29 settembre 2009

The Mind That Is Catholic

Father Schall on Embracing the Whole of Reality

By Annamarie Adkins

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has made the recovery of the mutual interdependence of faith and reason one of the signature themes of his pontificate.

And no one has been as prolific a commentator on this important question raised by the Holy Father than Jesuit Father James Schall.

Father Schall, a professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, has penned, among many other writings, a book-length commentary on Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture. The lecture caused an international sensation for its mention of the presence of violence in the Islamic tradition, but the lecture's key themes related to the relationship between faith and reason were left to be unpacked by writers such as Father Schall.

Now Father Schall has written a new book, "The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays" (CUA Press). The book explores the habits of being that allow one to use the tools of faith and reason to explore all things seen and unseen.

Father Schall shared with ZENIT why all people, not just professional philosophers and theologians, can have a mind that is truly Catholic.

ZENIT: What does it mean to have a mind that is Catholic? What are its key elements?

Father Schall: The mind that is Catholic is open to all sources of information, including what comes from Revelation.

Revelation is not opposed to reason as if it were some blind source. Revelation has its own intelligibility that can be grasped and compared or addressed to what we know in reason.

Catholicism does not define reason as if it only meant a reason that follows some methodology where the terms of the method decide what we are allowed to see or consider.

The very definition of mind is that power that is open to all that is. We human beings are not gods. But we do know and the object of our knowledge is all that is.

It is characteristic of the Catholic mind to insist that all that is knowable is available and considered by us in our reflections on reality.

ZENIT: Are there clear points of distinction between the Catholic mind and a "Protestant mind" or a "secular mind"?

Father Schall: Monsignor Robert Sokolowski says that the method of philosophy is precisely to make distinctions. Obviously, the Protestant mind and the secular mind strive to distinguish themselves on many things from the Catholic mind.

If no one thought there was any difference between them, Catholicism, Protestantism and secularism would already be one. This does not deny that it is quite possible that they agree on some things.

It is the method of Aquinas to find out what these points of agreement and difference are. I always like the way Aquinas recalls Aristotle's comment that "a small error in the beginning leads to a large error in the end."

The ecumenical movement has tried valiantly to find points of agreement. It has found many. But errors do appear and grow.

I once wrote an essay entitled "Protestantism and Atheism." ("Thought," XXXIX (Dec. 1964) pp. 531-558.) The burden of that essay had to do with the importance of reason to Catholicism. This stress on reason is found in Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture, among other places.

The reason, I thought at the time, that Protestantism led to atheism was because it evaporated the world of meaning and insisted on revelation alone. Once the world is there absent reason, it is easy, following Aristotle's dictum, to conclude that God is not in the world in any sense.

It was the mind of Aquinas, following the line of the origin of "existence," to insist that we really did find reality in existing things, but they did not cause their own existence.

It was from here we could argue to God's existence so that, if revelation happened, it would be intelligible to us as a response to our own lack of knowledge of ultimate things.

ZENIT: What are the necessary habits or practices for forming and maintaining a "mind that is Catholic?" Likewise, where are the primary sources from which the Catholic mind draws its inspiration?

Father Schall: Of course, one of the good practices will be to know Aristotle, a great mind who, if I might with some irony put it that way, was "Catholic" before there was Catholicism.

This is but another way of saying that Catholicism is more than eager to know what the human mind can know by itself. The mind that is Catholic in this sense is more than Catholic. Or, to put it another way, we cannot be Catholic if we are only Catholic.

We think, in the end, that what is peculiar in Catholicism is not opposed to reason but rather constitutes a completion of it.

It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a "theory" whereby we can live without the truth.

The "primary" source of the Catholic mind is reality itself, including the reality of revelation.

We are not primarily students of what other people thought, but of what is. This is why ordinary and unlearned people are not excluded from the Catholic mind.

The source of our knowledge is not a book but experience of being and living, an experience that will often include those whose lives are already touched by grace.

So I read with great profit everyone from Justin Martyr to Aquinas and Benedict. But they take me not to themselves but to the truth.

The great "habit," as it were, is that of acknowledging the truth when we see it. This implies both reason and grace which are not the same, but neither are they contradictory to each other.

ZENIT: Do you believe that Catholic schools do a good job of fostering a Catholic mind in young Catholics?

Father Schall: Briefly, no.

No one could think that the curriculum and spirit of Catholic schools today are based in the tradition of specifically Catholic intelligence. That requires discipline, study, and virtue.

In the modern world, we find no group more deprived of the glories of their own mind than young Catholics. This is why those small enclaves that do address themselves to it are in many ways remarkable.

Catholic institutions of higher learning, as they are called, simply gave up what was unique about themselves and the reasons for having Catholic universities in the first place. This lost source was the active vigor of the Catholic mind read not as an historical phenomenon or as a social activism, but as a search for and testimony of the truth, that towards which all mind is directed.

ZENIT: What modern persons, in your opinion, best embody ‘a mind that is Catholic?' Why?

Father Schall: In most of my books, beginning with "Another Sort of Learning," I have provided lists of books or reminders of them -- books that I think tell the truth.

I always list Chesterton and E. F. Schumacher. I think the present pope, as well as the previous one, were marvels of the Catholic mind, a mind that comes to grips with all things, yet with the light of grace and revelation.

The philosophy department at the Catholic University of America, to which I dedicated my book "The Mind That Is Catholic," is a perennial source of wisdom and rigorous intelligence. There is no place quite like it. I am a great admirer of the work of Monsignor Sokolowski, whose latest book, "The Phenomenology of the Human Person," is itself the Catholic mind at work; it is a mind that knows of reason and its limits as well as of its reaches.

Why do these and many other thinkers "embody a mind that is Catholic?" I think it is because they take everything into account.

What is peculiar to Catholicism, I have always thought, is its refusal to leave anything out. In my short book, "The Regensburg Lecture," I was constantly astonished at the enormous range of the mind of the present Holy Father. There is simply no mind in any university or public office that can match his. He is a humble man, in fact.

It is embarrassing to the world, and often to Catholic "intellectuals," to find that its most intelligent mind is on the Chair of Peter. I have always considered this papal intellectual profundity to be God's little joke to the modern mind.

The modern mind has built up for itself theories and ideologies whereby it prevents itself from seeing the truth that a man like Benedict XVI spells out for it in lucid and rigorously argued terms – terms fully aware and familiar with all of modern philosophy itself.

But Benedict XVI is a messenger of the Logos.

We do not get around his mind. We only shy away from considering it.

ZENIT: Is having a "mind that is Catholic" limited solely to philosophers, theologians, and intellectuals, or is it something that all Catholics should pursue?

Father Schall: What is unique about Christian revelation is that it was intended for everyone, including the philosophers.

Aristotle himself recognized that every mind is open to reality and hence could know -- perhaps not in some sophisticated fashion -- what is the truth. But the record of philosophers and theologians is not particularly impressive on this score.

From the admonitions of Paul to the present day, we have been concerned about the damage that philosophers could do to ordinary people. This was Socrates' polemic with the Sophists.

Christianity has never canonized the learned in great numbers. I am fond of citing Cardinal von Schönborn's remark that Thomas Aquinas was the only man ever canonized simply for thinking.

Great damage can and has come to the little ones through the aberrations of the philosophers. We do well to take note of it.

But Catholicism, as I have tried to spell out, needs and wants and delights in its thinkers.

I have always thought it was the function of a teacher to take students to other minds in which they can find the truth. But the truth is not in a book. It is in conversation, it is in actively thinking about what is.

Catholicism knows that all sorts and sources of knowledge flow into its mind, one of which -- the primary one that makes it unique -- is revelation. But it is a revelation, in its own terms, addressed to active reason. That too is the mind that is Catholic.

ZENIT: One notable writer has claimed that philosophy is consummated in the liturgy. What does this mean? How do the sacraments and spiritual life contribute to the "mind that is Catholic"?

Father Schall You are referring to Catherine Pickstock's book, "After Writing: The Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy." I have a chapter in my book, "Roman Catholic Political Philosophy," entitled "Worship and Political Philosophy," which is on this same issue.

What the "liturgical consummation of philosophy" means is that philosophy does not end in ideas or systems but in a reality that explains everything.

This notion is right out of Plato's "Laws" in which he said -- in a phrase that I always delight in citing -- we should spend our lives "singing, sacrificing, and dancing." This is precisely "liturgy."

But what is unique about Catholicism is that within it is contained the one thing that the human race has searched for in vain, namely, what is the proper way to worship God.

Mankind has come up with many ways; some, like Plato's, are fairly close. Others, like the Aztec sacrificing of human youth, are far away.

The bottom line is that the only way we could do this worship properly is if God would teach us. This is what the Mass, with its reality of the sacrifice of the Cross present, is about -- the way to worship God.

Only God, in the end, could tell us this, give us an example of how to perform the worship of the Father.

So yes, the mind that is Catholic leads naturally to worship and to the awe of the Triune Godhead into which we are invited to enter if we accept the divine invitation and live our lives in a way that we do not reject it.

The mind that is Catholic seeks the source of what is and to delight in it. This is its glory.


UK Nurse Penalized for Wearing Cross

From Zenit: http://www.zenit.org/article-26985?l=english

EXETER, England, SEPT. 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Shirley Chaplin, a Christian nurse from Exeter, has been forced to accept a transfer from her current position after disciplinary action for wearing a cross necklace to work.

The Christian Legal Centre reported that Chaplin, 54, accepted the offer of redeployment Monday "under duress," and is consequently seeking legal counsel to claim discrimination.

The nurse has served in her position for almost 30 years, and has worn the cross on a chain on a constant basis since before her training.

Recently, her boss at The Royal Devon and Exeter Trust Hospital told her to take the cross off, and she refused, stating that it is an expression of her Christian faith.

Chaplin was threatened with disciplinary action for allegedly violating the uniform policy, and wearing something that is a potential "health risk" to her and her patients.

The nurse asserted that this request from her boss is an infringement on her rights, and that the issue is irrelevant to the health and safety standards of the workplace.

A spokesman from the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said that wearing the cross is not seen as a "requirement" of faith, and thus the issue is about health and safety.

In the statement from the Christian Legal Centre however, Chaplin said, "This blatant piece of political correctness amounts to the marginalizing of employees' personal human rights, a blanket 'secularizing and neutralizing' […] intended to stop Christians from expressing their faith."

28 settembre 2009

Open Letter to Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame

Open letter from Dr. Charles E. Rice to Fr. John I. Jenkins
An open letter from Dr. Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus of Notre Dame Law School, to Fr. John Jenkins, President of University of Notre Dame:

from IgnatiusInsight.com

September 21, 2009

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556

Dear Father Jenkins:

Professor Fred Freddoso has shared with me the response on Sept. 17th by Dr. Frances L. Shavers, Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the President, to Fred’s email of that date to you asking that Notre Dame request dismissal of the charges against the persons arrested for trespass on the campus in relation to the honoring of President Obama at Commencement. Dr. Shavers responded on your behalf to Fred’s email because, as she said, “the next few days are rather hectic for [Fr. Jenkins].” I don’t want to add to the hectic burden of your schedule by sending you a personal message that could impose on an assistant the task of responding. I therefore take the liberty of addressing to you several concerns in the form of this open letter to which a response is neither required nor expected.

First, permit me to express my appreciation for the expressions of support for the pro-life cause in your September 16th “Letter concerning post-commencement initiatives.” I know, however, that in a matter as significant as this, you will appreciate and welcome a respectful but very candid expression of views. In my opinion, the positions you have taken are deficient in some respects.

In your Letter of Sept. 16th, you rightly praise the work of the Women’s Care Center (WCC) and of its superb leader, Ann Murphy Manion. I commend you on your statement that the WCC “and similar centers in other cities deserve the support of Notre Dame clubs and individuals.” Your praise of the WCC and similar efforts, however, overlooks a practical step that Notre Dame, as an institution, ought to take. That would be for you, on behalf of Notre Dame, to issue a standing invitation to the WCC to establish an office on the Notre Dame campus to serve students, faculty and staff if, in the judgment of the WCC, that would be desirable and effective. Such would give practical effect, right here at Notre Dame, to your words in support of the WCC and similar efforts.

Your Letter announced your formation of the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life. Rather than offer a detailed evaluation of my own, I note my agreement with the personal analysis of William Dempsey, ND ’52, President of the Sycamore Trust, calling attention to “the obviously deliberate exclusion from Task Force membership of anyone associated with the ND organizations that have been unashamedly and actively pro-life: the Center for Ethics & Culture and the ND Fund for the Protection of Human Life. Nor was the student representative chosen from the leadership of the student RTL organization or from anyone active in last year’s student alliance protesting the honoring of the President, ND Response. It is hard to resist the inference that this is as a move toward marginalizing the Center and the Fund, neither of which receives any University support the way it is…. Finally, it is unsettling but instructive that this announcement comes a day after Fr. Jenkins’ annual address to the faculty in which he described his goals for the year, which included increasing female and minority faculty representation but not a word about the most crucial problem facing the university, the loss of Catholic identity through the failure to hire enough Catholics to restore the predominance required by the Mission Statement. This is a striking falling away from [Fr. Jenkins’] wonderful inaugural address. The fact that ND did nothing to serve the pro-life cause until forced by the reaction to the Obama incident testifies to the fact that, without a predominance of committed Catholics on the faculty, any pro-life efforts launched under pressure will in time fade away. The risk, and surely it is real, is that this initiative and the publicity ND is generating about it will deflect attention from the fundamental problem besetting Notre Dame….But I return to where I began: A project that deliberately excludes from participation those who have courageously manned organizations standing against the faculty attitude toward the pro-life cause ought to be regarded with suspicion.”

My main concern in this letter arises from your statement in your Letter that “Each year on January 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the March for Life is held in Washington D.C. to call on the nation to defend the right to life. I plan to participate in that march. I invite other members of the Notre Dame Family to join me and I hope we can gather for a Mass for Life at that event.” I understand that Notre Dame students have invited you to participate with them in the March. The problem arises from an aftermath of Commencement. On this I refer back to Chief of Staff Shavers’ response to Professor Freddoso’s request that Notre Dame ask dismissal of the charges against those arrested. Dr. Shavers states that “these protesters were arrested for trespassing and not for expressing their pro-life position.” That is misleading. This is not an ordinary case of trespass to land such as would occur if a commuter walks across your lawn and flower bed as a short-cut to the train station. Notre Dame is ordinarily an open campus. Those 88 persons, 82 of whom are represented by Tom Dixon, ND ’84, ND Law School ’93, were arrested not because they were there, but because of who they were, why they were there and what they were saying. Other persons with pro-Obama signs were there but were not arrested and not disturbed. Serious legal and constitutional questions are involved, arising especially from the symbiotic relationship between the Notre Dame Security Police, who made the arrests, and the County Police. This letter is not a legal brief. Rather I merely note that it is disingenuous for Notre Dame to pretend that this is merely a routine trespass case.

The confusion is compounded by Dr. Shavers’ statement that “Under Indiana law, however, Notre Dame is not the complainant in these matters and so is not in any position to drop or dismiss the charges.” That sentence is half-true and half-false. Notre Dame is the complaining victim of the alleged trespass. Whether to dismiss the charges, of course, is for the prosecutor to decide.

Dr. Shavers states that “Notre Dame officials have been in regular contact with the prosecutor’s office on these matters, and, in consultation with the University, the prosecutor has offered Pre-Trial Diversion to those for whom the May incident was a first-time offense. As described by the prosecutor, this program does not require the individual to plead guilty or go through a trial; rather, the charges are dropped after one year so long as the individual does not commit another criminal offense. We understand that most of those arrested have chosen not to take advantage of this offer and obviously we cannot force them to do so. In essence, the choice of whether or not to go to trial belongs to the defendants.”

Pre-trial diversion could change their status as convicted criminals. But it is only because of the actions of Notre Dame that they are treated by the law as criminals in the first place. Notre Dame continues to subject those defendants to the criminal process. If they entered pretrial diversion they would each have to pay hundreds of dollars in costs, which would amount in effect to a fine imposed on them, with the concurrence of Notre Dame, for praying. Most of the 88 are in straitened financial circumstances. The imposition on them of such a fine would be a serious hardship. Instead, Notre Dame ought to state publicly that it has no interest in seeing those prosecutions proceed in any form and that it requests the prosecutor to exercise his discretion to dismiss all those charges unconditionally. Given the prospect of 88 or so separate jury trials, probably not consolidated, in cases involving potentially serious legal and constitutional issues, such a request by Notre Dame would surely be appreciated by the taxpayers of St. Joseph County.

Those 88 defendants were on the other side of the campus, far removed from the site of the Commencement. They are subjected by Notre Dame to the criminal process because they came, as individuals, to Notre Dame to pray, peacefully and non-obstructively, on this ordinarily open campus, in petition and reparation, as a response to what they rightly saw as a facilitation by Notre Dame of various objectively evil policies and programs of Notre Dame’s honoree, President Obama. Those persons, whom Notre Dame has subjected to legal process as criminals, are neither statistics nor abstractions. Let me tell you about a few of them.

Fr. Norman Weslin, O.S., 79 years old and in very poor health, was handcuffed by Notre Dame Security Police as he sang “Immaculate Mary” on the campus sidewalk near the entrance. He asked them, “Why would you arrest a Catholic priest for trying to stop the killing of a baby?” The NDSP officers put him on a pallet and dragged him away to jail. St. Joseph County Police were also there. I urge you to watch the readily available videos of Fr. Weslin’s arrest. If you do, I will be surprised and disappointed if you are not personally and deeply ashamed.

Such treatment of such a priest may be the lowest point in the entire history of Notre Dame. You would profit from knowing Fr. Weslin. Notre Dame should give Fr. Weslin the Laetare Medal rather than throw him in jail. Norman Weslin, born to poor Finnish immigrants in upper Michigan, finished high school at age 17 and joined the Army. He converted from the Lutheran to the Catholic faith and married shortly after earning his commission. He became a paratrooper and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division, obtaining his college degree enroute. After a distinguished career, he retired in 1968. As the legalization of abortion intensified, he and his wife, Mary Lou, became active pro-lifers in Colorado. In 1980, Mary Lou was killed by a drunk driver. Norman personally forgave the young driver. Norman Weslin was later ordained as a Catholic priest, worked with Mother Teresa in New York and devoted himself to the rescue of unborn children through nonviolent, prayerful direct action at abortuaries. In 1990 at Christmastime, I was privileged to defend Fr. Weslin and his Lambs of Christ when they were arrested at the abortuary in South Bend. One does not have to agree with the tactic of direct, non-violent action at abortuaries to have the utmost admiration, as I have, for Fr. Weslin and his associates. At Notre Dame, Fr. Weslin engaged in no obstruction or disruption. He merely sought to pray for the unborn on the ordinarily open campus of a professedly Catholic university. The theme of Notre Dame’s honoring of Obama was “dialogue.” It would have been better for you and the complicit Fellows and Trustees to dialogue with Fr. Weslin rather than lock him up as a criminal. You all could have learned something from him. His actions in defense of innocent life and the Faith have been and are heroic. Notre Dame’s treatment of Fr. Weslin is a despicable disgrace, the responsibility for which falls directly and personally upon yourself as the President of Notre Dame.

The other “criminals” stigmatized by Notre Dame include many whom this university should honor rather than oppress. One is Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, who has become pro-life and a Catholic actively trying to spread the word about abortion. Those “criminals” include retired professors, retired military officers, mothers of many children, a Catholic nun in full habit, Christian pastors, several Ph.Ds, and Notre Dame grads. They are, in summary, “the salt of the earth.” They came, on their own, at their own expense, and not as part of any “conspiracy,” from 18 states. They came because they love what Notre Dame claims to represent. They themselves do represent it. But one has to doubt whether Notre Dame does so anymore.

Clearly, Notre Dame should do all it can to obtain the dismissal of those criminal charges. This has nothing to do with one’s opinion of the tactics of rescue at abortuaries. It is simply a matter of you, as President, doing the manifestly right thing.

Please permit me to speak bluntly about your announced purpose to participate in the March for Life and to “invite other members of the Notre Dame Family to join me.” Notre Dame should have had an official presence at every March for Life since 1973. But until now it never has. Notre Dame students, with the encouragement of Campus Ministry, participate in the March but the University, as such, has not done so. To put it candidly, it would be a mockery for you to present yourself now at the March, even at the invitation of Notre Dame students, as a pro-life advocate while, in practical effect, you continue to be the jailer, as common criminals, of those persons who were authentic pro-life witnesses at Notre Dame. When the picture of Fr. Weslin’s humiliation and arrest by your campus police was flashed around the world it did an incalculable damage to Notre Dame that can be partially undone only by your public and insistent request, as President of Notre Dame, that the charges be dropped. In my opinion your attachment to the March for Life, including your offering of a Mass for Life, could give scandal in the absence, at least, of such an insistent request to dismiss those charges. Your decision to present an official Notre Dame presence at the March could be beneficial, but not in the context of an unrelenting criminalization by Notre Dame of sincere and peaceful friends of Notre Dame whose offense was their desire to pray, on the campus, for the University and all concerned including yourself. If you appear at the March as the continuing criminalizer of those pro-life witnesses, you predictably will earn not approbation but scorn—a scorn which will surely be directed toward Notre Dame as well. As long as you pursue the criminalization of those pro-life witnesses, your newest pro-life statements will be regarded reasonably as a cosmetic covering of the institutional anatomy in the wake of the continuing backlash arising from your conferral of Notre Dame’s highest honor on the most relentlessly pro-abortion public official in the world.

In conclusion, this letter is not written in a spirit of contention. It is written rather in the mutual concern we share for Notre Dame—and for her university. I hope you will reconsider your positions on these matters. Our family prays for you by name every night. And we wish you success in the performance of your obligations to the University and all concerned.


Charles E. Rice
Professor Emeritus
Notre Dame Law School

18 settembre 2009

Augustinian Bishop Dies in China

Began Mission Before Communism

ROME, SEPT. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Bishop Nicholas Shi Jin Xian, 88, died Wednesday in Shangqui, the last of the Augustinian Recollects to have worked in China before the take-over of Communism.

According to a statement from his order, it was Bishop Shi who "after decades of persecution and isolation, restored religious life in his diocese, and the Catholic Church's relations with the civil authorities."

Nicholas Shi was born in 1921, just three years before the Order of Augustinian Recollects arrived at the Henan Mission (present-day Shangqiu).

He entered the Augustinian minor seminary in his native municipality, and made his profession Jan. 16, 1940. After studying philosophy and theology, he was ordained a priest on July 29, 1948.

Shortly after Father Shi's ordination, Spanish religious were expelled from China and native religious were dispersed or sent to concentration camps. His mission was thus closed.

Father Shi was soon after appointed episcopal vicar, until he was finally prohibited from exercising any pastoral action.

He first became an oculist, but later was consigned for three years to a brick factory to be "re-educated." He was imprisoned for two years and lived in miserable conditions suffering the public contempt of the authorities.

However, behind closed doors, he did not cease his pastoral work, undertaking constant visits to Christian homes and leading underground liturgical celebrations. His human qualities were appreciated even by those who guarded him.

Deng Xiao Ping's coming to power and the 1979 Cultural Revolution enabled the priest to get a "rehabilitation letter." He was assigned to teach English, a job he held until his retirement.

Soon after, he managed to contact the Augustinian Recollects through letters written to addresses in Manila he had memorized as a young man. The contact was unexpected on both sides: Father Shi was not sure if the order still existed, having been told during his psychological torture that it was gone; the Augustinians themselves did not know if any Chinese religious were still alive.


Retired from his teaching tasks, he returned to Shangqui in 1980 to dedicate himself solely to pastoral work. He succeeded in having the civil authorities return to the Church all the goods they had confiscated since 1948. He re-opened the parish and contacted some of the Augustinian religious who were still in China after the dispersion. He also began to receive visits from foreign religious, once permission was granted for travel within China.

For years he engaged in negotiations with civil authorities, eventually gaining permission to have communities of religious in his diocese. In 1991, he was made bishop.

"Nicholas Shi deserves a place of honor in the history of the Order and in the Catholic Church in China," the Augustinian statement affirmed. "His humility, discretion, ability to react and prudence led him to maintain a tense but respectful relationship with the authorities. His figure attracted many of his compatriots to Catholicism and the religious life.

"He was a person of profound spiritual life, deep faith and uncommon intelligence. Never having lived outside of China, he wrote in Latin, English and Spanish, and was able to translate official texts. When he made contact with the first Spanish religious, after almost 40 years without speaking, hearing or reading a word of Spanish, he had no problem writing letters and reports in this language with an astounding perfection."

"His love for the Order of Augustinian Recollects in which he was formed, to which he belonged and which he re-established in his diocese, with a great vocational flowering, was a feature that all Augustinians recognize and thank him for."

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-26896?l=english

Pius XII Proposed as Righteous Among the Nations

Petition Presented to Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A petition to recognize Pope Pius XII as Righteous Among the Nations at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial has been announced by the Pave the Way Foundation.

The initiative was presented Wednesday to Benedict XVI by Gary Krupp, founder of the New York-based foundation, which strives to foster interreligious dialogue.

Krupp, himself a Jew, met with the Holy Father after the general audience.

Krupp also presented the Pope with a book about his predecessor: a volume that reproduces 255 pages of some 3,000 original documents about Pius XII. The documents, accompanied by photos, are the fruit of investigations into the life of Eugenio Pacelli and the work he did to help Jews during World War II.

"[It is] a sign of gratitude," Krupp told L'Osservatore Romano, "for Benedict XVI's initiatives in favor of dialogue between Catholics and Jews."

--- --- ---

On the Net:

Pave the Way Foundation: www.ptwf.org

On ZENIT's Web site:

More information on the nomination: www.zenit.org/article-26345?l=english

17 settembre 2009

UN General Assembly Gives Green Light to New Super-Agency on Women

By Samantha Singson

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) The United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted unanimously this week to create a new, more powerful agency for women after three years of negotiations. The resolution calls for the four existing UN offices that address women's issues to be merged into a new "super agency" headed by an under-secretary-general – the third highest ranking position in the UN system, after secretary-general and deputy secretary-general. 

While the resolution was approved by the 192 UN member states by consensus, it was not without drama. Four states – Egypt, Iran, Sudan and Cuba – led a last-minute campaign asking UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to elaborate on the new agency's structure and present a comprehensive proposal detailing the agency's mission statement, organizational arrangements, funding and executive board before giving the go-ahead.

Four existing UN offices are dedicated to women – the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women. During the rounds of consultations leading up to this week's vote, states were pushed by UN officials to come to a quick decision on amalgamating the offices and create a new agency even though many had expressed concern at the lack of details on budget, structure, staffing, or mandate.

The particulars regarding the new entity are still unclear. While the resolution approves the new agency, it also tasks the Secretary-General with producing a comprehensive proposal outlining the specifics of the composite entity to be presented to member states for consideration during the current General Assembly session, which opened this week.

The new "composite entity" is expected to have an annual program budget of approximately $1 billion, including an estimated $300 million in salaries for a projected 1000 staffers.

A coalition of radical feminist groups allied under the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) campaign worked in tandem with prominent UN staffers to demand a new, super-agency with a budget and staff to match those of the other major UN funds and programs, such as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Program (UNDP). Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Centre for Women's Global Leadership and vocal advocate for the GEAR campaign, called the General Assembly decision to create the new agency "a great victory."

Critics fear that instead of advocating for the real needs of women worldwide, the new women's agency will be used as a tool to promote the abortion rights agenda of the radical feminist organizations who demanded for its creation in the first place. 

After the resolution passed, the GEAR campaign started pushing Ban Ki-moon to start the recruitment process for head of the new women's agency immediately. A statement issued by the group read, "We expect a broad, open search process to start promptly so that the USG [under-secretary-general] is in place and the entity can be operational by the time of the Beijing + 15 Review at the Commission on the Status of Women in March of 2010."


European Parliament Raps Lithuania for Curbing Homosexual Advocacy

By Piero A. Tozzi, J.D.

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) The European Parliament voted 349 to 218 today to condemn Lithuania for its "law on the protection of minors" which prohibits promotion of "homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations" among children under 18 in the Baltic nation. Conservative critics contend that the measure, crafted in reaction to the domestic legislation of a sovereign member state pertaining to the family, oversteps the Parliament's authority.

The resolution directs the Agency for Fundamental Rights to opine on whether the law contravenes European anti-discrimination standards. Any such opinion would be non-binding, though activists would likely use it to press for greater recognition of rights based on "sexual orientation."

An earlier proposal by the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the "liberal" parliamentary faction, would have initiated proceedings to suspend Lithuania pursuant to article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the 1992 pact that created the European Union (EU). Parliamentarians principally affiliated with the Christian Democratic grouping, the European People's Party (EPP), worked behind the scenes to soften the resolution and remove the Article 7 reference.

While "progressive" parliamentarians lined up to charge Lithuania with promoting "homophobia," several EPP and conservative members spoke in opposition to the measure and in support of the country's sovereign right to pass laws protecting families and children, including Lithuania's first post-Soviet head of state Vytautas Landsbergis and Slovakian parliamentarian Anna Záborksá.

Nevertheless, the EPP remained divided on the measure, with virtually every EPP member from France voting to censure Lithuania. Surprisingly, Malta's delegation, including its two EPP representatives, voted as a bloc against Lithuania.

Lithuania's Parliament, or Seimas, passed the child protection legislation in June. The President vetoed it, in apparent reaction to criticism from Western European politicians and homosexual advocacy organizations. In July, Lithuania's parliament overrode the veto. The law is scheduled to take effect in March 2010.

David Quinn, Director of Ireland's Iona Institute and a family rights advocate, called the resolution "a completely unwarranted intrusion in the domestic affairs of a member state." Critics such as Quinn see the non-discrimination principle, particularly with respect to sexual orientation, being used to trump long-enshrined values such as religious liberty and parental rights. Quinn called anti-discrimination "the skeleton key that opens every room of the house."

Some observers expect the Parliamentary action to have repercussions in Ireland, where the nation will vote in a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty next month.

While the EU has "guaranteed" that Ireland's constitutional protection of unborn life would be unaffected by a "yes" vote on Lisbon, the European Parliament's action on Lithuania has fueled concerns among Irish euroskeptics that European institutions would seek to override the Republic's domestic laws. Among other changes, the Lisbon Treaty would make the Charter of Fundamental Rights binding upon members. While silent on abortion, critics fear an activist European Court of Justice reading such a right into the charter.

Forty-six parliamentarians abstained on the Lithuanian resolution, including three Irish EPP members. The four Irish ALDE members broke with their party and voted against the resolution, a move insiders see as tactical and intended to forestall criticism in advance of the Lisbon referendum.


16 settembre 2009

Pakistani Church Burned by Muslims

Bishop Says Religion Is Being Misused

JAITHIKEY, Pakistan, SEPT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Christians were forced to flee for their lives as a Muslim mob set fire to their Church and two adjoining homes in the village of Jaithikey on Friday.

Aid to the Church in Need reported today that this violence was sparked by a Muslim mother who was angered at her 18-year-old daughter's romantic relationship with a Christian classmate.

The woman, who was determined to break up the three-year relationship, allegedly ripped a page out of a book containing verses of the Quran, and threw the pages down in front of the young man's house.

Then, she went to the local Muslim authorities and accused the youth of desecrating the sacred book of Islam, in violation of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

The aid agency noted that the country's penal code gives life imprisonment as the maximum sentence for desecrating the Quran.

The violence against the Christians was thus interpreted as an act of revenge in response to this accusation.

A mob armed with bricks, stones and sticks poured kerosene on the church before lighting it aflame and desecrating it.

They also attacked two Christian homes next to the church and threatened to kill residents of village, which is located in the Sialkot district of the Punjab province.

Taking refuge

Father Andrew Nisari, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lahore, where the village is located, told the aid agency, "All the priests told the Christians to run away from the village otherwise the mob would kill everybody."

These Christians are currently taking refuge in other towns. The 19-year-old man who was accused of the crime was taken to prison during the police investigation.

Father Nisari stated: "People are very frightened and upset by what has happened.

"We are actually glad that the 19-year-old boy is in jail at the moment -- at least there he will be safe. It means he won't be killed by the fanatic Muslims."

However, AsiaNews reported today that the young man, named Fanish, was executed Monday night in prison.

This morning, the youth's body was found lifeless with signs of torture on it.

This attack, the fourth of its kind in three months, has motivated the aid agency and other Christian leaders in Pakistan to call for the repealing of the country's blasphemy laws.

Continued attacks

Another incident, reported today, took place Saturday when a Muslim mob attacked the home of a 40-year-old Christian man named Lawrence, who was accused of blasphemy.

After attacking the man's house in Ghaziabad, in Karachi, they went after other Christians and tried to storm the Catholic Church. Police intervened, and Lawrence was able to safely go into hiding.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attacks and pledged government funds to repair the church.

Father Nisari stated: "Although the church is still standing, it is completely burnt inside -- the altar, the statues, the pews, the priest's chair, Bibles and other religious books. The whole church is now totally unusable."

He continued: "The laws hand people -- Muslims in particular -- an invisible sword enabling them to take revenge on anybody they like.

"This case shows that religion is being misused in our country and that it is very necessary that the blasphemy laws be repealed."

The priest stated: "I urge all the Christians in the world to pray for us who are persecuted in Pakistan. We need your prayers right now."

The aid agency is sponsoring a Pakistani prelate, Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, to come to the United Kingdom and give an Oct. 17 address at London's Westminster Cathedral.

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-26875?l=english

Cardinal Pell to Debate Christopher Hitchens

Festival of Dangerous Ideas Aims to Provoke Discussion

SYDNEY, Australia, SEPT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The first ever Festival of Dangerous Ideas will pit Sydney's archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, against one of the most prominent exponents of modern atheism, British journalist Christopher Hitchens.

A press release from the Sydney Archdiocese announced today that this festival will take place Oct. 3-4 in the Sydney Opera House.

In his address, titled "Without God We Are Nothing," Cardinal Pell plans to speak about secularism as a "minority sport and a temporary phenomenon" that only survives "by attacking Christianity or living off Christianity's moral capital."

The communiqué stated that the prelate will respond the anti-theist address by drawing on his own faith and scholarship, as well as the example of scientific figures.

In a preliminary description of his presentation, Cardinal Pell stated, "Science by itself cannot provide an answer to the God or atheism options. To make such enquiries we need to engage in meta-physics."

He referred to Anthony Flew, a philosopher who converted from atheism, who affirmed, "How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self replication capabilities and 'coded chemistry?'"

The festival will feature over 50 speakers, and is being organized by the St James Ethics Centre in partnership with the Special Broadcasting Service, Foxtel and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Some of the other speakers include: Germaine Greer, Carmen Lawrence, Gary Foley, Susan Greenfield and Keysar Trad.

Other topics include: the merits of democracy, the effect of online networking on developing brains, polygamy and other Islamic values, genetic enhancement, and whether people really want freedom.

The festival Web site states that this event aims to "push the boundaries enough to stimulate, provoke and engage people in wider discussion."

It adds: "Bombs, guns and bullets may be dangerous. Closed or complacent minds make them lethal."

--- --- ---

On the Net:

Festival of Dangerous Ideas: http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/about/program/festival_of_dangerous_ideas.aspx

Epidemiologist: Pope Is Right About Condoms

Says Issue Is a "Prisoner of Ideology"

PARIS, SEPT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There is a lack of realism in debate about condoms, according to a French epidemiologist who maintains that Benedict XVI's assertion that condom use can actually aggravate the AIDS crisis is "simply realistic."

René Ecochard, director of the biostatistics department at Lyon's University Hospital Center, signed a document last April supporting his case.

Speaking this week with France's La Manche Libre, Ecochard explained that there is "a lack of realism" on the condom issue, which he called a "prisoner of ideology."

This ideology brought an uproar in the Western press when Benedict XVI said en route to Africa on March 17 that the "problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behavior], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it."

Ecochard contended: It seems as though "opinion loses its points of reference when it addresses the issues of sexuality and the family."

The doctor acknowledged that part of the problem was "an error of understanding in public opinion."

He explained: "People thought that the Pope was speaking of the efficacy of the plastic, the condom, when in reality he was speaking of the campaigns to spread the condom. This is very different.

"As is true of every technological object of prevention, the condom has a quantified efficacy."

But therein is not the problem, Ecochard stated, "All epidemiologists agree today that the campaigns to distribute [condoms] in countries where the proportion of affected people is very high, do not work."

"If the condom works four out of five times," this might be sufficient "when AIDS is not widespread," he explained. "However, in a country in which 25% of young people 25 years old are affected -- Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia -- it isn't sufficient.

"The failure of this form of prevention is an epidemiological reality.

"Surrounded by experts, well informed by Rome's Academy of Sciences, the Pope mastered this issue very well before going to Africa."


Ecochard went on to reflect on the case of Uganda, the only country in which 25-year-old AIDS victims has been cut in third.

Ne noted that in Uganda, in addition to campaigns supporting condom distribution, there has been the ABC campaign: "Abstain, Be faithful, chastity or the condom."

"The presidential couple, religious groups, schools and businesses -- the whole world has supported this campaign," Ecochard noted. "It might be that this is not easy to copy from one country to another, but today, it's the only hope."

Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-26873?l=english

15 settembre 2009

G. K. Chesterton on Dan Brown: The Interview

Just brilliant!

Carl E. Olson | Ignatius Insight | September 14, 2009

G.K. Chesterton, the famed British journalist, author, apologist, and wit recently sat down (in the form of his books, as he was not physically available) with Ignatius Insight editor Carl E. Olson and discussed the best-selling novelist Dan Brown—whose new novel, The Lost Symbol, is released September 15—and the importance and place of good and bad fiction.

Ignatius Insight: I was somewhat surprised to learn that you haven't been entirely negative about Dan Brown's novels, including The Da Vinci Code.

Chesterton: My taste is for the sensational novel, the detective story, the story about death, robbery and secret societies; a taste which I share in common with the bulk at least of the male population of this world. There was a time in my own melodramatic boyhood when I became quite fastidious in this respect. I would look at the first chapter of any new novel as a final test of its merits. If there was a murdered man under the sofa in the first chapter, I read the story. If there was no murdered man under the sofa in the first chapter, I dismissed the story as tea-table twaddle, which it often really was. But on the whole I think that a tale about one man killing another man is more likely to have something in it than a tale in which, all the characters are talking trivialities without any of that instant and silent presence of death which is one of the strong spiritual bonds of all mankind. I still prefer the novel in which one person does another person to death to the novel in which all the persons are feebly (and vainly) trying to get the others to come to life. [1]

Ignatius Insight: Are you saying, then, that you believe something good can be found in Brown's novels?

Chesterton: Every now and then, after wading through a hubbub of hundreds of words, we find a word that seems to have gone right by accident. We must not complain; nothing in this mortal life is perfect; not even bad poetry. [2]

In one sense, at any rate, it is more valuable to read bad literature than good literature. Good literature may tell us the mind of one man; but bad literature may tell us the mind of many men. A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

It does much more than that, it tells us the truth about its readers; and, oddly enough, it tells us this all the more the more cynical and immoral be the motive of its manufacture. The more dishonest a book is as a book the more honest it is as a public document. A sincere novel exhibits the simplicity of one particular man; an insincere novel exhibits the simplicity of mankind. ... men's basic assumptions and everlasting energies are to be found in penny dreadfuls and halfpenny novelettes. [3]

Ignatius Insight: And yet you went through a time when you were rather disgusted with modern fiction, right? 

Chesterton: I was a great reader of novels until I began to review them, when I naturally left off reading them. I do not mean to admit that I did them any injustice; I studied and sampled them with the purpose of being strictly fair; but I do not call that "novel reading" in the old enchanting sense. If I read them thoroughly I still read them rapidly; which is quite against my instincts for the mere luxury of reading. [4]

Ignatius Insight: I want to return to your remark that "men's basic assumptions and everlasting energies are to be found in penny dreadfuls and halfpenny novelettes." One of the central assumptions of The Da Vinci Code was that Jesus was a mere mortal man. Thoughts?

Chesterton: I maintain therefore that a man reading the New Testament frankly and freshly would not get the impression of what is now often meant by a human Christ. The merely human Christ is a made-up figure, a piece of artificial selection, like the merely evolutionary man. [5]

I was looking at a recent collection which contains the opinions of many famous free-thinkers about Jesus Christ. It is amusing to note how all of them differ among themselves; how one of them contradicts another and the last is always repudiated by the next. [6]

Ignatius Insight: Brown's opinion, it seems, is that Jesus was a decent man who taught the world about being kind and peaceful.

Chesterton: Of course, those who think Jesus was an ordinary man will talk of Him in an ordinary way. What I complain of is that, even then, they cannot talk of Him in a sensible way. For instance, Mr. Shaw has a long dialogue in which his imaginary Jesus feebly implies the idea that everything can be solved by love, and apparently love of any kind. Now there is not a grain of evidence that the historical Jesus of Nazareth ever said that any such emotion, selfish or sensual or sentimental, must be a substitute for everything else everywhere. Rousseau and the Romantics, in the time of Voltaire, sometimes said something a little like it; and the Church resisted it from the beginning, just as Bernard Shaw wakes up to resist it in the end. It is much more important for us to point out that the attack on the Faith breaks down, by its own folly on its own ground, than to express our own feelings about some of the random results of its invincible ignorance, when it stumbles upon ground more sacred. [7]

Ignatius Insight: And what of the claim, in The Da Vinci Code, that the Church has suppressed the gentle Jesus for a divinized Jesus who inspires fear, hatred, and violence?

Chesterton: We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has hidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well. The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heart-breaking beauty his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters. Nevertheless they are almost the only kind of words that the Church in its popular imagery ever represents him as uttering. That popular imagery is inspired by a perfectly sound popular instinct. The mass of the poor are broken, and the mass of the people are poor, and for the mass of mankind the main thing is to carry the conviction of the incredible compassion of God. But nobody with his eyes open can doubt that it is chiefly this idea of compassion that the popular machinery of the Church does seek to carry. [8]

Ignatius Insight: Does it surprise you that Brown, despite denying the divinity of Jesus, insists that he is a Christian? 

Chesterton: Of course it is possible to play an endless game with the word "Christian" and perpetually extend its epoch by perpetually diminishing its meaning. By the time that everybody has agreed that being a Christian only means thinking that Christ was a good man, it will indeed be true that few persons outside lunatic asylums can be denied the name of Christian. [9]

Ignatius Insight: In fact, you think it is more proper to describe Brown as a "Spiritualist" and not a Christian, based on the evidence. How so?

Chesterton: Now a Catholic starts with all this realistic experience of humanity and history. A Spiritualist generally starts with the recent nineteenth-century optimism, in which his creed was born, which vaguely assumes that if there is anything spiritual, it is happier, higher, lovelier and loftier than anything we yet know; and so opens all the doors and windows for the spiritual world to flow in. [10]

Now, being purely spiritual is opposed to the very essence of religion. All religions, high and low, true and false, have always had one enemy, which is the purely spiritual. [11]

Ignatius Insight: And so the supposedly higher nature of this spiritualism leads to an animosity toward doctrine and dogma?

Chesterton: There has arisen in our time an extraordinary notion that there is something humane, open-hearted or generous about refusing to define one's creed. Obviously the very opposite is the truth. Refusing to define a creed is not only not generous, it is distinctly mean. It fails in frankness and fraternity towards the enemy. It is fighting without a flag or a declaration of war. It denies to the enemy the decent concessions of battle; the right to know the policy and to treat with the headquarters. Modern "broad-mindedness" has a quality that can only be called sneakish; it endeavours to win without giving itself away, even after it has won. It desires to be victorious without betraying even the name of the victor. For all sane men have intellectual doctrines and fighting theories; and if they will not put them on the table, it can only be because they wish to have the advantage of a fighting theory which cannot be fought. [12] 

Ignatius Insight: Would you then argue that Brown, despite his protests to the contrary, has dogmatic convictions?

Chesterton: Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded. [13]

In the things of conviction there is only one other thing besides a dogma, and that is a prejudice. [14]

Ignatius Insight: As you surely know, Brown's books have been especially popular among younger readers, many of whom believe he has offered them a fresh and honest perspective on the origins of Christianity.

Chesterton: What we call the new ideas are generally broken fragments of the old ideas. [15]

Of course, these young people do not know anything about historical Christianity; they are rather limited sort of people in a good many ways.

They are not the first generation of rebels to be Pagans. They are the first generation of rebels not to be Pagans. The young fool, the flower of all our cultural evolution, the heir of all the ages, and the precious trust we have to pass on to posterity--the young fool can no longer be trusted to be a Pantheist, let alone a good hearty Pagan. [16]

Ignatius Insight: Do you think some of these readers have lost their Christian beliefs, or presuppositions, because of their dislike for orthodox doctrine?

Chesterton: I do not say, as so many journalists say, that they have lost their Christianity. For it is the quite simple and sober truth that most of them never had any. It is not their fault, though every day that passes convinces me more and more that it is their misfortune. But the notion, so common in novels and newspapers, that this new generation has rebelled against old-fashioned orthodoxy is sheer stark historical ignorance. It is the worst of all kinds of historical ignorance; ignorance of the historical events we have seen ourselves. [17]

But what is actually the matter with the modern man is that he does not know even his own philosophy; but only his own phraseology. [18]

Ignatius Insight: Some of Brown's fans claim his novels are asking important, deep questions and providing meaningful answers. 

Chesterton: In numberless novels and newspaper articles, we have all read about a process which is still apparently regarded as novel or new; though it has been described in almost exactly the same terms for nearly a hundred years; and in slightly different terms for hundreds of years before that. I mean what is called the growth of doubt or the disturbance of faith; and the only point about it which is pertinent here is this; that it is always described as a revolt of the deeper parts of the mind against something that is comparatively superficial. We need not deny that modern doubt, like ancient doubt, does ask deep questions; we only deny that, as compared with our own philosophy, it gives any deeper answers. And it is a general rule, touching what is called modern thought, that while the questions are often really deep, the answers are often decidedly shallow. And it is perhaps even more important to remark that, while the questions are in a sense eternal, the answers are in every sense ephemeral. [19]

Ignatius Insight: In Brown's novel, Angels & Demons, readers are informed that Christianity is the enemy of science, and that science contains the ultimate answers. What do you make of that? 

Chesterton: It illustrates the precise fashion in which modern man has provided himself with an equally modern mythology. And in practical affairs that mythology may have something of the power of a religion. The mere word "Science" is already used as a sacred and mystical word in many matters of politics and ethics. It is already used vaguely to threaten the most vital traditions of civilization—the family and the freedom of the citizen. It may at any moment attempt to establish some unnatural Utopia full of fugitive negations. But it will not be the science of the scientist, but rather the science of the sensational novelist. [20]

Ignatius Insight: Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol, once again features, for the third time, the "symbologist" Robert Langdon, an intellectual—

Chesterton: —you don't need any intellect to be an intellectual— [21]

Ignatius Insight: —who many see as the quintessential modern hero.

Chesterton: When a modern novel is devoted to the bewilderments of a weak young clerk who cannot decide which woman he wants to marry, or which new religion he believes in, we still give this knock-kneed cad the name of "the hero"—the name which is the crown of Achilles. [22] 

It is an odd thing that the words hero and heroine have in their constant use in connection with literary fiction entirely lost their meaning. A hero now means merely a young man sufficiently decent and reliable to go through a few adventures without hanging himself or taking to drink. [23]

Ignatius Insight: And yet, despite the literary poverty exhibited in Brown's previous novels, you are still planning to read The Lost Symbol? 

Chesterton: I have learned much from the good stories and more from the bad ones. I have always maintained that trash is a good aid to truth. I will venture to say that most of our historical ignorance, and even our literary ignorance, comes from our not having read enough of the trash of different times and places. ...

It struck me that it should be very interesting to try to trace through popular stories some notion of the ideal of conduct which now prevails. What is modern morality? What does strike the ordinary reader of such stories as pardonable, and what as unpardonable? What does he take for granted as something not to be profaned, and what is he quite accustomed to profaning already? It is an important question; perhaps is the only important question. But it can only be gathered from light literature; at least much more than from good. We cannot discover what are the everyday ethics of thousands of the people by reading the pamphlet of an ethical society which appealed to about three in every thousand. We cannot even study it properly in the vision of a great poet or the view of a great philosopher. But some glimpse of it can be got in stories that are meant to be read merely for amusement; which was how I myself read them. [24]

Ignatius Insight: Finally, we've talked about Brown's poor writing—

Chesterton(shaking his head): —writing badly on such an enormous scale; writing badly with such immense ambition of design— [25]

Ignatius Insight: —let's talk in conclusion about good fiction. What is the purpose and nature of good fiction? 

Chesterton: The first use of good literature is that it prevents a man from being merely modern. To be merely modern is to condemn oneself to an ultimate narrowness; just as to spend one's last earthly money on the newest hat is to condemn oneself to the old-fashioned. The road of the ancient centuries is strewn with dead moderns. Literature, classic and enduring literature, does its best work in reminding us perpetually of the whole round of truth and balancing other and older ideas against the ideas to which we might for a moment be prone. [26]

Every healthy person at some period must feed on fiction as well as fact; because fact is a thing which the world gives to him, whereas fiction is a thing which he gives to the world. It has nothing to do with a man being able to write; or even with his being able to read. [27]

You can find all of the new ideas in the old books; only there you will find them balanced, kept in their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome by other and better ideas. The great writers did not neglect a fad because they had not thought of it, but because they had thought of it and of all the answers to it as well. [28]


[1] "Fiction As Food", The Spice of Life and Other Essays.
[2] "On Bad Poetry", All I Survey.
[3] "On Smart Novelists and the Smart Set", Heretics.
[4] "Fiction As Food", The Spice of Life and Other Essays.
[5] "The Riddles of the Gospel", The Everlasting Man.
[6] "On Education", All I Survey.
[7] "The Scripture Reader," The Well and the Shallows.
[8] "The Riddles of the Gospel", The Everlasting Man.
[9] "The Erastian on the Establishment", The Common Man.
[10] "The Dangers of Necromancy," The Common Man.
[11] "Christian Science," The Use of Diversity.
[12] "Rabelasian Regrets," The Common Man.
[13] "Concluding Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy," Heretics.
[14] "Rabelasian Regrets," The Common Man.
[15] "On Reading," The Common Man.
[16] "On Modern 'Paganism'", All I Survey.
[17] Ibid.
[18] "The Revival of Philosophy--Why?", The Common Man.
[19] "The Well and the Shallows", The Well and the Shallows.
[20] "Popular Literature and Popular Science", Collected Works, Volume XXXIV: The Illustrated London News, 1926-1928.
[21] Father Brown Omnibus.
[22] "The Pickwick Papers", Charles Dickens.
[23] "The Heroines of Shakespeare", Brave New Family.
[24] "Modern Stories and Modern Morality", Collected Works, Volume XXXIV: The Illustrated London News, 1926-1928.
[25] "On Writing Badly," On Lying In Bed and Other Essays.
[26] "On Reading," The Common Man.
[27] "Fiction As Food", The Spice of Life and Other Essays.
[28] "On Reading," The Common Man.

14 settembre 2009

UNFPA Bars Conservatives From Berlin "Sexual and Reproductive Rights" Conference

By Samantha Singson

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) Last week, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the German government held a conference in Berlin to promote "sexual and reproductive rights." Despite being billed as a "global" event, conference organizers admitted to deliberately blocking any participation from anyone in either the media or civil society who did not agree with their "reproductive rights" agenda.

Four hundred delegates from 131 countries attended the "Global NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development." A review of the list of conference participants reveals a "who's who" of prominent long-time abortion rights advocacy groups such as "Catholics" for Choice, Ipas, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and Marie Stopes International.

Participation at the conference was by application only. Potential attendees had to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and provide detailed answers as to the activities of their non-governmental organization (NGO), particularly how their NGO supports the "sexual and reproductive health and rights" aspects of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Media representatives were put through a similarly rigorous screening by the conference organizers. Citing "space constraints," media representatives were also required to "apply" for the opportunity to cover the conference, even if paying their own way. It was not enough for prospective journalists to have a "letter of assignment" from a media outlet, but journalists also had to submit three bylined articles.

Two journalists assigned by the oldest conservative publication in the United States, Human Events, were denied media credentials on the grounds that media credentials were "exclusively for bono-fide [sic] journalists from professional media organizations that are not connected to non-governmental advocacy organizations" and, further, "due to space and other considerations" it was decided to "deny all NGO-related media."

Human Events sent a letter pointing out that the individuals assigned to conference had fulfilled all the application requirements and clarifying that the publication is not NGO-connected. Conference organizers remained steadfast in their rejection of the journalists.

Two journalists who were accredited to the Berlin meeting told the Friday Fax that they were shocked to hear of the rejection of the Human Events journalists as "there is not so much media here." One journalist from Pakistan told the Friday Fax that she never applied and that she had not even heard of the meeting until she received an invitation from the conference organizers. She also said that the organizers covered her flight and hotel costs. Another journalist from India who attended the conference openly stated that while she was attending the conference as a media representative, she was affiliated with an NGO who dealt with HIV/AIDS and was writing for the organization's website.

At the final press conference, organizers did not hide their bias against conservative journalists. One reporter asked how the conference could be called "representative of all NGOs of the world" when conservative organizations and media were not accredited." Gill Greer, forum chair and director-general of IPPF, responded by stating that that organizers wanted media representatives who would specifically "advance these issues of women's health and women's rights."


11 settembre 2009

Ennio Morricone: Faith Always Present In My Music

Composer Talks About the Spirituality Behind His Work

By Edward Pentin

ROME, SEPT. 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- You may not recognize his name, but you will almost certainly be familiar with his music.

Maestro Ennio Morricone is widely regarded as one of Hollywood's finest film score composers. Best known for the memorable and moody soundtracks to the "Spaghetti Westerns" of the 1960s, such as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "A Fistful of Dollars," and "Once Upon a Time in the West," to many Catholics he is perhaps best loved for his moving score in "The Mission," a 1986 film about Jesuit missionaries in 18th-century South America.

But his contribution to the movie industry extends far beyond his most famous works, having scored around 450 films and worked with Hollywood’s leading directors, from Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci to Brian De Palma and Roman Polanski.

And at 80, he’s still going strong. The legendary composer has just completed the soundtrack to Giuseppe Tornatore’s "Baaria," an Italian picture which opened this year’s Venice Film Festival, while Quentin Tarantino invited him to write the score for his latest film, "Inglourious Basterds" (scheduling difficulties prevented Morricone from doing so, but he allowed Tarantino to use clips of his previous work in the film instead).

The renowned Italian composer also continues to pick up highly prestigious awards: earlier this year, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, appointed him to the rank of Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor -- the country’s highest honour. That’s in addition to a lengthy list of other major awards including an Honorary Academy Award, five Oscar Nominations, five Baftas, and a Grammy.

Yet Maestro Morricone, who was born in Rome, prefers to keep out of the limelight and rarely gives interviews. So it came as a surprise when he kindly agreed to make an exception one August morning, and invited me to his central Rome apartment to talk principally about his faith and his music.

His home is much as you would expect: An immaculate black grand piano sits beside the window of a grand and tastefully decorated sitting room, artistically lined with murals, classical paintings and mahogany panels. But Morricone, who has a wife and four grown up children, is a humble man without airs, and he responds to questions in typically Roman fashion: directly and to the point.


I begin by asking him if his music, which many consider very spiritual, is inspired by his faith. Although he describes himself as a "man of faith," he takes a very professional yet simple view of his work and says his faith doesn't inspire him in most of his writing. If the movie is not about religion, he won’t think about God and the Church, he says. "I think of the music that I have to write -- music is an abstract art," he explains. "But of course, when I have to write a religious piece, certainly my faith contributes to it."

He adds that he has inside of him a "spirituality that I always retain in my writing," but it’s not something he wills to be present, he simply feels it.

"As a believer, this faith is probably always there, but it's for others to realize it, musicologists and those that analyze not only the pieces of music but also have an understanding of my nature, and the sacred and the mystical," he explains. However, he says he believes that God helps him "write a good composition, but that's another story."

He gives a similarly professional and straightforward answer when asked if he has any qualms about writing music for gratuitously violent films. "I am called to serve the film," he says. "If the film is violent, then I compose music for a violent film. If a film is about love, I work for a film of love. Perhaps there can be violent films in which there is sacredness or have mystical elements to the violence, but I don’t willingly look for these films. I try to strike a balance with the spirituality of the film, but the director doesn’t always think the same way."

Ennio Morricone began his music career in 1946 after receiving a trumpet diploma. The next year, he was already composing theatre music, as well as playing in a jazz band to support his family. But his career in film music, which began in 1961, took off a couple of years later when he started working with his old school friend Sergio Leone and his brand of "Spaghetti Westerns."

He's perhaps most famous for that genre, yet he says they make up only eight percent of his repertoire, and he has turned down a hundred other such movies. "Everyone asks me to make Westerns," he says, "but I tend not to do them because I prefer variety."

A technical miracle

Turning to "The Mission," he says the great thing about that film score was its "technical and spiritual effect." By that, he means the way it managed to combine three musical themes related to the movie. The presence of violins and Father Gabriel’s oboe represent "the Renaissance experience of the progress of instrumental music." The film then moves on to other forms of music that came out of the Church reforms of the Council of Trent, and ends with the music of the native Indians.

The result was a "contemporary" theme in which all three elements -- the instruments that came out of the Renaissance, the post-conciliar reformed music, and the ethnic melodies -- harmoniously come together at the very end of the film. "The first and second theme go together, the first and third can go together, and the second and third go together," Morricone explains. "That was my technical miracle which I believe was a great blessing."

But the Italian composer says he doesn't have a formula for a successful film score. "If I knew, I would always write more music like this," he says, adding that the quality of the music depends on whether he is happy or sad. "When I'm less happy, I'm always saved by professionalism and technique," he says. He also won't mention any favourite pieces, or favourite movies. "I love them all because all have given me some kind of torment and suffering when working on them, but I mustn't and won't make a distinction," he says.

We turn to the subject of another keen musician: Pope Benedict XVI. Morricone says he has a "very good opinion" of the Holy Father. "He seems to me to be a very high minded Pope, a man of great culture and also great strength," he says. He is particularly complimentary about Benedict XVI's efforts to reform the liturgy -- a subject about which Morricone feels very strongly.

"Today the Church has made a big mistake, turning the clock back 500 years with guitars and popular songs," he argues. "I don't like it at all. Gregorian Chant is a vital and important tradition of the Church and to waste this by having kids mix religious words with profane, Western songs is hugely grave, hugely grave."

He says it's turning the clock back because the same thing happened before the Council of Trent when singers mixed profanity with sacred music. "He [the Pope] is doing well to correct it," he says. "He should correct it with much more firmness. Some churches have taken heed [of his corrections], but others haven't."

Maestro Morricone looks fit and considerably younger than his age, which enables him to continue to give concerts around the world. In fact, he is in more demand than ever: next month he'll be performing his soundtracks at the Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl.

Yet despite all his fame and accolades, this famous Italian composer hasn't lost any of his Roman earthiness and humility. It's perhaps this, as much as his stirring and unique compositions, which makes him one of Hollywood's greats.

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Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-26831?l=english

Edward Pentin is a freelance writer living in Rome. He can be reached at: epentin@zenit.org.

08 settembre 2009

Rutgers vs. Cincinnati - "Burn the tapes"

Excellent summary from BleedScarlet of the worst game I've ever attended.

Burn the tapes
September 7, 2009

If Rutgers was going to win the Big East football conference this year, it would be behind steady play from Dom Natale.

That’s why I was hoping that Natale be the definitive victor of the starting QB competition in camp, and likely why Greg Schiano ultimately went with him going into the season.

Natale showed today that he honestly does have some poise and accuracy. He’s Ryan Hart. Like Hart, Natale has serious issues with his decision making, which lead to critical turnovers. Dom thinks he has more arm strength than he really does. You can get away with forcing the ball when you’re Brett Favre. Not when you’re Hart or Natale. Unfortunately, Keith Sargeant was correct about this pratfall.

In all honesty, I thought the game was a rehash of last year’s UNC contest, right down to the fans starting to stream out of the stadium midway through the third quarter, leading the new Rutgers Stadium at about 10% capacity by the time the game ended. It was like the UNC contest in that, while the visiting opponent was undoubtedly the superior team, the result became completely lopsided owing to a brutal meltdown at the quarterback position. Cincinnati is a better football team than Rutgers. They’re not better in all facets of the game. Teams are never quite as good or as bad as they seem, and will regress to their means at some point.

On that note, Cincinnati is legit. I picked them to win the Big East conference, and there’s no reason to doubt them at this point. They won this game as much as RU gave it away. How on earth can anyone not rank them in the top 25 after this? In fact, they belong in the top 15. Does anyone honestly think Notre Dame beating on Nevada was more impressive? Cincy always had the capacity to drop 40+ on any team. Keeping them in striking distance wouldn’t necessarily be a task for the defense; it requires keeping your head above water on the other side of the ball. We needed an effective running game today to keep the Bearcat offense off the field, and failed to control the ball in that regard.

Why did that happen? Cincy didn’t respect Natale at all, stacking the line at will. That brought more blitzers into his face, and crowded any running lanes. And, he showed that he didn’t deserve their respect. We’ll see how that defense looks over the next few games, but I’m still not convinced that they’re necessarily all that just because Brian Kelly talked them up in a press conference. Natale played that poorly today, completely gift-wrapping the last two interceptions.

In truth, I thought the game was over once Cincy scored its third touchdown. The #1 priority today was to avoid a shootout. RU put together a decent opening drive, but it was masked by trickery. You can’t keep getting in third and longs and expect to keep getting bailed out. Natale shouldn’t be the starter, but at least he showed something in that contest. At this point, the Jabu option package needs to be removed from the offense, because all it accomplishes is to give away downs to the other team. I still cannot believe (well, actually, I can) that Jabu missed a receiver (Brown?) who was so wide open. And why would any defenses do anything but sell out against the run when Lovelace is in the game? He has a cannon, but can’t hit the side of a barn. Yes, Jabu is well-respected, and a great teammate. Give him a humanitarian of the year award, and move him to safety. He is not an effective quarterback, and would have doubled Natale’s interception total if given the opportunity.

Natale’s turnovers, not having any running room, and getting into too many third and longs sapped the offense’s momentum completely. Without the ability to grind away the clock, Cincy’s no huddle attack was able to eviscerate the RU defense. There are a few reasons for optimism there however. RU’s strength is in its front seven. When the Bearcats lined up in a spread with four wide, that strength is neutralized.

You either have to go dime and quarter, or there are multiple open receivers downfield. And that’s how Cincy played it, having Pike take a lot of three step drops at first to build momentum and get into a rhythm. We’re not going to see another offense nearly that good this year, and probably won’t see another team (MAYBE WVU) capable of that kind of scheming. Go against teams in I-formation, and Rutgers will be able to unleash its pass rush. Arguably, the only chance you have there is to go Giants/Patriots and send in the kitchen sink, hoping to rattle Pike, but it’s not going to happen without anything on offense.

The schedule factor is the main reason why you shouldn’t jump in front of the Acela right now. RU had its toughest game of the season week one. Can you believe that Brian Kelly was complaining about that, when we’re the ones who really needed a tuneup? Rutgers is still going to have an 8-4 season, possibly 9-3 if they can win back momentum against a very, very beatable Maryland team in a few weeks. I saw nothing from their similar beatdown on Saturday to indicate that they could do much, if anything that the Bearcats utilized.

Rutgers won’t win the Big East this year, and that’s going to ruffle a lot of feathers. We’re tired of finishing second and third. But, in losing, we may have found the key to winning it in a year or two with the emergence of Tom Savage. Yes, Cincy’s defense probably let up a bit, but Savage out of the Shotgun looked far, far more effective than Natale or Lovelace. There’s value in trying to restore Natale’s confidence next week, but frankly, Savage is the future of Rutgers football, and needs every rep he can get at this point. His emergence in the second half was solace for the die-hards who did manage to stay in the stands. I didn’t want to put this level of pressure on him as a true freshman, but there’s little alternative at this point.

He will have his growing pains, but we’ll just have to work through them. Savage is just better in all facets of the game (even scrambling at one point), and opponents actually respect his arm. The receivers dropped a few that had maybe a little too much zip on them. He’ll get better, and the receivers will adjust from Natale’s weak arm to Savage. Why, oh why, couldn’t Cardinal O’Hara have let him enroll for spring practice?

Another bright spot tonight were the receivers. Timmy Brown quieted any doubts about whether he was an every down receiver. And Sanu – wow. We may finally have a legit possession guy at the minimum. The skeptics may have been right about the uncertainity about quarterback, but RU proved them wrong here. Why weren’t Graves and Corcoran more involved in the passing game though? IF you’re not going to throw to Corcoran, there’s literally no reason not to start Hoagie Morales.

If the receivers were a bright spot, then the offensive line was not. Now I understand why Schiano was concerned. Some of that was Natale’s fault, but they didn’t look so hot in either pass protection or run blocking. I don’t really feel like reviewing the replay at this point to see who precisely was at fault, but maybe Anthony Davis should hold off for the moment on his plans to declare after the end of this season.

Why’d the secondary look so bad? As I said above, some of that is just owing to the fact that Cincy is going to get their yardage and points, especially when the offense gets so much time on the field. Seemed like there were a lot of missed assignments though. Deja vu from 2008. What a rough break for Zaire Kitchen too.

One last bright spot were the special teams. They look 100% improved, although Dellaganna’s kickoffs suffered in comparison to the beauties from the Cincy kicker.

It’s going to be a rough couple days, and I’m certainly not happy about what happened, but it’s not like Rutgers hasn’t started flat before. Illinois, New Hampshire, or Fresno anyone? Rutgers isn’t a football factory. You’ve been through those games, you’ve been through Shea. Sometimes, it’s not your night. Schiano’s teams usually seem to start slow and gain momentum throughout the season. Every once in a while, there’s just an inexplicable loss. Hopefully, we’ll make it up at some point, and that’s where I look to those Terrable Terrapins.

Anyway, hope I didn’t forget any of the points that I wanted to hit. Sorry for trailing off at the end, but I have to run. I haven’t been sleeping very well at all, and am completely exhausted. I have a lot more to say about the stadium experience, hopefully tomorrow.

Italian Priest Uncovers 100 Pedophile Networks

Meter Association Gathered Evidence for US and Italy
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-26770?l=english

ROME, SEPT. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A hundred online pedophile communities will be disconnected and prosecuted by U.S. and Italian authorities thanks to the work of the Meter Association, founded by Italian Father Fortunato Di Noto.

ZENIT learned from the association that the networks consisted of some 18,181 people who used online community Web sites to host and exchange "thousands of images and video footage -- 27,894 pedophiliac photos and 1,617 videos -- as well as information regarding the trade of minors."

The news was further publicized by Rome's Italian police force, in cooperation with other security forces.

"Thousands of children were involved," the association added.

Father Di Noto, a native of Sicily, explained that with the aid of a team of volunteers, Meter discovered "a universe that is not virtual, but real, in which people can register and exchange pornographic material of minors -- photos, videos, even dates with minors -- through one of the most well known social networks in the United States."

The association stated that "investigators both in Italy and in the United States termed the uncovered material an 'authentic horror,' with newborns and children of a very young age as the objects of violence and sexual abuse."

Meter, which is a pioneering association in the struggle against pedophilia, worked for six months in order to deliver the current evidence to the Italian police department that deals with Internet crimes. The charges were subsequently communicated to the North American authorities.


Father Di Noto, a pastor in the town of Avola, stated: "It is impossible to describe the horrors we have seen, uncovered and denounced in six months. Constant vigilance has brought unexpected results, and today we have more hope than ever that online pederasty and pedophilia, crimes against children and against humanity, can and shall be defeated."

The priest added: "There is not a nation which has not been involved. Tens of thousands of people produce, exchange and possess material, and violate children."

"This is not 'virtual' material," he asserted, "but real, so real that when you hear in the videos the children's screams of pain, when you see in the photos the faces of the newborns, you can hear the drama, the pain, the suffering."

The association stated that online social networking sites have provoked a change in the pedophiles' strategies.

Father Di Noto explained, "The social network is a double-edged sword in matters of pedophilia: On the one hand, it permits communication between pedophiles and in a certain sense, increases their possibilities; on the other hand, it is the most efficient instrument for security forces to find and disconnect their Web sites."

The priest reported that over the past five years, his association has secured 1,064 charges and reported almost 6,000 sites to the authorities.

For this reason, the founder of Meter launched an appeal, to journalists in particular, to keep public awareness us and to "not to let down the guard against this crime."

In reporting about this type of thing, he said the authorities as well as the legislators will be motivated to give an adequate response to the terrible suffering of these children.

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On the Net:

Meter Association: http://www.associazionemeter.org/