As It Is In Heaven

The youth band at my parish plays a modified version of this Matt Maher song. I always find it very moving. The following video has some great images. Enjoy.

"Blatant Disregard for the Laws of Nature"

"Archistrategos" is the pseudonym of a college student in the Philippines who writes the excellent blog Ecce Me, Quia Vocasti Me. As you might guess from the Latin ("Here I am, for you did call me,") he's a fervent Catholic. He also has an admirable way with words. For instance:

Some brief thoughts: one thing that has always annoyed me about people who claim abortion to be a 'right' is their seemingly blatant disregard for the laws of nature. When one has sex, the logical-- and natural, I may add-- outcome would be pregnancy, assuming that there is fertilization that occurs. Today, things are a lot easier, since the sexual revolution of the 1960s has irrevocably introduced the contraceptive mentality into our culture. Given these two basic facts-- what the hell is abortion necessary for, anyway? What the hell is it good for? What the hell is it for? If I may be so blunt, the answer is fairly obvious: that is, to guarantee a totally guiltless, totally free from consequence, and totally irresponsible, and immature lifestyle.

It goes on from there and gets even better. Read the rest.

Of Bride Wars and White Dresses

Recently the Mrs. and I rented a movie called Bride Wars. Quick summary: two little girls vow to someday participate in each other's weddings which, for some reason I don't understand, simply must be held at the Plaza Hotel in New York. They grow up and circumstances force them to hold their ceremonies on the same date and time. They become bitter enemies. Hilarity follows.

The professional reviewers appear to have disliked Bride Wars. I thought it was mildly amusing, but I have a weird sense of humor. There are much worse movies you could watch. That's not my point; I just want to comment on one aspect of the film.

While there is no nudity or sexual activity, both the main characters are obviously living with their husbands-to-be while the weddings are being planned. "So what," you may say. Everyone lives together before marriage nowadays. Well, no, not everyone does. But obviously many people do.

Another case of Hollywood trying to pervert our culture? I don't think so. I think it is a case of Hollywood reflecting our culture. Cohabitation prior to marriage is now so common that it's unremarkable - even in a PG-rated film.

To me, it seemed a little strange to see these brides happily planning their elaborate weddings while already sharing a bed with their fiances, all the while seeing nothing ironic or unusual about it. The first part of the movie even shows both women impatiently waiting for proposals. Hello? You're already sleeping with him. Of course he's in no hurry to give you a ring.

A lot of sociological research suggests that couples who cohabit and then marry have higher divorce rates and unhappier relationships than those who don't. The reasons for this are debatable, and we've all known people who managed to make it work. Likewise many people who go through the right steps in the right order still end up in divorce court.

In any case, our culture seems to have turned a corner in its attitude about marriage. The push for same-sex marriage is succeeding because straight people have already redefined how family life is supposed to work, and not for the better. Having established - at least since the 1960s and maybe earlier - that marriage is nothing more than a contract between willing partners, and that it is perfectly acceptable for people to behave like families without any form of commitment, we now have no logical reason to restrict the arrangement to one man and one woman. Any combination will do.

Where this will lead us as a society is unclear; no culture has ever gone the places we are now going and lived to tell the tale. Maybe 21st century America will be the exception.

Or maybe not.

Conservatives: Fox News Is Not Your Friend

I used to be an avid viewer of Fox News Channel. Lately, not so much. I'm not sure whether it is because they have changed, or because I've changed. In any case, plenty of people who consider themselves traditional family-values conservatives think of FNC as "their" network. They shouldn't. News Flash for conservatives: "Your" network is betraying you.

Here is the proof. Watch "On The Record" with Greta Van Susteren at 9:00 CT weeknights. Pay attention to the commercials. Usually in the second half you will see a lady dining in a nice restaurant with a boorish male who turns out to be her husband. He leaves her and she makes eyes with a handsome man at another table. It's an ad for is an online dating service for married people who want to have affairs - and is now a regular advertiser on the alleged "traditional values" TV network. Very strange, yes? Even stranger, less than a year ago a Fox news spokesman told ABC News that Fox would "never" air these ads. Something seems to have changed.

Three things come to mind about this. First, why are none of the conservative big guns telling Fox News that these ads are unacceptable? The only criticism I could find in a Google search was a Deroy Murdock column in Human Events. Murdock makes the excellent point that such things give the same-sex marriage proponents good reason to cry hypocrisy about those who defend traditional marriage. Could it be that the right-wing powerhouses are so dependent on Fox News Channel that they dare not complain?

Second, the decision to air these ads is clear proof that FNC is nothing more than a business whose goal is to make money. Roger Ailes identified a demographic that was underserved by other networks, and now he owns it. His primary goal is to sell advertising, not promote conservative causes. He and his boss Rupert Murdoch will gladly wreck marriages and destroy families if they can make a few bucks in the process.

Third, what does this tell us about Fox News Channel viewers? Advertisers run their spots where they think they will find a favorable audience. Is there any real difference in the ethical commitment of FNC viewers and, say, MSNBC viewers? I don't know. obviously thinks the network has enough potential philanderers in the audience to justify advertising there.

Conclusion: and the honchos of Fox News apparently believe their audience is a bunch of stupid, easily-manipulated sheep that can be led to slaughter without a peep. I'm beginning to think they may be right.

Fuzzy Thinking About Torture

I like Patrick Buchanan and usually find myself agreeing with him on most political issues. His column this week about torture is therefore disappointing.

Buchanan first makes an eloquent case against torture:

Many contend that torture is inherently evil, morally outrageous and legally impermissible under both existing U.S. law and the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.

Moreover, they argue, torture does not work.

Its harvest is hatred, deceptions and lies. And because it is cowardly and cruel, torture degrades those who do it, as well as those to whom it is done. It instills a spirit of revenge in its victims.

When the knowledge of torture is made public, as invariably it is, it besmirches America’s good name and serves as a recruiting poster for our enemies and a justification to use the same degrading methods on our men and women.

And it makes us no better than the Chinese communist brain-washers of the Korean War, the Japanese war criminals who tortured U.S. POWs and the jailers at the Hanoi Hilton who tortured Sen. John McCain.

Moreover, even if done in a few monitored cases, where it seems to be the only way to get immediate intelligence to save hundreds or thousands from imminent terror attack, down the chain of command they know it is being done. Thus, we get sadistic copycat conduct at Abu Ghraib by enlisted personnel to amuse themselves at midnight.

Unfortunately, Buchanan goes on to nullify everything he just said:

The morality of killing or inflicting severe pain depends, then, not only on the nature of the act, but on the circumstances and motive.

The Beltway Snipers deserved death sentences. The Navy Seal snipers who killed those three Somali pirates and saved Captain Richard Phillips deserve medals.

Consider now Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 9-11, which sent 3,000 Americans to horrible deaths, and who was behind, if he did not do it himself, the beheading of Danny Pearl.

Even many opponents against torture will concede we have the same right to execute Khalid Mohammed as we did Timothy McVeigh. But if we have a right to kill him, do we have no moral right to waterboard him for 20 minutes to force him to reveal plans and al-Qaida accomplices to save thousands of American lives?

Where to begin? First of all, we execute people only when their guilt has been determined by due process of law. Buchanan seems prepared to allow torture with little or no regard for whether the prisoner actually possesses the desired information.

Second, prisoners, even those under a death sentence, are to be treated humanely right up to the moment of their execution. A little odd, yes, but we do this because we are a civilized people with respect for life. We take it only under the gravest circumstances and with much reluctance.

Third, there is a difference between killing someone in self-defense vs killing a prisoner who is under your control. The civil law makes this distinction very clear. Why it should be fuzzy to an intelligent man like Buchanan is unclear.

Mark Shea has an excellent new column about the morality of torture. More comments here.

We're Better Than This

I used to call myself a "conservative" in political matters. Now it appears I will have to give up that label. Why? Because I'm against torturing prisoners, a practice which is fast becoming a litmus test of true conservatism.

I would like to think that most conservatives would feel the same way if they would just get past their fear/anger and think about what they are saying. "Whatever it takes to protect Americans is ok with me" is a common feeling. Really? Whatever it takes?

Answer me this: Suppose the only way to get important information is to seize the young son of the suspect and crush his testicles? Not the suspect himself, mind you - I mean a child who has nothing to do with any crimes or terror. According to John Yoo, one of the Bush lawyers who wrote the recently-released torture memos, the president can do that and more. Is this really what you want to defend?

"But that's not what we're doing," you might say. Are you sure? According to Mr. Yoo, the Bush administration saw no legal impediments to it. And we now know that Bush, Cheney, and a whole host of lower officials lied about what they were doing to prisoners. What else did they allow that we don't know about yet?

"It's the only way we can get the info we need." Well, no, not according to an FBI agent who helped question Al Qaeda leaders and not according to the CIA Inspector General. Professional interrogators are near-unanimous about the uselessness of harsh techniques. It appears they were overruled by the political leadership.

The truth is that these "ticking bomb" scenarios everyone likes to talk about are nonexistent in the real world. They happen only on stupid TV shows like 24. Remember, too, that there is no way to be sure that the person you are interrogating possesses the information you seek.

For those who think torture is so hard to define, there is a simple solution. International law, all kinds of treaties and agreements, Catholic "Just War" doctrine, and the beliefs of just about every religion on the planet require that prisoners be treated humanely.

Now answer me this: if you put your prisoner through controlled drowning 183 times in a month, or you keep him naked in a cold cell for days on end, or you slam his head into a fake wall, or you put him in a box with insects, or you keep him awake for weeks at a time, are you treating him humanely? No, you're not. Still confused? You can always apply the Golden Rule. If it's torture when Al Qaeda does it to captured Americans, then it's also torture when we do it to them.

Shepherd Smith on Fox News said it very well, and is catching heat from his network's audience for it. "This is America. We do not (beep) torture." (The beep is an ugly word he should not have said on television. Video here.

Indeed, this is America. But we do torture. Or at least we did, and I'm not at all convinced that Obama will stop it from happening again. We're better than this! The fact that we don't do these things is what separates us from the people we are fighting! If we torture prisoners and ultimately prevail, what will we have become? Will the America that survives be the one we wanted to save?

I'm disgusted that so many people I respect are giving in to their fear and supporting this evil. And here is the worst part: evil never wins in the end. It turns around and bites the one who wields it. We're setting precedents that will come back to haunt us. Do not be surprised if someone you love finds himself on the waterboard. I give it ten years.

If I have to choose between 1) losing the war and 2) losing the war and losing my soul with it, I choose number one.

Make your choice now. Make the right one. Your eternity may depend on it.