Touchstone Magazine HomeHome
Touchstone's Editors on news & events of the day.with Patrick Henry ReardonOrder our publications...Speakers bureau, Chicago Lecture Series, and more...Browse back issues...All the information you need

Touchstone's editors on news and events of the day.

E-mail your comments

Friday, July 12


One of the skills required of us in a politically-correct age, as Orwell noted, is the ability to assert contradictory things without anyone seeming to notice the contradiction. Today's news from Barcelona brings a fresh example of this. First, we hear from ABC NEWS:

...medical researchers are concerned that young Americans, who did not come of age in the scary, early days of AIDS, are not taking warnings about the deadly disease to heart.

In a study presented this week at a world AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain, U.S. researchers said three-quarters of young gay urban men infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are unaware they are infected. More than half said they considered their risk of infection to be low, and half had engaged in unprotected sex in the previous six months, said the researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[Interestingly, ABC's headline and teaser copy for this material show more insight than the material itself:]

'NOT ME': They've heard the warnings. They know the risks. So why are so many teens still engaging in risky — and life-threatening — sex?

[Good question. Yet it's a question that the article does not answer. Instead it presumes that the only possible explanation, the only conceivable explanation, is ignorance.]

Despite their risky behavior, most young gay men were able to rattle off safe-sex guidelines as if they authored the pamphlets, said Douglas Shehan, a research scientist at the University of Texas' Southwestern Medical Center who headed the CDC study in Dallas.

"The problem isn't knowledge," Shehan said. "It's translating knowledge into behavior change."

[St. Paul, call your office.]

Many factors, including level of intimacy, connection, trust and whether the relationship was long-term or a fling, seem to contribute to risky behavior among young gay men, Shehan said. Many young men think only older guys have HIV, he said.

"A decision whether to have safe sex doesn't happen in a vacuum," Shehan said.

[Actually, by definition NOTHING happens in a vacuum, unless it's the one between the ears of such "experts," who seem unaware of the fundamental perversity of our unredeemed natures. But let's continue....]

How can young people be persuaded that AIDS is still deadly, and that even they need to engage in safe sex?

[As if the danger has nothing to do with the appeal....]

Experts say messages need to be tailored to youth, whether gay or straight, that they can relate to in places where they spend time and are likely to fall into risky behavior.

College students say they are not 'turned on' by the safe sex messages they hear, Alexander said.

[Not "turned on" by safety? What an outrage. EVERYTHING in life should be communicated in such a way as to turn people on.]

"Our culture has a difficulty talking about sexual issues, especially talking about pleasure," he said. "This translates to students as a lack of interest. It's not 'real' for them, that's one of the things I am hearing frequently."

[Of course, the truth of the matter is that we never STOP talking about "sexual issues." It's morality we have difficulty talking about.]

Health professionals should also develop strategies to intervene on social and environmental levels, Shehan said. In the case of young gay men, for example, posters hung above urinals at popular bars could advertise safe sex and even point out that condoms are available at the bar.

From there, parents, schools, employers and churches — any institution that is part of a social support network — should all convey safety messages.

[And so on. In other words, we need more of the same, infinitely more of it, endless propagandizing in every available space, based upon an utterly faulty and fatuous understanding of "sexual issues," and human nature, and the relationship between the two. We must redouble our efforts to reeducate the entire human race--but in the battle against "raging hormones," well, there we are helpless, the first generation in human history to be so condemned.

Consider this message next to another item from the day's news, this from Reuters, publicized by Matt Drudge:]

Sesame Street to introduce HIV-positive Muppet

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sesame Street will soon introduce its first HIV-positive Muppet character to children of South Africa, where one in nine people have the virus that can lead to AIDS.

The upbeat female Muppet will join "Takalani Sesame" on September 30 for its third season on the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

The character -- which has yet to have a name or final colour or form -- will travel to many if not all of the eight other nations that air versions of the educational children's show that began in the United States in 1969, said Joel Schneider, vice president and senior adviser to the Sesame Street Workshop.

Schneider said talks are under way to introduce an HIV-positive character to U.S. viewers.

Schneider announced the new character this week at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, where he spoke by telephone on Thursday.

"This character will be fully a part of the community," Schneider said. "She will have high self-esteem. Women are often stigmatised about HIV and we are providing a good role model as to how to deal with one's situation and how to interact with the community."

The program is aimed at children from 3 to 7 and the messages delivered by the new character will be "appropriate," said Schneider, meaning that there will be no explicit mention of sex.

"Not every show will deal explicitly with HIV/AIDS," Schneider said.

[So we need to bombard the entire population with scary messages about what could happen to them if they make the wrong choices, but be sure to show infinite respect for those "upbeat" characters to whom those scary things--which turn out not to be so scary after all--have actually happened. We need to talk about "sexual issues" endlessly but without talking "explicitly" about sex. Hmmm. But perhaps there is no contradiction here. Maybe the message is that if you contract AIDS, you'll turn into a Muppet. That ought to scare any sensible person. Who needs the concept of Hell when you have Sesame Street as an alternative?]

8:07 AM

QUEER CANADA - OR JUST ONTARIO?: The Ontario Supreme Court ordered the province to recognize gay marriage (Globe and Mail):

Ontario must approve same-sex marriages, judge rules

Globe and Mail Update
The Ontario Supreme Court said in a landmark decision Friday that same-sex marriages between couples must be registered by the provincial government.
A three-judge panel made the ruling Friday morning in the decision, expected to have ramifications across Canada.
In January, 2001, Rev. Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church married two gay couples in front of an audience of 600 people.
However, the city refused to register the two marriages.
Friday's court ruling as a result of a challenge by the Metropolitan Community Church was joined with another constitutional challenge by eight gay couples who have been unable to obtain marriage licences despite going through religious marriage ceremonies.
The couples asked the court to find that governments' refusal to register their marriages violates several provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including equality rights, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion and security of the person, defined as psychological well-being.
Gay couples say they desire to have their marriages made official by certificates.
"We're no longer second-class citizens in this country and the time has come for change. My relationship is validated and nobody can say we're not a real family any more," said Joe Varnell, who sued the provincial government for the right to marry another man after the decision.
As soon as the decision was released, Mr. Varnell and his partner, Kevin Bourassa, shared a celebratory kiss and cried tears of joy.

(Fans of Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie will no doubt recognize the prophetic nature of their hit, The Toronto Song).

7:58 AM

CARDINAL MISAPPREHENSION: Norberto Cardinal Rivera Carrera sees a Nazi-like plot to discredit the Church, a "campaign of media persecution against the entire Catholic Church" on par with attacks under Adolf Hitler (National Post). The Nazis, as Victor Klemperer mentions in I Will Bear Witness, tried to use morals charges to discredit the clergy; but the Nazi charges were false and the charges in the Unites States are true.

The media may be anti-Catholic; they may well be hoping to discredit Catholic opposition to abortion and sex outside marriage by publicizing the pedophilia and homosexual scandals; but they are not inventing any facts. "Reviewing Church history, one can see that many persecutions started precisely with the moral delegitimization of its members and of its hierarchy, with the aim of disqualifying the Church and dismantling its prestige," Rivera claims. Yes, but this time bishops have armed the enemies of the Church by their failures.

Rivera does not see the distinction between lies and truth (however painful and embarrassing the truth may be). Catholic hierarchs want to be regarded as personally infallible in all their decisions, even when they’ve made bad mistakes. No where in the Scripture or Catholic tradition is there a presumption that the Pope or bishops cannot make a mistake in governing the Church. John Paul II has apologized for many of them. Infallibility in the proclamation of doctrine is one thing; deciding how to spend money and how to handle disciplinary problems is entirely anther thing. Bishops have made many, many mistakes over the centuries, in matters small and large. Some can be ignored, some have calamitous results. But Rivera and many others want no criticism of any action by any bishop. Such an attempt is likely to discredit Catholic claims of indefectibility and infallibility in doctrine. Infallibility is being misrepresented to give cover to bishops who have failed in fulfilling the duty of their office (providing oversight to the church) and have allowed grievous harm to be done to children. The laity and media are very properly calling bishops to account for this. The Wanderer and The National Catholic Reporter tried for decades to warn bishops about the impending catastrophe, but the bishops refused to listen to any warning that implied that any bishop any time in any circumstance might have made a mistake.

7:41 AM

FROM SCANDAL TO HOPE: Benedict Groeschel in his just-issued From Scandal to Hope (Our Sunday Visitor Press) sketches the causes of priests’ failures to be celibate. Groeschel blames sexual permissiveness in American culture, misunderstandings of psychology, dissent by Catholic theologians, and a gay culture in seminaries. Catholic laity, priests, and religious, have forgotten the New Testament’s warnings about the world and have surrendered to worldliness.

Groeschel claims the media are anti-Catholic because it has not reported similar sexual scandals in other churches and professions. He lets the bishops off with mild criticisms of their “mistakes.” He says Vatican II was not to blame for the disintegration of the church.

Groeschel ignores clericalism as a possible explanation for why priest misbehaved sexually and why bishops tolerated this misbehavior. Many of the criminals and almost all the bishops were formed in pre-Vatican II seminaries. Closed castes (priests, doctors, policemen) tend to protect their own and close ranks against the general public.

The media are anti-Catholic, but they have been about 99% accurate in reporting facts. They have not reported on similar sexual problems in other churches because other churches have a different organizational structure. Their clergy may sin sexually (although adultery seems to be more prominent among Protestants than pedophilia is) but they do not have an Episcopal structure of oversight. The Catholic structure gives bishops responsibilities, and the bishops have failed to be responsible. The media expect more of the church, which they think has tight discipline and a strict moral teaching. Disappointment is mixed with Schadenfreude in the media’s response.

Several offending priest have said that dissenting theology convinced them that homosexual actions with teenagers were not wrong. But dissent and worldliness were a direct result of Vatican II. Pope John XXIII said he wanted to throw the church’s windows open to let fresh air in, and he did, and the world came in on the breeze, with many bad (and many good) effects. Not every action of every Pope is the direct work of the Holy Spirit. I was in a seminary during the council and over 18 months I saw the rector abandon discipline in response to the Council’s call to be open to the world. I also saw students (and priests) acting out homosexually in response to this relaxation. The heritage of Vatican II is very mixed in the Western world; church policies that work in the Third World may be destructive in the First World. Common sense and fidelity to Scripture and Tradition are necessary, but have been in very short supply.

7:25 AM

Wednesday, July 10


From The (London) Times:

Professor Bauckham’s paper, Junia the Apostle, will be discussed during the meeting of the General Synod [of the Church of England]. Its presentation to a bishops’ working party on the theology of women in the episcopate will challenge the perception of the apostles that has dominated the Church since AD 400.

Although Jerome, regarded as the most important religious scholar of that time, considered Junia to be a woman, subsequent translations in the Middle Ages and the King James Bible changed her name to the male Junias.

Robert Bartlett, Professor of Medieval History at St Andrews University, said: “If a name like Junia was a little ambiguous, the medieval scribes were quite likely to make mistakes. Certainly the medieval Church was male-dominated and wanted it to stay that way, but whether someone was cooking the books to make it appear that the Apostles were all men is not yet certain.” Medieval scribes were known for their inaccuracies, he said.

The assumption that the leading Apostles were all men has been one of the most unassailable arguments against the ordination of women bishops.

If the claim that Joanna and Junia were the same person, and that Junia was a woman and an Apostle is accepted, the argument for women bishops will have been all but won.


Whether or not Junia/Junias was a woman is all beside the point. It is virtually certain that the Church of England will approve female bishops at some point. If this new "finding" is put forward as part of the argument for something they were going to do anyway, it simply amounts to a "scholarly" fig leaf to cover the decision. Not that it is much of a cover.

We have been told that first-century society was oppressively patriarchal and therefore women were not ordained. Now we are being told that a female apostle [Joanna/Junia] makes perfect sense in the first century. My point is that women have often enjoyed a certain prominence. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition there are female saints who are called "Equal to the Apostles," such as a Nina of Georgia, commemorated on January 14. She is credited with having brought the gospel to Georgia. But that doesn't mean that she, a slave in the royal court, ever held office in the church as such. Mary Magdalene is also called "equal-to-the-Apostles." But the fact remains that there is no tradition in the Church whatsoever for women holding the offices of priest or bishop, and resurrecting Junia/s cannot change that. That women often "led" in some fashion is clear, as we have examples of influential women abbesses and so on in the history of the Church. This only proves to me that the Church (and Paul) was not anti-woman at all, yet still reserved the holy orders to men. There is a difference between leadership and office, and people who debate Church order should know that. But when you are intent on doing what you want to do, any fig leaf will do.

8:43 AM

For previous blogs, click here.

Home - Mere Comments - Daily Reflections - Store - Speakers & Conferences - Archives - Contact Us

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?