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.

Tea Party Madness

Today so-called "Tea Parties" are being held around the country, with extensive coverage (some would say cheerleading) by Fox News. While I am totally in favor of lower taxes and smaller government, I have to say I am perplexed by the sudden urgency.

First, let us recall that the purpose of the original Boston Tea Party was to protest "Taxation Without Representation." Is that what is happening now? No. Today we have freely elected representatives. You may not like what they are doing, but it is not at all the same situation faced by the early colonists.

Second, why all the surprise and outrage now? Obama and the Democrats are doing exactly what they said they would do before the election. We had an election just a few months ago and our side was soundly trounced. Whining about it won't change anything. It is just as likely to annoy the very people whose minds need to be changed if we want the next election to turn out any differently.

Third, where was all this energy when Republicans were the ones spending like crazy and running up huge deficits? George W. Bush is the one who plunged us into what is now the second-most expensive war in American history without the slightest thought about how to pay for it. It was a GOP-controlled Congress that helped him do it. It was also the Bush Administration that launched the bailout rocket. Does anyone really think much would be different had McCain won in November?

Fourth, exactly what is it we want to accomplish? As noted above, electing more Republicans brings no assurance of fiscal discipline. In fact, I have yet to hear anyone present a coherent plan for actually cutting the size of government. Which departments will you disband? Whose benefit check do you want to take away? What oxes are you willing to gore? Without such specifics, it is hard to take these protests seriously.

Given all this, the only thing I can conclude is that the Tea Party people are simply folks who want to be angry. I say this as somebody who is sympathetic to the spirit of these events, but I think folks are going about it all wrong. All this anger isn't going to accomplish anything.

The Tea Party protests are also revealing in another way. How many of the folks who are now up in arms that millionaires might see their taxes raised have ever attended a pro-life event? Are lower taxes more important than stopping the slaughter of innocent children? To quite a few people, the answer appears to be "Yes." Sad but true.

Christ is Risen

Let all Pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late, for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and is generous to the other; he repays the deed and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness.

Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaiah foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and lo! it discovered God; it seized earth, and, behold! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and life is freed, Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

---Easter homily of St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407)

Celebrate His Death!

Why do we do this every year? Why do we celebrate betrayal, abandonment, and brutality. Why do we attend this Good Friday’s party of violence?

Our celebration of Christ’s Passion on Good Friday is as perverse an event as any we might conjure. Or, it would be if we were to settle for watching from the crowd, coolly watching events as they unfold. It is not enough to observe. Not enough to stand behind the crowd not caring. Our apathy, our lack of passion for Christ’s suffering and death for us, that will make today’s celebration truly perverse.

Rejoice then with each rip in His flesh. Rejoice with each drop of blood. Rejoice at the anguish of his betrayal, at the sting of his abandonment. Rejoice that He freely accepted this pain for you, instead of you. Rejoice! Or, cry. Or laugh. Or love Him more. But do not fall into the loneliness of not caring—that Pit is a Darkness older than humanity, and It is desperately hungry for your soul.

Read the rest.

Darth Sebelius Appointed to Lead HHS

President Obama has appointed yet another leading abortion advocate to be Secretary of Health and Human Services: Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. His first nominee for the post, former Senator Tom Daschle, withdrew due to tax problems.

That Obama would put an abortion advocate in this post is no great surprise. Gov. Sebelius has a particularly ghastly record, however, having vetoed even the mildest of proposed restrictions on abortion. More important, she is a friend of, and beneficiary of campaign contributions from, the notorious late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller. Watch the video at the link to learn more.

Catholics are doubly dismayed since Gov. Sebelius is - or at least calls herself - a Catholic. Last year Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City asked the governor, after several conversations in which he explained to her the error of her ways, to stop receiving communion in the Church. She ignored his initial private request and complied only after the Archbishop made his request publicly. She did finally comply, however, which is more than most pro-abortion Catholic politicians do.

Whatever her religious affiliation, Gov. Sebelius should not be head of HHS. I got into a discussion about this on another web site, which is unfortunately password-protected so I can't link to it here. Someone was arguing that Gov. Sebelius had actually reduced the number of abortions in Kansas, but still thought women should have a choice in the matter. Here is what I said:

All this talk of whether Sebelius has/will increase or decrease the number of abortions misses the point. Consider an example.

Suppose a person who is being considered for high office believes that it should be legal to kill, say, people with red hair. He has never personally killed any red-headed people. The office for which he is being considered is not related to criminal law and he will have no power to influence the laws against murder either way. Nonetheless, he holds very firmly that everyone should have the right to kill any redheads whom they deem annoying and inconvenient, without fear of prosecution. Should this person be appointed?

I say no. He should not be made dogcatcher, much less cabinet secretary. Why? Because it is obvious that something is deeply wrong with his moral compass. He does not comprehend that people with red hair are human and deserve the full protection of the law. That being the case, he cannot be trusted to make decisions that serve the common good. There is a strong chance he will use whatever power he is given toward evil ends. This is why Gov. Sebelius is unfit to lead HHS.

You can, of course, apply this logic to President Obama himself along with most of the people in his administration - and not a few Republicans, by the way. It is not a pleasant position in which we find ourselves, but here we are. Now is a good time to start praying for mercy. I think we're going to need it.

That's All The Lumber You Sent

The lyrics of this Ceili Rain song make an excellent Ash Wednesday reflection.

Welcome to Lent. Make it a good one.

Said a friend to a friend one day:
Was a man who passed away
St. Peter met him at the gate
Pete said: "Walk with me if you will
I'll take you to the house you built"
Man said: "I can't wait!

Passed a mansion made of stone
But with each new house he's shown
They get smaller by degrees
Stopped in front of a two-room shack
Pete said: "Hope you're happy with that"
Man said: "How can this be?" -- Pete said:

"That's all the lumber -- that's all the lumber
That's all the lumber you sent.
Looks like the builder --
man, he's got your number
That's all the lumber you sent."

Man didn't know what to say
Poor guy was blown away
Said: "You mean this is what I deserve?
Pete said: "I'm afraid it's so
It's too late but now you know
Shoulda done better work

Man said: "You mean not lie and cheat
And helpin' old ladies 'cross the street?
Pete says: "Well, that's a start
Remember that man back in that great big house?
He found out early what it's all about
Built that place with his heart
-- as for you

That's all the lumber -- that's all the lumber
That's all the lumber you sent
Looks like the builder --
man, he's got your number
That's all the lumber you sent

What if that man was me
And I failed that miserably
You're showin' me things I don't wanna see!

St. Peter if you can
Send me back to earth again
Is that somethin' you can do?
Pete said: "It ain't up to me
If it was I'd like to see
How you plan to improve.

Said "I'd love God and fellow man
Take a wife and make a stand
Be the given'est guy I can be
And when I get back to this neighborhood
There'd be a gigantic pile o' wood!
And I'd say: "What's this I see?" --
and you'll tell me

"All that's your lumber -- all that's your lumber
That's all the lumber you sent
Now the Big Boss will help you
hammer it all together --
That's all the lumber you sent."

Calm Down, He's Only Human

During the presidential campaign, many conservatives laughed at the seemingly supernatural powers that Obama supporters saw in their candidate. Now those folks are doing essentially the same thing - working themselves into a frenzy over the massive, monstrous Change that Obama is about to unleash on us all.

For instance, a very intelligent and very conservative friend of mine is circulating this Dick Morris column to everyone he knows. Obama, according to Morris, is bent on nothing less than imposing "socialism" on America. We are going to become like Germany, France, the U.K. and even Sweden!

My response to this is simple: Chill out, people. Obama is only human. A very talented, intelligent, rhetorically gifted human, yes. A politically and theologically liberal human, yes. But still human. He cannot simply snap his fingers and force his will upon the rest of us.

Obama is, above all, a pragmatist. He will do many things we won't like, but nothing so dramatic as to risk his chance at re-election. To the extent he does the evil things some conservatives predict, it will be because he knows those policies have broad public support.

You can, of course, debate why the public supports leftist policies. A good part of the blame has to land on the backs of conservatives who failed to articulate a clear, consistent political philosophy. Over a period of years - and most especially in the last eight years under Bush - we gave Obama the ammunition he is about to use against us.

Rather than whine about it, I suggest we all examine the reasons we are in the predicament and consider how we can bring about the kind of change we want.

Imagine the Potential

Click here if you don't see the video above.