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Driving Gay Priests Underground?

Loose Canon is fighting hard to remain squishy on the subject of ordaining homosexual men to the priesthood. It's becoming harder and harder. Mainly because those who advocate the ordination of homosexuals inevitably advance an argument that makes me move closer to the against position.

A case in point is a piece by Michael Sean Winters, a Catholic writer who seems to think that a Vatican ban on homosexual priests is imminent (and the piece seems to have been occasioned by a homosexual priest's referring to gays as "they" rather than "we"):

"The problem with such a ban is twofold. First, banning gay seminarians will only drive the issue underground, precisely the situation before the sexual revolution permitted people - even priests - to be more honest about their sexuality. The most notorious clerical child molesters were all ordained before the sexual revolution and before the changes wrought in the church by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Secrecy and silence encourage immaturity and duplicity, necessary precursors for inappropriate sexual behavior."

Drive the issue underground? Does that mean that gay priests won't come out of the closet? Well, as I said, I've been against a ban on the ordination of homosexuals, but if it will ensure that priests behave more as they did in those halcyon days before the sexual revolution, then maybe it's time to re-evaluate my opinion. I could applaud a homosexual priest "coming out" privately to a penitent if he is trying to lead to a chaste life. That would be fine. But we don't need to know our parish priest's sexual orientation. And is the implication that molesters only molested because of secrecy? Ever meet a really open child molester?

"Second," Winters continues, "many of those priests the right wing considers 'their own' are also gay, and only a willful ignorance would fail to see it." As I said, I can't imagine why I would care if a priest with a homosexual orientation is leading a chaste and holy life. So what's the problem here?

On the other hand, if they are using secrecy to engage in homosexual (read: sinful) activity, I agree with Diogenes,who writes, "I think they do more damage to the Church than the Weaklands and the Bernardins, precisely because conservatism provides better cover for gays to operate under. And Winters is right that many conservatives have indulged in willful ignorance here and given a pass to -- or at least averted their eyes from -- questionable behavior by traditional and orthodox clergy that they wouldn't countenance in liberals."

Winters continues:

"I know some gay priests who have truly wrestled with their sexuality. As with straight priests, some have fallen from their vows on occasion or on holiday, but most have been largely faithful. Some gay priests are liberal and others are conservative. Some are still conflicted by their sexuality and others are not.

"What they all share is an almost heroic sense of integrity. To try and blame them for the shiftless careerism that caused bishops to look the other way while children were being abused is beyond the pale."

All gay priests have an "almost heroic sense of integrity?" All? How does Mr. Winters know this? No good words for the bishops, though I must say that shiftlessness and careerism are an unusual combination.

And do you want to risk having a hetero meanie give you the last rites?

"When I approach my death, I want a kind priest at hand, and I frankly don't care what his sexual preference is. I suspect that most Catholics feel that way. It is a thing that the right-wingers hate to admit, but the Christian Gospels do not suggest a culture war. They suggest that we be on the lookout for hypocrisy, especially our own."

When I approach death, I hope my mind will be on my own sins. Yeah, I'd like a sweet priest, but that isn't really what will matter at that point.

The Press: Ho-Hum about the Iraqi Referendum...

After Katrina--which the media hopes will be useful in driving the country to the left--came the Iraqi referendum--a victory for the Bush administration and all people who love freedom. Do you see a pattern? The media presents information that makes conservatives believe we are at our darkest hour. And then the people, in the U.S. or Iraq, go to the polls, and we realize that reality is not so nearly as bleak as we had been led to believe.

An American Spectator correspondent observes from Baghdad:

"This is also a bitter pill for the American MSM. They were hoping the Constitution would lose, not because they felt that would be good or bad for Iraq, or that it would be good or bad for the U.S., but because it would enable them to stick a finger in President Bush's eye. That is all that matters to them. To hell with the U.S.! Let's bring down George Bush even if it hurts the country!"

The Iraqi referendum was achieved by force of arms and the courage of the Iraqi people. As Mark Steyn observes, it certainly wasn't any organization beloved of the left that freed Iraq from tyranny:

"[The Iraq of Saddam] Iraq is gone now - not because of Unicef and the other transnational institutions that confer respectability on dictatorships, but because America, Britain and a few others were prepared to go to war. As the Guardian harrumphed on Saturday: 'People who opposed the war in Iraq will find it hard to stomach attempts to present the referendum as a triumph.'

"Fair enough. For my part, I find it hard to stomach the degrees of support offered to the 'insurgency' by George Galloway, John Pilger, Tariq Ali and Michael Moore. But it's not about what I or the Guardian find hard to stomach. Peripheral though they may be to the concerns of the 'peace' crowd, it is in the end about the Iraqi people, and, as with all the previous will-they-won't-they deadlines, at the eleventh hour they managed to rouse themselves and pull it off."

Would It Be Better Had She Never Lived?

A mother of a girl with Down Syndrome writes in today's Washington Post that people ask her if she had "the test." The assumption is that if she'd had amniocentesis, she would have had an abortion. In fact, a dinner partner insisted that aborting such babies is a moral obligation. It would avert unremitting suffering on the child's part:

"Margaret does not view her life as unremitting human suffering (although she is angry that I haven't bought her an iPod). She's consumed with more important things, like the performance of the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs and the dance she's going to this weekend. Oh sure, she wishes she could learn faster and had better math skills. So do I. But it doesn't ruin our day, much less our lives. It's the negative social attitudes that cause us to suffer....

"In ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same.

"Margaret's old pediatrician tells me that years ago he used to have a steady stream of patients with Down syndrome. Not anymore. Where did they go, I wonder. On the west side of L.A., they aren't being born anymore, he says."

There's More to Being Catholic Than Arguing about Gay Priests

Sometimes we forget what really matters. Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister, who is covering the synod in Rome, brings us back to what should be at the very center of the lives of Catholics:

"In the hall of the Vatican where the synod on the Eucharist is being held from October 2-23, above the presider's table is a large screen. It displays a famous fresco by Raphael, which illustrates for the synod fathers the theme of their meeting: the 'Disputation on the Sacrament.' At the center of the depiction, on an altar surrounded by other fathers who are reasoning and discussing - while they adore - is the consecrated host exposed in a magnificent monstrance...."

Many thanks to Amy Welborn of Open Book for spotting this wonderful piece.

Singing a New Song in Iraq

My prayers were answered. The Iraqi people, including members of the Sunni minority, risked their lives to vote in the weekend's referendum. It appears that the constitution has been accepted.

Only if you believe the biased mainstream media do you think we are losing in Iraq. Here is what Stephen Schwartz, author of "The Two Faces of Islam," writes about this most recent sign of success in Iraq:

"We won again! For a second time, the Iraqi people proved the Western mainstream media, Islamist radicals, self-righteous and nihilistic war protestors, disaffected Democrats, and neo-isolationists wrong: the referendum on the new constitution was successful. The Sunni minority participated in the polling and those among them voting 'no' were swamped by the positive outcome.

"Iraq will have its new constitution. The transforming intervention led by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair will succeed. The global sweep of bourgeois revolution will continue, centering on Iraq's neighbors: monarchical Saudi Arabia, statist Syria, and theocratic Iran.

"But how long will the Western media get the post-9/11 story wrong before they understand that they, the MSM, are a major part of the problem?

"[M]oderate Sunni Muslims who tried to tell Western media and government the facts about the probable outcome in the Iraqi constitutional election were ignored. Instead, numerous MSM reporters applied the practice they have pursued since the Sandinista era in Nicaragua: they found radicals and marginal, anonymous grumblers, and presented their clichés as the voice of all Iraqi Sunnis."

A good piece in the American Spectator commented on the obviously uncomfortable media coverage of the vote:

"Watching the vote progress in Iraq throughout the day on Saturday, one was left with the unfortunate impression that there would have been a lot less squirming in the anchor chairs if there had been mass bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad rather than a marked decrease in violence since the last election or if five percent of Sunnis had come out to vote instead of 65 percent.

"For example, during CNN's coverage of the election Christiane Amanpour got off on a riff about a Sunni she had met who was opposed to the new constitution.

"'Never before did we talk about Sunni, Shia, Kurd,' Amanpour directly quoted the man as saying without referring to a tape or any notes. 'For many, many years, despite our difficulties, despite the oppression under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis never really talked about their ethnic differences. They were Iraqis first and foremost.'

"To hear Amanpour relay it, during Operation Anfal when Iraq was bombarding Kurd villages with chemical weapons and hauling untold thousands of men, women, and children off to mass graves, the Kurds must have been thinking, 'Well, at least we are all Iraqis. At least, God forbid, our nation has not lost its unity or is fragmented.'"

From the coverage of the referendum, here is a description of the people the high-minded folks in the peace movement would like to abandon:

"A security ban on private vehicles, invoked to keep would-be bombers from reaching targets, had a blissful side effect: The boys and girls of Baghdad took back the streets for a day.

"'Do you want us to tell you something?' asked Tamara Majeed, 11, when a visitor interrupted her friends as they sketched a chalk outline for tuki -- a form of hopscotch -- in the middle of a potholed street in Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim district of 2 million.

"Barely waiting for an answer, the group of schoolgirls in pigtails, bows and scarves burst into song.

"'Let your vote revolt,' their high voices sang in a made-for-the-day anthem learned recently in school. The song continued, referring to the former ruling party of Saddam Hussein: 'Don't let us down -- don't make me return to the Baathist grave.'"

As Lucianne noted, you had to get to wade through the paper to page A 22 to read this. The media does not want us to succeed in Iraq, though from time to time a scene like this intrudes into their bleak, anti-war reporting.

One Last Question: Are You in Favor of Sin?

While getting my hair done last week, I came across an article on evaluating gay men for the priesthood that I cannot find online. There was a sidebar about a psychologist who interviewed the men. Loose Canon is not one of those right wingers who doesn't approve of shrinks, but I kept thinking that the real evaluation is a simple question: Do you regard engaging in homosexual activity as a sin? If the answer is no, then the man is not suitable for the priesthood. As for going to a gay pride march, that should be a disqualification (in my opinion) because it implies support for engaging in activity that the Church teaches is sinful. Would you ordain a man who participated in the Happy Sinning Parade?

Can't Somebody Stop This?

Some of the very things that sustain us, especially those who fight for our country, are offensive to the intellectual elites. In "Spurning America," Michael Barone points out some of the traditions that maintain military esprit de corps:

"On the eve of a difficult mission, 'more than one soldier went to sleep hoping that the next days would prove him a worthy member of that lineage.' That's one reason the military maintains old units, so that soldiers will be motivated to match the deeds of those who came before and prove worthy to those who come after.

"Similarly, one of the comforting aspects of attending religious services is the knowledge that you are doing what others have done before you and others will do after. Even nonbelievers often feel a twinge of awe when they attend Christian or Jewish weddings or funerals and witness liturgies with centuries-old roots.

"And then there's the flag. Most Americans feel a shiver when they hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" played and reflect on the triumphs and tragedies that those serving under that flag have won and suffered over more than 200 years. You're part of something larger than yourself."

But, continues Barone, "not all of us cherish ties to past traditions. 'America's business, professional, intellectual and academic elites,' writes Samuel Huntington in his 2004 book, "Who Are We?" have 'attitudes and behavior (that) contrast with the overwhelming patriotism and nationalistic identification with their country of the American public. ... They abandon commitment to their nation and their fellow citizens, and argue the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large.'"

Clearly, there is much yet to be done by the ACLU or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Cindy, We Hardly Knew Ye

My colleague Charlotte Allen points out that a Washington Post piece on the mothers of fallen soldiers contains the first admission from a major media outlet that Cindy Sheehan flopped.

It's Not a Debacle

Let's hope that preparations by Iraqi soldiers for that country's important referendum on the constitution will bring a degree of success, that Iraqi citizens will have the high courage required to vote Saturday--and that they will be safe.

As disappointed (indeed, angry) as I am about the appointment of Harriet Miers, who should withdraw her name, I really care most of all about the war in Iraq. Winning it is essential to the safety of the people of both Iraq and the United States. That is why National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's "American Debacle" article in the Los Angeles Times was so appalling:

"Some 60 years ago Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental 'Study of History,' that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was 'suicidal statecraft.' Sadly for George W. Bush's place in history and - much more important - ominously for America's future, that adroit phrase increasingly seems applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11.

"In a very real sense, during the last four years the Bush team has dangerously undercut America's seemingly secure perch on top of the global totem pole by transforming a manageable, though serious, challenge largely of regional origin into an international debacle."

The historian Victor Davis Hanson (whose "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War" is receiving enthusiastic reviews) answers Brzezinski:

"Aside from the unintended irony that the classical historian Arnold Toynbee himself was not always 'adroit,' but wrong in most of his determinist conclusions, and that such criticism comes from a high official of an administration that witnessed on its watch the Iranian-hostage debacle, the disastrous rescue mission, the tragicomic odyssey of the terminally ill shah, the first and last Western Olympic boycott, oil hikes even higher in real dollars than the present spikes, Communist infiltration into Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Cambodian holocaust, a gloomy acceptance that perpetual parity with the Soviet Union was the hope of the day, the realism that cemented our ties with corrupt autocracies in the Middle East (Orwellian sales of F-15 warplanes to the Saudis minus their extras), and the hard-to-achieve simultaneous high unemployment, high inflation, and high interest rates, Mr. Brzezinski is at least a valuable barometer of the current pessimism over events such as September 11.

"Such gloom seems to be the fashion of the day.

"The story of the war since September 11 is that the United States military has not lost a single battle, has removed two dictatorships, and has birthed democracy in the Middle East. During Katrina, critics suggested troops in Iraq should have been in New Orleans, but that was a political, not a realistic complaint: few charged that there were too many thousands abroad in Germany, Italy, the U.K., Korea, or Japan when they should have been in Louisiana."

Should liberal opinion prevail--and it could--we will face an American debacle.

And the Envelope, Please

Loose Canon's first Courage Award to a writer who refuses to toe the multicultural line goes to Australian author Roger Sandall for these curmudgeonly words, occasioned by Jared Diamond's lament for the loss of Mayan culture in his book "Collapse:"

"I don't care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don't think we should shed a single retrospective tear. It might be interesting to know how or why it fell-whether from war or drought or disease or soil exhaustion-but I don't much care about that either. Because quite frankly, as civilizations go, the Mayan civilization in Mexico didn't amount to much."

Artful Dodger?

Mayan civilization isn't the only thing that's declined and fallen. What about the Episcopal Church? It was once the nursery of American civilization, but now appears on the brink of a formal split.

The upcoming General Convention (June 2006), which is scheduled to elect a new Presiding Bishop, the head of the communion in the U.S., is seen by some as the occasion of the split. Therefore Christian Challenge, a small publication put out by Episcopalians who still believe the ancient teachings of Christianity, sees a dodge ("Altruism-Or Artful Dodge?") behind a suggestion that the Episcopalians just skip this confab-and give the money to charity:

"In munificent gesture, gay activist Louie Crew--a member of the Episcopal Church's (ECUSA) Executive Council--wants the church to cancel its 2006 General Convention and give the money thus saved to Hurricane Katrina victims who have no insurance.

"No General Convention? On the surface, it also seems like the best gift to orthodoxy in years.

"Of course, it's probably just a coincidence -- or is it? -- that this would be the same convention that Anglican primates expect to decisively answer whether ECUSA--now suspended over its pro-gay policies--will walk with or apart from the Anglican Communion."

Unfortunately, an Episcopal parish in Arkansas (of all places) has joined the ranks of those who refuse to give their assent to historical Christianity.

He Carried His Crow's Ear High

It's amazing how ignorant the media is about religious usages, not to mention dogma and history. A Canadian Catholic comments on this apparently invincible ignorance:

"British journalist Libby Purves got it quite right when she observed recently and humourously in her column in The Tablet: 'On 4 April an old convent school friend speechlessly thrust a copy of the International Herald Tribune into my hand and pointed to the paragraph about the catafalque: 'The 84-year-old Jean Paul was laid out in Clementine Hall, dressed in white and red vestments. Tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crow's ear, that he had carried in public.'

"So the crozier has become the crow's ear. But it doesn't stop here. Purves continues: 'The BBC subtitle service was quite rich in moments of epic religious illiteracy, providing a troop of Karma Light nuns. It also gave up entirely on the 'Oremus' by subtitling it 'Chanting in a foreign language.' "

Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this.

Bad Girls, Inc.?

A new campaign by a doll company is causing controversy. A website called One Million Youth explains it this way:

"Possibly some of you have daughters who play with the American Girl dolls or read their books. You may even be thinking about buying a doll or books for Christmas. Well, it turns out American Girl (owned by Mattel) is partnering with a group called Girls Inc. to sell a bracelet, the 'I Can' band, which financially supports Girls Inc. Seventy cents of every purchase goes to Girls Inc. The band is sold on the American Girl webpage with a large ad and a link to the Girls Inc. webpage. In addition, the webpage says American Girl is giving $50,000 to Girls, Inc.

"The problem here is that Girls Inc. has on their webpage a statement saying they particularly support abortion and a girl's right to abort an unwanted baby. They were quite clear about their support for Roe, so there is no mistake or room for confusion on that count. Additionally, Girls Inc. supports contraceptives for girls.

"They also support and offer resources encouraging lesbian and bi-sexual lifestyles, actually offering resources for girls. One of their publications states, 'The emergence of a lesbian identity is an ongoing process, rather than an event.' "Of course, American Girl itself is a separate company, unrelated to Girls, Inc. except now by webpage and the seventy cents on every bracelet."

The description of the Girls, Inc. website is quite accurate. Maybe young women could be asked to think about these issues--but girls?

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think girls who play with dolls need to be introduced to contraception or lesbianism.

Loose Canon commends the the Pro-Life Action League, which is trying to alert parents that this "seemingly innocent self-esteem campaign" is helping to "support the pro-abortion, pro-lesbian agenda of Girls Incorporated."

Maybe instead of an "I Can" campaign girls need and "I Won't" campaign? Being able to say you won't do something is often the road to real self-respect.

Priestly Abuse: More Shocking News

As you may know, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has released more information (in the absurdly-titled "Addendum to the People of God") on sexual abuse by priests. The Los Angeles Times quite rightly refers to the "vast scope" of the abuse in its report:

"Molestations have been alleged at roughly 100 parishes. But because the accused priests moved around the archdiocese on average every 4.5 years, the total number of parishes in which alleged abusers served is far larger - more than three-fourths of the 288 parishes, according to the study, which examined records back to 1950.

"The affected parishes were in neighborhoods of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties both rich and poor, suburban and urban, some predominantly white and others with African American or Latino majorities. The study does not support the contention made by some critics of the church that problem priests were dumped into poor, Latino and African American communities.

"Based on the allegations, the number of abusive priests peaked in 1983. More than 11% of the diocesan priests - those who worked directly for the archdiocese, rather than for religious orders - who were in ministry that year eventually were accused of abuse."

The Catholic blogger Diogenes has "bounced around" the file to come up with the case history of just one priest, Father Michael Baker:

"09/19/86: pursuant to Cardinal Mahony's invitation during a retreat for priests to talk with him about their problems, requests meeting with Cardinal.

"Typical file entry, right?

"12/22/86: Meets with Cardinal Mahony and Vicar for Clergy Curry to discuss his relationship with two boys from 1978 to 1985. "Well, the Cardinal sent him off to art therapy camp at Jemez Springs. The cure was miraculous, as evidenced by this roster of subsequent parish assignments." As Diogenes notes, Baker was in eight parishes in five years, with four different jobs in 1992. Baker was finally removed from the priesthood in 2000 "after it was known -- and impossible to hide -- that he had molested as many as 10 victims over the previous 20 years."

It would be interesting to know the mindset of the cardinal who allowed this to happen. We as Catholics believe in forgiveness, but that obviate temporal action. Why did nobody think to do the simplest thing possible: call the cops?

Reductio ad Absurdum

In response to my comment that the Vatican is quite right to exclude those gay candidates who attend gay pride marches from the priesthood, Beliefnet member Oversoul posts: "What if a priest went to a Gay Pride event in support of, say, his gay parishioners? Or his gay sibling(s) or parent?" If this is the kind of "support" he is giving, then he really shouldn't be ordained.

Throw Yourself Off that Precipice!

The Nobel Prize Committee becomes more absurd with every prize it grants. Brit playwright Harold Pinter has just won for literature. The Telegraph reports that the committee said it gave the prize to Pinter because his work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." And also probably because he hates George Bush.

Are Suicide Bombers Killing Muslim Unity?

An encouraging article by Islamic scholar Bernard Haykel suggests that some jihadis are appalled by suicide bombers who also kill innocent Muslims:

"The simple fact is that many jihadis believe the war in Iraq is not going well. Too many Muslims are being killed. Images of that slaughter, conveyed by satellite television and the Internet throughout the Muslim world, are eroding global support for the jihadi cause. There are strong indications from jihadi Web sites and online journals, confirmed by conversations I have had while doing research among Salafis, or scriptural literalists, that the suicide attacks are turning many Muslims against the jihadis altogether."

The infamous, intercepted letter of advice from Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two leader, to Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda's forces in Iraq apparently made a similar point about beheadings:

"Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable -also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God."

Haykel, who believes the emerging split can be exploited by the West,pointed out in his piece that leaders of jihad are sensitive to Muslim public opinion. This certainly seems to be the case for the media-conscious Zawahiri:

"However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media .... And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this."

Powerline, however, predicts that the advice will have little impact on the more bloodthirsty elements of the jihad:

"Reading Zawahiri's letter is almost enough to make you feel sorry for him. He is like an old Bolshevik, wringing his hands over the murderous policies of his Stalinist progeny. Zawahiri was once a doctor, and is a relatively cultured and learned man. Zarqawi was a Jordanian street thug and is now a sadistic mass murderer. One can easily imagine how little effect Zawahiri's remorse will have on the bloodthirsty leader of the Iraqi 'insurgency.'"

Hello, George, This is God...

It was absurd on the face of it: I refer to the respected Independent newspaper's moronic headline, "Bush: God Told Me to Invade Iraq." (God would probably have been smart enough to tell him not to tell anybody.) But the president's religion inspires great fear and loathing in the posh media. They find it so alien that they are ready to fall for an outlandish story of this sort. Mark Steyn points out that these same reporters and editors are remarkably tolerant of real religious fanatics:

"One suspects a few of those excitable British editors realised that, even as they stampeded to the picture desk to work up some shots of the President looking insanely beatific under the "It's Official: Bush 'Religious Nut' Says Respected Palestinian Intifada Apologist" headlines. One day, when they're sifting through the ruins of post-Christian Europe, archaeologists will marvel at the energy expended on the gleeful mockery of open religiosity.

"Well, not all religiosity, of course."

Guess what religion that might be.

Who Received Communion at Brother Roger's Funeral?

Only God sees into our souls. But Brother Roger, the Swiss Protestant monk who founded the Taize movement, appears to have been one of the great souls of the last century. That is why it is particularly horrible that the New York Times, not exactly an astute observer of matters liturgical, created a controversy by misreporting an important aspect of Brother Roger's funeral.

Here is a snippet from the Times (the article is no longer free):

"Brother Roger Schutz pursued many ecumenical dreams in his life, but in death one of them came true. At a Eucharistic service celebrated Tuesday by a Roman Catholic cardinal for Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination."

Catholic scholar George Weigel sets the record straight:

"Since the 1970s, all Eucharistic celebrations at the Church of the Reconciliation at Taize are Catholic liturgies, presided over by priests or bishops. 'For those who...cannot or do not wish to receive communion in the Catholic Church, a special arrangement enables them to receive the 'blessed bread.' After the Gospel reading...a basket of small pieces of bread is blessed by the celebrant and set on a table next to the altar. At the moment of communion, the distribution of the Eucharist and the distribution of the blessed bread are done in a way that clearly indicates the difference. In this the Orthodox and Easter-rite Catholics recognize their traditional practice of distributing the 'antirodon,' namely parts of the altar bread that have not been consecrated. At Brother Roger's funeral, in accordance with the usual practice at Taize, those present could receive either the consecrated Eucharistic species or the blessed bread.'

"The Times' story suggests that a policy decision was made to give holy communion to non-Catholics at Brother Roger's funeral. That is simply not true. The suggestion demeaned both the faith of Brother Roger in the Real Presence and the delicacy and integrity with which Taize has tried to live both the truth of the Eucharist and the quest for ecclesial reconciliation. It also set off a wholly unnecessary controversy that would have pained Brother Roger deeply. The Times owes Taize (and Cardinal Kasper [who celebrated the funeral Mass] an apology."

Gay Priests: Not Banned, but Gay Pride Marches Are...

Although the synod in Rome is focusing on the Eucharist, other topics are being debated, including, not surprisingly, sexual issues. The National Catholic Reporter's ace, John Allen, as usual, is doing a splendid job on the synod. There is also a link for his daily coverage.

Loose Canon was particularly pleased by this very sane bit on the discussion of priestly celibacy in Allen's account of the doings at the synod:

"It should be noted that to date, no one on the synod floor has directly called for a relaxation in the celibacy requirement. The only participant so far who has even mentioned the idea of ordination for the viri probati, or 'tested married men,' has been the relator, Cardinal Angelo Scola, who himself seemed opposed to the idea.

"On the other hand, several synod fathers have come out in favor of maintaining the celibacy rule, including bishops from the East, who have said that married priests in the Orthodox churches tend to create as many problems as they solve."

There is no theological reason that married men cannot be ordained, but it has been the practice not to do so for a long time. Changing the rules now, in an era when chastity is considered foolish and sterile, would be a huge mistake.

Also pleasing to Loose Canon is Allen's report that the Vatican will not insist on "absolute ban" on the ordination of homosexual men to the priesthood but will insist on certain standards.

According to Allen, a homosexual will not be ordained if...

"If candidates have not demonstrated a capacity to live celibate lives for at least three years;

"If they are part of a 'gay culture,' for example, attending gay pride rallies (a point, the official said, which applies both to professors at seminaries as well as students);

"If their homosexual orientation is sufficiently 'strong, permanent and univocal' as to make an all-male environment a risk."

(Here is another account of the expected gay document.)

It strikes me that the Church must be careful with ordaining gay men and that these are three very good criteria for refusing ordination. A man who is part of the gay subculture is proclaiming that he rejects the teachings of the Church.

Of course, I am a squish on the subject of the ordination of homosexuals. Diogenes isn't--and he sees problems ahead.

Double Standards

Would any Christian chaplain receive this kind of kid gloves treatment? I doubt it.

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Anti-Bush forces see the Miers nomination as a golden opportunity to split the conservative movement. This hope bubbles up to the surface in this piece ("GOP Evangelicals Fight Intellectuals over Harriet Miers") by Slate's John Dickerson:

"Left-wing bloggers may see the Bush administration and its allies as a uniform mass, but like all successful political teams, it's actually a coalition. At the heart of the coalition is an uncomfortable mix between, on the one hand, right-wing intellectuals, including the neoconservatives whose backing for the Iraq invasion has been so important, and, on the other, the evangelicals who turned out in such numbers to vote for a man who boasted that he was one of them. The Bible-thumbing armies may carry the elections, but they sometimes make the elites in the Republican Party as uncomfortable as they make Maureen Dowd and Michael Moore. In return, the mega-church attendees are mistrustful of the party's often secular, often not-Christian pundits and wizards."

For your daily dose of snobbery, read the whole piece. Apparently, Mr. Dickerson doesn't think Christians ("Bible thumping armies") can be intellectuals. He also postulates a tension between believers and non-believers who share political goals as more significant than it is. Don't get your hopes up, Mr. Dickerson.

Those of us who oppose the Miers pick do so because it is (as Mona Charen terms it) "timid and tepid pick." Charen explains why it is so infuriating:

"[T]he stinging disappointment we feel is the lost opportunity. For 20 years, conservatives have been waiting to see Justice O'Connor's seat taken by an articulate, persuasive, thoughtful and energetic conservative jurist. The talents demanded by the post include, but are not limited to, a philosophical grounding in political theory, thorough familiarity with the Supreme Court's jurisprudence over the past two centuries and particularly over the past several decades, a skilled pen, and a commanding personality. Ideally, the president would have chosen someone with an established reputation for legal brilliance. Why? Because the task of a Supreme Court justice is to persuade. Even in dissent, his or her reasoning may influence the law and our society for decades. This is not the place for an affirmative action hire (though a number of splendid women judges were available), nor for a fine staffer, no matter how solid and reliable she seems to the president."

But what about the faith issue? I suppose I'd prefer a lackluster jurist who is a Christian to a lackluster jurist who is a militant atheist. But what a choice. I feel certain that Ms. Miers believes that abortion is wrong--but is she able to craft a legal opinion on a case involving abortion?

"The No. 1 hook that allows us to take a leap of faith, even those who don't share her faith, is she is an evangelical Christian," conservative activist Manuel Miranda, executive director of the Third Branch Conference, a Washington-based advocacy group, told Bloomberg News. "I respect that, but it isn't quite enough."

I jokingly referred to Ms. Miers as Harriet the Apostate--she seems to have been brought up Catholic and become an evangelical. While I certainly disagree with that course of action, I have bad news for Mr. Dickerson: This is not an issue that is going to split the conservative coalition (you'd know that if you didn't have a caricature view of Christians).

Another reason to believe that the Miers nomination isn't going to split the conservative coalition--the coalition is overwhelmingly unified in opposition to the nomination.

There's one way to stop stealth nominees--overturning Roe. That is why Supreme Court nominees must be people with a short paper trail. To return court appointments to sanity, put the issue of abortion in the hands of voters, where it has always belonged. The pro-abortion forces have a head start--we've had legalized abortion for more than three decades; it is the status quo--and it is unlikely that voters would adopt an anti-abortion stance across the board.

Harriet and Gays

I also think that liberals are hoping that Ms. Miers is a lesbian--they think that this would split the right. (It wouldn't--we like closeted lesbians who have sound judicial opinions. And there's no reason to believe that she is gay, unless you assume that all unmarried women are.) Her opinions on the gay issue--as reflected in the now-infamous questionnaire she filled out for a gay organization--are pretty much mine. That does not, however, mean she is a great jurist.

Message: I'm Not Just Gay--I'm a Victim

This is turning into a gay day: The Rev. Dr. Patrick Molloy, now rector of an Episcopal cathedral, was turned down for Catholic seminary because he was gay:

"I know the rhetoric that claims that the Church did love me but could not dignify my propensity for what it considers to be evil. The official jargon is that we gay people are 'intrinsically disordered.' The fact that we are affectively oriented toward others of our own sex is a character defect, even if we never act on it. I cannot describe the emotional and spiritual damage it does to a person, especially a young person, to be told that the most tender, most altruistic, most joyful stirrings of their hearts are evil.

"Even as the Roman Church showed me how little it actually loved me, I did not stop loving it. ..."

By the way, it's called Church teaching, not "official jargon." Mr. Molloy is exactly where he belongs--in a church that consecrates homosexual bishops. And is on the verge of splitting because of it.

Don't Give Me That God!

Loose Canon has been remiss in not following the Vatican's synod on the Eucharist. This may be an odd way to commemorate it, but there is a terrific piece on the Pontifications blog about why the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist matters. The author, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, relies on... Martin Luther to make the point:

Evangelicals still remain alienated from the powerful incarnational vision of Luther. They do not see the deep connection between grace and sacrament. They do not see that their arguments against sacraments are easily turned against the Incarnation itself. They do not see that to divorce the gospel from its ritual embodiments is to construct an unbiblical God, a fleshless God, a graceless God, a very ordinary spiritual God. Mir aber des Gottes nicht! (Don't give me any of that God!)"

Why We Must Never Call Retreat

My local network affiliates chose to ignore or quickly cut away from the president's major speech this morning. What I saw was OK but not great. I missed some of the highlights, though, and the transcript reveals that Bush said some of what must be said again and again:

"[T]hese extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace and stand in the way of their ambitions. ...

"Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter century: They hit us and expect us to run.

"They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993, only this time on a larger scale with greater consequences.

"[T]he militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments."

Of course, with me, he's preaching to the choir. It is the left that needs to see these truths, and they refuse. That is why this piece by Sasha Abramsky, whose work has appeared in such far-left journals as Mother Jones and the Nation, was so heartening. Abramsky was in his native England shortly after the terrorist bombings:

"Yet reading the voices of much of the self-proclaimed `left' in the London papers in the aftermath of the bombings, I was struck by how ossified many of them have become, how analyses crafted at the height of the Cold War have lingered as paltry interpretive frameworks for political fissures bearing little if anything in common with that `twilight conflict.' While on the one hand I agreed with their well-reasoned arguments pointing to a certain degree of western culpability for spawning groups like al-Qaeda, on the other hand I was saddened by how utterly incapable were those same arguments of generating responses to the fanaticism of our time.

"British journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Tariq Ali, along with British MP George Galloway, and, on the other side of the Atlantic, commentators such as Naomi Klein have all essentially blamed Britain and the United States for bringing the attacks upon themselves. While being careful to denounce the bombers and their agenda, these advocates uttered variations on the same theme: get out of Iraq, bring home the troops from all points east, curtail support for Israel, develop a more sensible, non-oil-based energy policy, and our troubles would dissipate in the wind."

Was Katrina Divine Retribution?

Loose Canon has a soft spot for retired New Orleans Archbishop Phillip Hannan, a former military chaplain. Hannan served in the elite 82nd Airborne and jumped with his paratroopers. He's an old-fashioned Catholic bishop, the kind you don't much see nowadays, unfortunately.

Hannan is a far cry from Rowan Williams, M'Lord of Canterbury, who jabbered on about how the Asian tsunami may have caused cause many to doubt God. Here's what Hannan said about Katrina, according to the website Spirit Daily (Spirit Daily can be sort of weird, but I like that the archbishop has the robust faith to say these things--you don't hear them very often):

"[T]he archbishop urges that the lesson of the storm not be lost--and insists that it was a clear message from God.

"`I've been speaking at local parishes, and here's what I kept telling the people,' he says. `I say, look, we are responsible not only for our individual actions to God, but in addition to that we are also citizens of a nation and in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, it says that a nation has a destiny and we are responsible whether we cause it or not for the course of morality in that nation. We are responsible as citizens for the sexual attitude, disregard of family rights, drug addiction, the killing of 45 million unborn babies, the scandalous behavior of some priests -- so we have to understand that certainly the Lord has a right to chastisement. If you ask me if the Lord knew of this, this was the greatest storm in the history of the nation. He is the creator. He certainly permitted this. It would be as silly as asking if Henry Ford knew how a car worked.'

"According to Hannan, people who experienced it `are beginning to react according to that concept of morality.' He says that when he preached on the topic last Sunday in the devastated area of Mandeville, where 1,000 attended Mass, `people loudly applauded. They want to be told the truth.'"

Did the President Misread Their Lips?

A Robert Novak column puts forward several scenarios, including one that places the blame for the inexplicable nomination of Harriet Miers on the Senate Republicans:

"Two weeks ago, Bush was seriously considering another Texas woman he likes and knows well. The nomination of Federal Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen would have been highly regarded in the conservative community. Owen was confirmed for the appellate bench only after the compromise forged by the Group of Fourteen, and Republican senators advised the White House they did not want to fight for her again so soon. But there is no rule that O'Connor must be replaced by a Texas woman who is the president's pal. Many well-qualified conservative men and women were passed over to name Miers."

Can't Wait to Read about David and Goliath!

Evangelical Christians are used to being laughed at-but Lark News, a sort of Onion for Christians, suggests that maybe you'd have more chuckles laughing with them. It has reported on a new Bible specially for homosexuals ("[I]n the standard New International Version the passage about a rich young man who asks Jesus how to gain eternal life reads, `Jesus looked at him and loved him.' In the gay New International Version, this is changed to, `Jesus looked at him and was supremely attracted to him.'"). There is also a religious album banned by Wal-Mart because of "suggestive imagery depicting the church's love affair with Christ."

According to Christianity Today, some humorless non-evangelicals have fallen for the gags:

"[A] radio program in Wisconsin last month heavily discussed the nonexistent worship album and was forced to issue a retraction. Christian Retailing reported that Big Idea Productions received phone calls from two pastors upset with the comments that Bob the Tomato, an animated character, never made. Zondervan (the Bible company) told Christian Retailing that the [gay Bible] story was `a sick joke.'

"'It gets people into embarrassing situations when they don't recognize outright that it is satire, and I'm surprised that they don't,' says Joel Kilpatrick, founder and editor of Lark News."

The current issue features Christian looters in New Orleans and a pastor who is so hip nobody can understand what he is saying.

"The Curious Case of the Unloved Spinster"

I'm told that White House minions are having a hard time selling the Miers nomination to conservatives. The online poll at the conservative Townhall is running overwhelmingly against it.

Our chagrin is stated nicely in a piece in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal:

"Is the President sending a message that these distinguished conservatives are too controversial to be nominated for the High Court, even with a Senate containing 55 Republicans? The lesson this nomination in particular will send to younger lawyers is to keep your opinions to yourself, don't join the Federalist Society, and, heaven forbid, never write an op-ed piece. This isn't healthy in a democracy, and in this sense a Supreme Court fight over legal philosophy that ended in a conservative victory would have demonstrated to the left that Borking no longer works."

George Will is harsher:

"[I]t is not important that she be confirmed. Second, it might be very important that she not be. Third, the presumption -- perhaps rebuttable but certainly in need of rebutting -- should be that her nomination is not a defensible exercise of presidential discretion to which senatorial deference is due.

"It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks."

My opinion may be evolving-I'm disappointed, but...

Tony Blankley is a good spokesman for us "disappointed, buts..." in an excellent piece on "the curious case of the unloved spinster just launched on the rocket docket to the Supreme Court:"

"As a card-carrying member of the conservative conclave, I would not have made Miss Miers my first choice, or my thousandth. In fact, I would associate myself with Brother-in-Christ Patrick Buchanan's searing preachment at Monday's services concerning her wane qualifications for the high bench. ...

"And I confess I was doing a fair bit of snapping and snarling myself on Monday. But after my reptilian aggression subsided, it dawned on me that I needed to distinguish between the desirable and the necessary. In politics, we are well ahead of the game if we gain 50 percent of our goals. I have spent whole decades in politics where we accomplished almost nothing except a hard-fought-for continued existence.

"Of course I would have vastly and justifiably preferred President Bush to have chosen a certain, proven, intellectually formidable legal warrior (of whom he had an abundant choice). But I have to admit on reflection that even with the dull, dutiful Dallas evangel, it is much more likely than not, that 10 years from now she will be voting quite reliably with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and the one or two more generally conservative justices who George Bush will probably have the chance to place on the court in the remaining three and a third years of his presidency."

Abortion and the Nominee

I notice that the National Right to Life Committee has endorsed Ms. Miers for the Supreme Court. Based on vouching from Nathan Hecht, a member of the Texas Supreme Court and an elder in Ms. Miers's church, she is anti-abortion. But her personal opinion may be insufficient. The aforementioned Opinion Journal explains why:

"We aren't talking here, by the way, about Ms. Miers's personal views on abortion. GOP advocates yesterday were making much of the nominee's fight, in the early 1990s, to stop the American Bar Association from endorsing abortion on demand and public financing. For some social conservatives, this may be enough to assure them that Ms. Miers will vote correctly. But a judge is not a policymaker, and the problem with the Supreme Court's line of `privacy' cases isn't solely their policy result. It is that the Justices invented a right in the `penumbras' and `emanations' of the Constitution and then stole the decision-making power from the people and their legislators on these social issues. What matters is where Ms. Miers stands on the Constitutional question."

I don't expect Roe to be overturned anytime soon. But, it would be nice, should this happen, to have a well-reasoned opinion, not the justice's personal views. (Of course, I am glad she appears to be against abortion. Don't get me wrong. )

Harriet the Apostate: Born a Catholic, she subsequently became a born-again Christian who attends the Valley View Church in Dallas.

Black Mass in Miami?

If these allegations by the lawyer of a whistle-blowing priest in Miami are true, it sounds like something out of a black mass:

"[A canon lawyer] has asked that we present him with a report of everything [a private investigator hired by the priest] has uncovered on the sexual and financial improprieties of the local clergy: homosexual activity, stealing, drugs, parties, and an incident in which the Sacred Host was given to a homosexual priest's dog at a Mass with other homosexual priests."

Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this depraved item.

So What's the Fuss About?

Unless Loose Canon missed something, there is absolutely nothing new in a recent statement by Catholic bishops on the Bible and historical truth:

"But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country's Catholic bishops insist cannot be 'historical.' At most, they say, they may contain 'historical traces.'"

Then the report makes a blooper:

"The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the 17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by advocating the Copernican view of the solar system. Only a century ago, Pope Pius X condemned Modernist Catholic scholars who adapted historical-critical methods of analysing ancient literature to the Bible."

We still believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God-it contains correct theological statements, but may nevertheless contain historical inaccuracies. As for the historical-critical method, in the hands of Modernist scholars, it has often led to the rejection of dogma. My guess is that many of the desert fathers regarded Genesis as a theological truth with traces of history.

Are You My Egg Donor?

Loose Canon has avoided the new NBC drama "Inconceivable" because I know it will raise my blood pressure. But like this reviewer for Slate magazine, I think the show must signal some sort of paradigm shift in our culture:

"NBC's decision to set an overdetermined, soap-operatic, pretty seamy, never-quite-funny drama in a fertility clinic is itself a barometer of the national mood on the subject. Just as the network gay shows signaled the arrival of the cultural moment when everybody either knew a gay person, knew someone who was related to a gay person, or was gay, so now we seem to have arrived at a point where every adult has either undergone fertility treatment or has a friend who has. According to the CDC, between 1996 and 2002, the number of rounds, or "cycles," of IVF performed at U.S. clinics rose by 78 percent, from 65,000 rounds to more than 115,000. Fertility-related medical visits now number in the millions each year. Truly, fertility medicine is the perfect vehicle for Hollywood drama: ordinary enough now to feel universal, but still emotionally charged and, often, genuinely dramatic. I found myself watching the pilot episodes (the series airs Fridays at 10 p.m.) with revulsion and fascination. The scenarios were often far-fetched, and there was lots of fudging with science and with normal lab procedure. Still, what rang true was the sight of clinic staffers deciding, on their own, whether to accede to the desires of, for example, a soldier who wants to conceive a child using eggs frozen by his soldier-wife before she shipped out to, and died in, Iraq. What rang true were decisions quietly made based on bottom-line profit-making; fear of lawsuits; the desire for publicity; scientific principles; committed medical professionalism; fundamental decency; what's known in science as the 'yuck' factor; and real delight in giving somebody a baby."

Or, really, just giving somebody what they want, a baby if that's it, regardless of the morality. Eve Tushnet, an analyst at the Institute for American Values, and contributor to the National Catholic Register, has seen "Inconceivable" and recognizes the horrific moral problems created by technologies and dramatized in the show:

"These technologies, and the legal tangles they create, have shifted us to an understanding of family that pretends bodies don't matter, and denies children's need for their own mother and father. Here are only a few examples of how what we might call `third-party reproduction' is reshaping our culture; hundreds such stories emerge every month.

"On Sept. 7, an Ohio judge ruled that an egg donor had parental rights to the triplets she created with a surrogate mother and a 64-year-old single man. It should be obvious: She is the children's parent. But egg and sperm donation are based on the fiction that her messy biological tie is trivial. And so there's no marriage here, no love between the three people claiming parentage; only contracts and legal disputes."

Stupid Design Theory

I blame Katrina. Bush took such a beating in the press and that he finally lost his will to fight. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers may be a nice lady. But she is also a nonentity:

"Watching Bush strain to pump up her accomplishments was cringe-making," writes Rich Lowry of National Review. "He said she has tried cases `before state and federal courts'! She has `argued appeals that covered a broad range of matters'! She was head of the Texas Lottery Commission and `insisted on a system that was fair and honest'! She was a leader with Child Care Dallas, Meals on Wheels, and other charitable groups! She has a law degree! From Southern Methodist University!"

"Bush has managed to create an almost perfect storm of contempt for his base, coupled with ongoing contempt from people who will always loathe him," writes Catholic blogger Mark Shea. "This is more than mere bungling. This is active stupidity. Stupidity that may come only once in a generation. Stupidity that works on so many levels. You almost have to admire the sheer elegance of the stupidity. It tempts you to believe in Stupid Design Theory."

The piece conservatives are talking about, by law professor Randy Barnet, argues that Alexander Hamilton, who argued that the Senate could help prevent cronyism in presidential nominations, would be displeased by the Miers nomination:

"To be qualified, a Supreme Court justice must have more than credentials; she must have a well-considered `judicial philosophy,' by which is meant an internalized view of the Constitution and the role of a justice that will guide her through the constitutional minefield that the Supreme Court must navigate. Nothing in Harriet Miers's professional background called upon her to develop considered views on the extent of congressional powers, the separation of powers, the role of judicial precedent, the importance of states in the federal system, or the need for judges to protect both the enumerated and unenumerated rights retained by the people. It is not enough simply to have private opinions on these complex matters; a prospective justice needs to have wrestled with them in all their complexity before attaining the sort of judgment that decision-making at the Supreme Court level requires, especially in the face of executive or congressional disagreement."

Bush, who has withstood so much enmity, was spooked by the media's treatment during Hurricane Katrina. Harriet Miers is his wobble. The uncourageous appointment does not bode well for the next three and a half years.

Moving On.Org

No, we conservatives aren't happy about Miers. But Powerline points out something about our relatively un-hysterical reaction to the nomination:

"It's hard to overstate how disappointing the nomination of Harriet Miers is, and I don't think we have. But one of the many things that distinguishes conservative blogs from their left-wing counterparts is the recognition that our state of mind isn't the story. Miers is the nominee, and it doesn't matter much at this point whether we think she is a first rate selection.

"The two most relevant issues now are (1) is she qualified and (2) is she conservative (and if so, in what sense). We don't know the answer to either question, which confirms how bad Bush's decision was. And given the way the process works, we probably won't learn the answer to the second question until Miers already is on the Court."

The Liberal's Sacred Text

Looking back at the Roberts hearings, Catholic historian James Hitchcock points out an irony of the new justice's "ordeal by ideology:"

"It is especially ironic that those who regard Roe v. Wade as a sacred text are liberals, meaning people who urge us to keep the country moving, constantly changing laws and other things to meet `new needs,' but who are now desperate to protect the status quo on abortion, adopting a stance towards judicial precedents that would have made it impossible to find racial segregation unconstitutional, for example, since earlier precedents had gone the opposite way."

A Three-D Appointment to the Supreme Court

The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is a cop out. She may be fine. Who knows? Well, nobody. President Bush has rejected distinguished jurists in favor of playing gender politics and making a disappointing nomination.

It's a shame that Supreme Court nominations are so contentious that the nominee must have a short paper trail. But this is ridiculous. We can hope that she is a judicial conservative. But, if she is confirmed, we won't know anything about her philosophy until she begins to make decisions on the Court.

I suppose I feel (without much ardor) that--ho hum--she should be confirmed if only because the Constitution gives the nominating power to the president. Barring some extraordinary revelation about her character, the Senate should vote to send Ms. Miers to the highest court in the land. But nobody should be happy: If Miers is a conservative, it's apparently a recent thing--she has financially supported Al Gore and Lloyd Bentsen in the past. The mind reels.

Like Bill Kristol, I am "disappointed, depressed, and demoralized." Maybe after the press lashing Bush took for mistakes made primarily by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's and Louisiana Gov. Loco Blanco during Hurricane Katrina, he simply went wobbly. Here is what Powerline says:

"Various helpful Democrats and media people have advised President Bush that, since he has been weakened by [fill in the blank], he can't risk a battle with the Senate Democrats and should nominate a 'consensus' candidate, i.e. a Democrat/moderate/abortion rights advocate, or whatever, to the Court. The President rightfully rejected this thinking with the Roberts nomination, which turned out to be one of the few political successes of his second term. The reason the Roberts nomination was successful politically was the nominee's obviously overwhelming qualifications for the job. Bush could have done the same thing once again, with any of a number of superbly qualified candidates. He should have nominated another great conservative, and dared the Democrats to filibuster him: the resulting political fallout might have changed the dynamics of Bush's second term in the administration's favor, and we would have wound up with another great jurist on the bench."

Conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt asks, "Do you trust him?" Hewitt is happier than I am:

"...Judges Luttig and McConnell are the most qualified nominees out there, but I think from the start that the president must have decided that this seat would be given to a woman, and it is very hard to argue that she is not the most qualified woman to be on the SCOTUS for the simple reason that she has been in the White House for many years."

Let me understand this: We should trust the president's judgment when he passes over the more qualified nominees in favor of a less qualified woman?

David Frum points out that this is an "unforced error:"

"[I]f Democrats had gone to war against a Michael Luttig or a Sam Alito or a Michael McConnell, they would have had to fight without weapons. The personal and intellectual excellence of these candidates would have made it obvious that the Democrats' only real principle was a kind of legal Brezhnev doctrine: that the Court's balance must remain forever what it was in the days when Democrats had a majority of the votes in the U.S. Senate. In other words, what we have, we hold. Not a very attractive doctrine, and not very winnable either.

"The Senate would have confirmed Luttig, Alito, or McConnell. It certainly would have confirmed a Senator Mitch McConnell or a Senator Jon Kyl, had the president felt even a little nervous about the ultimate vote.

"There was no reason for him to choose anyone but one of these outstanding conservatives. As for the diversity argument, it just seems incredible to imagine that anybody would have criticized this president of all people for his lack of devotion to that doctrine. He has appointed minorities and women to the highest offices in the land, relied on women as his closest advisers, and staffed his administration through and through with Americans of every race, sex, faith, and national origin. He had nothing to apologize for on that score. So the question must be asked, as Admiral Rickover once demanded of Jimmy Carter: Why not the best?"

It's a Seminary, Not Pottery Barn

As you may know, Loose Canon is squishy on the matter of ordaining homosexual men to the priesthood. I believe a gay man can become a holy priest and that fighting temptation can lead to sanctity.

But homosexual men (like heterosexual candidates) must be vetted thoroughly. Are they willing to acknowledge that homosexual activity is sinful? Will they make a holy effort to live lives of chastity and sacrifice? Some of the priests quoted anonymously in the last few weeks have sounded as if their first loyalty is to their sexual orientation, not the Church.

There is a revealing interview with a homosexual priest on Beliefnet:

"Now I think the big complaint is regarding the gay subculture in seminaries. It's not surprising that gay men would gravitate to each other like any other social minority. You have different ethnic groups that would also gravitate to one another. The only reason people are concerned is that they fear that within this subculture seminarians are encouraging each other to break their vow of chastity. This is ridiculous. Again, it's founded on a stereotype. There's nothing wrong with this gay subculture as long as these men are open and healthy people, which the vast majority are."

No. The worry is not simply that gay priests can't remain chaste in a gay subculture. The concern is the gay culture itself. There is something horribly wrong with allowing a gay subculture to flourish in seminaries. This interview shows why squishes like me have second thoughts. Does the Vatican know best after all?

Babies Who Don't Die Fast Enough

The Dutch want to kill children who are terminally ill:

"To prevent abuse, the government is establishing a commission to determine whether the criteria have been met in each situation. The commission will refer to prosecutors those cases that have not met the new guidelines.

"'I admire the Dutch desire for openness in addressing what is an incredibly difficult issue, but I categorically do not endorse ending people's lives with the argument that it's alleviating their suffering,' American ethicist and pediatrician Dr. Chris Feudtner of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told the AP. Euthanasia is 'prone to abuse' he said. 'If you allow it to occur, it will occur in cases where it is not ethical, period.'"

Takes One to Know One...

The correspondence makes it absolutely clear that New York Times reporter Judy Miller had no reason to go to jail.

Arianna Huffington has been terrific on Judy:

"The claim that Miller 'has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver' is laughable... and, indeed, has already been laughed at..."

My theory is that Miller thought a little faux martyrdom would be good for her reputation.

Guess Who the Real Racists Are

Well, yes, it's heartwarming to see liberals recoil in horror from the notion of aborting babies. Nevertheless Bill Bennett did not say he wants to abort black children--he was refuting a utilitarian argument that favors abortion.

Here's what happened:

"Bennett is on the hot seat for remarks uttered Wednesday during his radio show, 'Morning in America,' where he was arguing against some of the more extreme justifications for abortion, calling them 'ridiculous and morally reprehensible.'

"Offering an example, Bennett said:

"'I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.'"

That the crime rate has dropped because of legal abortion is the thesis put forward in a bestselling new book, "Freakonomics." Beliefnet had a story on abortion and the crime rate as propounded in the book. Many (mostly liberals) seem to have embraced what might be called the kill-them-before-they-kill-us school of thought to justify abortion. Bill Bennett was refuting this idea.

The argument about falling crime rates and legal abortion--not Bill Bennett--is tacitly but inherently racist. Black males make up a disproportionate segment of the prison population. Guess who they're talking about aborting. A Catholic who opposes abortion, Bennett was trying to show how morally reprehensible the Freakonomics argument is--and, apparently, he succeeded.

But, as Jonah Goldberg points out, this is a manufactured scandal:

"Anyway, as you might suspect, I think this is a silly, manufactured, attack on Bennett. Maybe he could have phrased it differently, but the point he made is rational and true and his moral condemnation of the suggestion was appropriate. To me, this is very similar to the whole 'evacuees' vs. 'refugees' nonsense after Katrina. People are trying to be offended rather looking at what he said, how he said and -- most of all -- the context in which he said it. I have no problem if people want to dislike Bennett or disagree with him on this or anything else, but this brouhaha is bottled outrage and nothing more."

Just for the record, we don't know if the Freakonomics theory is correct--there are so many factors that feed into rising or falling crime rates. But if it is correct, if it were proven beyond a shadow of doubt, it would still have no moral weight.

National Review's The Corner is the hot spot for discussions of the Bennett scandale.

Well, That's One Way to Get Attention

If you read this story in the Washington Post, several things will be clear--New York Times reporter Judith Miller had no reason to go to jail. Her source had released her from any confidentiality agreement--and he hadn't said anything incriminating anyway. Before going to the pokey, Miller was in the doghouse with the posh media establishment (she believed that there were WMD's in Iraq--the outrage!). Maybe this was her way of winning back some of her stature?

Four's a Crowd...

Polygamy isn't quite legal in the Netherlands. But it's legal enough. A European newspaper reports:

"Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal 'married' both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.

"'I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both,' Victor said. He had previously been married to Bianca. ...

"Asked by journalists to tell the secret of their peculiar relationship, Victor explained that there is no jealousy between them. 'But this is because Mirjam and Bianca are bisexual. I think that with two heterosexual women it would be more difficult.' Victor stressed, however, that he is 'a one hundred per cent heterosexual' and that a fourth person will not be allowed into the 'marriage.' They want to take their marriage obligations seriously: 'to be honest and open with each other and not philander.'"

This is not a brave new world--it is the old, pagan world, before Christ.


A recent convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism has some excellent advice for celebrants at Mass:

"Please, please, please stop looking at the congregation at the words of consecration, raising the Host and chalice and meaningfuly and punchingly speaking the words to us. The consecration is not a homily. It is part of a prayer that is directed to God! At this point, the normal place for you to focus your gaze is upon the elements themselves. Rest assured. We congregants do not need you to make the words of institution meaningful to us. We already know that they are. When you try to change these words into a short homilette, you only succeed in drawing attention to yourself, and you end making some of us-moi!-terribly uncomfortable. ...

"Stick to the script! I doubt that you have the authority to ad lib at the liturgy anyway, but few priests have the gift to do it well anyway. Say the words that are given to you, exactly as they are given to you. Don't add, don't subtract. Please don't start the liturgy by saying 'Good morning.' Please don't tell us in your own words why we have gathered together for Mass. Just start the Mass and get on with it. The liturgy has its own logic, its own rhythm and cadence. It is one musical composition in the Spirit. Every time you depart from the rite, you disrupt the flow of the liturgy and simply draw attention to yourself and away from the Lord. Preach away at the sermon, with as much enthusiasm and energy you can muster. That is your time. But for the rest of the liturgy, slip back into the role and hide behind your chasuble. The liturgy will carry itself, especially if it is conducted reverently, graciously, prayerfully, beautifully."

A Dispositional Conservative

The United States now has her 17th Chief Justice. Republican appointees to the high court have a way of moving to the left--but, as court watcher Christopher Levenick points out in the Standard, Roberts gives cause for hope:

"Conservatives nevertheless have good reason to expect Roberts to be the justice that President Bush promised them. They may reassure themselves with the knowledge that Roberts was formed in the crucible of the Reagan revolution, and that he evinces the dispositional conservatism of a traditional Catholic. By any reasonable account, Roberts appears more reliable than O'Connor, the justice he was originally intended to replace--and likely as dependable as William Rehnquist, the justice he will in fact replace."

The piece is well-worth reading because it gives a glimpse at how Roberts might function at Chief Justice--a startlingly brilliant Roberts memo shows that he has insights into how the Court has operated.

But what about the hearings? There was hot air but no blood on the floor. One conservative group felt that the vote to confirm shows that "advice and consent" is still alive and well. I disagree.

The 22 senators who voted against this highly qualified candidate--all Democrats--were transparent. They acted out of personal ambition or a desire to pander to the fringe element of the Democratic party. If there is a difference between these two motives.

So much for Hillary Clinton's move to the center--either she was tossing one to the more extreme elements of her party or this is the real Hillary. Take your pick.

Powerline is right that these "no" votes in what should have been a cut and dried "yes" change the rules of engagement in future confirmation battles. Still, I'm glad Roberts was confirmed without a deborkle.

The Accidental Decision

Of course, all the huffing and puffing in the Senate was over one case--Roe--and whether Roberts would vote to overturn it. Interestingly, the L. A. Times recently had a terrific piece on the decision.

The ruling was not intended to be so sweeping: "It is the story of a rookie justice (Harry Blackmun), unsure of himself and his abilities, who set out to write a narrow ruling that would reform abortion laws, not repeal them."

The L.A. Times piece, based on newly-released Blackmun papers, is several weeks old. I would have missed it but for the eagle-eyed Amy Welborn of Open Book.

Is the Pope Italian?

Yesterday I quoted National Catholic Reporter Vatican correspondent John Allen on the possibility that the Church will officially ban gay priests but make exceptions:

"Although this is a difficult point for many Anglo-Saxons to grasp, when the Vatican makes statements like 'no gays in the priesthood,' it doesn't actually mean 'no gays in the priesthood.' It means, 'As a general rule, this is not a good idea, but we all know there will be exceptions.'

"Understanding this distinction requires an appreciation of Italian concepts of law, which hold sway throughout the thought world of the Vatican."

My friend Douglas Welty raises an important point:

"Is the Pope Italian?" he asks. "NOOOO! He's German. So 'bla bla Italian concepts of law' is irrelevant to Ben16's pronouncement: 'Read my lips - no gay priests.'"

So An Anonymous Priest Walks into the Newsroom...

Speaking of the Catholic Church's proposed ban on ordaining gay men to the priesthood, everybody is talking about a piece headlined "So an anonymous priest walks into the news room..."

The piece is--as you might guess--about the profusion of anonymous sources quoted in stories on the issue, including a recent New York Times piece.

Loose Canon thinks all the hand-wringing about anonymous sources is silly--you get as many people as possible to go on record and those who won't you quote anonymously. If you don't get enough people to go on the record, your story will be weaker. So what's the deal?

Get Religion, however, does raise an excellent question about anonymous gay priests who talk to reporters:

"Stop and think about this for a moment. Where do these anonymous sources come from? What groups and causes do they represent? Would conservatives making anonymous claims be treated by elite MSM reporters in the same manner? Is it fair to allow one side in such a hot debate to remain cloaked, while the other is defending its views in a harsh spotlight?"

A Sensible Approach to Gay Seminarians?

Andrew Sullivan calls Vatican correspondent John Allen's interpretation of the coming ban in the Catholic Church on gays in the priesthood "merely bizarre." It sounds infinitely sensible to me--and I hope Allen's interpretation of the situation is accurate:

"Although this is a difficult point for many Anglo-Saxons to grasp," Allen writes, "when the Vatican makes statements like 'no gays in the priesthood,' it doesn't actually mean 'no gays in the priesthood.' It means, 'As a general rule, this is not a good idea, but we all know there will be exceptions.'

"Understanding this distinction requires an appreciation of Italian concepts of law, which hold sway throughout the thought world of the Vatican. The law, according to such thinking, expresses an ideal. It describes a perfect state of affairs from which many people will inevitably fall short. This view is far removed from the typical Anglo-Saxon approach, which expects the law to dictate what people actually do.

"While Italians grumble about lawlessness, fundamentally they believe in subjectivity. Anyone who's tried to negotiate the traffic in Italian cities will appreciate the point. No law, most Italians believe, can capture the infinite complexity of human situations, and it's more important for the law to describe a vision of the ideal community than for it to be rigidly obeyed. Italians have tough laws, but their enforcement is enormously forgiving. Not for nothing was their equivalent of the attorney general's office once known as the Ministry of Justice and Grace."

Sounds fine to me. On the other hand, I don't agree with Allen's view that the Church's ban on contraception falls under the same rubric. It is understandable that there may be homosexual men who would be chaste and holy priests. It is never acceptable to engage in selfish and sterile sex.

The Road Home

Road Less Traveled author M. Scott Peck has come to the end of his fascinating earthly journey. Peck, 69, died of cancer. A publishing phenomenon who was known to be a drinker and philanderer, Peck wrote a book on obligations and love that began, "Life is difficult."

The Telegraph recounted his road from Zen Buddhist shrink to Christian exorcist:

"In 1976, however, he received an urgent inspiration to write a book which, 20 months later, he submitted to Random House under the title The Psychology of Spiritual Growth. His editor liked the first two sections, but thought the third 'too Christ-y'. Simon & Schuster picked it up for $7,500 and published it as The Road Less Traveled. At first it sold well, but not spectacularly; by 1980 it had been reprinted and sold 12,000 copies but, on its appearance in paperback, it became a word-of-mouth sensation. In 1983 it entered the bestseller lists, and stayed there for eight years. It was especially popular with members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"Peck, meanwhile, found himself drawn from Eastern mysticism to mainstream Christianity, though he remained unfaithful to his wife, maintained his drink and cigarette intake, and was liberal on issues such as euthanasia. 'To me, religion and psychology are not separate,' he told Playboy."

The interesting thing about Peck is that he believed in Satan--his last book, "Glimpses of the Devil," dealt with exorcisms. Christianity Today reviewed it:

"Throughout Glimpses of the Devil, Peck treats Satan with the kind of respect a child learns to have for fire. Nevertheless, Peck doesn't inflate the importance of Satan and demons: Satan is the lesser spirit and its footprints in this world are less visible than God's. Satan is limited: It needs to work through human bodies. It is not all-wise, and can be tricked by appealing to its vanity.

"Peck calls Satan 'it' rather than 'he,' because Satan is neither male nor female. 'Sexuality has to do with creation,' Peck explains to the patient named Jersey. 'The Devil doesn't create anything, it only destroys.'"

Peck was critical of the Catholic Church's screening process for exorcisms and the Church's emphasis on the supernatural. I think it was the late Malachy Martin, a former Jesuit and an influence on Peck, who suggested to me in an interview the spiritual dangers of a layman performing exorcisms. Let us hope that Scott Peck has avoided these shoals and made it safely home.

If a Martian Went to Mass...

Loose Canon was a big advocate of the Mass in "a language understanded of the people"--but then I realized that the translations and emphases were so bad that the Mass is all too often misunderstanded of the people. Not to mention the awful music and banal preaching.

If a Martian stepped into a Novus Ordo Mass in most parishes, Mr. Martian would leave thinking that the meaning of the liturgy was a meet and greet with lots of energetic hand-shaking. In the Church's Tridentine Mass the focus is never lost: It's what happens on the altar. That is why I am glad to read predictions that Benedict will make the Tridentine Mass more widely available.

"A Random Collection of Individuals"

Advocates of gay "marriage" often claim that allowing same-sex couples to get hitched legally would not change the institution of marriage. But we wouldn't even be talking about this travesty if the social meaning of marriage had not changed dramatically already.

Scholar James Q. Wilson explains how the idea of marriage has taken some serious hits:

"Marriage was once a sacrament, then it became a sacred obligation, and now it is a private contract.

"Friedrich Nietzsche would not have been surprised. He predicted that the family would be 'ground into a random collection of individuals' bound together by the 'common pursuit of selfish ends,' in other words, family loyalty would slowly disappear. John Stuart Mill would have been pleased by these developments; he had long argued that marriage should be a private, bargained-for arrangement.

"For many women the change has been a disaster..."

And for society at large.

Geezer Nostalgia

Loose Canon sometimes wishes she lived next door to one of those annoying families with a "War Is Not the Answer" sign--just so LC could have a sign that said, "It Depends on the Question."

Unfortunately, there are circumstances in which war is the answer. Oddly enough, some of the protesters here in Washington over the weekend know this-they are, as Christopher Hitchens describes them "phony peaceniks."

Washington Post reporter Michael Janofsky described one of the sponsoring groups as embracing a "wide range of progressive political causes." Here's Hitchens on what actually turns out to be a narrow but very radical range:

"I suppose that it is possible that [Janofsky] has never before come across 'International ANSWER,' the group run by the 'Worker's World' party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the 'resistance' in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a 'wide range of progressive political objectives' indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper-to mention only two radical left journalists-who have exposed 'International ANSWER' as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism."

So you see, for the left, war is sometimes the answer.

National Review's Byron York captured the sheer zaniness of the gathering:

"Katrina wasn't even the only weather phenomenon used to criticize George W. Bush. When Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney spoke to the crowd, she began by declaring that 'a cruel wind blows across America.' By that, she meant not a hurricane, but a wind that began 'in Texas and Montana' - an apparent reference to George W. Bush's home state of Texas and Dick Cheney's home state of...well, his home state is Wyoming, but McKinney was fairly close. The cruel wind, McKinney explained, blew across the American heartland all the way to Washington, D.C. And then, 'This cruel wind blew disenfranchisement into Florida and Ohio' and 'the American people were forced to endure fraud in the elections of 2000 and 2004.' The crowd loved it."

I suspect the protests were an occasion for geezer nostalgia for many. That seems to be what it was for Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who penned a piece headlined, "Stop, Children, What's that Sound?"

"Saturday had that vintage feeling. Cindy Sheehan was there to play her iconic earth-mother role, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presence somehow made the whole thing official. In the crowd there were next-generation merry pranksters bearing caricature puppets, legions of praying Buddhists, ranks of earnest Presbyterians for Peace and files of silver-haired Raging Grannies. There were countless young adults whose baby boomer parents had marched these same streets in protest over three decades ago. All that was missing was the sour tinge of tear gas in the air."

When Is It Okay to Murder Children?

Loose Canon would like to see the United Nations headquarters in New York turned into condominiums. Such a change would elevate the moral tone of the neighborhood. But for those of you who still believe in this useless institution, here's a piece by Joshua Muravchik on why the U. N. has never been able to take a stand against terrorism:

"A proposed U.N. convention against terrorism has been stalled since 1997. The holdup? How to define terrorism. But this is nothing more than a semantic trick. The Islamic states insist that terrorism must be defined not by the nature of the act but by its purpose. Putting a bomb in a market or train or bus is not an act of terrorism, they say, if it is done for a righteous purpose; namely national liberation or resistance to occupation.

"To say there is a problem of definition is to focus on a word. The real question is whether it is ever legitimate to target women, children and other noncombatants. For the Islamic states, the answer is yes."

Muravchik says that the reason the U. N. has never been able to speak clearly on terrorism is the "stubborn efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, made up of 56 states - nearly 30% of the U.N.'s membership."

But We Keep Doing It...

A good question is posed in the latest issue of Foreign Policy: "After 43 years and $568 billion (in 2003 dollars) in foreign aid to the continent, Africa remains trapped in economic stagnation. Moreover, after $568 billion, donor officials apparently still have not gotten around to furnishing those 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths. With all the political and popular support for such ambitious programs, why then do comprehensive packages almost always fail to accomplish much good, much less attain Utopia?"

Bishop: I Wouldn't Send My Children to Muslim School

Kudos to two senior clerics in England (Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Rt. Rev. Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark) for saying that Christian children should not be educated in Islamic schools.

The Telegraph reported on the development:

[Murphy-O'Connor] said that he would not want large numbers of Catholic children attending Muslim schools because he would not want them to be brought up 'in that atmosphere.'

"The Cardinal added that, while he welcomed dialogue between the faiths, 'fundamentally the creed of Islam is totally diverse from the creed of Christianity.'

"His remarks were echoed by the Rt Rev Tom Butler, the Church of England Bishop of Southwark, who said he would not have sent his children to a Muslim school.

"'Although religion is taken seriously in a Muslim school, I think the particular insight of Islam is... is not mine,' he said. Both clerics were speaking on the BBC2 programme God and the Politicians, due to be broadcast tomorrow night."

Temptations of the Gay Seminarian

A New York Times piece on the imminent ban on ordaining homosexual men to the Catholic priesthood seemed to find only men who valued their homosexuality over their priesthood--so maybe my objections to the ban are misplaced:

"'I do think about leaving,' said a 30-year old Franciscan seminary student. 'It's hard to live a duplicitous life, and for me it's hard not to speak out against injustice. And that's what this is.'"

[Question: If the seminarian is leading a chaste life, what is there to be duplicitous about at this point? Yes, he would have to be duplicitous in the future, but he sounds like he's talking about his life now. Is ordination a justice issue? Close the door on the way out.]

"In telephone interviews on Thursday with gay priests and seminarians in different parts of the country, all were adamant that their names not be used because they feared repercussions from their bishops or church superiors.

"'I find that I am becoming more and more angry,' said a 40-year-old priest on the West Coast who said he had not decided whether to reveal his homosexuality publicly. 'This is the church I've given my life to and I believe in. I look at every person I come in contact with as someone who's created in the image and likeness of God, and I expect that from the church that I'm a part of. But I always feel like I'm 'less than.'"

Less than? This is the language of therapy, not the gospel. The men quoted in the article sound more committed to being gay than to being priests.

However, former Times of London editor Lord William Rees-Moog (who, by the way, gets some theology wrong: doctrine doesn't change) does share my concern that throughout the ages, the Church has ordained homosexuals who served her well:

"In its long history, rich with saints, scholars and martyrs, the Church has benefited from the devotion of countless holy priests and nuns who must have had a predominantly homosexual temperament. As all priests take a vow of celibacy, it may not have been apparent to all of them whether their sexual temperament was mainly homosexual or heterosexual. Indeed, the concept of homosexuality as a separate condition, not determined by sexual acts but by sexual inclinations, is a late-19th century one, and is not wholly satisfactory. No one ever told Christopher Marlowe that he was a homosexual and he probably was not. More likely he was highly heterosexual and also enjoyed sex with boys.

"Both the Church and the liberals are on the horns of the same dilemma. Both are genuinely horrified by the widespread abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic priests. Both have to take the view that the protection of children should be the primary consideration. That certainly means that priests who have offended should be reported to the police and should never again be allowed to use their priestly function to get near children.

"The difficulty comes when the Church has to decide who should be ordained. Here there is a risk that the wrong question will be asked. The right question is: 'Will the candidate for the priesthood be a potential danger to children or the young?' Everyone agrees that is a legitimate question. As the candidate spends seven years in a seminary, the people running the seminary have a long time in which to observe and form their judgment. In making that judgment the candidate's sexual character is obviously a relevant factor."

But then Rees-Mogg adds something I think is very wrong:

"The other question - is the candidate a homosexual? - is the wrong question, because it would do an injustice to many sorts of people; to homosexuals who suffer enough injustice in the world, to others for whom their own sexuality is uncertain, 'a grey area.' No doubt, over the next century, the Roman Catholic Church will be re-examining the issues of sexuality and the priesthood, including the maintenance of a celibate clergy. In the meantime a policy of exclusion of homosexuals from the priesthood is not justified. As it would force some candidates to lie, it is also unlikely to be effective."

The Church does need to know if a candidate is homosexual--and if he intends to lead a chaste life. Ditto the heterosexual candidate. There is some notion that many men entering the seminary must have "uncertain" sexuality. That is not the case--just because you are taking a vow of celibacy doesn't make you some weird, sexually ambiguous creature. A candidate who lies in order to be ordained is obviously ipso facto unworthy to serve a God who does not lie to us.

Catholic blogger Diogenes also critiques the New York Times piece:

"Change attracted to tempted, and we get a spiritual snapshot of the perpetual sexual struggles of the homosexual priest.

"Where can such a man find refuge? What becomes of spiritual friendship when many of his closest associates (be they homosexual or heterosexual) view his gaze as the amorous retreat to the vicissitudes of the high school throb?

"'To suggest that because one has a homosexual orientation one is unable to control one's sexual impulses is, frankly, insulting.'

"Alas, feeling insulted does not a refutation make."

Okay, the ban worries me. A man can attain holiness by struggling against temptation. But maybe this is a period in history when a ban on homosexual seminarians--like the ones in the New York Times article, who appear to put their sexuality above their priestly vocation--can be justified. Still...

A Hurricane of Lies

Unlike the gents at Powerline, Loose Canon does not believe that the press should be "investigated." But I do believe they lie all the time and we must say this--again, and again, and again. They lie.

This story tells you about some of their lies they told about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath.

Here is Powerline:

"It's time for some accountability here. The conventional wisdom is that no one performed particularly well in the aftermath of Katrina--not local, state or federal authorities, and not considerable numbers of private citizens. But it now appears clear that the worst performance of all was turned in by the mainstream media. Congress should promptly investigate, and try to get to the bottom of the following questions:

  • How did so many false rumors come to be reported as fact?
  • Do news outlets have any procedures in place to avoid this kind of mis-reporting? If so, why did their procedures fail so miserably?
  • To what extent were the false rumors honest mistakes, and to what extent were they deliberate fabrications?
  • To the extent that the false reports were deliberate, did the press pass them on through sheer negligence, or did some reporters participate in deliberate fabrication?
  • Did the widespread breakdown in accurate reporting stem only from a failure to follow proper journalistic standards, or did it also reflect a deliberate effort to damage the Bush administration by passing on unconfirmed rumors as fact?
  • In deciding what stories to report, did the news media consider the likelihood that passing on false rumors would damage the rescue effort?
  • "It is vitally important to get to the bottom of these questions, so that future natural disasters are not similarly mis-reported."

    Michael Barone has a piece on how reality and the media picture of reality are radically different.

    The Second Act

    Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome, had always been fascinated by the crucifix: Who was the man on the cross? Did he deserve to die? Then, according to a fascinating piece in Ignatius Insight, at the age of sixty-five, he met the man on the cross:

    "[T]he very day he was asked to resume leadership of the Jewish Council, he confided to his Jesuit priest friend Father Dezza that he had other plans. 'How can I continue living in this way when I think very often of Christ and how I love Him?' Zolli was then sixty-five years old, weary and wanting to retire.

    "Four months later, while in the synagogue for the feast of Yom Kippur, Zolli received a vision in which Christ spoke to him saying, 'You are here for the last time: from now on you will follow Me.' For Israel Zolli there would be no going back. Relaxing at home that evening he was at first reluctant to mention what had happened but when he did his wife admitted that she to had seen the same vision of Christ standing next to him."

    On becoming a Christian, Zolli took a new first name--Eugenio, a tribute to Pope Pius XII, whom Zolli knew from firsthand experience to have been instrumental in rescuing Jews from Nazis.

    A reportedly well-researched biography of Zolli by Judith Cabaud is, alas, only available in French. Madame Cabaud, by the way, also born Jewish, herself became a Christian. She compared this to "wanting to see the second act of a play of which we have attended only the first act."

    Bow Down in Fear

    Brit columnist Melanie Phillips agrees with Loose Canon that fear pure and simple is behind the rampant desire not to offend jihadists and other radical followers of Islam. The Church of England is the latest group to be scared out of their wits:

    "Is there no limit to the abjectness of the Church of England's response to Islamic terror? A working group of bishops led by the Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries has suggested that western Christians should apologize for the Iraq war. The moral stupidity of this is hard to believe, even by the standards of the C of E. Yes, terrible mistakes have been made by the coalition which have contributed to the appalling violence in Iraq which continues. But apologize -- for what, precisely? For getting rid of Saddam Hussein who subjugated his people and subjected them to unspeakable barbarity? For enabling the Iraqis to taste democracy and freedom for the first time? And apologize to whom exactly? To the Ba'athists, perhaps, who subjected the rest of the population to a regime of unmitigated horror and towards whom the church - by this logic - feels badly that they have been deprived of power?"

    A Flame

    As I mentioned yesterday, Loose Canon is using these two days when I am on the road to introduce you to--of all things--a book on people who have exemplified the Bible in their own lives. It's titled "Passing the Flame," available from the Bible Reading Fellowship.

    Although LC ardently wishes that the Protestant movement had not broken with the Catholic Church, she has a sneaking admiration for the bravery of Hugh Latimer, an Anglican bishop who died at the stake (and maybe I like it so much because, as you shall see, Latimer had a way with words):

    "When Mary I ascended to the throne, it was just a matter of time for Latimer and his Reformation views. On October 16, 1555, Latimer and Nicholas Ridley (also an Anglican bishop and famous preacher of his day) were tied back-to-back to the stake in Oxford and set aflame. Latimer's dying words were: 'Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley. Play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

    See you Monday.

    Just As I Am

    Loose Canon is going to be hors de combat for two days, and so I'm going to use my absence to post a few bits from a book I highly recommend. It's "Passing the Flame," available through the Bible Reading Fellowship, by Harry C. Griffith, an Anglican layman who lives in Georgia and has written numerous works on Christian practice and history. (Disclaimer: Harry is married to my cousin, but I have long loved his work, from the very first one I read, "Gift of Light," a now out of print collection of the thoughts of Father Andrew, a saintly Anglican priest who worked with London's poor.)

    Part history of the Christian Church (in the broadest sense--its "cloud of witnesses" ranges from Catholics such as St. Polycarp to Protestants Martin Luther King and Todd Beamer) and part daily devotional, "Passing the Flame" is a delight to read. I'll offer you one selection today and one tomorrow.

    I am especially fond of the saga of Charlotte Elliott, who wrote the hymn "Just As I Am," the signature hymn for the Rev. Billy Graham's revivals. Here is the key bit from the page (all entries are only a page) on Miss Elliott:

    "Elliot was born in Clapham, England in 1789. As a young woman, she had a lot going for her. She was a gifted portrait artist and a writer of humorous verse. But, in 1821, she experienced an illness that left her an invalid and greatly depressed. A well-known evangelist of the time, Dr. Ceasar Malan of Switzerland, came to visit her. When he asked her if she was at peace with God, she resented the question and refused to talk about her spiritual condition. Shortly afterwards, she went to Dr. Malan to apologize to him. She indicated that she wanted to clean up her life before becoming a Christian. Malan didn't hesitate; he told her to come 'just as you are.' She gave her life to the Lord that very day."

    New Orleans: Was the Livin' Too Easy?

    Loose Canon had the experience of being poor and happy as a youth in New Orleans--the cheap red beans and rice at Buster Holmes, a now-defunct restaurant on Burgundy Street in the French Quarter, a studio apartment on Pirate's Alley, right by St. Louis Cathedral, and Dixie Beer at the shabby genteel Napoleon House.

    Living like that in the Big Easy was a southern version of "Rent," the Jonathan Larson musical about bohemians who stiff their landlord. So much of New Orleans embraced this carefree manner of living. But there's just one problem with this easy, boho existence. Somebody has to be responsible.

    An article in the American Spectator explains why:

    "You need one thing above all to maintain the at-ease poor lifestyle. The grown-ups, the straight people, have to be in charge. When you turn on the water or the light switch, you want them to work. If you get hit by a bus, you would hope the emergency services wouldn't simply leave you lying there.

    "If you elect drifters and grifters to positions of leadership, sooner or later you'll get in big trouble. Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin might have made perfectly good waiters or saxophone players...."

    The moral rot in New Orleans extended to the police department, many of whose officers decided not to show up for work on the days they were most needed by the citizenry. Jack Dunphy, an L.A. police officer, was particularly appalled by New Orleans's Lieutenant Henry Waller:

    "'I left [my fellow officers] in a bad situation," Lieutenant Henry Waller told Anderson Cooper, 'but I would have been leaving my wife in a worse situation.'

    "It's galling enough that this man dishonored himself and his badge by shirking his duty, but it's almost beyond belief that he would try to justify his decision on national television. 'We listened to the radio,' Waller said, 'we're hearing the things, the water's still rising, the water's still rising, the water's still rising. The looting is this, the looting is that. I started thinking, I said, well, you know, we've been hearing this story about the levees breaching all day. What if they're right and I get stuck in this car? I'm no good dead.'

    "Well, maybe not. But as far as his fellow officers and the citizens of New Orleans were concerned, he was no good alive, either....

    "It's unfortunate that Katrina overshadowed the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but perhaps now is a good time to remember that day's heroes, the cops and firemen at the Twin Towers, the servicemen at the Pentagon, and all the countless others whose valor is today known only to God. When the unthinkable came to pass they put thoughts of their own safety aside and did what needed to be done, for many at the cost of their lives. If Henry Waller had been in Lower Manhattan that day, he would have been the first guy across the Brooklyn Bridge. Shame on him."

    I've said it, and I'll say it again: It can't be noted too many times that many of New Orleans's problems are a legacy from welfare programs. President Bush's proposals to get people out of poverty rely on entrepreneurship rather than welfare or welfare-like programs. As National Review's Rich Lowry notes, liberals don't like this:

    "The objection to these Bush proposals isn't fiscal, but philosophical. They serve to undermine the principle of government dependency that underpins the contemporary welfare state, and to which liberals are utterly devoted. In a reversal of the old parable, liberals don't want to teach people how to fish if they can just give them federally funded seafood dishes instead.

    "The unemployed now get 26 weeks of federal unemployment benefits, which are often extended and also supplemented by various state programs. This is a social safety net that can become a trap. The longer and more generous benefits are, the less incentive someone has to find work (see Germany in particular and Western Europe generally for examples of the phenomenon at work). The Bush program would establish accounts that unemployed people could use as they see fit for education, training programs and child care to support their job search. If they find a job within 13 weeks they can keep up to $1,000 of the $5,000 account."

    Will Rita Harm Gays in Disproportionate Numbers?

    Jonah Goldberg looks into his crystal ball and sees how an adversarial press might be blindsided by the identity politics aspect of Hurricane Rita:

    "The questions raised by unlovely Rita are as painful as they are obvious. Will gays stay behind in disproportionate numbers in this disproportionately gay city? If so, Why? If gay marriage were legalized, could some of this disaster be avoided? Would George W. Bush have responded more quickly if the victims were just a tad less stylish? And, of course: Will the federal government help keep Key West festive?

    "Why weren't reporters standing at the ready to caterwaul about the wreckage at their feet? Cher albums and the collected writings of James Wolcott strewn about like beer cans and pizza boxes in an apartment yet to be transformed by the cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

    "This all might sound a bit absurd, but this isn't far from where we are today..."

    The Idea of a University

    Many elite institutions of higher learning are hostile to religion--it's highly ironic, given that the world's greatest universities were founded as Christian institutions. The Christian Science Monitor reports that some students seem to be going back to their Christian roots--and picking a college that harmonizes with their religion:

    "In these politically polarized times, a rising number of top conservative students are politicizing their school choices. Instead of going to a Princeton or Stanford, they're opting for less costly home-state universities or smaller schools that see themselves as standard bearers of Christian values and laissez-faire governance. Such choices are perhaps a boon to those who intend to pursue careers in politics, since conservative think tanks increasingly are recruiting from these colleges.

    "'Schools like Grove City, Brigham Young, and Hillsdale are some of our more popular schools,' says Elizabeth Williams, intern coordinator for the conservative Heritage Foundation, in an e-mail. 'Their students are usually of very high caliber.'"

    Does That Include Alchemy?

    The Dalai Lama has graciously conceded that "if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims."

    Just Stop Up Your Ears

    It's condescending. It's wrong-headed. Nevertheless this editorial from the New York Times can find no good reason to delete the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance:

    "The phrase 'under God' was inserted into the pledge in 1954 in an absurd attempt to link patriotism with religious piety at the height of anti-Communist mania. It should never have happened.

    "But in the half-century since, the phrase has become part of the backdrop of life. It hardly amounts to a prayer and is no more a constitutional violation than the singing of 'God Bless America' at the Army-Navy football game. No child is required to say "under God" when reciting the pledge - or even to recite it at all. The court cases trivialize the critical constitutional issue of separation of church and state, and undermine important battles to be fought over prayer in school and the use of public money to support religious activities."

    Does Religion Make You Better?

    Well, yes, the New York Times does pooh pooh the linkage of patriotism and piety as "absurd"--but might religious people love their country more? Be more willing to die for it?

    There is a fascinating piece in the lefty Guardian that suggests that religious people are more likely to take the risks involved to help others:

    "The Salvation Army has been given a special status as provider-in-chief of American disaster relief. But its work is being augmented by all sorts of other groups. Almost all of them have a religious origin and character.

    "Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers' clubs and atheists' associations - the sort of people who not only scoff at religion's intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.

    "The arguments against religion are well known and persuasive. Faith schools, as they are now called, have left sectarian scars on Northern Ireland. Stem-cell research is forbidden because an imaginary God - who is not enough of a philosopher to realize that the ingenuity of a scientist is just as natural as the instinct of Rousseau's noble savage - condemns what he does not understand and the churches that follow his teaching forbid their members to pursue cures for lethal diseases.

    "Yet men and women who believe that the Pope is the devil incarnate, or (conversely) regard his ex cathedra pronouncements as holy writ, are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others. Last week a middle-ranking officer of the Salvation Army, who gave up a well-paid job to devote his life to the poor, attempted to convince me that homosexuality is a mortal sin."

    Could the phenomenon of Christian charity have something to do with the notion that you have to know evil (sin) to recognize true goodness? If God were really imaginary, would he have a beneficial impact on charitable works?

    Just asking...

    Many thanks to Travis McSherley of Filling Up Space for spotting this provocative article.

    What If George Bush Were President of Europe?

    Blogging on National Review's The Corner, Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies notes that the death toll in Louisiana is turning out to be much lower than was predicted by the media:

    "Terrible for the victims, their family, their friends. But also much less than the 10,000 widely predicted.

    "And, BTW, much less than the more than 35,000 killed by a heat wave in Europe two summers ago.

    "You recall the debate that set off about European heartlessness, racism and discrimination? No, neither do I."

    Full Circle

    Famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal has died at the age of 96:

    "Wiesenthal, who helped find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann and the policeman who arrested Anne Frank, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles."

    Wiesenthal's death comes at a time when anti-Semitism is once again on the upswing. Europe is so frightened of Islamic jihad that Europeans are trying to forget the Holocaust so as not to offend Muslims.


    It's almost official: Pope Benedict is set to ban the ordination to the priesthood of homosexuals. He has given his assent to a Vatican-prepared document on the subject that calls for a halt to such ordinations:

    "The new document--which was prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education, in response to a request made by the late Pope John Paul II in 1994-- will be published soon. It will take the form of an 'Instruction,' signed by the prefect and secretary of the Congregation: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Michael Miller."

    For what it's worth, Loose Canon was hoping that this would not happen. A homosexual who is willing to commit himself to a chaste life would seem to me not necessarily a bad candidate for the priesthood. After all, overcoming a temptation might actually contribute to holiness. But I don't run the Church and in an era when many refuse to admit that there is anything wrong in homosexual behavior, perhaps this is the right course for the Church. I feel certain that there have been many good priests with homosexual tendencies.

    Still, I'm certainly not as laissez-faire as the seminary rector who says, "You can have an orientation and never engage in homosexual acts. And you can have some young man who has too much to drink and engages in perversions he never would otherwise."

    Whatever you think of ordaining gay men, it must be conceded that young men who get drunk and engage in perversions are not ideal candidates. It's not a moment too soon for the Vatican to engage in a thorough study of U.S. seminaries.

    Media-Driven Race War

    From US News & World Report columnist John Leo's piece on race and Katrina: "A letter to the editor of the Oregonian, in Portland, Ore., said of Katrina: 'I am deeply disturbed and angered by the number of reports claiming racism has something to do with the delay in the relief effort. These claims are unsubstantiated and a complete lie. To even suggest that our government would allow people to die simply because of the color of their skin is despicable. ... In a time of national crisis, another media-driven race war is the last thing this country needs.'"

    Bonkers About Bush

    During the 2000 Florida recount, LC desperately wanted her guy to win--not just because I preferred George Bush to Al Gore but because I figured the losing party would go bonkers. I was right--the intensity of Bush hatred is just mind-boggling. It's almost reached the sickness level:

    A columnist in Pittsburgh found out what happens if you write that Bush isn't the only person who bears some responsibility for failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

    "I argued last week that we should strive for a sober assessment of responsibility post-Katrina; I did not say none should be laid at Bush's feet. I said our society is increasingly polarized between two opposing world views; I did not say that everyone subscribes to one of them.

    "I distinguished between reasoned criticism and vitriol. Judging from my mail-- 'Goebbels,' 'you are evil,' etc. -- some people can't, or don't want to. I proposed the kindest explanation I could think of -- unresolved grief -- for the excessive rage all around us; I didn't say it was the only explanation."

    Muslim Meltdown

    If Catholics or Prots pulled a stunt like this, the press would pillory us. This Muslim Burger King employee threatened jihad because the symbol on an ice cream container reminded him of the Muslim word for Allah.

    The press and liberals are more frightened of Muslims than of us (though I gather some of the folks on the miniboard do find poor old LC pretty scary). I submit that fear is behind a plan by Anglican clergy to apologize to Muslims for the Iraq war.

    Say It Ain't So, George

    Loose Canon was disappointed with the President's speech (if this weird report is true, the President may be disappointed, too)--not with the setting, which was perfect, or the symbolism, which was effective. Deborah Orin of the New York Post captured the atmospherics:

    "It was an extraordinary scene -- the world's most powerful man standing alone in the middle of a deserted city, far from the pomp of the White House, to speak to the nation."

    The final paragraph of the speech was also superb:

    "In this place [New Orleans], there's a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful 'second line' -- symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge -- yet we will live to see the second line."

    So much for what I liked about last night's speech--I knew my gut reaction, that this is a speech that sounded more like LBJ than GWB, was correct when giddy liberal pundit Juan Williams came on with high marks for the president. Yes, it was a speech that probably had to be made to save his presidency from those who would use anything from a bathroom break to the biggest natural disaster in the history of this country to destroy him.

    LC hated hearing the president blame racism for the problems encountered in evacuating people, especially those marooned at the Superdome and the Morial Convention Center. It just isn't so. Apparently, a lot of people who suffered so much know where to place the blame (see "To ABC's Surprise, Katrina Victims Praise Bush, Blame Nagin").

    But it wasn't the actual hurricane victims who demanded this LBJ reenactment--it was the press and the left. This is the first time they've been able to lay a glove on Bush, and I think they might have been able to destroy his presidency.

    New York Post columnist John Podhoretz says that it was a big gamble because Bush risked alienating his base:

    "When a president gets into trouble, he needs to firm up his base. Last night, Bush did something entirely different.

    "The stark political question is this: Is there enough 'give' in the American body politic for those who have decided they don't like or trust him to alter their view a bit? Were such people capable of listening to his speech with an open mind, thinking well enough of his ambitious promises to help bring about a change in his political fortunes?"

    Loose Canon is hoping that her gloom about the speech is unwarranted. Hugh Hewitt ("Good Speech by Good Man") emphasizes that, despite the huge outlays promised, the money seems earmarked for programs that will actually help people find jobs rather than crippling, long term handouts. Let's hope he's right, but I foresee vast opportunity for good old-fashioned Louisiana corruption.

    There is one way in which Bush certainly deserves some of the blame--his administration hired a clueless bureaucrat who bollixed everything. In fact, government overall performed badly. So Bush's prescription--that there will be even more government--struck me as wrong. Corruption and bureaucracy were the causes of what went wrong--they will be with us at Armageddon, but, despite both, we have, as the President pointed out (in one of the right things he said last night) that vast progress has been made in cleaning up New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. That is why the ending (see above) was the one felicitous and true moment of the speech.

    All Roads Lead to Roe...

    At least in questioning of Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts. That is because, as Charles Krauthammer (who supports legal abortion) points out, Roe was a "politically poisonous" decision:

    "The corruption continues 32 years later. You could see it played out hour by hour in the Senate confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts. Question upon question that pretended to be about high constitutional principle was really about abortion in ill-concealed disguise."

    Krauthammer thinks that Roberts will be confirmed and that he will move the Court slightly to the left:

    "I predict two things: (a) Chief Justice Roberts will vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, and (b) his replacing his former boss, Chief Justice Rehnquist, will move the court only mildly, but most assuredly, to the left - as measured by the only available yardstick, the percent of concurrences with the opinions of those conservative touchstones, Scalia and Thomas.

    "I infer this not just by what Roberts has said in his hearings - that he supports Griswold v. Connecticut, that he respects precedent, that he finds Roe itself worthy of respect. I infer it from his temperament, career and life history as an establishment conservative who prizes judicial modesty above all. Which means while he will never repeat Roe, he will never repeal it and be the cause of the social upheaval that repeal would bring.

    "Not that this in any way disqualifies Roberts in my conservative eyes. He is a perfectly reasonable traditional conservative, who will be an outstanding chief justice. He is just not a judicial revolutionary. If you're a conservative looking for a return to the good old days, you'll be disappointed. And if you're a liberal who lives for the good old days because that's all that liberalism has left, tell Chuck Schumer to relax."

    Somebody Stop Him. Please

    Here is what the Mullah of Washington, Theodore McCarrick said in an address before the Jordanian royal family at Catholic Univeristy: "...I asked Allah, the compassionate and merciful Lord of all the world, to bless you and to help you make your country a bridge across which all nations might walk in unity, fellowship and love. As I listened to your words today, I believe my prayer is being answered."

    Thank God Somebody is Ministering to the Pagans

    Borneo is sending Anglican missionaries to England:

    "An Anglican diocese in Borneo, Malaysia, which was first pioneered 150 years ago by missionaries from Britain, may soon be sending their own missionaries back to England. The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield, has recently been in Sarawak to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Kuching."

    (Thanks to the witty ortho Anglicans at CaNN.)

    Look Both Ways

    Okay, my not-so-gentle readers, are you already licking your chops? I allude, of course, to the President's address tonight from New Orleans. It is an important speech, and I hope he'll be able to undo some of the damage done by the sowers of racial hatred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

    Like the writer of this editorial on the post-Katrina presidency, I also hope he will rise to the occasion and do some positive things about homeland security:

    "[T]he country needs Mr. Bush to follow up [his taking responsibility for mistakes on the federal level] with real policy changes in order to ensure recovery. It needs more than first responders, too: The president must reassess the full gamut of our vulnerabilities, from the porous borders to the paucity of Arabic translators in the military to the need for more cargo inspectors in our ports. Those are just a few of the problems the president needs to seriously re-address. Only real leadership can elevate the debate above the recriminations evident in the last two weeks.

    "Toward that end, we hope to see him announce a top-to-bottom review of the nation's homeland-security and disaster-preparedness capabilities. There are some indications Mr. Bush will do this. For one, on Tuesday the president pointed toward bold actions to fix the problems. 'Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm?' he asked. 'That's a very important question and it's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on so we can better respond.'

    "According to ABC News, an anonymous administration official appeared to second the likelihood of bold moves by telling reporters that tonight's address will be unlike anything the president has delivered previously. It will be 'explanatory,' the official said. It will lay out a strategy in the way that a State of the Union address does and will 'sketch a vision of the future.' But it is not a rally speech; its intent is to get the country thinking about the future it wants and what it takes to get there."

    Loose Canon thinks that the evacuation plan left out something important--the human factor. I have a humble suggestion that would keep some from remaining in a dangerous situation: Let people take their pets with them when possible (we only have to go back later). Anne Applebaum suggests that planners must be more aware of those who don't own cars. (Of course, if Mayor Nagin had just gotten those buses rolling...)

    LC is not averse to critiquing the administration's performance (pace: the miniboards). What I am against is trying to use an act of nature to destroy a presidency based on failures of local and state officials. Rich Lowry of National Review has a good piece on people who'll only point the finger in one direction:

    "Consider Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has informally been designated as Washington's spokeswoman for the victims of Katrina. She has called the federal response to the storm 'incompetent and insulting.' But asked on Fox News Sunday about the failure to evacuate the city prior to Katrina's landfall by state and local officials, Landrieu averred, 'I am not going to level criticism at the local level,' and suddenly insisted 'now is not the time for finger-pointing.' Landrieu's finger, in other words, can only point in one direction."

    Peggy Noonan is also good on the uses to which the hurricane has been put:

    "George W. Bush still enjoys a bright spot in terms of his foes. Liberal politicians continue to respond to the calamity with delighted anguish. Their critiques are attacks and their attacks are opportunistic. Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi have come across as pols coolly using the suffering of others to club the opposition. As for liberal pundits, some of them have taken on the ways of mere party operatives: Every event exists to be used. Frank Rich, Paul Krugman: if they were dead they'd be spinning in their graves."

    Meanwhile, media reporter Howard Kurtz inadvertently reveals that he can't distinguish between a hurricane and a shootout.

    Poisonous Pabulum

    Why aren't we more willing to wage a war in Iraq that will ultimately protect our civilization from terrorists? Possibly, as columnist Suzanne Fields notes, because the multiculturalism fad has persuaded so many that there is nothing in our culture worth fighting for.

    According to John O'Sullivan, multiculturalism has also taken a heavy toll on our notion of what it means to be a citizen:

    "Compared to the recent past, both British and American identities today are weak ones. Their appeal is soft and seductive, making few demands, offering not pride and achievement but a pleasant life, available welfare, low standards, and easy self-esteem. In a world without migration, that might not matter. But migration has brought people with a strong and challenging identity into their countries--notably, Muslims who have established resistant faith communities wherever they have lived. British life succeeds in tempting many Muslims into an apostasy--to secularism, alcohol, and sex rather than to Christianity--but that makes those remaining in the faith still more determined to remain orthodox and, at the extremes, to attack the decadent society that is corrupting the faithful. An earlier Britain might have made the four young Muslim bombers from Yorkshire into soldiers of the Queen. Today's Britain, uncertain and neurotic, allowed them to drift into a culture of religious murder."

    In Roberts We Hope

    School prayer and the pledge would have seemed rinky dink to me at one point. I'm for both now for two reasons--I hate the attempt to eradicate religion from public life under pseudo-constitutional doctrines, and I think prayer and saying the pledge with "under God" have a positive influence on the tenor of life.

    Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council predicts that the ban on the pledge won't last (and that Justice Roberts will be a factor):

    "Considering that last month the 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld a Virginia law requiring public schools to lead a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, it is virtually guaranteed that the Supreme Court, with two new justices, will need to resolve the conflict between the two cases. Though little news seems to be coming from the John Roberts' confirmation hearings, it does not make the proceedings any less important, as the actions of the 9th Circuit highlight today. Many opponents would prefer to ignore the role God plays in making America the great nation that it is today and seek to rewrite the nation's history. Only by confirming judicial nominees committed to interpreting the U.S. Constitution, rather than establishing their own policy preferences, can we be assured that faith will not be removed from the public square."

    Speaking of God and Mr. Roberts, Wall Street Journal columnist Manual Miranda thinks that the Senators Feinstein and Specter are out of bounds in asking Roberts about his religion (he considers it an unconstitutional religious test):

    "How insulting. How offensive. How invidiously ignorant to question someone like Judge Roberts with such apparent presumption and disdain for the religion he practices. The JFK question is not just the camel's nose of religious intolerance; it is the whole smelly camel."

    I agree.

    Make Way for Emily Rose

    "The Exorcist" is one of LC's favorite movies, but based on this review of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," I may soon have a second favorite in the exorcism category:

    "A movie about exorcism may seem like rather flashy material for bringing up such weighty issues, but if you take the Bible at its word, as I assume many readers of this publication do, then the question of when and how often demonic possession is misconstrued as a psychological disorder is a legitimate one. And its cultural implications need not only apply to something as dramatic as possession.

    Is it possible, for example, that depression is sometimes treated as a physical condition when it is more symptomatic of a spiritual sickness-of the malaise that comes from living a purposeless life? Or are the behaviors we now label 'compulsive' (over-eating, over-drinking, over-copulating) nothing more than old-fashioned sin? When one of Linney's colleagues suggests that possession only occurs in Third-World cultures because they still have primitive superstitions, Linney counters, 'Is that it? Or is it that we've given the condition a socially-acceptable term while they look at it and call it by its right name?' Movie-goers may ultimately decide they agree with the colleague, but chances are Emily Rose will make them give serious consideration to the alternative."

    Don't Say That Name!

    Michael Newdow, America's most obnoxious atheist, must be ecstatic. A federal judge in California (where else?) has just ruled that it is unconstitutional for school children to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The case, of course, was brought by Mr. Newdow.

    The Associated Press reports:

    "U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation 'under God' violates school children's right to be 'free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.'"

    Well, if they were being coerced to say "under God," it would be coercion. Being embarrassed or miffed because you are an atheist doesn't count as being coerced. Such youngsters are free to close their mouths when their schoolmates approach those dread words "under God."

    This is Newdow's second attempt to get rid of "under God." He first sued on behalf of his daughter, who, according to her mother, had no objection to reciting the Pledge as it is. The Supreme Court dismissed that case, saying Newdow did not have the legal standing to sue since he did not have custody of his daughter. The second time around, he filed the suit on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children.

    Saying "under God"--I realize the words were added as an afterthought during the Eisenhower administration--is not establishing a religion. Omitting the words is giving Newdow a veto power over something that offends him that, I think, would have shocked the Founding Fathers, who were not averse to vague statements about the Supreme Being.

    Thank Somebody, the Becket Fund will file an immediate appeal in this foolishness. I bet being Michael Newdow's daughter is a heck of a lot more embarrassing than saying "under God."

    They Were Going to Die Anyway...

    Generally, one "puts down" the family dog or cat. Not an ailing member of the family. But "Patients Put Down" is the only too appropriate headline on a story about how some New Orleans doctors solved a Katrina-born moral dilemma:

    "With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors took the harrowing decision to give massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.

    "One New Orleans doctor told how she 'prayed for God to have mercy on her soul' after she ignored every tenet of medical ethics and ended the lives of patients she had earlier fought to save. ...

    "One emergency official, William Forest McQueen, said: 'Those who had no chance of making it were given a lot of morphine and lain down in a dark place to die.'

    "Euthanasia is illegal in Louisiana and the doctors spoke only on condition on anonymity.

    "Their families believe their confessions are an indictment of the appalling failure of US authorities to help those in desperate need after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city, claiming thousands of lives and making 500,000 homeless.

    "'I didn't know if I was doing the right thing,' the doctor said."

    Well, I know. This isn't an indictment of the "appalling failure" of the authorities but of the moral values of the medical profession. Please, God, don't let me fall into the hands of doctors like these. I don't suppose it occurred to any doctors to stay behind and help ease their patients' last moments on earth? No, I thought not.

    Like the friend who sent me this item, I feel sorry for the doctors who were "unused to seeing suffering that they can't control, and all too used to near-euthanasia." That, of course, doesn't give the right to take the ultimate control and play God with lethal injections.

    But in the dangerous, post-Terri Schiavo world, most people will have trouble recognizing the moral implications of what the doctors did. As Catholic blogger Diogenes points out, hey, they were gonna die anyway:

    "The cameras were fixated both on the suffering huddled in the Superdome and on the failure of government, but it seems that the more ominous failing was happening down the street where presumptuous physicians in the name of mercy resorted to murder.

    "You have to understand these people were going to die anyway.

    "Rest assured."

    Katrina Demagogues

    The United States isn't perfect, but it is not a land of racial hatred. Race demagogues, however, will seize any opportunity to peddle the notion that blacks are treated as second class citizens (a fiction which inevitably helps these demagogues fill their coffers). Katrina was a golden opportunity.

    As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes:

    "The slimy and toxic water covering much of New Orleans does not stink nearly as much as the slimy and toxic accusation that help didn't reach the victims of Hurricane Katrina quickly enough because most of those victims were black.

    "It is a sickening slander, especially since there is no evidence to back it up. Worse than sickening: It is hateful. It is a libel spread not in a spirit of constructive criticism, but to inflame racial bitterness -- bitterness toward American society generally and toward the Bush administration in particular. Already, a new poll by the Pew Research Center finds that two-thirds of black Americans think the government would have responded faster if most of the victims had been white."

    Jacoby notes, however, that except for these professional race baiters, the response to Katrina has been colorblind:

    "Well, there are two Americas. One is the America of [Barbara] Lee, [Howard] Dean, and [Jesse] Jackson, in which color is paramount and no time is the wrong time to play the race card. The other is the America that has opened its hearts and wallets in a torrent of generosity and compassion for Katrina's victims. As of Monday, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy, more than $760 million had been donated, a pace of giving without precedent in American history. And that includes only monetary contributions. There are also the immense offerings of in-kind goods of every description -- clothing, food, medicine, dishes, telephones, toys. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have enlisted in the relief effort. Americans across the country have opened their homes to evacuees from New Orleans. In the words of a Red Cross spokeswoman, 'People are just pouring their hearts out.' And all without the slightest regard to race."

    Maverick intellectual John McWhorter also debunks race demagoguery in "'Racism!' They Charged. When don't they?"

    Unfortunately, with a big story like Katrina (and also Iraq) that requires heavy equipment and access, the blogosphere isn't able to challenge the mainstream media and bring balance to the story.

    A JFK Moment?

    Loose Canon has been so obsessed with the events in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast that she's only caught snatches of the Roberts hearings. I did catch enough to agree with George Newmayr that posing as legal scholars does not suit some of our solons:

    "The emptiness and arrogance of the Senate's demagogic buffoons can't be overstated. Arlen Specter's phrase 'super duper' precedent illustrated what a collection of lightweights the Senate has become. John Roberts patiently explained the rudiments of the law to them, but the Senators were too busy shuffling through their papers in search of the ACLU's latest talking points to listen. Or in the case of Specter, looking around for an oversized Roe v. Wade prop to underscore his argument about 'super duper' precedent, that cogent legal concept which somehow eluded the authors of the Federalist Papers and drafters of the Constitution."

    Unable to pose as a legal scholar herself, LC is depending on people like National Review's astute Byron York to help her figure out what's going on here.

    The American Spectator is calling Roberts's response to a question Specter asked about his Catholicism a "JFK Moment," a reference to JFK's telling Protestant ministers that he would not allow the Catholic Church to direct his thinking. I suppose St. Thomas More threaded the needle, and I hope that that is what Roberts is doing.


    Let me get this straight: New Orleans' histrionic mayor flips out and fails to evacuate his poorer citizens, and George Bush is to blame. You'd almost think the press didn't like Mr. Bush....

    Columnist Mark Steyn (the best Katrina commentator, for my money) has very much the same impression:

    "I'll leave it to future generations of historians to settle the precise moment at which Hurricane Katrina finally completed its transformation into a Kansas-type twister, and swept up the massed ranks of the world's press to deposit them on the wilder shores of the Land of Oz. But for a couple of weeks now they've been there frolicking and gamboling as happy Media Munchkins, singing and dancing 'Ding Dong, The Bush Is Dead.'

    "Meanwhile, back in the real world, the storm is exhausted, meteorologically and politically. Power has been restored to the whole of Mississippi (much quicker than in Euro-style big-government Quebec during the 1998 ice storm, incidentally), the Big Easy is being pumped free of water far ahead of anybody's expectations, and, as the New York Times put it: 'Death Toll In New Orleans May Be Lower Than First Feared.'

    "No truth in the rumor that early editions read 'Than First Hoped.'"

    This is not to say that Bush's response was all that it might have been--and, indeed, Bush is taking responsibility (up to a point) for what did go wrong. Meanwhile, liberal columnist Michael Kinsley breaks ranks to admit that Bush is not single-handedly responsible for everything that has gone wrong since the world began:

    "[Louisiana Senator Mary] Landrieu's I-told-you-so's [about federal money to strengthen the levees] would be more impressive if the press release archive on her Web site didn't contain equally urgent calls to spend billions of dollars to build boats the Navy hasn't asked for in Louisiana shipyards, self-congratulations for having planted a billion dollars of 'coastal impact assistance' for Louisiana in the energy bill (this is before the flood), and so on. Did she want flood control, or did she want $10 million to have 'America's largest river swamp' declared a 'National Heritage Area'?

    "Obviously -- obviously in hindsight, that is -- we should have spent the money to strengthen the New Orleans levees. President Bill Clinton should have done it. Presidents George Bush Senior and Ronald Reagan should have done it. As Tim Noah notes in Slate, warnings about the perilous New Orleans levees go back at least to Fanny Trollope in 1832. In fact, the one president who is pretty much in the clear on this is our current Bush -- not because he did anything about the levees but because even if he had started something, it probably wouldn't have been finished yet."

    (By the way, the part of Kinsley's column that has attracted the most attention: his revelation that CNN producers ask guests to "get angry" when discussing Katrina damage. Here is a good piece on that.)

    How Not to Help Poor People

    The visuals were the scenes at the Convention Center and the Superdome. But did they really reveal that white America (in particular Bush) doesn't care about black people?

    I think they showed something else: the pernicious effect of federal assistance. In a way, you might say the problem is that we have loved poor African Americans to death.

    "We still only have anecdotal evidence to go on, and we can be hopeful as the death toll remains far below the thousands originally predicted," writes Brendan Miniter of the Wall Street Journal. "But it's reasonable to surmise that Sen. Kennedy is correct about those who wanted to leave: Most people who could arrange for their own transportation got out of harm's way; those who depended on the government (and public transportation) were left for days to the mercy of armed thugs at the Superdome and Convention Center. It was an extreme example of what the welfare state has done to the poor for decades: use the promise of food, shelter and other necessities to lure most of the poor to a few central points and then leave them stranded and nearly helpless.

    "This isn't a failure of President Bush's compassionate conservatism. Nor is it evidence that Ronald Reagan's philosophy of smaller government is fatally flawed. If LBJ had won his war on poverty, Ninth Ward residents would have had the means to drive themselves out of New Orleans. Instead, after decades and billions of tax dollars have been poured into big government programs, one out of four people in the Big Easy were still poor. That is an indictment of the welfare state and all its antipoverty programs."

    The other thing the visuals laid bare was the breakdown of the family--you saw too many women and children alone, too many men who'd obviously pushed ahead of women to get on the buses to Houston.

    George Will on the family factor:

    "Liberalism's post-Katrina fearlessness in discovering the obvious -- if an inner city is inundated, the victims will be disproportionately minorities -- stopped short of indelicately noting how many of the victims were women with children but not husbands. Because it was released during the post-Katrina debacle, scant attention was paid to the National Center for Health Statistics' report that in 2003, 34.6 percent of all American births were to unmarried women. The percentage among African American women was 68.2.

    "Given that most African Americans are middle class and almost half live outside central cities, and that 76 percent of all births to Louisiana African Americans were to unmarried women, it is a safe surmise that more than 80 percent of African American births in inner-city New Orleans -- as in some other inner cities -- were to women without husbands. That translates into a large and constantly renewed cohort of lightly parented adolescent males, and that translates into chaos in neighborhoods and schools, come rain or come shine."

    Rude Awakening?

    Robert Funk, who founded the Jesus Seminar to make Jesus more palatable to those who can't believe the whole shebang, has died. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times contained this description of the seminar's work:

    "Among the Jesus Seminar's assertions was that many of the miracles attributed to Jesus never occurred, at least in a literal sense. The Jesus Seminar concluded in 1995 that Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead. The scholars also agreed that there probably was no tomb and that Jesus' body probably was disposed of by his executioners, not his followers.

    "But scholars -- who included Burton Mack, Marcus Borg, and John Dominic Crossan -- also concluded that the religious significance of Jesus' resurrection did not depend on historical fact."

    St. Paul disagreed with Messrs. Mack, Borg, and Crossan--"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain"--and I feel certain Dr. Funk knows better by now.


    Good news for one group of Episcopalians who want to be orthodox without worshipping in the high school gym.

    Katrina and 9/11: The Message Isn't What You Think

    Loose Canon couldn't help noticing two interesting things about the stories commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. One is that many stories tended to focus on memories of personal sadness or trauma (victim stories) rather than on the attack. The other is that 9/11 was linked--understandably but wrongly--with Hurricane Katrina.

    One story in the Washington Post managed to combine both themes, and it has the perfect headline to epitomize the victim approach to Sept. 11: "Enduring a Kinship of Loss." Gerry McCarty, who lost 70 friends in the World Trade Center, is helping in New Orleans. He and the other rescue workers in New Orleans sound like great guys--it's the reporter, Ceci Connolly, who covers them in the sob sister mode. The press can only see 9/11 as stories of "enduring loss," not as an attack to which we must respond.

    More important, Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina are not the same sort of event. One was an act of war. One was an act of nature. I get sick and tired of hearing people refer to the "victims" of 9/11--they were casualties of war.

    In a similar vein, Mark Steyn hates hearing 9/11 referred to as a "tragic event:"

    "It wasn't a 'tragic event' or even one of a series of unfortunate events. It was an 'attack,' an 'act of war.' I sat at the lunch counter with a guy who'd tuned out the same station on the grounds that 'I never heard my grampa talk about 'the tragedy of Pearl Harbor.' But, consciously or otherwise, a serious effort was under way to transform the nature of the event, to soften it into a touchy-feely, huggy-weepy one-off. As I wrote last year: 'The president believes there's a war on. The Dems think 9/11 is like the 1998 ice storm or a Florida hurricane -- just one of those things.'

    "I didn't know the half of it. If an act of war is like a hurricane -- freak of nature, get over it -- it's evidently no great leap to believe that a hurricane is an act of war. Katrina was thus 'allowed' to happen because Bush 'hates black people.' The Army Corps of Engineers was instructed to blow up New Orleans' 17th Street levee so that the flood would kill the poor people rather than destroy the valuable tourist real estate."

    The other story that caught my eye was a poignant piece about Sgt. Isaac Ho'opii, a federal K-9 agent who heroically rescued people from the burning Pentagon. He is mourning the death of Vita, the dog who was with him that day and who later died.

    I love animals and so I was moved by the story, despite its fitting well into the victim genre, until I came across this:

    "Ho'opi'i comes to a standstill before a large black marble wall. This is the point of impact, exactly where the plane hit, and where today the names of 184 men, women, and children are engraved.

    "Officially, the death toll on 9/11 was 189, but the Pentagon memorial excludes the five terrorists."

    Let me get this straight: The Pentagon memorial "excludes" the five terrorists. How mean not to memorialize the monsters, who killed the 189. (Is the Post trying to position itself for a post jihad world? It recently had a piece on Muslim fashions for women.)

    Here is what is missing from these sentimental pieces--a sense that an act of war is different from a hurricane. Of course there is one way a hurricane is similar to a terrorist attack: the devastation.

    The "lesson" of Katrina is that when disaster strikes, it can't always be fixed in ten minutes. There will be a mayor who sits on his derriere, waiting for the cavalry, a hysterical governor, a bureaucrat who knows less than your ordinary CNN watchers, even a president who doesn't immediately grasp the situation. Something will go wrong.

    And even if everything goes all right, it won't be a pretty picture. That is why we must win the war on terror. That is why we must transform the Middle East. That is why a failure in Iraq would be catastrophic.

    We Drink at Funerals--and So Should You

    Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose realizes that communities who take in people from New Orleans may not know what to make of them. In a moving piece, he describes the wonderful people of the region:

    "We're a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don't cotton much to outside interference, but we're not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.

    "Just don't get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don't try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.

    "We're not going to listen. We're stubborn that way.

    "You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you'd probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.

    "We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of others who don't."

    That just about says it.

    There's No Place Like Home

    Loose Canon knows that Barbara Bush was well-intended--she was trying to say, Welcome to Houston, but it came out: Let them Eat Cake ("What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.").

    I agree that many people will benefit by getting out of New Orleans and building new lives in other places. But that leaves out one important part of the picture: Even if you are poor, especially if you are poor, you love your own belongings, your own house. Leaving home, even if it is a home in a poor section of New Orleans, has got to be a heartbreaker.

    Ken Foster has the same reaction:

    "I keep hearing people talk in almost celebratory tones of the 'New Orleans diaspora.' Please make note of this bit of ettiquette: Homeless, jobless people are not comforted by your predictions that their tragic circumstances will one day be considered historically significant and studied in text books by graduate students who will ponder the implications of their plight."

    Many thanks to Amy Welborn for spotting this.

    Better to Have Loved and Lost

    One of the saddest stories in a day of sad stories is the death of five-week-old Susan Anne Catherine Torres, whose mother was kept on life support for three months so that her baby could be born. Baby Susan died of heart failure after surgery to repair a perforated intestine. During her brief life, she was loved. My heart goes out to the Torres family.

    Does the Day Still Live in Infamy?

    It is inevitable that this year the anniversary of Sept. 11 would be linked in the public consciousness with what happened more recently in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.

    Hurricane Katrina's toll of death and suffering is painful to witness, and Katrina will have a profound impact on the demographics of the nation in years to come. But the disasters said different things about America.

    If you are in danger of forgetting what Sept. 11 revealed (and many are) and why we must prevail, Mark Halprin explains:

    "For more than 20 years prior to September 11, Islamic terrorists imprisoned and murdered our diplomats and military personnel, destroyed our civil aviation, machine-gunned our civilians, razed our embassies, attacked an American warship and, in 1993, the U.S. itself. For varying reasons, none legitimate, we hesitated to mount an offensive against the terrorists' infrastructure, hunt them down, eliminate a single rogue regime that supported them, or properly disconcert our fatted allies whose robes they infested. This was comparable in its way to Munich. Only in 2001, when it became obvious to any rational being that we must, did we retaliate, but even then in the face of domestic pressure to judicialize the response, which was exactly what we had done all along." (Helprin is critical of the administration and the Department of Defense for not waging an all-out war, and I have to say that sometimes I do think we're playing games and holding back from the war we are militarily capable of fighting.)

    Tech Central Station contributing editor Lee Harris, author of "Civilization and Its Enemies," seems to see in Katrina another turning point:

    "In short, in the post-9/11 world, the federal government was looked upon as a bulwark that stands strong; in the post-Katrina world, it is seen as a levee that failed.

    "That, however, is how history works; before we can understand the epoch we are living in, another bursts in upon us out of the blue. This happened with 9/11, and now again with Katrina. It is now anyone's guess where we go from here."

    I am hoping that Katrina will force us to take a hard look at a number of things, including corruption and a culture of dependency. One of my not-so-gentle readers referred on the mini-boards to "Mrs. (sic) Hays' lack of compassion and disdain for people below the poverty level, which is evident in her 'Katrina Commission' remarks, makes me question how she can think of herself as Christian."

    Disdain for people below the poverty level? For crying out loud. Nothing could be further from the truth. I certainly did not think that the poor people stranded in New Orleans "deserved it" or had "brought it upon themselves" or that it was okay to rescue them in a leisurely fashion. (I linked to Michael Novak who says that planning for the urban poor who are hampered in evacuating must be given more attention in disaster plans.)

    What I said--and will say until I'm blue in the face--is that it was a culture of dependency that made so many people so--well--dependent. Let me repeat another link: George Newmayer's piece that explains how government programs have played a major role in renting the social fabric of New Orleans. I am in favor of finding a way to help people become a part of the mainstream. It would seem to me that this is preferable to creating a permanent underclass.

    As everybody keeps saying, there is enough blame to go around. Columnist Charles Krauthammer does the best job on the blame game. He is critical of the president, who is not blameless. I'm not quoting that part, however, because you can feast on it by going to the entire column. I'm going to talk about something I know well from having been a reporter in New Orleans: the corrupt and incompetent local government.

    Krauthammer quite rightly points the finger first at New Orleans' Trashy Mouthed Mayor Ray Nagin:

    "1. The mayor of New Orleans. He knows the city. He knows the danger. He knows that during Hurricane Georges in 1998, the use of the Superdome was a disaster and fully two-thirds of residents never got out of the city. Nothing was done. He declared a mandatory evacuation only 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit. He did not even declare a voluntary evacuation until the day before that, at 5 p.m. At that time, he explained that he needed to study his legal authority to call a mandatory evacuation and was hesitating to do so lest the city be sued by hotels and other businesses."

    And this:

    "Mayor Ray Nagin has announced that, as bodies are still being found and as a public health catastrophe descends upon the city, he is sending 60 percent of his cops on city funds for a little R&R, mostly to Vegas hotels. Asked if it was appropriate to party in these circumstances, he responded: 'New Orleans is a party town. Get over it.'"

    But Tommy Lipscomb points out that hizzoner doesn't just curse--he also cries. As if more flooding were needed... Auschwitz and Katrina

    Loose Canon predicts that the isolated (from reality) left is going to overplay the hate Bush card. Former GOP presidential hopeful Gary Bauer is astonished at their vitriol:

    "This morning, I braced myself and visited Democraticunderground.com, one of the most popular left-wing websites where thousands of activists share their feelings. Just as I expected, hatred and paranoia were in great supply. Believe it or not, the relief centers in Houston and other cities were being compared to concentration camps. One hyperventilating leftist said that when he watched the buses in New Orleans pick up survivors it reminded him 'of watching trains to Auschwitz being loaded.' No, I'm not making this up."

    Just keep it up, guys.

    Snowball: Only Halfway There

    A message board is reporting that Snowball, the pet separated from the little boy who loved the dog, has been found:

    "The Louisiana SPCA may have rescued 'Snowball,' the now-famous little dog that a crying boy was forced to leave behind.

    "SPCA President Laura Maloney says they rescued a small, white terrier mix whom military officials told them they believed was Snowball, during evacuations Sunday from the Superdome.

    "'He is very cute, but he's got a little attitude,' she reported of the terrier mix. [Note: Wouldn't you?]

    "Of course, Maloney can't be sure of the dog's identity until the owner can be found--and it is possible that the military officials were wrong."

    Finding Snowball is only half the battle--the egregious wrong won't be righted unless Snowball is reunited with his or her little boy. Annette Simmons is a grown-up but you only have to look at her with Princess, a 7-year-old shih tzu dog, to know how much a pet means when you're going through tough times.

    When the Lunatics Take Over the Asylum...

    In a special whither England issue of the New Criterion, Peter Mullen, a priest of the Church of England, says that one of England's most beloved institutions has become "like a psychotic kindergarten":

    "As we prepare for our Harvest Festival Services, we see that what's left of the English Church is indistinguishable from a lunatic asylum. Everywhere you peer inside this once refined and educated, lovely and lovable national institution, there is only a mania for self-destruction. How else can you account for church services that compete with pantomime for dramatized idiocy? For example, I recently attended a conference for clergy at a beautiful medieval church in Oxford. It was supposed to be a choral Eucharist but there was no organ music--only some plinky-plonky stuff on an out-of-tune piano and mindless choruses in the Jesus Goes to Toytown fashion: interminable glum repetition of what was not worth singing once."

    Dagger John and New Orleans

    One of the best books ever written about an ethnic group in New York is Peter Quinn's splendid "Banished Children of Eve," which chronicles the hard times of Irish immigrants in the 1860s. The most vivid character is crusty "Dagger John" Hughes, New York's first Catholic archbishop. He was a very tough man and champion of the Irish. When anti-Catholic riots broke out in the country, Dagger John warned the mayor of New York that "if a single Catholic Church were burned in New York, the city would become a second Moscow." It was Dagger John who had the foresight to build St. Patrick's (with, it is said, the pennies of Irish maids) on Fifth Avenue. Loose Canon, mea culpa, always much preferred the architecture of the smaller St. Thomas's almost across the street, an Episcopal establishment (where one of my uncles began his career as a minister many years ago) to St. Pat's. But then I read Quinn's fine novel and now every time I pass St. Patrick's I see the indomitable old man on the scaffolding, cassock flapping in the wind, and I love St. Pat's.

    This is a roundabout way of staying two things: You must read Peter Quinn's terrific book, and Dagger John, in his style of advocacy for the Irish, has important something to tell us about what went wrong in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Larry Elder made the connection for me:

    "Disgusted by government 'charity,' Bishop John Joseph Hughes led movements to form non-government-aided Catholic schools and numerous self-help programs. He promoted abstinence and the belief that sex outside of marriage was a sin. His diocese's nuns served as an employment agency for Irish domestics and encouraged women to run boarding houses. What happened? Within two generations, 'the Irish proportion of arrests for violent crime had dropped to less than 10 percent from 60 percent. Irish children were entering ... the professions, politics, show business and commerce. In 1890, some 30 percent of the city's teachers were Irish women, and the Irish literacy rate exceeded 90 percent.'"

    (Many thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting Elder's piece.)

    It should be noted, as Victor Davis Hanson, LC's favorite living historian, does, that the social failure in New Orleans isn't limited to any one group--it's across the board:

    "But besides topographical peril, New Orleans suffers from an ossified Louisianan political culture that has not evolved all that much from the crass demagoguery of Huey Long of the 1930s. The party machine's reason to be is providing exemptions for the very wealthy and subsidies for the dependent poor. We saw the dividends of this old 'every man a king' politics in the scapegoating by paralyzed public officials.

    "The clueless mayor of New Orleans, who initially hesitated over federal requests to evacuate the entire city, was reduced to expletive-filled rants as hundreds of empty public buses sat idle. The teary governor of Louisiana whined mostly about the federal government. Meanwhile Sen. Mary Landrieu railed at the president: 'I might likely have to punch him -literally.'

    "This sad trio proved how fortunate New York was to have a Rudy Giuliani on Sept. 11, or Los Angeles a Richard Riordan in time of earthquake."

    (Quoting the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, Hanson also ascribes some of the bad stuff that went on in New Orleans to that old bugaboo human nature.)

    Getting It Right This Time

    Picking up Loose Canon's refrain that Katrina offers New Orleans a chance to get it right this time, David Brooks of the New York Times writes:

    "The first rule of the rebuilding effort should be: Nothing Like Before. Most of the ambitious and organized people abandoned the inner-city areas of New Orleans long ago, leaving neighborhoods where roughly three-quarters of the people were poor.

    "That's why the second rule of rebuilding should be: Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. The only chance we have to break the cycle of poverty is to integrate people who lack middle-class skills into neighborhoods with people who possess these skills and who insist on certain standards of behavior."

    Like Dagger John did with his beloved Irish. Of course, it would be essential to see public officials change the way they spend public money, too.

    O, Mighty Condom

    Here's something else Dagger John knew: The best way to harm society and individuals is to tell them that they do not have the ability to abstain from sex outside of marriage. Sure, people, being human, fail (and some frequently), but it's a good ideal for a society that wants to prosper. The harm this philosophy wreaks in the U.S. is bad enough. But in developing societies like Uganda it is even worse.

    In a piece entitled "Sacrificing Humans to the Condom Gods," on a Catholic pro-life site, there is this description of the situation in Uganda:

    "Is it flippant to wonder if the major international AIDS institutions, the United Nations and its many allied nongovernmental organizations, actually worship the condom? After all, they are willing to make sacrifices - human sacrifices - in the name of the condom. Right now, these groups are in the process of sacrificing the people of Uganda.

    "Uganda must be sacrificed because its AIDS rate is too low, and it is low because the government of Uganda decided almost from the beginning of the epidemic to seek to convince the general population to change its behaviors. School children were told to abstain and to delay sexual initiation. Married couples were told to remain faithful to one another. The school children listened; the couples listened, and Uganda escaped the epidemic that has devastated every other country in its region.

    "But this success through a veritable sexual counter-revolution could never be acceptable to the liberal and sexually liberated members of the international AIDS establishment, who needed to prove that the new norms of sexual promiscuity were not to blame for the explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, culminating in the AIDS epidemic, and that sexual promiscuity could even be made 'safe' through a tiny piece of latex."

    Dear Mrs. Sheehan

    Remember Cindy Sheehan? Yeah, yeah, I know it's hard. But before she fades into the mists of the summer of '05, National Review Contributing Editor Mackubin Thomas Owens writes the letter President Bush should have sent her. It is a paraphrase of Abraham Lincoln's letter to Lydia Bixby, who lost two sons in the Civil War.

    But, of course, there's a difference:

    "Unlike Lincoln in the case of Mrs. Bixby, President Bush knows that Mrs. Sheehan sympathizes with her son's killers. She has expressed her sympathies publicly on more than one occasion. But the president should send such a letter anyway. Maybe it could shame Cindy Sheehan into separating her political agenda from her son's honorable sacrifice and enable her to grant Casey Sheehan the dignity and respect that his sacrifice deserves."

    The Katrina Kommission

    As I've mentioned, I love New Orleans, a city that seemed to exist primarily to remind us that life is a gift to be savored. Nowhere in America is the Protestant work ethic more in abeyance than in New Orleans. But sometimes the city that care forgot carries her philosophy too far.

    What we saw on our TVs last week was a public display of what's always just beneath the surface in New Orleans: violence, carelessness, passivity, and incompetence. Why do I leave out poverty? Because it is the likely end product of the four qualities I did mention.

    Oddly enough, the very qualities I noted arise not just from the city's long history of living for the minute, but from more modern policies of teaching the poor, who bore the brunt of the hurricane's destruction, to live for the minute. The city was, as George Neumayr of the American Spectator puts it, "a sewer of applied liberalism" that was "lawless long before [last] week."

    Newmayer writes:

    "New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates in the country. By mid-August of this year, 192 murders had been committed in New Orleans, "nearly 10 times the national average," reported the Associated Press. Gunfire is so common in New Orleans -- and criminals so fierce -- that when university researchers conducted an experiment last year in which they had cops fire 700 blank rounds in a neighborhood on a random afternoon 'no one called to report the gunfire,' reported AP. New Orleans was ripe for collapse.

    "Like riotous Los Angeles since the 1960s, New Orleans has been a wasteland of politically correct dysfunction for decades -- public schools so obviously decimated vouchers were proposed this year (and torpedoed by the left), barbaric gangster rap culture no one will confront lest they offend liberal pieties, multiculturalist frauds who empower no one but themselves, and cops neutered by the NAACP and ACLU.

    "Criminals have ruled New Orleans for some time, convincing many members of the middle class, long before the hurricane, that the city was unlivable. In 1994, New Orleans was the murder capital of America. It had 421 murders that year. Criminologists predicted 300 murders this year, a projection that now looks quite conservative.

    "Criminals dominate their neighborhoods to the point that people don't even call in crimes. The district attorney's office, tacitly admitting that the city's law-abiding citizens live in fear, has taken the 'unusual' step of establishing a local witness protection program to encourage the reporting of crime, reports AP.

    "According to the New Orleans Police Foundation, most murderers get off -- only 1 in 4 are convicted -- and 42 percent of cases involving serious crimes since 2002 have been dropped by prosecutors."

    One of my best friends in New Orleans was an indigent defender at Tulane and Broad, the criminal court building that would be the mouth of hell if it weren't filled with so many Damon Runyonesque characters. She was once pummeled to within an inch of her life by a client she'd just gotten off. Did this make her worry about others he might pummel in the future? Not a bit. She was a committed leftist. I always thought that getting people who were possibly not entirely innocent of murder and mayhem off was only half the fun for her--the other half was socking it to capitalist society.

    The good people of Baton Rouge have been compassionate to those fleeing New Orleans, but you can't blame them for stocking up on more than butter.

    By the way, I'm all for finding out what went wrong in New Orleans, but I agree with Michelle Malkin's plaintive "Not Another Damned Commission" post. (You'll have to scroll down past the fine work Michelle is doing on Air America.)

    The Democrats see a commission not as quiet probing but as a rerun of the Superdome/Convention Center scenes on TV, with people shouting that they hate George Bush. (The New Orleans poor would be filling in for the politically motivated World Trade Center widows who appeared before the 9/11 Commission.)

    But be careful what you wish for: A genuine search for went wrong might actually turn up egregious failures on the state and local level. Dick Morris admits the feds made mistakes but thinks that Bush will end up doing well with hurricane relief.

    I'd Rather Be a Refugee

    Good heavens. Must we decide that the fine old word refugee is pejorative? It isn't. Here's Refdesk's definition: "One who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution."

    Or hurricanes. Like John Derbyshire of National Review's The Corner, I'd rather be called a refugee than an evacuee:

    "A refugee has taken matters into his own hands, got up and left, to seek better conditions elsewhere.

    "An evacuee has sat around in a state of passive dependency, waiting for the authorities to decide his fate."

    Are Good Men Harder to Find in New Orleans?

    Of course, many people in New Orleans were helpless. Writing in the National Review, theologian Michael Novak points to the demographics:

    "If you add together the 26,000 female householders with children under 18, no husband present, and the 18,000 householders more than 65 years old and living alone, that is an estimated 40,000 female-headed households. That explains the pictures we are seeing on television, which are overwhelmingly females, most often with young children. The chances of persons in this demographic being employed full-time, year-round, and with a good income, are not high. The chances of them living in poverty, and without an automobile, are exceedingly high.

    "In the future, city planners should carefully count in advance the numbers of persons who fall in this demographic when they formulate evacuation plans. Female householders all by themselves with children or over 65 are statistically likely to be severely disadvantaged in thinking about options for the future, disadvantaged in not having the means to determine their own destiny, and disadvantaged with respect to the habits of mind that accustom them to taking charge of their own future. Special provision will need to be made for helping them. They are likely to be accustomed to being taken care of by the state.

    "The younger mothers among them have been abandoned by those they should have been able to count on, the males in their lives. The over-65s (in urban areas) are likely to be totally dependent on Social Security and other government benefits, without private pensions or homeownership of their own. In emergencies, such persons need someone else to take care of them. It is wrong to throw them, at this point, solely on their own resources. Some will be able to manage that, but by no means all."

    A friend of mine saw an indication of something really, really bad on the TV: In shots of the refugees arriving in Houston, big strapping men seemed to have gotten there first. Have we reached the point of degradation that we as a society are no longer willing to say, Women and Children First?

    Well, You Couldn't Call Him a Relativist

    Just came across a good piece on the possessor of one of the most brilliant minds in Christendom, the gruff Louis Bouyer, the French theologian who died last year. He started out as a Prot but:

    "Bouyer then converted to Catholicism in 1939. He then redid his studies at Paris' Institut Catholique. He was a remarkable student: during his time at the Institut, he complete a thesis on Athanasius ... that he published in 1943 and a five-hundred page account of ... The Pascal Mystery, which was to become a classic reference of the Jewish origins of the Eucharistic liturgy. A few years later, in 1954, Bouyer published a book-length reflection on Protestantism. His conclusion: the best Protestant doctrines were either incomplete or poorly understood Catholic ones."

    A World Treasure

    Although New Orleans is a deeply flawed city, she nevertheless has long been one of the loveliest spots on the planet. An old pal from my misspent youth in the French Quarter, Jack Davis, now publisher of the (Hartford) Courant, explains why the world would be a poorer place without New Orleans in a piece headlined "A World Treasure":

    Of course it has to be rebuilt. And protected.

    New Orleans was at its best on the eve of destruction. It was at a peak of wonderfulness and livability, having worked resourcefully for four decades to make itself America's most interesting city, even though it had no economic or geographic need to exist. It was a weird and creative and generally friendly world of its own, and not the worst place in America to be poor. ...

    They are not self-indulgent or improvident, as they have been called this past week. They are collectively ingenious. In these last creative decades, they took a city that was already a world cultural treasure, and improved it for the world to visit and enjoy and study. The world now needs to come to the rescue, as it came to the rescue of Florence and Venice when they were ruinously flooded in 1966. They were restored even without guarantees that the waters would never return.

    There may be money to rebuild New Orleans without breaking the American taxpayer--Qatar, for example, has pledged $100 million. Maybe this will be a chance for New Orleans to rebound. There are a number of things New Orleans should try to get right this go around, including a better public school system so that her citizens aren't so dependent on service industry jobs. (Hugh Hewitt is also suggesting group-to-group help in restoring the city.)


    The above celebration of New Orleans isn't meant to suggest that New Orleanians in charge acquitted themselves well last week. Asked on Nightline what he might have done differently, dirty-mouthed New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that he would have begun cursing out the higher ups earlier. Mayor Nagin, you were the higher up.

    While the mainstream media floods the zone with criticism of President Bush (Wes Pruden's piece on the "venomous vultures of the left" is a must-read), it is Nagin who ultimately emerges as the anti-Giuliani.

    Columnist Mark Steyn-who dubbed Nagin Mayor Culpa-was great on the hapless city and her lousy leadership: "For some reason, I failed to consider the possibility that the panickers would include Hizzoner the Mayor and the looters would include significant numbers of the police department, though in fairness I wasn't the only one. As General Blum said at Saturday's Defence Department briefing: `No one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans.'

    "Indeed, they eroded faster than the levees. Several hundred cops are reported to have walked off the job. To give the city credit, it has a lovely `Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan' for hurricanes. The only flaw in the plan is that the person charged with putting it into effect is the mayor. And he didn't.

    "But I don't want to blame any single figure: the anti-Bush crowd have that act pretty much sewn up. I'd say New Orleans's political failure is symptomatic of a broader failure.

    "I got an e-mail over the weekend from a US Army surgeon just back in Afghanistan after his wedding. Changing planes in Kuwait for the final leg to Bagram and confronted by yet another charity box for Katrina relief, he decided that this time he'd pass. `I'd had it up to here,' he wrote, `with the passivity, the whining, and the when-are-they-going-to-do-something blame game.'"

    For me nothing made the stupidity of the situation hit home harder than the story of the little boy who wasn't allowed to take his pet with him on the bus to Houston. I've mentioned him before, but let me quote some this time:

    "At the back end of the line, people jammed against police barricades in the rain. Refugees passed out and had to be lifted hand-over-hand overhead to medics. Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. `Snowball, snowball,' he cried."

    This was so wrong. A dog in the arms of a boy who's lost much if not everything is a civilizing influence. Pets are put on earth to teach us how to love, and Snowball had obviously done his or her job well. Why didn't the police officer say, "Get on quick with your dog, son?"

    Speaking of Snowball, I've gone back and forth about whether to bring up the plight of animals when there is so much human need. But if you want to help the legions of Snowballs stranded in New Orleans, The Humane Society of the United States is accepting donations. (And, belatedly, the authorities seem to be letting people take their pets.)

    Lies We Tell Poor People

    One of the things that the left is saying in the aftermath of Katrina is that we must embark on a national conversation about race and poverty. I couldn't agree more.

    I only hope Elizabeth Kantor, who had this to say about New Orleans, will be invited to speak:

    "There are times and places when there is simply no substitute for the decent, competent behavior that people learn by being responsible for themselves and their own families, and that they tend to lose when they think of their own basic needs as somebody else's problem. There are situations in which the habits bred by dependency can mean people die who otherwise would live.

    "One of those situations is when you're in a crowd of desperate, hungry, and dehydrated people waiting for a helicopter to land with food and water.

    "Our underclass has been told a lot of lies:

    "You're poor because other people are rich; they owe you

    "Sleeping with a woman doesn't oblige you to assume the responsibilities of a husband and a father

    "The government will always take care of you.

    Here's to You, Mr. Robinson

    Even the Donner Party waited more than four days: "It is reported that black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive," Randall Robinson of Transafrica wrote. He has since retracted the el bizarro statement, but Jonah Goldberg says Robinson should apologize. And that's not all Jonah says:

    "There's an old axiom which says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. But Robinson was so keen on believing this allegation he went straight to the megaphone after someone simply told him it was so. What kind of person takes such news at face value? Let's see: Racists surely would. But that's a bit of a stretch. Idiots would take it at face value. But I don't think Robinson is anybody's fool. I've got it: He's a fraud. Yeah, that works. It's not perfect, but it will do the job."

    Justice Rehnquist, R.I.P.

    "When someone like Judge John Roberts tears up at the mere mention of another man's passing, one knows that a great man has died," Manuel Miranda writes in a moving tribute to Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, who died Sunday.

    "When Ronald Reagan elevated Rehnquist in 1986 to be the 16th chief justice, he had every reason to expect a fight. Reagan knew the deep judicial record that Rehnquist had built. He was, for example, one of only two justices (with Kennedy appointee Byron White) who had dissented in Roe v. Wade. But Reagan was committed to principles of limited government, so he didn't shy away from conflict. Indeed, Democrats tried to sink Rehnquist, and he was confirmed 65-33, a closer vote than 13 years earlier--even though Republicans had a Senate majority in 1986.

    "The controversy was well worth it. As he chooses his second Supreme Court nominee, President Bush would be well advised to remember his predecessors' finer achievement represented in William Rehnquist, when those presidents kept promises and did not shy from a fight.

    A Perfect Storm

    No, my not-so-gentle readers, I have no sympathy whatsoever for the thugs who are looting New Orleans. Not an ounce. I am saving my sympathy for people who deserve it, like the little boy in this story. He will break your heart. I am saving it for the very sick people at Charity Hospital who, on top of everything else, must be evacuated in helicopters, a process delayed by shots fired by looters. Like everybody else in America, I am worried about the thousands of desperate people stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center without food, water, or medical supplies. Let's hope that they soon are out of there. And, while we're at it, let's hope that the child in this picture has been carried to safety.

    But the looters? Mona Charen is right about what should be done to them. Meanwhile, if you want to help, here is a list of charities working with victims of the hurricane.

    I just talked to a friend who got out of New Orleans--somebody knocked on her door and said she had ten minutes. She was going to argue but the rescuer said that the levee had broken. "This is about civilization," he said and she realized how bad it was. My friend still sounds stunned by the utter pandemonium: You don't know anything about your friends two or three blocks away. (We're hoping that another friend, who rode out the last hurricane in his house with his dogs, is alive.) I asked her why it was taking so long to get supplies to the people trapped in the Convention Center. She said she didn't know but that there is probably a good reason--we don't really know yet, even though the Blame Bush movement is not waiting for facts on the ground. As for the National Guard, their problem, according to my friend, is not that some are in Iraq but that there is no staging area for them to enter New Orleans. The magnitude of the disaster is hard to grasp.

    My evacuee friend's main concern is for Bush's safety when he goes to New Orleans, a visit that must be staged in an attempt to mollify the media but will have no meaning for the suffering people of New Orleans. In all probability, few will know he is there, given the breakdown in communications.

    There is too much concentration, my friend added, on image: "Louisiana's Gov. Kathleen Blanco was shakier, but she can recover," opined the usually astute Peggy Noonan. When you've been through what New Orleans has been through, such Sunday morning talk show chatter is meaningless. Kathleen Blanco has won my friend's admiration.

    Conservative activist Gary Bauer is also puzzled by the sick phenomenon of thinking of a disaster of epic proportions mainly as a stick with which to beat Bush. In a Sept. 1 email, he wrote:

    "While some are trying to lay the blame for Hurricane Katrina at President Bush's feet, this president has been busy leading what is very likely the largest disaster relief effort in this nation's history. It is almost unparalleled in its scope, short of a national mobilization for war. In fact, some are calling it the 'second Battle of New Orleans,' referring to the War of 1812, and the comparison isn't far off."

    Bauer has a list of what is being done, including the deployment of 30,000 National Guard, and praise for the allies who have stepped up to the plate with offers of aid for the stricken area: "To all these folks we say, 'Thank You!'"

    What, Besides the Levees, Broke?

    As I've mentioned, I lived in New Orleans for more than a decade, and I love the city (I'm not ready to listen to people like my brother-in-law, who insists that New Orleans will become another Pompeii).

    But New Orleans isn't perfect, and Thomas Lifson of the American Thinker has been thinking about some of the faults exposed by the hurricane:

    "The incomplete evacuation of citizens and warehousing in the Superdome struck me at the time as a poor choice. Why were there not sound trucks cruising the streets warning those detached from the media to run for their lives? Why weren't there places designated where folks heading out of town could fill up their cars with refugees lacking transportation? Why wasn't every bus, truck, and railroad freight car pressed into service to haul people away?"

    And getting to the heart of the matter:

    "Many years ago, an oilman in Houston pointed out to me that there was no inherent reason Houston should have emerged as the world capital of the petroleum business. New Orleans was already a major city with centuries of history, proximity to oil deposits, and huge transportation advantages when the Houston Ship Channel was dredged, making the then-small city of Houston into a major port. The discovery of the Humble oil field certainly helped Houston rise as an oil center, but the industry could just as easily have centered itself in New Orleans.

    "When I pressed my oilman informant for the reason Houston prevailed, he gave me a look of pity for my naiveté, and said, 'Corruption.' Anyone making a fortune in New Orleans based on access to any kind of public resources would find himself coping with all sorts of hands extended for palm-greasing. Permits, taxes, fees, and outright bribes would be a never-ending nightmare. Houston, in contrast, was interested in growth, jobs, prosperity, and extending a welcoming hand to newcomers. New Orleans might be a great place to spend a pleasant weekend, but Houston is the place to build a business.

    "Today, metropolitan Houston houses roughly 4 times the population of pre-Katrina metropolitan New Orleans, despite the considerable advantage New Orleans has of capturing the shipping traffic of the Mississippi basin."

    Maybe this dreadful hurricane offers the city a new start.

    Common Ground

    Beliefnet member Black Catholic is one of Loose Canon's harsher critics on the miniboard. So I hope I won't ruin his or her day by reprinting two recent BC posts about which I can only say, "I couldn't agree more, BC."

    BC is from New Orleans and has these insightful comments on the scenes of looting we're all seeing on TV: "My mother played for too many funerals at St. Jude's and St. Augustine's. Welcome to the ghetto, LC. Welcome to where I'm from. Think about running inside EVERY night, to avoid the numbskulls. Think about hiding your possessions from people who'd steal air if they could. Today, what is on TV is what has always been there. The poor abandoned, the gangbangers owning the night. You just don't get to see it on TV usually." And this:

    "My mother made contact early this morning. She, and others, believe the violent criminals are druggies who have not had a fix since Sunday, and gangbangers, given where the violence is. The Gangsters are used to rolling at will through Carrollton. Troops will put and end to that. Can we keep them?

    "The true irony is that we are using American tax dollars to rebuild Iraq, and begging private funds to fix New Orleans. Shouldn't be the other way around? Isn't this immoral?"

    Of course, we don't agree about Iraq, but I am glad that you heard from your mother--and that you seem to agree with me that civil order would be helpful to people who live in projects.

    Tolerance of crime hurts the poor most.

    Would you agree, BC?

    Can You Eat a TV Set?

    After Sept. 11, people behaved in a way that made us proud. But in New Orleans the authorities are forced to wage what Drudge calls "The Battle for New Orleans." As the Associated Press story on Drudge describes the scene:

    "Managers at the Covenant Home nursing center were prepared to cope with power outages and supply shortages following Hurricane Katrina. They weren't ready for looters.

    "The nursing home lost its bus after the driver surrendered it to carjackers. Groups of people then drove by the center, shouting to residents, 'Get out!'

    "On Wednesday, 80 residents, most of them in wheelchairs, were evacuated to other nursing homes in the state.

    "'We had excellent plans. We had enough food for 10 days,' said Peggy Hoffman, the home's executive director. 'Now we'll have to equip our department heads with guns and teach them how to shoot.'

    "Looters around New Orleans spent another day Wednesday threatening survivors and ransacking stores. Some were desperate for food--others just wanted beer and TVs."

    Taking goods to survive is one thing--and the AP story includes people who appear to be decent people but who are forced to do just that:

    "Some outside the same Rite-Aid on Thursday were anxious to show they needed what they were taking. A gray-haired man who would not give his name pulled up his T-shirt to show a surgery scar and explained that he needs pads for incontinence.

    "'I'm a Christian. I feel bad going in there,' he said.

    He sounds like an admirable man. I also heard about people stealing a car to escape, which is understandable (as long as it didn't cause the car's owner to perish). These are not the kinds of acts I am talking about when I condemn looters. I am talking about the thugs who threaten survivors and engage in violence. Unfortunately, our liberal elites refuse to condemn this behavior.

    One of the most outrageous examples of excusing lawlessness comes in today's Washington Post:

    "But, as we are also learning from the post-Katrina chaos, what we think of as looting may be more complicated than it seems.

    "Benigno E. Aguirre of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware has been watching and reading about looters in Louisiana. 'It may look from the outside as if they are stealing or breaking the law,' says Aguirre, 'when in fact some of them are trying to survive.'

    "On the other hand, he says, some of the thieves are garden-variety crooks. 'There is always a very small number of people that are predisposed to crime, and they see a disaster as an opportunity to act.'

    "There are the disenfranchised who jump at the chance to get even with those who have more stuff than they do. 'Disasters can become opportunity for class warfare, and that kind of appropriation of other people's property should be prosecuted,' he says.

    What is this? A class warfare theory of natural disasters? Prof. Aguirre calls them the disenfranchised. I call them looters. Outlaws. And I tremble for the future of a society that refuses to condemn such lawlessness in the harshest of terms.

    Many people in New Orleans are dispossessed at this point. But looting is wrong no matter what your financial situation. And the looters, in making the whole town more dangerous and preventing rescues, are most of all harming the law-abiding dispossessed.

    (Lucianne's summation of the story just quoted: "The moral nuances of stealing something you can't, eat, drink, watch or sell. Do flat-screens float?")

    A Beliefnet member thinks I am not sufficiently pro-looter: "All I can say is thank the Lord you had no family members involved in this unfortunate incident. You are extremely hypocritical but I wonder how you would view the 'looters' if you yourself were without food, water, clean place to rest and hope for rescue. I find it DISGUSTING that someone like you would actually sit and judge those less fortunate. I would never wish any negativity onto anyone but perhaps a little dose of KARMA might serve you and your pathetic words better. You are EVIL."

    Evil or not, I lived in New Orleans for more than ten years. I have numerous friends, two godchildren and a cousin who live there. Some are accounted for and some aren't. I hope and pray that they all have survived Katrina and that those who didn't get out in time will also be safe in a New Orleans dominated by murderous thugs. I take it you are willing to make excuses for somebody who risks the lives of others by taking the bus of a nursing home?

    One of the more dramatic stories I heard from a friend concerns a television station employee who was attacked by looters as he tried to drive away from the city-there was a lot of camera equipment in his car. He was forced to run over one of the looters. I hope he doesn't lose any sleep over this justified act of self-defense.

    Riding Your Hobbyhorse into the Hurricane

    Sure, liberals refuse to blame looters for looting. But that doesn't mean they aren't blamers. Not at all. They have two blamees for Katrina: Not surprisingly, they are blaming George Bush and global warming.

    My colleague Charlotte Allen has a terrific piece blaming Bush ("A Levee-Bursting Torrent of Bush-Bashing"), and James K. Glassman--my editor when we both worked on an alternative weekly in New Orleans--has an excellent piece on blaming global warming (it begins with the particularly welcome news that his daughter-- who happens to be my beautiful godchild--and her family got out safely):

    "[T]he response of environmental extremists fills me with what only can be called disgust. They have decided to exploit the death and devastation to win support for the failed Kyoto Protocol, which requires massive cutbacks in energy use to reduce, by a few tenths of a degree, surface warming projected 100 years from now.

    "Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before and the inability of humans, even the most brilliant engineers, to tame these forces.

    "Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new. And they are not increasing. To the contrary. Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade. The peak for major hurricanes (categories 3,4,5) came in the decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, when such storms averaged 9 per decade. In the 1960s, there were 6 such storms; in the 1970s, 4; in the 1980s, 5; in the 1990s, 5; and for 2001-04, there were 3. Category 4 and 5 storms were also more prevalent in the past than they are now. As for Category 5 storms, there have been only three since the 1850s: in the decades of the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s.

    "But that doesn't stop an enviro-predator like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from writing on the Huffingtonpost website: 'Now we are all learning what it's like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East--and now Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.'"


    It's impossible to underestimate the needs of those hit by Katrina--and despite what I wrote above, there are angels out there helping them. I don't know a soul in my hometown in Mississippi who's not involved in helping the refugees. Beliefnet has provided a list of charities, and a number of blogs, including Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt, have lists. I like the Salvation Army.

    Sympathy for Looters

    Amid the breakdown of civil order in New Orleans, there is looting. Nothing is more despicable or indicative of how tenuous the bonds that hold society together are. How did NBC's Brian Williams characterize these outlaws last night on the news?

    He portrayed them as being "frustrated," adding,

    "Later, in the downtown area, we also saw what can happen when people have nothing. Looting was everywhere and it was flagrant."

    Not what happens "when people have nothing," but what happens when lawless people take over the town. A lot of people in New Orleans now "have nothing," and I daresay everybody is "frustrated." But only outlaws, usually held more (but probably not entirely) in check by the police and other manifestations of civic order, are looting.

    Regarding these villains as "frustrated people" who "have nothing" is liberal non-judgmentalism carried to absurdity. Of course, they are bad people. You know this instinctively (that may be why Williams warned that the scenes of looting were disturbing and you might want to glance away from your TV).

    This sympathy for these devils--and they are devils--doesn't improve the situation, and it is infuriating when you think of all the decent people being victimized. Maybe Mr. Williams would be judgmental if he knew these poor, frustrated souls are focusing more on guns than blankies? (Hugh Hewitt thinks that looting scenes should not be shown because they only add to the disorder-I don't know.)

    For a vivid account by somebody who has lost his family business, a New Orleans restaurant, to Katrina, here's Raymond Arroyo of EWTN:

    "At any moment in New Orleans, these things can happen. But you never imagine they'll look like this when they do and to many people watching these are rooftops, these are chimneytops and people on them. But to us these are icons of our childhood, this is our music, our culture, our life, and it's awful watching it in this state.

    "And I can't imagine, people are saying weeks, a few weeks. I can't imagine. The reports I'm getting and I've spoken to a few people who have just been there or who are on their way out. In Jefferson Parish, right next to Orleans where we live, in Metairie, there are floating bodies, there are snakes, there are alligators, gas leaks, and this is sitting and it is going to sit for several weeks."

    Mr. Arroyo, to my knowledge, is not looting. I hope that what's left of his damaged belongings will be safe from "frustrated" people.

    An Episcopal bishop paints a grim picture of New Orleans and the surrounding area, noting there's lots more important than property damage:

    "Bishop Jenkins said that of the 18 parishes in the city of New Orleans, all but 'Christ Church Cathedral and perhaps those on the St. Charles Ridge' he expected would be under water. 'Cholera, Yellow Fever, West Nile virus' and other water-borne diseases pose a threat now, Bishop Jenkins said.

    "Christ Church, Slidell, and St. Michael's, Mandeville, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish, and St. Mary's, Chalmette, east of the city in St. Bernard Parish, are in areas also reported hard hit by the flooding. Power and telephone service across Southern Louisiana is out and the situation in rural parishes outside the city is unclear. But 'now is not the time to worry about property,' Bishop Jenkins said, 'but to pray to God and to pray for those in need.'

    Churches are helping in word and deed. Lutherans are recruiting retired firemen and military people to help rescue people, and Pope Benedict and other religious leaders are offering prayers. I like the Salvation Army, and Beliefnet has a list of charities that are helping Katrina victims. Instapundit quotes an assessment that the Mennonites are efficient. Not surprising.

    Watch out for hurricane-relief scam artists. We want to make sure that they are "frustrated" and that the aid gets to people who need it.

    Back to Everyday Life

    Michelle Malkin reports that there are frustrated people in her neighborhood in normal times.

    Just Horsing Around--This Is No Laughing Matter

    Hear the one about the guy in Washington state who died from internal injuries sustained while having sex with a horse? Unfortunately, it's not a joke. Life issues expert Wesley Smith has an alarming piece on bestiality in the Weekly Standard.

    Bestiality is not illegal in Washington, but state Senator Pam Roach is trying to make it a felony. "I found out that Washington is one of the few states in the country that doesn't outlaw this activity," she told Smith. "This has made Washington a Mecca for bestiality. People know it isn't against the law and so they come from other states to have sex with animals."

    Roach's proposed legislation has drawn harsh criticism, most prominently from a local columnist, Robert L. Jamieson Jr., who pointed out that oral sex, masturbation, and homosexual sex were also considered wrong at one time. (Some people still do!) When Roach countered that sex with animals is wrong because the quadrupeds don't consent, Jamieson noted that they also "don't consent to 'being ground into all-beef patties.'"

    This is good for a laugh, but Wesley Smith points out what is really at stake:

    "Both Jamieson and Roach (and a very mild Post Intelligencer editorial supporting Roach) miss the true nub of what makes this repugnant issue so important. Bestiality is so very wrong not only because using animals sexually is abusive, but because such behavior is profoundly degrading and utterly subversive to the crucial understanding that human beings are unique, special, and of the highest moral worth in the known universe--a concept known as 'human exceptionalism.'"

    Don't Kill the Fatted Calf Too Soon

    Our schismatic friends in the Traditionalist Society of St. Pius X are acting as if Rome has to submit to them if they are to come back in communion with the Roman Catholic Church-doesn't work that way, fellas.

    Sassy New Orleans

    Perhaps because I long ago misspent my youth in New Orleans's French Quarter or because I grew up in the very house in which my family had toughed out the great Mississippi River flood of 1927, I am obsessed with Katrina (and grateful that my dearest friend and her husband made it to safety, crawling at the rate of only 18 miles in three hours on the packed highway!). The scenes are so similar to ones I heard about as a child--as described by Brad Drell, who is helping with relief.

    Here's a snippet:

    "After places like camps and dormitories with permanent beds, we are to be called up pretty early in a disaster in South Louisiana," said Drell, who serves on the Red Cross team. "We have a long standing plan in place to handle this; folks from the parish are already assigned to various areas from intake and medicines to security and cooking, and we have a team ready to deal with all the issues surrounding the storm, including linking up with the Red Cross to help folks find missing family members..."

    I've been remembering a passage in A. N. Wilson's novel "Incline Our Hearts," about a storm. Though not as powerful as Katrina, it was nevertheless powerful enough to impress upon an eccentric vicar, whose sermons depicted a rather tame deity, the majesty of God.

    While Loose Canon is dismayed by (and, let's be honest--a bit amused by) those who immediately put forth some pet cause (global warming, reliance on oil or the expulsion of the Jews from Gaza) as a reason for the disaster, hurricane-inspired theological reflections are a different matter. A fellow Mississippian on Mere Comments has some interesting ones:

    "I am from Biloxi, Mississippi. My family members are there now, enduring the brunt of Hurricane Katrina despite pleas to evacuate. As my father puts it, 'Only sissies and Yankees evacuate' (I think this is sufficient explanation for why my ancestors lost the war). As I spent most of the night praying and flipping from Fox News to CNN to MSNBC, I am reminded of just how unnatural natural disasters really are....

    "The CNN meteorologists can explain the hurricane only in terms of barometric pressure and water temperatures. We know, however, that at its root this natural disaster isn't natural at all. It is a creation crying out, 'Adam, where are you?' As we pray for my hometown and all its citizens, let's remember to groan along with the hurricane itself, 'Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.'"

    How could I have forgotten yesterday to mention Catholic Charities? They welcome contributions.

    New Orleans is a city that's seen it all before and loves to have a good time. Loose Canon is not one bit surprised to learn (via Brad Drell) of its resilience in the face of this terrible storm:

    "Don't fear, New Orleans evacuees ... all is not lost. Just finished lunch from Chez Picayune ... huddled on the second-floor landing watching the trees whip outside the big atrium window.

    "Red beans and rice. Comfort food in the middle of the hurricane. How you gonna get more sassy Yat than that?"

    The New Meaning of Grass Roots

    Al Sharpton isn't Cindy Sheehan's only best friend. Byron York reports on the strategist who's been with Mrs. Sheehan since the beginning.

    Don't Flatter Yourself

    "Every time we arrive in Topeka safely I want to pull them aside and say, 'You know, your Auntie Mariko risks lynching and ridicule of her pink hair and tattoos so she can come and hang out with you in your state of choice, so the least you can do is give me a bite of your Popsicle,'" writes a deluded lesbian (registration required) on traveling to Kansas with her lover. Tip of the hat to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this.

    Our Surreal Elites

    The most disheartening thing about the war in Iraq is the blindness of our intellectual elite--no, that's the second most disheartening thing. The first would be if we lost.

    The American Thinker comments on the nature of the battle at home: "The battle of ideas in our homeland is surreal. On the side of the terrorists is respectable society; against the terrorists are arrayed the terrorists."

    How are the terrorists arrayed against the terrorists? Thinker explains:

    "Newsweek, to take a familiar example, publishes a false story of Koran abuse at Gitmo. The Secretary of State says that the story has done grave damage to the national security of the United States. The author of the story, concerned only with the damage to his reputation and to the reputation of his employer, calls the false story a 'blip,' and the rest of the mainstream media searches desperately for anything it can portray as evidence that the Newsweek story is fake but accurate. Victory for the terrorists.

    "Meanwhile, terrorist sympathizers riot, with consequent loss of life, and the American people, perversely from the point of view of respectable society, show little concern for abuse of terrorists and their book, and many turn on Dick Durbin when on the basis of a single uncorroborated report, he likens Gitmo to Hitler's concentration camps, Stalin's gulag, and Pol Pot's killing fields. Then the terrorists bomb London. Defeat for the terrorists."

    It's very bad when the only time enlightened opinion turns squarely against the terrorists is when there is some fresh new atrocity.

    Master of the Winds?

    A natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina inevitably makes people wonder about what part God plays. Should we pray to be delivered from a hurricane? Why did an omnipotent God allow this to happen?

    The great poet Gerard Manly Hopkins confronted the question of God in natural disasters when six Franciscan nuns, exiled from Germany, were drowned in "The Wreck of the Deutschland."

    One of the comic manifestations of this is in an Evelyn Waugh novel (it's on the tip of my tongue, but I can't quite remember which one--do any of you?): A character wonders if praying not to be hit by bombs is the same as praying that somebody else will be.

    In our day, we tend to take an accusatory tone towards God. We're either angry at God or we know that he doesn't exist--a nice God would never let any of this stuff happen.

    As James Bowman wrote after this winter's tsunami in Southeast Asia:

    "Evelyn Waugh's comic clergyman, 'Prendy' Prendergast in Decline and Fall lost his faith, we remember, because he couldn't understand why there was something rather than nothing. But nowadays it seems there is no challenge to faith save that based on the perfectionist standard that, where the creation might not suit us, it can only be as a result of the Creator's fault. 'The ancient man,' wrote C.S. Lewis in his essay, 'God in the Dock,' 'approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.'

    "Even where God is acquitted, it is hard to see how He can remain God. Another man of religion, an Eastern Orthodox theologian called David B. Hart wrote in the Wall Street Journal that:

    "'When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering - when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children's - no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms - knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against 'fate,' and that must do so until the end of days.'

    "And yet what he says no Christian is licensed to do is just what any Christian must do, if he is not - as the skeptics unfortunately remind us - to be guilty of blasphemy indeed. The wisdom in the old view that natural calamity was an expression of divine wrath, whatever its many shortcomings, was this: that it recognized judgment as God's prerogative, not ours. We cannot know the reason for such horrors, or even if there is any reason beyond what Hart calls 'the imbecile forces of chance.' But what we do know is that any God worthy our devotion can hardly be the slave to those imbecile forces that we feel ourselves to be when such tragedies strike. And if not the slave, then the master. In that case even the most horrible things that we are called upon to endure must be in some sense His will - which His Son in Christian belief instructed His followers to pray might be done. There is even a degree of comfort in that reflection, though comfort is one of the things the Archbishop [of Canterbury] tells us we have no business seeking from our faith, along with ready answers."

    God could have stopped the hurricane but didn't--more important than whether one was hit or not is how one responds to what happens in this life. I know it is easier to write this in my nice, dry apartment than in the midst of the whirlwind.

    If you'd like to help, the American Red Cross is accepting donations. Lent and Beyond is "on prayer watch" for the hurricane area.

    Here's a prayer for those affected by the hurricane from one of my favorite websites:

    "O Lord, King of the Universe, master of the winds and the rain, be with those this day who are facing the hurricane's wrath. Succor those who are in fright, be with those who are trying to save lives, open the hands of those whose generosity is needed to help. O Lord, Master of the wind and the rain, be with those, and if possible, let this storm weaken. Remember we are your children. In the name of Jesus, Amen."

    Just Horsing Around--This Is No Laughing Matter

    Hear the one about the guy in Washington state who died from internal injuries sustained while having sex with a horse? Unfortunately, it's not a joke. Life issues expert Wesley Smith has an alarming piece on bestiality in the Weekly Standard.

    Bestiality is not illegal in Washington, but state Senator Pam Roach is trying to make it a felony. "I found out that Washington is one of the few states in the country that doesn't outlaw this activity," she told Smith. "This has made Washington a Mecca for bestiality. People know it isn't against the law and so they come from other states to have sex with animals."

    Roach's proposed legislation has drawn harsh criticism, most prominently from a local columnist, Robert L. Jamieson Jr., who pointed out that oral sex, masturbation, and homosexual sex were also considered wrong at one time. (Some people still do!) When Roach countered that sex with animals is wrong because the quadrupeds don't consent, Jamieson noted that they also "don't consent to 'being ground into all-beef patties.'"

    This is good for a laugh, but Wesley Smith points out what is really at stake:

    "Both Jamieson and Roach (and a very mild Post Intelligencer editorial supporting Roach) miss the true nub of what makes this repugnant issue so important. Bestiality is so very wrong not only because using animals sexually is abusive, but because such behavior is profoundly degrading and utterly subversive to the crucial understanding that human beings are unique, special, and of the highest moral worth in the known universe--a concept known as 'human exceptionalism.'"

    Don't Kill the Fatted Calf Too Soon

    Our schismatic friends in the Traditionalist Society of St. Pius X are acting as if Rome has to submit to them if they are to come back in communion with the Roman Catholic Church-doesn't work that way, fellas.

    Sassy New Orleans

    Perhaps because I long ago misspent my youth in New Orleans's French Quarter or because I grew up in the very house in which my family had toughed out the great Mississippi River flood of 1927, I am obsessed with Katrina (and grateful that my dearest friend and her husband made it to safety, crawling at the rate of only 18 miles in three hours on the packed highway!). The scenes are so similar to ones I heard about as a child--as described by Brad Drell, who is helping with relief.

    Here's a snippet:

    "After places like camps and dormitories with permanent beds, we are to be called up pretty early in a disaster in South Louisiana," said Drell, who serves on the Red Cross team. "We have a long standing plan in place to handle this; folks from the parish are already assigned to various areas from intake and medicines to security and cooking, and we have a team ready to deal with all the issues surrounding the storm, including linking up with the Red Cross to help folks find missing family members..."

    I've been remembering a passage in A. N. Wilson's novel "Incline Our Hearts," about a storm. Though not as powerful as Katrina, it was nevertheless powerful enough to impress upon an eccentric vicar, whose sermons depicted a rather tame deity, the majesty of God.

    While Loose Canon is dismayed by (and, let's be honest--a bit amused by) those who immediately put forth some pet cause (global warming, reliance on oil or the expulsion of the Jews from Gaza) as a reason for the disaster, hurricane-inspired theological reflections are a different matter. A fellow Mississippian on Mere Comments has some interesting ones:

    "I am from Biloxi, Mississippi. My family members are there now, enduring the brunt of Hurricane Katrina despite pleas to evacuate. As my father puts it, 'Only sissies and Yankees evacuate' (I think this is sufficient explanation for why my ancestors lost the war). As I spent most of the night praying and flipping from Fox News to CNN to MSNBC, I am reminded of just how unnatural natural disasters really are....

    "The CNN meteorologists can explain the hurricane only in terms of barometric pressure and water temperatures. We know, however, that at its root this natural disaster isn't natural at all. It is a creation crying out, 'Adam, where are you?' As we pray for my hometown and all its citizens, let's remember to groan along with the hurricane itself, 'Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.'"

    How could I have forgotten yesterday to mention Catholic Charities? They welcome contributions.

    New Orleans is a city that's seen it all before and loves to have a good time. Loose Canon is not one bit surprised to learn (via Brad Drell) of its resilience in the face of this terrible storm:

    "Don't fear, New Orleans evacuees ... all is not lost. Just finished lunch from Chez Picayune ... huddled on the second-floor landing watching the trees whip outside the big atrium window.

    "Red beans and rice. Comfort food in the middle of the hurricane. How you gonna get more sassy Yat than that?"

    The New Meaning of Grass Roots

    Al Sharpton isn't Cindy Sheehan's only best friend. Byron York reports on the strategist who's been with Mrs. Sheehan since the beginning.

    Don't Flatter Yourself

    "Every time we arrive in Topeka safely I want to pull them aside and say, 'You know, your Auntie Mariko risks lynching and ridicule of her pink hair and tattoos so she can come and hang out with you in your state of choice, so the least you can do is give me a bite of your Popsicle,'" writes a deluded lesbian (registration required) on traveling to Kansas with her lover. Tip of the hat to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this.

    Our Surreal Elites

    The most disheartening thing about the war in Iraq is the blindness of our intellectual elite--no, that's the second most disheartening thing. The first would be if we lost.

    The American Thinker comments on the nature of the battle at home: "The battle of ideas in our homeland is surreal. On the side of the terrorists is respectable society; against the terrorists are arrayed the terrorists."

    How are the terrorists arrayed against the terrorists? Thinker explains:

    "Newsweek, to take a familiar example, publishes a false story of Koran abuse at Gitmo. The Secretary of State says that the story has done grave damage to the national security of the United States. The author of the story, concerned only with the damage to his reputation and to the reputation of his employer, calls the false story a 'blip,' and the rest of the mainstream media searches desperately for anything it can portray as evidence that the Newsweek story is fake but accurate. Victory for the terrorists.

    "Meanwhile, terrorist sympathizers riot, with consequent loss of life, and the American people, perversely from the point of view of respectable society, show little concern for abuse of terrorists and their book, and many turn on Dick Durbin when on the basis of a single uncorroborated report, he likens Gitmo to Hitler's concentration camps, Stalin's gulag, and Pol Pot's killing fields. Then the terrorists bomb London. Defeat for the terrorists."

    It's very bad when the only time enlightened opinion turns squarely against the terrorists is when there is some fresh new atrocity.

    Master of the Winds?

    A natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina inevitably makes people wonder about what part God plays. Should we pray to be delivered from a hurricane? Why did an omnipotent God allow this to happen?

    The great poet Gerard Manly Hopkins confronted the question of God in natural disasters when six Franciscan nuns, exiled from Germany, were drowned in "The Wreck of the Deutschland."

    One of the comic manifestations of this is in an Evelyn Waugh novel (it's on the tip of my tongue, but I can't quite remember which one--do any of you?): A character wonders if praying not to be hit by bombs is the same as praying that somebody else will be.

    In our day, we tend to take an accusatory tone towards God. We're either angry at God or we know that he doesn't exist--a nice God would never let any of this stuff happen.

    As James Bowman wrote after this winter's tsunami in Southeast Asia:

    "Evelyn Waugh's comic clergyman, 'Prendy' Prendergast in Decline and Fall lost his faith, we remember, because he couldn't understand why there was something rather than nothing. But nowadays it seems there is no challenge to faith save that based on the perfectionist standard that, where the creation might not suit us, it can only be as a result of the Creator's fault. 'The ancient man,' wrote C.S. Lewis in his essay, 'God in the Dock,' 'approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.'

    "Even where God is acquitted, it is hard to see how He can remain God. Another man of religion, an Eastern Orthodox theologian called David B. Hart wrote in the Wall Street Journal that:

    "'When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering - when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children's - no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms - knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against 'fate,' and that must do so until the end of days.'

    "And yet what he says no Christian is licensed to do is just what any Christian must do, if he is not - as the skeptics unfortunately remind us - to be guilty of blasphemy indeed. The wisdom in the old view that natural calamity was an expression of divine wrath, whatever its many shortcomings, was this: that it recognized judgment as God's prerogative, not ours. We cannot know the reason for such horrors, or even if there is any reason beyond what Hart calls 'the imbecile forces of chance.' But what we do know is that any God worthy our devotion can hardly be the slave to those imbecile forces that we feel ourselves to be when such tragedies strike. And if not the slave, then the master. In that case even the most horrible things that we are called upon to endure must be in some sense His will - which His Son in Christian belief instructed His followers to pray might be done. There is even a degree of comfort in that reflection, though comfort is one of the things the Archbishop [of Canterbury] tells us we have no business seeking from our faith, along with ready answers."

    God could have stopped the hurricane but didn't--more important than whether one was hit or not is how one responds to what happens in this life. I know it is easier to write this in my nice, dry apartment than in the midst of the whirlwind.

    If you'd like to help, the American Red Cross is accepting donations. Lent and Beyond is "on prayer watch" for the hurricane area.

    Here's a prayer for those affected by the hurricane from one of my favorite websites:

    "O Lord, King of the Universe, master of the winds and the rain, be with those this day who are facing the hurricane's wrath. Succor those who are in fright, be with those who are trying to save lives, open the hands of those whose generosity is needed to help. O Lord, Master of the wind and the rain, be with those, and if possible, let this storm weaken. Remember we are your children. In the name of Jesus, Amen."

    God and Your Knickers

    Loose Canon thought that the anti-chastity gang refused to endorse abstinence programs in schools because they believe that abstinence is a utopian goal. Not so. They don't believe in abstinence. Christianity Today reports that abstinence is "controversial:"

    "Can we be good without God? The question seems somehow abstract, a topic for Atlantic Monthly cover stories and college seminars more than practical applications. So here's another question: Can we keep our pants on?

    "Ironically, the group that often answers 'yes' to the first question says 'no' to the second. And some believe that not only can't we stay chaste, but we should not.

    "'An abstinence-until-marriage program is not only irresponsible,' U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said last year. 'It's really inhumane.'"

    To underscore the notion that abstinence is not the answer, NARAL earlier this year threw a Screw Abstinence party. Charming.

    Making Book on Benedict

    "After a quarter-century," writes Eamon Duffy in a Washington Post review of a passel of new books on Benedict XVI (including National Catholic Reporter Vatican correspondent John Allen's "The Rise of Benedict XVI"), "in which the world's largest religious organization was governed by one of the world's most magnetic leaders, the Roman Catholic Church now has an elderly, fastidious and traditionalist scholar at its head. Friends and close collaborators though they were, John Paul II and Benedict XVI are radically different sorts of men. Joseph Ratzinger is more theologically sophisticated than his predecessor and a good deal less religiously adventurous. His traditionalism, though as strong as the late Karol Wojtyla's, is altogether more considered, bookish and conceptual. These instinctual differences between them were evident in Ratzinger's notable lack of enthusiasm for the millennium celebrations that meant so much to the Polish pope, and they appeared again when, on John Paul's authority, the so-called Third Secret of Fatima was published. Ratzinger's official theological commentary on it was perceptibly lukewarm and generalizing, a damage-limitation exercise designed to empty the 'secret' of its apocalyptic menace and to demonstrate that, as the cardinal observed dryly to one journalist before its publication, 'nowhere does it say anything more than what the Christian message already says.' Thus, while Benedict's papacy is unlikely to produce any dramatic theological discontinuities with that of John Paul, it will not be a simple rerun. Every new pope is a new beginning."

    According to Duffy, Allen, whose previous book explained why Cardinal Ratzinger would never be pope, does a good job in this one of explaining just how he did become pope. Allen is an excellent reporter, and I look forward to juicy tidbits on the conclave that elected Benedict.

    Communion for All

    All present at the funeral of the saintly founder to the ecumenical Taize community were invited to Communion. Was this the right thing to do?

    "[W]hoever authorized the Communion-for-all policy at Brother Roger's funeral (Cardinal [Walter] Kasper?) was flouting the wishes of the deceased," writes Catholic blogger Diogenes. "The conduct of the funeral was guided not by Catholic teaching or Taize practice, not by the example of Brother Roger or the directives of the Vatican, but by that familiar ecumenical monster: the Least Common Denomination."

    Diogenes says not only that Brother Roger would not have wanted this but that that the famous time Brother Roger reportedly received Holy Communion from then-Cardinal Ratzinger was an accident.

    Here We Go Again

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" is an aphorism sometimes attributed to the philosopher George Santayana. It's been trotted out a lot lately.

    "Maybe Santayana was misquoted," suggests Daniel Henninger of Opinion Journal. "Maybe what he meant to say is those who remember history are condemned to repeat it. And repeat it, and repeat it.

    "Joan Baez, now 64, has descended from the mists to sing songs at Cindy Sheehan's Crawford ditch in Texas. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, respectively 62 and 61, have decided to cap their careers with a new song called 'Sweet Neo-Con' ('It's liberty for all ... unless you are against us, then it's prison without trial.') The ghost of Tom Hayden showed up on Bill O'Reilly this week to announce, with the confidence of experience, that 'an exit strategy is an art form all in itself.' And indeed some polls have dropped the war's support below 50%.

    "Here's a truer saying: It's déjà vu all over again."

    This nostalgic rerun of the Vietnam protests (by what Hagelian logic does Chuck think "breaking" with the president will win him the GOP nomination?) flies in the face of the reality that, despite terrible trials, the situation in Iraq is different from Vietnam of yore. This is obscured because, as kausfiles points out, "[T]here already is an effective anti-Bush opposition party in America. It's called the media."

    But sometimes information untainted with rabid anti-Bushism does get through. One example of this is Washington Post columnist and Middle East expert David Ignatius on dinner with a young Iraqi Shiite cleric named Ammar Hakim:

    "I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: 'The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties.' I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer.

    "Hakim told me he had visited the Lincoln Memorial, and I asked what he had thought as he looked up at the face of the man who kept America together during its own brutally violent civil war. He said the American experience was a lesson for Iraqis 'in pooling people of various ethnic backgrounds into one law and order.' He added that he hoped future generations of Iraqis would look at their current leaders with the same gratitude that Americans feel when they regard Lincoln.

    "The young cleric says all the things this administration could want to hear. 'President Bush is playing a great role in giving Iraqis a chance to build a democratic process,' he insists. The new constitution will create 'a stable and balanced Iraq where all sects will be treated justly and equally.' Iraqi federalism will allow regional self-government, as in the United States, but 'the Shiites are a majority; they have no interest in disintegration.'"

    Meanwhile, there are signs that the Cindy Sheehan branch of the anti-war movement, so beloved on the evening news, might not be sustainable. But this had to happen. And Michael Reagan says that Mrs. Sheehan is only projecting her hatred onto George Bush. This one will enrage Cindiacs.

    An Unusual Petting Zoo

    Loose Canon loves her dear little cat Ottoline, but if Ottsie ever tries to pull a stunt like this, it's no Fancy Feast for a week.

    Sometimes Even Condoleezza is Wrong

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's declaring, "it cannot be Gaza only," after Israel's heartbreaking disengagement from that strip of land was just plain wrong. As Charles Krauthammer notes, what's at stake is whether the world opinion will force Israel, the only Jewish state on the planet (there are 21 Arab states), to concede itself out of existence.

    Krauthammer highlights a poignant sight from the drama of the withdrawal:

    "[T]here was one detail of the evacuation that went little noticed: the manner of the evacuation of the great menorah from the last synagogue of the last settlement to be evacuated, Netzarim. This menorah is not the nine-branched Hanukah thingy that shows up on an equal-time basis by the shopping-mall reindeer display at Christmas time. It is the seven-branched candelabra -- like the one that was in the ancient temple in Jerusalem and is today the official seal of the state of Israel. The Gaza menorah was carried off in a very remarkable and significant way, perched on a horizontal rod borne on the shoulders of men walking one behind the other.

    "Seen in profile, that image has a shocking familiarity. If you go to the eastern entrance of the Roman forum today, you will see the huge triumphal Arch of Titus erected in A.D. 81 to commemorate the conquest of the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state -- Judea -- in A.D. 70. One of the friezes shows the seven-branched menorah being carried out of the temple in Jerusalem -- as booty and symbol of the conquest of Judea -- perched on a long horizontal staff borne by Roman soldiers walking one behind the other.

    "No one steeped in Jewish history could fail to see the intended resemblance. The intended message was that the Gaza evacuation was a replay of the Roman conquest -- made all the more cruel and ironic because this time it was carried out by fellow Jews.

    "In my view, the religious messianists who are saying this are totally wrong in their strategic assessment. Gaza was a necessary retreat in order to hold higher, more defensible and more critical ground elsewhere.

    "Nonetheless, the parallel images carried an unintended truth. ..."

    A Perilous Pedestal

    Are you ever amazed at the tenor of the emotional response from Darwinians to those ignorant creationist chumps? You'd think they could just brush them aside like flecks of un-Harvard-educated lint. After all, they don't send their children to public schools in Kansas.

    Sometimes it makes me think of Lady Julia in Brideshead Revisited asking Charles Ryder, still in his anti-Catholic phase, if he is beginning to have doubts.

    I think something similar must have crossed the mind of English journalist and historian (and papist) Paul Johnson, who penned the following (which, alas, is all that is available of his article, unless you subscribe to the inevitably sparkling but expensive Spectator):

    "How long will Darwin continue to repose on his high but perilous pedestal? I am beginning to wonder. Few people doubt the principles of evolution. The question at issue is: are all evolutionary advances achieved exclusively by the process of natural selection? That is the position of the Darwinian fundamentalists, and they cling to their absolutist position with all the unyielding certitude with which Southern Baptists assert the literal truth of the Book of Genesis, or Wahabi Muslims proclaim the need for a universal jihad against 'the Great Satan'. At a revivalist meeting of Darwinians two or three years ago, I heard the chairman, the fiction-writer Ian McEwan, call out, 'Yes, we do think God is an old man in the sky with a beard, and his name is Charles Darwin.' I doubt if there is a historical precedent for this investment of so much intellectual and emotional capital, by so many well-educated and apparently rational people, in the work of a single scientist. And to anyone who has studied the history of science and noted the chances of any substantial body of teaching - based upon a particular hypothesis or set of observations - surviving the erosion of time.."

    Just Keep It Up

    Loose Canon--who is bi-social--was just talking to a pleased-as-punch Democrat pal who couldn't resist crowing over President Bush's bad poll numbers. Well, yes, they're low, but we have a secret weapon: the Democrats themselves. As soon as Michael Moore vanishes into a fat farm for the rich, the Dems embrace the sad but clearly unhinged Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in Iraq, as their latest standard bearer.

    Why are they unable to see that Mrs. Sheehan, who has just made an emotional return to Crawford after a brief trip home to check on her ailing mother, may be the belle of the evening news but is hardly representative of your average military family? George Will notices that the Cindy phenomenon represents the worst characteristics of the Democrats:

    "Sad yet riveting, like a wreck by the side of the road, Cindy Sheehan, a plaything of her own sincerities and other people's opportunisms, has already been largely erased from the national memory by new waves of media fickleness in the service of the public's summer ennui. But before she becomes fully relegated to the role of opening act for more durable luminaries at antiwar rallies, prudent Democrats -- those political snail darters, the emblematic endangered species of American politics -- should consider the possibility that, although she was a burr under the president's saddle for several weeks, she is symptomatic of something that in 2008 could cause the Democratic Party a sixth loss in eight presidential elections. That something is a shrillness unlike anything heard in living memory from a major tendency within a major party."

    The wreck-by the side of the road is such an apt analogy--I can't get enough of the Cindy spectacle, even though it is intrinsically sad.

    Will imagines what it would be like if the president heeded the advice of those who believe that Mrs. Sheehan--who has called President Bush a "lying bastard," "the world's biggest terrorist," "fuehrer," and "filth-spewer"--should be asked in for "a serving of that low-calorie staple of democratic sentimentality--'dialogue:'"

    "He: 'Cream and sugar?'

    "She: 'Yes, please, filth-spewer.'"

    If I were a Democrat (and, hey, if pigs could fly), I'd take pains to disassociate my party from Code Pink, an anti-war group that is supporting Mrs. Sheehan. According to the Drudge Report the group recently "besieged wounded and disabled soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital" to tell them the error of their war-mongering ways. One poster reportedly bore the slogan "Maimed for a Lie." CNS News, a conservative service, has more--the protestors reportedly taunted wounded soldiers.

    Does Pat Robertson Matter?

    Not everybody was as flip as I was about the Rev. Pat Robertson's now-I-said-it-now-I didn't remark that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be offed. The appropriately shocked conservative Marvin Olasky explores the ramifications in a piece headlined "WWJA: Who Would Jesus Assassinate?":

    "Early this week, Pat Robertson, on his long-running TV show 'The 700 Club,' seemed more Muslim than Christian when he suggested that U.S. operatives assassinate Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Yesterday, he said he was misinterpreted and was suggesting kidnapping, not necessarily assassination, but he already had caused an international furor by using the A-word.

    "The televangelist should have remembered Spiderman's message that 'with great power comes great responsibility.' By his blurting, Robertson aided Venezuelan autocrats such as Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, who sarcastically said that assassination advocacy was 'very Christian' and went on to argue that 'religious fundamentalism is one of the great problems facing humanity.'"

    I guess just I think of Roberts as an aging crackpot whose primary purpose is to provide copy for liberal newspapers. Byron York says he's still powerful.

    But is there an alarming double standard concerning assassinations? Jonah Goldberg raises the question at the Corner:

    "Pat Robertson? No....George Stephanopoulos, in the December 1, 1997 Newsweek, explaining why Bill Clinton should have Saddam Hussein offed:

    "'But what's unlawful -- and unpopular with the allies -- is not necessarily immoral. So now that I'm not in the White House, I can say what I couldn't say then: we should seriously explore the assassination option. Even though the current crisis may be subsiding temporarily, we don't know what the future holds. A direct attack on Saddam would no doubt be politically risky -- the president, concerned about his place in history, would be torn between the desire to get rid of a bully and the worry that an assassination plan gone awry would embarrass him late in his term. But the president should think about it: the gulf-war coalition is teetering and we have not eliminated Saddam's capacity to inflict mass destruction. That's why killing him may be the more sensible -- and moral -- course over the long run.'"

    I Never Thought About That

    Extreme Catholic felt you'd "know it's biased before you read it" because it appeared in the New York Times. But Loose Canon thought that Tuesday's report on scientists and religious belief was splendid. The thing I noticed is that most non-believing scientists simply never thought about God or belief. But Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who is a Christian, has:

    "Dr. Collins was a nonbeliever until he was 27 - 'more and more into the mode of being not only agnostic but being an atheist,' as he put it. All that changed after he completed his doctorate in physics and was at work on his medical degree, when he was among those treating a woman dying of heart disease. 'She was very clear about her faith and she looked me square in the eye and she said, 'what do you believe?'' he recalled. 'I sort of stammered out, 'I am not sure.'"

    What a Cute Fetus

    The JAMA study on fetal pain was obviously on National Review columnist and blogger Meghan Gurdun's mind when she went to the doctor yesterday:

    "Just had a sonogram, myself, today, and almost wept at the sweetness of the sight of daughter #4 SUCKING HER THUMB. Had heard this happens but have never seen it. Also she was yawning. Admittedly, she's not at the coarse, unfeeling age of 20 weeks; she's 34 weeks, so clearly she's MUCH more evolved, yet still, naturally, not quite human enough for pro-choicers to think worth saving..."

    Just the Appearance of Bias?

    Did you smell a rat? Loose Canon did last night when the Journal of the American Medical Association's fetal pain study hit the network news. A baby inside the mother's womb can't feel pain until the third trimester, according to the study. How convenient.

    The networks I watched and the study itself omitted a crucial piece of information that impugns the objectivity of the study. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

    "[T]heir seven-page article has a weakness: It does not mention that one author is an abortion clinic director, while the lead author - Susan J. Lee, a medical student - once worked for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

    "JAMA editor-in-chief Catherine D. DeAngelis said she was unaware of this, and acknowledged it might create an appearance of bias that could hurt the journal's credibility. 'This is the first I've heard about it,' she said. 'We ask them to reveal any conflict of interest. I would have published the disclosure if it had been made."

    "UCSF obstetrician-gynecologist Eleanor A. Drey, medical director of the abortion clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, said: 'We thought it was critical to include an expert in abortion among the authors. I think my presence... should not serve to politicize a scholarly report.'"

    Legislation is pending that would require anesthesia for babies being aborted. Some abortion rights activists worry that this may make the mother feel bad about aborting her child.

    Tip o' the hat to Amy Welborn for spotting the report.

    This Week's Crazy Christian Gaffe

    Golly, Loose Canon hopes Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez doesn't slip on a banana peel anytime soon. If he does, you know who's going to be blamed--the U.S. of A. Thanks loads, Pat Robertson.

    I'll leave the hyperventilation at the latest Christian Gaffe of the Week to the mainstream media (and various Beliefnet members). Still, while I found Robertson refreshingly candid (can't we laugh over this? Nobody is going to take Robertson's advice seriously.), I have to say that even for an interventionist like me, this is a bridge too far. Nuff said.

    Never Apologize!

    For my fellow Crusades buffs, there's a new book out "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)" that says we don't have to apologize after all. It ranked 28 on Amazon (anything below 10,000 means it's selling) when I was writing this item, and the mini-reviews include one from Ibn Warraq, the pseudonym of a secularist who has rejected Islam, who touts the book as "a clarion call for the defense of the West before it is too late."

    Author Robert Spencer recently had a nice piece defending the Crusades:

    "The West has questioned the Crusades - something probably not possible if the shoe were on the Islamic foot - almost since they took place. Virtually all Westerners have learned to apologize for the Crusades, but less noted is the fact that the Crusades have an Islamic counterpart for which no one is apologizing and of which few are even aware. Over a hundred years ago, Mark Twain spoke for many Westerners in Tom Sawyer Abroad when he has Tom explain to Huck Finn that he wants to go to the Holy Land to liberate it from the Muslims.

    'How,' Huck asks, 'did we come to let them git holt of it?'

    'We didn't come to let them git hold of it,' Tom explains. 'They always had it.'

    'Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?'

    'Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?'

    "Historical fact says it didn't."

    Loose Canon recently remarked that we need to know more about Islam and linked to a story by Stephen Schwartz, a convert to Islam, that gives us reason to believe that there are moderate forms of Islam. Apparently less sanguine, Spencer has an interesting take on those who would call Islam "the religion of peace:" "The idea that it's a religion of peace was propagated most effectively when the British wanted to enter into an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. The British people knew of the violence and didn't want them as an ally to the British state. The British picked up the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, and they propagated that in order to make the alliance more palatable.

    "Also, you have terrorists themselves insisting that it is a religion of peace, by which they mean the peace that will be established in the world when Islam reigns supreme. The idea also comes from an unexamined assumption that anything that is a religion must necessarily teach the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. But Islam doesn't teach these things. It makes a sharp distinction between believers and unbelievers."

    All I know is: We need to know more. And speaking of this, it is an outrage that a District of Columbia radio station was "cowed by CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations)" into firing host Michael Graham for making harsh remarks about Islam. Political correctness is the last thing we need.

    Unrepressed Virgin

    An interesting piece on consecrated virgins, an ancient ministry in the Church:

    "At a time when virginity is getting the Hollywood laugh-track treatment -- the movie 'The 40 Year-Old Virgin' opened Friday and was No. 1 at the box office over the weekend, raking in $20.6 million -- [consecrated virgin Judith] Stegman wants to celebrate the V-word for its beauty and integrity.

    "'An important part of being this,' she said, 'is not to be afraid to say it.'

    "But it took even Stegman a while to do so with a serene smile.

    "'I'm not remaining a virgin because I'm repressing some part of sexuality, or giving everything to my work, or refraining from loving relationships,' Stegman Stegman said Friday. 'I'm invited to a loving relationship with Christ.'"

    What about the Hungry Mind?

    The Holy Father's remarks at Cologne about the limits of do-it-yourself-religion and the Newsweek cover story (with a Newsweek/Beliefnet poll) on religion in the U.S. make a counterpoint of sorts.

    The deck on Newsweek's massive "In Search of the Spiritual" story is a good summary: "Move over, politics. Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God, and, according to our poll, they don't much care what the neighbors are doing."

    As you can imagine, dour old Loose Canon isn't yet ready to run through the streets with a cymbal proclaiming an ecstatic experience. In his understanding of the article, Swami is (for once) absolutely on target:

    "I was amused to read the Newsweek piece on spirituality and find that a massive team of crack reporters has discovered that people want....a direct experience of God. Wild! I'm Exhibit A. That, my friends, is rare. My life and a media perception converge? No way. And yet there it is: Like many others, I'm looking for the Ineffable everywhere but in an established religion."

    The piece included portraits of people finding a path to God in established religion, but Swami is right: The piece was more about people seeking an experience or comfort or warm feelings. It was definitely a theology-free zone. I kept thinking of my least favorite of post-Vatican II hymns. It has a schmaltzy tune, and the refrain (repeated enough to drive me mad), "You satisfy the hungry heart, with gift of finest wheat."

    This hymn makes me picture a hungry heart chewing food--I kid you not. It's a Eucharistic hymn (the grains of wheat are the host), but it's still awful. Sentimental. And, like the Newsweek article, it's gooey. What about the hungry mind? The religion in the Newsweek piece would not satisfy the hungry mind. Though there were several impressive people in the story, it mostly about people engaging in E-Z mysticism. But mysticism is a powerful force, not to be trifled with in the name of feeling good. ( "The Cloud of Unknowing" was cited in the Newsweek story--it's a very difficult work, and its anonymous author admonishes one to seek sacramental confession and absolution before embarking on the mystical path.)

    One of the unsurprising (to me, not the authors of the article who seem to believe that the opposite was taught in Sunday school) bits of information from the poll is that 79 per cent of those surveyed believe that somebody of another religion can "attain salvation and go to heaven." I, too, believe that God will save people of different religions. This is a serious theological question, one that shook Christendom at the time of the Reformation, and not one that will be decided by any poll.

    The religious panorama in the article included a wide variety of faiths that put me in mind of the religious flux in around the end of the Roman Empire, when St. Augustine was able to sample many before he became a Christian. Some of those faiths are quite interesting. What is lacking is any interest in the truth--the seekers want an experience but nobody quoted in Newsweek raised the question of truth. But then our world tends to reject the very notion of truth--this is partly what Benedict was talking about when he warned against relativism. Ultimately, something that is not true may make you feel good for a while but it is going to let you down in the end.

    I can't help thinking that religion in the Newsweek story is mostly about feeling good. A message or some sort of ersatz religious experience may make one feel good. But genuine happiness is a product of what we believe and how we lead our lives. And there is the sad fact that, no matter what we do, there will be times of suffering. This is often precisely when God finds an opening to us.

    The only time this was touched upon was briefly at the very end. Michael Novak, a young theologian when Time magazine did its "Is God Dead?" cover story in 1966, was quoted in the famous Time piece saying, "If, occasionally, I raise my heart in prayer, it is to no God I can see, or hear or feel."

    Newsweek asked Novak, now 72, if he would same the same today:

    "And he replied that God is as far away as he's ever been. Religious revivals are always exuberant and filled with spirit, he says, but the true measure of faith is in adversity and despair, when God doesn't show up in every blade of grass or storefront church. 'That's when the true nature of belief comes out,' he says. 'Joy is appropriate to the beginning of your faith. But sooner or later somebody will get cancer, or your best friends will betray you. That's when you will be tested."

    Apparently not having heard a word Novak said, the editors close the story immediately on the heels of his remarks with this:

    "So let us say together: Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Sh'ma Yisrael. Allahu Akbar. Om. And store up the light against darkness."

    Or, as our late Holy Father once said in a similar vein, woo woo woo.

    This is definitely religion for the children of kumbaya.

    Frere Roger

    Speaking of happiness, the face of slain Brother Roger, the founder of the Taize movement, showed radiance in this picture. He looks wrinkled, and old--and happy. Amy Welborn has the links to his funeral (with a list of dignitaries who attended the funeral).

    Ecumenism at Work

    Rocco Palmo treats it as old news, but I was quite astounded to learn (as reported by Catholic World News) that Benedict is going to meet with representatives from the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X. This is the group that was founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the vernacular Mass. Lefebvre was excommunicated in 1988. Does this indicate a first step at reconciliation?

    Grief You Can Use

    Even if you're planning to cut down on your daily consumption of Cindy Sheehan articles, you must not miss "Speak of the Dead," a crystalline analysis of the real meaning of the Sheehan phenomenon.

    Author Noemie Emery, a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, notes that in the wake of Sept. 11, "[L]iberals have found a new weapon of preference, and that weapon is martyrdom. They have discovered grief as a tactical weapon. They tend to like grief they can use. They use it to arouse guilt and sympathy to cover a highly partisan message, in the hope that while the message may be controversial, the messenger will be sacrosanct and above reproach. Since 9/11, they have embraced this tactic repeatedly, and each time with a common objective: to cripple the war, to denounce the country, to swing an election, but mainly to embarrass and undermine the president. ...

    "In translation, this is the unspoken theme of grief-centered politics: We are suffering, so you owe it to us to give us what we ask for. This is the claim of Cindy Sheehan and the [anti-Bush family members of people who perished on 9/11] Jersey Girls, and it carries with it an implied accusation: If you don't do what we ask you, you don't care that our loved one is dead."

    The upshot, of course, is the spectacle of competing groups of the bereaved--though I think that the bereaved families who support their country in Iraq have received far less attention in the media (is their authority not absolute, Ms. Dowd?) and, to their credit, they have not brought the circus to town.

    Fortunately, the politics of grief doesn't actually work. Ironically, the grievee all too often ends up losing moral authority rather than asserting it. Loose Canon has to agree with Ann Coulter:

    "Call me old-fashioned, but a grief-stricken war mother shouldn't have her own full-time PR flack. After your third profile on 'Entertainment Tonight,' you're no longer a grieving mom; you're a C-list celebrity trolling for a book deal or a reality show."

    Compare and Contrast

    Loose Canon is the first to admit that we need to know more about Islam. You get a sense that there are a number of different strains in a hopeful piece by Stephen Shwartz, a convert to Islam, in a Weekly Standard (sorry, folks, but the Standard this week is good enough to merit two mentions today). Schwartz writes about the new King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz ("The King Who Would Be Reformer"), and the possibility that Abdullah might bring a more moderate form of Islam to the fore:

    "Takfir [the excommunication of nonextremists] has always been a principle of Saudi rule and Wahhabi preaching. If, as some Saudi subjects think, Abdullah is inclined to end the practice, the formal authority of the religious radicals will be instantly abolished. A movement against takfir has taken hold elsewhere in Sunni Islam, in which many clerics now appear deeply repelled by the horrific events in Iraq. In July, an international Islamic conference in Jordan produced a statement opposing the Sunni use of takfir against Shias, a practice enunciated time and again in the bloodthirsty manifestos of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, as well as condemning takfir against Sufis. The Amman declaration called for the restoration of pluralistic debate in Islam, banned in Mecca and Medina by the Wahhabis, and for the affirmation of liberty as a principle."

    Schwartz notes that it has been rumored that Abdullah supports the private practice of Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism, and other Islamic practices banned by the more radical Wahhabis who have been allied with the Saudi royal family.

    Stirring the Soup

    In the past, as somebody who is a creationist (in that I believe God made us) but perfectly willing to accept the theory of evolution, I've had an attitude about the current debate: Bo-ring. Well, I've changed my mind. It was a piece in today's New York Times on scientists and intelligent designers debating the subject of evolution that did the trick. It's an interesting piece that gets to the heart of the matter. It's good that we're talking about this big issue.

    But isn't it a fat chance that everything is random:

    "Many people today believe that life on Earth originated as a result of random accidents. Most of us vaguely recall having heard of scientific experiments involving mixtures of inanimate materials that are said to be similar to the 'prebiotic soup' that existed before life began. The mixtures are hit with an electrical spark that simulates a lightning strike, and amino acids--building blocks of life--result. So we're assured that a similar accidental transformation long ago caused life to originate from non-living matter.

    "But in fact, recent discoveries in molecular biology, particle astrophysics, and the geological records raise profound doubts about all this. Three questions should be investigated: (1) Is it mathematically possible that accidental processes caused the first form of living matter? (2) If accident is mathematically impossible as the cause of the first form of living matter, are other popular scenarios that matter self-organized into life plausible? (3) Is it mathematically possible that accidental processes caused the formation of a universe that is compatible with life? In examining these questions, I will use the widely accepted scientific definition of life, which holds that living matter processes energy, stores information, and replicates."

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