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Saturday, November 16

A correspondent from one of our lists writes about a news story from Sweden:

"The Riksdag [parliament] today ratified the change in the Swedish constitution that makes "disrespecting" or "insulting" homosexuals a crime. A Moderat motion to reject the new law was voted down 230-51. A KD motion to clarify (limit) the language was also voted down. The Riksdag ignored concerns that the new law is so vague and undefined that even priests (or imams, who may be viewed more sympathetically in Sweden today!) would not know what they could legally say in a sermon. The new law takes effect January 1. Meanwhile the Free Churches say they will continue to fight the law, especially the interpretations that would bar discussion of Biblical statements on homosexuality."

"The text says that merely quoting a religious document is not punishable; but it is not clear whether drawing an unfavorable conclusion from the texts (such as that homosexual behavior is sinful) is punishable. However, both Prime Minister G?ran Persson and cabinet member Mona Sahlin have stated in press interviews that a pastor who said such a thing in a sermon would be in violation of the law."

If "hate crime" in the U. S. ends up including speaking against a particular immoral lifestyle, then we will have caught up with the Swedes. Will any Swedish pastor dare to test the new law?

9:30 AM

Friday, November 15


The American bishops are unhappy that few people are listening to their cautions about a war with Iraq: Bishops Question Grounds for War: Prelates Fear Scandal Drowning Out Voice

It was a matter of deep frustration among the approximately 280 Roman Catholic bishops who gathered in Washington that, at a time when the country might have looked to them for moral guidance, they were struggling to regain their moral credibility instead.
"Everything else we say and do is now seen through the prism of the sex scandal," lamented Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

Even those who accept the Catholic doctrine of just war have trouble taking the bishops seriously. They bishops may be articulating principles put forth by the ordinary magisterium (which many theologians seems to think is not binding when it comes to sexual morality), but they are also applying their judgment to concrete circumstances.

That is the problem. They have demonstrated spectacularly that their judgment is bad. They have a constitutional incapability of recognizing and dealing with evil even when it is rubbed into their faces, when their own priests are raping children. This deep personality flaw makes it difficult for me to take their judgment seriously when we have to confront an evil and may have it deal with it violently. The bishops are men who couldn't bring themselves to give the mildest rebuke to child rapists but instead wrote nice letters and large checks with other people's money to protect the rapists. They now expect us to accept their estimation of the necessity of confronting Saddam. For better or for worse (and the bishops may be in right in their judgment) no one can take them seriously. Their failures will haunt them for years.

7:29 AM


At a conference this past weekend I had a two hour conversation with an auxiliary bishop about the scandals.

He said that the newspapers were unfair in their treatment of the Roman revision of the Dallas proposal. Rome strengthened the process, because it now applies to all priests, including religious priests. The statute of limitations, 10 years from the victim's 18th birthday, remains, but can be and ordinarily will be waived.

I warned him that Rome's bungling of previous complaints had made people suspicious but that we would have to see how the new procedures were applied.

He said that many cases in the past were kept quiet at the request of the families, and that is why bishops did not report incidents to the civil authorities. He said however that he found much of the bishops' behavior totally inexplicable, especially the behavior of the bishops in Boston. Bishops outside Boston wonder what on earth Law, Medeiros, and their auxiliaries could have been thinking when they tolerated priests like Shanley. I said that I smelled blackmail. He shook his head, but didn't contradict me.

I told him that the most troubling aspect of the scandals was the total failure of bishops to express righteous indignation when they discovered their priests had committed terrible sacrileges and crimes against children. He said he was deeply troubled by that also, and thought the bishops needed a deep examination of conscience to discover the source of this failure.

I suggested two sources:

1. Celibacy meant no children, and without children bishops did not feel parental protectiveness toward children

2. The popes had since the 1960s appointed bishops who would not confront problems in the church for fear that a confrontation would lead to schism. He admitted that Paul VI had clearly let bishops know that dissenters from Humanae Vitae should not be disciplined, but instead reasoned with, but that the Vatican could never have intended to tolerate child abuse.

I said the bishops were chosen because they disliked confrontation, and that when they saw clear signals from the Vatican not to confront priests, they very congenially extended this principle of toleration to criminal activities. He said he could see how that could happen.

We gave each other something to think about: the bishops feel they are still the objects of suspicion when they are trying to do the right thing. But the bishops have really not confronted their own failures and the personal weaknesses that made those failures possible. But they didn't like confrontation, even with the darkness within themselves, and will avoid it if they can. The press is helping by keeping the pressure on, and my forthcoming book (tentatively: A Harsh Light: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church) may help those who want to think through the unlovely aspects of the Church that these scandals have revealed.

5:31 AM

Thursday, November 14


In "Hold off on that Tithing Boycott Crusade!" (scroll down to Tuesday, November 12th), Mark Shea posted an interesting letter from a parish priest explaining why the Catholic laity reducing their giving to the parish will not send a message to the bishop, only hurt the parish, perhaps badly. The system the priest describes is actually a corrupt one, in which parishes must produce what the diocese thinks they ought to produce, not what they actually have.

I have heard similar reports from other priests, and they help explain why the most orthodox and charitable of parish clergy so often resent the diocese and talk of the bishop and the chancery (the diocesan officials) as "Them." I know it takes a lot of money to run a diocese, even a small one, but I can't help but think that the ability to demand money of the parishes has created a system that harms the life of the diocese. This is true in the Episcopal Church, which I know well, and I am told is true in the other mainline churches as well.

It would be worth considering whether dioceses ought to live on what the parishes decide to give them. There is nothing in Catholic theology, after all, that requires a chancery. And speaking as one who has observed such institutions, government and clerical, up close, I will say that much the people inside them think must be done does not in fact need to be done, and that much the people inside them think must be done inside can be much better done outside. This is basic sociology, and the Church is in its institutional life, very much a sociological creature.

It would be worth considering, as I say. The Catholic ought to pray for the bishops and for the revival of the Catholic Church (as the Protestant ought to pray for his elders and the revival of his church), but the wise Catholic ought also to think clearly about changing the institutions that hinder the prayed-for revival. I am not suggesting reducing the bishop's authority, mind you, only changing the context in which he exercises his authority.

I am fairly sure, by the way, that the liturgy office of every diocese could disappear with no harm to the diocese whatsoever.

8:52 PM


I am posting this sermon by our associate editor Fr. Louis Tarsitano, which he will preach on Sunday to his people at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Savannah, Georgia. For his parish's home page, which includes many more of his excellent sermons, click here.

Sermon for the 25th Sunday after Trinity (17 November 2002), by the Rev'd Dr Louis R. Tarsitano:

"For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:27).

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ expected there to be confusion about the Christian life and his Second Coming. The mind of fallen man is confused by nature, so that even well-meaning human beings can transform divine injunctions as simple as the Ten Commandments into muddled complexities. God says, "Do these things and live"; and we convene a committee to determine what he means.

Fallen human nature craves complexity when it comes to God, in part to make excuses for our failures to obey him, and in part to avoid acknowledging him as he truly is, in favor of some fantasy of our own imagination. But God is simple. He tells us everything we need to know: "I am the LORD thy God; Thou shalt have none other gods but me" (BCP 68; cf. Ex. 20). God is One: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4). God's demands are clear: "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Even seemingly complicated doctrines, such as the Blessed Trinity, are simple enough as God delivers them. Our Lord Jesus Christ declares before his ascension into heaven, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). Who, then, is the One God, and what is his Name? He Who Is-the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

If our Creeds seem more complicated, that complication is all of man's doing. The details of the Creeds are most certainly true and an accurate summary of what God Almighty has revealed of himself in the Holy Scripture. But the early Church, with the Words of Jesus Christ still fresh in her ears, was satisfied with the simplest Creed of all, to be found in the Epistle to the Philippians, where we are told: ". that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11).

There is nothing in the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed, or for that matter in all of the pages of the Bible taken together, that is not contained in the words "Jesus Christ is Lord." But first the Apostles and then the Fathers of the Church in General Council were forced to spell out the Truth in detail because fallen human nature will persist in trying to twist and manipulate the simple Truth of God into cumbersome, imaginary falsehoods.

If you want to know how the Creeds as we have them came to be, turn on your television set and watch almost any television preacher. There are a few good men who actually do preach the Gospel on television, but most television preachers are in the business of selling a private, made-up "gospel" of their own invention. When they speak, we hear the voices of all the heretics of history because there are no new ways of denying the simple Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Television heresy is merely a new way of making a living from the old gimmick of preaching a false gospel in order to gather a personal following of deluded supporters. Simon the Magician did the same in the 1st century, trying to buy and to sell miracles; so did Valentinus and Montanus in the 2nd century, offering their followers a "secret knowledge" unknown to Scripture and a Holy Spirit at mankind's beck and call. Arius, in the 4th century, denied that Jesus Christ is God, denied that God's Eternal Son has died for our sins, and denied that our Lord is anything more than the best of all possible creatures and good examples.

These men, and too many others to name, were very popular preachers, with big smiles and big ideas of their own. And the faithful ministers of Christ resisted them, for the sake of a true faith and out of love for God as he is and has revealed himself to be. At the General Councils of the whole Christian Church in the 4th and 5th centuries, loyal pastors gathered to refute the heretics point by point, until all of the basic lies about God the Father and Jesus Christ and God the Holy Ghost had been addressed. The Creed that we call "Nicene," after the First Council in Nicaea, received and confirmed by the undivided Church of Jesus Christ, is the summary of their work, so that it is still true today that anyone who believes or teaches what the Nicene Creed does not teach has left Christian ground and entered the realm of heresy.

"Heresy" means literally "choice," but there is nothing about the identity and the purposes of God that is within the power of human choice. God says "I AM WHO I AM," and we either fall to our knees in worship or we declare war against him as Satan did. Part of the undeniable truth about God, however, is that he is patient and kind, so that he is willing to forgive even our rebellion against him, if we repent our rebellion as sin, ask his forgiveness, and submit ourselves to his Son as Lord.

And that Lord Jesus Christ knows perfectly well that our human nature makes us vulnerable to made-up nonsense. In this morning's Gospel, he tells us, "Behold, I have told you before" (Matthew 24:25), which in plain English means, "Pay attention, because I am warning you in advance." And what was he warning us about? He explains, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24). Furthermore, ". if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not" (Matthew 24:26).

There is no "secret Christianity" or any such thing as a "new" or "hidden" doctrine. There is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ, publicly proclaimed by him and preached by the ancient Prophets and his chosen Apostles, as recorded by the Holy Ghost in the Spirit-breathed Scriptures. There is only the public and well-known Truth about God, summarized in the Creeds.

Anyone who says that another or a better gospel can be had in the desert, on a mountaintop, or in some sort of secret meetings is a liar and a thief. And our Lord says, in advance, "go not forth" to them. Anyone who says that Jesus Christ has returned in this preacher or that is either an intentional conniver, a dupe, or out of his mind, and our Lord says, in advance, "believe it not."

Here is what our Lord tells us to expect when he returns: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." There will be no doubt about Jesus Christ's Second coming. He will arrive as suddenly and obviously as a lightning bolt, and his glory will fill the whole earth, in the way that lightning fills the sky: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

The "clouds of heaven" are not part of a weather forecast. They are the glory of God that filled the holy of holies in the Temple, that descended upon Christ to proclaim him the Son of God, and that received our Lord Jesus into the presence of his Father at the Ascension so that he might offer his life for our lives, once and for all. The saving work of Jesus Christ is complete, never to be added to. The revelation of God is complete, and we shall experience the perfection of all revealed Truth when we see Jesus Christ face to face in our bodies on the Last Day, knowing God as we are now known (cf. 1 Cor. 13).

It will be very simple to know the Second Coming of our Lord. Until that time, the world may deny Jesus Christ as much as it cares to, and it may certainly ignore us as Christians. As St. John wrote, "the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (1 John 3:1). But the world's lack of the knowledge of God has nothing to do with the complexity of God's Truth, but only the world's misshapen will not to believe. It is simpler to know God and to believe. It is simpler to cling to the Gospel and the Creeds. It is simpler to live forever in the Lord Jesus Christ.

6:37 PM


For the first time the Pope addressed the Italian parliament. He spoke about many things, but (according to the Montreal Gazette),

his emphasis was on Italy - and particularly what he called "the crisis of the birth rate."

Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world - 9.3 births per 1,000 inhabitants - and one of the oldest populations.

The United Nations has warned that Italy's economic future is at risk because its shrinking workforce will be unable to support its aging population without an influx of migrant workers.

The Pope called the situation "another grave threat that bears upon the future of this country, one which is already conditioning its life and its capacity for development."

"Above all, it encourages - indeed I would dare to say, forces - citizens to make a broad and responsible commitment to favour a clear-cut reversal of this tendency," he said.
Politicians, he said, should adopt initiatives that "can make the task of having children and bringing them up less burdensome both socially and economically."

The Pope has begun to notice the disappearance of the Christian populations of Europe, but his solution is inadequate. No matter how hard modern Western governments try, they can't persuade their people to reproduce themselves. No European population is reproducing, no matter how much social support the governments give in the form of child support and free day care.

The sickness is deeper and has religious roots. Western Christians have lost the Jewish vision of the connection between the worship of a Creator-God and procreation. The state can remove obstacles to raising a family, but it can't convince people to have children. That is the task of the churches, and they have done a bad job. Progressive theologians have been obsessed with justifying the use of contraception, rather than convincing Western Christians to have children.

The decline is probably irreversible. The Italian Church will join the church of North Africa in the dust of history. The Christians of the future, as Philip Jenkins has shown, will be Hispanic-Indian and black African, and some Asians. White Europeans will be a small, well-to-do, but unimportant part of the church.

The January-February issue of Touchstone will cover these issues in depth À subscribe now!

12:08 PM


Given the recent headlines dominated by the Middle East, Iraq, Hussein, et al, I found the final two verses of today's daily chapter reading from the St. James Daily Devotional Guide (edited by Touchstone senior editor Patrick Henry Reardon) to be most intriguing. I will not suggest a "meaning" for the text (I am not a biblical scholar) but simply quote it here:

In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria [Iraq],
and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt
and the Egyptian into Assyria,
and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.

In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and Assyria,
even a blessing in the midst of the land,
whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying,
"Blessed be Egypt My people,
and Assyria the work of My hands,
and Israel Mine inheritance."

Isaiah 19:23À24 (Third Millennium Bible)

7:46 AM

Wednesday, November 13


In response to my article "Recovering Christian Polemics," published in The New Oxford Review, an Orthodox reader, Jeremiah S. Davis, wrote a response he kindly let me share, along with my response to him. He wrote to say he was more in agreement with what I'd written than I understood from his first message.

Mr. Davis' response:

A fine piece, as usual, and certainly one that every conservative, orthodox Christian should consider. Though I must admit that I wonder how all of this fits in with the following passage from St. Isaac of Nineveh:

"Someone who has actually tasted truth is not contentious for it.

"Someone who is considered among men to be zealous for truth has not yet learnt what truth is really like: once he has truly learnt it, he will cease from all zealousness on its behalf.

"The gift of God and of knowledge of him is not a cause for turmoil and clamour; rather this gift is entirely filled with a peace in which the Spirit, love and humility reside.

"The following is a sign of the coming of the Spirit: the person whom the Spirit has overshadowed is made perfect in these very virtues.

"God is reality. The person whose mind has become aware of God does not even possess a tongue with which to speak, but God resides in his heart in great serenity. He experiences no stirrings of zeal or argumentativeness, nor is he stirred by anger. He cannot even be aroused concerning the faith."

If I had to explain how strong defense of the truth fits with this kind of non-resistance to evil about which St. Isaac seems to be speaking, I would conjecture that if we make statements so bold as "pit viper" or "offspring of Satan" we must be certain that we are speaking under the guidance of the Spirit and not of our sinful passions. Or as St. Paul said in Phillipians 2.3-8:

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

Now, lest you think that I am wholly disagreeing with what you have written in this piece, let me emphasize that it seems very true that a certain variety of doctrinally and morally conservative Christians is a bit soft when it comes to evil within the Christian community. I hope that your article will in some way help this sort of Christian to understand the value of Christian polemic.

Yet it seems that that those of us who are already aware its value have the tendency to let sinful passions (subtle or no) guide our pens and tongues. I have on occasion read pieces[in another magazine] which are so caustic that it is difficult for me to believe that they were written without considerable influence from those baser tendencies. (Your "Uncharitable? Divisive? Strident?" is not one of them.)

I thought this was a very helpful response, though I also thought it did not really cover the vocation I had tried to describe in the essay. I responded:

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my article on Christian polemics (the editors' title, not mine, by the way). I had thought about the danger you raise and probably should have said something more explicit about it in the article. I did touch on it here and there, but perhaps too obliquely to warn those who would take the article as an excuse for abusing those with whom they disagreed. I find a good bit of conservative polemics wearisome and brutal - reading it is rather like watching professional wrestling.

I would make four comments in response to your comments:

1) I don't think most of the quotes from St. Issac or the one from St. Paul actually relevant to the matter. That the knowledge of God is filled with peace does not imply anything about how one might speak to those who are teaching others a false knowledge of God, for example. One can be filled with the Spirit and still say, "This is utter rubbish."

The quotes that are relevant have to be read in context, which is to say, as part of a complex or pattern of Christian behavior that includes sharp speech as well. The St. Paul who wrote the passage you quote also spoke rather sharply about those in error, as did St. John and the rest of the NT writers. And indeed our Lord Himself both told us to turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile and called the Pharisees white-washed tombs. I don't think your conclusion justified by a more synoptic reading of the NT and the Fathers.

2) Your view, I think, depends in part on a modern understanding of religious language as subjective, and in particular as primarily emotive and therefore in its dealings with others ad hominem. This is why when we hear a critical word spoken we assume the speaker is angry. For most of us, and I include myself in this, it is an automatic assumption, but it is one previous ages would have found peculiar.

The language of theology is in fact an objective - one could even say scientific, in the old sense - one. As I said in the article (I think I said this, anyway) the term "heretic" is a perfectly objective description, the use of which says nothing whatsoever about the heart of the one who uses it. The criteria for heresy are known and objective and can be applied by an atheist who doesn't care about the matter at all. For a Christian to say that an Arian is a heretic is as simple and objective a judgment as a marxist saying that another marxist who now advocates the free market is no longer a marxist.

Your criterion requires a loss of vocabulary that makes accurate discourse all the more difficult. Which of course means that it makes truly charitable speech all the more difficult.

3) The use of this language is obviously dangerous, and we all know the temptation within ourselves to speak in order to hurt. The temptation is all the stronger when we think we are doing God's work in denouncing the heretics. You are absolutely right about this, and yours is a warning all polemicists should keep before them. But that is not a sufficient reason to avoid it, because, as I tried to make clear, the failure to use this language when you have the responsibility to teach - which is a pastoral office - is no less dangerous.

The person who is responsible for speaking but does not speak is shirking a duty, to the harm of his own soul and of the souls in whose care he must exercise this duty. You may be angry at the man who murdered your friend, but you must still report him to the police lest he murder someone else. The anger is a matter for you and your confessor, but it does not justify you in keeping silent.

4) You give a criterion for using this sort of language: "if we make statements so bold as •pit viper' or •offspring of Satan' we must be certain that we are speaking under the guidance of the Spirit and not of our sinful passions." I understand the point, but I think it misunderstands the nature of a vocation or calling. I would say in response that one must do what one is called to do. You must your job. You must learn to do it for the right reasons and with the right spirit, of course, but that does not mean that you do not do it until you can do it for the right reasons and with the right spirit - if ever you can. The job description itself is, if you will, the guidance of the Spirit.

Of course the writer who wants to be a godly writer will seek the guidance of the Spirit and the conquering of his sinful passions, and when presented with what he thinks is the need to speak polemically will reflect carefully before doing so. He will ask himself if he has to say anything at all and try to make sure that he does not answer his own question "yes" bec. he wants to slap his subject around in print. He may find that he is indeed angry at the subject, but also that he must say that the subject is wrong bec. his readers need to know that the subject is wrong and will only hear it from him.

The writer is, as I said in the article, a pastor because (if he is any good) his readers become his sheep and he their shepherd. The shepherd's feelings about wolves are not relevant when he has to try to teach the sheep to recognize a wolf and run.

7:41 PM


The American bishops are expressing grave doubts about the American threats of war against Iraq. However, it is difficult to give their judgment any weight. They have shown themselves incapable of acting when confronted with evil, when their priests were raping children. The bishops hate confrontation so much that they would transfer priests from parish to parish rather than confront the situation publicly and engage in a fight to get rid of a child rapist. They never showed the slightest hint of righteous indignation when confronted with blasphemous and sacrilegious use of the sacraments to lead children to hell. How can anyone trust the moral judgment of such men?

War is always terrible and unpredictable. World War I was supposed to be over by Christmas 1914. Perhaps an American attack on Iraq would succeed swiftly, perhaps it is necessary to destroy biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons that Saddam will give to Islamic terrorists to attack the West. The public has little firm data to go on; the President has more, but his intelligence sources are fallible, especially when it comes to judging intentions. Whether he acts or refuses to act, he faces dreadful consequences. All we can do is pray for him, and pray that somehow war can be avoided and our children still protected from death from smallpox or nuclear blast.

4:40 AM

Tuesday, November 12


Those who would like to read my article from the October issue of the New Oxford Review, "Recovering the Art of Christian Polemic," may find it here. It is adapted from my book Knowing the Real Jesus, which you can find (and order) here. It will explain something of what we are trying to do in Touchstone and on this blogsite, and why we are sometimes not quite so affirming as Christians are supposed to be.

4:58 PM


In his latest column for National Review Online, "Back to Meeting", our contributing editor and their senior writer Rod Dreher analyses the current meeting of the Catholic bishops. They are expected to approve the new set of norms for dealing with sexual abusers tomorrow. Writes Rod:

God willing, this is the beginning of the end, but there is no way to predict whether true and lasting reform will follow. The chief problem never was a lack of legislation to govern sexual misconduct by clergy. The problem was that key bishops lacked the vision, the courage, and the faith to use the power canon law gave them to deal decisively with abusive priests, and to promote and provide justice and healing for victims and their families. The problem, in other words, was not the law, but the enforcers of the law. And so it will remain, as long as we have what good Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., called "this hapless bench of bishops."

I have not written anything on the various versions of the bishops' response because I do not have the time to think it all through. I have a day job. (I did write two items, "Bad Shepherds" and "In Illustration", posted on October 30th.)

But I think Rod is right, in the quote above and in the rest of the article, about the effect of whatever norms they approve, with one qualification. To repeat the point I made in "Bad Shepherds," the problem was not that key bishops did not require chastity of their priests, but that many - probably most - bishops did not require anything much of their priests. They allowed disorder in the clergy and therefore reaped . . . disorder in the clergy. I suspect they thought one sort of disorder manageable, not knowing that it would lead to disorder they could not manage.

The problem began, I think, with the bishops' tolerating mild doctrinal dissent of the "Hath God said?" variety and liturgical dissent of the "renewal in the spirit of Vatican II" variety, and I suspect discreetly held mistresses and boyfriends as well, and grew into their inability to oppose open dissent and more open sexual misconduct. The businessman who lets a man keep stealing a few dollars here and there cannot have him arrested when he steals a few thousand, lest anyone - like the insurance company - know how long he had let the man steal from him.

I do not think the bishops have ever understood the effect of their tolerance of dissent. I know the matter is a complete mystery to some of my conservative Catholic friends, who excuse the bishops by saying that correcting Fr. X or Prof. Y or rejecting the latest statement of Association A or Committee B would have been to over-react and would just have encouraged them to dissent more. (They said this about the recent appalling statement on Jews and Christians.)

They act as if dissenters will just go away, despite the fact that the world is filled with dissenting Catholics and that dissenting Catholics in such numbers teach a lot of other people to dissent, which is very bad for their souls. After all, they think, the bishops haven't said boo about the notorioius Prof. X, so what he says can't be so bad. These are souls for whose care and protection, not to put too fine a point on it, the bishops are responsible.

We should all know from our own lives what happens in these cases. You know you are not supposed to cross a line, but you cross it for one reason or another, good, bad, or indifferent. You wait the punishment you know is coming. And nothing happens. You've gotten away with it. This changes everything, as the expression goes. Though you still know you should not cross the line, you will cross it again and again and go farther and farther across, because the one who should have told you to stop has let you, till you no longer know where the original line is.

This is what happens to dissenters and authorities both when the authorities ignore dissent. What results is something neither would approve but neither feels capable of stopping. Open dissent and more open sexual misconduct having thus become at least marginally accepted, it screened from sight those who preferred the still unacceptable forms of sexual activity.

A priest with a mistress is not likely to report the priest with a teenage boyfriend, especially if he believes that the discipline of celibacy is outdated and unhealthy, has said so in public, and never been corrected by his bishop. He may well know that sex with a teenage boy is evil, but he has not the moral vision nor the moral confidence to say so in public - and the bishop who long ago failed to discipline him when he first rejected the Church's teaching bears some of the fault.

If the bishops want to restore their credibility with the realistic faithful - loyal Catholics like Rod and me - they must not only create norms for dealing with sexual abusers and live by them, they must create norms for dealing with doctrinal and liturgical abusers and live by them as well. They must be as willing to lose the service of a man because he is an unrepentant heretic as they have been to lose his service because he is a convicted pervert.

The heretic who feeds people lies - and these are lies covered in honey, for which the poor hungry people line up - is just as great a danger to the bishops' people, just a great a predator, as the man who takes children and teenagers to bed.

4:44 PM


The November 2nd issue of The Economist has a series of articles on immigration. Among the conclusions:

o The aging and declining population of Europe means that Europe needs massive immigration to keep its economy going.

o The free movement of labor benefits developed economies.

o But Europeans voters are anxious about non-European immigrants, especially Moslems, and threaten to slam the door to all immigrants.

The Economist suggests:

o Countries with similar levels of income have free movement of labor among them.

o Europe look for immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe (white, Christian) rather than Moslem countries.

The Economist treats the depopulation of Europe as a natural phenomenon, forgetting the massive propaganda campaign about the population explosion. The deChristianization of Europe is the main cause of the failure of Europeans to reproduce them. A loss of faith leads to a loss of a will to live, to empty cribs, to euthanasia. Why bother with a family? Eat, drink, and go on vacation, because death ends everything and the future is empty.

I have a review article that will appear in Touchstone on the depopulation crisis; but even economists have begun to pay attention to it. No workers equal no economy, an equation which the antipopulation propagandists overlooked.

4:41 PM


A (female) reader sent to one of our senior editors an article from Playboy on organ donation. (These questions were discussed in Touchstone in our symposium last year, Human Harvest: Commerce in Body Parts.)

While not from a recommended magazine, the article sent around today itself raises serious questions about what happens to the dying who are candidates for organ removals:

Somewhere a person in failing health is waiting for the phone to ring.
Also waiting are the members of a specially trained surgical team, ready to
roll at a moment's notice. Close at hand is one of those small ice chests
you've seen in TV medical dramas. A segment of the medical industry is
waiting for you to have a serious accident. They must get to the hospital
fast, before you internal organs go stale. And if you're not quite dead when
they get there, they may just go ahead and take your liver and kidneys and
heart, settling the matter once and for all. It's the ugly side to organ
donation its proponents don't like to talk about: By some definitions, the
leading cause of death among organ donor is the organ donation procedure

It gets worse:

For example, in Charleston, South Carolina a
16-year-old girl was shot in the head. At the time of hospital admission she
was showing signs of life--she was moving and breathing. Though a CAT scan
showed the bullet lodged in her skull, it had skirted major blood vessels,
and the brain itself appeared remarkably intact. That didn't stop attending
physicians from declaring her dead two hours later. She was rushed to an
operation room where surgeons opened her abdomen and cut assorted arteries
in order to remove both kidneys and her spleen. When the ventilator was shut
off, she failed to breathe-no bid shock, since the transplant team also
bisected her diaphragm. Even after this full-scale assault on her body, 14
minutes passed before the girl's heart gave out. Finally, mercifully, she
was dead.

The article also raises serious questions about the concept of brain death, which is used to justify the "harvesting" of body parts while the heart of the person is still beating. In a study of brain death, 503 patients were considered brain dead, but a stricter test was used to verify brain death. Then, they found:

Of the original pool of 503 patients, 187 met the criteria for brain death (as
initially established by researchers), and 185 of them died. The study
became the basis for brain-death standards issued by the National Institutes
of Health.

But two of the 187 "brain dead" patients had survived. It seems
reasonable to infer from the movement's hallmark study that even under the
most exacting circumstances, such diagnoses miss the mark about one percent
of the time. That's one in 100 patients. And that's if we confine ourselves
to the 187 patients who "made the cut." If you work from the original 503
suspected brain deaths, the implications are scary. Waithe, for example,
cites published literature on the not-quite-brain-dead patients who would
have been covered under the Cleveland protocol. "Ninety-six percent die,"
she says, "which also means that 4 percent would survive. That's four
homicides out of 100. If there were a nurse at the clinic who killed four
patients," she says, "it would be headline news."

I do find it ironic that the question of trafficking in body parts is raised in a magazine that, well, makes money via the display of body parts. But it is raised very compellingly.

12:11 PM

Monday, November 11


From the Episcopal News Service (11/11/02):

Nearly 200 advocates of a rite of same-sex blessing gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis over Veterans' Day weekend for a part pep rally, part prayer meeting, part strategy session, preparing for what will surely be the most controversial issue of the next General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Claiming the Blessing (CTB) is a collaboration between three groups-Integrity, Oasis and Beyond Inclusion-with a primary witness to, by, and for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered (LGBT) individuals in the Episcopal Church. The group shares partnership with The Witness magazine as well as other

Ä The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, president of Integrity, said that the shape of the rite of same-sex blessing that emerges from the next General Convention will not be all that advocates might hope for. "We know and accept that such a rite will not be used or even allowed to be used universally," Hopkins said. "We are quite deliberately advocating for a rite whose use would be optional for the sake of the unity of the church we love.

"We believe in our heart of hearts that our relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships, whether or not the term 'marriage' is appropriate for them, and so, in our heart of hearts, we believe the rite used to publicly celebrate them should be equal. But that is not what we are asking for. We are compromising, moderating our position... in the spirit of a resolution from the 1920 Lambeth Conference (Resolution 9:VIII): 'We believe that for all, the truly equitable approach to union is by way of mutual deference to one another's consciences.'"

Hopkins assured conservative Episcopalians that "we do not desire for you to go away" from the Episcopal Church. He invited the president of the conservative American Anglican Council to sit down with him and "discuss ways we can proceed with the debate about our differences without tearing each other down or apart."

"To bless the relationship between two men or two women is ... to declare that this relationship is a blessing from God and that its purpose is to bless God, both within the context of the community of faith," the document declared. "If the church believes that same-sex relationships show forth God's blessing when they are lived in fidelity, mutuality, and unconditional love, then this blessing must be owned and celebrated and supported in the community of faith."

In a section entitled "Clearing up some questions," the document states that in blessing same-sex relationships the church is "blessing the persons in relationship to one another and the world in which they live. We are blessing the ongoing promise of fidelity and mutuality. We are neither blessing orientation or 'lifestyle,' nor blessing
particular sexual behaviors."

Is it possible for to exercise "mutual deference to one another's consciences" on such an issue without the traditionalists giving up their position? How can one agree to disagree on homosexuality? "One man's perversion is just another man's love"? Always, always, the tactic is to promote the legitimacy of a heresy by keeping it on the table as something discussable, in this something that can be blessed, even if you think it is evil. Those who fall for such tactics are allowing their consciences to be violated by discourse with evil, a variety of either spiritual violation or prostitution. And giving a "promise of fidelity" to "relationships" that traffic in sin isn't much different from signing an exclusive contract with a drug dealer.

2:56 PM


Appearing on the website for the Left Behind books, which may be the best-selling Christian fiction of all time - depressing, isn't it? - is a description of "formula-bound" Christian worship, well analyzed by Carl Olson in Gnostic Worship, Left Behind Style, appearing on the blogsite of the Catholic apologetics magazine Envoy. (The entry appeared on November 11th, for those of you reading this in the future.) This idea that formal worship - which is to say, worship by settled, long refined forms that we have inherited from our fathers - is not true worship is drearily familiar, and drearily dumb, but it seems to be a perennial.

2:17 PM


One of our readers, Prof. Anne Gardiner, wrote in response to my "Macho Girls" (November 6th) that I was right to say that only chastity empowers women, and noted:

This is why, in all of history, no women have ever been as free and as honored as ordinary Christian women.

She then relayed an observation made by her late husband. He saw that

It is part of the homosexual agenda to try to erase the differences between the sexes. My husband rarely watched movies, but when he did he would often point out to me that what was being portrayed was a homosexual relationship disguised or projected as a heterosexual one. It was clear to him that women didn't naturally act or think or feel as shown. But of course, this strangeness was covered up with lots of glamor. And certainly, women in the audience were made to feel they ought to be and act like homosexuals, especially by having 'recreational sex' at the drop of a hat. The consequences have been, as you show so well, soul-destroying.

11:27 AM

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