Saturday, May 13, 2006
A review of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
By Julie Ann Ponzi
Posted May 12, 2006
Never judge a book by its cover, but give a good cover its due. It's impossible to ignore the mud-flap girl on the cover of Ariel Levy's eye-opening book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. There she sits, in all her naked glory, familiar arched back and thrusting breast silhouetted in hot white against a background of lurid pink, leaning come-hitherishly against the title's super-sized "PIGS" in bold black caps. Like the female chauvinist pigs (FCPs) Levy discusses in her book, the mud-flap girl means to entice and amuse her onlookers as she "pimps out" (as the kids say) the vehicle she adorns. Beyond that, she just flaps in the wind and gets splattered with mud.
In the popular culture of America today, Ms. Levy argues, FCPs are women who promote the sexual objectification of other women, and of themselves. But, unlike their truck-driving male counterparts, they believe that in doing so they are emancipating women from the patriarchal male agenda of the past.
As part of their emancipation, these "raunch feminists" want to appropriate to themselves the kind of sexual liberation they believe men have always enjoyed. To this extent, they understand themselves to be rebelling against feminism's tendency towards anti-male, anti-sex prudishness. But as Levy notes, female chauvinist pigs do not generally consider themselves opponents of feminism. They believe that their sexual abandon is the natural conclusion of feminism and the sexual revolution and, more importantly, that it will put the final nail in the coffin of the old "double standard." Levy is not impressed. She wonders whether, by dressing like prostitutes and aggressively seeking sex as a conquest and end in itself, FCPs are emancipating themselves from a "male agenda" or just fulfilling the worst of men's wild desires.
Nevertheless, examples of this kind of feminism abound and are described with astonishing detail by Levy, who threw herself into this study with commendable journalistic gusto. She interviewed everyone from the producers and "stars" of Girls Gone Wild to old-school feminists like Susan Brownmiller. She absorbed the thinking of high school "hotties," who use sex to achieve social status, and of a particular brand of lesbian dubbed "bois" (pronounced "boys") who pride themselves on the type of masculine promiscuity made famous by the so-called "Spur-Posse" scandal. Of the ins and outs of "raunch culture," it is hard to imagine a more thoroughgoing, entertaining survey.
Levy is at her best when describing how crass and un-erotic the raunch culture is. One of her many examples is Paris Hilton—considered by devotees to be the über-chick, the ultimate in sexy. Hilton once told a Rolling Stone reporter that her boyfriends described her as "sexy but not sexual." Levy notes, "Any fourteen-year-old who has downloaded her sex tapes can tell you that Hilton looks excited when she is posing for the camera, bored when she is engaged in actual sex."
But despite her clear-eyed insights, Levy can't quite bring herself to indict feminism for its role in all this. Too much seems to be at stake for her: her politics, her upbringing in a family of feminists, her education at Wesleyan, her firm—almost quaint and precious—belief in the natural irrelevance of gender difference. All these seem to inhibit her drawing the conclusions to which her research and arguments naturally point. Instead of condemning feminism and the sexual revolution for what they have wrought, she insists that they have been misunderstood by "raunch feminists." Although the FCP may think she is upholding the one true Feminism, Levy argues she is actually tearing down the sisterhood that supports her.
To Levy FCPs are "Uncle Toms" who have sold out to "get theirs." FCPs are certainly getting theirs (and maybe a few other people's), but there is nothing inconsistent in their feminist thinking on the matter. Feminism exalts the masculine over the feminine. It always has. The "sisterhood" was conjured up precisely to empower the united sisters to scale the citadels of patriarchy, demanding the right to do what men do and to be treated like men. And they succeeded. So now what? In a post-feminist world, why should liberated, masculinized women stick around to boost the morale of a bunch of "girly-girls" talking about their "sisterhood" and sentimentalizing the good old days? With their "raunch" and other hyper-macho strutting, the FCPs are doing just what their feminist grandmothers taught them to do—bursting the shackles of constructed femininity, asserting their existential freedom to have it all. Yes, they are "getting theirs," and consistent, unblushing feminists will celebrate them for it.
Levy laments that when she first noticed this trend among her friends and associates, she "tried to get with the program, but [she] could never make the argument add up in [her] head." She thinks that her aversion to raunch stems from her understanding of true feminism. It doesn't. But it's at least possible that it stems from a nascent understanding of true femininity. If so, her sensible aversion to the FCPs' debased, and debasing, behavior could be an opening for a fruitful dialogue about natural and conventional sex differences. Unfortunately, she shies away from inquiring into the politics or principles of any serious person with whom she thinks she disagrees. She reserves all her venom and vitriol—not for the egregious female chauvinist pigs so vividly described in the book, but for George W. Bush, the Religious Right, and abstinence-only education. She actually has some interesting things to say about abstinence-only education, but her observations are marred by a cartoonish caricature of its advocates.
Still, she proves herself a voice worth listening to, and this book certainly won't be her last. If you have a young daughter, as I do, you have a duty to read it. Levy is right about this much: raunch culture is not a sign of the moral progress we have made, but of how far we have left to go.
Julie Ann Ponzi is a fellow of the Claremont Institute.
Thanks to William Redic at CNTGreg.
Thanks to NoLeftTurns.
Crunchy-Con Awakening Thomas S. Hibbs
Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of counter-cultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)Rod Dreher, Crown Forum, $24, 272 pages
With the publication of Crunchy Cons, Rod Dreher—previously an editor at National Review and now an editor and writer for the Dallas Morning News—brings into public view a movement that’s not really a movement, a sensibility rather than an ideology, a phenomenon that’s perhaps best captured in the book’s eclectic subtitle: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party). Crunchy Cons, which mixes the anecdotal and the philosophical, is a great read. Despite a lingering fuzziness about what precisely crunchiness is, Dreher’s book is a compelling and hopeful portrait of the way many Americans are altering their lives, in conscious opposition to the culture, in order to recover what Russell Kirk called “the permanent things.”
Dreher’s book details a kind of awakening of many Americans from a certain naïveté about the market and popular culture. There is a disconnection, or perhaps a hidden connection, between the material prosperity of our culture and our inarticulacy about what matters. Perhaps there was a time when that inarticulacy did not matter as much; now, it does. Dreher mentions the regular occurrence of well-intentioned parents who hand their kids over to public or private schools and to our popular culture and then end up shocked at the results. The objection is not to the market in all forms, only to the market as infiltrating all spheres of human life, particularly marriage, the family, and the rearing of children. Crunchy Cons is full of stories of active resistance to the culture and the market: parents who throw out their TVs and decide to homeschool their kids, join a food co-op, or take up farming. The task, as Dreher describes it, is to “imagine life outside the boundaries set by our media
As Dreher notes, there is a palpable overlap of crunchiness and a particular strain of religious conservatism. The clearest way to bring out what’s distinctive in Dreher’s book—and the central place of religion in it—is to compare it with the best work of cultural observation in recent years, David Brooks’s Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (Simon & Schuster, 2000). Like Brooks’s bobos, crunchy cons combine the bourgeois and the bohemian. Like the bobos, the crunchies turn shopping into an art, prefer “intuitive and organic modes of thought” to the mechanistic, and celebrate “the intimate humanism of the pre-industrial craftsman.” They also both love “texture,” which is just a more refined word for crunchiness.
On the surface, both groups long for a kind of romantic authenticity and risk turning their way of life into a new trend in shopping, precisely the thing the crunchies profess to abhor. And yet the crunchies depart in striking ways from the bobos, nowhere more dramatically than on the topic of religion. For the bobos, religion must be measured by its contribution to the expansion of the self; thus, bobos engage in the (at best paradoxical) task of erecting a “house of obligation on a foundation of choice.” As Brooks hilariously imagines it, bobo heaven would involve not a last judgment, but a final conversation, a dialogue with the angel of death, not about one’s piety or even one’s moral character but about one’s taste in interior design, coffee, and food. Brooks’s unsurprising conclusion is that bobo “spiritual life is tepid and undemanding.” Although he does not cite the bobos, the following terse statement
from Dreher is apt: “A God no bigger than our desires is not God at all, but a divinized rationalization for self-worship.” That’s a pretty good description of bobo religion.
A troubling feature of Brooks’s new elite can be seen by asking a question Brooks never poses. What happens to bobo paradise when tragedy strikes—when a bobo gets fired from work in an embezzlement scandal, has to care for a seriously disabled parent, has a kid who develops a drug addiction, or worse, has a child killed in an auto accident? These sorts of tragedies never so much as surface as possibilities in Brooks’s narrative.
Not all readers will be moved to imitate the sort of choices made by the crunchies, but one at least can admire the sacrifices made and especially the sense of missionary devotion to the family; for example, giving up a lucrative position in business to run a local farm or sacrificing a second income to homeschool kids. They also demand a great deal of time and imaginative energy. It is not surprising that these choices either result from, or lead to, profound changes in self-understanding. One interviewee after another speaks of realizing a “calling.” Far more than the bobos, the crunchies and their children will be prepared, to the extent that anyone can be prepared, for tragedy.
Still, Dreher’s argument is a bit unclear about the status of crunchiness in relation to mainstream America. There is a tension between the goal stipulated at the end of the book’s prolix subtitle, “to save America (or at least the Republican party),” and the impulse, rooted in a sense of impending cultural decay, to retreat to communities at the margins of society. Dreher’s crunchy cons are trying to recover a sense of community, a sense of human association not entirely ruled by government or big business. In the words of the economist E. F. Schumacher, whom Dreher frequently quotes, “Small is beautiful.”
The crunchies are also recovering a sense of self-governance. Alexis de Tocqueville warns of the way in which individualism and centralization conspire together to squeeze out room for citizenship. And Irving Kristol observes the way in which the bourgeois consumer has replaced the bourgeois citizen. But crunchy cons seem more pessimistic about American culture than Tocqueville was. While they are by no means indifferent to the public good, crunchies are not interested in associations as instruments of political health, but as ways of recovering a sense of personal purpose.
Do the crunchies want to save America or the Republican Party or, having acknowledged the short-term irreversibility of civilized decay, do they plan to “retreat behind defensible borders”? Of course, Dreher and most of his crunchies are somewhere between these two options, just as the contemporary Republican Party is between social conservatism and libertarianism. To the extent that the crunchies aspire to opt out of the wider culture, they are vulnerable to the free-rider objection: that of creating little enclaves that are nonetheless dependent on the society that they have abandoned for services and protections. As I say, this is clearly not Dreher’s ideal, but it is a difficulty the crunchies should face squarely.
But these sorts of questions might well inform a Crunchy Con sequel. Such a book would indeed be welcome, as it would provide Dreher an opportunity to argue further for the contemporary viability of Kirk’s permanent things. The great merit of Dreher’s book, after all, is to remind us of a permanent truth about which large portions of our culture suffer chronic amnesia. The bourgeois virtues may satisfy the needs of the political order, but they will never satisfy the longings of the human soul.
Thomas S. Hibbs is the author of Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture from The Exorcist to Seinfeld (Spence, 2002).
TLMA of Hong Kong Diocese -- English
Photos of Mass celebrated by Cardinal Zen; assisted by Fr. Duncan Wong, FSSP. News article of the Mass.
Cardinal Zen to the left, Fr. Wong to the right.
I wonder what Fr. Wong makes of contemporary Hong Kong; he is originally from Singapore, but the local cultures could be very different. (I wouldn't know, I've never been to Singapore.) It's been a while since I last saw Fr. Wong. He looks well. Splendid vestments for the most part, though I still prefer Gothic to the Roman. It's amazing that they did so much with a multipurpose room. It is quite normal for Catholics to celebrate Mass in schools and the like, since land is a premium it is impossible to construct church buildings; still I'm rather impressed by what they did here, since it goes beyond what one normally sees in Hong Kong.
Now we are waiting to see if the Holy Father will make an announcement about the classical rite...
Clashes between US, China and Iran may account for record gold prices
by Maurizio d'Orlando
The gold metal is commanding its highest rate in 25 years. Apart from political motives, it could well be acquisitions by private enterprises in India and China, or international investment funds, which are pushing prices up.
Milan (AsiaNews) – Oil prices rose to over 725 dollars an ounce in yesterday’s bargaining. This is the highest quotation in 25 years. Currently, the quoted price stands at 726 dollars.
Apart from those who maintain that the increase in prices is a bubble destined to burst or, at least, to deflate with time – definitely, gold has very limited technical uses – the cause of the record high is generally thought to lie in the growing demand on the part of private enterprises in India and in China, or in politics. The
rising quoted prices are thought to be linked to tension between the United States and Iran because of Iranian nuclear programmes or to Chinese operations.
The recent increase could well be linked to a decision by China’s monetary authorities to increment their reserves of the yellow metal. According to several sources, China – its Central Bank has about 600 tons of gold – will shortly aim to hold up to 5% of its currency reserves in gold. This proposal means a volume of around 2,400 tons acquired by China, circa two-thirds of annual global production. The reasons for this diversification would be political, that is, linked to hidden differences with the United States, as well as purely economical, owing to the fact that China is currently one of the countries with the largest financial liquidity reserves in the world, held mainly in dollars. From a strictly economical viewpoint, protecting Chinese currency reserves from the weakness of the dollar could be considered to be a wholly understandable move. In fact, it must be noted that the American Federal Reserve increased the interest rate a few days ago, without any resulting benefit for the dollar exchange rate.
Other observers said that now even private enterprises in China, as in India, can buy gold. India is a country with a rural population that has always trusted gold, rather than banks, with its savings. Even before the liberalization of possession of gold by private owners, in India, historically, the dowry of young brides in peasant villages used to consist of bracelets and necklaces of gold. Given the notorious precariousness of the domestic banking system in China, it is logical to suppose that private enterprises in China may want to hold some of their savings in gold.
Other observers have said the increase in prices is down to the acquisition in investment funds, in search for alternative solutions to counter risks linked to inflation and the possible collapse of world stock exchanges, especially American and European ones.
Others still say that circulation of paper money has been at unsustainable levels for some time now. They claim that not only in western countries, but also in the rest of the world, finance, at least in the short-term will upset every aspect of economy, production and even social and personal life.
Should any of these speculations turn out to be true, the next stage of oil prices could be not 800 but 1,800 dollars per ounce, and at the same time, we could see crude oil selling for 200 dollars a barrel.
Platinum, gold prices conquer new peaks
By Atul Prakash Fri May 12, 11:22 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Platinum prices extended sharp gains to set a new record high on a positive supply-demand outlook and dollar weakness on Friday, while gold surged to a fresh 26-year peak on strong investor interest.
Prices fell in late trade as many investors decided to leave the market to pocket profits, but dollar weakness kept sentiment positive, dealers said.
Prices of platinum, mainly used in jewelry and in car exhaust systems, were seen volatile ahead of the Platinum Week event starting in London on Monday and the release of an industry report by Johnson Matthey, the world's top platinum distributor.
"There is more fundamental justification for platinum. We believe that even at these high prices, the platinum market is in deficit at the moment," said John Reade, analyst at UBS Investment Bank.
China witnessed good consumer demand in the last few months and generally users, rather than speculators and investors, had been buying the metal, he said.
Platinum reached a record high of $1,334 an ounce before easing to $1,320/1,328 by 1446 GMT, against $1,291/1,298 in New York late on Thursday.
The platinum market was in deficit for the seventh year in a row in 2005 as robust demand from the automobile sector negated a consumption drop in the jewelry market.
The price has jumped 58 percent in the past 12 months, and added more than $150, or 13 percent, in the past seven days.
"No matter how high platinum goes, there is demand to buy it from end-users, especially from car makers," said Akira Doi, director at Daiichi Commodities.
Johnson Matthey will present its views on the market balance and price trends in its report due for release at 1200 GMT on Monday.
Gold surged to a new 26-year high of $730.00 an ounce before falling to $716.30/717.30, against $721.60/722.60 in New York.
It hit a record high of $850 in January 1980. Adjusted for inflation that would equate to about $1,500 now.
"We are targeting gold to reach $800 in 2007, but significant weakness in the dollar could deliver that level as early as the third quarter of 2006," J.P. Morgan said in a report.
J.P. Morgan lifted its forecast for gold prices to $669 in 2006 and $756 in 2007 from $566 and $609 respectively.
Gold has risen 40 percent this year and 70 percent in the past 12 months as investors diversify into precious metals as a hedge against global tensions, including those over U.S.- Iran relations, high oil prices and dollar instability.
The U.S. currency fell on Friday, making dollar-priced gold cheaper for holders of other currencies and prompting some investors to shift to commodities.
But some analysts said the metal was vulnerable to a sharp sell-off.
"There is now clearly a bubble around the gold market and the latest moves cry for a powerful correction at some stage," said Wolfgang Wrzesniok-Rossbach, head of precious metals marketing at Germany's Heraeus.
In other precious metals, palladium rose to a four-year high of $406 an ounce and was last at $397/402, against $395/400 in New York.
Silver rose as high as $15.05 an ounce, near a 25-year high of $15.17 reached on Thursday, before falling to $14.26. It was last quoted at $14.38/14.48, versus $14.94/15.04.
(Additional reporting by Chikafumi Hodo in Tokyo)
TAIWAN – VATICAN
Ambassador Tou: Why I became Catholic
by Bernardo Cervellera
In an interview with AsiaNews, the ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Vatican explains what distinguishes Christianity from other religions and describes the different approaches to religious freedom of Taipei and Beijing.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The moral élan of Confucianism was insufficient to bring joy and Buddhist mediation failed to overcome solitude, said Chou Seng Tou, ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Vatican. In Christianity he discovered a direct rapport with God and encountered the exemplary life of many people. For these reasons Mr Chou was baptised on April 17. Since then he is a “new person” and now he wants to work for religious freedom in China.
“There is a great difference between Taiwan and China on the issue of religious freedom,” he said. In Taiwan there is a clear demarcation between state and religion. I told my chiefs that I had become a Christian only after my baptism. Getting baptised was my personal decision. Had I been an ambassador of the People’s Republic of China I would have been recalled immediately and perhaps landed in jail.”
Mr Tou was baptised by Mgr Javier Echevarria Rodriguez from the Opus Dei in his sant’Eugenio parish church. Mgr Giovanni Lajolo, the Holy See’s “foreign minister” and other luminaries from the Vatican and Rome’s diplomatic corps attended the ceremony.
How did you come to the Catholic faith?
In the past I always had ties to the Christian world, especially Protestantism. When I was in high school I often went to a Protestant school and sang in the choir. I emember when I was 15 I went to summer camp with them. When it was time to leave a camp leader asked us to step forwards if we were “touched” by the holiday. My friend pushed me forward but I had not been touched at all and that summer holiday had not made me any happier or given me greater peace.
In 1962 I got married in a Catholic church because my wife is Catholic and from time to time I went to church with her more out of courtesy than faith. Now I understand that everything is part of God’s plan, including my appointment as ambassador of the Republic of China to the Holy See. Taking up residence in Rome led me learn more about the Catholic Church, and just before I came here I made long visits to communities and institutions of the Catholic Church in Taiwan, making the tour of all the dioceses. Wherever I went I was struck and became excited about what I saw, about the style, work and dedication of priests and nuns.
What touched you the most?
I remember a hospital for the elderly run by nuns. Patients could not even shift around and needed help to move, even for their basic physiological needs. I went inside the rooms and was struck by the cleanliness, the lack of any bad odour, the people at peace, the lack of sadness in their faces, cared with great love. A 90-year-old nun had baked a cake for me. During the visit she offered to carry it because it was “too heavy”; such lovely courtesy in such an old person. Then there is the example of wife’s love; she is the “Catholic” I meet everyday. All this opened my eyes to what peace of mind and joy can bring. Finally, I understood that it is the Holy Spirit that dwells in us that brings this peace.
Another factor that struck me was the saints. The Catholic Church has many saints, many ways of experiencing one’s faith, which are all models for us. Chinese culture, Confucius, cannot generate such models. Confucius calls on people to be “saint-like”, provides moral rules, but does not offer any model in the flesh. In the Church instead there are many examples to follow. In addition to this, there is the friendship I developed with a few Catholic diplomats. Every time I met the Filipino ambassador, Ms Leonida Vera, she would tell me: “Chou, I want to be the Godmother at your baptism”.
Finally, I met a French clergyman from the Opus Dei who helped me study the catechism and understand the basic tenets of the Catholic faith.
Talking about the Opus Dei, some people are suspicious that there might be an alliance between Taiwan and the Opus Dei, somehow blessed by your baptism!
My connection to the Opus Dei came about in a totally accidental way. Somebody might see some great scheme of conquest of the mainland China, but it is not true. First of all, I live in the sant’Eugenio parish where I was baptised; it is my parish. I chose to be baptised there like any ordinary believer. In the Vatican I was offered a chance to be baptised by the Pope but I refused because I did not want to create a diplomatic incident. The baptism was celebrated on Easter Monday before my two sons, my wife and many friends. My son told me: “Now you are one of us!” That morning I met the pope and I told him that I was baptised during Easter. He remembered because he had sent a Best Wishes note through Cardinal Sodano.
What is there in the Christian faith that is missing from
Chinese culture that made you convert and get baptised?
I did not adhere to any religion before. Like many Chinese I followed Confucian precepts. I can say I am a disciple of Confucius who has become Christian. I have studied Confucius quite a lot, learnt how to be a good man, morally upright, respectful of others . . . He, too, like in the Gospels, said: “Go unto others as you would have them do unto you”. On many levels, Confucianism and Christianity have many things in common. If China gave Christianity freedom, many Chinese would convert. But in Christianity there is something unique. When you pray for example, you establish a personal rapport with God, one of closeness to Jesus. In Chinese culture there is silence, meditation, but it is a rapport with oneself, not God. Through praying, saintly intercession and that of the Holy Mother, one can realise one’s wish for holiness. Man’s moral solitude comes to an end.
After your conversion what is your relationship to
I was baptised Christopher, the pilgrim who carried baby Jesus on his shoulders. My wish is to bring Jesus to the Chinese world, both the mainland and Taiwan. Every day I pray: Oh Lord, help me see what I must do to accomplish what my name entails.
One thing I’d like to do is work in favour of religious freedom in China. The People’s Republic of China has a crazy fear of religion in general and of the Catholic Church in particular. And yet the Catholic Church in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore does some marvellous things that are appreciated by the wider society. The Church extols spiritual values that underpin society’s foundations. If I met the leaders in Beijing I would tell them: Don’t be afraid. If you give the Church greater freedom, there will be more love, peace and reconciliation in society.
There is a great difference between Taiwan and China on the issue of religious freedom. In Taiwan there is a clear demarcation between state and religion. I told my chiefs that I had become a Christian after my baptism. Getting baptised was my personal decision. Had I been an ambassador of the People’s Republic of China I would have been recalled immediately and perhaps landed in jail.
You, missionaries, are also welcome in Taiwan; not like in China where you have to sign a pledge not to evangelise if you wish to be let in!
Friday, May 12, 2006
The Legend of Zelda. Metal Gear Solid. Call of Duty 3. Halo 3. Final Fantasy XIII.
Rainbow 6: Vegas -- looks ever better than Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter.
GR suffers from the fact that it, like GR2, is dependent upon what the military industrial complex (both the Pentagon and the various research projects associated with it) think the future of warfare is like. Plenty of fancy gadgets, less emphasis on tactics and such. Then again, it's just a first-person shooter, so it can't be that realistic. But with Rainbow 6 at least it can stick to CQB without having to worry about combat other than CQB. Maybe the latest SOCOM game is better.
Caesar IV -- I don't know if this is mostly a build, build, build sort of game, or if warfare is involved. I think I'd stick to Total War; hopefully the next one will be set in Asia. But, the New Scot you might like this.
Star Wars: Empire at War -- Forces of Corruption looks ok, but I suspect it won't be as much fun as Homeworld. Besides, it's tainted by the Star Wars label and is made by LucasArts. When was the last time one of their RTS games did well? (Not that I keep track of sales, but in general they look bad.)
Last week I saw on one of the gaming magzines that Command and Conquer 3 is coming out. I wonder if RTS is set to make a comeback--I haven't heard much about RTS in the past couple of years, the market has been saturated with fps.
Prism Guard Shield Demo -- lots of bad reviews...
The actor playing Blade... just doesn't compare to Wesley Snipes. When I first saw the picture of him I thought of a poor fan imitating Wesley Snipes, or doing a Matrix take-off. But, maybe he has the acting skills and charisma to help people forget Wesley Snipes. I suppose there will be no movie spinoff with Jessica Biel; I didn't see Blade Trinity, but I believe even Wesley Snipes was complaining about it. I wonder if there will be sequels for Van Helsing or Underworld. I didn't see Underworld 2, but they did leave room for another sequel. I have no idea how it did at the box office... the main attraction for me would be Kate Beckinsale, the lycan-vampire mythology in the movie is interesting, but it's just another excuse for special effects and a strong action heroine, fanboy favorites.
Another Higherlander movie is in the works, with Adrian Paul as Duncan McLeod. No Connor McLeod. (I forgot the actor's name... he hasn't really done much, maybe he prefers theater or something.) Of course anyone who saw the last Highlander movie that featured a tv/movie crossover with both McLeods knows what happened to Connor. Uhhuh. Talk about wrecking a franchise. If the script spoilers for X-men 3 are true, then that one's good-bye, though they already have advertised it as the last in a "trilogy." "Yes, because we couldn't compete with Spiderman or Superman." The head of Fox should really be replaced for killing this golden goose.
Looking through Filmforce, I found a reference to the movie The Kingdom, which is being produced by Michael Mann. Evidently it is about a FBI investigation team that gets sent to a Middle Eastern kingdom to investigate a terrorist incident. It has Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman. I wonder who will be directing, if not Mr. Mann. If they can bring in something about American dependence on oil, that would be great. Even better if it can deal with Islam and the problems of authority and interpretation honestly, instead of classifying everyone who isn't amenable to Liberalism as a 'radical' or a 'jihadist' who is not a true Muslim. It's been almost six months since I saw Syriana. I don't think my opinion about the movie has changed that much, though I suspect in 10 years it may seem dated, at least with respect to the technical aspects. No doubt there are some political liberals who look at Under Siege and see the future, when elements within the Federal government, including possibly the president, use terrorism as an excuse to increase its powers. Not like they do anything to put a check on this, besides complaining inside the Capitol--they should spend more time protecting the local and re-evaluating laws dealing with corporations.
There is new movie about the CIA coming out, directed by Robert Deniro and staring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. The Good Shepherd. Some informants over at AICN are grumbling about the movie. Is the Scorcese remake of Infernal Affairs coming out this year? I may watch it, just to see how it compares to the original, but I don't like the man-child Leonardo DiCaprio. I still think his best role was in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. There are those who claim Matt Damon is one of the best actors of his generation; I don't know if I would agree with that, and besides the talens of his generation weren't that great to begin with.
Too bad I don't have the money to watch productions of Shakespeare. Then again, what's the ratio of 'updated' plays to 'historically accurate' plays? Having seen part of the BBC adaptation of Othello, with Othello playing a police superintendent, I wonder why producers think audiences are so dumb that they have to update Shakespeare to make his points relevant to the times. As if we moderns can't understand the themes and morality within the proper historical context of the story. I think audiences have a much more difficult time with the English. Maybe I'll get a chance to watch Shakespeare performed in Boston Common this year...
Apparently "Duh Vinci Code" has become a common moniker among Catholics to belittle the book and the phenomenon. It's a rather obvious substitution.
Cardinal Arinze has advocated legal action (see Volokh Conspiracy for coverage, or read this article); others are pushing for a public boycott. I have no wish to see the movie. Silas the albino Opus Dei monk-assassin? No thanks. (Opus Dei isn't a monastic order, for those who are not familiar with it.) While the theological claims of the book can be addressed only through apologetics and ultimately through grace, prayer, and faith, many are ignorant of the fact that many of the so-called 'historical' details are fictional. Hence, in this way, it is a possible obstacle to conversion. Will the novel/movie be an opportunity for evangelization? No doubt it may require an apologia of Christian teachings.
"The Da Vinci Code Opportunity" by George Weigel.
Ron Howard on the controversy. As it has been observed, both Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are downplaying the controversy, stating that it's merely fiction. Mr. Hanks has gone on to say that there are other reasons for doubting the claims of Christianity, and that the book/movie is inconsequential in comparison to those. "Oh really." Sounds like Mr. All-American isn't really a Christian. I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise.
Resources responding to the book's contentions:
The book Da Vinci Hoax. Carl E. Olson's page. Envoy Magazine (pt 2). Catholic Answers. Christopher Blosser's list. Amy Welborn. Opus Dei's response. LeaderU. Christianity Today.
Father Cantalamessa on the Flock of Christ
Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on This Sunday's Gospel
ROME, MAY 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is
a translation of a commentary by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa on this
Sunday's liturgical readings. He is the preacher to the Pontifical Household.
* * *
I Am the Good Shepherd
The Fourth Sunday of Eastertide is called "Good Shepherd Sunday." To understand the importance that the theme of the shepherd has in the Bible, one must go back to history.
The Bedouins of the desert give us today an idea of what was, at one time, the life of the tribes of Israel. In that society the relationship between the shepherd and the flock is not only of an economic type, based on interest. An almost personal relationship was developed between the shepherd and the flock. Days and days were spent together in solitary places, without any one around. The shepherd ended up by knowing everything about each sheep; the sheep recognized the voice of the shepherd, who talked frequently to the sheep, and distinguishes his voice among all others.
This explains why God made use of this symbol to express his relationship with humanity. One of the Psalter's most beautiful psalms describes the security of the believer in having God as shepherd: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Subsequently the title shepherd is given, by extension, also to those who act for God on earth: kings, priests, leaders in general. But in this case the symbol is divided: It no longer evokes images of protection and security, but also of exploitation and oppression.
Along with the image of the good shepherd appears that of the evil shepherd, of the mercenary. In the prophet Ezekiel we come across a terrible accusation against evil shepherds who only feed themselves, followed by God's promise to look after his flock himself (Ezekiel 34:1ff).
In the Gospel Jesus takes up the idea of the good and evil shepherd, but with a novelty. "I am the good shepherd!" he says. God's promise has become a reality, exceeding all expectations. Christ does what no shepherd does, no matter how good he is: He is prepared to "Give my life for the sheep."
The man of today rejects with contempt the role of the sheep and the idea of a flock, but he does not realize that he is completely inside it. One of the most obvious phenomena of our society is its "massification." We let ourselves be led in a supine manner by all kinds of manipulation and concealed persuasion.
Others create models of well-being and behavior, ideals and objectives of progress, and we follow them; we go behind them, afraid to be out of step, conditioned and kidnapped by advertising. We eat what they tell us, we dress as they show us, we speak as we hear them speak, in slogans. The criteria by which the majority let themselves be led in their choices is "Così fan tutti" (Everybody does it), of Mozartian memory.
Look how the life of the masses develops in a large modern city: It is the sad image of a flock that goes out together, is agitated, and crowds the cars of trains and subways and then, in the evening, returns to the sheepfold empty of self and of freedom. We smile in amusement when we see a people filmed in fast-forward, moving by leaps and bounds, speedily, as puppets, but it is the image we would have of ourselves if we looked with less superficial eyes.
The Good Shepherd, who is Christ, proposes that, with him, we experience iberation. To belong to his flock is not to fall into "massification," but to be preserved from it. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17), says St. Paul.
Here the person emerges, with his unique richness and true destiny. The son of God emerges, still hidden, of which the second letter of this Sunday speaks: "Beloved, now we are children of God, though we do not yet know what we shall be."
[Translation by ZENIT]
(Joseph Bottum on the banquet establishing the center and the man at the center of attention.)
A New Center for Thomistic Studies
Interview With Christopher Wolfe
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, MAY 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies is opening with the heady goal of tackling modern-day problems with, in part, time-tested reasoning.
Christopher Wolfe, a director of the Washington, D.C.-based center, presents the ideas of Thomas Aquinas in this interview as the foundation for understanding reality through the study of Thomistic thought as an attempt to combat modern day skepticism.
Wolfe is a professor of political science at Marquette University, in Milwaukee.
Q: What is the mission and purpose of the McInerny Center?
Wolfe: The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies is one of the projects sponsored by Thomas International project, which has also established a similar center in Italy.
Its purpose is to foster a renewal of Thomistic studies in the contemporary world. We want to promote a strong and accurate rereading of Aquinas' philosophy and theology.
At the same time, we want to make Aquinas' thought fruitfully converse with contemporary culture, especially in the areas of bioethics, legal theory, economics, political theory, literature, science and sociology.
Q: What exactly does a 13th-century thinker have to offer the 21st century?
Wolfe: Truth! -- a great deal of truth, and the commitment to pursue it further.
Thomas' philosophy and theology provide a broad framework for intellectual life, an understanding of "science" -- in the broader sense in which he used that term -- in its many forms, and in their relation to one another.
The thought of Aquinas is not an ideology that has pat answers to all questions. But it provides essential foundations for achieving a better understanding of reality, and especially of the place of man in the universe, in creation.
Q: If Aquinas were alive today, what would most strike him about modern thought?
Wolfe: Two things, I think. First, he would be greatly impressed by the extraordinary growth in knowledge gained through the modern natural sciences. While recognizing that practitioners of the natural sciences have sometimes overstepped their bounds, I'm sure he'd be delighted to know so much more about
Second, I think he would be surprised by modern man's lack of faith in reason, and especially the widespread skepticism that we can really know anything about human ends.
The contrast between the growth of knowledge in the natural sciences and the shriveling up of philosophy would astound him. He would certainly applaud John Paul II's "Fides et Ratio," with its vigorous call to modern man to have a strong, but humble, faith in his reason.
Q: Observers lament that the West is steeped in "weak thought." Where is this most prevalent, and how could Thomism help?
Wolfe: "Weak thought" -- an example of postmodernist despair of reason -- is found most often -- should I say "ironically" or "unsurprisingly"? -- in the academy and among intellectuals.
Ordinary people don't usually have the luxury of time and resources for constructing sophisticated intellectual arguments to show that no intellectual argument, however sophisticated, gets us very far in understanding reality. So weak thought is a symptom of the current malaise.
Thomism offers a way of reaffirming the capacity of the human intellect to nderstand reality, in its many dimensions. For all our limitations and imperfections, human beings can attain a deeper and deeper knowledge of themselves, of the universe they inhabit, and of the Creator.
Q: What are some of the "bridges" that can be built between Thomism and modern philosophy? What would be a point of departure?
Wolfe: That might vary, depending on the area of philosophy. I think there are aspects of contemporary analytical philosophy that can be appreciated by Thomists -- and indeed there is even a school of "analytical Thomism," for example, John Haldane.
In ethics, there is a renewed interest in natural law, in its more traditional form -- for instance, Ralph McInerny and Russell Hittinger -- and more modern forms -- for example, John Finnis and Robert George.
In many cases, it is a question of going back to starting points, to discuss and make more intelligible the self-evident principles that ground speculative and practical philosophy.
Q: How does Thomism apply to specific problems such as same-sex marriage?
Wolfe: Thomism, especially its natural law teaching, offers us an understanding of human ends, and, in particular, knowledge of the nature and purpose of human sexuality.
Only a conception of sexuality that integrates body and soul and that understands the intrinsic finality of sexual activity -- the union of spouses in the conjugal act that embodies their mutual self-giving and their openness to the self-giving of procreation -- can provide the guidance necessary for dealing with issues such as same-sex marriage, as well as divorce, cohabitation, and many other issues.
Again, Thomas provides the intellectual foundations, but his successors today have to build on them. There is still much that we don't know, for example, about the origins of same-sex attraction. A deeper understanding of those causes can help us to make a more persuasive case against widespread errors regarding homosexuality and homosexual acts.
Q: How does Thomism apply to embryonic stem-cell research? Some interpret Aquinas as allowing such research in the "first days" because of the murky question of ensoulment, etc.
Wolfe: Thomas' understanding of essential change and of different forms of potentiality provides the proper framework for understanding that human life begins from conception.
It is ironic that people who wouldn't read a paragraph of Aquinas for any other reason, go running to invoke parts of his writing that depend on the very limited, and often flatly incorrect, empirical biological data to which he had access.
Aquinas would clearly have condemned the destruction of embryos, even before a supposed, delayed "ensoulment." If Thomas had had access to contemporary biological knowledge, that would simply have enabled him to make an even more powerful case against such acts.
Q: Is the promotion of Thomistic studies the only goal of the center?
Wolfe: While that is certainly the starting point, the Thomas International project hopes that someday the center will be -- with other institutes -- the core of a new international university.
We think that there will always be a need for a university that is committed to the pursuit of truth and unity of knowledge, through excellent scholarship as well as excellent teaching.
This university would be inspired by the Catholic tradition of thought, for a complete openness to the truth means openness to knowledge through faith as well as through reason.
It would not, however, be a confessional university, with a religious purpose or goal. Its purpose would be to achieve the intrinsic finality of a university as such: the attainment of truth -- and not just in philosophy and theology, but in all the sciences.
We want to collaborate with many men and women, Catholic and non-Catholic, to face the challenges confronting all of us.
Michael Mann is definitely working off of Heat and Collateral here. It's unfortunate that the tv show he was producing for 2002, Robbery Homicide Division (with Tom Sizemore) didn't last longer than it did. I preferred it to CSI and its spinoffs because it was grittier and more realistic; and didn't focus on forensic techs who are arrogant know-it-alls.
some pics at Filmforce
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Reuters - Sat May 6, 1:13 PM ET
One of the new thirty three new recruits of the Vatican's elite Swiss Guard gestures during a swearing in ceremony in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican May 06, 2006. The Swiss Guard, founded in 1506, consist of 100 volunteers who must be Swiss, Catholic, single, at least 174 centimetres tall and beardless celebrate this year their 500th anniversary. New recruits are sworn every year on May 6, commemorating the date in which 147 Swiss soldiers died defending the Pope during an attack on Rome on May 6, 1527. Reuters/Max Rossi
Reuters - Sat May 6, 1:35 PM ET
Swiss Guards march into St. Peter's square during a ceremony in the Vatican May 6, 2006. Pope Benedict thanked the Swiss Guards for 500 years of service as papal protectors on Saturday, telling the world's smallest army to carry on with courage and loyalty and be 'the true friends of God'. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Reuters - Sat May 6, 1:49 PM ET
A Swiss Guard clutches the unit's flag as he takes the oath of allegiance at St. Peter's square in the Vatican May 6, 2006. Pope Benedict thanked the Swiss Guards for 500 years of service as papal protectors on Saturday, telling the world's smallest army to carry on with courage and loyalty and be 'the true friends of God'. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Colonel Elmar Theodore Mader, commander of the Vatican Swiss Guards, looks on before the start of the swearing in ceremony for thirty three new recruits of the Vatican's elite Swiss Guard in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican May 6, 2006. The Swiss Guard, founded in 1506, consist of 100 volunteers who must be Swiss, Catholic, single, at least 174 centimetres tall and beardless celebrate this year their 500th anniversary. New recruits are sworn every year on May 6, commemorating the date in which 147 Swiss soldiers died defending the Pope during an attack on Rome on May 6, 1527. REUTERS/Max Rossi
AP - Sat May 6, 2:46 PM ET
New Swiss Guards prepare for their oath in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday May 6, 2006. 33 new guards attended the annual swearing-in ceremony for the newest members of the corps. The ceremony is held each May 6, to commemorate the day in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards died protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
Reuters - Sat May 6, 3:14 PM ET
Members of Italy's security forces attend a ceremony for the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guards at St Peter's square in the Vatican May 6, 2006. Pope Benedict thanked the Swiss Guards for 500 years of service as papal protectors on Saturday, telling the world's smallest army to carry on with courage and loyalty and be 'the true friends of God'. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Too bad you're not a Swiss citizen, Sarge.
Swiss Guard veterans wave as they march to the Vatican after passing a northern gate of the Italian capital at Piazza del Popolo in Rome May 4, 2006. A small contingent of Swiss Guard converged on Rome on Thursday after a near month-long trek from Switzerland that retraced the steps of the first papal protectors 500 years ago. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
AP - Thu May 4, 1:26 PM ET
An Italian Carabiniere - paramilitary policeman salutes Vatican Swiss Guards marching in Rome on their way to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Thursday, May, 4, 2006. Dozens of former Swiss Guards marched into St. Peter's Square ending a 723-kilometer (450-mile), month-long re-enactment of a march from Switzerland completed by the first members of the elite corps 500 years ago and receiving Pope Benedict XVI's blessing. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
Reuters - Sat May 6, 6:51 AM ET
Pope Benedict XVI looks on during a mass celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guard in St. Peter Basilica at the Vatican May 6, 2006. About 70 former Swiss Guards, the oldest a 76-year-old, ended an almost month-long trek to the Vatican from Switzerland on Thursday that retraced the steps of the first papal protectors 500 years ago. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Reuters - Sat May 6, 7:00 AM ET
A Swiss Guard stands guard during a mass celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Swiss Guard in St. Peter Basilica at the Vatican May 6, 2006. About 70 former Swiss Guards, the oldest a 76-year-old, ended an almost month-long trek to the Vatican from Switzerland on Thursday that retraced the steps of the first papal protectors 500 years ago. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
AP - Sat May 6, 8:36 AM ET
Pope Benedict XVI gives the holy communion to a Swiss guard during a festivity mass on the day of the swearing-in ceremony of the Swiss guards in the St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatikan in Rome, Saturday, May 6, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Swiss Guards on Saturday for their 500 years of service protecting popes, praising their dedication and saying they were examples for all young people who want to serve the church. (AP Photo/Keystone, Karl Mathis)
(Yes! Receiving communion on the tongue!)
(AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
AP - Sat May 6, 8:37 AM ET
Pope Benedict XVI gives the papal blessing during a festivity mass on the day of the swearing-in ceremony of the Swiss guards in the St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatikan in Rome, Saturday, May 6, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Swiss Guards on Saturday for their 500 years of service protecting popes, praising their dedication and saying they were examples for all young people who want to serve the church. (AP Photo/Keystone, Karl Mathis)
AP - Sat May 6, 9:30 AM ET
Two new members of the Swiss Guards corps adjust their outfits prior to a special Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, May 6, 2006. The pope thanked the Swiss Guards on Saturday for their 500 years of service protecting popes, praising their dedication and saying they were examples for all young people who want to serve the church. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
(Nice short hair! Not like some hairy freak running around in the mountains of Afghanistan! haha--yes I do prefer Roman ways in certain areas...)
AFP/File - Sat May 6, 9:53 AM ET
Swiss Guards pose inside the Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) in Milan during a march between Bellinzona and Vatican City, April 2006. Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a special mass to mark the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Guards, and was later to swear-in a crop of new recruits to the traditional Vatican army.(AFP/File/Giuseppe Cacace)
AFP - Sat May 6, 12:55 PM ET
Swiss Guards leave St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the mass presided by Pope Benedict XVI to mark the celebration of the anniversary of the Swiss guard corp. With a mixture of fanfare and old-fashioned spit and polish, the latest recruits to the Swiss Guards swore allegiance to Pope Benedict XVI as the world's smallest army marked its 500th anniversary.(AFP/Vincenzo Pinto)
Fr. Rhonheimer is a member of the faculty over at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome (an Opus Dei university). He has been mentioned in the past few weeks because of his position on the use of contraception to stop the transmission of AIDS and other STDS.
Fr. Guevin versus Fr. Rhonheimer on Humanae Vitae
(From Mirror of Justice; this can be found also on Fr. Rhonheimer's homepage at Santa Croce.)
I'm inclined to disagree with his position (which is shared by Fr. Cottier, O.P. -- how disappointing to read that from a Dominican).
His book Natural Law and Practical Reason is published by Fordham University Press.
Although he is not a proponent of the New Natural Law Theory, he shares some similarities with the NNLT theorists, including an advocacy of liberal democracy as the ideal form of government. When I finish reading his book, maybe I will write a critique of it. Otherwise, reviews can be found in The Thomist and the like.
Fr. Rhonheimer in the news and such:
"Shouldn't Sexual Sinners at Least Have Safe Sex?"
His original article, from The Tablet.
The truth about condoms
Church leaders have caused a furore by suggesting that even the HIV-infected should avoid condoms. But this is not church teaching, says a leading moral philosopher
Most people are convinced that an HIV-infected person who has sex should use a condom to protect his partner from infection. Whatever one may think about a promiscuous lifestyle, about homosexual acts or prostitution, that person acts at least with a sense of responsibility in trying to avoid transmitting his infection to others.
It is commonly believed that the Catholic Church does not support such a view. As a BBC Panorama programme recently suggested, the Church is thought to teach that sexually active homosexuals and prostitutes should refrain from condoms because condoms are “intrinsically evil” (The Tablet, 26 June). Many Catholics also believe this. One of them is Hugh Henry, education officer of the Linacre Centre in London, who told Austen Ivereigh in last week’s Tablet that the use of a condom, even exclusively to prevent infection of one’s sexual partner, “fails to honour the fertile structure that marital acts must have, cannot constitute mutual and complete personal self-giving and thus violates the Sixth Commandment”.
But this is not a teaching of the Catholic Church. There is no official magisterial teaching either about condoms, or about anti-ovulatory pills or diaphragms. Condoms cannot be intrinsically evil, only human acts; condoms are not human acts, but things. What the Catholic Church has clearly taught to be “intrinsically evil” is a specific kind of human act, defined by Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, and later included in No. 2370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as an “action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible”.
Contraception, as a specific kind of human act, includes two elements: the will to engage in sexual acts and the intention of rendering procreation impossible. A contraceptive act therefore embodies a contraceptive choice. As I put it in an article in the Linacre Quarterly in 1989, “a contraceptive choice is the choice of an act that prevents freely consented performances of sexual intercourse, which are foreseen to have procreative consequences, from having these consequences, and which is a choice made just for this reason.”
This is why contraception, regarded as a human act qualified as “intrinsically evil” or disordered, is not determined by what is happening on the physical level; it makes no difference whether one prevents sexual intercourse from being fertile by taking the Pill or by interrupting it in an onanistic way. The above definition also disregards the differentiation between “doing” and “refraining from doing”, because coitus interruptus is a kind of – at least partial – refraining.
The definition of the contraceptive act does not therefore apply to using contraceptives to prevent possible procreative consequences of foreseen rape; in
that circumstance the raped person does not choose to engage in sexual intercourse or to prevent a possible consequence of her own sexual behaviour but is simply defending herself from an aggression on her own body and its undesirable consequences. A woman athlete taking part in the Olympic Games who takes an anti-ovulatory pill to prevent menstruation is not doing “contraception” either, because there is no simultaneous intention of engaging in sexual intercourse.
The teaching of the Church is not about condoms or similar physical or chemical devices, but about marital love and the essentially marital meaning of human sexuality. It affirms that, if married people have a serious reason not to have children, they should modify their sexual behaviour by – at least periodic
– abstinence from sexual acts. To avoid destroying both the unitive and the
procreative meaning of sexual acts and therefore the fullness of mutual self-giving, they must not prevent the sexual act from being fertile while carrying on having sex.
But what of promiscuous people, sexually active homosexuals, and prostitutes? What the Catholic Church teaches them is simply that they should not be promiscuous, but faithful to one single sexual partner; that prostitution is a behaviour which gravely violates human dignity, mainly the dignity of the woman, and therefore should not be engaged in; and that homosexuals, as all other people, are children of God and loved by him as everybody else is, but that they should live in continence like any other
But if they ignore this teaching, and are at risk from HIV, should they use condoms to prevent infection? The moral norm condemning contraception as intrinsically evil does not apply to these cases. Nor can there be church teaching about this; it would be simply nonsensical to establish moral norms for intrinsically immoral types of behaviour. Should the Church teach that a rapist must never use a condom because otherwise he would additionally to the sin of rape fail to respect “mutual and complete personal self-giving and thus violate the Sixth Commandment”?
Of course not.
What do I, as a Catholic priest, tell Aids-infected promiscuous people or homosex-uals who are using condoms? I will try to help them to live an upright and well-ordered sexual life. But I will not tell them not to use condoms. I simply will not talk to them about this and assume that if they choose to have sex they will at least keep a sense of responsibility. With such an attitude I fully respect the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception.
This is not a plea for “exceptions” to the norm prohibiting contraception. The norm about contraception applies without exception; the contraceptive choice is intrinsically evil. But it obviously applies only to contraceptive acts, as defined by Humanae Vitae, which embody a contraceptive choice. Not every act in which a device is used which from a purely physical point of view is “contraceptive”, is from a moral point of view a contraceptive act falling under the norm taught by Humanae Vitae.
Equally, a married man who is HIV-infected and uses the condom to protect his wife from infection is not acting to render procreation impossible, but to prevent infection. If conception is prevented, this will be an – unintentional – side-effect and will not therefore shape the moral meaning of the act as a contraceptive act. There may be other reasons to warn against the use of a condom in such a case, or to advise total continence, but these will not be because of the Church’s teaching on contraception but for pastoral or simply prudential reasons – the risk, for example, of the condom not working. Of course, this last argument does not apply to promiscuous people, because even if condoms do not always work, their use will help to reduce the evil consequences of morally evil behaviour.
Stopping the worldwide Aids epidemic is not a question about the morality of using condoms, but about how to effectively prevent people from causing the disastrous consequences of their immoral sexual behaviour. Pope John Paul II has
repeatedly urged that the promotion of the use of condoms is not a solution to this problem because he holds that it does not resolve the moral problem of promiscuity. Whether, generally, campaigns promoting condoms encourage risky behaviour and make the Aids pandemic worse is a question of statistical evidence which is not yet easily available. That it reduces transmission rates, in the short term, among highly infective groups like prostitutes and homosexuals is impossible to deny. Whether it may decrease infection rates among “sexually liberated” promiscuous populations or, on the contrary, encourage risky behaviour, depends on many factors.
In African countries condom-based anti-Aids campaigns are generally ineffective, partly because for an African man his manliness is expressed by making as many children as possible. For him, condoms convert sex into a meaningless activity. Which is why – and this is strong evidence in favour of the Pope’s argument – among the few effective programmes in Africa has been the Ugandan one. Although it does not exclude condoms, it encourages a positive change in sexual behaviour (fidelity and abstinence), unlike condom campaigns, which contribute to obscuring or even destroying the meaning of human love.
Campaigns to promote abstinence and fidelity are certainly and ultimately the only effective long-term remedy to combat Aids. So there is no reason for the Church to consider the campaigns promoting condoms as helpful for the future of human society. But nor can the Church possibly teach that people engaged in immoral lifestyles should avoid them.
Papal theologian weighs condom use against AIDS
Vatican, Feb. 01, 2005 (CWNews.com) - Cardinal Georges Cottier, the theologian to the pontifical household, has said that condoms can be used in the battle against AIDS-- but only under highly limited circumstances.
Cardinal Cottier is the highest-ranking official at the Vatican to suggest that the use of condoms could be justified. But he emphasized that he was giving his own "strictly personal" opinion, and not speaking for the Holy See.
Speaking to the Italian press agency Apcom-- in a talk that was reported by the newspaper Corriere della Sera-- the Swiss cardinal said that the use of condoms "could be considered legitimate" when people are "prisoners" of unusual ircumstances, and the condoms are used solely for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease.
Cardinal Cottier emphasized that only the presence of these unusual conditions would justify condom use. In ordinary circumstances, he said, the only morally acceptable means of fighting AIDS are through sexual continence. He also argued that the promotion of condom use "contributes to the risk of contagion" by encouraging promiscuous behavior.
The cardinal said that condom use is legitimate when it is a means of avoiding the transfer of the HIV virus during sexual intercourse. He observed that "along with life, there is the risk of also transmitting death" when one sexual partner is HIV-positive. In those circumstances, he said, "one must respect the defense of life," and heed the command, "Thou shalt not kill." Cardinal Cottier noted that many theologians take the same view, although there is a considerable difference of opinion among Catholic moralists on the topic.
He took pains to clarify that he was not suggesting the use of condoms under ordinary circumstances, but only by those who are HIV-positive and sexually active. He reminded his interviewer that in Africa, where the AIDS epidemic is most advanced, several episcopal conferences have condemned condom-distribution campaigns. He observed that these campaigns "reflect the general cultural situation, marked by a very permissive approach to sexual practices."
The condom is certainly not the best means of curbing the epidemic, the cardinal continued. "It diminishes the danger of contagion, but that danger remains," he observed. The international organizations that are pressing for wider condom distribution are taking an approach that denigrates the dignity of human life and love, he said.
Moreover, Cardinal Cottier went on, the widespread use of condoms tends to aggravate the problem, by encouraging greater sexual activity. "We should not forget," he said, "that it was this same permissive approach which was indubitably a factor in the spread of the virus."
Cardinal Cottier made his statement at a time when prominent Church leaders have been engaged in a public discussion of the use of condoms. Last January, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels suggested that the use of condoms by HIV-positive individuals might be a "lesser evil" than the spread of AIDS. More recently, a spokesman for the Spanish bishops' conference said on January 19 that condoms have a legitimate role to play in the fight against the disease. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, responded to the Spanish statement by arguing that condom use is an "unacceptable" means of fighting AIDS.
Cardinal Cottier pointed out that Pope John Paul II (bio - news) has not spoken out on this particular topic, nor has he addressed the question of condom use in any teaching document. "He has, on the contrary, always insisted on the principles of respect for one another, for the meaning of marriage, for chastity, for one's own body, and for the importance and protection of human life," the cardinal observed.
As theologian to the pontifical household, Cardinal Cottier's task is to read papal statements and documents in advance, calling the Pontiff's attention to any theological questions or problems. As he emphasized, he does not speak for the Pope.
The new theologian of the Pontifical Household is Fr. Wojciech Giertych, O.P., who was a faculty member over at the Angelicum. His Fundamental Moral Theology is online.
I noticed that Daniel McInerny has a new book coming out from Fordham as well, The Difficult Good--it might be useful for the thesis... Fordham says it will be available in May, Amazon says it will be available at the end of June. I hope I have access to it sooner rather than later.
by Suzanne Hadley
I've always been a glass-half-full kind of girl. My friends will tell you I'm quick to look for the bright side of most situations. I'm not a complainer. At least that's what I like to think.
A couple weeks ago, I found myself in a depressing cycle. It started with my dissatisfaction with a certain relationship. The person was failing to meet my expectations, which disappointed me. That disappointment led to anger, which led to grumpiness.
Feeling the need to "process," I vented my frustration to my exercise buddy. Although she tried to console me, my venting caused my self-righteousness to rise and made me even grumpier.
Over the next few days, I stewed over the situation and "vented" to several other people. As I griped about my unfair situation, I found myself not only being frustrated with the initial relationship but being critical of others as well. Soon it seemed as if everyone was letting me down.
My dissatisfaction grew until I reached a breaking point. Tearfully, I took it out on a friend who happened to call at the wrong moment. When I hung up the phone, I realized something had gone terribly wrong. Instead of helping my situation, venting had blown it out of proportion.
When I think of complainers, I think of the Israelites. They elevated griping to new heights. While they were under unbearable oppression as slaves in Egypt, they complained that God had forgotten them. Understandable. I think I would have felt justified in voicing my concerns, too. But when God miraculously freed them from slavery and led them out of Egypt, the people continued to gripe every chance they got.
As a smug college student, I remember reading about the Israelites and thinking, what a bunch of whiners! I mean, they see God do incredible miracles, but the moment things aren't going exactly right, they start crying like a rich kid whose lost Xbox privileges.
The Israelites seem constantly dissatisfied with their present circumstances. When you take a look at why the people were protesting, however, their concerns were fairly serious: food, water, protection, safety, their lives.
My complaints, on the other hand, are trivial: Perceived mistreatment by another person. Less than ideal circumstances in my personal life. Not getting things I believe I deserve. OK, so I may not be wandering in the desert, but these things can still seem unfair.
The Dark Side
The term "venting" sounds deceptively therapeutic. The truth is, venting involves voicing frustrations that are often damaging to a person or a cause. By giving ourselves permission to "vent," we allow words to pour out unchecked, taking little time to consider whether they're gossip, slander or just good, old-fashioned complaint.
I can think of times when I have listened to a friend "vent" only to walk away with a diminished view of a person or ministry. The enemy seems to use such unrestrained moments to stall and discredit God's work, and even mire a believer in sin. Proverbs 10:19 says, "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."
I am very aware of personal venting sessions in which sin played a starring role. And while griping rarely solves anything (although it may deliver a fleeting sense of satisfaction), there is more at stake than wasted breath.
As a kid I sang a jaunty song to the words of Philippians 2:14: "Do everything without complaining or arguing." At the time I thought it was a verse parents used to brainwash their children into doing chores willingly. But the next verse reveals a deeper significance: "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."
Let that sink in. It's a provocative statement. A lack of grumbling and argument is the trademark of a blameless and pure life. Not only that, but it sets believers apart from those who don't know Christ — in a way so brilliant it's like stars on a dark night.
Our world is marked by complaint. Complaint against our government. Complaint against the educational system. Complaint against those who bring us food, bag our groceries, let their cell phones go off during movies. Our freedom of speech is the freedom to complain. And we take that freedom very seriously.
A person who doesn't criticize something is a novelty. He makes you wonder why he's satisfied. As believers, we have a compelling reason to not complain. We have been shown undeserved grace and given unfathomable riches through Jesus Christ. In light of this, complaining about anything seems — well, silly.
I say I trust an all-powerful, good, loving God, but when that trust is put to the test through less-than-ideal circumstances, I often fail. Instead of acknowledging that God controls the details of my life, I moan and groan about how unacceptable they are. A life where grumbling is absent, however, speaks volumes about a person's trust in God.
Like any vice, venting must be replaced by something else — contentment. After challenging the Philippians to do everything without complaining, Paul says: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13). When I become frustrated with my circumstances, I need to ask the Lord to resolve the situation.
Walking in contentment also requires living with an attitude of gratitude. When I think about everything the Lord has done for me, many of my problems seem insignificant. When I begin to thank God for His kindnesses toward me, I find it difficult — even impossible — to criticize.
When I hung up the phone in tears that day, I spent some time talking things through with God. As I focused my thoughts on Him, my perspective began to change. I started to see how petty my grievances were.
Another powerful weapon in the fight against a critical spirit is love. 1 Peter 4:8 says, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." It's amazing how I can overlook the faults of someone I truly love. When I adopt a loving attitude toward fellow believers, it frees me to forgive offenses — which Christ has done for me.
That conversation with my exercise buddy would have gone differently, had love been at the forefront of my motives. Instead of grumbling about what this person was doing to me, I would have been examining how my selfish attitude was contributing to the problem. Venting allowed me to indulge in a victim mentality that ultimately made things worse.
Along with contentment and love, children of God are called to humility. The motivation behind most of my faultfinding is selfishness. Philippians reveals a secret to the complaint-free life: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
I don't know about you, but when I'm venting I am on a crusade — for number one. I'm the one who's in the right. I'm the one who's a victim. I'm the one who deserves better.
In contrast, Christ showed ultimate humility by going to the cross for those who mocked and abused Him. Talk about having a reason to complain! And yet, even while suffering a humiliating death, Jesus never uttered a self-seeking word. Instead He asked His Father to forgive His murderers. That attitude, unexplainable by human standards, captured people's attention and changed lives. Imagine the difference I could make if I embraced the same attitude.
I'm learning that as a fallen human being, my tendency is to complain. But my goal is to have the attitude of Christ, rich in contentment, love and humility. That will require keeping the vent closed. After all, Jesus has given so much for me. I really can't complain.
Good advice for bloggers..
I remember listening to her songs when I was really into Spanish pop... she had a soft pleasant voice. Some pictures...
Wed May 10, 7:30 PM ET
MIAMI - Colombian-American singer Soraya, who won a Latin Grammy for best female album in 2004 and worked to educate Hispanic women about breast cancer, died Wednesday after battling the disease. She was 37.
She died in a Miami hospital, said Lorena Oriani, a spokeswoman for her record label, EMI Latin.
She was born in New Jersey to Colombian parents in 1969 and was found to have breast cancer in 2000.
Her greatest hits were "Solo Por Ti" and "Casi," both released in 2003 on the album "Soraya." She was well known for integrating cumbia and flamenco music with her own style of pop-rock.
Besides her Latin Grammy in 2004, she won a Billboard Latin Music Spirit of Hope award that year. In 2005 she was nominated for a Latin Grammy for female pop vocal album for "El Otro Lado De Mi."
In a letter posted on her Web site Tuesday in Spanish, she wrote to her fans about her battle with cancer. She said she was sure her life was ending. "I have not lost this battle, because I know the fight was not in vain," she said. "Instead, it will help end
a larger battle, which is early detection to prevent this terrible disease."
Soraya's mother, grandmother and an aunt died of breast cancer, which encouraged her to inform Hispanic women about the disease. She joined the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and traveled all over Latin America to inform women about early breast cancer detection.
Soraya recorded "Por Ser Quien Soy" ("For Being Who I Am"), a song that reflects her experience with the disease.
Colombian-born singer Soraya poses for photographers with her award for Best Singer Songwriter Album for 'Soraya' at the 5th annual Latin Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in this September 1, 2004 file photo. REUTERS/Kimberly White/Files
AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file
Colombian singer Soraya reacts as she holds up the Silver torch trophy she was awarded after her performance in the International Song Festival in Vina del Mar, Chile, in this Feb. 18, 2004 file photo. (AP Photo/Felix Alonso, file)
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
On Apostolic Succession
"Greatest Guarantee of Perseverance in the Lord's Word"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).-
Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience, which he dedicated to explain apostolic succession.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the last audiences we have meditated on the Tradition of the Church and we have seen that it is the permanent presence of the word and life of Jesus in his people. But to be present, the Church is in need of a person, a witness. In this way, reciprocity is born: On one hand, the word is in need of the person, but on the other hand the person, the witness, is linked to the word that has been entrusted to him, which he has not invented. This reciprocity between contents -- Word of God, life of the Lord -- and the person that transmits is a characteristic of the structure of the Church, and today we wish to meditate on this personal aspect of the Church.
The Lord began it, as we saw, when convoking the Twelve, who represented the future of the People of God. In fidelity to the mandate received from the Lord, initially the Twelve, after his Ascension, completed their number with the election of Matthias to replace Judas (cf. Acts 1:15-26), and later they associate others progressively to the functions entrusted to them to continue their ministry.
The Risen One himself called Paul (cf. Galatians 1:1), but Paul, despite the fact he was called by the Lord as an apostle, compares his Gospel to the Gospel of the Twelve (cf. ibid. 1:18), is concerned to transmit what he has received (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23; 15:3-4) and in the distribution of the missionary tasks is associated with the apostles, together with others, for example, Barnabas (cf. Galatians 2:9).
Just as at the beginning of the condition of [being an] apostle there is a call and a sending by the Risen One, likewise the subsequent call and invitation to others takes place, with the strength of the Spirit, by the power of one already constituted in the apostolic ministry. This is the path on which this ministry will continue that, later, begun by the second generation, would be called episcopal ministry, "episcopé."
Perhaps it would be useful to explain briefly what the word bishop means. It is the Italian form ["vescovo"] of the Greek words "epíscopos." This word makes reference to one who has a vision from on high, who sees with the heart. Thus, in his first letter, St. Peter himself calls the Lord Jesus guardian and shepherd of souls; the successors of the apostles were later called "bishops," "epíscopoi." They were entrusted with the function of the "episcopé." This specific function of the bishop is carried out progressively with respect to the beginnings until it assumes the form, already clearly attested by Ignatius of Antioch, at the beginning of the second century (cf. "Ad Magnesios," 6,1: PG ,668), of the triple function of bishop, priest and deacon. It is a development led by the Spirit of God, which assists the Church in the discernment of the authentic forms of the apostolic succession, defined ever better between a plurality of experiences and charismatic and ministerial forms, present in the community of the origins.
Thus, succession in the episcopal function is presented as continuity of the apostolic ministry, guarantee of the perseverance in the apostolic Tradition, word and life that have been entrusted to us by the Lord. The link between the College of Bishops and the original community of the apostles is understood, above all, in the line of historical continuity. As we have seen, to the Twelve is associated first Matthias, and then Paul, and afterward Barnabas and later others, up to the formation, in the second and third generation, of the ministry of the bishop. Therefore, continuity is expressed in this historical chain.
And in the continuity of the succession the guarantee is found of perseverance in the ecclesial community, in the apostolic College, gathered by Christ around him. But this continuity, which we saw before in the historical continuity of the ministers, must also be understood in the spiritual sense, as the apostolic succession in the ministry is considered as the privileged place of the action and transmission of the Holy Spirit.
A clear echo of these convictions can be seen, for example, in this text of Irenaeus of Lyon (second half of the second century): "the Tradition of the Apostles has been manifested to the universal world in the whole Church, and we can enumerate those who have been constituted bishops and successors of the Apostles up to us […] [The apostles] wanted those whom they left as their successors to be 'perfect and irreproachable' in everything (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6-7), to entrust the Magisterium to them in their place: If they act correctly it will be followed by great usefulness, but if they fall, it would be the greatest calamity" ("Adversus Haereses," III, 3, 1: PG 7,848).
Then, Irenaeus, when presenting this network of the apostolic succession as the greatest guarantee of perseverance in the Lord's word, concentrates on that Church, among "the most ancient and known by all, the Church founded and constituted in Rome by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul," underlining the Tradition of the faith proclaimed, which comes to us through the apostles and through the successions of the bishops.
In this way, for Irenaeus and for the universal Church, the episcopal succession of the Church of Rome becomes the sign, criterion and guarantee of the uninterrupted transmission of the apostolic faith: "It is necessary that every Church be in harmony with this Church, whose foundation is the most guaranteed -- I refer to all the faithful of any place, because in her all those who are found in all places have kept the apostolic Tradition" ("Adversus Haereses," III, 3, 2: PG 7,848).
The apostolic succession, verified in virtue of communion with that of the Church of Rome, is therefore the criterion of permanence of each one of the Churches in the Tradition of the common apostolic faith, which through this channel has been able to come to us from the origins: "By this order and succession the Tradition has come to us that was initiated by the Apostles. And this shows fully that the one and only vivifying faith that comes from the Apostles has been kept and transmitted in the Church until today" (ibid., III, 3,3: PG 7,851).
According to these testimonies of the ancient Church, the apostolicity of the ecclesial communion consists in faithfulness to the teaching and practice of the apostles, through whom is guaranteed the historical and spiritual union of the Church with Christ. The apostolic succession of the episcopal ministry is the path that guarantees the faithful transmission of the apostolic testimony.
What the apostles represent in the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the Church of the origins, is represented analogously by the ministerial succession in the relationship between the Church of the origins and the present-day Church. It is not a mere material concatenation; rather, it is the historical instrument of which the Spirit makes use to make present the Lord Jesus, head of his people, through whom they are ordained by the ministry through the imposition of hands and the prayer of the bishops.
Then, through the apostolic succession, Christ comes to us: He speaks to us in the word of the apostles and their successors; he acts in the sacraments through their hands; our gaze is enveloped in his gaze and makes us feel loved, received in God's heart. And also today, as at the beginning, Christ himself is the true shepherd and guardian of our souls, whom we follow with great confidence, gratitude and joy.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in
several languages. In English, he said:]
In today's catechesis, we consider how the ministry of the apostles continues through their successors, the bishops. The apostles themselves appointed others to take their place and to carry on their work. St. Irenaeus, writing at the end of the second century, links the tradition handed down from the apostles to the historical succession of bishops in the Churches they established.
Irenaeus points in particular to the Church of Rome, founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul. The succession of bishops in this Church can be seen as the sure sign and criterion of the unbroken transmission of the apostolic faith. Consequently, he says, every Church throughout the world must be in accord with the Roman Church ["Adversus Haereses" III, 3, 2].
The Church's perseverance in the apostolic tradition is thus guaranteed by the continuity between the original community of the apostles and the College of Bishops. Through apostolic succession, the Holy Spirit makes the Risen Christ present to his Church in the ministry of those ordained to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments and to serve as loving shepherds of his flock.
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this audience, particularly those from England, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke the blessings of the Risen Christ and wish you a most pleasant time in Rome.
© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana