Hollywood's Revenge

"Million Dollar Baby" is Hollywood's revenge for not feeling able to give the Oscar for Best Picture to "Fahrenheit 9/11." It's an even worse movie than Fahrenheit. And, unlike Fahrenheit, it's not even filling movie houses.

Charlotte Allen points out that even though MDB is doing only so-so at the box office ("Because of Winn Dixie," a family-friendly movie about a dog, has almost the same weekly gross, despite having been in the theaters for only ten days), it was destined to win big at the Oscars. She and her sister-in-law both bet on it in advance of last night:

"[B]oth of us knew our Hollywood, and we predicted, quite accurately, that the cinema elite would find irresistible this oh-so-serious Clint Eastwooder with its doubly politically correct whammy of female boxing and plug for euthanasia. For 1999, Hollywood handed a 'Best Actor' award to Michael Caine for playing a friendly neighborhood abortionist in The Cider House Rules, another picture that hardly anyone wanted to see either before or after the Academy Awards show but that pushed a cause dear to West Coast liberals' hearts. That's the way Hollywood is. So, sis, you have a great time on the Strip."

Swami interviewed Sufi sheikh Kabir Helminski about MDB. The sheikh, who seemed quite movie savvy, liked MDB, even noting that boxing coach Frankie is a spiritual person because he reads William Butler Yeats. The sheikh also regarded suicide under the circumstances as an acceptable transformation. He quotes a teacher named Rumi: "I died as mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear? When was I ever less by dying?"

If that is your view of death, I can see that you might not be bothered by things in this movie that rendered me apoplectic. The movie portrayed Frankie's decision to accede to the wish of Maggie, now paralyzed, to kill her as a wrenching but moral choice. The film depicts Frankie as going to Mass daily, and this gives the impression that, no matter what the Catholic Church teaches about suicide, Frankie was a good Catholic and his decision was thus more human and correct than Church teaching. Before killing Maggie (as we know all along he will), Frankie takes his concerns to a priest, who already has been shown in the movie to be a less than engaging human being. The priest seems sort of a stuffed shirt who wouldn't understand a "real" problem like the one confronting Frankie.

Of course, there's no reason there couldn't be a good movie about assisted suicide--if it were an artistic venture rather than a mere preachment. Like "The Cider House Rules," MDB has an all-too-obvious agenda. That's why the elite so liked these two movies--they preached their gospel.

Think of Medea being rewritten to argue for increased after school programs, or Romeo and Juliet transformed into a play about the need for more publicly-funded teen suicide hotlines. That's about how artistic MDB is.

MDB is preachier than any televangelist on Sunday morning TV. It preaches a passé gospel, left over from the sixties. Here is a closing snippet from Charlotte Allen on why the public seems to be rejecting this bleak little opus:

"'Million Dollar Baby' is cut to the Sixties template: attractive young heroine with every card in the deck carefully stacked against her: poverty, rotten family, no friends (except for the equally down-on-his luck Eastwood), rigged fight, dank, disease-ridden hospital with not a caring attendant in sight. Even the priest is a drone--so much for the moral authority of religion. It's the System, and you can't beat the System. The heroine can't win--and doesn't. It's the audiences that are different 40 years later. Today's young people--and their elders--have more realistic and hopeful attitudes toward adult life. So they mostly don't want to see a cynical movie that informs them that struggling isn't worth it and the society they live in is beyond redemption. The Sixties are over, folks, and Hollywood can plug its favorite brand of nihilism with every Oscar on the shelf, but I predict that not many people are going to buy it."

Andrew Coffin of This Week magazine notes that family-friendly movies never win Best Picture. He plots the turning point as Midnight Cowboy.

And here's something to make you miss Bob Hope.

But Thumbs Up on Hotel Rwanda

But good movies are still being made: James K. Glassman saw "Hotel Rwanda" and gave it a rave review:

"Unfortunately, 'Hotel Rwanda' is not nominated as best picture for this Sunday's Oscars, eclipsed in the judgment of the Academy by such clunkers as 'The Aviator.' But Don Cheadle is up for best actor, Sophie Okonedo for best supporting actress, and George and Keir Pearson for original screenplay," Glassman noted in a review that came out before the Baby marathon.

Sitting in the movie theater, Glassman thought about the United Nations:

"The United Nations, which had a force in Rwanda to oversee a tentative peace agreement between the two sides (their role, says a Canadian colonel played by Nick Nolte, is to be 'peacekeepers, not peacemakers'), pulled nearly all their troops out two weeks later. The Clinton Administration ignored the genocide and refused even to use the term, except as an adjective referring to isolated incidents. In the end, the U.N. helped a few Europeans escape but left Tutsis to die in horrific ways.

"Michael J. Totten, writing on TechCentralStation last month, called the U.S. and European attitude toward Rwanda in 1994 a manifestation of the Genovese Syndrome, a reference to Kitty Genovese, who was knifed to death in New York in 1964 as neighbors looked on without trying to help her."

But Let's Talk More about Bad Movies

Relapsed Catholic noticed this delicious take on some other flicks that have made it big with the Hollywood/Manhattan elites (yes, you, Swami!):

"The general consensus [among Hollywood elites] went something like this: Okay, Michael Moore fabricated much of his 'documentary,' and yes, the evidence shows that Alfred Kinsey may have had a little problem with incessant cheating on his wife and with self-mutilation (and then there was that other little problem with unethical research, including sexual experiments on infants). But aren't those just the kind of men we need to help shake things up in this hopelessly prudish country, especially after an election in which voters seemed determined to take us all back to the Stone Age?"

Making Saints and Changing Doctrine

Loose Canon doesn't remember which network she was watching, but she was interested in a reporter's explanation of what a pope does: the reporter said that a pope is the only one who can appoint bishops, make saints, and "change doctrine." No, a pope cannot change doctrine. Sometimes heretofore not fully understood doctrines are defined, but they are never changed. Even the pope can't do that. So don't get your hopes up.

Thou Shalt Not Appear in Public

You know things are bad when Baptists come out against public displays of the Ten Commandments. But the Interfaith Alliance and The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty have done just that.

They held a press conference pegged to the Supreme Court's scheduled March 2 hearings on the Ten Commandments in public places:

"In the most religiously diverse nation in the world, several religious organizations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the court opposing government sponsored displays of religious doctrines. Organizations filing briefs include the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, American Jewish Congress, Hindu American Foundation, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, and others."

While it's silly for somebody like Judge Roy Moore, reportedly not averse to publicity, to up and erect a monument to the Ten Commandments on public property, it represents a coarsening of society that we no longer want to see them. It's part of an attempt to rid the public square of anything smacking of religious roots.

But the Ten Commandments as "religious doctrines"? Give me a break. The Ten Commandments are about as close to civic religion as you can get. What's dogmatic about, "Thou shalt not kill"?

Indeed, many religions, I'm told, have a similar precept.

Rabbinic Wisdom in English

Speaking of ancient texts, Opinion Journal has a nice piece on the new English translation of the Talmud. It's the first new English version in half a century:

"The Talmud is a compilation of the Jewish oral law ('Mishna') and its rabbinic commentaries ('Gemara'), running to 37 weighty volumes composed in Hebrew and Aramaic. The most widely studied version, the so-called Babylonian Talmud, is traditionally thought to have reached its current form in sixth-century Iraq. (A different version known as the Jerusalem Talmud was composed somewhat earlier.) ...

"The quality of the ArtScroll volumes is consistently high, but a translation can never hope to substitute for the original, where nuances of meaning are of central importance. Nor does the existence of a clear and comprehensive English translation mean that the Talmud should now be read straight through, instead of learned in the traditional way.

"What it does is make the original more accessible to those with limited background or understanding. It is said that when a Jew prays, he speaks to God, and when he studies holy books, God speaks to him. In an era when few people have time to brush up their Aramaic, the ArtScroll Talmud will enable more people to hear--and understand--what God has to say. And, no doubt, to argue about it."

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

"What's this? A French intellectual starting his book with a quote from Psalm 1?" Mark Farmer, a Baptist minister who was once pastor of a church near the Louvre, said when he opened Jean-Claude Guillebaud's critically acclaimed "Re-founding the World: The Western Testament." [We seem to be talking about Baptists today, don't we?]

According to Christianity Today, the book is "the most articulate plea for France to re-examine its Judeo-Christian roots." "[Guillebaud] starts the book by saying that the 20th century has been a century of disillusion. Marxism, evolution, socialism, hedonism, wars have all failed us," Farmer noted. "He says it's easy to be pessimistic, but there are some things that we appreciate about our civilization. For example, the notion of right and wrong that transcends any culture--where does that come from? He stops short of saying that he himself has become a Christian, but he's led the horses to the water."

The article reports other intriguing signs of renewed interest in Christianity.

And that's not today's only good news...

Major Hit for Anglican Left!

Loose Canon had an Anglican item yesterday, and ordinarily I'd wait a few days before again dipping into that well again. But the statement yesterday by Primates of the Anglican Communion is hot stuff. Really hot when you consider how polite Anglicans tend to be. The bishops basically stopped a few feet short of kicking the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Church in Canada out on their bums. They are about This Far from schism.

"The spin has scarcely begun but early returns suggest that the Anglican left knows it has taken a major hit," notes Midwest Conservative. Midwest describes the reaction of the Guardian's Stephen Bates as lamenting "the barbarian triumph:"

"The North Americans have precipitated the split because of their progressive stance on homosexuality," Bates wrote, "still regarded as anathema in many other parts of the communion, particularly in the developing world.

"In 2003, the US Episcopal Church (ECUSA) endorsed the election of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in the diocese of New Hampshire. At the same time, the diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver, Canada, became the first in the communion to introduce a service of blessing for same sex couples.

"It appeared clear that, although the statement does not go that far, it represents a victory for those demanding that the church should stick to its agreed, Bible-based line on homosexuality."

"And [Bates] hopes that Peter Akinola had white wine with his chicken," Midwest teases:

"Last night the leading critic of the Americans and Canadians, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, was said to be entertaining his supporters and the traditionalist American and English evangelicals, who have been circling the meeting semi-clandestinely all week, at what was described as a 'celebratory' party, paid for by the Americans."

Well, they have something to celebrate--this is the first sign (and, mind you, it's only a glimmer) that the Anglican Communion has not made a collective decision at the highest (well, very high) level to go down the tubes. I suppose I should be sad, in a way. It's always heartening to welcome Anglican refugees on this side of the Tiber. On the other hand, I do hate watching an institution that gladdened my youth become ridiculous.

Orate, Fratres et Sorores

An old man in ill-health is near the end that awaits us all. The Holy Father's latest health crisis may be far more serious than the Vatican press corps is letting on, though there could be a change, for better or worse, by the time you're reading this entry. For now, Catholic World News is reporting:

"Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for the Rome diocese, hinted at the urgency of the Pope's condition when he issued a new call for the people of Rome to pray for the Pope's health. Cardinal Ruini instructed 'all the parishes, religious communities and monasteries, individuals and families, to ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to protect the Pope again, and preserve him in his mission for the good of Rome, the Church, and mankind.'"

The Washington Post persists in treating the Holy Father as if he's just some bureaucrat, noting that he has "indicated that he was determined to continue in his post as head of the world's Roman Catholic Church."

Well, yes. He is the successor of Peter, who ended his tenure by being martyred upside down. It is simply hard for me to imagine the Church with another pope, though it appears that this could happen sooner rather than later.

Oh, Who Cares What People Will Say?

What do you say when your pastor teams up with a vampire lady?

A piece in USA Today notes that best-selling vampire author Anne Rice is trying to help Howard Storm, a minister, promote his new book, "My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life" (Doubleday, $14.95). The book grew out of a brush with death:

"Storm says, he had a near-death experience that didn't fit the stereotypical version - the one in which people experience a bright light and the presence of love. Instead, Storm says he was viciously attacked by creatures he sensed were once human. During those attacks, he says, he heard a voice telling him to pray. Storm knew no prayers but began murmuring lines from the 23rd Psalm, the Pledge of Allegiance and 'The Star-Spangled Banner'. Then, he says, he was in the presence of Jesus and angels...."

Rice was intrigued by the book. I don't quite know what to say, except that this is interesting because people tend to make vague noises about being in "a better place," while really believing that death is the end.

"People say 'What are you doing with Anne Rice? She's a vampire person, and you're a Jesus guy,'" Storm says.

"I tell them Anne and I are on the same wavelength."

Scary thought, even if director Neil Jordan's "Interview with A Vampire" (my only brush with the Rice canon) is one of the all-time great camp (vamp?) classics. You have to love Brad Pitt as the reluctant vampire--he can't stand killing people. "Feed on what you will, Louis, rats, chickens, (sardonic laugh) poodles," uttered by the disdainful Vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise), is always good for a laugh.

My only advice to Mr. Storm: Just try to remember that Jesus and the angels are real, while Miss Rice's vampires are imaginary.

The Road to Rome

Like many converts to Catholicism, J. Budziszewski, "one of the intellectual lights among Evangelical Christians in America," sojourned in the Episcopal Church before crossing the Tiber. (The Episcopal Church wasn't called the via media for nothing.)

The eagle-eyed Relapsed Catholic spotted these words from an interview Budziszewski gave to Ignatius Insight:

"The last three of those years [as an Episcopalian] were really difficult. My wife and I had not yet reached that point of obedience. We were still in 'faithful remnant' mode. In a sort of a compromise--which, in retrospect, seems rather unsatisfactory--we decided that if the Episcopal Church ever came to incorporate the prevalent abominations into its canons, that would be our signal to get out.

"The signal we were waiting for came unmistakably during the summer of 2003. It was bad enough that the Episcopal general convention ordained as bishop a man who had abandoned his wife and children in order to live in sin with another man. That might have been viewed as an aberration. Much worse was the fact that the general convention authorized drawing up rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. That converted the aberration into a rule.

"But the signal turned out to have been unnecessary, because we had already crossed our Rubicon. That summer, we visited an Episcopal church in another town. No sooner had we entered than we encountered a 'tract table' offering visitors free pro-abortion bumper stickers bearing the Episcopal shield.

"That was the last straw. We knew that we could never consider ourselves members of the Episcopal Church again."


Following George W. Bush through cheese land, the Guardian, said to be a highbrow news paper, explains it all:

"...The transatlantic reconvergence, in other words, is for real. The problem is that its purpose remains both unstated and, even to those closest to the process, somewhat unclear.

"Much of this is summed up in the current transitional fluidity over the politics of Iraq. The war was a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance. But it has nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects."

Republicans, Bloggers, and Gays! Oh, My!

Feeling that you should somehow be incensed by "Jeff Gannon," who lobbed softball questions at White House news conferences while using an assumed name (you'd better use an assumed name if you're going to do that in a Republican administration!)? But not quite certain why you're so mad?

In a piece headlined, "Republicans, Bloggers, and Gays! Oh, My!," Anne Coulter comments on the Democrats' strange reaction to "Gannon:"

"The heretofore-unknown Jeff Gannon of the heretofore-unknown "Talon News" service was caught red-handed asking friendly questions at a White House press briefing. Now the media is hot on the trail of a gay escort service that Gannon may have run some years ago. Are we supposed to like gay people now, or hate them? Is there a Web site where I can go to and find out how the Democrats want me to feel about gay people on a moment-to-moment basis?"

Wouldn't It Hurt Less If You Didn't Try to Think?

Loose Canon isn't going to spoil Constantine, the new movie in which Keanu Reeves plays a failed suicide/exorcist who has the ability to see fallen angels and demons, by revealing the ending. Haven't seen it yet, but I was intrigued with some ruminations provoked by the movie on Get Religion.

The item is by Terry Mattingly, a religion writer who teaches a course in exegesis and culture:

"The problem, of course, is that it is often hard to find out precisely what some of the artists of popular culture are trying to say. Often, it seems that they do not know. I mean, 'knowing' is such an old-fashioned concept, you know? Also, some artists are not interested in telling potential ticket buyers what the signal is all about. In the end, it is often hard to find interviews with the artists in which they clearly express what they are thinking....

"At the moment, many of my students are interested in Constantine, the latest franchise to spin off from the world of comic books. It's a fable about heaven, hell, angels, demons, relics, rites and a shotgun shaped like a cross. I wrote about this recently for Scripps Howard. The lead on that column: Hell looks really cool, when seen through a Hollywood lens.

"I was amazed at the degree to which some of the writers and artists were interested in the spiritual content of their film, but not anxious to address the central question: What were you trying to say? Then again, perhaps they knew that what they were trying to sell might now be all that popular in certain American zip codes."

The piece quotes from a New York Times interview (no longer available online) with Tilda Swinton, who plays Gabriel, a "gender-neutral angel" in the movie. Swinton says that Gabriel is "not a baddy. He becomes insane because he starts to think that if you wrap yourself in God's clothes you can do anything you want, and it ain't true.'"

Well, no, of course it ain't true. Becoming even more hackneyed in her thoughts, Swinton continues:

"[T]hat attitude of righteousness is a reason for pretty much anything now. What's shocking is how easily that's peddled today. It's like Gabriel's rationale. I don't remember the exact lines, but it's essentially, 'My job is to get as many souls as possible to heaven, and I have noticed that you are at your most spiritually open when the place is in flames, so I'm going to torch the joint.' It's a beautiful piece of reasoning, and it's a righteous argument, but it's terrifying.

"Q. Religious absolutism can be found in many places.

"A: True, there is all sorts of religious extremism all over the place, but the reason for this partly has to do with the fascist attitudes and language of absolutism coming from Washington. It's challenging for people outside of America that Bush was re-elected. It means we're all going to have to work a lot harder to understand what so many more Americans than we thought really want. It's an identity shift in our minds about America and maybe for many Americans as well."

It's like really great to be able see a movie about an exorcist as anti-Bush, isn't it?

Signs of Change in Lebanon

Loose Canon has a special fondness for the troubled land of Lebanon, once the Paris of the Middle East and war-torn but still ravishingly beautiful when I was there in the mid-1980s. I was delighted with a report of signs of change there from globe-trotting Washington Post columnist David Ignatius:

"'We want the truth.' That's another of the Lebanese slogans, painted on a banner hanging from the Martyr's Monument near the mosque where [recently slain leader Rafiq] Hariri is buried. It's a revolutionary idea for people who have had to live with lies spun by regimes that were brutally clinging to power. People want the truth about who killed Hariri last week, but on a deeper level they want the truth about why Arab regimes have failed to deliver on their promises of progress and prosperity."

Why the change?

Ignatius quotes Walid Jumblatt, patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until something changed, an advocate of accommodation with Syrian occupiers: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Couldn't We Just Turn the Property into Swanky East Side Apartments?

Sure, the oil for food scandal at the U.N. was sorta shocking. And, yes, the recent resignation of a high U.N. official accused of sexual abuse was also a mite unsettling, even for those who don't mind the traffic problems the East River Debating Society creates for New Yorkers.

"But that's hardly the worst outrage that's been bubbling at the UNHCR," writes investigative columnist and longtime U.N. follower Claudia Rosett. "If you believe in the U.N. charter's promise to promote 'justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties, along with 'the dignity and worth of the human person,' then the real scandal--less racy, but colossally more devastating in human cost--has been the UNHCR's failure in recent years to stand up for refugees fleeing North Korea. The problem here is not, as far as I am aware, one of embezzlement or fraud. Nor is it on a par with any amount of sexual harassment in the comfortable Geneva headquarters of the UNHCR--however upsetting that might be. The true horror is the way in which the well-mannered nuances of U.N. bureaucracy, structure and management have combined to dismiss demurely the desperate needs of hundreds of thousands of human beings fleeing famine and repression in the world's totalitarian state."

Remember, O Man

Just want to stick in a Lenten tidbit, and, being an ecclesiastical history buff, I believe this piece hits the spot.

Wouldn't It Be Better to Look for a Job?

Loose Canon can't help but wonder if Thomas Van Orden, who is homeless and destitute, has got his priorities straight. Van Orden has embraced a cause: getting rid of the Ten Commandments in public spaces.

The Supreme Court is scheduled for arguments in Van Orden v. Perry, "a case born of Van Orden's daily meanderings around the Texas state Capitol grounds. There, between the Capitol and the Texas Supreme Court, stands a 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide pink granite monument etched with the commandments and Christian and Jewish symbols. Carved in the shape of stone tablets, the monument was presented to 'the Youth and the People of Texas' in 1961 by the Texas chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles."

The inspiration for the lawsuit came to Van Orden one day in the State Law Library in the Supreme Court building, "where he seeks peaceful and dry refuge daily." He decided it was up to him to challenge the state because, as he likes to say, "I have time; my schedule is kind of light."

According to the news story in the Washington Post, Van Orden is not affiliated with a church:

"Van Orden is a self-declared religious pluralist who was raised Methodist in East Texas and joined the Unitarian church in Austin in the 1990s. That was before he sank into a major depression that destroyed his family life and legal career and rendered him homeless. 'I miss it,' he said about church. 'But it's hard to get up and go on Sunday morning when you live in a tent.'"

I always want to ask people who don't like displays of the Ten Commandments, an important milestone in the history of Western civilization: Which one do you not like? Of course, today the answer for many people would include quite a few.

For the record, LC thinks Van Orden sounds like the flip side of Judge Roy Moore, who wanted to unilaterally erect a massive display of the commandments on public property. Both should find better ways to occupy their free time.

No, But They Sure Do Help

"Wearing clothes and going to church does not protect you from moral evil," says [Sherry] Stafford, a patron of a new nudist restaurant in New York.

So What if He Inhaled?

Loose Canon doesn't think the "secret tapes" of President Bush released by a "friend" will have much traction. For one thing, Bush doesn't have to run again, and, for another, the content of the tapes so far tallies with what we already know or sense about the president.

Not surprisingly, the MSM seems to be trying to hype the marijuana angle. I've figured all along that Bush tried marijuana. It would be stranger if he hadn't. Bush has wisely avoided the spectacle of being the latest Baby Boomer telling us more than we wanted to know. Bush was right not to answer the irrelevant questions about drug use when he was young and irresponsible. He's also good on why he refused to bash homosexuals.

Is Your Vicar a Heretic?

Loose Canon is a pessimist on the score of heresy trials for clergy in the Church of England--I don't think they'll actually hold them, and even if they did, don't you get the feeling that there are powerful heretics in high places?

Nevertheless an amusing BBC report speculates that the proposal for heresy trials in the Church of England could get some vicars in hot water. The piece listed ten trouble spots for non-believing or dissenting clergy. One was...

"The Virgin Birth--There's a one in four chance that your nearest Rev is a heretic on this score. According to a Christmas 2002 poll, 27% of vicars deny that Jesus was born to a virgin. One Hampshire vicar interviewed at the time said, 'This is one of those topics I do not go public on. I need to keep the job I have got.'"

There could also be trouble for the padre who believe too much--I refer to the High Church clergy:

"Transubstantiation--Another sticky one for Anglo-Catholics, who believe that the bread and wine in the Mass literally change into the body and blood of Christ. Article 28 [of the 39 Articles, a basic document of belief for Anglicans] insists: 'Transubstantiation (or the change in the substance of bread and wine)... is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture.' In 1841, John Henry Newman, a founder of the Anglo-Catholic movement, explained how you could reinterpret this to allow transubstantiation. One critic said he would no longer trust Newman with his silver."

Oh, and here's another sticky wicket:

"God--Not to overlook the obvious, the 39 Articles affirm that God exists. More likely than not, your local vicar does too, but don't take it for granted. The only Anglican minister to be dismissed for heresy in the 20th Century was Anthony Freeman. He lost his post in Chichester - without a trial - as recently as 1994, because he wrote a book arguing that God was not a supernatural being but merely 'the sum of all our values and ideals.'"

As the World Turns...

Columnist Diana West writes about a new book, "Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis" (Farleigh Dickinson University Press) by Bat Ye'or, a historian of Islam. She specializes on the dhimmi (people who are not Muslims but live in Muslim countries and have only second-class citizenship).

According to West, Bat Ye'or's thesis is that Europe is "transforming itself" into "a new geopolitical entity--Eurabia."

It would be an alternative to America's global power:

"How? Very basically -- and this is detailed in the book -- by shepherding a meeting of Euro-Arab minds, first and foremost, on the Arab League war on Israel. This would come about in exchange for freely flowing Arab oil into Europe, which would come about in exchange for freely flowing Muslim immigration into Europe, which would come about in exchange for research and development and labor and education and tourism and cultural ties between the Europe and the Arab world ... which would all come about with an increasing independence of (and, indeed, hostility toward) America."

Pagan Marriage: Making a Comeback?

Loose Canon wonders: Is the modern attempt to decouple, so to speak, marriage and procreation a return to pre-Christian mores? And how did the link come about in the first place? Was it just something dreamed up by patriarchs? Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Illinois, has some interesting thoughts on the evolution of marriage as we know it (for the time being):

"Nearly two thousand years ago, what would become Western Christian Civilization began to take form in a time of great sexual disorder. The moral and family disciplines of the old Roman Republic were gone, replaced by the intoxications of empire. Slave concubinage flourished in these years. Divorce by mutual consent was easy, and common. Adultery was chic, and widespread. Homosexuality was a frequent practice, particularly in man-boy sexual relations. There was a callous disregard for infant life, with infanticide a regular practice. Caesar Augustus, worried about the plummeting Roman birthrate, even implemented the so-called "Augustan Laws" in 18 B.C., measures that punished adultery, penalized childlessness, and showered benefits on families with three or more children. These laws may have slowed, but did not reverse, the moral and social deterioration."

Loose Canon was about to say this sounds as if we're returning to pagan ways, but Carlson says it's a resurfacing of Gnosticism, very popular in some circles just now:

"It is important to realize that the opponent we now face is something at once new and different, and as old as time. The Gnostic idea is back, in new guise. It shapes everything from modern feminist theology (consider Elaine Pagel's bestselling 'Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas'), to popular literature ('The Da Vinci Code', nearly one hundred weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, is an openly Gnostic text), even to--as I have implied--the reasoning of our highest court. Nothing that is natural, traditional, cultural, religious, social, or moral is safe from the Gnostic idea. And no appeal to nature, to history, to civilization, or to human experience of any kind can prevail against the 'special knowledge' of the modern antinomians who dominate our Supreme Court."

Ain't I a Woman?

Former Dukakis insider, columnist and possible (God forbid) Supreme Court justice (odds: small, as the Democrats would have to convince red state America they're their friends long enough to vote for one of their strange presidential nominees) Susan Estrich has penned an email attack (here, but you'll have to scroll down a bit for Estrich's email) on my colleague Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum. Charlotte's sin: writing a piece on the dearth of women intellectuals for the Los Angeles Times.

Susan, who unintentionally proved Charlotte's thesis, says she wants more women writers by quota and that she's never heard of Charlotte. Michael Kinsley, L.A. op-ed czar, says he's sorry she hasn't heard of Charlotte. Kinsley says you can be a woman even if Estrich has never heard of you. Whew!

Mr. Varadarajan: Sari about the U.N.

For both the Indian-born Tunku Varadarajan, who toils at the Wall Street Journal, and his New Jersey-bred wife, and their parents, the United Nations was something special:

"...the U.N. had represented a particular dawn, a moment in the modern era when all the little countries in the remotest places were invited to the table with the big guys. (India was, at that time, a peculiar place: a 'little' country in spite of being a pretty big guy.) The U.N.'s procedural mantra, one-country-one-vote, had obvious appeal outside the Western world, and both antagonists in the Cold War had to maintain that fiction of equality in order to keep friends in the strategic global divide."

"All the displays of local outfits and headgear, of nonaligned rhetoric, nationalist posturing, development schemes and bright postage stamps gave color to this drama of inclusion. The truth was, of course, that many were scarcely real countries at all, their boundaries drawn up by the exigencies of colonial rule. Those boundaries were kept intact by brutal postcolonial regimes that cited the legal principle--oh, how they loved to brandish the law--of uti possidetis, a principle allowing a belligerent to claim the territory it occupies at the end of a war. (The postcolonial invocation of Latin is one of the cultural marvels of our global civilization.)

"The Cold War, upon fading, revealed the rigged quality of this Great Inclusion. A U.N. composed of so many bogus states suddenly lost its authority and came to be seen for what it was--a device that upheld vast tracts of illegitimate power across the globe.

"Ultimately, the U.S. and the U.N. were irreconcilable. This country's reigning philosophy is that men and societies ought to be (even if inconveniently) moral, and that there are always right answers to problems. The U.N., by contrast, reveres the amoral compromise, in which the consensual answer is always the convenient--and therefore the right--answer. In these unapologetically moral times, this makes for theater that is seldom benign, and almost never exhilarating. Not even in a sari."

We, Mr. Stewart?

"On the night after the Iraqi elections," writes Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, "Jon Stewart began 'The Daily Show' by saying, 'We did it! We had the election. And now we can say to Iraq, 'Goodbye!' ..." We, Mr. Stewart?

Powerline noticed it, too: "What Do You Mean 'We,' Paleface?" asks Powerline. (It's a reference to the Tonto and Lone Ranger joke.) Jay Nordlinger of National Review also felt that Mr. Stewart, guru to the anti-war crowd, might have selected the wrong pronoun:

"The words 'We did it!' brought me up short. I thought, 'What do you mean, we?'

"It will be just like the Cold War, I think. George W. Bush and his allies will make progress in the Middle East, and then, with selective amnesia, those who fought Bush & Co. tooth and nail will say, 'We, we, we.' We liberalized Afghanistan, we liberalized Iraq, blah, blah, blah.

"If it had been up to Jon Stewart and his ilk, that election in Iraq would never have taken place."

Cloner and Cloner to the Abyss

Ian Wilmut, the co-creator of Dolly, the touching but defective cloned sheep, made it clear that he would never clone a human being. But that was then--and as Wesley Smith writes in the Weekly Standard, that was before...

"Wilmut's institute went broke. So now, he has changed his tune about pursuing human cloning research. True, he won't be attempting reproductive cloning. But if he succeeds in creating cloned human embryos, his work could result directly in the birth of the first cloned baby. Here's why:

"It is often stated that there are two different types of cloning--reproductive cloning, that is, cloning that results in the birth of a baby, and "therapeutic cloning," e.g., the creation of cloned human embryos for use and destruction in medical research. But this is a misnomer. Cloning is cloning is cloning. Once cloning creates a new embryo, there are no further acts of cloning. At that point, all that remains is deciding what to do with the new human life that has been created.

"This means that if Wilmut learns how to reliably create cloned human embryos--even if he only uses the knowledge strictly for research--others will be able to use his techniques to create cloned embryos and then implant them in wombs to see if they can be gestated into babies. ..."

Relic Watch

The ossuary allegedly containing the bones of Christ's brother (Catholics don't believe he had a brother), cousin or whatever seemed about as real as a CBS memo to me. Never believed it for a minute. But here's one that sounds like it might be for real:

"A sarcophagus which may contain the remains of St. Paul was identified in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, reports Giorgio Filippi, a archeology specialist with the Vatican Museums. The sarcophagus was discovered during the excavations carried out in 2002 and 2003 around the basilica, which is located in the south of Rome."

The Blessed Tiffany

No sooner had I discovered Dawn Patrol, the blog of fired pro-life copyeditor Dawn Eden, than I learn from that very blog that my friend Michael Potemra, an evangelical Christian and book editor at National Review, has become engaged.

After buying the ring in one of those famous Tiffany blue boxes, Michael blogged on the "echo of Catholicism in, of all places, the Tiffany & Co. jewelry store:"

"The business [of buying the ring] was transacted swiftly-rings examined, ring bought, blue box wrapped up. Then the salesman engaged me in post-transactional pleasantries. 'So,' he asked, 'how did you meet your fiancée?' I could feel myself start to blush at the idea. 'Please,' I implored him, "say potential fiancée! I haven't even asked her yet.' The salesman then beamed at me with the benevolence only the confidence of ancient wisdom can provide. 'Sir,' he said patiently, 'when you present her with the blue box, things will go well.'

"One major reason I consider myself Protestant is that I am deficient in what has been called 'the sacramental sense'--the intuition, central to the faith of (among others) Catholics and Confucians, that the correct performance of rituals is efficacious. But here I was, faced with a secular hierophant who was assuring me, with priestly kindness, that the magic would be performed, and my wish granted. Not owing to any virtue of the officiant (in this case, me), of course, but, as the Roman theology has it, ex opere operato. The proper matter for the sacrament will be present: the blue box. The proper form will be present also: The words, 'Will you marry me?' How, then, can the desired result not be achieved--the single syllable, 'Yes'?

"I was grateful for the salesman's kind words of encouragement; I actually did find them comforting. And yet: When--twelve days later--I sank to my knee and asked her to marry me, I was putting no trust in the blue box. I asked, without any assurance of any kind, for a free act of her grace, sola gratia. (I am thrilled to report that Carolyn is now, in fact, my fiancée.)"

How Funny is the Devil?

Loose Canon had never heard of Dawn Eden before the pro-life copyeditor was fired from the New York Post. But her loss was my gain--I now know about the zany Ms. Eden's delightful, eponymous blog.

She also shares one of my concerns: the modern world's disbelief in Old Scratch. Only Dawn calls him the Infernal Majesty. Almost nobody outside backward Catholics (it's dogma) and our fundy pals believes in the reality of the Devil. Most people believe that the Devil is simply a metaphor or perhaps a way of talking about the evil we do.

Eden reflected on this phenomenon while reading the Village Voice:

"The writer of a Village Voice article on teens charged with a hate crime for beating a Satanist felt moved to elucidate a theological point," Ms. Eden notes, quoting this delicious nugget from the Voice:

"It's important to note that Satanists don't worship the Judeo-Christian devil. Instead, they believe in the power of the individual, and see Satan as a metaphor for self-determination."

Satan as metaphor? It's the oldest trick in the book. "I believe one of the Infernal Majesty's highly placed assistants, a Mr. Screwtape [a junior devil], would have something to say about that," rejoins Eden. "As he wrote to his nephew regarding an unwitting human 'patient,' in a letter found by C.S. Lewis:

"My dear Wormwood,

"I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course, this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism, and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics....

"I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that 'devils' are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them), he therefore cannot believe in you."

Hoping for the Worst

Loose Canon has avoided commenting on the Beliefnet piece by David Kuo, who was Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for a simple reason: I'm not quite sure what I think. Yes, I suppose I should have an instant opinion on everything. But I don't.

I've gone back and forth on the faith-based initiatives--I like the idea of being officially less hostile to religion, but I fear that government funding for religiously based operations will ultimately make them dependent on the government.

Mr. Kuo, on the other hand, harbors no reservations:

"It was more than a bunch of promises. It was a new political philosophy of aggressive, government-encouraged (but not controlled) compassion that simultaneously rejected the dollars-equal-compassion equation of the 'War on Poverty' mindset and the laissez-faire social policy of many conservatives. It was political philosophy of the heart as much as the head."

Of course, the point of the article is the Bush administration's hypocrisy in not funding such programs more generously.

Mr. Kuo takes pains to establish his bona fides as a Bush critic who is both compassionate and conservative:

"[S]ince the early-1990s I've been what columnist E.J. Dionne termed a 'com-con or 'compassionate conservative.' I worked for William Bennett and John Ashcroft in the mid-1990s on issues like immigration, welfare, and education as they tried to promote a more compassionate Republican approach. While pure com-cons were never terribly powerful in Republican circles, Bush's endorsement of this progressive conservatism was exciting. And when he became the president, there was every reason to believe he'd be not only pro-life and pro-family, as conservatives tended to be, but also pro-poor, which was daringly radical. After all, there were specific promises he intended to keep."

I very much resent the notion that it is "radical" to be a Republican and pro-poor. I'd consider myself pro-poor, which is one of the reasons I oppose government programs that, while intended to help, almost always harm. About that, I am not ambivalent.

Rooting for Apocalypse?

The zeitgeist-wise Kurt Andersen (he was a founding editor of Spy) explains why blue state sophisticates may secretly hope for bad news: "Seriously: The success of the elections poses a major intellectual-moral-political problem for people in this city. The cognitive dissonance is palpable," Andersen writes in the latest issue of New York magazine.

Things haven't been this complicated for the gang since the Soviet Union had the bad taste to crumble on Ronald Reagan's watch:

"[N]ow our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration's awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might--might, possibly--have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq.

But you can always do something sensible-like putting your head in the sand:

"At a media-oligarchy dinner party on Fifth Avenue 72 hours after the elections," Andersen reports, "the emotions were highly mixed. The wife of a Democratic Party figure was (like me) unabashedly hopeful about what had happened in Iraq. Across the table, though, the wife of a well-known liberal actor was having none of it; instead, she complained about Fahrenheit 9/11's being denied an Oscar nomination. And a newspaper éminence grise seemed more inclined to discuss Condoleezza Rice's unfortunate hairstyle than the vicissitudes of Wolfowitzism. It was the night of the State of the Union speech, but as far as I know, no one (including me) ducked out of the dining room to find a TV. Who really wanted to watch Bush take his victory lap?"

Abu Ghraib and Original Sin

What really went wrong at Abu Ghraib?

Here's a provocative snippet from Beliefnet editor-in-chief Steve Waldman's review of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" by liberal Christian Jim Wallis:

"[Wallis'] attack on the Iraq war goes beyond making the obvious but often forgotten point that Jesus preached nonviolence. Reflecting on prison torture, Wallis challenges religious conservatives to view Abu Ghraib through the lens of their own views about the sinful nature of man: 'The Christian view of human nature and of sin suggests that we are fallible creatures and thus not good at empire. We cannot be trusted with domination, becoming too easily corrupted by its power and too often succumbing to repression in defending it.' In other words, good Christians should be wary not only of war but of imperialism as well."

Original sin is as good an explanation as I've heard of Abu Ghraib. But original sin is as prevalent in an idealistic commune as in an empire. It could also be a factor in the moral cowardice of some who would prevent us from our brave acts in Iraq.

A Kinder, Gentler Jesus?

In the movie Wide Awake, Rosie O'Donnell plays Sister Terry, a nun who sports a baseball cap and assigns homework from a workbook called Jesus Is My Buddy. Religion blogger Jeremy Lott says he's contemplated writing a book called The Jesus I'll Never Know:

"The point of my book would be that the closer we get to the Gospels, the more we realize that these four witnesses to Jesus' life and ministry intentionally placed some distance between the reader and the wonder-working preacher from Nazareth. Of Jesus' childhood we know little. We get a quick peek at him as a young man, going at it with scribes in the Temple (foreshadowing the fireworks to come); then we see him fully grown, being baptized by John, proclaiming the kingdom of God, teaching, healing, casting out evil spirits, calming stormy waters, and hurtling himself toward his own demise by refusing to make nice with Jerusalem or Rome.

"But we don't really 'see' Jesus. For some reason-possibly the Jewish prohibition of idolatry-the Gospel writers forgo almost all physical description of him. Whether Jesus towered over the crowd like Saul or could see eye-to-eye with Zacchaeus we know not. And so we guess: The history of Christian iconography attests to the thousands of attempts to give physical expression to this mystery."

Lott's observation came in a review of Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth, an overview of contemporary explorations of the person of Christ. The book was written by Michael J. McClymond, a Saint Louis University theologian, who, according to Lott, "respects this distance."

"To make their cases for a kinder, gentler Jesus, modern scholars must exclude large chunks of Jesus' teachings," says Lott.

Oh, How Dogmatic!

A spot of trouble may be looming for Church of England clergymen who don't believe in God. Seems that tribunals are being set up to deal the problem of priests who deny the existence of God. And you thought Anglicanism was laissez-faire?

The Cooing of the Chicken Doves

Anti-war types love to inveigh against the chickenhawks-those of us who back the war in Iraq without ever having seen combat. A brilliant piece on Tech Central Station argues that, when we debate the war, the problem isn't the chickenhawks...

"The problem is stateside armchair philosophers who oppose military action and military policy, even though they never served in the military. The problem is anti-war punditry from intellectuals who think that an IED is a contraceptive and couldn't tell the difference between bounding overwatch and watching Baywatch. The problem is intellectuals who think their education and politically-correct ideology lets them know what the military needs--better than the military knows it. The problem is chickendoves."

Interestingly, doves and hawks seem to be switching armchairs:

"I watched the remake of All Quiet on the Western Front, the same as everyone else. I remember the grotesque contrast between the enthusiasm of the naïve pro-war schoolteachers and the bloody realities of the World War I trenches. (Pro-war schoolteachers! It sounds like science fiction.) No one smiles at the thought of fat white guys in fezzes and monocles sipping cognac while pushing little men across a map, plotting out wars where poorer, browner men die to support the fantasies of empire.

"But a funny thing happened on the way to the peace vigil: the allegedly poorer, allegedly browner men support the war, and the fat guys in fezzes and monocles now inveigh against it. Military support for the war and the Bush administration is exceptionally high. It's the well-to-do in the ritzy suburbs who wring their hands, mumbling 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' while listening to dreary reports about the Iraqi quagmire on NPR. To generalize: the closer and more intimate you are with the war in Iraq, the more you support it."

If George Bush Were a Work of Art...

Why is everybody in New York so wild about artist Christo's $20 million thingamabob in Central Park? "Tell a New Yorker that what he's seeing is a work of art, and you can shut him up instantly. Most Manhattanites hate George W. Bush, but if you told them he was an art installation, they wouldn't be able to criticize him because, hey, it's art," notes New York Post columnist John Podhoretz.

The Real Double Standard

Why doesn't the U.N. get the same treatment from the press as American soldiers? Why don't we just admit that all too many folks who work at the U.N. aren't do-gooders? Here's Mark Steyn's latest on do-badders at the U.N.:

"...On a UN peace mission, everyone gets his piece. Didier Bourguet, a UN staffer in Congo and the Central African Republic, enjoyed the pleasures of 12-year-old girls, and as a result is now on trial in France. His lawyer has said he was part of a UN paedophile network that transcends national boundaries.

"Now how about this? The Third Infantry Division are raping nine-year olds in Ramadi. Ready, set, go! That thundering sound outside your window isn't the new IKEA sale, but the great herd of BBC/CNN/Independent/ Guardian/New York Times/Le Monde/Sydney Morning Herald/ Irish Times/Cork Examiner reporters stampeding to the Sunni Triangle. Whoa, hold up, lads, it's only hypothetical.

"But think about it: the merest glimpse of a freaky West Virginia tramp leading an Abu Ghraib inmate around with girlie knickers on his head was enough to prompt calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, and for Ted Kennedy to charge that Saddam's torture chambers were now open 'under new management', and for Robert Fisk to be driven into the kind of orgasmic frenzy unseen since his column on how much he enjoyed being beaten up by an Afghan mob: 'Just look at the way US army reservist Lynndie England holds the leash of the naked, bearded Iraqi,' wrote Fisk. 'No sadistic movie could outdo the damage of this image. In September 2001, the planes smashed into the buildings; today, Lynndie smashes to pieces our entire morality with just one tug on the leash.'"

Dawn Patrol

As a rule, members of the fourth estate treat pro-lifers like something the cat dragged in. That's why a charming piece in the high-chic New York Observer about zany former New York Post copyeditor and ace headline writer Dawn Eden, who was fired for inserting her pro-life views into a story, was such a pleasant surprise.

What Eden did was clearly improper, even if you can see why she was tempted. But the Observer's George Gurley is to be commended for not doing the sort of hit job you'd expect from a reporter sent out to meet some sort of pro-life weirdo:

"When I first got to know Dawn Eden," Gurley writes, "I didn't know what to make of her. She'd been raised as a reformed Jew, turned Christian in her late 20's, calling herself 'a Jew who's accepted Jesus as the Messiah,' and was fired from this liberal city's most right-wing paper for being ... too right-wing. Was she a martyr or a nut case with serious issues? The coolest chick in New York City or the biggest nerd? A budding public intellectual or just a girl with a blog and a plump rump?

"However, I did know that I despised the mind-set of the smug, liberal Ivy League idiot types who would excitedly dismiss Ms. Eden on their boring, crappy, morally confused blogs.

"Before I met her in the flesh, I'd discovered Ms. Eden's blog, Dawn Patrol. Here was my idea of perfection: She was pretty, witty, vivacious, a real character with impeccable taste and conservative. ...I saw that she wasn't afraid of mentioning the Devil ('the Infernal Majesty') and that she had captivating blue eyes."

I particularly loved the scene in which Col Allan, the redoubtable editor of the Post, fires Ms. Eden:

"'Sir, you're older than I am,' she said. 'You've been in the business longer than I have, and I'm sure that from where you're sitting, you are making the right decision. But from where I'm sitting, it's the wrong decision.'

"According to Ms. Eden, Mr. Allan's face became red with anger as he leaned over his desk and yelled, 'You are a liability!'

"As she was walking out to the elevators with a cardboard box of her possessions, Ms. Eden stopped and turned around.

"'Milt!' she hollered to Milt Goldstein, the weekend copy chief on duty. 'For Saturday-'The Lady Is a Trump!'

"A few days later, those words became the Post's front-page headline celebrating the Donald Trump nuptials...."

See, pro-lifers can be witty, too. Kudos to Mr. Gurley for noticing this.

Better Late than Never

Okay, a lot of you out there don't believe that Christianity is uniquely true or that Christ is a unique figure in history. We're not gonna come and get you. But why would you bother to call yourself a Catholic Christian if you didn't believe these very basic things?

Which brings me to Father Roger Haight, a Jesuit theologian who doesn't believe these foundations of the faith. Thank heavens the Vatican has finally informed Haight that he can no longer teach in Catholic institutions. Haight, you see, claims that "one can no longer continue to assert that Christianity is the best religion or that Christ is the absolute center point to which all other historical mediations are related."

One could assert this, but can't now? The book in question is Jesus: Symbol of God. Some of us don't think that Jesus is a symbol of God.

Last Fatima Seer Dies

Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, one of the three shepherd children who beheld the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917, has died at age 97 in her Carmelite convent in Portugal. The two other children died shortly after seeing the vision and have been beatified.

Unlike the other visionaries, Lucia lived to a ripe old age, visited several times by Pope John Paul II. One can only be both amused and delighted that during the Lent of her life, Sister Lucy had an opportunity to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" at a special showing in her convent. One can safely assume that she doesn't need a movie now to see Christ.

Honey, I Shrank My Mind

Wanna read a hackneyed feminist take on Abelard and Heloise? Then don't miss the New York Times piece on the twelfth century's most famous star-crossed lovers.

And if you want to know why feminists have such small, shrunken minds, read my colleague Charlotte Allen's piece on the dearth of real female intellectuals in Sunday's L.A. Times.

Lost in Translation?

What happens to Buddhism when East meets West? John Ahn, a Buddhist who has studied Buddhist scripture in a Korean monastery, thinks a lot gets lost in translation when the Asian religion is moved into an individualistic culture:

"'In the East it's a humdrum religion of an old lady lighting incense at a temple,' Ahn says. 'Whereas in the West it's about a journey of self-discovery and meditating.'

The disconnect between East and West was talked about at a recent conference at a new Center for Buddhist Studies in California:

"During one of the panel discussions, George Dreyfus, a religion professor at Williams College, brought up the 1993 movie 'Little Buddha,' starring Keanu Reeves as a modern-day Siddhartha in search of true enlightenment.

"'Buddhism is supposed to be about overcoming suffering and becoming more compassionate, but the movie is about discovering oneself,' Dreyfus says."

Intriguing notion. Any Buddhists out there care to comment? (Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this story.)

And How Do You Rate Your Job Satisfaction?

Loose Canon was amused more than anything else by the squawks and wails that greeted Lt. Gen. James Mattis of the Marine Corps saying that is "fun" to kill the bad guys. Well, maybe he could have phrased it more temperately, but I think what bothered Mattis's critics is that the general was saying that he is on, well, on our side. It also goes against the image of the soldier as somebody troubled by the "awful" things he must do.

I don't think I'd like to kill anybody (even when I read Beliefnet's miniboards!), but I also don't think that what soldiers do is awful-they're defending us, for heaven's sake.

The American Spectator has an interesting profile of the general:

"But both the left and the right are wrong about Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis. He is neither the Jack Nicholson caricature of a Marine depicted in the 1992 movie 'A Few Good Men,' nor the callous and mad eccentric depicted by George C. Scott in the 1970 movie 'Patton.'

"Instead, Gen. Mattis is a remarkably learned and thoughtful man who adheres to the old-fashioned Christian, chivalric warrior code. As such, he confounds modern-day screamers on both the left and the right for whom the warrior code is unintelligible. I know because I had the privilege of serving under Gen. Mattis as a Marine in Iraq."

Read on to find out about fighting for a "righteous cause."

Can This Prize Be Saved?

The Nobel Peace Prize has in the past gone to several people who, while attractive to the left, did diddly-squat to promote peace on earth. Yasir Arafat comes readily to mind, though wags have observed that he finally has done something to promote peace: die.

Why not award the prize to folks who really deserve it? Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has some candidates-the Iraqi people:

"Not least, terrorism--its arguments and its methods--was rebuked [by the Iraqi elections]. This is the peace 'process' rightly understood.

"The Nobel Committee has never given the Prize to a nation. No matter. This is the new model for a new century: a whole nation choosing peace. Legitimize Iraq; others will want to follow. The Committee has another rule: Its deadline for nominees was Feb. 1. That makes this nomination a smidgen late. The Iraqi vote, however, was Jan. 30. The people of Iraq nominated themselves for the Nobel Peace Prize. There may be someone or something more deserving, but not in the world we live in."

More on Praying for the Pope

Scroll down and you'll see my post on William F. Buckley's moving column in which he says he's not praying for the pope to recover. Domenico Bettinelli says he should be:

"Buckley evidently doesn't see what the Pope himself, and others, see as the value of the witness of the cross. As I said yesterday, there is a teaching in the example of the suffering servant, such that even if he never says another word, he can teach more about the Via Crucis than that which is contained in all his writings."

This Sounds Too Good to be True

Have you been following the story of University of Colorado prof Ward Churchill, the self-styled American Indian who was voted out of the tribe after he called those who perished in the Twin Towers "little Eichmanns"?

Here is a really weird piece on the website of the Raelians, a prominent cult that claimed to have cloned a human being last year:

"Rael, leader of the International Raelian Movement (www.rael.org), has just given the 'Honorary Priest' title to Ward Churchill (University of Colorado professor) for his essay which most of the US is decrying as insensitive or unpatriotic."

Lent in the Cloister

Throughout these Forty Days, I'll try to put up something from time to time about how people observe Lent. Today, a link to a nun writing about how Lent changed for her when she entered the monastery:

"I found that in the monastery one does not merely observe Lent, one lives it. The themes of sin, redemption, mercy and forgiveness nourish and permeate the daily structure of our lives. By Holy Week one is plunged deeply into the depths of God's merciful love in sending us Jesus to die so as to save us from our sins and raise us to share in the inner life of God. By Easter Sunday one is filled with an overflowing joy, Haec dies: 'This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice.' And one is so glad that this antiphon is sung not just on Easter Sunday, but for the entire octave at every liturgical hour and every Mass.

"The first note of the liturgical office of Lauds of Ash Wednesday heralds that Lent has begun. The chantresses intone the invitatory. From now until the end of the 6 weeks, they will be unaccompanied, their voices clear yet stark in the still Choir. "Today if you hear His voice harden not your hearts" calls not just the community but the entire Church to renewal, to repentance. From now on, too, the Alleluia will no longer be sung at Mass or at each hour of the Divine Office...."

By the way, I stumbled on this in a roundabout way--Dappled Things linked to a group of Dominican nun bloggers who had a link to the piece from which I quoted.

The Divorced Woman He Loves

Prince Charles has every right to remarry. The heir apparent does not have a living ex-spouse. The same cannot be said for Camilla Parker Bowles, whose ex, Andrew, is still very much alive and swinging his polo mallet. I've always found Charles a sad, sympathetic figure, and one instinctively wants him to attain happiness. But not at the expense of two millennia of Christian teaching on marriage. Remember, if Charles becomes king, he will also have the title of Defender of the Faith.

That Charles will now marry Mrs. Bowles, the woman he should have married in the first place, says a lot about the decline of the Church of England and the monarchy. But, really, what can one expect of a church that cannot take a strong stand against a wayward branch that outrageously puts a miter on the head of a divorced man who is a practicing homosexual?

This will be the meanest wedding in the history of heirs to the throne. A civil ceremony followed by prayers? Shabby. Mrs. Parker Bowles will be known as the Duchess of Cornwall and will not assume the title of Queen of England when Charles becomes King, though that might well require special legislation.

Wallis Simpson would have had two ex-husbands instead of the one Mrs. Bowles has--but the principle is the same. When Charles's Uncle David--the sometime Edward VIII and sometime Duke of Windsor--gave up the throne to marry the (divorced) woman he loved, the verdict was that the prince had put "private happiness" over public duty. We live in an age of the triumph of private happiness over everything else. Charles is doing exactly what Edward VIII wanted to do but couldn't. The impediment to Wallis Simpson wasn't that she was an American. The impediments were Mr. Spencer, her first husband, and Mr. Simpson, her second husband. In the eyes of old-fashioned Christianity, Andrew Parker Bowles should be enough to prevent Charles and Camilla from marrying (and allowing him to remain heir apparent at the same time). But there is nobody to say no to Charles, nobody to uphold the church's teachings. Oh wait, the Church of England isn't upholding her teachings anymore.

In closing, I must pass along a marvelous quote from a friend who just emailed me about Edward VIII: "Imagine. He was Admiral of the Fleet and now he is third mate on an American tramp."

Till Death Do Us Part

There is one institution that still upholds the dignity of marriage. Read about it here, here, and here.

Bereft Left: Missing the Berlin Wall

Thanks to Belmont Club for spotting this intriguing piece by Europundit blogger Nelson Ascher. He has an interesting theory as to why the left expends so much energy on hating the United States:

"Those whom the fall of the Berlin Wall had left orphans of a cause, spent the next decade plotting the containment of the US. It was a complex operation that involved the (in many cases state-sponsored) mushrooming of NGOs, Kyoto, the creation of the ICC, the salami tactics applied against America's main strategic ally in the Middle-East, Israel, through the Trojan Horse of the Oslo agreements, the subversion of the sanctions against Iraq etc. I'm not as conspiratorially-minded as to think that all these efforts were in any way centralized or that they had some kind of master-plan behind them. It was above all the case of the spirit of the times converging, through many independent manifestations, towards a single goal. Nonetheless we can be sure that, after those manifestations reached a critical mass, there has been no lack of efforts to coordinate them.

"And so, spontaneously up to a point, anti-Americanism became the alternative ideology that came to fill in the vacuum left by the failure of traditional, USSR-based communism and its Maoist or Trotskyite satellites. Before 1989, the global left had something to fight for: either the strengthening of the communist states or the correction of what they called their bureaucratic distortions. To fight for something is simultaneously to fight against whatever threatens it, and thus, the leftists were anti-Western and anti-Americans too, anti-capitalistic in short.

"Now, whatever they wanted to defend or protect doesn't exist anymore. They have only things to destroy, and all those things are personified in the US, in its very existence."

The First Days of Immortality

Like a lot of us, Peggy Noonan sees meaning in the Holy Father's very public decline: "The pope's long physical decline is part of a long goodbye that carries within it meaning. I want to talk at some length about how some see that meaning, and about how I saw John Paul 18 months ago."

I was wrong to say that, in the face of ridiculous rumors that the pope should retire, he must die in his red slippers--as Noonan reveals, the pope actually wears loafers.

Some Catholics who admire the pope are nevertheless not praying for his recovery: "At church on Sunday the congregation was asked to pray for the recovery of the Pope. I have abstained from doing so. I hope that he will not recover," writes William F. Buckley.

"[W]hat is wrong with praying for his death? For relief from his manifest sufferings? And for the opportunity to pay honor to his legacy by turning to the responsibility of electing a successor, to get on with John Paul's work. Muriel Spark commented in 'Memento Mori,' 'When a noble life has prepared old age, it is not decline that it reveals, but the first days of immortality.' That cannot be effected by the hospital in which the pope struggles."

Today's Million Dollar Baby Item

You don't have to pray for the pope to recover, but euthanasia is still wrong: Catholic University of America product Maureen Dowd of the New York Times fell for the device of using a priest as a foil to Frankie Dunn, the boxing coach who makes the decision to "help" paralyzed boxer Maggie Fitzgerald die. Brian Collar, an intern at Townhall.com did not:

"Maggie asks Frankie to take her life. He initially refuses and asks his priest, Father Horvak (Brian O'Byrne) for advice, receiving the trite and theologically incorrect comment, 'If you do this thing, you'll be lost, somewhere so deep you will never find yourself.' After consulting with Scrap, who approves of the deed, Frankie decides to take Maggie's life. Late at night, Frankie returns to the hospital and in a quiet scene removes Maggie's oxygen cord and injects her with sufficient adrenaline to kill her."


"TURN thou us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned. Be favourable, O Lord, Be favourable to thy people, Who turn to thee in weeping, fasting, and praying. For thou art a merciful God, Full of compassion, Long-suffering, and of great pity. Thou sparest when we deserve punishment, And in thy wrath thinkest upon mercy. Spare thy people, good Lord, spare them, And let not thine heritage be brought to confusion. Hear us, O Lord, for thy mercy is great, And after the multitude of thy mercies look upon us; Through the merits and mediation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
--from A Penitential Office for Ash Wednesday, the Book of Common Prayer, 1928

Is Time Always Time?

Well, it's that time of year again. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a season of the Christian year during which Loose Canon always fails egregiously. Why do I inevitably gain weight during Lent?

Even while I was a non-believer, I used to read T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" to kick off the season. Call it residual Anglicanism. Some years, I've thought: I get it, I understand this poem; other years I'm lost. In good years, "Ash Wednesday" gives me a sense that our failures and despair can be redeemed by the One who would turn us, if only we would be turned:

"Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)

Why should I mourn

The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place ..."
If you have not read this great Christian poem, I do hope you will. It's an acceptable Lenten treat. By the way, it picks up and has a happy ending.

Giving Up

Amy Welborn has some thoughts on why it helps to give up something for Lent:

"We look at our lives and see what needs to be 'given up' - not for any ulterior purpose like losing weight, but for the purpose of loving God more deeply. Sometimes this does involve making changes to our physical lives: abusing the bodies God gave us is like throwing a carefully-chosen gift back in a lover's face. But it can involve other sacrifices as well: giving up time to pray more. Giving up pride to be more honest in my prayer. Giving up even more time (and resources) to share with the poor.

"The fruit being that in the end, in this small way, we've discovered that we don't need those things we've given up. We thought we needed them to be happy, but we didn't. We only need God. And so we rise, through God's grace and strength, freed from mortal chains, to a small, yet enticing taste of new life."

Reading, Writing, and Aborting

No further proof is needed that England has slipped her Christian moorings, but here's some just the same:

"The majority of secondary school teachers [in England] believe pupils should be told where to obtain an abortion, according to a survey published today.

"More than two thirds (69%) of staff who teach 11 to 18-year-olds said pupils should be taught how to arrange termination of an unplanned pregnancy. Some 59% of all the 700 teachers polled by the Times Education Supplement supported practical advice on abortion being included in sex education lessons."


"John and Linda Dollar of Beverly Hills, Fla., are monsters," writes Jonah Goldberg. "Or, to use the legalese required in these circumstances, they're monsters if they did what they've been accused of."

"Mr. and Mrs. Dollar allegedly tortured at least three of their five foster children. According to the authorities, the kids say the Dollars electrocuted them when they 'stole food.' The Dollars pulled out their toenails when they 'messed-up the place.' The children were kept locked in a closet with a wind chime on the door knob so that their 'guardians' would know if they escaped. Physical exams reportedly corroborate the testimony."

It's time to stop trying to explain away the evil that monsters do:

Writes Goldberg:

"For decades, a therapeutic culture of 'understanding' was on the rise. Except for acts of racism and so-called homophobia, there was a mad rush to "understand" evil people. Were they victims of a racist culture? Were they abused themselves? Were they expressing their natural frustration with the patriarchal capitalist system? Blah, blah, blah.

"The tragedy of the imagination was that we couldn't appreciate that evil is real and it exists. In a society where everyone is a victim and it's not right to 'judge' others, there's just not much room left for real monsters, while society itself becomes monstrous. ...

"In international affairs, I think 9/11 stemmed the worst of this rot. You can now call people who proudly declare war on democracy, behead innocent people, and yearn to murder women and children 'barbarians' without much fear of politically correct blowback. ..."

Cheap Grace

Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News writes about another alleged monster: "Father Matthew Bagert, a Grand Prairie priest, was picked up on child pornography charges last week. Days later, Bishop Charles Grahmann turned up in the parish pulpit, weeping and telling the flock to 'welcome him back,' as Jesus supposedly would have. Once again, a bishop counsels cheap grace to thwart justice, corrupting the concept of Christian mercy as part of an excuse-making strategy for the clerical class."

Is There an Elephant in the Sacristry?

Defrocked priest Paul Shanley has been convicted of repeatedly raping and fondling a minor in the 1980s. Now that Shanley's trial is over, Off the Record proposes that "it's fitting to pay tribute to one of the heroines of the drama, 63-year-old Jackie Gauvreau of Newton, who since the mid-1980s has been trying to get the attention of the Church in regard to Shanley. She contacted three priests, two bishops, and estimates she made 40 phone calls to the chancery."

"Twice, [Gauvreau] said, she notified [Cardinal Bernard] Law of the alleged abuse, first at a televised Mass for which she sang in the choir. When Law appeared, 'I saw him and I went right for him,' Gauvreau said. I looked him straight in the face and said, 'Paul Shanley, the priest at St. John's in Newton, molested a 15-year-old boy.' I gave him my name and the church I belonged to and he said he would look into it.'"

I've asked before and I ask again: Why didn't pastors and prelates phone the cops the minute there was credible evidence that a priest was engaging in sexual abuse? I know somebody who is very intimately involved in trying to straighten out the mess within the Church. He's asked the bishops the same question. They always reply that we are a "forgiving Church."

Well, yes we are--but you can forgive somebody who's in the clinker. Forgive them and call the cops, call the cops and then forgive them--just call the cops. Being forgiven by your fellow man doesn't mitigate the necessity for temporal punishment.

Meanwhile, the bishops have just commissioned a study to find the "causes and contexts" of priestly abuse of children:

"The [National Review Board that advises the bishops on sexual abuse] has asked leading universities and private research firms to submit proposals for conducting the study. Nicholas Cafardi, dean of the Duquesne University Law School and chairman of the National Review Board, said Jan. 14 that he and other board members will begin reviewing proposals and interviewing top contenders in February. The study could take several years and cost millions of dollars, he said, and the bishops' conference is seeking grants to pay for it."

Please forgive me for being so frank about our shepherds but: How stupid to you have to be to need a multimillion dollar study to help you deal with one of the most ghastly sins a human being can commit?

Catholic blogger Domenico Bettinelli explains why the bishops are wasting money to find out something that...

"Any half-dozen bloggers could tell them why: You let guys who were unsure about their sexuality into seminaries; a culture of permissiveness toward deviance was the norm in many places; a sense of personal sin and the need for redemption was not inculcated; the Church's teachings on sexuality were laughed at; when these guys abused kids you moved them to new places where they could abuse more kids. You can mail the check to me here.

"Remember all the talk about the 'elephant in the sacristy'? Unless the researchers are going to acknowledge that homosexuality among the clergy was a root cause, then the study is off the track before it starts."

For the record, Loose Canon believes that chaste homosexuals can make great priests. But, if there has been, as some allege, a gay culture in many seminaries, then that is a problem.

Christianity Today has a number of interesting stories on the Shanley case.

What Have You Been Smoking, Sister?

Sister Jeannine Gramick explains it all:

"During the interval between my visits to the Cambridge jail, I stayed with friends in the area, one of whom has reported extensively about the sexual abuse scandal in Boston. Listening to him reiterate what had appeared in the press, I felt Paul [Shanley] was guilty. But listening to Terry and to Paul himself, I felt Paul was innocent. Paul may be guilty or innocent of the present charges of sexual abuse of children. Paul may be guilty or innocent of other allegations involving young adults. But guilty or innocent of sexual misconduct or even pedophilia, Paul is my friend. I believe that no person is completely faultless or totally depraved. I believe that no private or public incriminations can erase the good Paul Shanley has effected in the lives of thousands of people, our church and the greater society.

"After seven months in jail, Paul was released on bail, amid demonstrations, name calling and media hounding. He lives at an undisclosed location in Massachusetts. I have visited him several additional times and try to keep in regular phone contact with him."

No longer an undisclosed location, Sister, you can visit him in the pokey now.

Just for the record, I used to rather like the waiflike but hardly Vatican-approved Sister Jeannine back when I covered the goings on of radical nuns for the National Catholic Register. It is kind of her to visit Shanley--who certainly needs all the help he can get. But I must say that Sister Gramick is as naïve now as I remember all those years ago.

But It's Tempting to Save the Dog...

"Would you first save the dog you love or a stranger if both were drowning?" asks columnist Dennis Prager. Don't laugh. This is an important question.

The Sky's the Limit

Classical Anglican says this is quite a promotion:

"Archbishop to Become Lord."

Papal Amplification?

There's a big controversy as to whether Vatican officials dubbed the pope's voice for Sunday appearance to hide his slurred speech. The allegation is that a recording of a previous appearance was used.

John Paul II: His Final Gift

Loose Canon would be growing more disgruntled by the minute--if, that is, she put any credence whatsoever in the chorus of raised voices suggesting that the pope resign. They would spare us from watching the Holy Father do what we must all do: die.

The latest I've seen comes from a Reuters dispatch. Amy Welborn posted the story, commenting that Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano "doesn't brush it off." Well, he should.

Why do I believe it is important for the Pope to die with his red shoes on? Why should we watch a frail old man prepare to meet his Maker? Why, you ask, should the Church be (possibly) adrift as we do this?

Well, because being pope isn't a job from which one can "retire." And because John Paul's decline is a daily tableau of Catholic teaching that life has value:

"Can a suffering, 84-year-old man continue to lead an institution representing a billion people?" asks the New York Times. "Pope John Paul II and the people around him say yes, and have, in fact, built an explicit case that his very sickness transmits a series of powerful messages - ones that would seem, for now, to close off the possibility of his retirement....

"'What he is saying is that life is worth living until its natural end,' one Vatican official said this week during the latest scare over his health. 'It is an important witness, and I am sure he is conscious of it - that there is no kind of life which humanly speaking can be terminated because it seems not to be worth living.'"

"Mandatory retirement? Don't bet on it," says Domenico Bettinelli. He debunks a report that a has "a senior Vatican official" confiding, "There is a large body of opinion among the cardinals that there should be a retirement age of 80 for the next pope."

Only one pope has resigned, a hermit who served briefly as Celestine V. He built a hermit's hut in the Vatican, but was still miserable. His pontificate of three months is one of the more eccentric interludes in the history of the Church. As for the retirement--well, it shouldn't happen again. A papal resignation is injurious to the majesty of the Church. Which makes it awfully appealing in some circles.

But What about When Columnists Become Incapacitated?

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind if Maureen Dowd of the New York Times took early retirement. Her mental decline is far more appalling to watch. Here's how Dowd begins a piece on the pro-euthanasia Clint Eastwood movie, "Million Dollar Baby," which has been nominated for Best Picture:

"A friend of mine e-mailed me Friday to see if I wanted to go to the Folger Theater production of 'Romeo and Juliet.'

"I e-mailed him back, fretting: Doesn't that play promote suicide?

"What's the 411 on those Elizabethan teenagers? Were they friends with benefits who recklessly scarfed down unsafe substances and romanticized death?

"Surely, the Apothecary is guilty of assisted suicide. ..."

Romeo and Juliet, as Dowd well knows, doesn't promote teen suicide. Nothing in the play sees Romeo and Juliet's deaths as anything other than horror. MDB, on the other hand, is a pro-euthanasia sermon. But for Dowd, of course, nothing is too serious for her flip treatment.

Rum Neighborhood

Of course, poor Dowd does have to fit in with a pretty rum crowd. Her fellow columnist Frank Rich spent the lead up to this year's Super Bowl fretting about all us yahoos who got exercised about the behavior of Janet Jackson and the oafish Jason Timberlake.

Mickey Kaus took the time to try and explain it to Rich:

"I watched the game with a group of non-evangelical, non-moralistic dads who were uniformly horrified. The problem for them wasn't sex--their kids see flesh all the time in videos--but a form of sexism, not prudery but piggishness. Surely there are some types of behavior--homophobia, perhaps, or racism, or Republicanism--that even Frank Rich wouldn't want implicitly endorsed during a telecast watched by most of the country's teens and pre-teens. Yet the press has effectively recast this complicated issue as an uncomplicated case of 'Nipple-gate,' of blue-noses overreacting to the sight of a breast. No wonder red staters respond negatively when New Yorkers call them simplistic."

Where the Elite Meet

Loose Canon refers to Davos, the Swiss ski resort of where economic and political leaders met last month. You probably already know it wasn't smooth skiing. First, CNN's Eason Jordon kicks up a snow storm by saying that U.S. soldiers target journalists.

That's bad, of course, but--let's face it--the world's Bush-hating intellectual elite is living in the past. This is one reason why they are so shrill. But it's not the only reason. Notes Victor Davis Hanson:

"There is something else to this shrillness of the global throng besides the obvious fact of hypocrisy - that very few of the world's Westernized cynical echelon ever move to the ghetto to tutor those they champion in the abstract, reside in central Africa to feed the poor, give up tenure to ensure employment for the exploited lecturer, or pass on the Washington or New York A-list party to eat in the lunch hall with the unwashed. Davos after all, is not quite central Bolivia or the Sudan."

When Aid Doesn't Help

I bet the Davos crowd is growing ever shriller at Niall Ferguson's notion that aid to third world countries can be part of the problem: "Like Mr. [Gordon] Brown, I, too, recently visited Tanzania," Ferguson writes, "where I got to know the son of an opposition politician. For most of his life, his father had been in jail. 'You see,' he explained to me, 'what African politicians find hard to understand about democracy is why, once they have got power, they should have to hand it over to someone else just because of an election.'

"For power means, above all, money. It means being the guy to whom Brown hands the bulging envelope. So Africa's problem is not a problem that aid can solve. On the contrary: aid may simply make the problem worse. Africa's real problem is a problem of governance, and it is a problem Kenya exemplifies."

People Who Design Glass Houses

Architect Phillip Johnson's fascist sympathies were more than a youthful indiscretion-and yet they were treated as lightly in his recent obituaries as they were by his rich architectural clients when he was alive. Why did he get a pass?

Columnist Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post explores the question:

"I leave it to others to determine whether Johnson's amorality bears a relationship to the chilly skyscrapers he built, or whether his politics influenced the celebrated glass-walled house he designed for himself, whose brick interior he once said had been inspired by the brick foundations of a 'burned-out wooden village I saw,' presumably in Poland. But his death makes me think that the rest of us should occasionally reflect a bit harder about why we find it so easy to condemn the likes of Prince Harry, a silly, thoughtless boy, and so hard to condemn Philip Johnson, a brilliant, witty aesthete. Or why it was thought scandalous when an allegedly anti-Semitic Ukrainian businessman was allowed to ride on Colin Powell's plane to Kiev last week, while Johnson, who once wrote a positive review of 'Mein Kampf,' lectured at Harvard University."

Not in My Tribe

Apparently, in addition to being hateful, Ward Churchill, the academic who called those who perished in the assault on the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns," is a phony. Here's a statement from the governing council of the American Indian Movement:

"Churchill's statement that these people deserved what happened to them, and calling them little Eichmanns, comparing them to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who implemented Adolf Hitler's plan to exterminate European Jews and others, should be condemned by all.

"The sorry part of this is Ward Churchill has fraudulently represented himself as an Indian, and a member of the American Indian Movement, a situation that has lifted him into the position of a lecturer on Indian activism. He has used the American Indian Movement's chapter in Denver to attack the leadership of the official American Indian Movement with his misinformation and propaganda campaigns.

"Ward Churchill has been masquerading as an Indian for years behind his dark glasses and beaded headband. He waves around an honorary membership card that at one time was issued to anyone by the Keetoowah Tribe of Oklahoma. Former President Bill Clinton and many others received these cards, but these cards do not qualify the holder a member of any tribe. He has deceitfully and treacherously fooled innocent and naïve Indian community members in Denver, Colorado, as well as many other people worldwide. Churchill does not represent, nor does he speak on behalf of the American Indian Movement."

(Thanks to Instapundit for spotting AIM's statement.)

Shall We Dance?

Columnist Charles Krauthammer on dancing Iraqis:

"Why weren't Iraqis dancing in the streets on the day Saddam Hussein fell, critics have asked sneeringly. Some Iraqis, the young and more reckless, did dance. Others, I suspect, were too scared, waiting to see how things turned out. Would the United States leave them hanging as in 1991? Would it leave behind a 'moderate' Baathist thug in its place?

"Nearly 22 months later, Iraqis seemed convinced that there would indeed be a new day. And that is when the dancing started -- voters dancing and singing and celebrating, thrusting into the air their ink-stained fingers, symbol of their initiation into democracy. It was an undeniable, if delayed, feeling of liberation. Said one prominent Shiite spokesman: 'We are celebrating the end of tyranny.'

"As if to make a point even more definitively, it was not the suicide bombers but the voters they killed at the polls who were buried as martyrs. The remains of one suicide bomber were spat upon. Another suicide bomber, reported Iraq's interior minister, was a child with Down syndrome. There are no words for the depths of such depravity, sending an innocent to murder innocents, dressing this poor child in explosives and then leading him to his slaughter.

"These are the people whom Michael Moore, avatar of the Democratic left, calls the 'Minutemen.' These are the people who Ted Kennedy, spokesman for the Democratic left, says are in a battle with the United States for 'the hearts and minds of the people.'

"This is both stupid and pernicious."

When the Pope Is Sick...

Vatican watcher John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has a good insider's piece on the decision to rush the pope to the hospital and the resulting atmosphere in Rome:

"Word of the hospitalization broke around 11:00 pm in Rome, at which time a substantial chunk of the city's journalistic community was at the Foreign Press Club at a dinner. I'm told that the cacophony of cell phones going off simultaneously was deafening..."

Allen is also good on the significance of this latest occurrence:

"John Paul's health has been in a gradual process of decline, and this episode marks another stage. Curtailing his schedule and carefully adjusting his medical regime, both of which have become standard practice, are no longer sufficient to ensure he doesn't enter a zone of grave risk. Age, Parkinson's disease and other ailments mean that, assurances of 'full recovery' to the contrary, John Paul will never be out of the woods in a definitive sense. There will be other sleeplessness nights in Rome, awaiting word about the pope after a potentially serious incident. Ultimately, despite the best efforts of all involved and the prayers of much of the world, one of these nights will be the beginning of the end. That reality means one has to take even slight down-turns seriously, but it's equally important not to over-interpret any particular crisis. We may be through several more scares, even several more hospitalizations, before it's over.

"Second, discussion in Catholic circles about what to do in the event of papal incapacitation will no doubt grow. The pope did not lose consciousness this time, but one can easily see how acute respiratory failure might induce such a result. If the pope were still alive but permanently unresponsive, what would happen? Many canon lawyers consider this one of the great lacunae in the Code of Canon Law, since there is no procedure to cover such a case."

This focusing on the pope's losing consciousness seems to me another attempt to make being pope "a job," a very exalted one, but one from which the occupant can be chucked. Nobody wants the Church to have to go on with an ailing pontiff, but the Vatican operates sub specie aeternitatis. The Church will be fine even if the twilight of John Paul's papacy is longer than one imagines it will be.

Such a Man

What if John Kerry had been delivering last night's SOTU? Would it have taken place against the backdrop of the historic election in Iraq or would the elections have been cancelled, handing a victory to the terrorists?

A blogger noted this very issue on National Review's The Corner:

"John Kerry has been complaining that he lost the Presidential election because of the old adage that you don't change horses midstream during a war. Sunday's Iraqi election illustrates why that adage has teeth. It is quite possible that the remarkable events the world witnessed this weekend in Iraq -- and the highly emotional moment that was the highlight of the President's State of the Union Address last night -- never would have happened had George Bush been voted out of office. Perhaps Kerry would have decided -- as many naysayers were claiming leading up to the election -- that the security situation on the ground was too unstable to hold a successful election. Postponement was a real possibility under a Kerry presidency -- not a guarantee, but a definite possibility -- and who knows what would have happened therafter. But the potentially paradigm-shifting event occurred because the American electorate didn't want to change horses mid-stream."

Foreign affairs columnist Max Boot doesn't address the speech, but he focuses on the man who delivered it:

"Much can still go wrong in the broader Middle East. Indeed, much has gone wrong already. There is no doubt that Bush has made plenty of mistakes.

"The mistake he has not made, however, is the most important of all: He has not lost his nerve.

"History shows that a mighty nation can recover from wartime miscalculations. It can bounce back from defeats at Bull Run or Bataan, Chancellorsville or the Choisin Reservoir, as long as it possesses a leader who never acknowledges that he is beaten.

"In George W. Bush we have such a man."

Opinion Journal is probably right in saying that the "exit-strategy Democrats" are hurt by their unprincipled stand on Iraq.

A Is For Arian

Ace writer and Relapsed Catholic. Kathy Shaidle has a new book out, "The Catholic Alphabet." You can get a special rate if you order before Ash Wednesday (Feb. 9). Here's an excerpt from the first chapter, "A is for the Arian Heresy":

"But Catholics aren't immune to occasional Arian lapses. When I was growing up, Jesus' humanity was emphasized over his divinity. He was, depending on what decade it was, the prototypical freedom fighter, a James Dean type rebel, the first feminist vegetarian socialist, and/or the main character in not one but two popular Broadway musicals.

"Taken to its logical conclusion, [Hillaire] Belloc explains, Arianism leads us to treat 'our Lord at last as a prophet and, however exalted, no more than a prophet.'

"This is what Islam teaches. Even some nominal Christians believe that, in the words of The Byrds, 'Jesus was just all right.' The Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Unification Church (or 'Moonies') say Jesus was a son of God, but not the Son of God.

"Yet Jesus himself said, 'I and my Father are one.' (John 16:15)

"That will never be good enough for some people, not even some Catholic bishops. So many of them were seduced by the Arian heresy that St. Athanasius, who championed the Creed at Nicea, famously said, 'The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.'"

L Is for Lame

Loose Canon is trying to be spiritual, but her thoughts keep turning to last night's SOTU. Did you love those Democrats? The robotic Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid gave a lame response to the State of the Union Address. In an inadvertent show of ego, Reid told about a young man called Devon who said he wanted to grow up and be like Reid. "No one ever had to tell young Devon to dream big dreams." Reid also wants "a Marshall Plan for America."

"Could these people be lamer? More out of touch? More pathetically pandering?" asks Andrew Sullivan.

Well, yes--yes they could. Tutored in manners by Tom Daschle, the Democrats jeered when the president said that Social Security will be bankrupt by 2042. Later one of the Democratic speakers clarified--the system will not be bankrupt; it will still be able to pay two thirds of what it owes. Is this supposed to put your mind at rest?

Things Have a Way of Working Out

There is a God. Here is proof.

Jeff Jacoby: Hush Up! Don't Spoil the Dream!

C'mon, everybody, let's love one another. Not. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby on Dean:

"Speaking to a DNC forum in New York over the weekend, Dean indulged once again in some of the undisguised loathing of the GOP that was such a hallmark of Democratic Party activism last year. 'I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for,' he told the audience, 'but I admire their discipline and their organization.'

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for. Not 'I oppose the Republicans and everything they stand for.' Not 'I'm determined to beat the Republicans.' Not 'I reject the Republican message.' No--Dean wants it understood that he hates the Republicans and all their works. That is the banner under which he is marching as a candidate to lead his party.

"Intense political passions are nothing new in American politics, and they are not limited to one side of the aisle. Plenty of Republicans despise Democrats. Some conservative authors and radio hosts sully themselves by resorting to insults and invective when talking about liberals. But the willingness of so many Democrats to openly call themselves 'haters,' to make contempt for the other party their stock-in-trade--that is something we haven't seen before. No doubt there is a kind of crude pleasure in hating so uninhibitedly, but it's no way to rebuild a Democratic majority."

Nancy Reagan Award

A great aunt of mine said a lady should never tell her age. But a cardinal? (Thanks to Betternet.com for spotting this item.)

Speaking of Age...

Yes, Pope John Paul II is a frail old man, but I love it that we will watch him on his journey until the end, and he will teach us something about the end of life that no sociologist or counselor ever could. The New York Post reports that there is a secret plan being drawn up for popes to retire at the age of eighty. Bad idea. A pope is chosen for better or worse 'til death do us part. This isn't just "a job."

We Have Been Spared

Catholics around the world may have spent anxious portions of yesterday preparing themselves for bad news, but, if the Vatican's bulletins are to be believed, it looks like Pope John Paul II has been spared again. He was well enough this morning to celebrate Mass in his hospital room.

I love this pope, one of the towering figures of the last century, and feel (as I've said before) that he will one day be known as John Paul the Great. He faced down the Soviet Union, playing a major role in the history of his era. He is a figure of holiness, and yet--and yet--while he was pope, the church mishandled one of the most sordid sexual scandals in her history, and the Mass continued to deteriorate into an aesthetic (and possibly theological) scandal. But Catholic history is full of signs of contradiction.

So we, too, have been spared, apparently and for the time being, for many of us will grieve when this great man leaves the earthly scene. He has been pope the entire time I have been a Catholic, and I can't imagine having anybody else. But we will have another pope, and it probably won't be that long now.

George Weigel, the pope's biographer, gave a magisterial lecture recently in Washington on why the choice of the next pope has implications for the entire world. I've searched high and low for what I considered a key quote of the talk but can't find it. So, from memory, I want to note (as Weigel did) that the matters the New York Times regards as having major import for next pontificate--things like women's ordination and abortion--are not what will matter. Those are doctrinal issues, and no pope has the power to change them a whit. But whoever is pope will have a chance to help shape the world and the Church. John Paul has certainly done that.

The Hillary Trap

Loose Canon is delighted to be linked to today by the fabled Catholic blogger Diogenes. Diogenes has a lot to say on the subject of Hillary's remarks on abortion:

"Hillary's 'common ground' appeal offers pro-family citizens a choice between defeat (the status quo), and even worse defeat. She believes pro-aborts and pro-lifers can compromise by joining to increase government sponsored access to contraceptive services. 'Don't like abortion-on-demand? Then let's do abortion-on-demand plus tax-funded contraception and morning-after pills.' It's as if you complain to your boss because he cut your vacation time in half, and he responds with a deal whereby your paycheck is halved as well as your vacation time. What can be fairer than that?

"Politically, Hillary's family planning compromise is a shrewd move. She doesn't budge on abortion (except by sniffling before the cameras that it can sometimes be a 'tragic' choice), and she'll maneuver pro-lifers into the position of fanatics after we refuse the bait. She has correctly gauged the popular sway of the myth that contraception reduces abortions. She's right in thinking that many folks who are anti-abortion are shaky on contraception, and that virtually everyone who's shaky on abortion has no problem with contraception. Thus, it's hard to see how she stands to lose any votes she hasn't already lost irredeemably. It's a win-win situation for her."

Loose Canon is only surprised with the breathtaking speed with which Hillary is launching her 2008 campaign. The body of John Kerry is hardly cold, and she is in their obfuscating.

O, Holy King, Whose Severed Head...

Dear me. Could it be true? Have I been so long removed from the embrace of Anglicanism that I forgot to mention that yesterday was the feast of the Blessed Martyr Charles I, as high Anglicans remember the Stuart king who stepped out of a window in the Banqueting Hall and died so bravely? It took my fellow papist, the priest who blogs as Dappled Things, to remind me of this memorial.

Dappled also links to another site that has a smashing picture of Charles and a hymn, "O Holy King, Whose Severed Head," which was composed in his honor by The Honourable Mrs. Ermengarda Greville-Nugent, Foundress of The Society of King Charles the Martyr. It is sung to the tune of St. Stephen in the English Hymnal 337:

"O holy King, whose severed head
The Martyr's Crown doth ray
With gems for every blood-drop shed,
Saint Charles for England pray!

"For England's Church, for England's realm
(Once thine in earthly sway),
Lest storms our Ark should overwhelm,
Saint Charles of England, pray!..."

Loose Canon devoutly hopes Charles of England will forgive her for being remiss.

Gothic vs. Gymnasium

Speaking of former Episcopalians: Can you be an orthodox refugee from the wayward Episcopal Church and still worship in gothic beauty? In the past, Episcopalians who fled their odder-by-the-minute spiritual home often ended up worshipping in gymnasiums or even funeral home chapels. But a proposed law in Virginia could change all that, allowing churches to leave their denomination while taking the property with them. A charming idea. But what about the historic right of churches, even really strange ones, to govern themselves?

Keep Reading

The headline "Utah Amending Gay Marriage Ban Problems" gave me a moment of fright. But keep reading. They don't seem to be backing down.

Are There a Million Reasons to Hate Million Dollar Baby?

Add Frederica Mathewes-Green to the list of people who are appalled by Oscar Best Picture nominee (and pro-euthanasia sermon) "Million Dollar Baby."

Why does Maggie, the paralyzed boxer, want Frankie to murder her?

"She doesn't say she's in intractable pain, and doesn't look it either; this is less accurate, because such a condition could well be a sign of culpably bad nursing care. She does suffer from bedsores, to the point that a leg must be amputated; this is inaccurate, because such a condition would be a sign of culpably bad nursing care. She says she needs Frankie's help to die, but this is also inaccurate, since anyone dependent on a ventilator can legally ask that it be removed.

"Maggie doesn't seem distraught over being an athlete who is now disabled. She doesn't seem depressed at all, actually. That's not the reason she wants to die. Here's what she tells Frankie: 'I can't be like this, boss, not after what I've done. I've seen the world. People chanted my name. I was in magazines.'

"In other words, she can't bear to be a has-been. By this standard, anyone who comes to the end of their 15 minutes of fame is justified in seeking suicide. Truth is, a real-life Maggie would be far from unknown. A beautiful, feisty young woman is tragically paralyzed in a boxing-ring accident? She'd be another Christopher Reeve.

"When a new paraplegic is distraught and suicidal, it should be treated like any other depression, rather than a warrant for suicide. The people who love her should try to help her envision a different kind of future, one that's very different from what she expected, but still valuable. They have the task of persuading her not to have the ventilator removed. That's what Frankie was doing, with his college catalog and offer of a wheelchair.

"But when Frankie eventually steals in one midnight, unplugs Maggie's ventilator, and gives her a lethal injection (without triggering alarms in the nursing station?), we're left with the impression that he did the loving thing. Eastwood claims that it's only a movie: 'I don't advocate. I'm playing a part.' Yet the film doesn't leave room for much ambivalence."

Hillary: A Little Bit Pro-Life?

There is no common ground on abortion--you either believe that there can be compelling moral reason for taking the lives of innocents in their mother's wombs. Or you don't.

In ostensibly seeking common ground with those who oppose abortion, Senator Hillary Clinton is really preparing the ground for her 2008 bid for the White House. Even the New York Times sniffs political expediency, but Mort Kondracke of Roll Call lauds Clinton's strategy:

"Clinton's speech in Albany to New York family-planning providers was a political masterstroke - simultaneously sticking to fundamental Democratic abortion-rights principles [Loose Canon's italics], expressing respect for the values of anti-abortion voters and whacking the Bush administration," wrote Kondracke.

May I re-cite a piece I've previously linked? George Neumayr of the American Spectator has noted the hat trick of Hillary's attempt to blame abortion on those who oppose it. Moreover:

"Hillary Clinton's contrived overtures to pro-life groups represent a return to the fake mantra of safe, legal, and rare that Dick Morris taught her to memorize. To fool mainstream America Hillary Clinton figures that she will have to head-fake her supporters from time to time (like her husband and Sister Souljah). But what is said beneath the podium at pro-abortion events by the [Margaret Sanger's wanted grandson and Planned Parenthood official] Alexander Sangers is far more significant than any self-serving political noises she makes above it. When Hillary Clinton says safe, legal, and rare, they hear safe, legal, and often."

I've already predicted that Hillary's supporters will hold their noses and allow her to say these things. Columnist Suzanne Fields of the Washington Times agrees:

"She expects her base to submit, even if grudgingly, just as the blacks of the Rainbow Coalition submitted to her husband. She knows that feminists have hurt their cause by stubbornly refusing to give any credibility to moral and religious arguments against abortion. Some feminists inevitably see her remarks as a flip-flop, but Hillary is no John Kerry. She was merely changing emphasis, and she's likely to extend the 'common ground' theme to good effect."

Yes, her base will submit--and victory-hungry Democrats will tout the new, pro-life Hillary. But pro-life groups will have a new lease on life. Nothing stirs them as much as a politician trying to have it both ways (See: Kerry, John F.)

Common Ground: Teddy and Musab

From George Will's column today: "Days before the voting, Abu Musab Zarqawi, the terrorist, and Edward Kennedy, the senator, contributed to Americans' understanding of the struggle in Iraq -- Zarqawi by his clarity, Kennedy by his confusion. In a speech intellectually disheveled and morally obtuse, Kennedy said...."

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