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

E-mail your comments

(Please indicate if your comments may be published with or without your name.)


Friday, October 3


From Wednesday's edition of the Washington Times' useful "Culture Briefs" (a daily selection of interesting quotes from newspapers, websites, etc.): "Editing Abortion":

"On Sunday, Sept. 7, the Chicago Tribune published a letter to the editor submitted by Bill Beckman, executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee. . . . [I]n each instance where Beckman used the word 'pro-life,' the Chicago Tribune changed the word to 'anti-abortion.'"

Now, a newspaper has to edit most letters to the editor for clarity and length, but it's not supposed to change the writer's meaning. Words matter, and "pro-life" means something rather different than "anti-abortion."

Their defense, I suspect, is that their stylesheet calls for "anti-abortion" instead of "pro-life," but their style sheet reflects an ideological bias — that pro-life thinking and work is primarily negative and reactionary — and ought not to be applied to people who write from another point of view. To do as the newspaper did is a form of lying. It is to say "Mr. Beckman thinks like this," when he does not.

The quote is taken from an article on the website My thanks to Fr. Robert Hart for sending the links.

12:54 PM

Thursday, October 2


Subscribing to Catholic journals brings me a good number of Catholic solicitations, since the computers can’t tell that I’m a Protestant. Although I have limited need for blessed scapulars, limited patience with direct appeals from our Lord’s Mother, and even more limited interest in contributing to missionary organizations bent on making papists of Protestants, a number of these appeals are from organizations run by Catholics I deeply respect, and whose ministries I think are worthy of support by any Christian who values the work they are doing.

One of these is Ave Maria University soon to open on a new campus in Naples, Florida. A project of the Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monoghan, aided by, among others, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S. J., founder of Ignatius Press and perennial Gadfly of Bad Catholics in High Places, the University will attempt to be a center of Catholic learning, devotion, and influence in a world of Catholic universities whose Catholicism, indeed, whose Christianity, is only skin-deep—if that much. (One recalls the recent reception of Cardinal Arinze by the swine at Georgetown.)

Of course, the Catholics aren’t the only ones who have the problem of secularization of their schools. Almost all the older American colleges and universities were founded by orthodox Protestants, gradually crept out from under their founders’ religion, and are now wholly secular. The phenomenon is so widespread and regular that one wonders whether it is an inevitability, whether Christian schools of any confession are doomed to apostatize as the sparks fly upward, that they, like the rest of us, are to expect death and corruption as the inevitable end of their lives.

As a matter of rule, I think so, but as a matter of principle, I think not. The resurrection and victory of the Lord over all sin and death opens the possibility of incorruption, of abiding faithfulness to the end, even if as a matter of fact, for our sins, and in the course of our sanctification, most of us die and our bodies decay—just as the majority of Christian schools have. It is not wrong, for this reason, to found and fund yet another school, in hope and faith that it may abide, as the Lord said St. John might (what is that to the other disciples?) tarry until he returned.

All Christian institutions are, I believe, faced with tests during the course of their lives, and most fail, usually at the point where a decision, or series of decisions, must be made to retain their integrity before God by risking their continued status or existence, or secure the institution’s existence by acting without faith, usually in matters that concern funding, in forgetfulness that the Lord is infinitely rich, will supply every real need, and may decide to let the institution die in faith—to which it should submit rather than live on in its own strength and for its own imagined purposes.

Some confessedly Christian institutions are born compromised, with failure in their charters. Jim Baaker’s amusement park comes immediately to mind. There are churches that meet this description. All churches do, in fact, so far as they are not the One, True Church. To exercise faith in such matters is to take a step into the infinite life of God, to be willing to die as a seed and spring forth again in ways beyond prediction, in an abundant life hidden until it is revealed in glory.

Please God Ave Maria University, named for our Lord’s blessed Mother, who held her Son and Lord faithfully all her life, will do so, bearing faithful witness to him until he comes.

9:32 PM


Two articles from the October issue, just posted:

Patrick Reardon's editorial "Homosexual Inroads"; and

Leonie Caldecott's study of the anti-Christian fantasy writer Philip Pullman, "Paradise Denied".

While I'm announcing things, I should remind you all ABOUT our conference, which begins two Thursday hence. For information on what looks to be a very good conference, see "The Time is Near".

2:30 PM


I've mentioned this site before, but for new readers let me say that you will find all the news you could possible want on the current Anglican crisis at CaNN GC003 News Report. It is run by traditional Anglicans but offers links to articles from every possible position.

2:24 PM


A useful site a friend just put me on to ("on to which a friend just put me" is something I just can't bring myself to write):, the site of a Kevin Edgecomb of Berkeley, California, who is not otherwise identified.

The site includes several sections, including one called "Patristic stuff", which includes his editions of St. Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho and Hippolytus' Apostolic Tradition. I am not competent to judge them, but my friend, who is, thought highly of them. Another page, in the "Biblical Stuff" section, offers a useful "Chart of Historically Held Biblical Canons".

A site well-worth looking at and adding to your favorites.

1:05 PM


A reader, Steve Breitenbach, wrote in response to the blog "Another Messiah", a response I think you will find of interest:

Your blog, "Another Messiah", brings to mind an interesting article in the September 2001 issue of Commentary magazine, titled, "The Rebbe, the Jews, and the Messiah", authored by David Berger (who the New York Times article also quotes). Mr. Berger is a professor of history at Brooklyn College. His article was adapted from his book The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference, published around the same time.

Professor Berger explores the Lubavitch Hasidim (or Chabad Hasidim) claim that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (laid to rest in June 1994) "initiated the authentic messianic mission and will soon return to complete the
redemption in his capacity as messiah."

Professor Berger's worry is that this current messianic movement is becoming established in Orthodox Jewish circles, instead of being marginalized, as previous historical messianic claims were, or clearly separated from
Judaism, as in the case of the two very strong messianic movements (E.G. Jesus, and the 17th century Shabbetai Tzevi). His claim is that unless this is rolled back, "Jews will have to confront the fact that one of the prime
pillars of their faith has been thoroughly undermined, and even the most elementary primer on the differences between Judaism and Christianity will have to be rewritten. The matter at issue is what Jews believe about the

He argues that while the Lubavitch are a relatively small group within Jewish Orthodoxy, those holding these views, including some who say this is a belief required by Jewish law, weld power far in excess of their numbers,
"routinely holding significant religious posts with the sanction of major Orthodox authorities unconnected with their movement. These range from the offices of the Israeli rabbinate to the ranks of mainstream rabbinical organizations to the chairmanship of rabbinical courts in Israel and elsewhere, not to speak of service as scribes, ritual slaughterers, teachers, and administrators of schools and religious organizations receiving support from mainstream Orthodoxy. For much of Orthodox Jewry, then, the classic boundaries of messianic faith of Israel are no more."

It's a fascinating read from many angles, but I found what struck me the most waw his description of his efforts to bring this to the attention of those within Judaism who should be concerned over these developments, responding with indifference rather than concern. In a strange and eerie sense, it resembled (to me anyway) much the same kind of exasperation voiced by conservative Christians (me included) over the indifference of Liberalism to the effects of modern movements within the Christian church; just an observation.

12:50 PM


I commented on "Designs on Beckwith," posted yesterday, that the Southern Baptist Convention had approved of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and wondered whether the Convention had ever repented. Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement wrote to say that they had, in a resolution he submitted, which the Convention overwhelmingly approved at their annual meeting last summer.

The resolution , titled On Thirty Years of Roe v. Wade, read:

WHEREAS, Scripture reveals that all human life is created in the image of God, and therefore sacred to our Creator (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6); and

WHEREAS, The Bible affirms that the unborn baby is a person bearing the image of God from the moment of conception (Psalm 139:13–16; Luke 1:44); and

WHEREAS, Scripture further commands the people of God to plead for protection for the innocent and justice for the fatherless (Psalm 72:12–14; Psalm 82:3; James 1:27); and

WHEREAS, January 2003 marked thirty years since the 1973 United States Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in all fifty states; and

WHEREAS, Resolutions passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1971 and 1974 accepted unbiblical premises of the abortion rights movement, forfeiting the opportunity to advocate the protection of defenseless women and children; and

WHEREAS, During the early years of the post-Roe era, some of those then in leadership positions within the denomination endorsed and furthered the “pro-choice” abortion rights agenda outlined in Roe v. Wade; and

WHEREAS, Some political leaders have referenced 1970s-era Southern Baptist Convention resolutions and statements by former Southern Baptist Convention leaders to oppose legislative efforts to protect women and children from abortion; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptist churches have effected a renewal of biblical orthodoxy and confessional integrity in our denomination, beginning with the Southern Baptist Convention presidential election of 1979; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has maintained a robust commitment to the sanctity of all human life, including that of the unborn, beginning with a landmark pro-life resolution in 1982; and

WHEREAS, Our confessional statement, The Baptist Faith and Message, affirms that children “from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord”; and further affirms that Southern Baptists are mandated by Scripture to “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death”; and

WHEREAS, The legacy of Roe v. Wade has grown to include ongoing assaults on human life such as euthanasia, the harvesting of human embryos for the purposes of medical experimentation, and an accelerating move toward human cloning; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 17–18, 2003, reiterate our conviction that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of the United States Constitution, human embryology, and the basic principles of human rights; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we reaffirm our belief that the Roe v. Wade decision was an act of injustice against innocent unborn children as well as against vulnerable women in crisis pregnancy situations, both of which have been victimized by a “sexual revolution” that empowers predatory and irresponsible men and by a lucrative abortion industry that has fought against even the most minimal restrictions on abortion; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we offer our prayers, our love, and our advocacy for women and men who have been abused by abortion and the emotional, spiritual, and physical aftermath of this horrific practice; affirming that the gospel of Jesus Christ grants complete forgiveness for any sin, including that of abortion; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we lament and renounce statements and actions by previous Conventions and previous denominational leadership that offered support to the abortion culture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we humbly confess that the initial blindness of many in our Convention to the enormity of Roe v. Wade should serve as a warning to contemporary Southern Baptists of the subtlety of the spirit of the age in obscuring a biblical worldview; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge our Southern Baptist churches to remain vigilant in the protection of human life by preaching the whole counsel of God on matters of human sexuality and the sanctity of life, by encouraging and empowering Southern Baptists to adopt unwanted children, by providing spiritual, emotional, and financial support for women in crisis pregnancies, and by calling on our government officials to take action to protect the lives of women and children; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we express our appreciation to both houses of Congress for their passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, and we applaud President Bush for his commitment to sign this bill into law; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge Congress to act swiftly to deliver this bill to President Bush for his signature; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we pray and work for the repeal of the Roe v. Wade decision and for the day when the act of abortion will be not only illegal, but also unthinkable.

This is very cheering. It's honest, comprehensive, thoughtful, biblical, everything one could want. As a Catholic, I must say that I find myself with a deep respect and real affection for the Southern Baptists. Where else could you find this sort of resolution?

You can find the other resolutions the Convention passed at 2003 Resolutions. The subjects include same-sex "marriage," the global AIDS crisis, the family, Iraq, and anti-semitism.

10:47 AM

Wednesday, October 1


A good article on a new assault on religious freedom, waged in the name of religious freedom: "Unintelligent Designs on Academic Freedom". It begins:

It's been an unusual week in the academy. The academic freedom that so incensed Bill Buckley as a student at Yale decades ago is now acting to protect a conservative scholar under fire.

Baylor's J. M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies hired Francis Beckwith as its Associate Director last summer. Although previously known as a philosopher who had developed powerful critiques of abortion, Beckwith has used the past few years and a research fellowship at Princeton to transform himself into a legal scholar investigating the controversy over public schools and the teaching of human origins. His research culminated in publication of the book, Law, Darwinism, and Public Education.

Here's where the matter gets a little sticky. Beckwith concludes an alternative to evolution that goes by the name Intelligent Design may be constitutionally taught in public schools. Here's where it gets a lot sticky. It turns out the Institute's namesake and founder, J. M. Dawson, was an early proponent of teaching evolution in public schools and an ardent, strict separationist in matters of church and state. Dawson was also instrumental in the formation of the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

For two more articles on the case, see "Baylor Prof Defends Constitutionality of ‘Intelligent Design’" and "Descendants of Baylor Institute’s Namesake Call for Removal of Associate Director".

I've seen the family's letter, which has been circulating round the internet, and to be honest, think old Pastor Dawson a booby. Even in my secular youth, that vision of the separation of church and state struck me as having nothing to do with what the Constitution actually said and to be philosophically incompetent to boot. One has to begin with principles and where, I always wondered, did these people think their principles came from if not a fundamentally religious view of the world?

An historian tells me that this view of "separation" — you might call it separation anxiety — was the reason the Southern Baptist Convention welcomed — yes, welcomed — the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. It was a blow to keep church and state separate, or alternatively, a blow against the Catholics. They have since reversed their stand but I don't know if they've ever officially repented, as they should.

Dr. Beckwith will have an article appearing in our December issue, examining the "new rhetorical strategy" for opposing abortion, with responses from the Presbyterian pro-life leader Terry Schlossberg, the pro-life writer Frederica Mathewes-Green (a contributing editor of Touchstone and one of Beckwith's subjects), and me.

12:58 PM

A reader, John Cahill, sends the following note from his parish, which he says is published on its website and printed
occasionally in the bulletin:


Some of our choir members have expressed their uneasiness about being applauded at the end of every Mass. They sing and play music in order to give praise and worship to God and to help the congregation to do the same. They don't want people to think that they have simply put on a performance.

It sometimes happens that the priest will give special recognition to a choir or one of its members. Applause would be appropriate at this time. We also express our appreciation to choir members on an individual basis.

We take this opportunity to publicly thank the choirs that sing at our Masses. But remember, please hold the applause for the choir at the end of Mass. Thank you!

Fr. Larry, Fr. Ed, Fr. Greg & Fr. John

This is a "go ye and do likewise" blog.

12:36 PM


From the same article described in the following blog:

Technical difficulty, however, is not why many doctors don't want to do second-trimester abortions. What troubles them — and the lawmakers who've been trying to ban so-called partial-birth abortions . . . is that as a pregnancy progresses, the fetus increasingly resembles a baby.

Oh. A three or four month old fetus isn't a baby, though he looks just like a baby — he has arms and legs and fingernails and eyes and ears and pretty much everything a baby has, inside and outside. But he isn't a baby. He's, um, well, something. But not a baby. He just looks like a baby, and gosh, it's just real hard for doctors to kill something that looks like a baby even when it isn't a baby.

You may insert a very rude word here.

In the next paragraph, the writer says that

Husbands or boyfriends have been known to barge into his office and violently insist their baby not be aborted, to which Rashbaum replies with an equally violent, "**** you, Charlie, we can abort her." He won't talk to them directly because, he explains, "I don't treat men."

He kills them, though, several a day.

12:28 PM


I'm grateful to my comrade Lee for producing blogs while I was away and then suffering from a computer that locked up after pretending to want to perform. I was away this past weekend at the annual meeting of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

I recommend the organization to Catholics, even those who are not scholars (people without "terminal degrees" can join as associate members), as a great place to find thoughtful people who are both perfectly orthodox and seriously engaged in the questions of the day. The group was formed in part to gather such people, when most Catholics holding academic positions, even in Catholic colleges, were at least marginal Catholics and a good many were bad Catholics. This being the case for nearly every other tradition, I assume the others have similar organizations, and if not, they should.

On the way there, I read a revealing article from the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine. Titled "End of the Road," it featured a New York abortionist it describes as "one of the pre-eminent and longest-practicing providers of second-trimester abortions in the United States." This the writer thought a compliment, I am sure.

The article included a description of his dreams when he first began to abort children, which adds to the stories told in Rachel MacNair's ""The Nightmares of Choice from the September issue.

[A]lthough Rashbaum felt he was performing a necessary service, it weighed heavily on his conscience. He was troubled by a recurring dream of a fetus trying to hold onto the walls of a uterus by its tiny fingernails. Raised that abortion was wrong, he reasons, “What kind of dreams do you think you are going to have?”

According to the article, Rashbaum started doing abortions because he needed the money to pay alimony to his first wife while supporting a second wife and family. At some point, he decided that what he was doing was a good thing and gave the job an ideological justification. He's been doing this for forty-some years, but

There is a part of Rashbaum that still needs to justify what he does. Being pro-choice, he says, is not the same as being pro-abortion.

The typical line, and not a convincing one. There follows some stories of the good things he has done as a doctor, such as saving a mother and her baby when the mother had a heart attack, that have a feel of self-justification to them. And then the writer offers the almost inevitable idea that such a man is "complex," which for some reason is taken by many people as a justification for being whatever you want to be.

His upbringing dictated that doctors don't do abortions, but that is what he does day in and day out. "He is a lot of people," his wife, Mary, says. "He is far more complicated than even he knows."

Well, no, he really isn't. He is a man who kills unborn children for a living, who seems still to feel a little bad about it. If he is "complicated," he is so because, as the article's picture (though not its author) suggests, he is still struggling against his conscience. We should pray his conscience finally wins.

12:19 PM

Tuesday, September 30


Several years ago urban legends (or were they true?) about snuff films circulated in law enforcement circles: porno films in which people having sex were really murdered in the process and the murder was captured on film. I do not think that any case was in fact proved, although human depravity has no limits.

The entertainment business is exploiting the new acceptance of suicide:

The leader of the shock rock group Hell on Earth said an onstage suicide will happen during a private St. Petersburg concert this weekend in defiance of a new city law designed to stop it.
"The show will go on," Billy Tourtelot said Monday. "It will be available on the Internet, and it will be in the city limits (of St. Petersburg)."
Earlier Monday, the St. Petersburg city council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that makes it illegal in the city to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, and to host, promote and sell tickets for such an event.
"While I still think it's a publicity stunt, we still couldn't sit idly by and let somebody lose their life," council member Bill Foster said.
Al Galbraith, an assistant city attorney, said the city will also seek a court injunction against the band to keep them from advertising and allowing the suicide to occur.
Hell on Earth attracted national publicity when it announced that a suicide by a terminally ill person would take place during a concert Saturday to raise awareness of right-to-die issues.
The point, he said, is to raise awareness that physician-assisted suicide should be legalized in Florida. If the terminally ill person could find a physician to assist, then the person wouldn't be forced to do it himself, Tourtelot said.

The band is steering clear of serious legal trouble:

Tourtelot said he's not worried about the legal ramifications. Violating the city ordinance is punishable with up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A Florida law already makes it manslaughter, a second-degree felony, to assist in a suicide, but he insists the band is not assisting the act.
"This person will be doing this self-deliverance totally by themselves, on their own accord," he said.

The New York Times has been a big supporter of assisted suicide. I wonder if they will do a photo essay on this performance art event in the Sunday magazine section.

8:24 AM


When Cardinal Arinze spoke at Georgetown University, his remarks on homosexuality were not sufficiently respectful and provoked a protest.

Suzanna Walters is an assistant professor at Georgetown who has an op-ed column in the Baltimore Sun, Gay right to marry? From the column we can see why Georgetown students were shocked that Cardinal Arinze should criticize homosexuality in any way.

First of all, she is for legalizing homosexual marriage:

Certainly, a majority of gays (and many heterosexuals) understand this as a no-brainer civil rights issue, a fundamental social institution (with both social and economic benefits) to which certain people are systematically denied access.

Her only doubts about gay marriage is that she thinks marriage of any type is bad:

Not only is the institution built on the ownership of women and children, sexual and emotional violence and a sexual division of labor, but it reinforces the values of a limited model of intimacy based on the superiority of "the couple" as the fundamental social unit. Marriage creates a hierarchy of relationships, with state-regulated long-term pairing at the top. It grants social legitimacy and legal/financial benefits to one type of relationship, explicitly disenfranchising those who choose alternative modes of living and loving. We even "mark" children by their relationship to this institution (legitimate or illegitimate).
The fiction of the connubial couple, blissfully enthralled and wholly fulfilled, sanctioned by the state and protected by the white picket fences of family and faith, was exposed as the central mechanism for the reproduction of male dominance and sexual inequality.

As I and others have pointed out, the limitation of marriage to two people is just as arbitrary and religion-based as the limitation of marriage to a man and women (in fact more so, since polygamy is widespread ).Walters agrees.

Walters is a specialist in the field: Georgetown’s web site describes her:

Suzanna Walters, is the Director of Women’s Studies and has been at Georgetown since 1992. A feminist cultural theorist, Professor Walters works in the areas of cultural studies, feminist theory, mass media, and lesbian and gay studies. She has written three books: Lives Together/Worlds Apart: Mothers and Daughters in Popular Culture, Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory, and most recently All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America which examines the huge explosion of gay visibility in the last 10-15 years. Her courses include offerings on popular culture, TV studies, gay and lesbian representations, feminist theory, sociology of sexualities, the family, etc. A member of the National Research and Advisory Board of GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Professor Walters continues to conduct research on the relationship between social/sexual identities, political movements, and cultural representations.

The Jesuits still supervise Georgetown, and Walters is within the spectrum of Jesuit opinion The Rev Thomas Keenan SJ, Professor of Moral Theology at Weston, the Jesuit seminary, wrote to the Massachusetts legislature about a bill that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman:

as a priest and as a moral theologian, I cannot see how anyone could use the Roman Catholic tradition to support H. 3190. On the contrary, the Catholic theological tradition stands against the active and unjust discrimination against the basic social rights of gay and lesbian persons. For these reasons, I urge you to recommend a no vote on H. 3190.

The Jesuits, I have been told, once had some connection with the Roman Catholic Church. The orthodoxy they currently espouse is centered in Sodom rather than in Rome.

8:02 AM

Sunday, September 28


Some old grumps at the Vatican (with whom I am in deepest sympathy) are trying to end what they consider abuses in the liturgy, including the minor one of applause,

St. John Chrysostom was the recipient of applause at his sermons; he told his congregation they would better putting their energy into following his teachings rather than applauding them. I dislike applause at mass, and it is not sour grapes because I have been the recipient of it at mass on one or two occasions.

The problem with applauding people at mass (especially the musicians) is that:

it makes the mass look like entertainment provided for the congregation;

the musicians etc. should not be trying to impress the congregation but should be praying to God.

The last thing I would want to be is applauded for prayer. It is spiritually disastrous.

When I was in Santa Fe for Indian Market, I attended the Indian Mass. The Indians explained that they would be doing the beginning of the Buffalo Dance of Thanksgiving to the Great Spirit after communion, that this was a prayer, not entertainment, and that the congregation should not applaud. At the end of the mass the clueless Archbishop Sheehan got up and asked everyone to give the dancers a big round of applause. The Indians were miffed, but Sheehan, like many Catholics, sees the new liturgy as being at least in part entertainment, to which the proper response in our culture is applause.

John Hayda has a good essay on the phenomenon and how do deal with it.

1:40 PM

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?