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.)


Saturday, November 1


The world of extreme sports and extreme enetrtainment meets the revival:

The Luis Palau Evangelical Association, based in Beaverton, hosts faith-centered festivals throughout the nation and the world.
"Jesus Christ really cares for every subgroup in the area, not just the churchy people," Palau says. That includes skateboarders, bicycle motocross riders and other aficionados of extreme sports.

To reach that group, the Palau organization is filming "Livin' It," a DVD featuring stunts and testimonies by Christian athletes such as Crisman and pro skater Jud Heald. The DVD, directed by actor Stephen Baldwin, will be used as a recruiting tool by church youth groups across the nation and is set for an April 2004 release date.
Traditional revival meetings still work outside the United States, Luis Palau says, especially in Central and South America. But people in this country need something more, he says.

"They need media. They need big lights and flashy colors," says Russ Heppner, 21, who leads a skateboarding ministry at Cedar Park Church in Seattle.

Palau's approach succeeds because it appeals to youths' interests, and on their own level, says 18-year-old Zack Spiger, who helped build a skate park used in a Palau festival in Seattle.

"A skateboarder is going to be able to communicate to a skateboarder," says Spiger, who attends Pierce College in Lakewood, Wash. "They just have the same sort of mind-set, the same outlook on life."

12:06 PM


Terry Mattingly writes on The Matrix:

This story reads more like the Book of Revelation more than it does your normal sci-fi thriller. Everything has this other layer of meaning. ... You have to wrestle with all that symbolism and philosophy if you take these movies seriously."


But anyone seeking one coherent set of answers has got the wrong trilogy. The only certainty in "The Matrix" universe is that its new path to enlightenment is made out of pieces of all of the older paths, even if they contradict each other. The only absolute truth is that there is no one absolute truth, no one true faith.
Instead, these movies offer a crossroads where "all of our stories collide," write Seay and Garrett. "They not only coexist, they come together to create a story of tension, adventure and spiritual pursuit. As Buddhism, Christianity, Zen, existentialism, Gnosticism, Plato and Jacques Derrida interact with one another, we are encouraged to interact with them as well."

12:01 PM

Friday, October 31


The career of a con artist was briefly interrupted by the State of Maryland, but he is back in circulation:

According to the Baltimore Sun, Brian Cox

who admitted molesting two boys was released from jail yesterday after serving a little more than nine months of a 15-month sentence.

What had Cox done to earn the hospitality of the State of Maryland?

Cox was arrested in May 2002 after John "Jeff" F. Curran III told Carroll County prosecutors that in 1980, when he was a fifth-grader at St. John, he was fondled by Cox in the shower while on swimming outings at what is now McDaniel College. The next month, Cox was charged with fondling a 13-year-old boy and performing a sex act on the youth in 1980 and 1981.

The judge said

he had been adequately punished and holds the potential to do more good outside of jail than in it.

Not everyone is under Cox’s sway:

After referring to Cox's actions as "mistakes," Graham acknowledged that "criminal acts occurred" after Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore took issue with the term used in hundreds of letters of support for Cox.
"I do get distressed because there are so many references to the 'mistakes he made,'" said Gilmore, who opposed the request for an early release. "They're certainly not mistakes. They're crimes."

But many still are:

About 20 former parishioners and friends of Cox embraced in the courtroom after hearing Galloway's decision.

The victims?

"When I talked to Jeff about Brian Cox, he told me, 'Who was I supposed to go to? This is a man who'd eat dinner at our house on Sundays. He was next to God,'" Gilmore said.
She said the other victim still "shakes like a leaf" at the mention of Cox's name.
"The church needs to be a place where children feel safe," the prosecutor said. "These men need to go through a healing process. That healing can't happen without the full responsibility on behalf of the defendant."

Responsibility – that old-fashioned, harsh word. The bishop lightly shed their responsibility for the mess, and from them the parishioners have learned well the Gospel of Non-Judgmentalism.

9:16 AM

Thursday, October 30


The October 30 issue of the Discovery Institute's magazine Nota Bene contains this pleasant story:


Key errors remain, and new contradictions have arisen

After months of claims by Darwinian activists that biology textbooks don't contain any factual errors about evolution that need to be corrected, publishers have agreed to fix a number of errors identified by Darwin's critics.

Top corrections made by publishers include the removal of bogus nineteenth century embryo diagrams ("Haeckel's embryos") from two of three textbooks that use them, the dropping from one text of a false claim that animal embryos have "gill slits," and the elimination of an assertion that Darwin's theory is the "essence of biology."

Two textbooks have also added acknowledgments that the Miller-Urey origin of life experiment was based on ideas about the earth's early atmosphere no longer accepted by scientists. Other textbooks have revised language dealing with such issues as mutations, homology, evolutionary intermediates, and the evidence of the fossil record, so as not to overstate the evidence for Darwin's theory.

I write, by the way, as someone who has no emotional investment in this issue whatsoever. The Darwinians I have read and talked to tend to assume that anyone who doubts Darwin, or is even willing to entertain a case against him, is a Christian trying to bolster his faith, someone who thinks that if evolution explains life their faith cannot stand.

I have never thought this. God can create in any manner he pleases, slow or fast. But I also recognize an ideological movement using science to advance itself and am more than happy when its foundations are exposed for criticism. The evolutionists think that the believer's faith will be extinguished by proof of evolution because he himself has made the philosohical error of thinking that evolution banishes the need for God.

But even if the universe developed that way, why is there something and not nothing? The evolutionist cannot evade this basic question, one science cannot answer.

5:02 PM


In sending around to the other editors the press release on the North American Orthodox Catholic Consultation has just issued an Agreed Statement on Filioque (see the next blog for details), our associate editor Kevin Offner (a Presbyterian) asked how significant we thought the statement. Here are the responses he got.

From Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, an Orthodox priest and senior editor of the magazine:

Respectfully, Kevin, I believe that the “filioque controversy” is not about the composition of the Holy Trinity. It is a controversy about authority in the Church.

The East’s objection to the filioque is formal, not material. The East’s objection has to do with a canon of the Council of Ephesus in 431, which anathematizes anyone who adds to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

To which Fr. Addison Hart, a Catholic priest and contributing editor, replied:

Of course, it’s doubtful that those responsible for it in the Latin west thought of the “filioque” as an “addition” (it was, to their mind, a clarification in the face of Christological heresy — a clarification that had doctrinal precedent in writings of even some of the Greek Fathers, e.g. St Basil the Great).

Theologically, it is one of the great red herrings among east-west controversies. I suspect that, within its own historical context, the azymes controversy ruffled more feathers in both east and west, while comparatively the Latins’ inclusion of the “filioque” went largely unnoticed by the east.

The problem really is all about authority, not theology. This has been recognized by Rome, which a reading of
Ut Unum Sint (among numerous other statements) makes abundantly clear.

And then Fr. Reardon replied to Fr. Hart’s claim that “it's doubtful that those responsible for it in the Latin west thought of the "filioque" as an "addition" by saying:

If memory serves (and recall that I was young at the time), this was exactly the argument employed by the Roman apologists at Florence: "We do not intend the Filioque as an addition to the Creed but as a kind of explanatory insertion."

No matter what this new commission decides, two problems remain, I think:

(1) an ecclesiastical problem. There is not the slightest chance of a reunion of East and West without the removal of the Filioque from the Creed. The East will never give way on this point.

(2) a pastoral problem. How is Rome going to remove the Filioque without appearing (to the rank and file of its membership) to be altering its own faith? Haven't the poor Roman Catholics been tried sufficiently in recent years with all those changes coming so close together? Hasn't that situation already proved destructive to their sense of stability in the Church?

The Filioque may be a red herring, as Father Addison suggests, if only in the sense that an old, unattended fish tends to foul the atmosphere.

To this Fr. Hart replied by arguing:

Fr. Patrick Reardon wrote: “(1) an ecclesiastical problem. There is not the slightest chance of a reunion of East and West without the removal of the Filioque from the Creed. The East will never give way on this point.”

This has already been done by the various Eastern Rite Catholics. What this implies for the Latin Rite remains to be seen.

He also wrote: “(2) a pastoral problem. How is Rome going to remove the Filioque without appearing (to the rank and file of its membership) to be altering its own faith? Haven't the poor Roman Catholics been tried sufficiently in recent years with all those changes coming so close together? Hasn't that situation already proved destructive to their sense of stability in the Church?”

Father Pat may be right on this, but I'm not so convinced that such an alteration would prove to be quite the shake-up he suggests. This, for both good and bad reasons.

As for the latter category, many Catholics (like many Orthodox) in the pews simply don't have the theological acumen to understand what the differences, substantial or not (pardon the pun), mean, even if they take note of them at all. In short, many of them don't care and wouldn't miss the "filioque" if it were absent.

As for the former category, those Catholics who do care about these matters are not seeking to keep their distance from the east, but quite the reverse.
Orientale Lumen and Ut Unum Sint have not fallen entirely on deaf ears. One need only note the increased interest among Catholics in such things as iconography and the Jesus Prayer, the greater representation after Vatican II of the writings of the Syriac and Greek Fathers in the Daily Office, the very marked eastern bent in the new Catechism (the fourth section being the work, largely, of a Byzantine Catholic), the recent Code of Canon Law for the Eastern churches, etc., to see that the possibility of such a thing as the dropping of the offending clause may not be beyond the pale within our lifetimes.

I very much doubt that, if it happens, there will be any great reaction on the part of Latin Rite Catholics, except among a relative handful of ultra-conservative loonies.

Finally, Fr. Reardon wrote “The Filioque may be a red herring, as Father Addison suggests, if only in the sense that an old, unattended fish tends to foul the atmosphere.”

Well, I can agree. Unfortunately, there it is. However, simply in terms of theology, it's a "red herring" not a whale. It certainly isn't Moby Dick.

4:51 PM


The North American Orthodox Catholic Consultation has just issued an Agreed Statement on Filioque, which you may find of interest. The addition by the West of the phrase “and the Son” to the Nicene Creed’s declaration that the Holy Spirit “Proceeds from the Father” has been a source of division for roughly the last thousand years. The 22 statements the Consultation has issued in the past can be found here.

Here is the body of the press release announcing the statement:


The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation concluded a four-year study of the Filioque on October 25, when it unanimously adopted an agreed text on this difficult question that has divided the two communions for many centuries. This important development took place at the 65th meeting of the Consultation, held at St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC, under the joint chairmanship of Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati.

The original version of the Creed most Christian churches accept as the standard expression of their faith dates from the First Council of Constantinople, in 381, and has been used by Orthodox Christians since that time. Towards the end, this Creed states that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father.” The word Filioque (“and the Son”) was later added to the Latin version of this Creed used in the West, so that the phrase as most western Christians know it reads that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

This modification appeared in some areas of Western Europe as early as the 6th century but was accepted in Rome only in the 11th century. This change in the wording of the Creed and the underlying variations in understanding the origin and procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity have long been considered a church-dividing issue between Catholics and Orthodox. The Consultation had been studying this question since 1999 in the hope of eventually releasing an agreed statement.

Entitled “The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue?”, the ten-thousand word text has three major sections. The first, “The Holy Spirit in the Scriptures,” summarizes references to the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments.

The more lengthy second section, “Historical Considerations,” provides an overview of the origins of the two traditions concerning the eternal procession of the Spirit and the slow process by which the Filioque was added to the Creed in the West. It also shows how this question concerning Trinitarian theology became entwined with disputes regarding papal jurisdiction and primacy, and reviews recent developments in the Catholic Church which point to a greater awareness of the unique and normative character of the original Greek version of the Creed as an expression of the faith that unites the Orthodox East and Catholic West.

The third section, “Theological Reflections,” emphasizes our limited ability to speak of the inner life of God, points out that both sides of the debate have often caricatured the positions of the other, and lists areas in which the traditions agree. It then explores the differences that have developed regarding terminology, and identifies both theological and ecclesiological divergences that have arisen over the centuries.

In a final section, the Consultation makes eight recommendations to the members and bishops of the two churches. It recommends that they “enter into a new and earnest dialogue concerning the origin and person of the Holy Spirit.”

It also proposes that in the future both Catholics and Orthodox “refrain from labeling as heretical the traditions of the other side” on this subject, and that the theologians of both traditions make a clearer distinction between the divinity of the Spirit, and the manner of the Spirit’s origin, “which still awaits full and final ecumenical resolution.” The text also urges theologians to distinguish, as far as possible, the theological issues concerning the origin of the Holy Spirit from ecclesiological issues, and suggests that attention be paid in the future to the status of councils of both our churches that took place after the seven ecumenical councils of the first millennium.

And finally, in view of the fact that the Vatican has affirmed the “normative and irrevocable dogmatic value of the Creed of 381” in its original Greek version, the Consultation recommends that the Catholic Church use the same text (without the Filioque) “in making translations of that Creed for catechetical and liturgical use,” and declare that the anathema pronounced by the Second Council of Lyons against those who deny that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son is no longer applicable. . . .

At the end, the release gave the membership of the Consultation:

In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Orthodox members of the Consultation include Father Thomas FitzGerald (Secretary), Archbishop Peter of New York, Father Nicholas Apostola, Prof. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Father James Dutko, Prof. Paul Meyendorff, Father Alexander Golitzin, Father Emmanuel Gratsias, Dr. Robert Haddad, Father Paul Schnierla, Father Robert Stephanopoulos, and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, General Secretary of SCOBA (staff).

The additional Catholic members are Father Brian Daley, SJ (secretary), Msgr. Frederick McManus, Prof. Thomas Bird, Father Peter Galadza, Msgr. John D. Faris, Father John Galvin, Sister Jean Goulet, CSC, Father Sidney Griffith, ST, Father John Long, SJ, Father David Petras, Prof. Robin Darling Young, and Father Ronald Roberson, CSP (staff).

4:48 PM

Wednesday, October 29


A useful reminder and object lesson: John Rankin's "A Conversation with Homosexual Advocates", which appears on Charles Colson's Breakpoint website.

If you look at it, the first few paragraphs may strike you as the sort of "let's just talk" sentimentality that annoys most of us, but it is not, because Rankin is no sentimentalist. Theological clarity should lead to a confidence in engaging everyone else and a graciousness in trying to meet them where they are. This reminds me of Chesterton's wonderfully astute remark, which I think I've quoted before:

The bigot is not the man who thinks he's right. Every sane man thinks he's right. The bigot is the man who cannot understand how the other man came to be wrong.

The Christian ought to think he is right about the things he knows, because God told him what he knows. But he ought not to feel any self-satisfaction in being right . . . because God told him what he knows. God has been good to him, and he has no right to boast. He does have the call to share what he's been told, and share it kindly.

12:15 PM


Perhaps of interest: Mickey Kaus on blogging.

12:02 PM


From the English magazine The Spectator, an article on the intelligent design movement: "The mystery of the missing links". The magazine's introduction to the article begins: "It is becoming fashionable to question Darwinism."

It quotes our contributing editor and columnist Philip Johnson (to read his "Leading Edge" column click here). He writes of the article:

he writer confusedly opts for theistic evolution as the compromise position, but the important thought is in that first sentence: "It is becoming fashionable to question Darwinism." To have made such skepticism fashionable is a tremendous accomplishment.

One of the writer's friends, a playwright, "blamed the doctrine of survival of the fittest for ‘capitalist misery and the oppression of the people’." It's not quite my language, but I do think that Darwinism may have been so widely accepted, and is still so tenaciously held, not for its scientific value but for its ideological value. (Scientists are not to blame for this.)

It has been used to justify blaming the poor for their poverty and to justify the abuse of racial minorities, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It has also been presented as proof that God does not exist and that all religions are the products of societies trying to solve social needs (a way to make people behave, for example) and find answers to otherwise insoluble problems. It is currently being used as a way to deny sexual differences and moral limits, as in the theory I read about a few months ago that claimed an evolutionary imperative for adultery.

Whatever may be said for or against darwinism as a scientific theory, it is a tremendously useful idea for secular man to use against all the restraints religion has placed upon his wishes. He has a great interest in seeing that it remains the dominant scientific theory so that he can twist it for his own ends. Readers will find helpful C. S. Lewis' "The Funeral of a Great Myth" in Christian Reflections.

11:14 AM

Tuesday, October 28


Just posted from the November issue:

— Patrick Henry Reardon's "Not so quiet on the Eastern Front", subtitled "Orthodox Christians & the Iraqi War"

— John Granger's "The alchemist's tale", subtitled "Harry Potter & the Alchemical Tradition in English Literature".

9:49 PM


Wolf Paul, whose other message follows, writes in response to reader Clark Wilson's comment in "Watch what you say":

On Clark Wilson's rhetorical point:

But of course in Robinson's case, the gender of his partner in fornication does not matter, since the traditional Christian
understanding of these things would not allow him to re-marry after divorce, whether to a man or a woman. Thus, even if "gay marriage" were generally an option, it wouldn't be in his case; he could be chaste only by returning to his wife (if she is still available and so inclined) or by abstaining altogether.

Peter Toon's assessment of the situation strikes me as very wise and to the point.

9:54 AM


An Austrian reader, Wolf Paul, writes in response to several blogs, including my "Nowhere to Go" and the follow-up "Episcopalians' Dilemma". He titled his response "On Full Agreement with a Church's Teachings when joining it":

I found the comments on this subject very stimulating and interesting, especially also your comparison of church membership with marriage.

I am not a theologically disenfranchised Episcopalian but an Evangelical with a desire to be in communion with all of Christ’s followers. When I think about the option of joining the Roman Catholic church, it is however not only the church’s explicit teachings I have to consider but also what she endorses by default.

There are any number of features of Roman Catholicism as it manifests itself here in Austria and elsewhere which I can easily accept when I read about them in the Catechism or talk to some of my theologically literate Catholic friends, but where the practice of the faithful, tolerated and sometimes even encouraged by the clergy appals me.

A good example is the excessively Marian orientation of many pious Catholics, in whose life Mary plays a more prominent role than Christ. It is all well for my Catholic friends to explain that titles like “Theotokos” or “Mother of God” are Christologically motivated; when there are officially approved organizations who act and talk as if Mary controls her Son the way an old-fashioned matriarch controls her family, and all we have to do is get on her good side and she’ll square it with Jesus, then all the good theological explanations do not outweigh this practical idolatry.

Or when the pope, whom I highly respect, has a personal motto which would be splendid if it referred to Christ — but it doesn’t, it refers to Mary.

And I could go on.

So, agreement with the offical teachings is not enough, especially when one comes as an outsider to join the church — in the act of joining one expresses agreement with and endorsement of not only official teachings, but tolerated practices as well.

I believe, btw, that a “cradle Catholic” could in good conscience put up with more of this sort of thing while staying in the church, than a new convert can put up with while joining the church. Staying in does not express the same emphatic endorsement as joining does.

Now of course all of this doesn not only apply to the Roman Catholic church, but for example — case in point — to the Church of England. Thirty-Nine Articles and men like John Stott notwithstanding, there’s too much being tolerated which is simply unacceptable.

In the meantime we hope and pray that one day Christ will bring about the unity of His body and deal with each other as lovingly and respectfully as we know how.

9:53 AM


Scientists are annoyed that the universe seems to be perfectly adjusted to produce human life.

In a sense this is simply a truism: if it weren’t, there would be no humans to make the observation.

But they recognize that the perfection and seeming arbitrariness of the adjustments looks like Someone is doing the adjusting.

The New York Times reports:

"If we didn't have things in our universe that seem peculiar, like the value of the cosmological constant, we wouldn't worry about it," he said.

Dr. Weinberg compared the situation to a person who is dealt a royal flush in a poker tournament. It may be chance, he said, but there is another explanation: "Namely, is the organizer of the tournament our friend?"

9:14 AM

Monday, October 27


A useful article from the scholar Daniel Pipes: "Deadly Denial”. It begins:

The prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, informed the world this month, among other things, that “Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, described Mahathir's comments as "hateful, they are outrageous."

But she then added, “I don't think they are emblematic of the Muslim world.” If only she were right about that.

In fact, Mahathir’s views are precisely emblematic of current Muslim discourse about Jews — symbolized by the standing ovation his speech received from an all-Muslim audience of leaders representing 57 states. Then, a Saudi newspaper reports, when Western leaders criticized Mahathir, “Muslim leaders closed ranks” around him with words of praise (“very correct,” “a very, very wise assessment”).

. . . Mahathir himself is no Islamist but (in the words of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman) “about as forward-looking a Muslim leader as we're likely to find”.

5:14 PM


A genuinely interested article from yesterday's New York Times Magazine on women choosing to leave the workforce: "The Opt-Out Revolution". It begins:

The scene in this cozy Atlanta living room would -- at first glance -- warm an early feminist's heart. Gathered by the fireplace one recent evening, sipping wine and nibbling cheese, are the members of a book club, each of them a beneficiary of all that feminists of 30-odd years ago held dear.

The eight women in the room have each earned a degree from Princeton, which was a citadel of everything male until the first co-educated class entered in 1969. And after Princeton, the women of this book club went on to do other things that women once were not expected to do. They received law degrees from Harvard and Columbia. They chose husbands who could keep up with them, not simply support them. They waited to have children because work was too exciting. They put on power suits and marched off to take on the world.

Yes, if an early feminist could peer into this scene, she would feel triumphant about the future. Until, of course, any one of these polished and purposeful women opened her mouth.

''I don't want to be on the fast track leading to a partnership at a prestigious law firm,'' says Katherine Brokaw, who left that track in order to stay home with her three children. ''Some people define that as success. I don't.''

''I don't want to be famous; I don't want to conquer the world; I don't want that kind of life,'' says Sarah McArthur Amsbary, who was a theater artist and teacher and earned her master's degree in English, then stepped out of the work force when her daughter was born. ''Maternity provides an escape hatch that paternity does not. Having a baby provides a graceful and convenient exit.''

The writer, Lisa Belkin, goes on to analyze this development — and interestingly, too — and ends with the proposal that these successful women rejecting the demands of the high-flying life may be leading a revolution in how everyone works. I have my doubts about this, but if she is right the development would be a very good one.

10:51 AM


From Clark Wilson, an interesting rhetorical point:

A quick comment on the Peter Toon item posted at 12:04pm yesterday.

"...he is not eligible to be a Bishop because he is divorced and this is compounded by the fact that he is not a chaste, divorced person. That his fornicating is with a man and not with a woman is secondary here — he was disqualified by traditional canon law and before God by being divorced."

I not addressing the central point (the divorce) but only the intensifier ("compounded by the fact . . ."). An advocate of gay marriage could say that the fact that Gene Robinson is fornicating with a man is crucial to the intensifying charge, that of fornication, since Robinson cannot resolve that issue and become chaste by marriage, as he could if he were fornicating with a woman. He could abstain in either case, but can marry only in the one case.

That is, it seems to me that treating fornication with a woman as equivalent to or interchangeable with fornication with a man, even in secondary and rhetorical usage, opens a door for advocates of gay marriage to say "we would gladly marry to end male-male fornication, if you would let us."

10:44 AM

Sunday, October 26


Those of you interested in ecumenism or in rhetoric may enjoy a particularly sleazy editorial on Pope John Paul II in the English Evangelical publication, the Church of England Newspaper. Almost the entire editorial consists of praise, of a sort, followed by a sneer.

It also includes the amusingly badly written sentence:

The brutal dictator General Pinochet received a birthday apostolic greeting from Cardinal Sodano, while famously berating a pro-Sandinista priest on the tarmac of Managua airport.

A lot of people would have liked to see General Pinochet on the runway of the airport in Managua berating a "pro-Sandinista priest" (who was actually a member of the government, which priests are forbidden to be, hence the pope's lecture, but the editor doesn't bother to mention that).

11:18 PM


Two articles from today's New York Times you may find of interest:

"Evangelicals Sway White House on Human Rights Issues Abroad"; and

"What's The Value of a Fetus?".

The latter, by William Saletan, the chief political correspondent for Slate and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War argues that "supporters of abortion" have been wrong to have avoided the question of the rights of the unborn baby, or "fetus," as they put it for obvious reasons. It makes "abortion rights" politically vulnerable to such pro-life moves as the ban on partial birth abortion, which raises in a way they cannot escape the question of the rights and personhood of the unborn. People in the middle begin to notice what they're not saying.

But there is an answer to this problem, he argues.

Why go to such lengths to ignore the developing human? Because, as one women's rights group puts it, "treating the fetus as a legal entity separate from the pregnant woman creates the potential for an adversarial relationship between the woman's health needs and those of her developing fetus." This is an objection not just to fetal personhood but to fetal distinctness.

Treating the fetus as nothing may be the surest way to keep abortion legal. But it isn't necessary. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court upheld the right to abortion while acknowledging the state's "important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life." The court has struck down bans on abortion not because the fetus is nothing, but because, before viability, its legal value does not exceed its mother's right to privacy.

Because they refuse to treat the fetus as a "legal entity," pro-choicers can't defend the fetus at all, in cases they should. Saletan offers an answer:

There's a simple solution to this dilemma: by applying the language of Roe, supporters of abortion rights can acknowledge the fetus has legal value but is not a person. The state has an important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life, not just against post-viability abortions, but against abusive boyfriends, morally indifferent biotechnology companies and treatable diseases in women who can't afford health insurance.

This doesn't really help his political cause. It is to say, using Roe v. Wade's idea of a "right to privacy," that an unborn child has a great many rights, almost as if he were really a person, unless his mother wants to kill him. Many and perhaps even most people, I think, will feel that if the unborn child has so many rights he must really be a person, and will not feel that something as vaporous, and as obviously self-serving, as a "right to privacy" thus defined over-rides that little person's right to live.

Most people will not understand the subtle idea of the unborn as "potential human life." The pro-choicer will say that they don't understand it because they are not thinking clearly. It seems to me more likely that they will not see it because it is a stupid idea, whose stupidity is more obvious to them than it is to people like the writer, whose fundamental commitment is to the legality of abortion. And who seem, to the outsider, to be coming up with any argument, no matter how dodgy, that will seem to support it.

I think the pro-choicers he criticises much wiser. They realize that they cannot afford to raise the question of the unborn child's status, even to protect him in ways they wish to do (against rapacious corporations, for example, and bravo). It is an argument they are likely to lose, as the writer acknowledges in his worries about the ban on partial birth abortion. If you want to keep abortion legal, you'd best keep saying that the thing inside the mother is not a person, and not even bring up the matter if you can avoid it.

11:08 PM


Of the 24 churches that make up the Catholic Church, 23 have married priests. Only the Latin (or Western Church) requires celibacy of its priests (although not of its deacons), with very few exceptions (Protestant clergy who have converted).

An article in the Ottawa Citizen (thanks to Amy Welborn for the link) summarizes the history:

Like Catholics in Syria, Egypt and other countries that are part of the 23 Eastern Catholic churches that accept the authority of the Pope, Ukrainian Catholics have had married priests since their church's beginning.
In 1929, however, because of fears that the presence of married priests in the western world would weaken Roman Catholics' commitment to celibate priests, Pope Pius XI issued a decree, Cum data fuerit, that forbade the ordination of married men to the Eastern Catholic priesthood outside those churches' traditional territories. That prompted some Eastern Catholics to break their relationship with Rome and become Orthodox.
In North America, Ukrainian Catholic bishops and other eastern Catholic bishops chose instead to take seminarians to Europe for ordination, and bring them home "on loan" from European dioceses.
David Motiuk, Winnipeg's Ukrainian Catholic auxiliary bishop, says that for at least five years, Canadian bishops have been ordaining married men in Canada without any negative response from Rome.
The change of heart was signalled in 1990 when John Paul II approved a new code of canon law for the Eastern churches that declared "the state of married clerics ... is to be held in honour."

Does this mean that the Latin Church should change its discipline, or that the change would be a minor adjustment bringing it into line with the practice of almost all other Catholic Churches?

Not necessarily. Celibacy in the Latin Church serves as a constant reminder of the other-worldly, eschatological nature of the church. It serves the same function in the life of the church as the liturgy in the other Catholic Churches. The liturgy in the West has for over a millennium been minimalist and has become increasingly banal and this-worldly. A married clergy in the Latin Church would accelerate the secularization of the church, and probably not increase the availability of priests. Married priests if they have large families cannot devote the time to their parishes that a celibate priest can. I also suspect that a married clergy and an ethnically-based church tend to go together, and that the celibacy of its clergy has contributed to the spread and unity of the Latin Church – but that is just a suspicion. Other, accidental factors may be the reason.

8:01 PM


A reader wrote about my "A third response", questioning my statement that the Anglican Mission in America (AMIA) is in communion with the other Anglican churches of the world. He said the irregularity of their founding and Archbishop George Carey's condemnation put them out of communion with other Anglicans.

The question of communion is a problem for modern Anglicans of all sorts, because they've never really worked it out. At any rate, a canonical irregularity or even a canonical violation — whichever one thinks the AMIA to be — does not affect the matter.

An AMIA bishop gives communion to a Rwandan bishop (it is a mission of the Anglican Church of Rwanda) who gives communion (or takes it from) an Episcopal bishop, and no one on either end objects, i.e. the people are in full and conscious communion with each other. If A is in communion with B and B with C, then A is in communion with C.

This seems to me a problem for the AMIA, because they left the Episcopal Church because they couldn't remain within it, yet they remain in full communion with it. They have maintained the most intimate tie or relation with the Episcopal Church while severing the less intimate. This seems to me a big problem. It's rather like having sex with someone after you've divorced her for adultery.

As to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he may object all he likes, but a) he has no real authority outside the southern province of the Church of England, and b) his objections don't change the observable fact that these people are all in communion. The Anglicans have tried to make the Abp a sort of pope, when convenient to do so, but he isn't. What he says doesn't go. That is part of what Anglicanism means: a dispersed authority in which the top man has not real power to make anyone do anything.

3:13 PM


A provocative short article our contributing editor Peter Toon has just sent out:

Along with my learned friend, Lou Tarsitano, and a few others who have communicated with me, I feel as though we must be the only people in Christendom who think that the primary reason why Gene Robinson should not be in ordained Ministry and certainly not made a Bishop on Nov 2 is because he is a divorced man — and not only a divorced man but one who is not chaste, for he is living with another person (who happens to be a man but could be a woman).

In simple terms, I believe that he is not eligible to be a Bishop because he is divorced and this is compounded by the fact that he is not a chaste, divorced person. That his fornicating is with a man and not with a woman is secondary here - he was disqualified by traditional canon law and before God by being divorced.

If one sees the matter in these terms then there is no prioritizing of the homosexual issue as such and one can condemn the action of the ECUSA in blessing homosexual unions within the context of a holistic view of sexuality, which view also condemns the lax attitude to divorce with remarriage in the ECUSA.

How different would have been the Primates’ Meeting if the whole matter had been seen in these terms! Perhaps I should rewrite their Statement on this basis as an exercise in pastoral theology! Evangelicals may have served the Lesbigay cause in ways they were not aware of by making the issue that of homosexuality instead of divorce and fornication — think of the massive friendly publicity given to the “gay” cause by the media all over the western world.

Of course homosexual activity is sinful before God but so is the fact of divorce and so is adultery; by God’s mercy most sins can both be forgiven and healed. But sometimes, even when forgiveness is granted by heaven, a person is barred by God and his Church from certain positions of pastoral responsibility & care. So it always was with divorce in the Anglican Way until very recent times in the Provinces of the West/North, especially in the ECUSA.

For those interesting in more of Peter's writing, see the website of his parish, Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, the American Prayer Book Society's blogsite, and the PBS's website.

3:04 PM


Our contributing editor Philip Johnson (see here for his "Leading Edge" columns) has just finished a lecture tour in the midwest. Two lectures given at Northern Michigan University will be available here. He summarizes the trip this way:

Throughout this trip we were struck by the large numbers of enthusiasts we encountered who are informed about the issues and already involved in opposing Darwinist dogmatism. Local Darwinists also came to the lectures, and their challenging questions helped me by giving me something to take off from. Book sales at the lecturers were brisk and satisfying.

In brief, the Darwinists may be hanging on to their power position in science, but they are continuing to lose ground in the culture at large. Eventually, the practice of teaching the controversy is bound to catch on.

2:56 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?