities that this docility requires, he or she stands under the judgment of Jesus’ words: “If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)
More to follow when there's time. When the CDs, free downloadable audio files and streaming audio versions of the January session are available we will send an email notice to those on our email list. To receive an email, type your email address in the box at the top of the right-hand column.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lift up your hearts . . .

Outtakes from the January Emmaus Road Initiative session:
What is hidden from the proud and the haughty is revealed to the humble and contrite hearts of the spiritually childlike, and if people can be made to believe that deference, humility and the penitential spirit are signs of slavishness unworthy of serious adults, they can be effectively prevented from knowing God.

In addition to its doctrinal, intellectual and apologetic functions, catechesis has what one might call “liturgical” functions. It should not only spell out the Christian Truth but “put us in the mood for it.” It should inspire us to “drop our guard”: to approach Christian truth in a childlike spirit.

There is risk that our catechetical efforts will be too doctrinal and propositional, as was the rote Thomism of the Manuals well into the 20th century. In such cases, we may become intellectually fortified, adroit at marshaling “muscular” arguments and “equipped” for giving an account of Christian truth but lacking in the grace that Ronald Knox said is necessary to turn the water of conviction into the wine of faith.
Those on our email newsletter list will receive an email when the CDs, streaming audio and (maybe) streaming video of the January session are available on our website, probably within the week.

If you are not on the list and would like to be, just type in your email address in the box at the top of the right-hand column.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gilbert Hunt Bailie IV

Enjoying the Wine Country

I indulge myself. My son wears several hats, and one of them is a helmet which he wears leading Segway tours in Sonoma (my old hometown) where he manages Murphy's Irish Pub, and where Hunt and his wife Yuni operate Sonoma Segway, leading Segway tours in the wine country.

Here is story about a tour that appeared today in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here's Gilbert Hunt Bailie III
on a Segway tour last year.

If you find yourself in Sonoma someday, look up Hunt. You'll be glad you did; he's a great fellow.

This is just the beginning . . .

Embryonic stem-cell research is now to be funded by the Federal Government, putting tax dollars to work cannibalizing the smallest and most defenseless humans.

In addition on Friday the Associated Press announced:
President Barack Obama will sign an executive order later Friday ending the ban on federal funds for international groups that promote or perform abortion, officials said.

It is a move certain to please liberals and other abortion-rights advocates, and the reversal was expected in the Democrat’s first week as president.

The so-called “Mexico City policy” has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since Repulican President Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. President Bill Clinton then ended the ban, but President George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.
The result is that the number of innocent and defenseless unborn children killed each year will soar.

The day after the inauguration, the White House webpage was refreshed with this pledge from the new administration to turn the "Lesbian-Gay-Bi-sexual-Trans-sexual" agenda into social and legal reality:
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.

Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
One feels the walls closing in. The price to be paid for holding alternative moral positions will almost surely increase with each passing day. As I've said before, the Tolerance Vigilantes are saddling up, the lawyers accompanying them no doubt reassured by the fact that the new president will be appointing a vast number of new judges, chosen for their commitment to the above mentioned view of the world.

Our children will soon be taught that Christian morality -- which most of their parents still try to instill at home -- is vile and odious.

Congratulations to those Catholics who cheered for (or winked at) the Obama revolution and thereby encouraged their fellow Christians to do likewise.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fr. Tom Kraft

Fr. Tom Kraft

Yesterday, Fr. Tom Kraft left this world, and he left it a better world for his having graced it with his joy, love, and faith.

I posted something about Fr. Tom after meeting him on a recent visit to Seattle, here. And Mark Shea posted a most moving tribute to him on his blog here.

My this extraordinary man of faith rest in peace.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And, oh by the way . . .

After the all culinary talk in early posts about me and humble pie, it occurs to me that exactly none of those who supported Mr. Obama after either underestimating his commitment to an across the board abortion on demand ideology or subordinating the abortion issue to this or that item purportedly higher on the moral agenda -- precisely none of those folks have offered to eat humble pie if their rosy predictions prove unfounded.

To mix culinary metaphors: what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clarification . . .

In yesterday's post about the inauguration of Barack Obama, I said: "I would like nothing better than to acknowledge that I was wrong and forthwith to eat great huge helpings of humble pie."

A comment by Dennis took exception, and it appears to me that he took my remarks to mean that I was already willing to acknowledge that my deep reservations about an Obama presidency were wrong. That is most assuredly not the case. The new president's action on the life issues, as important to me as to Dennis, will be pivotal as far as my assessment of his presidency are concerned.

There were Obama supporters who assured us that he was more moderate on these issues than his record and his rhetoric suggested. We'll see about that. In the meantime, I stick by the serious concerns I earlier expressed.

But for the love of God and the good of the world, I pray that someday, in retrospect, Mr. Obama will have proved to be a defender of life from conception to natural death. At which point my huge helping of humble pie would be served up and dutifully consumed. Then and then only.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We have a new president . . .

All of us should hope and pray that President Obama goes down in history as a great president, for we are at a critical moment in history, and the United States cannot avoid being a major influence on how the challenges of our time are resolved.

I have expressed serious reservations about Mr. Obama, but I would like nothing better than to acknowledge that I was wrong and forthwith to eat great huge helpings of humble pie.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Dalai Lama

In the last post, I saluted George Bush for his work on behalf of the unborn. No shoes were thrown in my direction. Good thing, too. For thanks to Athos over at Chronicles of Atlantis we have this from The Times of India:
The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence on Saturday candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed.

"It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence," the Tibetan spiritual leader said delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture here.

He also termed terrorism as the worst kind of violence which is not carried by a few mad people but by those who are very brilliant and educated.

"They (terrorists) are very brilliant and educated...but a strong ill feeling is bred in them. Their minds are closed," the Dalai Lama said.

He said that the only way to tackle terrorism is through prevention. The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile left the audience stunned when he said "I love President George W Bush." He went on to add how he and the US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting unlike politicians who take a while to develop close ties.

National Sanctity of Human Life Day

President Bush has made some mistakes, perhaps the biggest due, not to the right-wing ideology which his detractors discern in all his actions, but to his naive generosity of spirit. For he assumed that the kind of democracy the West has enjoyed, and which was dependent on the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western civilization, could be readily grafted onto cultures with no such foundations. He may yet be proven correct in this assumption, but the indications are not all that promising.

Be that as it may, history will treat President Bush far, far better than he has been treated by his contemporary critics. In one area especially he has earned a great debt of gratitude: his defense of the unborn. Characteristically, on his final day in the White House he declared January 18th to be "National Sanctity of Human Life Day." The text of the declaration is a stirring appeal to noble principles that we have lately forgotten. Here it is:
National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2009
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

All human life is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique, and worthy of protection. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world. We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us.

The most basic duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent. My Administration has been committed to building a culture of life by vigorously promoting adoption and parental notification laws, opposing Federal funding for abortions overseas, encouraging teen abstinence, and funding crisis pregnancy programs. In 2002, I was honored to sign into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which extends legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt. I signed legislation in 2003 to ban the cruel practice of partial-birth abortion, and that law represents our commitment to building a culture of life in America. Also, I was proud to sign the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which allows authorities to charge a person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb with a separate offense in addition to any charges relating to the mother.

America is a caring Nation, and our values should guide us as we harness the gifts of science. In our zeal for new treatments and cures, we must never abandon our fundamental morals. We can achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the gift of life.

The sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women. On this day and throughout the year, we aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law. We also encourage more of our fellow Americans to join our just and noble cause. History tells us that with a cause rooted in our deepest principles and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens, we will prevail.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 18, 2009, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Incarnation . . .

This month's Emmaus Road Initiative theme is: "Why did it take the Incarnation to save us?"

I am beginning this month's reflections with an extended quotation from Hilaire Belloc's The Battleground: Syria and the Seed Plot of Religion, which was recently highlighted on the Ignatius Insight blog:
The central thing in the business of Europe is the Doctrine of the Incarnation: the affirmation that God had appeared among men, and the denial thereof. From the first public announcement of that affirmation about A.D. 29-33, it has been the main issue dividing all men of the Graeco-Roman world, moulding and unmoulding our society. . . .

Let there be no error; the question is fundamental not only to that time but to our own. It remains the root question for those who ridicule the doctrine, for those who are indifferent to it, and for those who would defend it. With Jesus Christ as God incarnate there is one view of the world. With Jesus Christ as a Prophet, a model, or a myth, there is another: and the one view is mortal enemy to the other.

There had been presented before the world by this new thing, the Christian Church--this Ecclesia, this new society which . . . changed the values of human action, and the nature of social life. Despair, which the old pagan civilisation universally admitted, from which it turned away its eyes by following pleasure on the one hand, however shameful, or honour on the other, however sterile; despair, Epicurean or Stoic, was, by the Christian hope, denied its empire. . . .

If that claim to Divinity were abandoned by posterity . . . The hope was lost . . .
I will post other quotes and excerpts from this month's ERI as time permits.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Anti-Semintism is too polite a term . . .

Mr friend, Jeff Hendrix, writes me with this question:
In light of the mounting "protests" by Muslims and mob-supporters of Israel's move on Gaza, I wonder why the silence regarding what is obvious, to me, at least, that the right to legitimate defense by Israel as a nation is seen as another trip-wire to scapegoat Jews world-wide?
I cannot speak for all "Girardians" of course. Those influenced by Girard's work have widely varying opinions about many things. I would hope that few, if any, would defend Hamas, which after all expresses its genocidal intentions explicitly and emphatically. I would also hope that few would be playing the moral-equivalency game so lately fashionable, a fashion that allows one to strike a moral pose without having to take a moral stand.

As one who has tried to incorporate Girard's work in both my personal life and in my political and moral assessments, and at Jeff's urging, here are a few thoughts. (I wish I had more time to substantiate them and nuance them, but I am in the midst of the Emmaus Road Initiative cycle of talks and have only limited time available for blogging.)

The new European amalgamation is short on glue, on something that binds peoples together. Economic self-interest is not sufficient. Having declined to even mention Europe's Christian foundations in the E.U. constitution, something had to be found on which European's could agree, and, as any Girardian can tell you, the easiest and cheapest form of social glue is a shared contempt for something or someone on whom collective animosities and frustrations could be safely vented, with no fear of reprisals. For the last few years, George W. Bush filled this role, and he saved Europe from confronting its rudderlessness by serving as its piñata. But, alas, he is leaving office, to be replaced by a man for whom Europe has unbounded affection.

In such an emergency, a new repository for European animosities and anxieties must be found. As fate would have it, at the appointed hour the Israelis finally decided to dismantle the Hamas deathworks and, in doing so, they gave Islamic fanatics and their enablers and assorted antisemites a familiar scapegoat: the Jews.

The word "antisemitism" is too venerable a term for what is happening today throughout the Middle East and -- more alarmingly -- throughout Europe and other once healthy strongholds of Western Civilization. Many have observed that the question about the future of Europe is whether what will emerge is a Europeanized Islam (that is the optimistic scenario) or an Islamicized Europe. In light of these "peace demonstrations" and the reaction to them by politicians and the press, the latter outcome seems increasingly more likely.

In the aftermath of the Israeli assault on Hamas -- a long-overdue response to incessant attacks intentionally aimed at Israeli civilians -- what we are seeing is Jew-hated pure and simple. It is driven by Islamic radicals who have made no effort whatsoever to disguise their genocidal intentions. But the "Heil Hitler!" salutes, the chants about finishing what Hitler began, the placards urging the rebuilding of the gas ovens -- these little pieces of madness have been able to magically assimilate the hard-right and the hard-left in Europe and elsewhere, including here in the U. S.

Here, for example, is a comment left on the PBS website expressing agreement with Bill Moyers' condemnation of Israel for its incursion into Gaza:
"The irony of it all is the Jews who believe they are ‘chosen'...better than anyone else, and entitled by God to kill and steal homes and land...are shooting themselves in the foot. Madoff, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, all Jewish American companies and investors, lied to the American people about their true financial status, and have sunk us all..."
Examples abound, most discretely ignored by the liberal media, but documented in irrefutable detail on countless blogs and new-media outlets. Sanity on this controversial topic can also be found, but not often in the places once thought to be its natural repository. Here are a few places where I found it: here, and here, and here, and here, and here.

Decent people must repudiate this madness without equivocation.

Examples abound, most discretely ignored by the liberal media, but documented in irrefutable detail on countless blogs and new-media outlets. Sanity on this controversial topic can also be found, but not often in the places once thought to be its natural repository. Here are a few places where I found it: here, and here, and here, and here, and here.

Decent people must repudiate this madness without equivocation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From Houston . . .

Last weekend I was in Seattle for the Emmaus Road Initiative session at Blessed Sacrament Parish, a Dominican parish near the University of Washington campus.

I stayed in the Dominican Priory next to the church, where six Dominican priests live. A day or so before I arrived, one of the priests, Fr. Tom Kraft, a man in his mid-50s who has been struggling with cancer for almost a year, was told that he had perhaps two weeks to live. At the time of my visit, however, Fr. Tom was not yet entirely bedridden, and to my surprise, he came down to join the small community for dinner my first night at the Priory. He was of course thin and pale, but except for that one would hardly have known that he was facing imminent death. During dinner, he was engaging and curious and showed real interest in the various topics that were being discussed at the table. It was clear that he had a keen sense of humor along with a deep faith. Needless to say, I was struck by his graciousness.

But it was only later that evening, when 20 or so young people whom Fr. Tom had influenced and befriended at the Newman Center at U. W. came to the priory to say vespers with Fr. Tom that I found myself deeply moved. He chatted with his young friends in the most personal way, asking many of them for details about what they were doing and so on. After a while, he took out his breviary and led them in vespers. Even though he was obviously in pain, which occasionally halted his speech, he prayed beautifully, as one who has grown familiar with Christ.

After prayers, he chatted a while longer before bidding each of his young visitors farewell for the last time. These parting embraces were filled with emotion for Fr. Tom and for his friends.

I am not a total stranger to death, and Fr. Tom's graciousness obviously reminded me of Liz's journey into death. Like Liz, Fr. Tom was fully aware of how few hours he had left and he filled those hours with remarkable faith and tenderness.

As the gathering was coming to a close, Fr. Tom said, almost offhandedly: "I'm not 100% ready." Then after a pause due either to physical pain or emotion, he said: "But I'm in the high 90s." He then said he figured that that was enough to get the job done.

Please keep Fr. Tom Kraft in your prayers. He is a living saint, and nothing that happens in the next couple of weeks will alter that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fr. Neuhaus

As Fr. Neuhaus nears the threshold, I remember this poem by Edmund Waller (1606-1687) which he quoted in the October issue of First Things:
The seas are quiet when the winds give o’er;
So calm are we when passions are no more.
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness which age descries.
The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become
As they draw near to their eternal home.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
God bless Richard John Neuhaus, the Lord's faithful servant.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Please keep Fr. Neuhaus in your prayers. He is near death in New York.

Monday, January 05, 2009

ERI Outtakes - - Fall of 2008

A special welcome to those who might be visiting this blog for the first time in response to a recent Cornerstone Forum Newsletter . . .

Since I am often asked for the written notes of my Emmaus Road Initiative talks, I have decided to post outtakes from my notes as occasional blog entries. When I do this, I will include a link to the free downloadable version of the talk and to the web-page where CDs of the talk can be ordered.

Below are three very brief outtakes from each of the the three Fall sessions of the Emmaus Road Initiative. As we master the relevant technologies, we may be posting short audio and video clips as well. If you are interested in our work, you can "subscribe" to the weblog and be notified when a new item is posted by clicking here.

This is from the September session of the Emmaus Road Initiative, on CD #1 in the series, entitled: "The Present Time."

The confusions which the “Rights Discourse” fosters are not exclusively cultural, moral and political. There are subtle but significant personal and spiritual dangers as well. Plato’s said that: “The regime in the city shapes the regime in the soul.” So it does.
Where the rhetoric of rights is the touchstone of social affairs and the cornerstone of jurisprudence, "each thing meets in mere oppugnancy." [Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida] Such a culture is spiritually toxic, especially for those trying to live a Christian life, for a social order based on constantly competing rights tends to foster an adversarial and defensive form of personal autonomy, corrosive of a shared sense of meaning and purpose, and in sharp contrast to the Christian vocation to participate in the Trinitarian Life of Self-Donation and the sacramental life of the ecclesial communion that is its earthly analogue.
To download a free audio file of the September ERI session,
click HERE.

To order a CD of the September ERI session,
click HERE.

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This excerpt is from the October session of the Emmaus Road Initiative, on CD #2 in the series, entitled: "Creation and Fall: Why Are We Here?"

Speaking of John Paul II’s decision to put emphasis on marriage and family, Monsignor Livio Melina of the Lateran University said:
"He understood that to overcome this crisis, it's not enough to repeat some moral norms. What was needed also and above all, was to deepen a theological anthropology, the foundation of Christian life."
The Emmaus Road Initiative is concerned with theological anthropology. In the interest of developing such an anthropology, we begin by asking about "hominization," the emergence of humanity. The question is: "When and how did humanity emerge?
The strangest and most obvious fact about the emergence of humans is this: "The first human who ever lived did not have human parents."
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To download a free audio file of the October ERI session,
click HERE.

To order a CD of the October ERI session,
click HERE.

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This is from the November session of the Emmaus Road Initiative, on CD #3 in the series, entitled: "What is Happening in History? -- History and Hope"

As the Australian theologian Tracy Rowland notes: “The possibilities for participation in the life of the Trinity can be either thwarted or enhanced by cultures which are more or less impervious or receptive to grace and the cultivation of virtue.” So, as I have said in previous sessions, culture matters. For not only the willingness to consider the Christian proposal but the ability to experience Christian truth is profoundly determined by cultural influences, most of which today predispose those exposed to them to a superficial and unappealing view of Christianity and blind them to its incomparable role in ennobling our lives and shaping our civilization.
Passing on Christian faith and thereby preserving what is best in our civilization is a moral responsibility. Like all moral responsibilities, it can be expected to meet resistance. But as Dante said in the Divine Comedy:
" . . . if, half friend of truth, I mute my rhymes,
I am afraid I shall not live for those
who will think of these days as 'the ancient times.'"
How many today share Dante’s concern for those who to come after us?

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To download a free audio file of the November ERI session,
click HERE.

To order a CD of the November ERI session,
click HERE.

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