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Wednesday, January 8


In The Weekly Standard, the magazine's managing editor Claudia Winkler writes on the bias of the major media, in writing lots about conservative Christians and the Republicans but almost nothing about secularists and the Democrats. In The Party of Unbelievers, she notes, for example, that

-The New York Times and Washington Post ran 682 stories about the GOP and evangelical or fundamentalist Christians between 1990 and 2000. During the same period, they ran 43 stories identifying secularists with the Democratic party.

She reports on a story in the Fall 1992 issue of The Public Interest, "Our Secularist Democratic Party," in which two political scientists who have studied this rise of "the anti-fundamentalist" as a type of voter, find that:

As secularists have grown more numerous, they have become an important Democratic voting bloc. In 1992, three out of four voted for Clinton, while religious conservatives chose Bush by two to one. Today, say Bolce and De Maio, secularists are as large and loyal a Democratic constituency as organized labor: In 2000, both "comprised about 16 percent of the white electorate, and both backed Gore with two-thirds of their votes."

Another striking finding is the intensity of many secularists' dislike of conservative Christians--vastly greater than any dislike of Jews of Catholics discernible in the survey data from the University of Michigan that the authors analyze. "One has to reach back to pre-New Deal America," they write, "when political divisions between Catholics and Protestants encapsulated local ethno-cultural cleavages over prohibition, immigration, public education, and blue laws, to find a period when voting behavior was influenced by this degree of antipathy toward a religious group."

The homepage of The Public Interest offers several interesting articles, including Gertrude Himmelfarb (the great) on "Democratic Remedies for Democratic Disorders" and Leon Kass on "The End of Courtship." It also offers a debate on biotechnology by Kass, Diana Schaub, Charles Murray, William A. Galston, and J. Bottum.

6:46 PM


From today's Naples News:

AP : For more that 130 years, the rare Nowell's moss found on old limestone walls in northwest England has not been know to fruit and the plant has been sited as as endangered species.

But scientists said Tuesday they have found tiny brown cigar-shaped spores on a patch of the moss on a wall at Penyghent Hill in the undulating Yorkshire Dales - the first time since 1866 that the moss is known to have reproduced.

Scientists from the University of Bradford and the Natural History Museum are now studying the plant's molecular and genetic makeup to find ways to protect it from further decline.

6:05 PM

Tuesday, January 7


From the Anglican theologian and parish priest Peter Toon, one of our contributing editors, a short article related to the subjects of the editorial in the latest issue and to my essay "Choosing Love, Making Life":

Fornication: Which form of it is the worst?

Which form of fornication is the worst sexual sin? I raise this question because it has been put to me (in various ways and by various persons) that the offence to God of two men (or two women) living together in a sexually faithful partnership is the greater (and thus a worse sin) than two persons, a male and female, also living together (co-habiting) in a sexually faithful partnership.

The basis of the differentiation into bad and worse or lesser and great offence seems to be that while the uniting of two men in sexual activity is abnormal (thus "an abomination") the uniting of a male and female in sexual activity is normal in terms of natural law, even if contrary to specific divine law of chastity before marriage.

It is clear from empirical observation that (a) that two persons of the same sex may live together, co-habit, and be a great help to each other in all kinds of ways - true companions & friends; and (b) that sexual activity between these two consenting persons of the same sex can bring them a sense of physical satisfaction and delight. What is also clear is that their sexual union cannot be on any occasion and in any circumstance a means of procreation.

It is also clear that (a) a male and female may live together, co-habit, and be a great help to each other in all kinds of ways - true companions and friends; and (b) that sexual activity between two such persons can bring them a sense of physical satisfaction and delight. What is also clear is that their sexual union can be under normal circumstances a possible means of procreation.

However, if the male/female couple have decided and taken action to make sure that their sexual intercourse is never directed towards procreation, but is simply and only as a means of sensual delight and satisfaction, then they cannot be said to be obeying natural law. Sexual intercourse surely exists primarily (but not only in human beings) as the means for the continuation of the race (see the beginning to the "Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony" in the Book of Common Prayer of 1662).

Thus it would seem that morally there is little or no distinction between the two couples since both are using their sexual drives merely and only for personal pleasure and not within the purpose of the Creator to join him as a co-creator of a new person.

Thus it would seem that modern forms of both fornication (co-habiting where it is not intended as a common law marriage with children as a possibility) and sodomy (co-habiting with one partner) are both offences to the Almighty Lord, who is our Judge.

We do not serve any good end by claiming that the latter is more serious an offence to heaven that is the former. Both activities are sins to be repented of, penance done and forgiveness received.

For those who want to know how seriously fornication and adultery was viewed by the English reformers, I commend the reading of the powerful Homily, "Against Whoredom and Adultery", published in the Book of Homilies of the Church of England from the 16th century (this Book is referred to in the Articles of Religion, a formulary of the Anglican Way).

There is no doubt that the Christian Way is abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage, with chastity before and during marriage, which is open to the possibility of the procreation of children. It is becoming increasingly difficult to teach this and expect this state of affairs in the modern Church of the West, where co-habitation of same-sex and heterosexual couples is accepted in most parishes as normal, or at least their right.

(P.S. In the now common case of the over 60s, usually over 70s, where a widow and widower live together for companionship and do not marry because they are told by their accountants that they are much better off as not married, I think that the situation is not the same as with young people! Different considerations may apply.)

Those interested in finding more of his writings will want to check the website of the Prayer Book Society in America (Peter was the president of this group for several years, before he returned to England), the website of the Prayer Book Society in England, and the website of Dr. Toon's parish in Staffordshire in England, Christ Church, Biddulph Moor.

1:42 PM


In response to the story given in "Still Another Cure for Anglophilia" (January 5th), an English correspondent wrote:

And of course the ultimate irony of all this is that British TV refused to show the party political broadcast of the Pro-Life Alliance at the time of the last election (even though the party had a legal right to a broadcast) because they said it offended against public decency.

1:29 PM

Monday, January 6


Such is the title of a Der Spiegel article "Das ist ein total geiler Vikar." Geil is teenage slang in Germany which might be better translated horny, but it is applied to all sorts of things and persons. It was very accurate in this case.

The German legal system differs from ours, as does German culture, so it is interesting see the nature of clerical misbehavior in Germany and the legal response to it.

The offender is not named in the papers; he is only Vikar B, aka "The Porno-Priest" of Paderborn. He seduced teenaged boys. But in Germany the age of consent is 14, and his attorney claims a victim perjured himself when he claimed the sex began before he was 14. Vikar B was always careful about birthdays.

Most German priests, being German, tend to be a little formal and stand-offish. Germans are surprised when they see American priests greeting parishioners after Mass; a German priest would never do this.

But Vikar B was different.

He behaved open, modern, "not so dried up like the old Pastor," as one witness aid.
One could talk about anything with him; there were no taboos. One mother described how enchanted her son came home from a holiday: "Mom, he's a really groovy priest."

Friends warned the mothers. "It is not normal, that a priest is so involved with boys."

He targeted the vulnerable. He told them they didn't have enough self-confidence. He asked them, "Do you masturbate? What sex games do you know?" Eventually the priest and the teenaged ended up naked. He "treated" them └ therapiert.

One boy's father had committed suicide by hanging himself in the garden. He went to B, who told him he was blaming himself for his father's death:

"But what did that have to do with sex?" wondered the Judge.
"He said, I should stand in front of a mirror and look at myself. I was really something!" The presiding judge: "He sold that as therapy?" "With him everything was allegedly therapy," answered the witness.

Other boys were asked why they got sexually involved with B.

"He threatened that I would be thrown out of school if I betrayed him" reported one. The next one said that he didn't want to be an outsidre in his clique: "the others were involved with him." Yet another believed in the alleged strengthening of self-confidence. "Maybe it would make it better later with girls." Another acknowledged that he was simply curious. Above all about forbidden things.

The parish was divided; some supported the priest and said the boys were liars. Vikar B was convicted, and the presiding judge said,

"Neither from the accused nor from those who did the young man an injustice have had we heard a word of sympathy."

The judge gave Vikar B a longer sentence that the state's attorney asked for.

Catholics, because they are human and fallen, suffer from individual and group narcissism - although the strain of defensive triumphalism in Catholic apologetics feeds this narcissism. What makes Catholics' reaction especially distasteful is that Christianity is founded upon God's compassion for us in Christ. Why did the priest and his supporters fail to show "nur ein Wort des Bedauerns" to the boy who had been first seduced and then publicly denounced as a liar? Sexual perversion is bad enough, but hard-heartedness is even worse.

6:39 AM

Sunday, January 5


Every now and then an English friend will tell me how awful is American television and how good is theirs. They seem really to believe this, though it is, as anyone who has actually watched English television can tell you, a complete delusion. Most of the shows on English television are - warning: blunt word coming - crap.

For the most part they are not only boring but badly produced. At least our bad shows are usually well produced. There are some exceptions, most of which wind up on American television anyway, and are often funded by American stations in the first place.

We do not watch television at all, but the last time I was in England I watched it one evening to keep up with the popular culture of the country. Or I should say I tried to watch it. As I flipped through the four channels, I found nothing I could tolerate watching.

When I turned on the television, the first thing I saw was a naked male backside emerging from a pair of bluejeans. Flipping the channel to the next station I found a talk show of unbelievable banality. Even its smutty jokes weren't funny - it's rather sad when writers can't even get the cheap laugh. I could not in a million years have written a dialogue that empty. Flipping the channel again I found a situation comedy that was not funny, but had a very loud laugh track. I can't remember what was on the fourth station.

I turned the on tv again two or three times later in the evening, but with similar results. I did find a sort of variety show starring a homosexual who seemed to be trying to act out the stereotype of the flaming queen. The attraction of the show escaped me, because beyond the campy host it was just as banal as the talk show. Actually, the campy host was himself utterly banal, so hopelessly stereotypal was he.

I thought of this as a friend sent me a column by the conservative writer Brent Bozell, titled "Even worse in England". It announces what one can now find on English televsion, and is worth reading as a warning of what shall soon appear on American television. Though we'll do it better, I'm sure. Which makes it worse.

12:19 PM


I feel entitled to be dyspeptic. The antibiotic I am taking for my pneumonia induces nausea.

At today's mass I had



Cardinal Keeler: "When I met Mother Theresa and I said to her and when I was elected head of the committee she was on and when I told her not to speak out of turn etc" (Boy it must be ego boosting to be able to tell a saint to shut up).

A twerp in front of us who loudly eliminated all masculine pronouns in reference to God in the responses (and God's Church statt His church etc) and who at the Kiss of Peace wished me Happy Holidays lest anyone at Mass in a Catholic cathedral be offended by a mention of Christ or Epiphany).

I enjoy going to mass in Montreal because I have only a nodding acquaintance with French and when I hear "Dieu'Jesus'eglise..." it sounds congenial and catholique. I often wish I could forget English when I am in an American Catholic Church. The liturgy would not be so bad if it were say in Assyrian or Old Church Slavonic └ especially the sermon.

Here is Goethe on the Epiphany. At least we had the Esels this morning, but like these three kings, my chief thought was So sind wir nicht am rechten Ort Und ziehen unseres Wegen weiter fort.

Die heiligen drei K?nig mit ihrem Stern,
Sie essen, sie trinken, und bezahlen nicht gern;
Sie essen gern, sie trinken gern,
Sie essen, trinken und bezahlen nicht gern.
Die heiligen drei K?nig sind kommen allhier,
Es sind ihrer drei und sind nicht ihrer vier:
Und wenn zu dreien der vierte w?r,,
So w?r ein heilger Drei K?nig mehr.

Ich erster bin der wei? und auch der sch?n,
Bei Tage solltet ihr erst mich sehn!
Doch ach, mit allen Spezerein
Werd ich sein Tag kein M?dchen mir erfrein.
Ich aber bin der braun und bin der lang,
Bekannt bei Weibern wohl und bei Gesang.
Ich bringe Gold statt Spezerein,
Da werd ich ˘berall willkommen sein.

Ich endlich bin der schwarz und bin der klein,
Und mag auch wohl einmal recht lustig sein.
Ich esse gern, ich trinke gern,
Ich esse, trinke und bedanke mich gern.
Die heiligen drei K?nig sind wohlgesinnt,
Sie suchen die Mutter und das Kind;
Der Joseph fromm sitzt auch dabei,
Der Ochs und Esel liegen auf der Streu.

Wir bringen Myrrhen, wir bringen Gold,
Dem Weihrauch sind die Damen hold;
Und haben wir Wein von gutem Gew?chs,
So trinken wir drei so gut als ihrer sechs.
Da wir nun hier sch?ne Herrn und Fraun,
Aber keine Ochsen und Esel schaun,
So sind wir nicht am rechten Ort
Und ziehen unseres Wegen weiter fort.

The Three Holy Kings with their star,
they eat, they drink, and do not like to pay;
they like to eat, they like to drink,
they eat, they drink, and do not like to pay.
The Three Holy Kings are come,
there are three of them, not four:
and if to the three one added a fourth,
that would be one Three Holy King more.

"I am the first, white-haired and also handsome,
you should only see me by day!
but ah, with all these spices
I'll never win a maiden."
"I, however, am the brown-haired one and I am tall,
known well to Woman and Song.
I bring gold instead of spices,
and therefore I will be entirely welcome."

"And at last there's me, black and small,
and I'd like to have a good time as well.
I like to eat, I like to drink;
I gladly eat and drink and say thankyou."
The Three Holy Kings are kindly.
They seek the Mother and the Child;
Pious Joseph is also sitting there,
and the ox and the donkey are lying upon the straw.

"We bring myrrh, we bring gold,
and the ladies will look kindly on this frankincense;
and when we have wine from good sources,
we drink, we three, as well as six can!
But here there are fine gentlemen and ladies,
and no oxen and donkeys to be seen;
so we are clearly not in the right place.
We shall continue on our way."

11:20 AM

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