Thursday, November 20, 2008

No freedom of choice for Catholics -- Why FOCA is evil

FOCA, the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act" is anything but.

This wicked bill will immediately declare all reasonable restraints on abortion (the killing of a baby in the womb) null and void. Gone will be any common sense limits passed by voters in the individual states on partial-birth abortion, parental notification for abortions performed on children under the age of 18, and most ominously of all, the ability of pro-life physicians and medical personnel to opt out of performing abortions for reasons of conscience.

This bill is anti-Democratic, anti-American, and supremely evil. Catholic bishops in the US are already threatening to close hospitals rather than comply with this act. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago made the following statement regarding FOCA:

"There are grave consequences. If Catholic hospitals were required by federal law to perform abortions, we'd have to close our hospitals."

Nearly 100 Catholic bishops across America are echoing these words.

We should all keep in mind that nearly 1/3 of our nation's hospitals are Catholic-run. Can you imagine the crisis that closing even a fraction of these hospitals would cause?

FOCA must be defeated. Urge president-elect Obama to denounce the bill in no uncertain terms.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

To this point in my life, I've now read three works by Chesterton. I enjoyed his epic poem Ballad of the White Horse a great deal. His bio of Saint Thomas Aquinas left me somewhat befuddled. After I finished it, I felt I knew no more about the great saint than when I started. However, I had read something — a lot of something, in fact — just don't ask me to tell you what.

The Man Who Was Thursday is a completely different work from the abovementioned pair. It is subtitled "A Nightmare" and that's exactly how it reads. It starts out like a quirky spy/detective novel, but as the plot progresses, it becomes obvious that this is no typical pot-boiler. It is well to keep in mind when reading this book that Chesterton was a master of paradox. In an interview recorded in a biography by Maisie Ward, Chesterton once summarized the book by saying: "In an ordinary detective tale the investigator discovers that some amiable-looking fellow who subscribes to all the charities, and is fond of animals, has murdered his grandmother, or is a trigamist. I thought it would be fun to make the tearing away of menacing masks reveal benevolence."

To summarize the plot is to give away much of what makes this book an enjoyable read, so I will refrain. And to my mind, the plot is almost coincidental to what makes this book interesting. It is a mere plastic tree (if an oddly shaped one) upon which Chesterton hangs a myriad of literary ornaments. The book is simply littered with gems which sparkle even out of context. Here are a few of my favorites:
"We deny the snobbish English assumption that the uneducated are the dangerous criminals....We say that the most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral people."

"The modern world has retained all those parts of police work which are really oppressive and ignominious....It has given up its more dignified work, the punishment of powerful traitors the in the State and powerful heresiarchs in the Church. The moderns say we must not punish heretics. My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else.”

"The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."
The Man Who Was Thursday can be read and appreciated on two different levels--as an entertaining bit of absurdity that, in some sections, prefigures a Monty Python routine, or as an allegory with significant theological depth. I enjoyed it a great deal on both levels.

To conclude, let me simply say that this is the kind of book that I will need to re-read at some future point, perhaps a couple times, to make sure I didn't miss anything. Fortunately, Chesterton's prose is so merry and brisk that the re-read will be a pleasure rather than a trial.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mar Simeon the Stylite

Here's an image I found of Saint Simeon the Stylite on Google Books. It's a bit "stylized" (forgive the bad pun), but still interesting.

The Early Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson Ed. with a Critical Introduction, Commentaries and Notes, Together with the Various Readings By Alfred Tennyson Tennyson, John Churton Collins: "No Text"

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

My visit to Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago

I like to visit local churches when I'm on business travel. Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago and decided to drop in on Holy Name Cathedral on a Saturday afternoon. Knowing what I do about recent Catholic history in Chicago, I was expecting to see yet another example of "wreckovation". Sadly, I wasn't far off.

The exterior of the Cathedral is still quite lovely. Here are two photos:

And from another angle:

Once inside, though, the ambiance was something not quite Catholic. By way of comparison, here's a photo of the inside of the Cathedral circa 1958 before the "modernizaton" took place.

And here's what the interior looks like today (apologies for the blur):

The ceilings, columns, and floor remain quite beautiful, but notice the apse in particular which has been almost completely desacralized. Also notice the disappearance of religious statues.

When I entered, the organist was playing some horrible 12-tone piece that seemed better suited for a slasher movie than for a Catholic cathedral. With that noise echoing throughout the vast space, it was impossible to pray. So instead, I went and visited the bookstore in the basement. To my surprise, the selection of books and religious items on sale was excellent and I walked out with a Byzantine/Russian style icon of Our Lady Hodegetria.

By the time I left the bookstore, the "music" had ceased so I decided to say a rosary. At that point, I went looking for the tabernacle. Of course, there was no sign of it in the apse, and for a moment, I felt a little like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning when she said, "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him." I found what I assumed was the tabernacle in one of the two side "chapels" flanking the apse. Calling them chapels is a stretch, however, as there are no altars in either of them. As works of religious art, both are horrifying:

I assume this piece was done in honor of the Blessed Virgin, although to me it looked more like a haphazard display of heavy bronze cobwebs.

The tabernacle was worse:

In this one, we see our Lord emerging from a Sputnik-like object which has apparently exploded in a taffy factory.

It was a bit difficult to pray with these disturbing images in front of me, and the cynical part of me speculated that this was the whole point of having them there. But I persevered. At least the huge, stylized crucifix hanging over the altar wasn't completely awful. The rose windows were also quite beautiful, but I suspect these were left untouched from the original construction.

The rear of the cathedral was dominated by the organ, which had a foreboding appearance--almost like the warp core of the starship Enterprise:

On a positive note, I was able to attend Confession at the cathedral, and there was a steady stream of penitents there when I went. As I left, I noticed that there is currently a capital campaign underway for the building, and refurbishment is in process on the exterior of the building. I can only hope this means that some major dewreckovation may be in the works on the interior as well in the not-too-distant future. It would be a shame to leave such a beautiful edifice so barren of religious adornment.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!


--Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I'm happy to say I voted for McCain/Palin today. I pray that enough of my fellow Americans will do likewise so that we may continue building a Culture of Life here in the United States. An Obama victory would turn back the clock 35 years on Life and untold millions of innocent unborn babies' lives would be in jeopardy around the world.

If you value life and the family, you must get out and vote today. Vote to defeat Obama like lives depend on it.

Because they do.