Faith, Reason, Kittens

Read this. It's therapeutic. Don't have a drink near your keyboard, though, when you get to the latest animal rights proposal.

What Do You Mean By That?

Visitors at a different parish this morning. Treated to a homily on global warming, which had what to do with the rich man and Lazarus I'm not sure. Thank you, Father, for making my pre-teens cynical about the Church because they know the facts of the case better than you, and for making my weekly opportunity to refresh my soul tedious. I'm sure you meant well.

The priest, who seemed a perfectly nice fellow, avuncular in aspect and tone, said we could talk about the environment "leaving politics aside," and then proceeded to repeat a set of political talking points which might have been credible three years ago but are thoroughly discredited now. I suppose like many pastors he doesn't have time to keep up. Which suggests some things, but that's not my purpose here.

I have been pondering what that fellow thinks "politics" means if he thought he was leaving it aside.

Now We KNOW They're Chosen People

Ancient Jewish heroes hoisted frosty mugs after miraculous victories.
While English translations of the Bible do not mention beer, the original Hebrew does, he said.
Homan, an archaeologist, said the Hebrew word "shekhar" has been mistranslated as "liquor," "strong drink" and "fermented drink," but it translates as "beer" based on linguistic and archaeological research.

Isn't Anyone Against P0rn?

Everyone's been laughing at Christine O'Donnell's supposedly hilarious beliefs about sex. Now, however, she says "all that" was when she'd first converted. Now her faith has "matured" into support for p0rn, self-abuse and abortion to save the health of the mother.

Mickey Kaus has the only sane response to that.
Are we really such an advanced nation that even an extreme "staunch social conservative" has to deny opposing pornography? There's something depressing about that. If not Christine O'Donnell, who? ...  

On The GOP "Compromise"

I haven't read through the whole "pledge" yet, but note Yuval Levin's response -- in contradistinction to many hysterical blog posts from pro-lifers sure they're going to be sold out:
The first thing that strikes me (especially in comparing this Pledge to the Contract With America) is how much progress pro-lifers have made both in the arena of public opinion and the intra-Republican debate on the abortion question. The Contract avoided the subject like the plague. This document speaks plainly of a commitment to human life several times, lists abortion funding as a key reason for repealing Obamacare, and promises a government-wide Hyde Amendment. We haven’t been able to move the courts, and so there is much work to be done in combating this most grave injustice of our time (and not much that can be done by Congress, alas) but progress is progress, and this is definitely progress.
 See also Paul Ryan's statement from earlier this week -- no doubt in response to a bunch of bloggers who tried to imply he was going to sell them out, too."The cause of life can't be severed from the cause of freedom." Just so.

And while we're on the topic, here's a prime example of how fiscal conservatism is almost inherently pro-life, given what we spend money on. Chris Christie didn't run on social issues, though he is a pro-life Catholic. He ran on fiscal issues pretty much exclusively. But part of his belt-tightening included de-funding Planned Parenthood, which has led to the shuttering of at least one prominent abortoir.

"Burn, Burn, Benedict"


Did we mention that not everyone was thrilled by the Pope's arrival in the UK? Watch the whole thing, it's fascinating -- about 10 minutes of video the makers are proud of. 

Curtsy: CMR

Update: other protesters, however, were a little unclear on why they disliked the Pope.

Feeling No One's Pain

My spy in NY sends this along, asking quite reasonably why anyone who knows this is still a progressive.
It’s a long time now since Obama was a community organizer. Even then, he might have been more comfortable dealing with communities than with individuals. Democrats are best with groups. If I break down on the side of the road, I hope a Republican stops -- he’ll fix my flat and offer me a drink. A Democrat will get busy forming a Committee to Protect Women Who Own Vulnerable Cars.

Feast of St. Matthew

Frans Hals, c 1625

"Heart Speaks To Heart"

I never knew before this weekend that Westminster Cathedral is dedicated to the Precious Blood of the Lord. Benedict took that fact as an opportunity to preach to the Catholic faithful in the UK -- so utterly torn apart by the abuse crisis-- about the the Cross & the Eucharist.

Faithful to Christ’s command to “do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), the Church in every time and place celebrates the Eucharist until the Lord returns in glory, rejoicing in his sacramental presence and drawing upon the power of his saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been at the heart of Catholic faith; called into question in the sixteenth century, it was solemnly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent against the backdrop of our justification in Christ. Here in England, as we know, there were many who staunchly defended the Mass, often at great cost, giving rise to that devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist which has been a hallmark of Catholicism in these lands.
The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of our Lord’s continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age. Here the great crucifix which towers above us serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. Through him, with him, and in him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1). In this sense we are caught up in his eternal oblation, completing, as Saint Paul says, in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church (cf. Col 1:24). In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world.
He speaks then of the martyrs, of those suffering persecution this instant, and also of so much hidden physical and moral suffering:
Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.
Returning to the contemplation of the Cross, Benedict invites the faithful to embrace the common priesthood of all believers -- which means not only uniting our private sufferings to Christ's sacrifice, but also the universal call to holiness and to public witness. 
How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ! One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society. Let us pray, then, that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness.
He closes with this:
Dear friends, in this Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood, I invite you once more to look to Christ, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection (cf. Heb 12:2). I ask you to unite yourselves ever more fully to the Lord, sharing in his sacrifice on the Cross and offering him that “spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1) which embraces every aspect of our lives and finds expression in our efforts to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom. I pray that, in doing so, you may join the ranks of faithful believers throughout the long Christian history of this land in building a society truly worthy of man, worthy of your nation’s highest traditions.
Afterwards he stepped outside the cathedral and offered a few words to young people gathered to greet him. As with the earlier address to young people, this one is again pitch-perfect, so here's pretty much the whole thing:
“Heart speaks unto heart” – cor ad cor loquitur – as you know, I chose these words so dear to Cardinal Newman as the theme of my visit. In these few moments that we are together, I wish to speak to you from my own heart, and I ask you to open your hearts to what I have to say.
I ask each of you, first and foremost, to look into your own heart. Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give. After all, we were made for love. This is what the Bible means when it says that we are made in the image and likeness of God: we were made to know the God of love, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to find our supreme fulfilment in that divine love that knows no beginning or end.
We were made to receive love, and we have. Every day we should thank God for the love we have already known, for the love that has made us who we are, the love that has shown us what is truly important in life. We need to thank the Lord for the love we have received from our families, our friends, our teachers, and all those people in our lives who have helped us to realize how precious we are, in their eyes and in the eyes of God.
We were also made to give love, to make love it the inspiration for all we do and the most enduring thing in our lives. At times this seems so natural, especially when we feel the exhilaration of love, when our hearts brim over with generosity, idealism, the desire to help others, to build a better world. But at other times we realize that it is difficult to love; our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy and pride. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the great Missionary of Charity, reminded us that giving love, pure and generous love, is the fruit of a daily decision. Every day we have to choose to love, and this requires help, the help that comes from Christ, from prayer and from the wisdom found in his word, and from the grace which he bestows on us in the sacraments of his Church.
This is the message I want to share with you today. I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with him and to hear his voice. Deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the “busy-ness” and the stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world.
Heart speaks unto heart. With these words from my heart, dear young friends, I assure you of my prayers for you, that your lives will bear abundant fruit for the growth of the civilization of love. I ask you also to pray for me, for my ministry as the Successor of Peter, and for the needs of the Church throughout the world. Upon you, your families and your friends, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace.
Then he went back into the cathedral and blessed a mosaic of St. David for some Welshmen to take back to Wales, since he wasn't able to visit there.

[God] Redacted

In July, Princeton's Robby George noted that the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy's booklet of the Declaration, Constitution and Gettysburg Address redacts "under God" from Lincoln's address.
At the time, staring at the text, I wondered whether it was an innocent, inadvertent error—a typo, perhaps. It seemed more likely, though, that here is the apex of the secularist ideology that has attained a status not unlike that of religious orthodoxy among liberal legal scholars and political activists. Nothing is sacred, as it were—not even the facts of American history, not even the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at the most solemn ceremony of our nation’s history.
I let that go at the time, because there is a rebuttal, and even though its claim is precisely the refuge George predicts they'd take in his original article (pretending we don't know which version of the GA Lincoln delivered), still, the Declaration's text is unmessed-with, so....even if the purpose is nefarious, it's a little pointless.

But now the President has gone and messed with the Declaration...
Towards the end of a speech on September 15 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Obama began quoting the famous “rights” line from the founding document. But partway through, he omitted where those rights come from: a Creator.
The line is supposed to read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
But Obama’s recitation left out an important part: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. [Long Pause] Endowed with certain inalienable [sic] rights: life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Many observers think the Prez deliberately redacted  "by their Creator."  Hmm.

Haley Barbour Comes To Tea

Main reason I like this guy? Possibly the sole political figure who actually understands politics, as witness this piece on Christine O'Donnell
When the Republican voters of a state choose a party nominee in an open process like a primary, we Republican leaders must support the nominee. During my tenures as chairman of the RNC and RGA, neither organization endorsed candidates in primaries. That's because the party's role is to abide by the decisions of the Republican primary voters. We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters.
We don't have loyalty oaths in our party, so rank-and-file GOP voters aren't obligated to vote for the primary winner. We hope they will. But it is an obligation of party leaders and candidates who participate in our primaries to accept their outcomes.
On another note, I've yet to hear a word of sense on Christine O'Donnell from anyone. She does seem odd, but her enemies make her more appealing. Is she at all odder than the Democratic nominee, the "bearded Marxist" who believes America is not a beacon of liberty?

However, the talk radio hosts and bloggers who think her primary win betokens a great victory for Conservatism are equally nuts. It's Delaware. Her victory is not a sign of voters' great migration Rightward, but a sign of how unhappy they are with the great Pelosi Putsch. They want someone --anyone-- who will push back against it, which Mike Castle did not, on any issue.

Had we a GOP President, such that a vote more or less in the Senate would be the difference between a good judge being appointed or not, I might be on Rove's side, trying to play the angles toward a takeover of the Senate. But with Obama as President, it doesn't really matter if the GOP takes the Senate --there's not a single senator with the stomach to fight him on judges, and a Senate victory attained by Mike Castle would be pointless in that regard. So this is a year to go for broke in the primaries.

Mrs. Red Speaks


I mentioned somewhere below that Fr. Z.'s collecting once-hostile-now-charmed stories about the Pope. Found this picture and the story behind it in comments at his place. In the same vein, Rueful Red reports in comments:
Mrs Red, all her life a fully paid-up member of the Ignorant Heathen wing of the Church of Scotland (but with many exellences as well), was glued to the telly throughout.  Utterly transfixed.  And then, when his aircraft left the ground, she said she was missing him.  And that she'd got used to having him here, and wished he could have stayed some while longer.

Heart speaks unto heart.

Somebody Never Came Out Of The Malaise

From the "annals of self-awareness" files...

I don't know about lust in his heart, but Jimmy Carter holds a grudge longer than anyone I ever heard of. I'll never forget seeing a Frontline bio of Reagan in which Walter Mondale managed gracious admiration for an old political foe -- and relished Reagan's line about his "youth and inexperience" in the re-telling. But poor old Carter had to get his digs in, even 25 years later.
Now he's going back even further in time to attack another dead foe. Deeply jealous of Obama for getting health care through, he's letting the world know it would have happened on his watch...if not for Teddy Kennedy.
CARTER: The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now, had it not been for Ted Kennedy deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed in 1978 or 1979.
STAHL: And you blame Teddy for the failure?
CARTER: Exactly.
STAHL: Health care, his issue.
CARTER: Exactly. It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill.
STAHL: Just to spite you? That’s the implication.
CARTER: That’s the implication. He did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of American life.
Let's pretend for a second that's true. Can you imagine a more ungracious remark? Or one that reveals more about the inner workings of the heart? Sad.

Update: Who is Mr. Carter's biggest fan?

"We Have Heard You"

I'll get back to the other major address of the papal visit, but first a quick word on how he was received. There were some 10,000 protesters when he went to Hyde Park for the vigil of the beatification. Usual suspects. Mostly these:

And some of these:

Isn't it weird how the burka-wearers and the condom-worshipers end up united?

And one unusual protester whom Fr. Z has more about.

But mostly, it was like this.

As I expected, the pre-trip yakkety-yak about how bad it would be was crazily wrong.  Damian Thompson, who was among those predicting doom, calls it a "personal triumph" for the Pope.

The PM spoke music to the Pope's ears in the departure ceremony at the airport:
we have heard you, he told the Pontiff, adding that “you have challenged the whole country to sit up and think.”
Bravo. The protests were about preventing the Pope from being heard. And where he is heard, he changes hearts and minds. Fr. Z's collecting those stories. Here's one:
My FIL went with us to the Mass in Glasgow and told me “I fell for him, today. I wasn’t really sure about him, but now I see that he’s a really good man, so humble and you can see he’s very shy and nice.
Lots of stories like that in the blogosphere, as always. The papers say one thing, and the actual man is another, so his "triumph" is a matter of seeing through the bluster and showing up to talk about Jesus.

Update: Fr. Tim takes a look at the press. News of the World now calls him "the people's pope."

Master & Commander


There's a recurring line in Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin series, in which Capt. Aubrey explains his military strategy, which he claims to have gotten from Lord Nelson. "Go straight at 'em."

That is what I adore about Benedict's preaching. He is of course gentle and respectful, but he zeros in like a laser on the heart of the matter --because if we're not going to talk about what matters, why waste our time? I was listening to commentary on EWTN radio in preparation for the papal trip to the UK, and everyone was agreed that the Pope would not discuss Thomas More so as not to antagonize the Anglicans, focusing on what Christians have in common rather than the...unpleasantness.

It sounded reasonable at the time, though I'm not sure how uncontroversial a trip to beatify the most famous convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism could have been. But anyway, it explains why I burst out laughing reading the Pope's meeting with diplomats, businessmen and politicians at Westminster Hall. Here is the opening, after the thanks and acknowledgments:
As I speak to you in this historic setting, I think of the countless men and women down the centuries who have played their part in the momentous events that have taken place within these walls and have shaped the lives of many generations of Britons, and others besides. In particular, I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose “good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process. 
Second sentence! He went straight at 'em.

There's a lovely bit on what Britannia has given the world, and he makes explicit the connection between the British common law's search for a right understanding of the dignity of the individual and the same principles in Catholic social teaching:
This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good. 
So far, so good, but of course it's not easy to know where to draw the line between the common good and individual liberty, which is why More's problem, whichever side you happen to be on, is all of our problem, always:
the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.
Here he gets to the nub: "tolerance" by itself --looking away from moral questions so as not to make anyone uncomfortable-- is inadequate for solving these questions, and rather makes a muddle of them, becoming a form of tyranny itself:
The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.
A little more:
The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? 
Here he lays out his now familiar teaching on the relation between religion and politics. No one is asking for a confessional state or the imposition of religion --religion without reason is subject to its own predations-- but merely the application of right reason -- for which religion, properly understod, is a help not a hindrance.
the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.
That's a masterful stroke, there -- bringing things back to slavery. How did we justify slavery in the first place, lads? Answer that and you see the problem.
Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. 
In that light, there's good news and bad news, first the bad news:
I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. 
This is clearly a reference to the recent closing of Catholic adoption services, etc.  The good news includes the very fact of the Pope of Rome being invited on a state visit to the UK, entering Westminster Hall (and later Westminster Cathedral), and various international aid and trade efforts he enumerates.

Then this lovely close, invoking the longstanding tradition of the hall:
I am convinced that, within this country too, there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with this Parliament’s historic practice of invoking the Spirit’s guidance upon those who seek to improve the conditions of all mankind. For such cooperation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed. The angels looking down on us from the magnificent ceiling of this ancient Hall remind us of the long tradition from which British Parliamentary democracy has evolved. They remind us that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us. And they summon us to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.
Later at Westminster Abbey, he was likewise respectful, acknowledging that modern ecumenism began as an initiative of the Edinburgh Conference, but again he goes straight at 'em. What is the source of our hope for unity?
Our commitment to Christian unity is born of nothing less than our faith in Christ, in this Christ, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It is the reality of Christ’s person, his saving work and above all the historical fact of his resurrection, which is the content of the apostolic kerygma and those credal formulas which, beginning in the New Testament itself, have guaranteed the integrity of its transmission. The Church’s unity, in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism. It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity, the model of the Church’s koinonia here below.
Again, if it's not about that, why bother? This next bit is incredible. He speaks to these separated bishops precisely as Peter, whose authority they may not recognize, but whose primacy they do, at least in theory:
with evangelical realism, we must also recognize the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day. Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age. This is the word of encouragement which I wish to leave with you this evening, and I do so in fidelity to my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock. 
He claimed all present as his flock. 

Straight at 'em!

Update: drawing on B16's address to Catholic bishops, Raymond Arroyo completes the circle on what the Pope was doing in the UK.
Then came the last speech of the Pope's visit, a meeting with his Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales. Near the end of the address, Pope Benedict made his intentions plain, and cast new light on all that he had said and done since his arrival in Britain. He told his bishops:
“I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished.”
In other words, the Pope sees his Anglican"fast pass" into the Catholic Church as the fruit of ecumenism—a chance for Anglicans to return to the faith of their fathers before the Reformation and to protect themselves from an insidious secularism that is plaguing society at large and their communion in particular.
With this understanding, the symbolic and stated message of Pope Benedict during his British sojourn comes into stark relief.


Days One & A Half


Catching up on the addresses from the UK trip, but there's a lot, so, in dribs and drabs....

Her Majesty was gracious and lovely in her welcome, putting the UK squarely on the side of Reason and freedom of religion versus the forces of irrationality, be they relativist or Islamist in nature (though she put it more delicately of course).

What a speech the Pope gave at Holyroodhouse! Outlining the great force for good Britain has been in the could get a little misty. And yet, it's a much more sober speech than its parallel given in the US. He didn't say anything this tough to us Yanks:
Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.
That single line seems to be the overall message of the trip: you who pride yourselves on tolerance and indeed taught the Western world the meaning of the world, try being tolerant again. He was especially tough on the British press.

Then there was Mass in Glasgow, and the meetings with teachers and schoolkids, already discussed below.
He met as is his wont with representatives of other faiths, notably Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi (I am always charmed by the matching zuchetto-yarmulkes). I can't help read this as his response to Stephen Hawking's unfortunate straying into metaphysics. Saying that religious figures by their very presence remind the world of the transcendent he observed:
Within their own spheres of competence, the human and natural sciences provide us with an invaluable understanding of aspects of our existence and they deepen our grasp of the workings of the physical universe, which can then be harnessed in order to bring great benefit to the human family. Yet these disciplines do not and cannot answer the fundamental question, because they operate on another level altogether. They cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  
But then he kind of dishes it to the Muslims, insisting as usual that "dialogue," to which the Church is committed, requires reciprocity:
Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has placed special emphasis on the importance of dialogue and cooperation with the followers of other religions. In order to be fruitful, this requires reciprocity on the part of all partners in dialogue and the followers of other religions. I am thinking in particular of situations in some parts of the world, where cooperation and dialogue between religions calls for mutual respect, the freedom to practise one’s religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one’s conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another. Once such a respect and openness has been established, peoples of all religions will work together effectively for peace and mutual understanding, and so give a convincing witness before the world. 
Translation: Dudes, you're holding everybody back. This is the most interesting remark, though, in terms of genuine ecumenism in the sense the Pope has always understood it:
Then at the level of formal conversations, there is a need not only for theological exchange, but also sharing our spiritual riches, speaking of our experience of prayer and contemplation, and expressing to one another the joy of our encounter with divine love. 
Without that, there's tendency to just argue your hidebound positions and not be a disciple.

Skirting The Issue


I wasn't going to bring this up because even though it's hilarious it's also disheartening.  Here's the Pope in his 80s summoning up tremendous energy and physical courage to go traipsing around the world defending reason and liberty in the face of death threats....and his alleged disciples are paying little attention, because they're seriously arguing about...pants.

It started here, where someone way too big for his britches turned an aesthetic point (he prefers women in skirts) into a moral one (therefore women shouldn't wear pants) in a tone clearly meant to be funny but which painfully failed to come off.

Since there is a tiny subset of the Catholic ghetto that appears to think the "feminine genius" is self-doubt, and only the tentative, second-guessed, sour-faced life is worth living --and this guy was playing right into that-- Simcha Fisher let him have it both barrels -- and she is funny, so the results were hilarious. Twice.

She pantsed him.

I wish I'd had the sense to read her posts, laugh, and leave it at that, rather than skimming the comments, which, combined with those generated at other blogs which picked up the controversy , created a Disturbance of the Force of literally thousands of panting comments.

I guess I understand....telling people their position on marginal tax rates is stupid is not as personal as saying, "Yes, those pants do make you look fat." But it is a little discouraging to see so many folks incapable of having a quick laugh and moving on, and so many with truly weird ideas about modesty and what pants mean sociologically. (Thank you, Boomers! My entire generation, Right and Left, is completely messed up!) Plus, as blog comments tend to, many remarks expose the contemporary inability to read for meaning, which depresses the dickens out of me.

(Original post: "Though blue is lovely, my favorite color is red." Commenter: "I hate people like you who hate red. Die!")

I was going to leave the whole topic alone, since ideally I think Catholics should try attracting people to the faith, except it turns out the whole debate has skipped the Big Pond and now there's a German blog into the act, which brings me after long build-up to the point of this post --to introduce the funny new word for the kind of Catholic who thinks the problem is pants. In a post entitled Der Hosenkrieg (already I'm laughing), we are introduced to the term:
der astrogiganthyperhardcorekonservativen katholischen
Tee hee. Enjoy that musical rebuttal up top. Or possibly this one, for which the video is odd, but the song is apt.

The Reformation Is Over

Damian Thompson --and the Guardian-- on the historical significance of the Pope's trips to Parliament & Westminster. Here's the Guardian:
This was the end of the British Empire. In all the four centuries from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, England has been defined as a Protestant nation. The Catholics were the Other; sometimes violent terrorists and rebels, sometimes merely dirty immigrants. The sense that this was a nation specially blessed by God arose from a deeply anti-Catholic reading of the Bible. Yet it was central to English self-understanding when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 [sic], and swore to uphold the Protestant religion by law established.
For all of those 400 or so years it would have been unthinkable that a pope should stand in Westminster Hall and praise Sir Thomas More, who died to defend the pope’s sovereignty against the king’s. Rebellion against the pope was the foundational act of English power. And now the power is gone, and perhaps the rebellion has gone, too.
 And here's Thompson, who disputes the premise that the UK's identity is Protestant, but...
I’m not denying that for centuries anti-Catholicism was central to English self-understanding, even if it took nearly a century of harrassment and persecution to suppress the old religion. And there are still pockets of intense hatred of Rome in English society today. The difference is that the only anti-Catholics with influence are secularists who aren’t interested enough in the papal claims even to find out what they are. (I’m thinking of Peter Tatchell’s amazingly ignorant Channel 4 documentary.) They hate religion and they pick on Catholics because they’re the softest target. Protestant anti-Catholics, in contrast, don’t have mates in the media or useful allies in the Church of England. All they can do is watch in horror as the Pope of Rome processes into the church where Protestant monarchs are crowned, declares unambigously that he is the successor of St Peter with responsibility for the unity of Christendom, and then walks out again – to hearty applause.

Competing Visions


The Pope's address to kids today was fabulous. As Ruefuel Red said in comments somewhere, he had kids of all ages (every Catholic school in the UK and one in Gambia) live and via internet, and it was pitch-perfect. He called them to be holy and happy:
I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
And also to be liberal in the classical sense:
In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study, you begin to specialize with a view to what you are going to do later on in life. That is right and proper. But always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray.
A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints. I know that there are many non-Catholics studying in the Catholic schools in Great Britain, and I wish to include all of you in my words today. I pray that you too will feel encouraged to practise virtue and to grow in knowledge and friendship with God alongside your Catholic classmates. You are a reminder to them of the bigger picture that exists outside the school, and indeed, it is only right that respect and friendship for members of other religious traditions should be among the virtues learned in a Catholic school. I hope too that you will want to share with everyone you meet the values and insights you have learned through the Christian education you have received.
 OK. So we can follow his vision. Or this one (eye-bleeding picture, you are warned), also exemplified here. Or this one.

Leveling The Sophistication Field

Shamelessly pinched from yahoo news, though now I can't find the photographer.

I didn't know London had this specific brand of protester. Expected more of these guys (though be warned, as G. Vanderleun likes to say, this can never be unseen.)

Benedict Went To China


...Or something like that. They're saying his visit to Westminster was like Nixon going to China. Fr. Z. with more about that. I was watching the encounter streaming live, and may I just say as a preliminary comment that London in twilight was absolutely lovely?

The Druid (I call him that affectionately, by the way, not in disparagement) was very gracious. He was so cute waiting for the Pope to if he were waiting anxiously for his date. See?

Sister Olga From Iraq

You have to read this interview with Sr. Olga of the Eucharist Yaqob. She's an Iraqi, raised in the Assyrian Church, and the story of her conversion --and what it cost her-- is extraordinary. During a long nebulous period between being disowned by her family and not receiving permission to become Catholic, she created her own apostolate ministering to prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
Between 1993 and 2000 I ministered to the homeless and the 12,000 prisoners of Abu Ghraib, including the political prisoners.
I was given permission to enter Abu Ghraib to provide food and medicine. The prisoners didn’t have running water, slept on the cement floor, and a large number of people were crowded together in each cell. In the heat, these poor conditions caused people to get sick with skin diseases and emphysema.
The most painful experience was to accompany those sent to death and to be with them during their last months. I felt like Mary standing at the foot of the cross, watching the death of her son.
I couldn’t save them. I wasn’t there as a lawyer; I was only there to bring food and medication. I wasn’t there in a religious capacity, though I was allowed to bring the Eucharist at Christmas, Easter and on solemnities. Throughout the years of my service in the prison, Jesus’ question to the sons of Zebedee, James and John — “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” — pierced my heart. During that time, I felt called to declare my personal answer to Jesus’ question. This answer has radically changed my life. Serving the homeless, prisoners and the poorest of the poor in my homeland, war has been my way of “drinking the cup” of sorrow with and for my people in Iraq.
RTWT --it's an amazing, circuitous story. I had the opportunity to meet her over the summer, just briefly. She's a tiny little thing, no taller than my 11-yr-old daughter-- but a powerhouse. She absolutely radiates a joy and peace you cannot imagine --and in a million years you would never guess what she has seen.

Pope To British Press: You're Not So Tough

Golly, but I love this Pope! Right out of the box, first question on the mid-flight press conference, he hits it out of the park.
Q: The first question: during the preparation for this journey there have been contrary discussions and positions. The country has a past tradition of a strong anti-Catholic position. Are you concerned about how you will be received?
(Translation: "ain't you scared?") Answer: "nope."
I must say that I’m not worried, because when I went to France I was told: “This will be a most anticlerical country with strong anticlerical currents and with a minimum of faithful.” When I went to the Czech Republic it was said: “This is the most non-religious country in Europe and even the most anti-clerical”.
So Western countries, all have, each in their own specific way, according to their own history, strong anticlerical or anti-Catholic currents, but they always also have a strong presence of faith. So in France and the Czech Republic I saw and experienced a warm welcome by the Catholic community, a strong attention from agnostics, who, however, are searching, who want to know, to find the values that advance humanity and they were very careful to see if they could hear something from me in this respect, and tolerance and respect for those who are anti-Catholic.
Of course Britain has its own history of anti-Catholicism, this is obvious, but is also a country with a great history of tolerance. And so I’m sure on the one hand, there will be a positive reception from Catholics, from believers in general, and attention from those who seek as we move forward in our time, mutual respect and tolerance. Where there is anti-Catholicism I will go forward with great courage and joy.
I love the picture he paints of each country in Europe vying to be the most atheist --and how he sees through it, too.  Wonderful, realistic answer --and cuts through the unmitigated hype in the press, including the faithful Catholic press, which too easily allows itself to get riled by things which are essentially silly.

Update: well, I have to give you the other questions, too. To a question about how to make the Church more relevant and attractive, he said that from now on Fuller's will substitute for wine as sacred species, and Simon Cowell and two sardonic theologians to be named later had been hired to mock absurd dissenting positions publicly.
...Or, possibly he said this instead:
I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ.
Of course they asked him about the loss of faith as a result of the abuse crisis, and he gives the fullest response I've heard from him (apart from the letter to the Irish -- I mean the fullest live statement). Worth reading in full, as are his remarks about the beatification of Cardinal Newman --whom he calls here a doctor of the Church! Will he make that formal, I wonder?-- and his relationship with the Queen.

B16 With QE II

Shamelessly pinched from here.

The visit to the United Kingdom has begun! So far, so that button on the right for coverage. More here eventually --for now, just this ninme bait.

Update: Bait taken, comment left: Rueful Red was there:
There’s no better way to spend a Thursday lunchtime than to stand in Princes St and greet the Pope. And another 124,999 people felt the same way. I can’t remember ever being in a crowd before in which everyone was smiling.

Doctorates In What Exactly?

Hannah Rosin had an interesting piece in the Atlantic last month on our new matriarchal society and how men and boys are being left behind. Here's a new piece of evidence: women earn more PhD's than men. Not to diss my own sex, or my female scholar friends, but I hope they're not all in Womyn's Studies, and don't talk like this.

Shamelessly pinched from American Digest

Another Anniversary

ninme reminds me that today is the anniversary of Bush's visit to Ground Zero. I don't think I noticed at the time that it happened on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Scroll down here for the account from Bob Beckwith, the firefighter standing with Bush.


I don't ever want to hear another complaint about boxed wine when the French --the French!-- are doing fill -er-ups like this.
As to customer reaction, Terzian says customers are taken aback at first, but then warm up to the idea.
especially after a taste. They come back often, she says.

Mincing No Words With The Anglicans

Remember this guy? He just delivered a blunt ultimatum to the Anglicans (with the Druid present) in the name of the Russian Orthodox Church. Namely, that the Orthodox church isn't going to bother talking to folks who appear to have no serious interest in Christianity.
Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture.
Here's the entire speech. This strikes me as surprisingly liberal (in the positive sense) coming from the Russkies.
All current versions of Christianity can be roughly divided into two main groups: traditional and liberal. The difference today is not so much between Orthodox and Catholics, or between Catholics and Protestants, but precisely between Traditionalists and ‘Liberals’. Some Christian leaders, for instance, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way to build a Christian family: there are other available models, and the Church should become sufficiently ‘inclusive’ in order to recognize alternative behavioral standards and to grant them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value, and that life in the womb may be ended at will. Traditionalist Christians are in fact being asked to reconsider their views under the pretext of keeping up with modern times.
The whole speech is worth reading in its own right, not just in light of the possible demise of Orthodox-Anglican ecumenism. This line jumped out at me because it sounds (in English, I think it was delivered in Italian) exactly like something JP the Great said about evolution.
Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to speak of ‘Christianity’ as a unified scale of spiritual and moral values, universally adopted by all Christians. It is more appropriate, rather, to speak of ‘Christianities’, that is, different versions of Christianity espoused by diverse communities.
Here's JP II:
to tell the truth, rather than speaking about the theory of evolution, it is more accurate to speak of the theories of evolution. The use of the plural is required here—in part because of the diversity of explanations regarding the mechanism of evolution, and in part because of the diversity of philosophies involved. There are materialist and reductionist theories, as well as spiritualist theories.
It's a little bit sad that an institution tasked with preserving the truth should fall into the same kind of variation that theoretical science experiences, but the Metropolitan knows why. Christians have forgotten about truth, he says:
Why do the Churches, both East and West, still remember the Fathers of the Nicean and later Ecumenical Councils with such gratitude? Why are the great theologians of the past, the opponents of heresy, revered in the East as ‘great universal teachers and saints’ and in the West as ‘Doctors of the Church’?  Because throughout the ages the Church believed it to be her principal task to safeguard the truth. Her foremost heroes were those confessors of the faith who asserted Orthodox doctrine and countered heresies in the face of new trends and theological and political innovations.
Almost 1700 years have elapsed since the Council of Nicaea, but the criteria that were used by the Church to distinguish truth from heresy have not changed. And the notion of church truth remains as relevant today as it did seventeen centuries ago. Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology – a theology that prefers to refer to “pluralism” and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences.
Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that ‘there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval’ (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy.
After listing the increasing number of lesbian bishops in various nations:
What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).
This sounds like Benedict on the role of Christianity today:
European countries as never before need to reinforce moral education, since its absence leads to dire consequences such as accelerating extremism, a decline in the birth rate, environmental pollution and violence. The principles of moral responsibility and of freedom should be consistently implemented in all spheres of human life – politics, economics, education, science, culture and the mass media.
We should not remain silent and look with indifference at a world that is gradually deteriorating. Rather, we should proclaim Christian morality and teach it openly not only in our churches, but also in public spaces including secular schools, universities and in the arena of the mass media. We do not presume to impose our views on anybody but we wish that our voice be heard by those who want to hear it. Unfortunately, we cannot convert the whole world to God, but we should at least make people think about the meaning of life and the existence of absolute spiritual and moral values. We are obliged to bear witness to the true faith always and everywhere so that at least some may be saved (1 Cor. 9:22).
Curtsy: Opinionated Catholic

Benedict's Tartan

While the Brits are busy being stupid and ornery about the Pope's visit, the Scots have rolled out a new tartan for him.
Cardinal O’Brien said: “It’s a great honour to be able to hand over the first ever tartan created for a papal visit as a thank you to all the Holyrood parliamentarians who have been so overwhelmingly supportive of this visit, knowing it means so much to the Catholic community and many others in this country.
Yay,the Scots!

Political Ads Are Sure More Fun Than They Once Were


I know nothing about John Dennis except that he's a Conservative running against Nancy Pelosi, here portrayed as the Wicked Witch. To me the best thing about the ad is the final frame, where the "paid for by..." line comes with this parenthetical:
(obligatory McCain-Feingold-incumbent-protection-mandated message).
At last someone following through on my contention that all government-mandated messages should be complied with but bitterly mocked. As in, "allow to cool before pouring in lap."

Curtsy: CMR

Therapeutic Movie Review

Pay, Sit, Barf
I’m just so bored of ladies and their emotions doing stuff – and, worse, the assumption that those three elements alone (ladies, emotions, stuff) are enough to constitute entertainment for other ladies.
I'm bored with that, and the notion that particular holy trinity constitutes an adequate spirituality or political platform, either.
The third and final chapter is “love,” which brings Julia Roberts to the EVEN EXOTICKER shores of Bali. In Bali, she becomes best friends with a wacky toothless medicine man, meditates some more, gets a bladder infection, and meets her dream man – a fitting finale to a movie all about how you don’t need a husband to be happy as long as you have spaghetti. (Pro tip: It turns out you do!!!) At one point, Javier Bardem runs her over with his car. That part was okay.

Democrats Quaking

Best evidence yet the Dems expect to be blown out in November? NPR is running a breathless feature on the perils of gerrymandering. They dug up people from the Gingrich generation to complain about the horrors of Wepubwican Mawfeasance. Not one word about how the Dems rig everything by race so no one has to actually debate any ideas, you just vote for the black, the hispanic....

Not related, but since I'm listening to NPR while doing busy-work, another thing I do not thank Pastor Whatsit down in FL for is the self-righteous "statement" I just heard one Maureen Fiedler, host of some faith-oriented talk show make. Never mind that he didn't do it and the moment has passed, she had to play her pre-recorded statement... and be sure we know that nit-nat down in FL follows a direct line of nitmats straight back to the...dun-dun-DUN...Inquisition. She is definitely against the Inquisition she'll have you know. /snort

APSA Shop Talk

Mr. W. was at the conference of the American Political Science Association over Labor Day weekend. It's fun for him because he goes to lunch, dinner or drinks with his old buddies. I used to enjoy it, although the last time I attended for any length of time was a decade ago, and the panel topics appeared to be exactly the same. Mr. W. asked me if I wanted to attend a Strauss-Voegelin panel, and I said I count Strauss-Voegelin panels instead of sheep.

I'm sure that says more about me than persevering scholars. Anyway, here is a list of APSA drinking games. They left out: "drink when someone asks a question for the sole purpose of promoting his new book," and someone should create a Claremonster edition.

EU, Yuck

Common sense found in Europe: EU disliked by the EU.
The latest findings of Eurobarometer, the EU’s own polling organisation, show that less than half its citizens now believe it is a “good thing”. In many countries, its popularity is at record lows, and only 19 per cent see the EU as “democratic” (in Britain, Finland and Latvia this is as low as 10 per cent). 
Not quite enough sense to just be done with it, though.
no current issue better illustrates the bizarre nature of the system to which we have surrendered the power to run our country than the chaos inflicted on our hospitals by the enforced application of the EU’s working time directive. Led by John Black, head of the Royal College of Surgeons, medical professionals protest that this is threatening many patients’ lives.
Even the European Commission freely admits, in a recent “communication” to the European Parliament and sundry others, that its rules are, in practice, highly “unsatisfactory” and in need of urgent reform. But it adds that attempts to amend the directives have been going on since 2004 and that any chance of getting the reforms needed will involve so many consultations and negotiations that little is likely to happen for years.
Of course, if we still had the power to run our own country, this crisis in the NHS and much else besides could be sorted out within months, But since our Government seems quite happy to continue handing over even more powers to this crazy system, there is nothing we can do about it
Curtsy: The Corner.

Nine Years On

Wanna have yourself a good cry? Watch Bush's speech to Congress September 20, 2001. Or even his speech at National Cathedral, September 14, 2001.

Lileks with a lovely rambling essay on the ensuing wars, from which I snatch this longish excerpt:
Two years later I take a certain grim comfort in some people’s disinterest in the war; if you’d told me two years ago that people would be piling on the President and bitching about slow progress in Iraq, I would have known in a second that the nation hadn’t suffered another attack. When the precise location of Madonna’s tongue is big news, you can bet the hospitals aren’t full of smallpox victims. Of course some people are impatient with those who still recall the shock of 9/11; the same people were crowding the message boards of internet sites on the afternoon of the attacks, eager to blame everyone but the hijackers. They hate this nation. In their hearts, they hate humanity. They would rather cheer the perfect devils than come to the aid of a compromised angel. They can talk for hours about how wrong it was to kill babies, busboys, businessmen, receptionists, janitors, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers - and then they lean towards you, eyes wide, and they say the fatal word:


And then you realize that the eulogy is just a preface. All that concern for the dead is nothing more than the knuckle-cracking of an organist who’s going to play an E minor chord until we all agree we had it coming.

I’ve no doubt that if Seattle or Boston or Manhattan goes up in a bright white flash there will be those who blame it all on Bush. We squandered the world’s good will. We threw away the opportunity to atone, and lashed out. Really? You want to see lashing out? Imagine Kabul and Mecca and Baghdad and Tehran on 9/14 crowned with mushroom clouds: that’s lashing out. Imagine the President in the National Cathedral castigating Islam instead of sitting next to an Imam who's giving a homily. Mosques burned, oil fields occupied, smart bombs slamming into Syrian palaces. We could have gone full Roman on anyone we wanted, but we didn’t. And we won’t.

Which is why this war will be long.

Koran BBQ Canceled

The pastor claims he's been assured Cordoba House is moving. Seems doubtful. But anyway, no burning.



The last part is the best.

Who Hired Goebbels At Time?


This is Time's Rosh Hashanah cover, and the story's even better. It's all about how Jews are too filthy rich to care about others. Click over and get a load of the opening photo and this lede:
Heli and Eli sell condos on Exodus Street, a name that evokes a certain historical hardship in a neighborhood that suggests none at all, the ingathering of the Jews having entered a whole new realm here. The talk in the little office is of interest rates and panoramic sea views from handsomely appointed properties selling on the Ashdod waterfront for half what people are asked to pay in Tel Aviv, 18 miles (29 km) to the north. And sell they do, hand over fist — never mind the rockets that fly out of Gaza, 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south.
Maybe we could get Fidel to write a letter to the editor? I bet the folks at Time feel vastly superior to that Koran-burning pastor, huh?

Curtsy: Big Journalism.

Update: VDH calls the article
the most anti-Semitic essay I have ever read in a mainstream publication.
From his summary:
Among Vick’s interviewees is Heli Itach, a modern-day Shylock who brags about the money to be made selling condos in Jerusalem (“‘Even when the Qassams fell, we continued to sell!’ says Heli Itach, slapping a palm on the office desk”). The accompanying photo shows carefree Israelis on the beach.
In fact, Vick argues, the Jews are so obsessed with making money that they don’t much care what happens in the future: “The truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.”
Man I wish I ever read Time so I could have the satisfaction of never touching it again.

Don't Tell Michael Moore

OOgo, too, will be so disappointed. Castro says Cuban model doesn't work.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.
Alternative headline: Castro finally acknowledges dissolution of Soviet Union.

Update: Fidel to Ahmadinejad: Stop Slandering The Jews. Also, he was wrong to tell Kruschev to liquidate the US.

A Lesson Adults Could Use Too

Here's Simcha Fisher on the problem with the way we teach history. Riffing off an article showing that medieval witch hunts weren't Church-sponsored, she writes:
when something really big and awful goes on for 300 years, you can’t sum up its cause or significance in a single sentence (unless that sentence is “It’s a fallen world”).  Nothing is that simple.
But it's a mistake to try to teach little kids all the complications.
we teach the little ones that Columbus was a hero, Lincoln strode into battle to free the slaves, and God made the world in seven days.  All of this is true.  The details are more subtle, but the basic myth tells you something important that the details can’t convey.
Modern history books for children will have none of this fairytale foolishness.  They want to paint a truer, fuller picture of history by debunking myths — but they do this by oversimplifying in the other direction, and they end up telling an equally false story.  By insisting on the deary, mitigating details, they teach children that no one ever fights to the death for justice, and that no one is really courageous, that nothing is noble.  What a terrible lesson — what a lie!
Her observation:
I don’t lie to my kids.   Soon enough, children learn that there are details, there are complications.  But I know they haven’t lived long enough to understand that sin and weakness go along with courage and nobility — that they can exist in the same man.  This subtle understanding is something they will need to have eventually.  But trying to teach it prematurely doesn’t give you educated students, it gives you ignorant cynics.
I think the inability to understand that sin and weakness can coexist in the same person with courage and nobility accounts for the bulk of our political discourse today.

Not At Ground Zero Mosque Gets Interesting

The debate over Cordoba House has seemed overwrought to me. Some interesting elements have been added, however. That "Pastor" down in Florida (his church has about 30 followers and has had run-ins with the IRS according to reports) who's going to bbq the Koran on Saturday may be nutty, but he raises an interesting question. Would we say he has the right to burn the Koran --but that decent and peace-loving people wouldn't? Isn't that the argument against the mosque near Ground Zero? What makes the cases different?
An obvious moral distinction is that Cordoba House purports to be a service to the community whereas Pastor whatsit is simply playing provocateur. That's if you accept Feisal Rauf's explanation of the center.
At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.
Cordoba House will be built on the two fundamental commandments common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: to love the Lord our creator with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We want to foster a culture of worship authentic to each religious tradition, and also a culture of forging personal bonds across religious traditions.
Rauf makes an interesting claim about the political support for the center.
President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.
The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift. 
That comports with a point Tony Blair makes in his new book and which he elaborated on the Charlie Rose show last night. He says he has come to a deeper understanding of the challenge posed by radical Islam: namely that the problem is much broader than he originally understood. It's not just extremism that poses a challenge to the West, but a broader narrative accepted by much of the Muslim world, including many who abhor terrorism. That narrative is that the West is hostile to Islam and oppresses it. Blair says extremism has to be fought through a combination of hard and soft power --the latter by forthrightly confronting that narrative both within and without Islam. Muslims have to be challenged to believe, "we are capable of solving our own problems."

In that light, Cordoba House would be a good thing, supposing we take Rauf's words at face value. Thanks to the tenet of Islam that it's not necessary to be honest with infidels, many sensible people think Cordoba House is merely an act of provocation, and the nice words merely taunts. There's obviously no way to look into a man's soul (unless you're George Bush). Rauf promises to reveal all funding, however -- so trust but verify?

Here's a second interesting wrinkle. Gen. Petraeus has weighed in against the Koran burning, saying the images will harm our cause in Afghanistan. Duh. He no doubt has in mind "Korangate" in 2005, when Newsweek published a story --which turned out to be utterly false-- of Americans flushing Korans down the toilet. American soldiers died as a direct result of that story.

Here's the usually sensible Spengler complaining Petraeus has no business shushing civilians.
If the obnoxious and misguided Rev. Jones can be bullied into silence, who else will be told to shut up?
Robert Spencer agrees. Eh. I take the point, but don't see how pointing out how the pictures will play overseas while we're at war constitutes bullying; the general has no power to make them stop, nor has he suggested any threat to them if they don't. What's the difference between that and the ubiquitous "Loose lips sink ships" posters of World War II? Washington put a stop to Guy Fawkes celebrations...though admittedly that was among soldiers, not civilians, which is a different matter. But the point was the same: consider how what you're doing affects our allies.

Nanny McBloomberg is at least consistent: he supports the pastor's right to burn the Koran. Will that undo the good will allegedly built by supporting the mosque?

Update: Hmmm. Now Rauf regrets the project...but it must go forward as a matter of national security?