A Time to Pray

As "unconfirmed reports" (here and here) that Pope John Paul II has received the Church's last rites emerge, we can only pray that God hold the Holy Father in the palm of His hand. God, of course, will do this, whether we remember to ask him or not. For those of us who love John Paul, however, we will benefit from act of praying for him, an old man, now not far from the judgment that awaits us all, sick and doing something that, no matter how many are present, we all do alone with only one other Actor.

Christianity made headway in the early years because it valued each human life, old and ugly, slave and free, male and female. Watching John Paul, his face partially paralyzed, his voice almost inaudible, unable to walk, we remember that Christianity is about the cosmic significance of every human being who comes into this world. He is as human and worthy of our love today as when he was a vigorous, relatively young pope from Poland.

It is odd that the Holy Father may be approaching his earthly end the same week that Terri Schiavo was starved to death. Her death shows that society is turning to pre-Christian values. At least, the frail pope with his feeding tube is a sign of that all human beings, even those at the brink of death, matter.

After Terri Schiavo, It's a Dangerous World...

After thirteen days of starvation, Terri Schiavo died around 10 o'clock this morning. For those who sometimes had a hard time remembering that there was a real woman at the center of "the Terri Schiavo case," the Dallas Morning News has a profile. I am glad the Vatican called the death what it was.

Terri apparently died without members of her immediate family present. According to Father Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest, who was with the parents in their battle to keep Terri alive, her kin were not allowed in the room when she died:

"'Bobby Schindler, her brother, said 'We want to be in the room when she dies.' [Estranged husband] Michael Schiavo said, 'No, you cannot.' So his heartless cruelty continues until this very last moment,' Pavone said."

The Weekly Standard calls the death a "judicial execution by dehydration." Author William Anderson asks, "How could such a thing have happened? Students of law, medicine, and ethics will examine this tragedy for decades to come."

A psychiatrist, Anderson has interesting observations about the legal fiasco that led to Terri's starvation. Even more compelling is this tidbit from Dr. Anderson:

"For several years," writes Anderson, "I had the honor to be the physician for a neuropsychiatric hospital unit which served seriously disabled people. Some of them appeared to be similar in condition to Terri. The nursing staff worked hard to keep these patients alive, comfortable, and stimulated by the environment to the maximal extent possible. They typically had guardians, and their instructions were followed, including the occasional refusal to employ tube feeding. But no one on the treatment team would have dreamed of acceding to a guardian's demand to withhold water. We would not have done it. And no judge would order it." The only precedent, writes Anderson, is Germany in the 1930s.

Writing in the same magazine, ethicist Eric Cohen noted that the courts had made some serious mistakes along the way in the Terri Schiavo case:

"But the problem went deeper than incompetence: It also had to do with ideology--with a set of assumptions about what makes life worth living and thus worth protecting. Procedural liberalism (discerning and respecting the prior wishes of the incompetent person; preserving life when such wishes are not clear) gave way to ideological liberalism (treating incompetence itself as reasonable grounds for assuming that life is not worth living). When the district court's decision to allow Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube was challenged, a Florida appeals court framed the question before it as follows:

"We were told that her 'choice to die' was being 'honored,' although the evidence that she had, at age 26, given any considered thought to her own mortality and potential incapacity was thin and highly suspect - its lone source being a husband who incongruously proclaimed his solemn fidelity to this purported wish of Terri even as he started up a new family, denied Terri basic care, and insisted on denying her heartbroken parents their desire to care for their child."

I kept finding it odd that the backdrop for Holy Week was that a woman was being starved unto death in a room with guards to keep her distraught parents from feeding her. At least, I thought, we are forced to know what is going on. But, as National Review points out, we weren't really--there were so many euphemisms to conceal the nature of the horror that was being perpetrated in a supposedly civilized country:

"Perhaps chief among these [euphemisms] was the fiction that we were 'letting her die.' On March 18, Schiavo was in no medical danger of death. She was profoundly brain-damaged (although just how profoundly remains unknown), but she was not in a coma or on a respirator. She was not being kept alive by artificial means, any more than small children are kept alive by artificial means when their parents feed them. Her body was functioning, there is some reason to believe she was minimally conscious, and she was responsive to stimuli (it's been reported she was actually being administered pain medication). She had devoted parents and siblings who were willing to care for her. She could easily have gone on in these conditions for many years. She was not close to dying. For death to arrive, she would have to be killed."

But perhaps Terri Schiavo died for aesthetic reasons. Richard Brookhiser raises this disturbing issue in a piece on the "culture of life":

"The Schiavo case threw us into the middle ground of the ailing. When are the crippled and the old as good as dead? When, therefore, can we kill them without a qualm? Our motives in these matters are partly aesthetic. From Homer to Hollywood, our civilization has valued beauty and strength. We turn away from ugliness and weakness, and we turn away, even more sharply, from the thought of being ugly and weak ourselves."

In addition to the stories I've already mentioned, Christianity Today has a number of stories on the issues involved in the court-ordered killing of Ms. Schiavo.

While Teri Schiavo was dying, the husband of a dear friend was rushed to the hospital. My friend was awakened in the middle of the night by a frantic call from the hospital: Was there a Do Not Resuscitate order? Seems her husband, exhausted and irritable, had uttered the words, "Leave me alone." Those are dangerous, possibly fatal, words in a modern hospital. With Terri Schiavo's death, something terrible has happened.

But of course the issues aren't the only story: My heart goes out to Ms. Schiavo's grieving family.

Could the Blogs Have Saved Ms. Schiavo?

Pegged to sad story of Terri Schiavo, US News & World Report columnist John Leo had a provocative recent piece on red versus blue bioethics: "A key factor in the rise of bioethics, [ethicist Daniel] Callahan wrote, was the 'emergence ideologically of a form of bioethics that dovetailed nicely with the reigning political liberalism of the educated classes in America.' Instead of the traditional emphasis on the sanctity of life, bioethics began to stress the quality of life, meaning that many damaged humans, young and old, don't qualify for personhood because their lives have lost value. The nonpersons should be allowed to die and in some cases be killed. This explains why so few bioethicists have protested what the state and her husband planned for Terri Schiavo, who is severely damaged, but not in pain or dying, not brain dead, and in no position to protest her own execution on grounds that other people consider it best for her."

Leo wrote that the mainstream media is blue. This raises a question: Could bloggers, who have demolished so many blue media stories, have saved Terri Schiavo, if the blogosphere had been operative in the beginning? What do we really know about Michael Schiavo's new life with his new family? Would blog reports on such matters have changed the dynamics of the story? By the time the blogosphere had emerged as a force, the legal system had already doomed Terri Schiavo. It was about ten years too late.

The Glitzkrieg

One of the best pieces of writing Loose Canon has seen in quite a spell is Noemie Emery's article on what she dubs "the glitzkrieg," the shallow people's war against George Bush. Vanity Fair, which has transformed itself into an anti-Bush rag, is the best example:

"The really fierce strains of anti-Bush feeling come less from established political sources than from what might be called the 'glitz-based community' --people connected to Hollywood, fashion, or celebrity media, who produce diversions and lifestyle advice. At the shallower end of the pool of arts and intellect, they tend to produce the facile and transient; they make TV shows, or write them; make clothes, or write about them; try to become, or failing that tend to the needs of, celebrities...

"'There will be a draft,' imagined New York's James Atlas: 'The polar ice caps will melt. . . . The Patriot Act will be used to stifle dissent in the media. . . . Jews will be rounded up.' 'Rounding up Jews' might not seem to compute with Bush's being a captive of neocons, but logic is not the strong suit of this faction. What Bush seems to be facing is less the normal opposition of a traditional part of the political class than a visceral uprising among fashionistas, a vast metrosexual spasm on behalf of a self-image based on cultural preening. ...

"What makes all this more than mildly funny is the fact that glitzkrieg--political war as carried on by the glossies--has become in a sense the core of the Democrats, their chief source of lucre, and most prominent face...."

Who Speaks for the Innocent?

While Terri Schiavo was doomed to starvation by the judicial system, the life of convicted rapist and murderer Robert Harlan was spared BY judicial shenanigans. Harlan was sentenced to death for the kidnapping and killing of Rhonda Maloney, a 25-year-old cocktail waitress (whom Harlan held captive for two hours before finishing her off) in 1995. Harlan's defense lawyers found a way to get him off death row--they discovered that several jurors had consulted the Bible before deciding on the death penalty. The Bible is indeed the holy book of a particular religion. That its use in making a life-or-death decision is enough to void a sentence indicates that the judicial system now finds Judeo-Christian values inimical. Without those values, who speaks for Terri Schiavo and Rhonda Maloney?

The Hinge of History

Newsweek's Jon Meacham was the journalistic grinch who tried to steal Christmas. His cover story on the Nativity lit up the Christian blogs. The American Thinker noted its "confusion" and was moved to quip that the piece was about the "non-virgin" birth. Loose Canon approached Meacham's Easter cover story "How Jesus Became Christ" with a jaded sensibility. The title alone predicted it would be about the transformation of a simple teacher by early theologians. But that is not what Meacham did.

"The uniqueness--one could say oddity, or implausibility--of the story of Jesus' resurrection argues that the tradition is more likely historical than theological," Meacham wrote. "Either from a 'revelation' from the risen Jesus or from the reports of the earliest followers, Paul 'received' a tradition that the resurrection was the hinge of history, the moment after which nothing else would ever be the same. 'If Christ has been been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...' Paul writes. 'Lo! I will tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.'"

LC could quibble with many aspects of the piece, but it was a real shocker to read something this good in Newsweek. Meacham penned an erudite piece chock full of good quotes from Christians ancient and modern. Once could argue with his contention that today Christians regard their faith as "monumental" and "comfortably unchanging." Even if that was a dig at the religious right, Meacham's piece is well worth reading.

A Fair Shake for Opus Dei?

A new book on Opus Dei, the 85,000-strong Catholic society that got such a bad rap in Dan Brown's novel, "The Da Vinci Code," is coming out soon. It's by John Allen, an excellent reporter, even if he does work for the liberal National Catholic Reporter.

Loose Canon is planning to read the book, and, judging from an interview with Allen in Newsweek, it might not get my blood boiling. Asked why Opus Dei is regarded with such hostility, Allen explains, "In the 1930s and '40s [Opus Dei] experienced some enormous, extremely bitter rivalries with the Jesuits [because] some young Spanish men were deciding not to become Jesuits and signed up with Opus Dei instead. And this was, I think, the initial source of tension, that there was this perception that Opus Dei was kind of poaching ... Some Jesuits began circulating, from my point of view, really outlandish charges against Opus Dei, things like they had secret tunnels under their centers, they were engaging themselves in bizarre rituals like crucifying themselves on crosses in Opus Dei centers."

(For the record, Opus Dei members do practice self-mortification, using a device with small spikes.)

Happy Easter!

Loose Canon hopes you behaved better during Lent than she did and wishes you all a happy Easter. LC was amused by an Easter sermon by "the post-Christian bishop of New Westminster" on the "dead Jewish-Carpenter guy:"

"Easter," the bishop explained, "is much more than a story about the body of Jesus walking out of a tomb." Oh, really?

Leaving aside that that is a pretty minimalist statement on what happened that first Easter, what could be more wonderful? A man who was dead lives? Not only that, he offers us the same opportunity. With such great material, the bishop chose to preach instead about Einstein and Francois Sagan. Two interesting thinkers, of course, but I'm told that neither discovered how to make a dead man walk.

For Catholics and indeed all who admire Pope John Paul II, this is an especially poignant Easter season. Who was not touched by the "silent and suffering" pope blessing the crowds in St. Peter's Square? The frail pope enriched all our Easters with the word (delivered via a cardinal) that he has "serenely abandoned himself to God." That is the perfect sermon.

A Quantum Leap for the Euthanasia Movement

Along with the sufferings of John Paul II, the starvation of Terri Schiavo was the backdrop of Holy Week and Easter this year. Terri Schiavo's anguished parents looked like any parents would in such circumstances--utterly dejected. Let's hope Ms. Schiavo wasn't aware of their sufferings. But this was not merely one family's anguish.

James Q. Wilson, a respected writer on moral issues, made the decision to allow his terminally sick mother to die. Why does he not think this was the right thing for Terri Schiavo?

"In 1995, when the American Academy of Neurology published its report on people in a persistent vegetative state, it found that there were as many as 25,000 adults and 10,000 children in this country who suffered from PVS. Based on the best studies the academy could find at the time, some adults in a vegetative state 12 months after a devastating injury or heart failure could recover consciousness and some human functions. The chances that such a recovery will occur are very small, but they are not zero.

"If they are not zero, then withdrawing a patient's feeding tubes and allowing her to die from a lack of water and food means that whoever authorizes such a step may, depending on the circumstances, be murdering the patient. The odds against it being a murder are very high, but they are not 100%."

Phil Lawler, a Catholic layman and writer, penned disturbing thoughts on why the starvation of Terri Schiavo bodes ill for us all:

"[W]ith the Schiavo case, the 'right to die' movement recognized the opportunity to skip over several intermediary steps, to score a major legal and political coup. If the courts would authorize the starvation of this woman, and if the public would accept it, the entire debate would shift in favor of euthanasia. If Terri Schiavo can be starved to death simply because her life has been judged burdensome, then every person who is disabled, retarded, or senile becomes a candidate for similar treatment. The key precedent will have been set; the principled opposition to 'mercy killing' will be thoroughly undermined."

Relapsed Catholic, a good source of information and perspectives on Terri Schiavo, spotted this alarming thought from Another Think, a Christian blog:

"Men and women who are incapacitated, even when they face no immediate risk of dying, may now be declared unfit for further life-sustaining care. If an estranged husband can achieve this result over the objections of his wife's own parents, surely insurance companies, the Veterans Administration, Medicare, and other health-care funding agencies will realize that they might make use of this precedent as well, to cut off care for chronically ill patients when they have become a drain on our national healthcare resources."

Loose Canon is going to write a living will saying that I don't want them to pull the plug. Of course, the way society is headed, it won't mean a thing.

A Mystifying Double Standard

One more thought on Terri Schiavo:

"Thank God for our robed masters," writes Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard. "If it weren't for them, Christopher Simmons might soon be executed. In September 1993, seven months shy of his 18th birthday, Simmons decided it would be interesting to kill someone. He told his buddies they could get away with it because they were still minors. He broke into the house of Shirley Crook in Jefferson County, Missouri, bound her hands and feet, drove her to a bridge, covered her face with tape, and threw her into the Meramec River, where she drowned. He confessed to the crime, and was sentenced to death according to the laws of Missouri. Last month the Supreme Court saved Simmons's life."

The courts, of course, did not intervene to save Terri Schiavo. Quite the contrary. Ruling after ruling brought Ms. Schiavo's death closer.

There was about as much chance that Schiavo would recover as that Simmons will repent--which is to say miracles are always possible. Why, then, did the courts spare Simmons and not Schiavo? I have a terrible fear that it is because our society is becoming more and more biased in favor of euthanasia for those who are not able of body.

Simmons is able-bodied and guilty; Schiavo damaged but innocent. The court system chose Simmons.

Hurtful Charles

As Prince Charles prepares to do what cost his Uncle David the throne--marry a divorced woman--at least one primate in the much-diminished Church of England is asking Charles to apologize to Camilla's ex. The bishop is concerned about the state of Christian marriage? As far as LC can tell, his overriding concern is any "hurt" Charles might have caused Andrew Parker Bowles. I guess that's better than nothing--but not much.

Sneering at the Vatican

Although Dan Brown's bestselling novel, "The Da Vinci Code," soon to be a major motion picture, has convinced many readers that Christ and Mary Magdalene were married, New York columnist Maureen Dowd joins the crowd in sneering at the Vatican for responding to the novel. But she gives the Holy See high marks for acting with dispatch: "[W]hen you think of the history of the Catholic Church, the Vatican is acting with lightning speed. It took the church more than 350 years to reverse its condemnation of Galileo. The Vatican only began an inquisition of the 16th-century Inquisition in 1998. It wasn't until the reign of Pope John Paul II that the Vatican apologized for the crimes of the Crusaders and offered contrition for the silence of Catholics in the Holocaust. The church has still not apologized for shameful dissembling by its hierarchy on the sex abuse scandal. And America's Catholic bishops only last week announced they were finally going to get serious about opposing the death penalty."

"Divided We Fall?"

Are Protestant Churches bound to split? One of the most interesting religious blogs out there, Pontifications, has an incendiary piece saying that division is the inevitable fate of Protestant Churches. "The curse of Protestantism is division. The very nature of its origins, self-understanding and approach to the Word of God are inherently schismatic," Robbie Low argues. Low appears to be a former Anglican who has crossed the Tiber (just like Loose Canon.)

The piece has been blazing a trail through religious blogs, and it's no wonder, given the provocative ruminations like this one:

"Thomas More's hyperbole that he would 'rather cut a man's throat than let him read Tyndale's Bible' may seem rather shocking to us coming from the lips of such a humane and intelligent saint but More goes to the heart of the dilemma. In producing a version which did not have the authority of the Church Catholic, Tyndale was on a dangerous journey. We may applaud his motive and his industry but we should also recognize that it is the beginning of a long road that will lead through versions as bizarre and inaccurate as the Jehovah's Witness translations to the feminized travesty that is decanted from Anglican lecterns courtesy of the Common Worship lectionary. Tyndale's version was further inflamed by his marginal commentaries and interpretations. More was angered because he believed such proceedings could jeopardize the salvation of many. He recognized immediately that, although Rome needed reform, once protest magnified into schism there would be no end to the speculation, the special pleading, the splintering. So it has proved."

Pontifications, by the way, is fast becoming one of my daily stops. I love its theological debates, good writing, and sense of humor. Here are some of P-tiff's "endorsements:" From Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams: "I repent. I repent. I repent." From Pope John Paul II: "I have been an avid reader of Pontifications for months. You're a better pontificator than I could ever hope to be. In fact, you're darn near infallible!"

Their Penance is Voting Left

Meet the trustfunder left. They're guilty, transnational, and they don't like singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."


Loose Canon has been traveling through the south this week, and she must admit that she has not observed Holy Week the way she ought to have done. Isn't that the way it always is? Well, it is for me.

Despite having been remiss, I hope I may still share with you a wonderful Good Friday hymn. It's one I've mentioned before because it answers that age-old question: Who is responsible for Christ's Crucifixion?

It was written by Horatius Bonar (1808-1880), one of the great evangelical hymn writers:

"I see the crowd in Pilate's hall,
their furious cries I hear;
their shouts of "Crucify!" appall,
their curses fill mine ear.
And of that shouting multitude
I feel that I am one,
and in that din of voices rude
I recognize my own.

"I see the scourgers rend the flesh
of God's belovèd Son;
and as they smite I feel afresh
that I of them am one.
Around the Cross the throng I see
that mock the Sufferer's groan,
yet still my voice it seems to be,
as if I mocked alone.

"'Twas I that shed that sacred Blood,
I nailed him to the Tree,
I crucified the Christ of God,
I joined the mockery.
Yet not the less that Blood avails
to cleanse me from sin,
and not the less that Cross prevails
to give me peace within."

Does Your Estranged Husband Know Best?

There are two horrible aspects to the Terri Schiavo case that is unfolding so tragically this Holy Week: One is that that direct euthanasia is a moral outrage, never justifiable. The other is Terri herself: Whether she is suffering now or is not, as some proponents of pulling the tube say, we don't know. Marc Siegel, a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University, writes today in USA TODAY about a brain-damaged patient, one not quite as sick as Ms. Schiavo, who did wake up. "A few months later, he was conversing and eventually was discharged to resume his life as a waiter in a restaurant where he had once been a chef." Siegel writes: "Drawing a line in which one life has quality and another doesn't is contentious enough, but extending this to an initiative to withdraw nutrition is a legal move that doesn't adequately consider the medicine. Even if Terri had a living will, many physicians would still not feel comfortable executing it in this manner. It shouldn't be assumed that doctors can be ordered to starve their patients."

I was talking to a friend who doesn't share my hardcore politics or religious views. I expected her to feel that it's okay to remove the feeding tube from such a severely damaged human being. I was wrong--my friend is a mother and she said she felt for Terri's parents. I hate it that the media persists in referring to Michael Schiavo as Terri's husband rather than her estranged husband. Charles Krauthammer points out why Michael Schiavo might not know best: "The problem," writes Krauthammer, "is that although your spouse probably knows you best, there is no guarantee that he will not confuse his wishes with yours. Terri's spouse presents complications. He has a girlfriend, and has two kids with her. He clearly wants to marry again. And a living Terri stands in the way." By the way, I was stunned by a hospital ethicist I saw on TV: She was upset that the pictures Schiavo's desperate parents have made available to the press were an invasion of Terri's privacy. But she believed it was right to let Terri die. Remind me not to check into her hospital.

More Like Troubled Waters?

Mel Gibson's "The Passion" threw Hollywood into a tizzy: How do we get the Christian dollar without selling out? To this end, NBC has a pilot for a new show called "The Book of Daniel." According to NBC promo material, the show "depicts Jesus as a 'contemporary, cool' figure who appears as a personal confidant to an Episcopal minister named Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn), who in turn is wrestling with family issues and a dependence on prescription pills. The cast co-stars Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn as Daniel's church superior and newcomer Garrett Dillahunt as Jesus."

"I like that it's slightly provocative," an NBC official told Reuters. "We did realize that we're in uncharted waters. ... It certainly stirs people's passions and stirs opinions, and if we do it right, with quality, I think there's millions and millions of people who would say, 'Hey, that's what I've been looking for on television."

Why do I feel confident in predicting that NBC's pill-popping padre won't be nearly as interesting as Graham Greene's whiskey priest?

(Many thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this report.)

Schiavo: Not an Isolated Case

The media has found its latest angle on the Terri Schiavo case: living wills. If Schiavo had left a living will, this would all be OK. This assumes of course that living wills will almost always say, "pull the plug." Because most people don't want to be a "burden," they probably will. This is dangerous.

In his latest column, Cal Thomas explains why the Schiavo case should "not be viewed in isolation":

It is part of a flow that began in modern times with abortion-on-demand and will continue, if not stopped, with euthanasia. Once a single category of life is devalued, all other categories quickly become vulnerable.

The Dark Regions

As Loose Canon is, as they say, "on travel" throughout Holy Week, she will be blogging just a bit lightly. But I do hope I will spare time to think about the miracle of our redemption, which should be especially on our minds this week.

To help us think about what matters, Amy Welborn of Open Book posted a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete (660-740), "hymnographer and theologian of Lent," who once served as a priest at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

"In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens - the proof, surely, of his power and godhead - his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

"So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptised into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children's holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel."

Being Brain Damaged Is Not the Same as Being Dead

Terri Schiavo's fate weighs heavily on our minds this Holy Week. Swami regards Ms. Schiavo as "a total gorp" who is in a vegetative state. However, Dawn Eden posted an account from Wittenberg Gate that tells the story of "a severely brain-damaged man who survived being removed from a ventilator and is now treasuring every day of life. It's not what you'd expect-he harbors no grudge against his wife for thinking she was following his wishes by having him taken off the machine. But he now realizes it is better to live than to die:"

"I was estimated [upon reviving] to have AT BEST the mental abilities of a toddler. I was once an EXTREMELY smart man but did not type much as a toddler! Due to my 'diffuse axonal' brain injury I have forgotten most of my past. A court already declared me incompetent and my LOVING wife is now my guardian. She is surrendering her life to ministry. I may have said that I wouldn't want to live as a vegetable as my wife said I had. How many would actually choose living years on a machine over a painless death! My wife never lies and would not say I chose to be disconnected if I had not!...

"One of the leading causes of death in paraplegics is suicide! Every day I choose to live! I may have at one time felt living connected to a machine was worse than death, but I had never tried it! I have now! I have lived in a vegetative state! Although I hope to just die quickly with no pain, I now choose to live by ANY means God provides."

Not Dead Yet

Loose Canon asked on Friday why it is that it's mostly religious people and conservatives who oppose the starvation unto death of Terri Schiavo. I said I didn't know why this was so. I was just noting the phenomenon. Swami has supplied a partial answer to this troubling riddle.

In his Friday post on Ms. Schiavo--headlined "New Hope for the Dead: Terri Schiavo and Congress"--Swami describes Terri as a "total gorp, in a vegetative state." Well, folks, there you have it.

This is simply not how a religious person views another human being, even a human being whose brain is severely damaged, who may never dance or sing or go to Harvard. God, help us. I agree with Peggy Noonan, who says that if the Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, can't save Terri Schiavo's life, there will be a heavy price to pay. Relapsed Catholic has the thoughts of a canon lawyer on the appropriateness of a fast for Ms. Schiavo.

The New York Times doesn't call Schiavo a gorp. But it expresses Swami's point of view in a more acceptable way: the problem, you see, is that Terri's parents can't "let go."

Collaring Scientists

It's customary to portray Catholics as dumb dumbs who spout Medieval doctrines when talking about contemporary bioethical issues, especially stem cell research. Slate political correspondent William Saletan's fine piece on a bioethics conference in Rome resisted this temptation.

Even Off the Record's Diogenes, that most acerbic of Catholic bloggers, praised Saletan, "no ally of pro-lifers," for his fairness.

Saletan seemed impressed with some of the scientists in collars:

"The first presenters, a couple of scientists, summarize the state of stem cell research. When they're done, a soft-spoken young priest in the front row raises his hand. 'In a case of aneuploidy, it may be possible to laser ablate one or two of the blastomeres,' he says. A priest in the back row asks about 'aberrant silencing of the IGF and IGF2 receptor.' I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. Afterward, I ask the first priest, Father Tad Pacholczyk, where he learned this stuff. Turns out he's got a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yale, plus a research stint at Harvard Medical School and undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology. Around the room, half the guys in collars are scientists. A couple of weeks ago, there was a conference here on the concept of brain death, which the Vatican is reconsidering in light of new findings. ...

"Father Nicanor Austriaco, a white-robed Dominican brother with a doctorate in biology from MIT, uses PowerPoint to demonstrate that the gene Hurlbut wants to delete, cdx2, doesn't affect an embryo until at least the eight-cell stage. This means Hurlbut's "artifact" would develop just like an embryo until then, which raises theological problems. Austriaco cites lab data indicating that the embryonic axis begins to form at the two-cell stage. Therefore, the only moral approach is to delete a gene that enables differentiation at the first cell division."

Intriguingly, Saletan noticed that Jews and Catholics have different approaches to questions about stem cell research:

"With a couple of exceptions, the reactions fell into two camps. Catholics leaned one way, Jews the other.

"Don't get me wrong. The Catholics had caveats, and the Jews had ambiguities. But caveats and ambiguities are different things. The Catholics were clear about what was moral and what wasn't. The Jews were fuzzy. The best part of the show was [Princeton ethicist Robert] George's cross-examination of [columnist Charles] Krauthammer on the definitions of 'creature' and 'human.' It was like Socrates trying to carve up a bowl of chicken soup. Periodically, Kass waded into the fray to say on the one hand this, on the other hand that. The original ban on funding of destructive embryo research 'wasn't written at Sinai,' he joked. 'And even the things that were written at Sinai are'-he groped for a rabbinical exit-'under review.'"

Oh, and the Saletan piece answers that age-old question: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?


Not surprisingly, Ashley Smith, the purpose-driven Christian who talked down courtroom shooter Brian Nichols, has been offered all sorts of book deals. Christianity Today notes that Smith's story "makes a great illustration of how God works in our lives, and it ought to be told" but hopes that "it doesn't become a clichéd Hollywood story of faith, courage, and hope, because it is a beautiful illustration of the Sermon on the Mount." I'd say that a Hollywood story on faith, courage, and hope, clichéd or not, would be quite an improvement over H'wood's usual fare, wouldn't you?

The Schiavo Case: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid--For Yourself

The case of Terri Schiavo is subject to twists and turns. Schiavo could be in the initial phase of being starved to death by the time you read this. Whatever happens, the underlying moral aspect of this case will remain unchanged: It is simply wrong to starve a human being to death, even one who is brain-damaged and whose husband is eager to move on.

Death by starvation is not an easy way to go. It is a form of torture. Writing in National Review, Andrew McCarthy suggested that Terri Schiavo would fare better if she were a terrorist. "After all the flap over alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners, lo and behold, a court-ordered torture is set to begin in Florida on Friday at 1 P.M." he wrote.

Why is it that it's mostly religious people or conservatives who want to prevent this brutal death? Why is it that politicians who want to stop Terri Schiavo from being tortured inevitably are accused of "pandering to the religious right"? I raise these questions, but I cannot answer them.

Heroic measures to keep somebody alive are not mandatory--but starving somebody to death is "direct euthanasia." It is highly unusual for the Pontifical Academy for Life to speak out on a specific case. But this time it is. Here is what Bishop Elio Sgreccia of the Pontifical Academy for Life says:

"Bishop Elio Sgreccia said that the brain-damaged Florida woman `must be considered as a living human person' in spite of her disabilities. The bishop added that `her juridical rights must be recognized, respected, and defended.'

"To withdraw food and water from Terri Schiavo--as her husband proposes to do, with the help of a court order--would be 'a way of killing that person,' Bishop Sgreccia said.

Sgreccia said that the academy is breaking with its usual policy because Schiavo's case is so basic and because the media has covered it so extensively that "silence could be interpreted as approbation, with consequences that go beyond this specific case:"

"A final decision to withdraw food and water, he said, 'if it is confirmed, and leads to the death of Terri Schiavo, would create a juridical precedent and present the reality of euthanasia as a right before the US Supreme Court, with grave consequences that can easily be imagined, for the lives of many other people.'"

Doctors say it could take a week or two for Schiavo to die of starvation.

Aside from the general moral questions involved, Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum and Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review have wondered why feminists haven't rallied to Terri Schiavo's side.

The idea that our society may now condone starving sick people to death is pretty horrific--also sickening is that notion that some people might take advantage of our disregard for the value of life. "Had I been the judge in Terri's case," Charlotte Allen noted, "I would have taken a more jaundiced view of Michael, who didn't start making his 'right to die' claims on Terri's behalf until 1993, after he'd deposited into his bank account the net proceeds of some $2.3 million in settlements and court awards from his claim that Terri's doctors had committed medical malpractice."

Blogs for Terri and Disciples with Microphones are important sources on this rapidly-developing story. Amy Welborn of Open Book also has some provocative posts on Terri Schiavo.

Holy Week Begins

On Sunday, Christians celebrate Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, that happy day when the children of the Hebrews bearing branches came to Him. In our churches, we will sing lustily of the glory, laud, and honor befitting a Redeemer King, and some of us will march around with palms held high. But how fickle we human beings are. The mood shifts to darkness quite quickly. By the end of the week, we shall have sent Him to Calvary. Throughout the Week, we must remember that we retrace the path of somebody who was not merely and only a man.

A Good Word about Wasps

A charming story I've just come across tells how a swarm of tiny wasps saved a Medieval altar that was being eaten by other critters: "The Cranach altar in the Erfurt Cathedral was being destroyed by the wood-eating insects, but officials delayed taking action because they feared that chemical treatments might damage its 11 painted panels. Instead they adopted a pioneering technique which may now be emulated in historic buildings across Europe: releasing 3,000 parasitic wasps, which feed on woodworm larvae."

Thanks, But I'll Stick with Mel Gibson

I could probably get passionately angry about this Passion Play if it weren't so dumb.

Can We Talk About This?

"Oooo. They're really mad in Rome. A novelist says Jesus wasn't chaste. Indeed, He might have had a wife and kids," mocks Swami, adding condescendingly, "Okay, it's a novel. But millions of copies have been sold, many to people who read only one book a year--and this was it. And now Tom Hanks will star in the movie."

Message: These idiots in the Vatican are stupid enough to get upset over a novel.

The novel, of course, is Dan Brown's "The Da Vince Code," which has sold 45 million copies and features a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene (her womb is the real Holy Grail because it carried Christ's offspring).

Swami twits the Vatican for appointing Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone to have debates refuting a... novel.

Swami implies that this is ridiculous. But is it? Gee whiz, call me an English major, but I don't find this weird at all. I like to talk about novels, especially ones that are resonating with the public. This one is especially important since it presents an alternative view of Christian history that many readers are embracing as true. The novel is also said to be riddled with historical errors.

And Swami doesn't want to talk about this?

For enquiring minds, there are two books on the Da Vinci Code by writers I respect:

The erudite and quirky Sandra Meisel, an expert on science fiction and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, is author of "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code," which is available from Ignatius Press. She more recently wrote an article that questioned Mr. Brown's grasp of European history, 101: "Despite Brown's scholarly airs," Meisel wrote, "a writer who thinks the Merovingians founded Paris and forgets that the popes once lived in Avignon is hardly a model researcher."

Amy Welborn, the well-known Catholic blogger is author of "De Coding Da Vince: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code." A review in the American Spectator noted:

"Keenly aware of the critics who say, 'relax, it's only a novel,' Welborn explains that culture matters, and that 'in The Da Vinci Code, imaginative detail and false historical assertions are presented as facts and the fruit of serious historical research, which they simply are not.' Every chapter in De-Coding Da Vinci ends with suggestions for further reading and lists of questions for review and discussion.

"Some of the evidence that Welborn marshals in defense of truth will be familiar to informed Christians. She reviews texts that show how belief in the full humanity and divinity of Jesus predates the Council of Nicaea, notes that what Brown calls a "close vote" in that assembly was actually 300 to 2, and quotes experts who prove that characters in The Da Vinci Code are as ignorant of Jewish history as they are of Christian history and art history."

The Da Vinci Code is riding a crest of anti-Catholicism--it's only natural that the Church might want to address the novel.

If It Changes, It Ain't True

Swami and others of his ilk know that to undermine the authority of the Church it is important to attack the very notion that truth exists and that it is unchangeable.

That is why Swami devoted so much space yesterday to "proving" that the Catholic Church's dogma on abortion has changed over the centuries. According to the Great Swam, a "good" Catholic could have an abortion as late as 1869 and not have been on the outs with the Church.

This simply isn't true.

The Catholic Church has always condemned abortion as a great evil.

Swami attempts to prove otherwise by quoting various Church Fathers on when the fetus becomes sufficiently developed that it must be considered a human being and thus cannot be killed.

Swami inadvertently proves that Church teaching on abortion has never changed. All of this debate on when ensoulment takes place or when the fetus becomes a human being shows that the Church has always said one thing about abortion: it is always wrong to kill a child in its mother's womb.

Swami cites St. Augustine saying that a soul cannot live in an unformed body or St. Jerome on when the fetus acquires a human shape. They are trying to solve the conundrum of when we become human beings. The Church has no special expertise in science, and so it is natural that the Church fathers could not pin down the answer. Since we don't know for certain when the fetus becomes a human being, it's always wrong to take a chance.

Oddly enough, it is modern science that has done most to convince us that the human being exists as an individual from the moment of conception.

To sum up: It is always wrong to kill an unborn child. The Church has always taught this.

It was the Church teaching on the dignity of women and against abortion that won it so many converts in the first century of her existence.

The Purpose-Driven Heroine

Loose Canon noted yesterday that Baptist minister Rick Warren's bestselling book "The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" has been inspiring for many readers.

One reader inspired by Warren's book was Ashley Smith, the young Atlanta widow, who, as Get Religion put it, "could have become just another dead body when [Atlanta courtroom shooter] Brian Nichols accosted her outside her apartment at 2 a.m. Saturday. Instead, seven hours later she was calling police to tell them where to find Nichols. As she left the apartment, Smith says, Nichols asked if he could hang some artwork or curtains for her."

The Journal Constitution, which has a detailed account of Smith's time with Nichols requires registration, but Get Religion excerpts the best parts of the saga. The excerpt starts with Nichols seeming to portray his acts as racially justified:

"'I feel like I'm a warrior. The people of my color have gone through a lot.'

"But he says he's had enough. 'I don't want to hurt anybody anymore,' he tells her. 'I don't want to kill anybody. I want to rest.'

"The atmosphere becomes more normal, as normal as it could be.

"Smith asks if he would mind if she reads.

"Nichols says OK. She gets the book she'd been reading, 'The Purpose Driven Life.' It is a book that offers daily guidance. She picks up where she had left off -- the first paragraph of the 33rd chapter.

"'We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. If you can demand service from others you've arrived. In our self serving culture with its me first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.'

"He stops her and asks her to read that again. ..."

Well, of course I don't want to make too much of this--Nichols was obviously a tired and overwrought man on the lam who.... Or maybe we should make something of this. Could it have been the right message at the right time?

They Still Don't Get It

Somebody on NBC last night hailed George W. Bush's appointment of Karen Hughes to improve diplomatic relations with the Middle East as the president's desire to have "a legacy" as something other than "a war monger."

They still don't get it.

In a Washington Post piece headlined "Will the Mideast Bloom?" Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former New York Times reporter who is now with a Dubai-based investment group, notes:

"Nowadays, intellectuals, businessmen and working-class people alike can be caught lauding Bush's hard-edged posture on democracy and cheering his handling of Arab rulers who are U.S. allies. Many also admire Bush's unvarnished threats against Syria should it fail to pull its soldiers and spies out of Lebanon before the elections there next month -- a warning the United Nations reinforced last week with immediate effects. For Bush, it is not quite a lovefest but a celebration nonetheless.

"'His talk about democracy is good,' an Egyptian-born woman was telling companions at the Fatafeet (or 'Crumbs') restaurant the other night, exuberant enough for her voice to carry to neighboring tables. 'He keeps hitting this nail. That's good, by God, isn't it?' At another table, a Lebanese man was waxing enthusiastic over Bush's blunt and irreverent manner toward Arab autocrats. 'It is good to light a fire under their feet,' he said.

"From Casablanca to Kuwait City, the writings of newspaper columnists and the chatter of pundits on Arabic language satellite television suggest a change in climate for advocates of human rights, constitutional reforms, business transparency, women's rights and limits on power. And while developments differ vastly from country to country, their common feature is a lifting -- albeit a tentative one -- of the fear that has for decades constricted the Arab mind."

Of course, this is a piece in the MSM (the mainstream media--an inappropriate moniker if ever there was one) and so it concludes with the mandatory digs at the "devoutly Christian" U.S. president.

Hell: It's Non-Negotiable

Swami expressed concern that Baptist minister and bestselling author Rick Warren (see above) had cribbed from a Catholic source in stating what is "non-negotiable" for the voting Christian. No sooner had I replied to the Great Swami that I came across another Christian use of the term non-negotiable: Hell is non-negotiable.

The piece, by a Protestant minister, is headlined "Dorothy Sayers on Why Hell Is Non-Negotiable," and it contains this quote from the mystery writer who created Agatha Christie:

"There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the 'cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell,' or 'the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms'...

"But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not 'mediaeval': it is Christ's. It is not a device of 'mediaeval priestcraft' for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ's deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from 'mediaeval superstition' but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it. . . . It confronts us in the oldest and least "edited" of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists [gospels] through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ."

Thanks to my favorite traditional Anglican site for noticing this gem.

The Popes on the Bench

Loose Canon was distressed that some were openly advocating retirement for the ailing pope. The papacy is not a job with term limits. On the other hand--ahem--I was intrigued in Powerline's suggestion that term limits for Supreme Court justices might be in order.

When readers asked what could be done about the wayward Court, Powerline reprinted a July item on term limits for justices:

"As the present coalition of liberal and 'past their sell-by date' Justices renders incoherent mandates in field after field, the old question arises -- where does the Court get the right to invalidate laws enacted through the democratic process. I don't believe that the Constitution plainly vests final authority on these matters with the Court, nor does the right flow from the natural order of things. In my view, the Court has this right because, early on, it asserted it, and since then this arrangement has worked well enough, in the view of the public, that it hasn't needed to be disturbed. Giving the Court the final say has produced results (albeit sometimes only at the last minute) that have been acceptable on the whole to the body politic. In other words, the Supreme Court gets to contribute in a big way because people think that, by and large, its contribution has been worthwhile. ..."

My guess is that liberals will squawk--you see, to them, being a justice is more than a job. It's like, well, being pope.

Not So Contrary about Mary

One sign that the dust of the Reformation is settling: Protestant are getting interested in Mary. This is the subject of an excellent piece in the current issue of Time magazine. The article is (for the most part) blessedly free of feminist cant, chock-full of interesting historical tidbits, and very perceptive about how the split over Mary has played out since the Reformation.

"Arguments on the Virgin's behalf," writes David van Biema, "have appeared in a flurry of scholarly essays and popular articles, on the covers of the usually conservative Christianity Today (headline: The Blessed Evangelical Mary) and the usually liberal Christian Century (St. Mary for Protestants). They are being preached, if not yet in many churches then in a denominational cross section-and not just at modest addresses like Maguire's in Xenia but also from mighty pulpits like that at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church, where longtime senior pastor John Buchanan recently delivered a major message on the Virgin ending with the words 'Hail Mary ... Blessed are you among us all.'"

Non-Negotiable Truths--Baptists Have 'Em, Too

Speaking of the confluence of Catholics and our Prot pals, Swami is exercised that Baptist writer and minister Rick Warren, whose "The Purpose Driven-Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?" has been inspiring for so many readers, and Catholic Answers, an organization which specializes in providing an orthodox answer to theological questions and which Swami mischaracterizes as "a right wing organization," used similar language in discussing the presidential candidates.

Swami quotes a long piece comparing the positions of Catholic Answers and Warren. Quoted are an ad and press release in which Catholic Answers sums up "five non-negotiable issues":

"The press release said, 'The issues Catholics are forbidden to vote in favor of are abortion, homosexual marriage, embryonic stem-cell search, human cloning and euthanasia.'

"Karl Keating, the president of Catholic Answers, said: 'A Catholic is free to support or to oppose any politician or ballot measure on issues such as jobs, trade, taxes or the war in Iraq. But with issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, all Catholics are forbidden to endorse them or vote for them.'"

Apparently, Swami thinks that Warren's choice of issues and use of the word "non-negotiable" mean his views are derived from Catholic Answers. Well, actually, Warren and Catholic Answers are both derivative--in arriving at their assessments of the positions of the candidates, they draw from the same non-negotiable deposit of Christian truth. I hope I won't offend Baptist readers if I recall Flannery O'Connor's remark that a Baptist who reads the Bible comes up with a theology pretty close to Catholicism.

I was amused at Swami's characterization of Rick Warren as "a very successful Baptist." Howard Dean could not have said it better.

St. Paddy's Day Is Different this Year--but Should It Be St. Brendan's Day?

The White House will not dishonor St. Paddy's Day this year by inviting Gerry Adams of the Sinn Fein, usually called "political wing" of the terrorist IRA, to participate in the festivities. The terrorist leader has been a St. Paddy's Day regular at the White House for a decade. Instead, this year Bush will play host to the sisters of Robert McCartney. McCartney, a Belfast Catholic, was also a member of the IRA, but he was beaten to death with sewer rods after he disagreed with an IRA big shot in a pub. "There were 70 witnesses in the bar but none of them saw a thing," writes columnist Mark Steyn. "Depravity-wise, what exactly is the difference between McCartney's murder and the lynching of the four U.S. contractors in Fallujah? None--except that the organization responsible for the former has enjoyed a decade of White House photo-ops."

The sisters are trying to persuade witnesses to speak up but, "They're reluctant to do so because, as in any third-rate gangster state, testifying against the local warlords can be severely injurious to one's own health."

On a lighter note, John Miller makes a case for St. Brendan as a more appropriate patron for the Irish in America than St. Patrick, going so far as to suggest Brendan's mythical voyages might not have been entirely mythical: "If Irish monks really did make it to the Western Hemisphere, then perhaps Brendan is best understood as America's first immigrant. The story of Irish America, at least in its initial phases, is essentially the epic of a people who uprooted themselves, crossed an ocean and made homes in a place they'd heard about but had not seen."

A Closer Look at Terri Schiavo's Million Dollar Man

I commented that it was weird to have celebrity feminist lawyer Gloria Allred on the right to life side in the Terri Schiavo fight. But maybe it's not as weird as it seemed. Christian blogger Dawn Eden notes something I missed: Robert Herring, Allred's client and the San Diego multimillionaire who offered a million dollars to keep Terri Schiavo alive, said in his statement that he hoped Schiavo would live long enough to benefit from stem cell research.

Are You Smart Enough to Hate Paul Wolfowitz?

Loose Canon is never again going to mention a certain Oscar-winning movie she and Swami have been round the block on too many times. I'm just going to say that I am sick of being preached at when I go to the movies. It's not only that I am a conservative and the folks who make movies mostly aren't. Bad art by a conservative is still bad art.

Critic Terry Teachout addressed the problem of political art in a recent lecture in Washington, D.C. Quoting C.S. Lewis, who said, "In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself," Teachout said:

"This is the meaning of the cliché that great art 'takes you out of yourself.' By definition, it then puts you into someone else, and in so doing enriches your understanding of reality. To do this successfully, it must be in the deepest sense sympathetic. 'The Oxford Dictionary' defines sympathy as 'the fact or capacity of sharing or being responsive to the feelings or condition of another or others.' Such a capacity is a fundamental aspect of all serious art. It's what makes Shakespeare's villains believable: we feel we can understand their motives, even if we don't share them. Without sympathy there can be no persuasion. Even a caricature, however cruel, must acknowledge the humanity of its subject in order to be funny.

"What I find striking about much of today's political art, by contrast, is its unwillingness to make such an acknowledgment. Instead of seeking to persuade--to open and change the minds of its viewers--such art takes for granted their concurrence. It assumes that everyone in the audience is already smart enough to hate Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and, above all, George W. Bush, and thus does not need to be reminded of their underlying humanity, or of the possibility, however remote, that their intentions might be good. By extension this kind of art also takes for granted that no truly creative artist could possibly think otherwise, that good art is by definition liberal--or, to use the newly fashionable term on the left, 'progressive.'"

A Million Dollar Misunderstanding

You can't really fault a guy who offers a million dollars of his own money to save the life of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose husband wants to pull the plug. Or can you?

The offer was made by Robert Herring, a San Diego multimillionaire. Herring said in a statement released by his celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred (boy, did I ever not expect to see her on this side of the aisle in a right-to-life battle) that he's willing to give husband Michael Schiavo $1 million to transfer the legal right to make decisions about Terri Schiavo to her parents. Her parents have fought to keep their 41-year-old daughter alive.

The parents have waged a heroic battle to save their daughter. What could be wrong with Herring's generous plan? Well, this: There's no way Schiavo could take the million dollars and not be regarded as a wife-selling villain. We'll simply never know what would have happened if Mr. Herring had made the proposal secretly.

I've meant for sometime to mention a report on John Grogan, a Philadelphia columnist, who changed his mind about the Schiavo case. "I no longer so blithely believe Schiavo's feeding tubes should be pulled and her life allowed to end," Grogan wrote. "I'm no longer so sure her parents do not deserve a say in their daughter's future. I no longer am totally comfortable assuming her husband, Michael, who now has two children by another woman, is acting unselfishly."

Even though Herring failed to obtain custody for the parents, the battle is not over and there may be a shift in favor of the parents. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

"With avenues to keep Terri Schiavo alive closing in Florida, they were opening in the nation's capital Thursday. The tide turned decidedly in favor of the parents who want to prolong their brain-damaged daughter's life.

"Just eight days before the court-ordered deadline to remove Schiavo's feeding tube, Republicans on Capitol Hill rallied around the case that has become the cause celebre of conservative and religious groups.

"Congressional leaders fast-tracked a bill that could lead to a federal court review of the case - and perhaps another trial in Pinellas County."

Eyes on the Prize

In one of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mystery novels, the guilty party poses as a priest to escape detection. He is found out when he says he became a priest because he loves the irrational.

A real priest would have learned that Christianity and reason aren't inimical. The Templeton Prize deserves credit because it tries to lay to rest the canard that science and Christianity are inevitable enemies. On Wednesday, the Templeton Prize was awarded to Charles Hard Townes, a physicist and a Christian. USA TODAY had a nice profile:

"'I don't think that science is complete at all,' says the 89-year-old physicist. 'We don't understand everything and one can see, within science itself, there are many inconsistencies. We just have to accept that we don't understand.'

Within the great unknowns of the universe, Townes argues there is ample room for faith in God and His presence in human experience.

"'The real focus of the prize really seems to resonate with Townes's interest for the past 30 years, which is how to break down the barriers between science and religion,' says Sir John Templeton, president of the foundation that bears his name and which awards the prize."

Would You Buy a Used Car from this Chaplain?

The Rev. George Gardner has a big smile and a job as chaplain at an abortion clinic. Click here to "meet our chaplain..."

Hezbollah: What's Not to Like?

What is it with liberals and thugs?

Liberal blogger James Wolcott has found nice things to say about Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist organization. Hezbollah, as you know, has been staging massive rallies aimed at keeping the Syrian boot on the Lebanese neck.

Wolcott has been troubled recently by "a faint suspicion that Hezbollah was being groomed for the next big scary terrorist threat to Our Way of Life now that Al Qaeda's fear factor was receding.

"And lo, I switched on the set today and by chance see the words 'Beware Hezbollah' on the screen beneath Wolf Blitzer's bearded mug. His guests were the authors of a new book called 'Lightning out of Lebanon,' about the threat posed by Hezbollah to the US mainland. [T]he authors made dark hints about Hezbollah cells in American cities, which presumably could be activated from Lebanon or elsewhere. ... The FDD is the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Its Board of Directors are Jack Kemp, Jeane (sic) Kilpatrick, and Steve Forbes."

Let's see--Jack Kemp, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Steve Forbes--scarier than Hezbollah. For Wolcott & Co., of course, they are.

I realize that Wolcott is writing about Hezbollah as a threat on U.S. soil, and he believes this to be a scare tactic. But I still want to reiterate my link to a piece on Tech Central Station about this disciplined, heavily-armed militia:

"Hezbollah, under Syria's control, has been allowed to swagger around Lebanon, stage theatric marches of ski-masked fighters for bored TV newsmen, and continue its war of hatred against Israel with few restraints.

"This war has been carried on under the flimsy camouflage of a 'resistance movement' defending Lebanon from Israel. Nasrallah is assiduously peddling that resistance movement stuff these days because he thinks it gives him some kind of legal cover against the UN resolution, which also calls for disarming Hezbollah."

Aside from not sharing Mr. Wolcott's fondness for thugs, I dislike Hezbollah because I have a special place in my heart for the Maronite Christians, a beleaguered and ancient branch of Christianity in Lebanon. I met many wonderful Maronites on a trip to there in the mid-1980s.

The Maronite Patriarch doesn't share Hezbollah's love of the Syrian overlords. Here's a snippet from Catholic World News:

"Questioned about the role of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, and its ties to Syria, the Patriarch said that UN resolution 1559 must be implemented. That resolution called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, and the disarmament of Hezbollah guerrillas. Patriarch Sfeir dismissed the notion that a Syrian troop presence is necessary to maintain peace and order in Lebanon.

"'What do we need protection from-ourselves' he asked. Young people in Lebanon are particularly anxious to live in peace and freedom, the Maronite leader continued. Their simple desire for sovereignty has fueled popular demonstrations calling for a quick Syrian pullout."

The appointment of a pro-Syrian premier is bad news for Lebanon.

(Many thanks to my colleague Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum for spotting Wolcott's outrageous post.)

What You Can Do with a Can-Do Spirit

Loose Canon doesn't often plug a TV show she hasn't even seen yet--but I want to mention Primetime Live tonight. It has a segment on one of the hardest workers in the gossip business, Jeannette Walls, formerly of New York magazine and now of MSNBC.

The promo on the ABC News website says the show features Jeannette "on the secret she's kept for decades about her surprising past." Her secret is that she grew up as the child of homeless parents who worked her way through Barnard College.

She's just written a book, "The Glass Castle: A Memoir." Jeannette and I don't share the same political views but she's an advertisement for industry, brains, and optimism. Don't miss the show tonight, 10 pm Eastern time.

Eugenics Lives!

Writing in National Review, Christine Rosen, author of "Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement," has some sobering things to say about the stem cell research movement:

"Although there are vast differences between the eugenics movement of the past and the stem-cell research of the present, there is an eerie similarity to their rhetoric and tactics. Like eugenics, promoters of embryonic-stem-cell research talk of its endless promise, declaring it the scientific "path to the future," as two state senators from Massachusetts wrote in a recent opinion piece. Embryonic-stem-cell promoters claim that their science will lead to cures for a range of diseases and the alleviation of much human suffering. And they denounce those who question the ethics of their pursuit as backward or blindly religious. But as we continue to debate the ethics of embryonic-stem-cell research, it is worth recalling that movements waged in the name of scientific progress often leave a troubled legacy."

(Thanks to Amy Welborn of Open Book for spotting Christine's excellent essay.)

Did You Not Sit Among the Camp Fires at Xanthus-Side?

Unfortunately, my love for the romance and heroism of the Crusades seems to have caused poor Swami to choke on Little Uptown's birthday cake. Well, goodness gracious.

Loose Canon realizes that her love for the Crusades has not been shared by the majority since the Enlightenment; an ill-named period of history, if ever there was one. Recently, there have been signs that scholars are ready to reevaluate the Crusades. Jonathan Riley-Smith's "What Were the Crusades?" is one of the most notable revisionist books.

No doubt, it was a rough age and many terrible things happened. But the Crusades were not genocide. They did not set out to kill or eradicate people because of ethnicity but because of the way Christians and Christian holy sites in the Middle East were being treated. I think this quote posted on a Medieval Church website is pretty good (you'll note it is far from uncritical):

"The conquest of Jerusalem by the Mohammedans [Medieval Church notes that this is an obsolete and now-offensive term], and the insults offered to the most sacred memories of the Christian world, roused such a feeling of shame and indignation throughout Christendom, but especially in Western Europe, that a series of wars, called crusades, from the cross which was worn by all participants as a badge, was undertaken for the purpose of reconquering Palestine. The chief motive power in this movement was at first pure religious enthusiasm, helped on, it may be, by the ample ecclesiastical indulgences and great social exemptions which were granted to all who took the cross; and the idea which precipitated whole nations like a rushing stream towards the Holy Land, no doubt continued to be the principal impulse in many a noble heart. But gradually the restless and adventurous spirit of the age, which, in this fight for the glory of God, found satisfaction for its coarsest cravings without any disturbance of its gross superstition, transformed the religious contest about the Holy Land into a romantic tournament between the Christian knight and the Moslem warrior; and finally political ambition and commercial greed degraded the whole undertaking into a mere means of intrigue, speculation, and fraud."

There was much of the good and much of the bad in the Crusades, as the above quote makes abundantly clear. Here is another bit one from an excellent Christian history site (it makes reference to the Ridley Scott movie, "Kingdom of Heaven," which triggered my original reflections on the crusades:

"I would guess, though, that most Christians walking out of the theater in May won't be scheming how to burn down their neighborhood mosque. Rather, they'll be asking, How could Christians do this? How could we wage war on people in Christ's name, even if they were warring against us? Historian Bruce Shelley took a good stab at that question, when he pointed out that many Europeans knights went on crusade to defend Christians suffering under Islamic rule (it wasn't so tolerant as it's sometimes made out to be). And many knights wanted to practice their vocation in "honorable combat" (as opposed to squandering it in petty quarrels). [Director Ridley] Scott captures that sentiment well in his quote from Godfrey of Ibelin: 'Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright. Speak the truth. Safeguard the helpless. That is your oath.'"

The author of this piece goes on to lament the legacy of Christian-Moslem hatred from the Crusades. Actually, I think most Christians have pretty much forgotten this beautiful but flawed epoch.

Swami also notes that inducements were offered to the poor to sign up for a Crusade. He compares this to recruitment for the military today. Loose Canon can't see that there's anything so horrible about this--the honorable profession of arms has ever been a path to advancement. What's so wrong about that?

I'm not going to try to convert Swami to my view on the Crusades--you just couldn't have my opinions and get invited to nice parties on the Upper East Side. But I do want to quote one of my favorite passages from "Brideshead Revisited," the one in which Charles Ryder laments the deadening effect of modern education, as personified in a dull young soldier named Hooper:

"Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert's horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry-that stoic, red-skin interlude which our schools introduce between the fast flowing tears of the child and the man-Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry's speech on St. Crispin's Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon-these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper."

The U.N. Does Something Right!

Why are supposedly civilized nations becoming so barbaric? That is what I am wondering as I read the breakdown of votes on the ban on human cloning that was just passed by the United Nations' General Assembly.

The U.N. isn't an organization that Loose Canon generally praises, but the ban is good news indeed. Yes, it's a nonbinding resolution, and many (most?) scientists will take it with a grain of salt. But it is still a moral position that respects the dignity of human life.

Wesley Smith, who writes on bioethics for a number of publications, said, "The UN has powerfully demonstrated that naked science is not the be-all and end-all of the pursuit of human progress. Morality matters too."

The vote was 84-34, with 37 abstaining from voting. The Bush administration worked hard for the ban and was supported by votes from African, Arab, and Latin American delegates. European and Asian nations were mostly against it.

The ban was a huge victory for the Bush administration. Bush was quoted in the New York Times saying that the ban shows that the international community realizes that human cloning is "an affront to human dignity." The refusal of European and Asian nations, the richest and most highly developed on the face of the earth, is a sign that not all nations respect that dignity.

Sunday Morning: Why Bother?

Speaking of the decline in values in supposedly civilized nations, LC almost hesitates to cite a new study on declining church attendance in the U.K. because it fits in all too neatly with LC's own opinions on the matter. I think people cease attend church regularly when they cease to regard Christianity as uniquely true.

Or when the Church begins to act as if Christianity were not uniquely true. The yearlong U.K. study, which focused on 14,000 Brits who no longer attend Sunday services, pretty much found this to be the case:

"Researchers found 'a widespread sense of anger and frustration' at what was happening to churches in the UK and Ireland. The 42-page report is an indictment of modern preaching and worship, illustrating how excessive liberalism and lack of conviction are driving worshippers from the pews.

"The report portrays a desire for sermons based on the Bible and traditional teaching, rather than on politics, social affairs or audience-pleasing stunts.

"The report calls for better apologetics, or Christian teaching, and claims that many clergy are unable to mount a convincing argument in defense of Christianity and are not interested in trying. When asked to explain why Christianity might be true, the common response is: 'It is just a matter of faith.'

"The report says: 'This has resulted in a growing number of people being left with the false impression that there are no strong reasons for Christian belief. Ultimately they abandon churchgoing and are mystified that Christianity continues to grow elsewhere in the world.'"

The Devil Broke My Nose

Because I am a huge fan of "The Exorcist," both the smashing (in more ways than one) novel and the equally fine movie, I was interested to learn that a Jesuit who took part in the real exorcism that supplied the material for author William Peter Blatty has just died. Saint Louis Today had a nice obit:

"Father [Walter H.] Halloran, 83, had his nose broken by the 14-year-old boy from Mount Rainier, Md., who was thought to have been taken over by the devil. He became the core of a book by William Peter Blatty, 'The Exorcist,' although Blatty's demonic character was a little girl. It resulted in movies, including a Blatty sequel, and a recent remake of 'The Exorcist.' ...

"Father Halloran, a handsome man who looked like actor Peter O'Toole, was a Jesuit scholastic at the time of the exorcism. ... He was the last remaining exorcism priest after the death of Father William Van Roo, 89, who died in March a year ago at a health-care center in Wauwatosa, Wis. He also became quite renowned as a paratrooping chaplain during the Vietnam War, when he was 48, the oldest airborne character at the time. He won two bronze stars for his service in Vietnam."

What's a Little Murder Between Friends?

There was a lot of conversation on the miniboards about felons and voting. Here is a piece that sums up what I think you must believe if you defend the right of felons to vote:

"In the world where the enfranchisement of felons seems like a good idea, no crime is ever really that bad. No sin can ever disqualify a man from full civic participation. A little time in the hoosegow squares all accounts. Felons are decent people just like you and me; they made mistakes, they paid for their mistakes, and they're ready to resume their lives. Only a churl or a prudish killjoy would deprive these poor souls of their rights, merely on account of their prior actions."

Ultra-Ugly Attack on Ailing Pope

One thing you have to say about the New York Press story headlined "52 Funniest Things about the Upcoming Death of the Pope" is that it's not funny. Here are some examples of the wit of Matt Taibbi, who penned the notorious story:

"52. Pope pisses himself just before the end; gets all over nurse.

"51. After death, saggy, furry tits of dead Pope begin inexorable process of melting away into nothingness, like coldest of Sno-cones under faintest of suns.

"49.After beating for the last time, Pope's heart sits there like a piece of hamburger."

Did you laugh?

Page Six, the New York Post gossip column correctly termed the piece "ultra-ugly." Former New York Press editor Jeff Koyen, who quit over the controversy, called his bosses "weenies" and "little spineless turds" for not standing up for him.

"They couldn't handle the controversy," Koyen told the gossip column. Koyen quit the free weekly after being suspended without pay for two weeks. Don't talk about freedom of speech-Koyen can say these things to his heart's content, but nobody is obligated to pay him for doing so. And I'll exercise my freedom of speech to say he sounds from published reports like a nasty piece of work.

The newspaper was deluged with angry complaints about the story, an indication right there of how far it had gone--New Yorkers are not famous for defending the pope, though few are heartless or vulgar enough to find this sort of thing funny.

Of course, other, less overtly hateful, takes on Catholicism provoke little outrage beyond Catholic circles. A recent episode of "Committed," an NBC sitcom, featured the Host, the consecrated wafer that Catholics know to be the body of Christ, down the commode.

Conservative Catholic media watchdog Brent Bozell wrote:

"NBC has encouraged the producers of 'Committed' to 'push the limits of comedy,' and the producers just pushed comedy off a cliff. Not just Catholics, not just Christians, but anyone who reveres God should be outraged. What's next for this network as it sinks into fourth place? Having its sitcom characters accidentally use the Old Testament as toilet paper? Mocking God isn't funny. It's evil."

The Anchoress blog also points out that the Eucharist used this way in sitcom is appalling to Catholics.

Don't Leave Home without Your History Book

As one of who loves the romance and heroism (on both sides) of the Crusades, Loose Canon has sat glumly through the previews for Ridley Scott's new flick Kingdom of Heaven.

The Crusades always get a bum rap.

But now a story in the Telegraph says that Ridley Scott has gone farther than usual, distorting history to make Christians look worse and Arabs look better:

"[London University lecturer and author Jonathan] Philips said that by venerating Saladin, who was largely ignored by Arab history until he was reinvented by romantic historians in the 19th century, Sir Ridley was following both Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad, the former Syrian dictator. Both leaders commissioned huge portraits and statues of Saladin, who was actually a Kurd, to bolster Arab Muslim pride.

"Prof Riley-Smith added that Sir Ridley's efforts were misguided and pandered to Islamic fundamentalism. 'It's Osama bin Laden's version of history. It will fuel the Islamic fundamentalists.'

"Amin Maalouf, the French historian and author of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, said: 'It does not do any good to distort history, even if you believe you are distorting it in a good way. Cruelty was not on one side but on all.'"

(Here's some additional historical information on the Crusades, culled from a wonderful Anglican site that also has helpful material for Lent.)

Spying on a Future Pope

I realize I have two papal items today, but there's a fascinating piece in Newsweek about a jealous priest spying on the bishop who would one day be pope:

"In the communist era, Poland's secret police had a special unit that spied on the Roman Catholic Church. And in the 1960s, operatives in Cracow took a special interest in Karol Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II. As Newsweek's Polish edition has learned, the secret police were helped in their efforts by one of Wojtyla's fellow clerics, Wladyslaw Kulczycki--an informer who, until his death in 1968, sent in regular reports on the rising star of the Polish church."

Fighters Against Freedom

Hezbollah is fighting to keep the people of Lebanon from ousting their Syrian occupiers. Who are these minions of darkness? Tech Central Station has a good piece on them:

"Heavily financed by Iran at its birth in the early 1980s, this guerrilla group is now thinly disguised as a political party and even has 13 members in the Lebanese Parliament.

"But if you want to get some perspective on Hezbollah as a political party (or 'Lebanese faction' as the New York Times called it), think Nazi party in the German Reichstag in the early 1930s. ...

"All the other 'factions' in Lebanon, Christian, Druze or Muslim, were formally disarmed when Syria moved into Lebanon at the end of the bloody civil war.

"But Hezbollah, under Syria's control, has been allowed to swagger around Lebanon, stage theatric marches of ski-masked fighters for bored TV newsmen, and continue its war of hatred against Israel with few restraints."

History Turns the Corner

"How can you tell when history turns a corner," Michael Duffy asks in Time magazine, citing all the indications that a new day is coming to the Middle East. Of course, if history is turning a corner, perhaps it's because of the person in the driver's seat? Or, to mix metaphors: Could the Middle East be approaching a turning point because George Bush has cut the Gordian Knot? Instead of simply conducting more peace talks, he has showed a determination to actually change things.

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek admits that Bush's policy is changing the region. But Powerline notes: "Zakaria acknowledges that President Bush 'has been right on some big questions.' Zakaria belongs to the Tom Friedman school of analysis--agree with Bush's key foreign policy decisions, sort of, but insist that Bush has merely stumbled into the correct decision and has implemented it incompetently. Zakaria's latest piece is less grudging than that, although he does suggest that Bush's apparently correct line on the Middle East is 'related to his relative ignorance of the region.' Sigh."

Naiveté at the Vatican

The Vatican is one of the oldest states in Europe. A report that the Holy See asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help stop an abuse case indicates a certain level of naiveté, however:

"[S]ources told [National Catholic Reporter] that Rice was asked by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's Secretary of State, whether the United States government could stop a class-action lawsuit currently before a United States District Court in Louisville, Ky., that seeks to hold the Vatican financially responsible for the sexual abuse of minors.

"Sources told NCR that Rice explained that under American law, foreign states are required to assert claims of sovereign immunity themselves before U.S. courts.

"Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls, asked by NCR for comment, responded March 2: 'It's obvious and reasonable that the Holy See would present its positions as a sovereign entity to the American State Department, and recall the immunity for its acts that international law anticipates.'"

It also might be a good idea to research the legal aspects of the case before presenting it to the U.S. Secretary of State.

The Felon Constituency

Loose Canon is appalled at the idea that the Democrats are lobbying that felons, who forfeit the right to vote by their very actions, regain the right. Even if more felons were Republicans, this would be a bad idea.

George Will comments on what's behind the move: "Sentimentalism and cold calculation combine to make felons' voting attractive to liberals. They know that criminals often come from disadvantaging circumstances and think such circumstances are the 'root causes' of criminality. As for the calculation, it is indelicate to say but indisputably true: most felons-not all; not those, for example, from Enron's executive suites-are Democrats. Or at least were they to vote, most would vote Democratic."

Rocking the Cradle of Christianity

There's no infallibility for foreign policy and has the Church ever made some bloopers in the last two thousand years. But the Vatican has it right on Lebanon.

Catholic World News reports:

"Lebanon must regain its sovereignty and 'full independence,' the Vatican's 'foreign minister' has said.

"In an interview broadcast on Italian television, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo said that Lebanon should return to the status that it enjoyed for generations, as a country in the Middle East where different ethnic and religious groups lived together 'in an exemplary and peaceful fashion.'

"Opposition parties in Lebanon, protesting the dominance of Syria over the current government, have staged a series of protests in Beirut, in defiance of government bans on demonstrations. Since the death of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in a terrorist bombing on February 14, angry public protests have multiplied, leading to the resignation of the government."

One reason the Vatican understands this particular foreign policy issue is very likely the presence of beleaguered Christians in Lebanon, including the Maronites, an Eastern rite church loyal to the Vatican. When I was in Lebanon in the mid-1980s, I met so many courageous Maronites and felt such sadness at the plight of Christians in an ancient cradle of Christianity.

Of course, one reason that things are beginning to show signs of improvement in the Middle East, including a move to boot the Syrian overlords in Lebanon, is George Bush's willingness to take a risk in Iraq.

The River Is Mystic, but the Church Is Not

"Mystic River" author Dennis Lehane has proffered his thoughts on the the closing St. Albert's parish in Weymouth, Mass. "Sprinkled throughout is Lehane's disdain for the more mystical teachings of the Catholic faith and a more temporal view of what the Church is," notes Domenico Bettinelli:

"I'm of the opinion, in fact, that in the northeastern corridors of our country we often ridicule people of religious faith. It's too easy to paint the faithful of any religion (but particularly Catholicism with its undercurrent of mysticism and rituals of transubstantiation) as hopelessly out of step, modern Bible-thumpers at war with change, with science, with reason."

But the low tuition is great, right?

Is It Worse to Get Caught with Your Hand in the Cash Register?

If only they'd been this tough with child molesters: The Fall River diocese is taking a priest accused of embezzling to court. The diocese wants to recover $1.2 million. (Thanks to Amy Welborn of Open Book for spotting this item.)

Can These Networks Be Saved?

It would be hard to regard PBS and CBS as thriving institutions. George Will argues that it's time to consider putting the taxpayer-funded one out of its misery: "Now PBS is airing some HBO films. There is a nifty use of tax dollars--showing HBO reruns. Which contribute how to 'diversity'?"

On the other hand, Peggy Noonan, who worked for CBS in her callow youth, has some trenchant advice on how to save that beleaguered network: "Here, offered as a public service, are three suggestions for the owners of the networks. First, stop being mesmerized by Cronkiteism. Second, put your money in the field. Third, put down that copy of the New York Times."

Peggy has some interesting ideas, including bringing some of the pre-blow dried, glamour puss reporters who were fired in the name of youth back from their retirement.

They're probably better at reporting than the folks you see on the evening news now. But there is a problem with Peggy's prescription: It was in the breast of these men and women that the media's liberal bias was born.

What Would Jefferson Say?

Here's a snippet from a Newsweek piece by Rabbi Marc Gellman that is guaranteed to make the mini-boards go mad--it's a look at what Thomas Jefferson, a deist, might have to say about the display of the Ten Commandments on public property. It revolves around three theories of the derivation of human rights:

"The third theory of how and why we have rights is the one Jefferson authored, the one I revere, and the one I hope the high court affirms without too many subjunctive clauses. This is the theory that our rights come from God through the state, which is created by the consent of the governed to protect the dignity of all its citizens, who are all made in the image of God. The state, in this view of rights, is always subject to critique based on its success or failure to respect the God-given freedoms of its citizens. This critique is why we can judge the democratically-elected Hitler government of Germany as immoral, illegitimate and sinful. We are judged not on the purity of our democratic processes but on the actual result of our efforts to secure freedom for all. What people forget, Jefferson might remind the court if he still had a larynx, is that our rights do not derive from the beliefs of any one religion. They derive from a nonsectarian national religious belief that our rights are secured by our being created in the image of God. Even though all Americans do not believe this, it is the reason why the rights of all Americans are secure. They are beyond the perversions of reason or the vagaries of political power. These rights are not achievements. They are endowments from God. How that God is variously conceived and worshiped by religions, or even if that God is worshipped at all, is of no concern to the state. What is of concern is that neither unaided human reason nor the whims of the government are sufficient to establish and guarantee freedom. Only a national belief that we are created beings can do the job. Now that job is on trial by morons (and I say that without any negative connotation) who want to set adrift our God-given freedoms, represented perfectly but not exclusively by the Ten Commandments."

Lesbians Who Don't Love Women

You aren't allowed to say that homosexuality is a product of nurture rather than nature--that's not the PC position of the gay rights movement right now. I don't think we know yet why some people are homosexuals, but I just noticed a fascinating piece in Christianity Today on a woman who chose and then rejected that path.

"It was hatred of women that drove me there, and Christ in community that led me out," Diane Mattingly says in a deeply personal account of her journey, starting with a bad relationship with her parents, especially her mother.

She also proffers some thoughts from experts:

"Mary Beth Patton, a psychologist, counselor, and researcher of same-sex attraction who is on the board of Portland Fellowship, an Exodus International-affiliated ministry, also described what happens to women like me: 'Women who deal with same-sex attraction often possess a history of dis-identification with their mothers, and therefore with their femininity. This leads to a longing for connection with the feminine that becomes sexualized in adolescence.'

"Girls disconnected from their mothers often begin to hate their emotions and all the other things that make them women. I don't necessarily mean those things that make us look feminine on the outside, but those internal characteristics that actually make us feminine beings. For example, I was always comfortable wearing dresses, getting my nails done, and wearing lots of jewelry, so I didn't see those as contemptible qualities in my mother. But when I saw her let herself be a victim of my father's verbal assaults, I vowed that I would never be like my mother. I'd never be under the control of a man, never be dependent on a man, never be weak or admit my vulnerability. Psychologists call such feelings of children toward their parents 'defensive detachment.' In not allowing my mother to influence me, I walled myself off, not just from anything negative she could have instilled in me, but also from anything good she could have imparted to me as a woman.

"Of course, misogyny doesn't always lead to lesbianism. In my case it fostered same-sex attraction because it cut me off from men, from women, from God, and even from myself. I hated men. I hated women. I hated myself for being a woman. I had no more value for women than any women-hating man does, and yet no one was more surprised to discover that I, too, was a misogynist. And I've had to confess that sin to God. My detachment from men and women left me walled off from being able to receive anything good from either men or women."

The Supreme Court's Outrageous Decision

The Supreme Court's decision that juveniles convicted of capital crimes committed before the age of eighteen cannot be executed is a giant step-backwards. It defies logic: Do you really believe a sixteen-year-old who commits a horrific crime is too young to know right from wrong?

I agree with Tony Blankley, who states the case rather bluntly:

"As a former prosecutor, I am convinced that from time to time juries find before them 16- or 17-year-old defendants who understand full well the vicious nature of their murders, and deserve -- after receiving the full panoply of due process -- to be fried, gassed, hanged, shot, injected or otherwise sent promptly to Hell."

The case before the Supreme Court was Roper v. Simmons. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy, noted:

"At the age of 17, when he was still a junior in high school, Christopher Simmons ... committed murder ... There is little doubt that Simmons was the instigator of the crime. Before its commission Simmons said he wanted to murder someone. In chilling, callous terms he talked about his plan with his friends ... Simmons proposed to commit burglary and murder by breaking and entering, tying up a victim, and throwing the victim off a bridge. Simmons assured his friends they could 'getaway with it' because they were minors."

A capital punishment website has a chilling account of Christopher Simmons' crime. Here is some of it:

"On September 8, 1993, Simmons arranged to meet Benjamin and Tessmer at around 2:00 a.m. the following morning for the purpose of carrying out the plan. The boys met at the home of Brian Moomey, a 29-year old convicted felon who allowed neighbor teens to 'hang out' at his home. Tessmer met Simmons and Benjamin, but refused to go with them and returned to his own home. Simmons and Benjamin left Moomey's and went to Shirley Crook's house to commit a burglary.

"The two found a back window cracked open at the rear of Crook's home. They opened the window, reached through, unlocked the back door, and entered the house. Moving through the house, Simmons turned on a hallway light. The light awakened Mrs. Crook, who was home alone. She sat up in bed and asked, 'Who's there?' Simmons entered her bedroom and recognized Mrs. Crook as a woman with whom he had previously had an automobile accident. Mrs. Crook apparently recognized him as well.

"Simmons ordered Mrs. Crook out of her bed and on to the floor with Benjamin's help. While Benjamin guarded Mrs. Crook in the bedroom, Simmons found a roll of duct tape, returned to the bedroom and bound her hands behind her back. They also taped her eyes and mouth shut. They walked Mrs. Crook from her home and placed her in the back of her mini-van. Simmons drove the can from Mrs. Crook's home in Jefferson County to Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County.

"At the park, Simmons drove the van to a railroad trestle that spanned the Meramec River. Simmons parked the van near the railroad trestle. He and Benjamin began to unload Mrs. Crook from the van and discovered that she had freed her hands and had removed some of the duct tape from her face. Using her purse strap, the belt from her bathrobe, a towel from the back of the van, and some electrical wire found on the trestle, Simmons and Benjamin bound Mrs. Crook, restraining her hands and feet and covering her head with the towel. Simmons and Benjamin walked Mrs. Crook to the railroad trestle. There, Simmons bound her hands and feet together, hog-tie fashion, with the electrical cable and covered Mrs. Crook's face completely with duct tape. Simmons then pushed her off the railroad trestle into the river below. At the time she fell, Mrs. Crook was alive and conscious. Simmons and Benjamin then [threw] Mrs. Crook's purse in to the woods and drove the van back to the mobile home park across from the subdivision in which she lived.

"Her body was found later that afternoon by two fishermen. Simmons was arrested the next day, September 10, at his high school."

Why does this monster get a pass? I believe in capital punishment because it is society's only just response to an act of this nature. Should Simmons repent and save his immortal soul, that would be all to the better. But a refusal to execute him is a refusal to do justice.

There are 72 juvenile killers nationwide who'll escape the fate they deserve because of this ruling. A piece in the Washington Times describes some of the little darlings.

What makes the Supreme Court's ruling even more unconscionable, is that it is based not on public opinion or on U.S. law. Indeed, the Court did not overturn a 15-year-old ruling that executing minors is constitutional. Instead of overturning the case, the Court found a consensus against executing minors that simply isn't there.

To arrive at their bizarre ruling, the Court bypassed American law in favor of the system of international law being developed by a handful of elites in Europe. Here is what Powerline said about that:

"Justice Kennedy relied on international law and practice to "confirm" his view that the juvenile death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. He also cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. signed only subject to the reservation of its right to impose the death penalty for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.

"In my view, the reliance of foreign law and practice is a symptom of the Court's problem, not the problem itself. The Court has appropriated from the American people the role of social arbiter. Thus, it strikes down longstanding policies and practices adopted through the democratic process on the grounds that five or more Justices personally don't approve. This creates a question of legitimacy which causes the Justices to scrounge for support. Since the Justices preferences often don't correspond to the preferences of majorities here, they naturally look to Europe. They lack the political savvy to realize that doing so only makes their work seem even less legitimate.

"Or perhaps I'm completely wrong. Maybe the offending Justices don't really care about whether the Court is perceived as legitimate, and just refer to international stuff because they are trained to cite things."

A Female Boxer Throws in the Towel

This girl boxer gives up. I simply don't have it in me to go another round with Swami over "Million Dollar Baby." I now want to publicly state that I agree with everything Swami has said about "Million Dollar Baby." Additionally, I wish to go on record agreeing with anything he might say about it in the future. Further argument is futile. The whole thing is making my head spin and, frankly, giving rise to thoughts about assisted suicide (whether for Swami or me I refuse to say). In bidding adieu to this feud, I do feel I must at least respond to two of Swami's contentions: I did not mock anybody else's religion, but I did confuse the name of a magazine with something in the magazine. It was wrong. Just shoot me. Please. It is what I want.

Why Popes Are Never Sick

Loose Canon is no fan of the liberal perspective of the National Catholic Reporter, but you have to hand it to them--they do some bang up reporting. Vatican correspondent John Allen has a terrific piece on what we do and don't know about the pope's health and what it all means for the Church. Seems the reluctance on the part of Vatican officials to reveal too much about the real state of the Holy Father's situation is nothing new:

"In earlier eras, it used to be said that, 'The pope is not sick until he's dead.' The Vatican has historically been loathe to admit that the pope is ill, in part because it can seem ghoulish, in part because it can be a way of politically undermining the pope, suggesting that one doesn't have to take his wishes seriously because he may not be around much longer. Sometimes this reserve has been taken to absurd lengths. On Aug. 19, 1914, for example, L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, published a stinging editorial denouncing unnamed commentators who had suggested the previous day that Pope Pius X had a cold. 'How dare they?' was the editorial's wounded tone. Less than twenty-four hours later, Pius was dead."

But What about the Gluten-Intolerant Latvians?

Just when you thought Catholic liturgists couldn't get a bit more banal, you learn that David Haas, one of the most notorious liturgy perps in the Church, has written a new "Gathering Song" for a conference in Los Angeles. Here are the wretched words:

"Come all you single ones, divorced and married:
Come you who have lost your spouse, all who are lonely.
With Christ our brother, we are loved and made whole!

"Refrain: All is ready. Here and now. All are welcome here.

"Come all you young and old, all male and female.
Come, now, all gay and straight, it does not matter.
With Christ, all people are one in God's whole!

"Refrain: All is ready. Here and now. All are welcome here."

But is it inclusive enough?

Diogenes, one of my favorite bloggers, agonizes: "It pains me inexpressibly to report that Haas's litany extends no welcome to hermaphrodites, cellists, self-employed taxpayers filing jointly, Scorpios, Jesuits, gluten-intolerant Latvians, redheads, or Catholics."

What Were You Saying about the Arab Street?

Possibly inspired by the Iraqi elections, the people of Lebanon are telling the Syrian occupiers that they're sick and tired and not going to take it anymore.

As the Washington Post notes today in a front-page story:

"Lebanon's prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned Monday after hours of angry street demonstrations against his government and its chief supporter, Syria. The surprise announcement was the most dramatic sign yet of the government's instability following the assassination two weeks ago of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister who had become an increasingly strident voice against Syria's presence here.

"Karami's dramatic announcement, which clears the way for a caretaker government until spring elections, concluded the first meeting of parliament since Hariri's Feb. 14 death in a bomb blast. Coming just after nightfall on a day when about 20,000 demonstrators filled nearby Martyrs' Square to demand Syria's immediate withdrawal from Lebanon and the government's resignation, the news was welcomed as an early victory for the uncertain revolution that has begun on the streets of this seaside capital."

Generally, when the mainstream media writes about the Arab Street, they talking about anti-American, often dictator-backed protests. Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens suggests that it's time we put the phrase "the Arab Street" out of its misery:

"When was the last time you heard some glib pundit employing the phrase 'The Arab Street'? I haven't actually done a Nexis search on this, but my strong impression is that the term has been, without any formal interment, laid to rest. And not a minute too soon, either.

"In retrospect, it's difficult to decide precisely when this annoying expression began to expire, if only from diminishing returns. There was, first, the complete failure of the said 'street' to detonate with rage when coalition forces first crossed the border of Iraq, as had been predicted (and one suspects privately hoped) by so many 'experts.' But one still continued to hear from commentators who conferred street-level potency on passing 'insurgents.' (I remember being aggressively assured by an interviewer on Al Franken's quasi-comedic Air America that Muqtada Sadr's 'Mahdi Army' in Najaf was just the beginning of a new 'Tet Offensive.') Mr. Sadr duly got a couple of seats in the recent Iraqi elections. And it was most obviously those elections that discredited the idea of ventriloquizing the Arab or Muslim populace or of conferring axiomatic authenticity on the loudest or hoarsest voice.

"The London-based newspaper Al Quds al-Arabi, which has for some time been a surrogate voice for 'insurgent' talk in the Arab diaspora, polled its readers after the Iraqi elections and had the grace to print the result. About 90 percent had been favorably impressed by the sight of Iraqi and Kurdish voters waiting their turn to have a say in their own future. This is a somewhat more accurate use of the demotic thermometer than the promiscuous one to which we have let ourselves become accustomed. Meanwhile, the streets of, say, Beirut have been filled with demonstrators who are entirely fed up with having their lives and opinions taken for granted by parasitic oligarchies. ..."

The Rolling Stone Bible

Loose Canon is a tad late on getting around to complaints about Zondervan's new version of the Bible. This is the one that Zondervan planned to advertise in Rolling Stone. The ad was first rejected as not being right for the magazine and then accepted after a brouhaha. Now that the Rolling Stone mess is straightened out, evangelicals and others aren't so sure they like the Today's New International Version of the Bible, which is gender-neutral. According to Christianity Today, some have "condemned the TNIV for twisting the meaning of some passages in the Bible."

CT reports:

"'The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy", a book written by Wayne A. Grudem and Vern S. Poythress very clearly outlines the critiques concerning the use of gender-neutral language.

"Wayne Grudem, an evangelical Bible scholar/theologian, said by employing gender-neutral language, translators have edited the Scriptures in a manner that is both inaccurate and unnecessary. Currently, Grudem is a research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz. He carried out his research by interacting with scholars who wrote in defence of the TNIV Bible before composing the book.

"According to Zondervan, the Christian ministry that has produced the TNIV Bible, the newly reformed bible is targeted at the 18-34 age group because this is the demographic that is most hungry for spiritual truth. They believe that the use of gender-neutral language can help the people to engage with the Bible more. Zondervan has launched a massive advertising campaign earlier this month with the slogan 'Timeless truth. Today's language' and says the Bible is 'gender accurate.'"

The problem, of course, is that today's gender wars are a phenomenon that is limited to a small and silly slice of time. To use the language of this era is to succumb to its values.

The great genius of the King James Version, according to Adam Nicolson in his bestselling "God's Secretaries," was that the translators lived in the "constant present, the feeling that the riches, beauties, failings, and sufferings of Jacobean England were part of the same world as the one in which Job, David, and the Evangelists walked."

We, of course, are marooned in the present. We believe that in our moral issues we have nothing to learn from men and women who struggled with the same questions thousands of years ago.

Mission From God?

Swami will squeal, but I'm glad my fellow convert Robert Novak has a purpose in life (though I'm still miffed about the way he's dealt with George Bush and the Iraq war):

"I'm trying to tell the truth and taking positions that I hope are godly positions, positions that I hope are helpful to my fellow man," he says in the new issue of Vanity Fair.

The Movie I Can't Stop Talking About...

I swore up and down I'd never again mention a certain culture-of-death movie that has won the hearts of the glitterati . But Amy Welborn of Open Book posted this trenchant piece on "kill the cripples night at the Oscars" from Not Dead Yet, a disability group.

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