31 ottobre 2006

Book Review of "The God Delusion"

Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching
Terry Eagleton
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.

Dawkins on God is rather like those right-wing Cambridge dons who filed eagerly into the Senate House some years ago to non-placet Jacques Derrida for an honorary degree. Very few of them, one suspects, had read more than a few pages of his work, and even that judgment might be excessively charitable. Yet they would doubtless have been horrified to receive an essay on Hume from a student who had not read his Treatise of Human Nature. There are always topics on which otherwise scrupulous minds will cave in with scarcely a struggle to the grossest prejudice. For a lot of academic psychologists, it is Jacques Lacan; for Oxbridge philosophers it is Heidegger; for former citizens of the Soviet bloc it is the writings of Marx; for militant rationalists it is religion.

What, one wonders, are Dawkins’s views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? Has he read Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope? Has he even heard of them? Or does he imagine like a bumptious young barrister that you can defeat the opposition while being complacently ignorant of its toughest case? Dawkins, it appears, has sometimes been told by theologians that he sets up straw men only to bowl them over, a charge he rebuts in this book; but if The God Delusion is anything to go by, they are absolutely right. As far as theology goes, Dawkins has an enormous amount in common with Ian Paisley and American TV evangelists. Both parties agree pretty much on what religion is; it’s just that Dawkins rejects it while Oral Roberts and his unctuous tribe grow fat on it.

A molehill of instances out of a mountain of them will have to suffice. Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly. Not even the dim-witted clerics who knocked me about at grammar school thought that. For mainstream Christianity, reason, argument and honest doubt have always played an integral role in belief. (Where, given that he invites us at one point to question everything, is Dawkins’s own critique of science, objectivity, liberalism, atheism and the like?) Reason, to be sure, doesn’t go all the way down for believers, but it doesn’t for most sensitive, civilised non-religious types either. Even Richard Dawkins lives more by faith than by reason. We hold many beliefs that have no unimpeachably rational justification, but are nonetheless reasonable to entertain. Only positivists think that ‘rational’ means ‘scientific’. Dawkins rejects the surely reasonable case that science and religion are not in competition on the grounds that this insulates religion from rational inquiry. But this is a mistake: to claim that science and religion pose different questions to the world is not to suggest that if the bones of Jesus were discovered in Palestine, the pope should get himself down to the dole queue as fast as possible. It is rather to claim that while faith, rather like love, must involve factual knowledge, it is not reducible to it. For my claim to love you to be coherent, I must be able to explain what it is about you that justifies it; but my bank manager might agree with my dewy-eyed description of you without being in love with you himself.

Dawkins holds that the existence or non-existence of God is a scientific hypothesis which is open to rational demonstration. Christianity teaches that to claim that there is a God must be reasonable, but that this is not at all the same thing as faith. Believing in God, whatever Dawkins might think, is not like concluding that aliens or the tooth fairy exist. God is not a celestial super-object or divine UFO, about whose existence we must remain agnostic until all the evidence is in. Theologians do not believe that he is either inside or outside the universe, as Dawkins thinks they do. His transcendence and invisibility are part of what he is, which is not the case with the Loch Ness monster. This is not to say that religious people believe in a black hole, because they also consider that God has revealed himself: not, as Dawkins thinks, in the guise of a cosmic manufacturer even smarter than Dawkins himself (the New Testament has next to nothing to say about God as Creator), but for Christians at least, in the form of a reviled and murdered political criminal. The Jews of the so-called Old Testament had faith in God, but this does not mean that after debating the matter at a number of international conferences they decided to endorse the scientific hypothesis that there existed a supreme architect of the universe – even though, as Genesis reveals, they were of this opinion. They had faith in God in the sense that I have faith in you. They may well have been mistaken in their view; but they were not mistaken because their scientific hypothesis was unsound.

Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized. He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ‘existent’: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects.

This, not some super-manufacturing, is what is traditionally meant by the claim that God is Creator. He is what sustains all things in being by his love; and this would still be the case even if the universe had no beginning. To say that he brought it into being ex nihilo is not a measure of how very clever he is, but to suggest that he did it out of love rather than need. The world was not the consequence of an inexorable chain of cause and effect. Like a Modernist work of art, there is no necessity about it at all, and God might well have come to regret his handiwork some aeons ago. The Creation is the original acte gratuit. God is an artist who did it for the sheer love or hell of it, not a scientist at work on a magnificently rational design that will impress his research grant body no end.

Because the universe is God’s, it shares in his life, which is the life of freedom. This is why it works all by itself, and why science and Richard Dawkins are therefore both possible. The same is true of human beings: God is not an obstacle to our autonomy and enjoyment but, as Aquinas argues, the power that allows us to be ourselves. Like the unconscious, he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is the source of our self-determination, not the erasure of it. To be dependent on him, as to be dependent on our friends, is a matter of freedom and fulfilment. Indeed, friendship is the word Aquinas uses to characterise the relation between God and humanity.

Dawkins, who is as obsessed with the mechanics of Creation as his Creationist opponents, understands nothing of these traditional doctrines. Nor does he understand that because God is transcendent of us (which is another way of saying that he did not have to bring us about), he is free of any neurotic need for us and wants simply to be allowed to love us. Dawkins’s God, by contrast, is Satanic. Satan (‘accuser’ in Hebrew) is the misrecognition of God as Big Daddy and punitive judge, and Dawkins’s God is precisely such a repulsive superego. This false consciousness is overthrown in the person of Jesus, who reveals the Father as friend and lover rather than judge. Dawkins’s Supreme Being is the God of those who seek to avert divine wrath by sacrificing animals, being choosy in their diet and being impeccably well behaved. They cannot accept the scandal that God loves them just as they are, in all their moral shabbiness. This is one reason St Paul remarks that the law is cursed. Dawkins sees Christianity in terms of a narrowly legalistic notion of atonement – of a brutally vindictive God sacrificing his own child in recompense for being offended – and describes the belief as vicious and obnoxious. It’s a safe bet that the Archbishop of Canterbury couldn’t agree more. It was the imperial Roman state, not God, that murdered Jesus.

Dawkins thinks it odd that Christians don’t look eagerly forward to death, given that they will thereby be ushered into paradise. He does not see that Christianity, like most religious faiths, values human life deeply, which is why the martyr differs from the suicide. The suicide abandons life because it has become worthless; the martyr surrenders his or her most precious possession for the ultimate well-being of others. This act of self-giving is generally known as sacrifice, a word that has unjustly accrued all sorts of politically incorrect implications. Jesus, Dawkins speculates, might have desired his own betrayal and death, a case the New Testament writers deliberately seek to rebuff by including the Gethsemane scene, in which Jesus is clearly panicking at the prospect of his impending execution. They also put words into his mouth when he is on the cross to make much the same point. Jesus did not die because he was mad or masochistic, but because the Roman state and its assorted local lackeys and running dogs took fright at his message of love, mercy and justice, as well as at his enormous popularity with the poor, and did away with him to forestall a mass uprising in a highly volatile political situation. Several of Jesus’ close comrades were probably Zealots, members of an anti-imperialist underground movement. Judas’ surname suggests that he may have been one of them, which makes his treachery rather more intelligible: perhaps he sold out his leader in bitter disenchantment, recognising that he was not, after all, the Messiah. Messiahs are not born in poverty; they do not spurn weapons of destruction; and they tend to ride into the national capital in bullet-proof limousines with police outriders, not on a donkey.

Jesus, who pace Dawkins did indeed ‘derive his ethics from the Scriptures’ (he was a devout Jew, not the founder of a fancy new set-up), was a joke of a Messiah. He was a carnivalesque parody of a leader who understood, so it would appear, that any regime not founded on solidarity with frailty and failure is bound to collapse under its own hubris. The symbol of that failure was his crucifixion. In this faith, he was true to the source of life he enigmatically called his Father, who in the guise of the Old Testament Yahweh tells the Hebrews that he hates their burnt offerings and that their incense stinks in his nostrils. They will know him for what he is, he reminds them, when they see the hungry being filled with good things and the rich being sent empty away. You are not allowed to make a fetish or graven image of this God, since the only image of him is human flesh and blood. Salvation for Christianity has to do with caring for the sick and welcoming the immigrant, protecting the poor from the violence of the rich. It is not a ‘religious’ affair at all, and demands no special clothing, ritual behaviour or fussiness about diet. (The Catholic prohibition on meat on Fridays is an unscriptural church regulation.)

Jesus hung out with whores and social outcasts, was remarkably casual about sex, disapproved of the family (the suburban Dawkins is a trifle queasy about this), urged us to be laid-back about property and possessions, warned his followers that they too would die violently, and insisted that the truth kills and divides as well as liberates. He also cursed self-righteous prigs and deeply alarmed the ruling class.

The Christian faith holds that those who are able to look on the crucifixion and live, to accept that the traumatic truth of human history is a tortured body, might just have a chance of new life – but only by virtue of an unimaginable transformation in our currently dire condition. This is known as the resurrection. Those who don’t see this dreadful image of a mutilated innocent as the truth of history are likely to be devotees of that bright-eyed superstition known as infinite human progress, for which Dawkins is a full-blooded apologist. Or they might be well-intentioned reformers or social democrats, which from a Christian standpoint simply isn’t radical enough.

The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you. Here, then, is your pie in the sky and opium of the people. It was, of course, Marx who coined that last phrase; but Marx, who in the same passage describes religion as the ‘heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions’, was rather more judicious and dialectical in his judgment on it than the lunging, flailing, mispunching Dawkins.

Now it may well be that all this is no more plausible than the tooth fairy. Most reasoning people these days will see excellent grounds to reject it. But critics of the richest, most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook. The mainstream theology I have just outlined may well not be true; but anyone who holds it is in my view to be respected, whereas Dawkins considers that no religious belief, anytime or anywhere, is worthy of any respect whatsoever. This, one might note, is the opinion of a man deeply averse to dogmatism. Even moderate religious views, he insists, are to be ferociously contested, since they can always lead to fanaticism.

Some currents of the liberalism that Dawkins espouses have nowadays degenerated into a rather nasty brand of neo-liberalism, but in my view this is no reason not to champion liberalism. In some obscure way, Dawkins manages to imply that the Bishop of Oxford is responsible for Osama bin Laden. His polemic would come rather more convincingly from a man who was a little less arrogantly triumphalistic about science (there are a mere one or two gestures in the book to its fallibility), and who could refrain from writing sentences like ‘this objection [to a particular scientific view] can be answered by the suggestion . . . that there are many universes,’ as though a suggestion constituted a scientific rebuttal. On the horrors that science and technology have wreaked on humanity, he is predictably silent. Yet the Apocalypse is far more likely to be the product of them than the work of religion. Swap you the Inquisition for chemical warfare.

Such is Dawkins’s unruffled scientific impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false. The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history – and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry. He is like a man who equates socialism with the Gulag. Like the puritan and sex, Dawkins sees God everywhere, even where he is self-evidently absent. He thinks, for example, that the ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland would evaporate if religion did, which to someone like me, who lives there part of the time, betrays just how little he knows about it. He also thinks rather strangely that the terms Loyalist and Nationalist are ‘euphemisms’ for Protestant and Catholic, and clearly doesn’t know the difference between a Loyalist and a Unionist or a Nationalist and a Republican. He also holds, against a good deal of the available evidence, that Islamic terrorism is inspired by religion rather than politics.

These are not just the views of an enraged atheist. They are the opinions of a readily identifiable kind of English middle-class liberal rationalist. Reading Dawkins, who occasionally writes as though ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn, one can be reasonably certain that he would not be Europe’s greatest enthusiast for Foucault, psychoanalysis, agitprop, Dadaism, anarchism or separatist feminism. All of these phenomena, one imagines, would be as distasteful to his brisk, bloodless rationality as the virgin birth. Yet one can of course be an atheist and a fervent fan of them all. His God-hating, then, is by no means simply the view of a scientist admirably cleansed of prejudice. It belongs to a specific cultural context. One would not expect to muster many votes for either anarchism or the virgin birth in North Oxford. (I should point out that I use the term North Oxford in an ideological rather than geographical sense. Dawkins may be relieved to know that I don’t actually know where he lives.)

There is a very English brand of common sense that believes mostly in what it can touch, weigh and taste, and The God Delusion springs from, among other places, that particular stable. At its most philistine and provincial, it makes Dick Cheney sound like Thomas Mann. The secular Ten Commandments that Dawkins commends to us, one of which advises us to enjoy our sex lives so long as they don’t damage others, are for the most part liberal platitudes. Dawkins quite rightly detests fundamentalists; but as far as I know his anti-religious diatribes have never been matched in his work by a critique of the global capitalism that generates the hatred, anxiety, insecurity and sense of humiliation that breed fundamentalism. Instead, as the obtuse media chatter has it, it’s all down to religion.

It thus comes as no surprise that Dawkins turns out to be an old-fashioned Hegelian when it comes to global politics, believing in a zeitgeist (his own term) involving ever increasing progress, with just the occasional ‘reversal’. ‘The whole wave,’ he rhapsodises in the finest Whiggish manner, ‘keeps moving.’ There are, he generously concedes, ‘local and temporary setbacks’ like the present US government – as though that regime were an electoral aberration, rather than the harbinger of a drastic transformation of the world order that we will probably have to live with for as long as we can foresee. Dawkins, by contrast, believes, in his Herbert Spencerish way, that ‘the progressive trend is unmistakable and it will continue.’ So there we are, then: we have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up.

Apart from the occasional perfunctory gesture to ‘sophisticated’ religious believers, Dawkins tends to see religion and fundamentalist religion as one and the same. This is not only grotesquely false; it is also a device to outflank any more reflective kind of faith by implying that it belongs to the coterie and not to the mass. The huge numbers of believers who hold something like the theology I outlined above can thus be conveniently lumped with rednecks who murder abortionists and malign homosexuals. As far as such outrages go, however, The God Delusion does a very fine job indeed. The two most deadly texts on the planet, apart perhaps from Donald Rumsfeld’s emails, are the Bible and the Koran; and Dawkins, as one the best of liberals as well as one of the worst, has done a magnificent job over the years of speaking out against that particular strain of psychopathology known as fundamentalism, whether Texan or Taliban. He is right to repudiate the brand of mealy-mouthed liberalism which believes that one has to respect other people’s silly or obnoxious ideas just because they are other people’s. In its admirably angry way, The God Delusion argues that the status of atheists in the US is nowadays about the same as that of gays fifty years ago. The book is full of vivid vignettes of the sheer horrors of religion, fundamentalist or otherwise. Nearly 50 per cent of Americans believe that a glorious Second Coming is imminent, and some of them are doing their damnedest to bring it about. But Dawkins could have told us all this without being so appallingly bitchy about those of his scientific colleagues who disagree with him, and without being so theologically illiterate. He might also have avoided being the second most frequently mentioned individual in his book – if you count God as an individual.

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at Manchester University. His latest book is How to Read a Poem.

This review appeared on the website of the London Review Bookshop: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html

27 ottobre 2006

Jim Mora: Playoffs?

Jim Mora: classic "Playoffs?" video.

Just listen to his voice crack, it is so funny!

Holy See Appeals to U.N. for an "Ecological Conversion"

Holy See Appeals to U.N. for an "Ecological Conversion"
Prelate Addresses Panel on Sustainable Development

NEW YORK, OCT. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See stated at the United Nations that an "ecological conversion" is necessary so that sustainable development can take place.

The statement was delivered Wednesday afternoon by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, to the General Assembly's committee discussing sustainable development and ecology.

"If we wish to make sustainable development a rooted, long-term reality, we must create a truly sustainable economy," said the papal representative.

"Even in the context of its fast transition and mutation, our economy continues to rest basically upon its relation to nature," the archbishop said. "Its indispensable substratum is soil, water and climate; and it is becoming rapidly ever clearer that if these, the world's life-support systems, are spoiled or destroyed irreparably, there will be no viable economy for any of us.

"Therefore, rather than being external or marginal to the economy, environmental concerns have to be understood by policy-makers as the basis upon which all economic -- and even human -- activity rests."

Archbishop Migliore continued: "The environmental consequences of our economic activity are now among the world's highest priorities. The environmental question is not only an important ethical and scientific problem, but a political and economic problem too, as well as a bone of contention in the globalization process in general.

"It means not just integrating sustainable development into programs for poverty reduction and development, but also reflecting the preoccupations and environmental problems in security strategies, and in developmental and humanitarian questions at the national, regional and international levels."

Time to rethink

"In a word," the Holy See official said, "the world needs an ecological conversion so as to examine critically current models of thought, as well as those of production and consumption."

The archbishop insisted: "Serious public investment in clean technology must accompany this pragmatism as an urgent part of national and international strategies to diminish as fast as possible the impact of air and sea transport pollution and those sectors' continued use of outdated technology.

"Progress is slowly being made in clean technologies in other fields, including even that of car transport. But the time is now ripe for major investment in cleaner air- and sea-transport technologies before the ecological balance is tipped by culpable neglect."

Archbishop Migliore recalled that for the United Nations, 2006 is the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, and that the problems of "desertification and drought now affect more than one in six of the world's population."

"The international community," he added, "must take concrete actions to reverse this alarming phenomenon through internationally coordinated responses."

26 ottobre 2006

Pope Benedict on St. Paul

The pope is just awesome!!

Paul of Tarsus
Be Imitators of Me, As I Am of Christ

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience, dedicated to presenting the figure of Paul of Tarsus.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have concluded our reflections on the Twelve Apostles, called directly by Jesus during his earthly life. Today we begin to approach the figures of other important personalities of the early Church. They also spent their lives for the Lord, for the Gospel and for the Church. They were men and women who, as Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles, "have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ" (15:26).

The first of these, called by the Lord himself, by the risen one, to also be an authentic apostle, is without a doubt Paul of Tarsus. He shines like a star of first grandeur in the history of the Church, and not only in that of the origins.

St. John Chrysostom exalts him as a personage who is superior even to many angels and archangels (cf. "Panegyric" 7,3). In the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, inspired in Luke's account in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:15), describes him simply as "chosen vessel" (Inferno 2, 28), which means: instrument chosen by God. Others have called him the "Thirteenth Apostle" -- and he really insists much on the fact of being an authentic apostle, having been called by the Risen One, or even "the first after the Only One."

Certainly, after Jesus, he is the personality of the origins of whom we are the most informed. In fact, not only do we have Luke's account in the Acts of the Apostles, but also a group of letters that come directly from his hand and that without intermediaries reveals to us his personality and thought. Luke tells us that his original name was Saul (cf. Acts 7:58; 8:1, etc.), in Hebrew Saul [also] (cf. Acts 13:21), and he was a Jew of the Diaspora, given that the city of Tarsus is situated between Anatolia and Syria.

Very soon he went to Jerusalem to study the Mosaic law in-depth at the feet of the great rabbi Gamaliel (cf. Acts 22:3). He had also learned a manual and common trade, tent-making (cf. Acts 18:3), which later would allow him to support himself personally without being a weight for the Churches (cf. Acts 20:34; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 12:13-14).

For him it was decisive to know the community of those who professed themselves disciples of Jesus. Through them he had news of a new faith, a new "way," as was said, which did not put the law of God at the center, but rather the person of Jesus, crucified and risen, to whom was attributed the remission of sins.

As a zealous Jew, he considered this message unacceptable, more than that, scandalous, and felt the duty to persecute Christ's followers, also outside Jerusalem. Precisely on the road to Damascus, at the beginning of the 30s, according to his words, "Jesus Christ" made Saul "his own." While Luke recounts the event with abundance of details -- the way in which the light of the Risen One reached him, changing his life fundamentally -- in his letters he goes directly to the essential and speaks not only of a vision (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1), but of an illumination (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6), and above all of a revelation and a vocation in the encounter with the Risen One (cf. Galatians 1:15-16).

In fact, he will describe himself explicitly as "apostle by vocation" (cf. Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; or "apostle by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1), as if wishing to underline that his conversion was not the result of nice thoughts, of reflections, but the fruit of a divine intervention, of an unforeseen divine grace. Henceforth, everything that before was of value to him became, paradoxically, according to his words, loss and refuse (cf. Philippians 3:7-10). And from that moment he put all his energies at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. His existence would become that of an apostle who wants to "become all things to all men" (1 Corinthians 9:22) without reservations.

From here is derived a very important lesson for us: What matters is to put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so that our identity is characterized essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and his word. In his light, every other value must be recovered and purified of possible dross.

Another fundamental lesson left by Paul is the spiritual horizon that characterizes his apostolate. Acutely feeling the problem of the possibility for the Gentiles, namely, the pagans, to attain God, who is Jesus Christ crucified and risen who offers salvation to all men without exception, he dedicated himself to make this Gospel known, literally "good news," that is, the proclamation of grace destined to reconcile man with God, with himself and with others. From the first moment he understood that this was a reality that did not affect only the Jews, a certain group of men, but that it had universal value and affected all.

The Church of Antioch of Syria was the starting point of his trips, where for the first time the Gospel was proclaimed to the Greeks, and where the name "Christians" was also coined (cf. Acts 11:20.26), that is, believers in Christ. From there in the first instance he started off to Cyprus and then on different occasions to regions of Asia Minor (Pisidia, Laconia, Galatia), and later to those of Europe (Macedonia, Greece). More revealing were the cities of Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, not forgetting either Berea, Athens and Miletus.

Difficulties were not lacking in Paul's apostolate, which he faced with courage for love of Christ. He himself recalls that he had to endure "labors ... imprisonments ... beatings; danger of death, many times ... Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked ... on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

In a passage of the Letter to the Romans (cf. 15:24.28) is reflected his intention to go to Spain, to the limits of the West, to proclaim the Gospel everywhere to the ends of the then known earth. How can such a man not be admired? How can we not thank the Lord for having given us an apostle of this stature? Clearly, he would not have been able to face such difficult and at times so desperate situations, had he not had a reason of absolute value before which there could be no limits. We know that for Paul this reason was Jesus Christ, of whom he writes: "The love of Christ controls us ... he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), for us, for all.

In fact, the Apostle will give his supreme witness with his blood under the emperor Nero here, in Rome, where we keep and venerate his mortal remains. In the last years of the 1st century, Clement of Rome, my predecessor in this Apostolic See, wrote: "Because of jealousy and discord, Paul was obliged to show us how one obtains the prize of patience ... After preaching justice to all in the world, and after having arrived at the limits of the West, he endured martyrdom before the political rulers; in this way he left this world and reached the holy place, thus becoming the greatest model of perseverance" (To the Corinthians, 5).

May the Lord help us to live the exhortation that the Apostle left us in his letters: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Priest Sends SOS for Christians in Iraq
Faithful Flee, Churches Close in Baghdad

KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, OCT. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The recent escalation of violence in Baghdad has become too much for Christians caught in the crossfire, an Iraqi priest told the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Father Bashar Warda told the aid organization that the conflict between the various warring factions has forced the faithful left in Al Dora -- Baghdad's district known as the "Vatican of Iraq" -- to leave.

"Nearly 700 Christian families living there have been forced to leave toward North Iraq, Syria and Jordan," he said.

"Up to a dozen centers of Catholic life and worship, including the only theological university, Babel College, and at least five churches have been closed in Al Dora," added the priest.

Father Warda said, however, that there is hope.

The Church was able to open a primary school in eastern Baghdad using a building funded in part by Aid to the Church in Need. The priest reported that 380 children attend The Tent of Mary School, 70% of whom are Muslims.

Father Warda also said that Catholic medical centers are very popular among Muslims.

Given "the trust that the Muslims have in our educational and medical institutions, we should definitely keep them going," he said. "It is the only hope we have that some day Iraq will rise again from this terrible situation."

25 ottobre 2006

Portugal: Church Urges "No" Vote to Abortion

Portugal: Church Urges "No" Vote to Abortion
Referendum Proposed for Next Year

LISBON, Portugal, OCT. 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Lisbon's patriarch denies that he asked Catholics to abstain from voting in a proposed referendum on abortion, and says that in fact he is urging them to vote "no."

The confusion was sparked in reports following the Portuguese Parliament's approval, Oct. 19, of a proposal to ask voters whether to make abortion on demand legal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

"My replies to questions on the theory of a new referendum on abortion were incorrectly used by some of the media, and also by political forces and seem to have created confusion and even indignation in some people," Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo said in a communiqué on Oct. 19.

Following the parliamentary decision, the Portuguese Episcopal Conference published an official note, inviting Catholics explicitly to vote "no" on the referendum's question and, in addition, to be actively involved in the social debate.

The patriarch of Lisbon hopes for the participation of all the members of the Church and all those who want to "defend life."

"It is clear that respect for life is an exigency of Christian morality" to oppose abortion," added Cardinal Policarpo.

The cardinal continued: "As it is a precept of Christian morality, it is a grave sin to violate it."

The president of Portugal must approve the proposed referendum, which could take place early next year.

22 ottobre 2006

El Papa pide «valentía» para reconstruir Irak

El Papa pide «valentía» para reconstruir Irak
Al concluir un sangriento mes de Ramadán

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO, domingo, 22 octubre 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Al concluirse un mes de Ramadán que será recordado en la historia de Irak por el elevadísimo número de vidas humanas desgajadas por la violencia, Benedicto XVI pidió este domingo «valentía» tanto a los políticos iraquíes como a la comunidad internacional para apoyar la reconstrucción

La fiesta del final de este mes de ayuno y oración, Eid al Fitr, será celebrada por los musulmanes suníes este lunes y por los chiíes el martes.

«Contrastan dramáticamente con este clima gozoso las noticias que proceden de Irak sobre la gravísima situación de inseguridad y sobre la cruel violencia a la que están expuestos muchísimos inocentes sólo por ser chiíes, suníes o cristianos», reconoció el Papa tras rezar el Ángelus.

«Percibo la profunda preocupación que experimenta la comunidad cristiana y deseo asegurar que estoy cerca de ella, así como de todas las víctimas, y pido para todos fuerza y consuelo», reconoció al dirigirse a los 30.000 peregrinos congregados en la plaza de San Pedro del Vaticano.

El Papa pidió elevar oraciones al Todopoderoso «para que dé la fe y la valentía necesaria a los responsables religiosos y a los líderes políticos, locales y en todo el mundo, para apoyar a ese pueblo por el camino de la reconstrucción de la Patria, en la búsqueda de equilibrios compartidos, en el respeto recíproco, con la conciencia de que la multiplicidad de sus componentes es parte integrante de su riqueza».

Idiot of the day... how could you not know this was coming?

Feds charge Milwaukee man in stadium threat hoax
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

WAUWATOSA, Wis. -- Jake J. Brahm's jokes began on the Internet with remarks about his boredom and mundane day-to-day activities such as buying socks.

The 20-year-old grocery store clerk was still laughing Friday despite learning in federal court that he faces up to five years in prison on charges he posted prank Internet warnings of terrorist attacks against NFL stadiums.

When reporters asked him to comment after the hearing, Brahm smiled and laughed, saying nothing.

Brahm was accused of writing that radioactive "dirty bombs" would be detonated this weekend at seven football stadiums. He admitted posting the same threat about 40 times on various Web sites between September and Wednesday, investigators said.

"These types of hoaxes scare innocent people, cost business resources and waste valuable homeland security resources. We cannot tolerate this Internet version of yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater in the post-9/11 era," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in Newark, N.J., where Brahm was charged in a sealed complaint filed Thursday. One of the stadiums mentioned was Giants Stadium in nearby East Rutherford.

Brahm, of Wauwatosa, was charged with making a terrorist threat over the Internet, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. When the potential sentence was read in court, his mother, with whom he lives, closed her eyes and put her hand over her mouth.

U.S. Magistrate Patricia Gorence released Brahm without bail, citing his spotless record and strong community ties. She prohibited him from using the Internet, where he maintained several blogs, or traveling outside Wisconsin and New Jersey, where his lawyer said he plans to make a court appearance.

Brahm's attorney, Patrick Knight, said after the hearing that his client was shocked by the way the threats were received. He described Brahm as quiet and gentle and said he had not seen anything to indicate Brahm meant any real harm.

"When you're a 20-year-old, and you roll a snowball, and the next thing you know, it's as big as a house rolling down a hill, it surprises you a bit," Knight said.

Brahm's parents declined to comment at the courthouse or at their home in a middle-class neighborhood near the grocery store where Brahm had worked.

Richard Ruminski, the FBI agent in charge of the agency's Milwaukee office, said Brahm thought posting the threats would be funny.

"As I understand it, Mr. Brahm had put out this threat thinking it was so preposterous that no one would take it seriously," Ruminski said. "Unfortunately, he was wrong."

The warnings briefly set off a scare this week, before federal authorities announced the warnings were a hoax.

Wauwatosa police Chief Barry Weber said Brahm had bragged to friends about his actions.

An FBI official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation, told The Associated Press that Brahm acknowledged doing it as part of a "writing duel" with a man from Texas to see who could post the scariest threat.

One of the threats, dated Oct. 12, appeared on the Web site "The Friend Society," which links to various online forums and off-color cartoons. Its author, identified in the message as "javness," said that trucks would deliver radiological bombs Sunday to stadiums in Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Cleveland, Oakland, Calif., and the New York City area, and that Osama bin Laden would claim responsibility.

On a separate blog under Brahm's name, the writer posted a photo of a football stadium next to a list of goals for 2006, which included committing a felony and "trying to leave the house at least twice a week."

Brahm worked for the last 10 weeks at Outpost Natural Foods, a co-op around the corner from his house. "He was a normal guy. That's all we're going to say at this time," said Jeremy Layman, assistant manager.

Mallory McKenney, who graduated a year before Brahm from Wauwatosa East High School, said: "He was quiet but always seemed friendly whenever we were in a group of people together."

Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman in San Antonio, said there would be no charges against the Texas man because he did not take part in the writing of the threats.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press via ESPN.com

21 ottobre 2006

Bathtub Gin

I wonder if I can post my own videos....??

This is me and my friend playing around back in college, to the tune of Phish's "Bathtub Gin." It's alright... it was our first time playing together. I'm on the left.

Posted By:Bill

Get this video and more at MySpace.com

20 ottobre 2006

Landmark Violence Against Children Study Ignores Unborn Children, Sex-Selected Abortions

Landmark Violence Against Children Study Ignores Unborn Children, Sex-Selected Abortions

By Samantha Singson

(NEW YORK — C-FAM) The UN released its long-awaited study on Violence Against Children last week. Commissioned by outgoing Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2003, the study attempts to provide a detailed picture of the nature, extent and causes of violence against children and provide recommendations to States to combat the global problem. While undertaken as a comprehensive study, critics say there are several omissions to the review.

The beginning of the study states that “there can be no compromise in challenging violence against children. Children’s uniqueness – their potential and vulnerability, their depending on adults – makes it imperative that they have more, not less, protection from violence.”

Conservative UN experts note that the new study makes several positive recommendations such as the preservation of the family, the recognition of the primary protective role of the family over children, and the identification of the particular vulnerability of some marginalized groups of children, such as children with disabilities, children of minority groups and refugees. However, they are disappointed the new report is silent on children before birth. Even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) speaks about unborn children: “Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

A recent report entitled “Violence Against Babies” written by CRC expert Bruce Abramson identifies three types of intentional violence against unborn children and babies: infanticide, euthanasia and the intentional termination of lives of children during the prenatal period. He writes, “At 46 million acts of violence against children in the first nine months of their lives, this must be one of the most serious, if not the most serious, human rights issues today. And although infanticide and euthanasia of babies are not as serious from a point of view of numbers, all of these categories of violence are human rights problems under international law. And they all come under the scope of the General Assembly’s request for a comprehensive study, whether or not the UN study addresses them.”

The study also makes no mention of sex-selected abortions whereby parents are forced or coerced to choose one or two children and almost inevitably choose to abort unborn girls. According to scholar Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, sex selected abortions have permanently skewed the demographic balance of China, are in the process of skewing the demographic balance of India, and have also crept into Eastern Europe and Latin America.

The General Assembly’s third committee is scheduled to take action on the Violence Against Children study in November.

Original report is found here: http://www.violencestudy.org/r25

19 ottobre 2006

Pope Benedict XVI: Never Despair of God's Mercy

On Judas Iscariot and Matthias
"Never Despair of God's Mercy"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, dedicated to present the figures of Judas Iscariot and Matthias.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On completing today the review of the Twelve Apostles called directly by Jesus during his earthly life, we cannot fail to mention the one who always appears in the last place: Judas Iscariot. We want to associate him with the person who was later chosen to substitute him, namely, Matthias.

The name Judas alone arouses among Christians an instinctive reaction of reprobation and condemnation. The meaning of the name "Iscariot" is controversial: The most used explanation says that it means "man from Queriyyot," in reference to his native village, located in the surroundings of Hebron, mentioned twice in sacred Scripture (cf. Joshua 15:25; Amos 2:2).

Others interpret it as a variation of the term "hired assassin," as if it alluded to a guerrilla armed with a dagger, called "sica" in Latin. Finally, some see in the label the simple transcription of a Hebrew-Aramaic root that means: "He who was going to betray him." This mention is found twice in the fourth Gospel, that is, after a confession of faith by Peter (cf. John 6:71) and later during the anointing at Bethany (cf. John 12:4).

Other passages show that the betrayal was underway, saying: "He who betrayed him," as happened during the Last Supper, after the announcement of the betrayal (cf. Matthew 26:25) and later at the moment Jesus was arrested (cf. Matthew 26:46.48; John 18:2.5). However, the lists of the twelve recall the betrayal as something that already occurred: "Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him," says Mark (3:19); Matthew (10:4) and Luke (6:16) use equivalent formulas.

The betrayal, as such, took place in two moments: first of all in its planning phase, when Judas comes to an agreement with Jesus' enemies for 30 pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:14-16), and later in its execution with the kiss he gave the master in Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:46-50).

Anyway, the evangelists insist that his condition of apostle corresponded fully to him: He is repeatedly called "one of the twelve" (Matthew 26:14.47; Mark 14:10.20; John 6:71) or "of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).

Moreover, on two occasions, Jesus, addressing the apostles and speaking precisely of him, indicates him as "one of you" (Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:18; John 6:70; 13:21). And Peter would say of Judas "he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry" (Acts 1:17).

He is, therefore, a figure belonging to the group of those whom Jesus had chosen as companions and close collaborators. This poses two questions when it comes to explaining what happened. The first consists in asking ourselves how it was possible that Jesus chose this man and trusted him.

In fact, though Judas is the group's administrator (cf. John 12:6b; 13:29a), in reality he is also called "thief" (John 12:6a). The mystery of the choice is even greater, as Jesus utters a very severe judgment on him: "Woe to that man by whom the son of man is betrayed!" (Matthew 26:24).

This mystery is even more profound if one thinks of his eternal fate, knowing that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Matthew 27:3-4). Though he departed afterward to hang himself (cf. Matthew 27:5), it is not for us to judge his gesture, putting ourselves in God's place, who is infinitely merciful and just.

A second question affects the motive of Judas' behavior: Why did he betray Jesus? The question raises several theories. Some say it was his greed for money; others give an explanation of a messianic nature: Judas was disappointed on seeing that Jesus did not fit the program of the political-military liberation of his country.

In fact, the Gospel texts insist on another aspect: John says expressly that "the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him" (John 13:2); in the same way, Luke writes: "Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3).

In this way, one goes beyond historical motivations, explaining what occurred by basing it on Judas' personal responsibility, who yielded miserably to a temptation of the evil one. In any case, Judas' betrayal continues to be a mystery. Jesus treated him as a friend (cf. Matthew 26:50), but in his invitations to follow him on the path of the beatitudes he did not force his will or prevent him from falling into Satan's temptations, respecting human freedom.

In fact, the possibilities of perversion of the human heart are truly many. The only way to prevent them consists in not cultivating a view of life that is only individualistic, autonomous, but in always placing oneself on the side of Jesus, assuming his point of view.

We must try, day after day, to be in full communion with him. Let us recall that even Peter wanted to oppose him and what awaited him in Jerusalem, but he received a very strong rebuke: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mark 8:32-33).

After his fall, Peter repented and found forgiveness and grace. Judas also repented, but his repentance degenerated into despair and in this way it became self-destruction. It is an invitation for us to always remember what St. Benedict says at the end of Chapter 5 -- fundamental -- of his Rule: "Never despair of God's mercy." In fact, "God is greater than our hearts," as St. John says (1 John 3:20).

Let us remember two things. The first: Jesus respects our freedom. The second: Jesus waits for us to have the disposition to repent and to be converted; he is rich in mercy and forgiveness. In fact, when we think of the negative role Judas played, we must frame it in the higher way with which God disposed the events.

His betrayal led to the death of Jesus who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love and in self-giving to the Father (cf. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2.25). The verb "betray" is the Greek version which means "to give up." At times its subject is also God himself in person: Out of love, he "gave up" Jesus for us all (cf. Romans 8:32). In his mysterious plan of salvation, God assumes Judas' unjustifiable gesture as the motive for the total giving up of the Son for the redemption of the world.

On concluding, we wish to recall also he who, after Easter, was chosen to replace the traitor. In the Church of Jerusalem, two were put forward to the community and then lots were cast for their names: "Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Acts 1:23).

Precisely the latter was chosen, and in this way "he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26). We do not know anything more about him, with the exception that he was a witness of Jesus' public life (cf. Acts 1: 21-22), being faithful to him to the end. To the greatness of his fidelity was added later the divine call to take Judas' place, as though compensating his betrayal.

We draw a final lesson from here: Although there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to us to counterbalance the evil they do with our limpid testimony of Jesus Christ our lord and savior.

El relativismo no puede ser el fundamento de la democracia

El relativismo no puede ser el fundamento de la democracia, aclara la Santa Sede
Intervención de la Santa Sede ante la Organización para la Seguridad y la Cooperación en Europa

VARSOVIA, miércoles, 18 octubre 2006 (ZENIT.org).- La Santa Sede ha tomado la palabra ante la comunidad internacional para aclarar que el relativismo, según el cual no hay verdades definitivas, no puede convertirse en el fundamento filosófico de la democracia.

Así lo explicó monseñor Anthony Frontiero, oficial del Consejo Pontificio para la Justicia y la Paz, al intervenir en la reunión anual sobre derechos humanos de los Estados participantes en la Organización para la Seguridad y la Cooperación en Europa, celebrada en Varsovia del 2 al 13 de octubre.

En la noble promoción de la democracia, aclaró, «es decisivo resistir a la tendencia de reivindicar que el agnosticismo y el relativismo escéptico son la filosofía y la actitud básica que corresponde a las formas democráticas de la vida política».

El agnosticismo considera que no es posible conocer la existencia de Dios (de manera que aunque existiera sería irrelevante), el relativismo considera que todas las opiniones son relativas, pues no es posible conocer la verdad definitiva.

«A veces --denunció el representante vaticano--, los convencidos de conocer la verdad y adherir a ella son considerados como gente poco de fiar desde un punto de vista democrático, pues no aceptan que la verdad esté necesariamente determinada por la mayoría, o que esté sometida a cambios según las diferentes tendencias políticas».

La Santa Sede reiteró que «si no hay una verdad última que guíe la actividad política, entonces las ideas y las convicciones pueden ser fácilmente manipuladas por razones de poder».

«Como demuestra la historia --concluyó--, una democracia sin valores puede convertirse fácilmente en un totalitarismo abierto o encubierto».


18 ottobre 2006

Muslim scholars accept Pope's statement

Muslim scholars accept Pope's statement
By SHAFIKA MATTAR/Associated Press Writer

AMMAN, Jordan -- Dozens of Muslim scholars and chief muftis from numerous countries have accepted Pope Benedict XVI's statement of regret for his remarks on Islam and violence, the editor of a Muslim journal said Friday.

The scholars have signed an open letter that will be delivered to a Vatican envoy in the hopes of engaging the pope in a dialogue to counter prejudice against Islam, said the Jordanian-based editor of Islamica Magazine, Sohail Nakhooda.

Nakhooda said the leading clerics behind the letter were Sheik Habib Ali of the Taba Institute in the United Arab Emirates and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the special adviser to Jordan's King Abdullah II.

In a speech last month in his native Germany, the pontiff quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

The citation provoked protests from Muslims across the world. The pope said the quotation did not reflect his personal view of Islam, and he expressed deep regret that Muslims had been offended by it. Some Muslim leaders had demanded a fuller apology.

Nakhooda said the 38 signatories to the letter accepted the pope's "personal expression of sorrow and assurance that the controversial quote did not reflect his personal opinion."

Nakhooda added the letter, which will be published on Islamica Magazine's Web site on Saturday, is "an attempt to engage with the papacy on theological grounds in order to tackle wide-ranging misconceptions about Islam in the Western world."

Nakhooda said signatories include the grand muftis of Egypt, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Oman, as well as the Iranian Shiite cleric Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri, and Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of Georgetown University.

Islamica Magazine

Jesus Is Catholic

Jesus Is Catholic by Hans Urs von Balthasar

From In The Fullness of Faith: On the Centrality of the Distinctively Catholic

Jesus must be Catholic, otherwise his Church, which follows him and is promised his fullness, could not be called Catholic. Being Catholic means embracing everything, leaving nothing out. How can an individual human being do this, even if he is the only begotten Son of God? We shall not explain this by theological speculation. It is something that can reveal itself to us only if, in the openness of faith, we let our eyes rest on his self-manifestation. He is the revelation of someone else, of the Father, who is "greater" than he, and yet with whom he is "one". This is the message of his words and his life.

He can reveal the Father in this way only through a twofold movement: he steps forward (with divine authority) in order to make the Father visible, and simultaneously he steps back (as the Suffering Servant) in order to reveal the Father, not himself. We must not fail to discern him in his mode of stepping back, for he is the only way to the Father. In other words, the Father reveals himself by revealing the Son; he gives himself by giving his Son: dando revelat, et revelando dat (Bernard). Nor must we cling to him in his stepping forth, for, in all the density of his flesh, his whole aim is to be transparent, revealing the heart of God. In the same breath he can say, "My flesh is food indeed" and "It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail." We must not hedge him round with a pietistic Jesus-spirituality on the grounds that "only the Son knows the Father"; he is the Door, and a door is not for clinging to: it is for going through. He is "the way": we are not meant to stand still on it but walk along it, toward "my Father's house", which has "many rooms". And at the same time we do not leave these rooms and this path behind us, for Jesus is also the light of the world, the truth, the Resurrection, the presence of eternal life. But he is these things, not in his own power, but because he manifests the Father's love.

Lest we become completely confused and wearied by this riddle of his simultaneous stepping forward and stepping back, his appearances and disappearances, he goes beyond it: when he rises from the dead and goes back to the Father, he sends the Holy Spirit from the Father. This Holy Spirit is the one, whole, personal manifestation and confirmation of this baffling unity between Father and Son, the divine "We" that is more than the mere "I" and "Thou". It leads beyond the endless process of counting up, of supplementary definitions, to the reality of mutual presence and indwelling, without causing Father and Son to submerge in the Spirit. The Spirit comes to the aid of our helplessness in the face of the unity of opposites so clearly expressed in the gospel. He rewards us for not trying to resolve this apparent contradiction by our own efforts-for this would be to destroy the core of the Catholic reality: if we are to see things properly, we must include the opposite of what we have seen. It is not that what we see suddenly turns ("dialectically") into its opposite, but that in the lowliness of Jesus there is a direct revelation of his lofty nature; that in his severity we discern his mercy, etc.

And it is not that, in his human lowliness, he shows the greatness of the divine Father; it is not that his human severity prepares the way for the Father's compassion. Rather, his lowliness reveals the humiliation of the Father's love, and that shows his greatness. Thus, too, his human severity reveals the unshakable nature of the Father's love, and hence of its compassion. So, in the distinction between Father and Son, we discern simultaneously the unity of the divine essence, and, within it, the possibility of uniting those qualities that seem to us irreconcilable. The famous Catholic "and"--Scripture "and" Tradition, etc.--which is the object of Protestant criticism, has its true origin here, and here alone.

A Church can be Catholic only because God is Catholic first, and because, in Jesus Christ and ultimately in the Holy Spirit, this catholicity on God's part has opened itself to the world, simultaneously revealing and giving itself. The Spirit is "Person", the "We" in God: he provides the basis for the "we" that exists between God and ourselves, and hence too between men. But we would know and possess nothing of this if Jesus Christ had not stood at the alpha and omega of all God's ways in the world, as the form of revelation available to anyone who is open to it, i.e., is prepared to believe.

The Spirit Proves ... What Is Beyond Proof

The Spirit's chief quality, in obediently allowing himself to be sent out into the world by Father and Son, is his freedom. He blows whither he will and cannot be fixed in any particular form. He appears as a hovering presence (the "dove"), communication ("tongues"), devouring transformation ("flame"), a breeze that allows us to breathe deeply ("wind"). He "interprets" the mysterious figure of Jesus, revealing its divine being, its trinitarian dimensions, its mystery-quality; in this way the Spirit proves and "convicts" (Jn 16:8). He withdraws Jesus from all rationalistic incursions, and he also prevents Scripture (which he inspired), dogma (which interprets) and the Church's discipline from being swallowed up in purely worldly categories. He lends his wings to the Woman of the Apocalypse so that she may flee to the desert. He refuses to let himself be caught and domesticated, not even by pneumatic "methods" of prayer. We must not cling to Jesus, but let him ascend "to my Father and your Father"; only if we exhibit a readiness that stipulates no conditions can the Spirit, in his freedom, prove to us that the entire Catholic revelation-God, Christ, the Church- was and remains a project undertaken by the sovereign free love of God.

God's Love Is Catholic

God's love is ever greater; we can never catch up with it. It has no other ground but itself. It comes to us from ever further afield and goes forth to embrace wider vistas than I could ever imagine. That is why, in my limitedness, I always have to add an "and"; but what I thus "add" has always been there in the love of God.

When God, in sovereign freedom, enters into a world, he is not doing something else, something additional (as if God were Catholic in himself and became even more Catholic by bringing what is not-God, creation, into his totality); the Father of Jesus Christ is never any other than the Creator, who, showing them great care, carries all his creatures in his bosom. Everything temporal has its place within God's eternity. The Incarnation is not an episode in the life of God: the Lamb is slain from all eternity, and hence was born, grew up, and rose again from all eternity too. In itself, the adopting of human nature, with all its ignorance and limitation, into the divine nature is not an event in time, although the human nature so adopted, like ours, was something living and dying in time. (C. S. Lewis) Furthermore, the process of integrating creation into God's world (and within the time-dimension it really is a process: the lost sheep is searched for, carried home and put back into the flock) is always present in God's plan of salvation (cf. Eph 1 :1-10) as a complete design; it is carried out in a sequence that is unbreakable (cf. Rom 8:29f.) and in which neither human nor divine freedom is overplayed.

At the beginning there stands the "and" in "God and the world". In its abstractness, in this context of juxtaposition, however, it would not be a Catholic "and" unless it were contained, right from the outset, in the concrete "hyphen" represented by the incarnate Son (and he is more than a mere "mediator" between two parties: he is the One who creates unity: Gal 3:20) and the sending of the Holy Spirit, who brings everything to a conclusion (yet definitively opens everything up), enabling the creature to participate in the "divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4) as well as embracing it-as the divine "We"--in the community of the Trinity. This community cannot perfect itself apart from the mutual presence to one another of the divine Persons; equally, it cannot do without the reciprocity of God and his creature if it is to show forth its precious richness.

Just as this catholicity goes beyond a dialectic of reversed opposites, it also goes beyond a coincidentia oppositorum. Rather, it is an inclusion: nature is included in grace, the sinner is included in forgiving love, and all plans and purposes are included in a supreme gratis--"for nothing".


17 ottobre 2006

Orthodox Priest's Murder Haunts Iraqi Christians

Cleric Was Slain Before Ransom Could Be Raised

MOSUL, Iraq, OCT. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Officials were still trying to raise ransom money for a kidnapped Syrian-Orthodox priest when his mutilated body was found in Iraq last week.

About 500 people attended the funeral of Father Paulos Eskandar at Mosul's Syrian-Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem, who was abducted and found beheaded.

The AsiaNews agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions reported that the relatives of the priest confirmed that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of $350,000 and that his Church apologize for the Pope's Regensburg speech that touched on Islam.

Taken out of context and distorted by the media, Benedict XVI's address, during his recent visit to Germany, led to misunderstanding in Muslim circles.

The Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad condemned the murder of the Syrian-Orthodox priest and said that the kidnappers "had negotiated with the Church, but demanded an amount that was too high" for his release and could not be raised in time.

"For this reason they decapitated him," he lamented last Friday.

Father Eskander's decapitated body was found on Oct. 11 in Mosul's Muharaibin neighborhood. His arms showed signs of torture, confirmed AsiaNews. He had been kidnapped two days earlier. His funeral was held Thursday.

AsiaNews reported that Iraq's highest Sunni religious authority, the Ulema Council, called the priest's death a "cowardly murder."

The news agency quoted a statement of the Muslim organization: "The Ulema Council condemns this cowardly killing and will not forget those who are behind this crime, committed by people who want to deprive the country of every religious and national symbol that can hold Iraq together by trying to start a religious war between sons of the same nation."


On Oct. 12, Monsignor Philippe Najim, representative of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Baghdad to the Holy See, stressed on Vatican Radio that an "enormous ransom figure" had been demanded for the Syrian-Orthodox priest.

"And we were willing to talk about this with the kidnappers and give the sum requested," the monsignor said. "Despite this, we have found his body."

The murder, he added, has "terrified all Christians in Iraq, whether or not they are Catholics."

Monsignor Najim remembered Father Eskandar, who carried out his work in service of the Orthodox and Catholics as "a simple man, loved by everyone, who did no more than welcome people in his church to pray. … He had no political or any other kind of ties.

"He was a man of God, esteemed by Catholics and non-Catholics, also by Muslims, and gave his service to all."

Monsignor Najim added that the news has been confirmed that young Christian women are being kidnapped and abused in Iraq.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told AsiaNews: "In Baghdad and Mosul, Christians live in fear. Families don't know where to go. They are isolated, without any protection."

"Despite this situation, I exhort Christians, especially young people, to be patient and to stay, without letting themselves to be discouraged; to have patriotic and ecclesial responsibility, taking part in the political work to reconstruct the country, reinforce common life, promote the civilization of life, peace and security worthy of the human being."

16 ottobre 2006

On second thought....

...this one speaks for itself...


...and.... she is pretty cute! :-)

YouTube political bias?

I don't think so, although they do not seem to care about offending Christians... and the Malkin video is still running there, as well.

Check it:

15 ottobre 2006

Serie A recap

Internazionale moves to top of Serie A

By Jon Fisher Special to PA SportsTicker

MILAN, Italy (Ticker) - Internazionale moved to the top of the Serie A table after Dejan Stankovic's brace helped them come from behind to beat Catania 2-1 at the San Siro on Sunday.

The reigning champions had a scare after falling behind to Giuseppe Mascara's strike. Stankovic equalised and then netted again 15 minutes from time, saving the blushes of Julio Cruz, who had earlier missed a penalty.

Roma dropped down to second in the standings after they lost 1-0 to lowly Reggina at the Stadio Oreste Granillo.

Nicola Amoruso was the hero for the home side, striking a beautiful second-half volley to give his team three vital points in their fight for survival.

Palermo missed the chance to become outright league leaders after they were beaten 3-2 by Atlanta in a five-goal thriller at the Stadio Renzo Barbera. Cristiano Doni had put Atalanta ahead before Mark Bresciano levelled for the home side.

Claudio Rivalta again gave the visitors the lead before Eugenio Corini's penalty drew Palermo level for the second time. But Fernando Tissone's second-half strike secured victory for Atalanta.

Ten-man Udinese moved up to fourth after their 3-0 win condemned Parma to their fifth consecutive league defeat at the Ennio Tardini.

Sulley Muntari gave the visitors the lead inside the opening 10 minutes, before Vincenzo Iaquinta doubled their advantage from the penalty spot minutes later. The Italy striker then grabbed his second of the game midway through the second-half to wrap up the three points.

Goalscorer Muntari was later sent off for the away side after lashing out at Vincenzo Grella.

At the wrong end of the table, second-half goals by Adrian Mutu and Luca Toni secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory for Fiorentina over Empoli.

Cagliari goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti saved a first-half Massimo Oddo penalty as the Sardinians held Lazio to a goalless draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

Joe Bizera and Daniele Conti were both sent off for Cagliari towards the end of the highly-charged clash, with Oddo also seeing red for Lazio.

Torino claimed their first win of the season with a narrow 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Chievo in a tight match at the Stadio delle Alpi, Roberto Stellone netting the only goal of the game three minutes after the break.

Ten-man Livorno secured their third victory of the campaign with a classy 2-0 win at Ascoli.

Tomas Danilevicius opened the scoring midway though the first-half, before Antonio Filippini's goal on the hour mark doubled his team's lead. Giovanni Pasquale was later sent off for the visitors.

On Saturday, AC Milan drew their third consecutive game as they came from behind to claim a point against Sampdoria.

Emiliano Bonazzoli put the home side ahead after 68 minutes, but Kaka earned Carlo Ancelotti's side a 1-1 draw five minutes from time.

In Siena, three men were sent off as the hosts scored twice in injury-time to complete a dramatic late comeback and see off high-flying Messina 3-1.

Abdoulay Konko equalised Cristian Rigano's 20th-minute penalty opener, before Siena's Vincent Candela joined Messina duo Carmine Coppola and Nicolas Cordova in the dressing room for seeing red.

Nevertheless, substitutes Mario Frick and Francesco Cozza popped up late on to give the game a thrilling finale.

14 ottobre 2006

Christian BA employee to take legal action over suspension for wearing cross

British Airways suspends a Christian for wearing a cross - but lets Muslims wear hijabs


Nadia Eweida: BA said she had failed to comply with their 'uniform regulations'

A committed Christian said today she planned to take legal action against her employers British Airways after the airline ruled that displaying her crucifix breached uniform rules

Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida was sent home after refusing to remove the crucifix which breached BA's dress code.

Her treatment by BA - which styles itself as the "world's favourite airline" - brought condemnation both from Christian groups and members of other faiths last night.

BA's chief executive Willie Walsh has upheld the action against Miss Eweida for failing to comply with "uniform regulations" despite himself coming under fire recently for failing to wear a tie.

Miss Eweida, who has an unblemished record during seven years at BA, is suing her employer for religious discrimination after being suspended from work without pay for two weeks.

She said her treatment was all the more extraordinary as she and fellow employees had just undergone "diversity training" - including receiving advice from pressure group Stonewall on how to treat gays and lesbians in the workplace.

The airline's uniform code states that staff must not wear visible jewellery or other 'adornments' while on duty without permission from management.

It makes exceptions for Muslim and Sikh minorities by allowing them to wear hijabs and turbans.

Under rules drawn up by BA's 'diversity team' and 'uniform committee', Sikh employees can even wear the traditional iron bangle - even though this would usually be classed as jewellery - while Muslim workers are also allowed prayer breaks during work time.

But Miss Eweida, 55, from Twickenham, insisted her cross, which is smaller than a ten pence piece, was not jewellery but an _expression of her deep Christian faith.

She questioned why she was being forced to hide her religion when BA's Muslim and Sikh workers could express theirs.

Miss Eweida said last night: "I will not hide my belief in the Lord Jesus. British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, Sikhs to wear a turban and other faiths religious apparel.

"Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways, but I stand up for the rights of all citizens."

Her case comes at a time of intense debate over the rights of individuals to express their belief - following Jack Straw's call for Muslim women to remove their veils.

Earlier this month it emerged BBC governors had agonised over whether newsreader Fiona Bruce should wear a small cross on a chain around her neck while on air in case it might cause offence by suggesting a religious affiliation.

Miss Eweida, a Coptic Christian whose father is Egyptian and mother English, was ordered to remove her cross or hide it beneath a company cravat by a duty manager at Heathrow's Terminal 4 last month.

She then sought permission from management to wear the chain - but was turned down.

When Miss Eweida, who is unmarried, refused to remove the necklace she was offered the choice of suspension with pay or unpaid leave, pending a disciplinary hearing.

Following a meeting with her managers on 22 September 2006, Customer Service Manager Caroline Girling told Miss Eweida in a letter: "You have been sent home because you have failed to comply with a reasonable request.

"You were asked to cover up or remove your cross and chain which you refused to do.

"British Airways uniform standards stipulate that adornments of any kind are not to be worn with the uniform."

In a letter to Miss Eweida's MP, Vince Cable, last week, BA chief executive Willie Walsh insisted his employee had not yet been disciplined but said she was off work for failing to comply with "uniform regulations".

He added: "We have previously made changes to our uniform policy to accommodate requests, after a detailed evaluation process including Health and Safety assessment to incorporate the wearing of Sikh bangles."

But Miss Eweida said: "BA refuses to recognise the wearing of a cross as a manifestation of the Christian faith, but rather defines it as a piece of decorative jewellery.

"I would like to say how disappointed I am in this decision and the lack of respect shown by BA towards the Christian faith.

"I have been badly treated. I am a loyal and hardworking employee and for seeking similar rights to other employees, I have been treated harshly by British Airways management.

"British Airway can be great again, but it needs to treat Christians fairly. I am not ashamed of my faith."

Miss Eweida is suing BA under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Her case is being supported by her union, the TGWU, and she has hired Paul Diamond, a barrister specialising in religious affairs and an adviser for the Keep Sunday Special campaign, to represent her at her employment tribunal.

And a petition of support has been signed by more than 200 fellow workers.

BA is already at the centre of a criminal investigation into alleged price-fixing - which has led to the resignations of two executives.

The airline has come under fire in the past for its adherence to political correctness.

A decade ago it attempted to ditch its traditional Union Flag tailfin in favour of an ethnic design - which provoked the anger of Baroness Thatcher.

Mr Cable, MP for Twickenham and Liberal Democrat deputy leader said: "It is absolutely mind boggling that Britain 's flag-carrying airline could treat its employees in such a disgraceful and petty manner.

"Nadia is a devout Christian who was displaying her faith, but in a modest and totally unprovocative manner.

"It is absolutely right that other religious minorities be allowed exemption from the dress code, but why can't a Christian be treated in the same way?"

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of the Christian charity the Barnabas Fund, said: "Discrimination against Christians is commonplace in Muslim-majority contexts, such as Egypt where Nadia's family roots are. "Now we see the same thing increasingly happening within the UK .

"Her Sikh and Muslim colleagues at BA can show their faith publicly in what they wear, but Nadia and other Christians cannot. All we are asking for is a level playing field for all faiths."

Andrea Williams of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship said: "The forces of political correctness are such that an individual needs to be very determined to protect their rights."


"First they Came"

YouTube is having issues with keeping to their "freedom of expression" on their site... probably worried that they will be attacked. Find out more: http://michellemalkin.com/archives/006070.htm

Here is the video everyone is talking about, made by a (according to the culturally-sensitive New York Times) "Filipina Firecracker."

And while I am in video mode, here is an even more disturbing video. It seems that YouTube is having "Numa Numa Jihad" Contests.... bizarre, and disturbing, but reality.

Benedicto XVI recibe al Dalai Lama

Encuentro privado «de contenidos religiosos»

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO, viernes, 13 octubre 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Benedicto XVI recibió este viernes en audiencia por primera vez al líder espiritual budista del Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso, el decimocuarto Dalai Lama, según han confirmado fuentes de la Santa Sede.

El padre Ciro Benedettini, vicedirettore della sala stampa vaticana, en declaraciones a la prensa ha informado que se ha tratado de un «encuentro privado, de cortesía, de contenidos religiosos».

Es la primera audiencia que concede el actual pontífice al decimocuarto Dalai Lama, premio Nobel de la Paz en 1989.

El Dalai Lama se había encontrado en numerosas ocasiones en el Vaticano con Juan Pablo II.

Tras el encuentro, el líder budista reconoció en declaraciones a los periodistas que el encuentro había sido «muy, muy agradable».


Loved before all ages!

Loved before all ages!

2 Timothy 1:9
[God] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago.

Some passages of Scripture are incredibly rich in their implications. This is one. The truth that God loves us before we were ever created, and while we were yet sinners, and despite all the ups and downs of our choices to obey or disobey him, and in fulfillment of his purpose rather than our own niceness or ingenuity is more than we can really take in.

But that's the facts. God had you-you yourself-in mind when the Big Bang happened. He was, so to speak, already watching you as you sit there at your keyboard reading this when the first fishes swam in the primordial sea. He held you in his heart while the Himalayas were being formed and as eons of time were rolling slowly past. It was for you-you yourself-that he called Abraham from Ur and Moses from Egypt and David from the sheepfold and on to the throne. It was for you that Jesus Christ hung on a cross and all the history of the world since then has unfolded. All this grace is given "ages ago" by the God who sees the end from the beginning and orders all things to his glory and our good in Christ Jesus. Just a little something to make your head spin today.

Just a Word of Encouragement from Mark Shea & Jeff Cavins

13 ottobre 2006

Prelates Urge Bush to Veto Secure Fence Act

Prelates Urge Bush to Veto Secure Fence Act
Fear That More Migrants Would Die

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A U.S. bishops' conference official asked President George Bush to veto a bill that would authorize construction of up to 700 miles of fencing and barriers along the Mexican border.

Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. conference, made his request in a letter sent to Bush regarding the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

"To be clear," Bishop Skylstad wrote, "the U.S. Catholic bishops are supportive of efforts to enforce immigration law and secure our borders, so long as the mechanism and strategies applied toward this end protect human dignity and protect human life."

"However," the bishop of Spokane added, "we are opposed to this legislation because we believe it could lead to the deaths of migrants attempting to enter the United States and increased smuggling-related violence along our border. We also believe it would send the wrong signal to our peaceful neighbor to the south, Mexico, as well as the international community."

Bishop Skylstad, 72, also noted that a recent study from the Government Accountability Office found migrant deaths have doubled since 1995, about the time the government began a series of border enforcement initiatives designed to stem illegal entries at ports-of-entry and other traditional crossing routes.

Since this time, close to 3,000 immigrants have died in remote portions of the U.S. Southwest.

The bishop continued: "In our estimation, the erection of a border fence would force migrants, desperate to find employment to support their families, to seek alternative and more dangerous ways to enter the country, contributing to an increase in deaths, including women and children. …

"We strongly feel that the development of just global economic and trade policies designed to help create living wage jobs in countries of origin would permit persons to remain home and support themselves and their families."


09 ottobre 2006

Intolerance for Christians

Mum's the Word on Homosexuality
Christians Facing Prosecution for Comments

By Father John Flynn

LONDON, OCT. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In many countries speaking out publicly against homosexuality leads to serious legal problems. And in the battle under way to protect freedom of speech for Christians to express their beliefs, the future is far from clear.

A recent victory in Britain saw legal charges against Stephen Green dropped, the Telegraph newspaper reported Sept. 29. Green was arrested by police in early September after handing out pamphlets at a "Mardi Gras" homosexual festival in Cardiff, Wales. The pamphlet contained Bible verses about homosexuality. During a hearing before a magistrate's court last week, the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would not proceed with charges.

A Sept. 6 report in the Daily Mail newspaper quoted police as saying Green had not been violent or aggressive. His only offense was distributing the pamphlet. The article noted it was the latest in a series of police actions regarding opposition to homosexuality. Writer Lynette Burrows was warned about a "homophobic incident" after she suggested on a BBC Radio Five Live program that homosexuals did not make ideal adoptive parents.

A Christian couple in Lancashire were warned after they complained about their local council's policies in favor of homosexual rights. And police in London investigated Sir Iqbal Sacranie, a former leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, after he said in an interview that homosexuality was harmful.

Police behavior regarding homosexuality was questioned by the Christian Institute in a press release dated Sept. 22. While action against Green was pending, the group noted that the Gay Police Association will not be prosecuted for publishing an advertisement that accused Christians of violent assaults on homosexuals. More than 40,000 complaints by the public were made about the advertisement, according to the Christian Institute.

EU pressure

The Green case could soon be followed by many others, if pending regulations proposed by the British government are approved. The Sexual Orientation Regulations would, among other provisions, make discrimination against homosexuals illegal.

In a commentary published Oct. 2 in the Telegraph, Philip Johnston noted that the regulations were being introduced at the insistence of the European Union. After a process of consultation, which saw strong opposition from religious groups, the government will now consider whether to modify the proposed regulations.

One of the problems involved, observed Johnston, is the conflict of rights. Christians argue for their right to express views based on their religious beliefs, while homosexual groups want any opposition silenced on the grounds of prohibiting discrimination. "These are the murky waters that we enter when we seek to enshrine more and more 'rights' in legislation," Johnston concluded.

The proposed regulations came under strong fire from Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien. In a homily to parliamentarians delivered June 14, he warned that the rules are "a threat to freedom of conscience" and "to religious freedom."

The cardinal's words were delivered right at the heart of the British Parliament, in a crypt at the House of Commons.

"Laws which are passed by any human authority must always respect the dignity of the human person and each person's integrity of conscience, whether that is a conscience formed by Christian principles or any other belief system," Cardinal O'Brien insisted. "The role of the state is overreached when it tramples legitimate moral freedoms and when it imposes values which are without rational and sociological merit."

This lack of freedom was illustrated by a recent case in Scotland. Nine firefighters from Strathclyde were disciplined after refusing to hand out safety leaflets at a "gay pride" march, the Guardian reported Sept. 1. The march took place in June. As punishment, the firefighters were ordered to undergo intensive "diversity training." One of the men was reduced in rank, consequently losing around 5,000 pounds ($9,400) in salary.

Writing in the Sunday Herald on Sept. 3, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow explained that while homosexuals, along with all other groups, should be given fire-safety advice, the place to do this is not at a carnival-type festival. The firefighters, he noted, were aware that by going to the event they "would be subjected to cat-calls, inappropriate comments and, for some of them, gross insults to their religious beliefs."

The archbishop said that the real reason for handing out the material at the march "was not to offer life-saving advice to the individuals present -- it was to enable the brigade as an institution to be seen as tolerant, 'embracing diversity' and politically correct." The tolerance, however, did not extend to the firefighters' beliefs.


Similar risks exist in the United States. Robert J. Smith, a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, lost his job after arguing on a local cable show that homosexuality amounted to "sexual deviancy."

According to the June 16 edition of the Baltimore Sun newspaper, Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. fired Smith. Ehrlich described Smith's remarks as "inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable," and as being "in direct conflict to my administration's commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity."

After his dismissal Smith, a Catholic, argued he had a right to express his opinion. His comments took place during a talk show that included the topic of homosexual marriage.

In California, meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law making it illegal for state-funded service providers, such as police and fire departments and universities, to discriminate against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered persons.

Christian groups, along with others, criticized the move, saying it threatens religious colleges, day care centers and nonprofit organizations, the Washington Times reported Aug. 31. Groups that have government contracts or receive funding from the state, now run the risk of having to accept homosexual, bisexual or transsexual employees.

A victory, for now

In Canada, Christians earlier this year won a long-running battle for freedom of religious speech. The National Post newspaper on April 17 reported that a three-judge panel of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned the judgment in the case of Hugh Owens. A Christian, he previously was convicted of the crime of placing newspaper ads citing Bible passages against homosexuality.

In 1997 Owens put an ad in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in a personal response to ads celebrating "Gay Pride Week." He was found guilty of violating Saskatchewan's human rights code, even though it contains exemptions for religious belief and free speech. The April ruling, however, was far from a clear victory, commented the National Post. The court hinted that in today's circumstances, with greater legal rights for homosexuals, such an ad might not be allowed.

In fact, a pastoral letter from Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary expressed concern over threats to Christians opposing homosexuality. In his letter, dated Sept. 6, Bishop Henry encouraged Catholics to speak out against the legal changes last year to allow same-sex marriages.

"The homosexual life-style must now be treated as wholesome and legitimate, when in reality it is unwholesome and immoral," he said. "Freedom of speech is threatened for those who oppose same-sex 'marriage' in public." And civil servants who have refused to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies have been dismissed.

In an address to bishops from the Ontario province of Canada, Benedict XVI warned of a dramatic split between the Gospel and contemporary culture. In his Sept. 8 speech the Pope noted how in the name of "tolerance, … your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse."

"Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person," the Pontiff explained. Catholics involved in politics and civic life "cannot compromise on this principle," he added. Those principles may likely face further battles.

What it Means to be Born Again

What it Means to be Born Again!

1 Peter 1:23You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

The term "born again" has been bowdlerized into meaning a sort of overwhelming emotional experience. Indeed, many people assume that if you haven't had an emotional experience, you can't have been "born anew" in a biblical sense. But this is false. Being born again is rooted, not in emotion, but on the spiritual fact of entering into the life of the Blessed Trinity in the sacrament of baptism. Babies feel no emotion at this (beyond perhaps irritation at being woken out of a sound sleep by somebody splashing water on them). Nonetheless, the Spirit of God is poured out on them in the sacrament and the Blessed Trinity takes up his dwelling place in them. Likewise, many adult converts to Christianity have become Christians, not at the end of a crying jag, but in a rather laid-back way, emotionally speaking. That does not invalidate their conversion. To be born again is to receive the supernatural life of the Blessed Trinity into our souls. That can happen with a lot of emotion or with little emotion. It can be accompanied by serenity, storms of angst, or a simple prayer. Normatively, it happens in baptism but, if baptism is unavailable for some reason, it can happen through the baptism of desire. In any case, the core of it is not our emotion but the action of the Blessed Trinity, sharing his supernatural life with us. Indeed, if we focus on emotion as the be all and end all of being "born again" we can actually begin to worship emotion rather than God and demand that we have "that special feeling" or we will stop believing in God. Emotions are nice. But building our faith on them is exactly the sort of thing Jesus warned against. Build on the rock of God's promise of new life in baptism, not on the sands of emotion.