Saturday, March 17, 2007

Varia, 17 March 2007

Women Like Different Faces at Different Ages

The kind of face women like differs with age, a poll suggests. Cosmetics maker Amorepacific surveyed 1,800 women between the ages of 19 to 55 and found that women in their 20s liked the look of Jeon Ji-hyun and Han Ga-in best. Han and Kim Tae-hee were selected by those in their 30s, and Kim Hee-ae and Goh Hyun-jeong by those in their 40s. Women in their 50s liked Kim Hee-ae and Lee Young-ae's faces most.

From left, Jeon Ji-hyun, Han Ga-in, Kim Tae-hee, Goh Hyun-jeong, Kim Hee-ae and Lee Young-ae.

"There is a tendency for women in their 20s and 30s to prefer large and clear-cut features, while women in their 40s and 50s like a comfortable impression and classical face shape the most,” an official with the company said. Respondents put a lot of emphasis on the overall balance and harmony of the face (42 percent). Other priorities were clear-cut features (30 percent), color and smoothness of skin (17 percent), facial shape (8 percent) and size (3 percent).

Some 37 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their face and only 9 percent were definitely not satisfied. But 24 percent and 32 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their figure or their height and weight, suggesting that Korean women are less happy about their bodies than their faces. Sixty-four percent of respondents chose the face as the most important factor in judging appearance, way ahead of height and weight (16 percent) and figure (15 percent).

( )

Study Puts Ethnic Gloss on Kissable Lips
20% of Freshmen Can't Write Names in Chinese
Jeon Ji-hyun in Stripping Contest for Mobile Phone

Some Scythian vids

Scythian at Fado's 2/8/2007 part 2

Scythian @ Fado's 1/11/07 part 4

Scythian @ Stout 1/20/07 Part VII
With an extra dose of the family Fed'

Can you spot them?

Their website.

Some Ha Ji Won videos, Pt 2

Tang cf

Bang Bang cf

Jean cf

Shampoo cf

Shampoo cf making

Mise en scene

Pearl Dance

Mise en scene making

Mexicana cf

Chocolate Dove


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St. Patrick, March 17

The Apostle of Ireland

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(Western Orthodoxy)

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St. Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
St. Patrick's, New York

The housemates and I tried to celebrate St. Patrick's last year--not really successful since everywhere was crowded. We did end up going to a bar near Davis Square? Or was it Inman Square? Anyways, an Irish pub. The New Scot was also there.

It would not surprise me if Christendom still has some sort of communal celebration of the feast day--is there a competing event for the feast day of St. Joseph? Some of us grumbled against the fake Irish, and the whole Celtic atmosphere some were trying to establish at the college. (Hence those of Italian descent and others started the celebration of St. Joseph.)

While I may appreciate certain aspects of Irish and Celtic culture in general--the music, the dance, life in the villages... I don't think I would embrace it as much as Anglo-Latin culture. Of course, one could make the argument that Southern culture is a mixture of both.

KK will be out at Fiddler's Hearth tonight? The Lady Downstairs has expressed her desire not to celebrate the feast day in a pub. I will probably stay at home...

Topics in traditional Irish Music
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More about Cape Breton. Tourist site. Museum and heritage resources.

"Rob, we must fight for our home!"

Friday, March 16, 2007

The DC gun ban

Ron Paul offers his view on the ruling by the Federal appeals court

That this is the right decision would seem to follow from a certain understanding of the Constitution.

Still, Mike Tuggle offers a different understanding:

The most obvious result of this ruling is that the Federal government can overthrow any State or local law. Worse, the constituency that accepts this view, gun owners, is being coopted into supporting Federal supremacy, and gunowners are on the whole conservative. Therefore, this case will lead a sizable number of activists who would normally support limited government to buy into the notion that the Federal government has no such limits. This can only lead to more Federal usurpation.

Then there’e the subversive doctrine that the Bill of Rights is a comprehensive guarantee of individual rights. This is also a perversion of the original intent of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was designed to draw a definite boundary of what the Federal government is empowered to do. That’s why the Tenth Amendment was added to make it crystal-clear that the Federal government can legally exercise only those powers delegated to Congress by the sovereign States.

Does an individual have the right to own a gun? Absolutely. It’s a traditional right that goes back to Britain. North Carolina’s Constitution, for example, makes the assertion much more clearly than the mangled Second Amendment. Article I, Section 30 guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Our rights do not come from the Federal Constitution. The Bill of Rights was not designed to protect individual rights. To argue otherwise only cripples the struggle to restore the rights that have been taken from us. The alleged passage of the 14th amendment, like the other Reconstruction Acts, was imposed on the people at gunpoint, and the Federal Supreme Court gradually worked what came to be called the Incorporation Doctrine to apply the Bill of Rights to the States. But like any other use of force, it does not make valid law.

It’s ironic that many of the same activists who rightfully dissent at the assertion that the Constitution does not grant the right of secession will accept the notion that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment. It’s nothing but a snare and a delusion.

Ok, of course he relies upon rights talk, and I will too, as I think it is useful and there is a place for it, though I am still investigating the basis for suchy [subjective active] rights. (Review of Rights Talk at Brothers Judd.)

The question is whether the right to bear arms is a natural "right" or a legal "right." I would hold that if there is a natural right to self-defense, then the right to bear arms is a conclusion drawn from that, and holds the same force as a natural right. It is a natural right, or at the very least a right derived from a natural right (if one wants to makes a distinction between what is self-evident and what is deduced and give different names to "natural" rights accordingly).

So how would Mr. Tuggle respond to Dr. Paul on this point? What should have been done instead with regard to the DC law?

Father Cantalamessa on the Prodigal Son

Father Cantalamessa on the Prodigal Son

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday's Readings

ROME, MARCH 16, 2007 ( Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raneiro Cantalamessa, on the readings for this Sunday's liturgy.

* * *

Jesus and Sinners
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is one of the most celebrated pages of Luke's Gospel and of all four Gospels: the parable of the prodigal son. Everything in this parable is surprising; men had never portrayed God in this way. This parable has touched more hearts than all the sermons that have been preached put together. It has an incredible power to act on the mind, the heart, the imagination, and memory. It is able to touch the most diverse chords: repentance, shame, nostalgia.

The parable is introduced with these words: "All the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to him to listen to him. The Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable ..." (Luke 15:1-2). Following this lead, we would like to reflect on Jesus' attitude toward sinners, going through the whole Gospel, guided also by our plan for these Lenten commentaries, that is, to know better who Jesus was, what can be historically known about him.

The welcome that Jesus reserves for sinners in the Gospel is well known, as is the opposition that this procures him on the part of the defenders of the law who accuse him of being "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34). Jesus declares in one of his better historically attested to sayings, "I have not come to call the just but sinners" (Mark 2:17). Feeling welcomed and not judged by him, sinners listened to him gladly.

But who were the sinners, what category of persons was designated by this term? Someone, trying to completely justify Jesus' adversaries, the Pharisees, has argued that by this term is understood "the deliberate and impenitent transgressors of the law," in other words, the criminals, those who are outside the law. If this were so, then Jesus' adversaries would have been entirely right to be scandalized and see him as an irresponsible and socially dangerous person. It would be as if a priest today were to regularly frequent members of the mafia and criminals and accept their invitations to dinner with the pretext of speaking to them of God.

In reality, this is not how things are. The Pharisees had their vision of the law and of what conformed to it or was contrary, and they considered reprobate all those who did not follow their rigid interpretation of the law. In their view, anyone who did not follow their traditions or dictates was a sinner. Following the same logic, the Essenes of Qumran considered the Pharisees themselves to be unjust and violators of the law! The same thing happens today. Certain ultraorthodox groups consider all those who do not think exactly as they do to be heretics.

An eminent scholar has written: "It is not true that Jesus opened the gates of the kingdom to hard-boiled and impenitent criminals, or that he denied the existence of 'sinners.' What Jesus opposed were the walls that were erected within Israel and those who treated other Israelites as if they were outside the covenant and excluded from God's grace" (James Dunn).

Jesus does not deny the existence of sin and sinners. This is obvious from the fact that he calls them "sick." On this point he is more rigorous than his adversaries. If they condemn actual adultery, Jesus condemns adultery already at the stage of desire; if the law says not to kill, Jesus says that we must not even hate or insult our brother. To the sinners who draw near to him, he says "Go and sin no more"; he does not say: "Go and live as you were living before."

What Jesus condemns is the Pharisees' relegating to themselves the determination of true justice and their denying to others the possibility of conversion. The way that Luke introduces the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is significant: "He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others" (Luke 18:9). Jesus was more severe with those who condemned sinners with disdain than he was with sinners themselves.

But the novel and unheard of thing in the relationship between Jesus and sinners is not his goodness and mercy toward them. This can be explained in a human way. There is, in his attitude, something that cannot be humanly explained, that is, it cannot be explained so long as Jesus is taken to be a man like other men. What is novel and unheard of is Jesus' forgiveness of sins.

Jesus says to the paralytic: "My son, your sins are forgiven you."

"Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus' horrified adversaries cry out. And Jesus replies: "'So that you might know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins, Get up!' he said to the paralytic, 'Pick up your mat and go home.'" No one could verify whether the sins of that man were forgiven but everyone could see that he got up and walked. The visible miracle attested to the invisible one.

Even the investigation of Jesus' relationship with sinners contributes therefore to an answer to the question: Who was Jesus? A man like other men, a prophet, or something different still? During his earthly life Jesus never explicitly affirmed himself to be God (and we explained why in a previous commentary), but he did attribute to himself powers that are exclusive to God.

Let us now return to Sunday's Gospel and to the parable of the prodigal son. There is a common element that unites the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son, which are told in succession in Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel. What do the shepherd who finds the lost sheep and the woman who finds her coin say? "Rejoice with me!" And what does Jesus say at the end of each parable? "There will be more joy in heaven for a converted sinner than for ninety-nine just people who do not need to convert."

The leitmotiv of the three parables is therefore the joy of God. (There is joy "before the angels of God," is an entirely Jewish way to speak of joy "in God.") In our parable joy overflows and becomes a feast. That father is overcome with joy and does not know what to do: He orders the best robe for his son, a ring with the family seal, the killing of the fatted calf, and says to all: "Let us eat and make merry, for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."

In one of his novels Dostoyevsky describes a scene that has the air of having been witnessed in reality. A woman holds a baby a few weeks old in her arms and -- for the first time, according to her -- he smiles at her. All contrite, she makes the sign of the cross on his forehead and to those who ask her the reason for this she says: "Just as a mother is happy when she sees the first smile of her child, God too rejoices every time a sinner gets on his knees and addresses a heartfelt prayer to him" ("The Idiot").

Who knows whether a person who is listening does not decide finally to give this joy to God, to smile at him before he dies ...

More on Homosexuality in the Bible (Part 2)

More on Homosexuality in the Bible (Part 2)

Interview With Father Jean-Baptiste Edart

ROME, MARCH 16, 2007 ( The Church is faithful to the Bible in recognizing that homosexual acts cannot be good for the human person, says an exegete from the John Paul II Institute in Rome.

Father Jean-Baptiste Edart, is co-author of Clarifications sur l'Homosexualité dans la Bible" (Clarifications on Homosexuality in the Bible), published by Editions du Cerf.

Part 1 of this interview with Father Edart of the Emmanuel Community appeared Thursday.

Q: There are those who say that there are examples of homosexual relationships in the Old Testament. Some say David and Jonathan, for example, had a relationship of this type.

Father Edart: The account in 1 Samuel 18:1-5 shows gestures and words that express a profound attachment between Jonathan and David.

Although the terms used describe a real affective bond, their usual use in the Old Testament in no way allows for seeing a homosexual relationship there. For an example you can see Jacob and his son Benjamin in Genesis 44:30-31. The expression "to love as oneself" -- as his soul -- is frequent -- Leviticus 19:18.34.

The verb "to love," in a context of alliance, takes on a political dimension, the beneficiary being considered as partner or superior. Moreover, the gift that Jonathan made to David of his weapons illustrates the transfer of his prerogatives, among which was the right of succession to his father's throne. It's a political gesture. In the account, nonetheless, David ends up replacing Jonathan -- 1 Samuel 23:17.

Other passages, developed by Innocent Himbaza in our book, illustrate the friendship between Jonathan and David. All the gestures posed between these two men, however, can take place between parents and children -- Jacob and Benjamin; between brothers -- Joseph and his brothers; between father-in-law and son-in-law -- Jethro and Moses; between close friends -- Jonathan and David; between warriors -- Saul and David, Jonathan and David; and between brothers and sisters in the faith -- Paul and the Ephesians. We risk interpreting the latter askew here, but these are actually normal and usual gestures for people who feel close to one another.

We can affirm that nothing in the texts we are faced with allow for seeing any homosexuality between David and Jonathan, not even implicitly. If at times an expression is ambiguous for a modern spirit, reading it in context removes that possibility.

Q: The Church preaches love of neighbor, but is often reproached for wanting to put "barriers" to love, for not understanding every person's profound need to love. If the Church does not approve homosexuality, what message of hope can she give to a person who finds in homosexuality the means to give himself and to love?

Father Edart: The suffering of a homosexual person can be very great and not accessible to people who do not experience this situation.

Indeed, our whole world is marked by this fundamental fact of heterosexual love. Even the Chinese civilization, hardly susceptible to having been shaped by Judeo-Christian culture, also lives this reality. In that civilization, homosexuality is also perceived as outside the norm.

The homosexual person experiences an internal suffering, attested by psychological studies, but he also suffers from his confrontation with a world that very often will judge and condemn him.

This rejection will often even be violent. In fact, everybody passes a phase in their psychological development of ambiguity on the sexual plane in adolescence. A person might be, for some time, attracted by persons of the same sex, without being for all that a homosexual! If this stage of growth is badly lived or unfinished, it results in psychic suffering.

Subsequently, every confrontation with homosexuality will trigger this suffering, which will be translated in violent behavior. To learn to consider a homosexual person without reducing him to his sexual orientation can be difficult and lead to recognizing one's personal poverty.

In the face of this situation, the Church, in fidelity to the Bible, recognizing that active homosexuality cannot be a good for the person, forcefully affirms, in the same fidelity to the word of God, that every person, regardless of his sexual orientation, has the same dignity and in no way must be the object of unjust discrimination. As every baptized person, homosexual persons are called to holiness and to live here and now a living relationship with Christ in the Church.

The message of the Gospel is a source of hope for these persons and the Church witnesses to this. Christian communities can be places where people see their personal suffering accepted and understood. The latter will then be able, with the support of these communities, to seek to correspond to God's call.

We have a magnificent example of this in the friendship between Julien Green and Jacques and Raissa Maritain. Homosexual persons thus witness today that they have been able to walk with the support of other Christians and to build a happy life. The development of friendly and fraternal relations lived in chastity is an important place of psychological and spiritual healing.

Friendship with Christ is certainly the principal support and guide on this path. He is the best of friends. This friendship is nourished in the life of faith, prayer and the sacraments. The homosexual person desirous of progressing toward Christ will find an indispensable support there. He wants to be in alliance with each one by meeting the person just as he is and to conduct him to himself gradually with the continuous and unconditional support of his mercy.

It's a long and difficult but possible path. It is certain that the development of homosexuality in our Western society is an appeal to Christians to create new places to help those who are wounded in their sexuality.

Ordinary People

Ordinary People

by Roberto Rivera y Carlo

Kitty Ostapowicz's life is an open book. Well, maybe not a book but it's open nonetheless.

Like many of her peers, Ostapowicz has both a MySpace page and a Livejournal. There, readers learn, in what Emily Nussbaum of New York Magazine characterized as "raw and affecting detail," about aspects of her life that are usually reserved for intimates, if they're shared at all: "the death of her parents, her breakups, her insecurities, her ambitions," her menstrual cycle and her sex life or lack thereof.

The willingness of Ostapowicz and many of her peers to live in such an exposed manner left Nussbaum feeling "very, very old" and concluding that we are in the midst of the greatest "generation gap" since rock and roll opened a cultural chasm between parents and their kids back in the 1950s.

Not everyone is thrilled by this cultural development. In the January 29 issue of The Nation, Lakshmi Chaudhry took the age of what she called "micro-celebrity" to the woodshed. What Nussbaum called a "generation gap," Chaudhry called a "significant generational shift in levels of narcissism" where "it is hardly surprising that the less gifted among us are willing to fart our way into the spotlight."

While others aren't as harsh as Chaudhry, they are worried about the possible implications of this voluntary embrace of a "transparent society" where more-or-less constant surveillance and the attendant lack of privacy are a given. The Boston Phoenix recently ran an article about colleges and universities "increasingly monitoring students' activity online and scrutinizing profiles, not only for illegal behavior, but also for what they deem to be inappropriate speech."

This monitoring has resulted in disciplinary action for those already enrolled and the denial of admission for applicants. As Virginia Postrel put it, a generation of young people face the real prospect of their "teenage persona" following them around forever.

What's missing in all of this is an explanation of why people are opting to live their life in public. While technology, especially what's been called "Web 2.0" — user-driven and defined sites like You Tube and MySpace — can explain the technological "how" of this exposure, it gives us no insight into the motivations of those exposing themselves.

When you consider how many of what we regard as fundamental American "rights," from collecting AK-47s to late-term abortions, are grounded in the "right to be left alone," the idea of a generation voluntarily surrendering that "right" seems incomprehensible, at least to someone whose doormat reads "come back with a warrant" as mine does. The motivation to invite scrutiny by strangers must be rooted in powerful needs.

While the narcissism Chaudhry mentions no doubt plays a part, there's a desperate quality to much of what's posted that can't only be explained by the belief that you are incredibly fascinating. Few of the revelations involve scientific breakthroughs, blazing insights or joining Al Qaeda — much of the stuff being revealed is quotidian to the point of banality. Who hasn't been through a break-up or even experienced painful personal loss?

This recitation of the stuff of everyday life is a tacit admission that the revealers, on some level, know that, as Tyler Durden would no doubt tell them, they're not "beautiful and unique snowflakes." They know that they're, in fact, fairly ordinary and they can only meet their "need to feel significant and admired and, above all, to be seen" through the quantity and explicitness of their revelations, not their quality. Ironically, in a world where many of your peers are doing the same, this self-revelation makes them seem more ordinary, not less.

This begs an obvious question: What's wrong with being ordinary? A lot, if you live in a culture like ours that has turned "ordinary" into an epithet, a synonym for "mediocre." Then, the fear of being (or appearing) "ordinary" exceeds the fear of possible humiliation or any other repercussions of inappropriate disclosure.

Case in point: A recent ad for a brokerage firm featured pictures of luminaries such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. The pitchman told viewers that just as these folks didn't settle for being "ordinary" scientists and inventors, they shouldn't settle for being "ordinary" investors.

It's the kind of claim that, if you think about it for about, say, five seconds, strikes you as ridiculous. If by being an "ordinary investor" you mean someone who does well enough to provide for their family and a comfortable retirement, the only sane answer should be "sure, why not? What's wrong with that?"

Turning "ordinary" into an epithet requires forgetting (or denying) that "ordinary" is the stuff that real life is made of. "Ordinary" comes from the Latin ordinarius meaning "customary, regular, usual, orderly." How we handle the ordinary — and not how many people know who we are — is the standard against which we should measure our lives. It, and not some fleeting (or even not-so-fleeting) attention, is what gives our lives significance. (For the Christian, it's what Jesus meant when He said, "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.")

Along the way, getting this vital bit right ceased being sufficient — being ordinary came to be regarded as a first cousin of sloth. The ability and willingness to block out the detritus of everyday life that begs for our attention and to focus on what made the spotlight shine on us came to be regarded as what separates the "great" from the rest of us. It didn't matter that in retrospect a disproportionate number of the focused "great" ones seemed to have failed at the customary, regularly and usual tasks of life. (Ask their children and spouses.) By the time "retrospect" got here our gaze had turned to a yet another "great" one.

This discontent with being ordinary isn't limited to "mainstream" culture: Many Christians have been taught to think and feel the same way. Following the recent release of "Amazing Grace," the move about William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade, American Christians have been called to imitate Wilberforce. Not "only" by emulating his personal virtues but by studying his tactics and strategies and thus, like him, "do something great for God."

I have a better idea: We should strive to experience what G.K. Chesterton called "the ecstasy of being ordinary." While Chesterton admired extraordinary men like St. Francis of Assisi, he also gave the "social scruples and conventional conditions that are normal and even noble in ordinary men" that hold "decent societies together" their due. In fact, it was because he appreciated "ordinary men" that he could make sense of the extraordinary ones.

Likewise, "Chesterton could be made happy by the sudden yellowness of a dandelion." He took "fierce pleasure in things being themselves," whether it was the "wetness of water," "fieriness of fire" or the "steeliness of steel." As David Fagerberg of Notre Dame wrote, for Chesterton, "on every encounter, at every turn, with every person, there is cause for happiness.... We have been given a world crammed with a million means to beatitude."

In other words, our "ordinariness" contains everything that is necessary to be content. That's part of St. Paul meant when he wrote "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." He could see those "millions means of beatitude" and understood that on some days you inadvertently turn the world upside-down and on other days you make tents. Ultimately, what matters is to live admirably, not be admired.

As the NPC comes to a close, Wen Jiabao tries to be reassuring but problems persist

As the NPC comes to a close, Wen Jiabao tries to be reassuring but problems persist
by Bernardo Cervellera
At the end of the National People’s Congress, China’s premier meets the press and reassures the public about the government’s commitment to development, schools, health care and defence. As expected the right to private property is now guaranteed in law. However, some critical voices point out that China still lags behind in terms of health care and education spending.

He stressed that the main headache for the government will be balanced development and the reduction of the gap between cities and rural areas and between the richer coastal regions and the poor interior.

However, some NPC delegates from Jiangsu pointed to contradictions in government policy which instead of reducing the gap tended to accentuate it like higher prices for fertilisers and pesticides without raises in what farmers get for the food they produce. The net result is greater rural poverty.

Premier Wen Jiabao promised never the less that justice and equity will top the government’s priority list as it builds the socialist system.

As for a possible transition to democracy, Wen said that China lacked experience in the area but was still willing to learn from other countries how to build democracy “Chinese-style.”

The bigger problem is not the form of government, but rather the size of what is being governed. China needs to let go of the desire for an empire, and all that comes with it: centralization, homogenization, the imposition of an "official" language and the destruction of local culture.

Civilization = the State?
According to official historians. Article by Robert Klassen.

I don't know if I agree with all of the counter-arguments presented by Mr. Klassen, but it certainly provides food for thought. What sort of evidence would he marshal against the anarcho-primitivists regarding farming cultures?

Consultative Conference: “The government must end the one-child rule”

Consultative Conference: “The government must end the one-child rule”
A group of members taking part in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which ended yesterday, asked the government to restore the two-child rule: current policy creates social problems and personality disorders in young people.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Some 30 delegates of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are calling on the government to abolish the 28-year-old one-child rule, because “it creates social problems and personality disorders in young people.”

The proposal was prepared by Ye Tingfang, a professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who suggests that the government at least restore the previous rule that allowed couples to have up to two children. According to this scholar, “the one-child limit is too extreme. It violates nature’s law and, in the long run, will lead to mother nature’s revenge.”

Family planning is a cornerstone of the Communist government’s policy and currently affects 90 million Chinese families. This “is taking a toll in terms of social problems such as a gender imbalance and an ageing population. Disorder in the social environment is emerging as a result, with many people having psychological problems and becoming more selfish and reclusive.”: this because “children do not have siblings or cousins to play with. It is not healthy for children to play only with their parents and be spoiled by them: it is not right to limit the number to two, either. But totally abolishing the population control policy would be impossible, so we suggest at least restoring the original policy of two children per family.”
The professor and delegates have no doubts, however, that their proposal will be ignored by the central government, which has always “been deaf” to the Conference’s proposals.

The same holds for the other topics dealt with by the CPPCC members, who are meeting at the same time as the delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC). Their meeting ended yesterday, and during the 11 days of deliberations, delegates, who for the most part are retired leaders, experts and private entrepreneurs, looked at social questions, even criticizing government health, education and internal migration policies.

Qiu Guoyi, age 71 and a 20-year Conference veteran, explains, however, that all this “has no affect on the Party’s policy. We discuss questions, but they decide on the basis of other considerations. Plus, none of us can claim to represent the people, as we were not elected, but named.”

Another Conference member, Lin Shengzhong, is of the same view and adds, “The existence of the Conference made sense in the 1980s: delegates could speak freely on anything and even criticize the government. Since the end of that decade, there has been a return of Maoist censorship and one cannot even speak out against corruption which is thriving in every corner of our society.”

The South China Morning Post writes that such views are also held by the public, which sees the CPPCC as a “political flower vase”: decorative but “contributing little to the nation’s development.”

Before the NPC’s establishment, the CPPCC was the country’s main legislative body, responsible for the enacting of laws on which the founding of the People’s Republic of China depended. Today, this forum is not legislative, and does not have the power to name government representatives. For the most part, the role of members is to advice the Congress, while other members take part as experts. Jia Qinglin is CPPCC president.

Some reaction against "Little Emperor Syndrome" and the lack of women in China.

10 Questions for Don Vandergriff

Developing Adaptive Army Leaders: 10 Questions For Don Vandergriff, By Elaine M. Grossman, Inside the Pentagon.

See also the following from DNI:
War Clouds Gather Over the Golan, by Martin van Creveld.

The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace, by Fabius Maximus. The insurgency has indeed ended, but not for the reasons you might imagine.

On War #209: Conversations, By William S. Lind

DNI review of Andrew Cockburn's Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy, by Chuck Spinney

More on Homosexuality in the Bible (Part 1)

More on Homosexuality in the Bible (Part 1)

Interview With Father Jean-Baptiste Edart

ROME, MARCH 15, 2007 ( The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual practices are wrong, says an exegete from the John Paul II Institute in Rome.

Father Jean-Baptiste Edart, is co-author of "Clarifications sur l'Homosexualité dans la Bible" (Clarifications on Homosexuality in the Bible), published by Editions du Cerf.

ZENIT interviewed the authors in February. In this follow-up interview, Father Edart of the Emmanuel Community, discusses more in-depth the biblical teachings on homosexuality.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Friday.

Q: What are the references to homosexuality in the Bible?

Father Edart: This subject is given very little coverage in the Bible. This is linked to the absence of the visibility of this phenomenon, and that is a logical consequence of the prohibition of this behavior.

The biblical texts which address the question of homosexuality directly or indirectly are:

In the Old Testament

Genesis 19:7-8: "I beg you, my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don't do anything to these men."

Judges 19:23-24: "No, my brothers; do not be so wicked. Since this man is my guest, do not commit this crime. Rather let me bring out my maiden daughter or his concubine. Ravish them, or do whatever you want with them; but against the man you must not commit this wanton crime."

Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination."

In the New Testament

1 Corinthians 6:9: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor sodomites ... will inherit the kingdom of God."

1 Timothy 1:10: "... law is meant not for a righteous person but for the lawless and unruly ... the unchaste, practicing homosexuals, kidnapers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is opposed to sound teaching."

Romans 1:26-27: "Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity."

Q: You quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. How should these texts be understood?

Father Edart: These two texts contain a list of vices presented as unacceptable for access to the kingdom of God.

In 1 Corinthians, two Greek words make reference to homosexuality: "malakos," translated here as "homosexuals," and "arsenokoites," translated as "sodomites."

These terms are very rare: "Malakos" appears only here in St. Paul, as for "arsenokoites," it is the first recurrence in the whole of Greek literature.

"Malakos" means, literally, "gentle, silky, delicate." In a homosexual relationship, it designates the passive partner, but it can also refer to homosexual prostitutes or very effeminate men.

The study of the meaning of "arsenokoites," and the clearly sexual context of the list of prohibitions invalidate these last two marginal interpretations.

"Arsenokoites" means literally "to lie with a man." Formed by the association of two words present in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, it quite probably appeared in the Judeo-Hellenistic context. Rabbis used the Hebrew expression "lie with a man," taken from the Hebrew text of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, to express the homosexual relationship.

They did not limit it to pederasty. All these elements seem sufficient to us to affirm that the most plausible theory is that this term refers to men having the active role in relations of a homosexual nature. The meaning of "arsenokoites" allows one to limit the meaning of "malakos" to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship.

Homosexual acts, therefore, are considered extremely grave, directly offending the divine Law. This teaching is perfectly consistent with Judaism of that time.

No distinction is related to a question of sexual orientation, or of circumstances of the act, nor is it indicated. It is the act itself which is condemned.

Q: And Romans 1:18-32?

Father Edart: St. Paul presents acts of a homosexual nature in men as well as women as a consequence of God's wrath. Research was substantiated around the precise nature of this homosexuality and of the interpretation which that passage should be given.

The Apostle wished to illustrate the nature of the ungodliness. He used homosexuality for that, vice characteristic of pagans in the Jewish tradition.

Based on the creation account in Genesis 1 and in Deuteronomy 4, he established the link between homosexuality and idolatry. In idolatry, man is dominated by the creature he adores, thus not rendering that corresponds only to the Creator.

What takes place is an inversion of the initial, manifested divine plan, among other things, in the sexual difference. In the act of a homosexual nature, this differentiation is not taken into consideration. This is why it constitutes for Paul the best illustration possible of ungodliness.

Another difficulty of interpretation of this text is the meaning of "against nature." In Roman culture, the adjective "natural" characterized acts in accord with social conventions.

Thus in Greco-Roman culture, beyond the feminine-masculine structure -- masculine is the dominant relationship -- it governed who established the moral norm in a loving relationship.

The allusion to Genesis 1 in Romans 1:19-23 invites us to see in "nature" the order willed by God and identifiable in creation. That is translated, among other things, by the man-woman sexual difference, fundamental structure willed by God as expression of his being of communion.

God willed the sexual union of man and woman, and this divine will, or divine Law, inscribed in nature is perceptible by reason. Man can observe this through all the elements that characterize sexual identity, genitalia being one of these signs.

If we wish to take into consideration the Roman meaning of this term, we could say that the act against nature does not respect the social convention established by God in creation.

The reference to Genesis 1 allows one to understand that this prohibition in no way is invalidated by questions of "tendencies" or orientation. It is every homosexual act in its materiality which is contrary to the divine will manifested in the beginning, whether imposed or consented.

Attention to the literal sense of the New Testament texts shows clearly therefore that homosexual acts are considered as gravely contrary to the divine Law. It is important to understand that this negative moral qualification is the logical consequence of a more positive side.

God willed to create man to be in alliance with him. This was manifested in the beginning in the sexual difference. The communion between man and woman is the first revelation of the love of God for man.

The difference allows for the expression of a complementarity, thus making possible the gift of persons. The sexed body manifests this. The teaching of the Church is in perfect continuity with what Scripture says on this subject.

A Look at "Sacramentum Caritatis"

A Look at "Sacramentum Caritatis"

Interview With Cardinal Angelo Scola

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2007 ( Benedict XVI's new apostolic exhortation is an important ecumenical document, says Cardinal Angelo Scola.

"Sacramentum Caritatis" (Sacrament of Charity) reflects the conclusions of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome from Oct. 2 to 23, 2005. It was released Tuesday.

ZENIT spoke to Cardinal Scola, relator general of the synodal assembly, who highlighted certain elements of the document.

Q: Your Eminence, do you feel that there is a slight imbalance in the exhortation: on the one hand, encouraging a deeper look at the liturgy, aiming for a more active and fruitful participation of the faithful; and on the other hand, advising the use of Latin for international celebrations and encouraging Gregorian chant, leaving aside religious expressions perhaps closer to the people -- for example, African dancing and singing?

Cardinal Scola: We need to understand the logic underlying the entire exhortation. The Holy Father aims to outline all of the concrete characteristics so that the Eucharist will be the one Eucharist-act of God in Jesus Christ that involves all the faithful, whether in Sydney, or Milan or in Buenos Aires or in Kampala. But then, it also gives indications for those that are in these places to concretely put into practice the one rite.

Now, the fact that there is a very important paragraph on inculturation and that it says the episcopal conferences should continue to work with the dicasteries involved precisely answers this need.

Clearly, the job of a postsynodal exhortation is to center on everything that unites; it would be presumptuous for the Pope to say how inculturation in Africa should be or in India. The Holy Father recommends that the bishops who are there, in conjunction with the dicasteries, do this. So, in my opinion, the imbalance to which you refer does not exist.

Q: As to the topic of freedom of worship, the impression one gets is that concrete information is not furnished on how to favor the Eucharistic celebrations within those communities "where Christians are a minority or where they are denied religious freedom" -- No. 87. What are your thoughts?

Cardinal Scola: There also, one must distinguish what a postsynodal exhortation can do, in other words, a document that goes out to all the Churches in the world. It can only demand the fulfillment of principles and give suggestions. There is a reason that the Church always lives in two dimensions, the universal and the particular.

Therefore, it falls on those who are in a particular place -- embracing this principle of freedom of worship as an expression of freedom of religion which has been energetically highlighted -- to find the best ways of acting.

And we must not forget that the normal activities of the Holy Father and the Holy See also assist in these situations. If not, documents would have to go into such detail that we would need 2,000 pages to cover everything.

Q: How can the Eucharistic ecclesiology underlined in "Sacramentum Caritatis" guide the efforts made toward achieving the full and visible unity of all Christians?

Cardinal Scola: I believe that the exhortation has an incredible ecumenical value, because it understands the intrinsic link between the Eucharistic mystery, liturgical action and the new spiritual worship -- [for instance] No. 5. So on this topic, it coincides greatly with Orthodox sensitivity, but also goes toward our Protestant brothers and sisters.

The Political Economy of Diamonds

R. T. Naylor
The Political Economy of Diamonds

Benedict XVI's Address on Paul VI

Benedict XVI's Address on Paul VI

"A Firm and Wise Helmsman of the Barque of Peter"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the March 3 address Benedict XVI gave to members of the Paul VI Institute.

* * *



Saturday, 3 March 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome each one of you who belong to the Scientific Committee and to the Executive Committee of the Paul VI Institute, sponsored by Brescia's "Society for Christian Education" for the purpose of encouraging the study of the life, thought and work of this unforgettable Pontiff.

I greet you all cordially, starting with the Cardinals present. In particular, I greet Dr Giuseppe Camadini and thank him for the words he has addressed to me in his capacity as President of your Institute.

I then offer a special greeting to Bishop Giulio Sanguineti, Pastor of the Diocese in which my venerable Predecessor was born, baptized and ordained a priest. I am also grateful to him for all he does authoritatively to support and accompany the activity of such a praiseworthy Institute.

Thank you, dear friends, for offering me as a gift copies of all your publications to date. This is an immense series of volumes that testify to the considerable amount of work you have done in more than 25 years.

As was said, I too have had an opportunity to become acquainted with your Institute's activities. I have admired its faithfulness to the Magisterium as well as its intention to honour a great Pontiff, whose apostolic yearning you have made it your business to highlight by rigorous research work and high-grade scientific and ecclesial initiatives.

I feel closely and personally bound to the Servant of God Paul VI because of the trust he showed me in appointing me Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and, three months later, enrolling me in the College of Cardinals.

He was called by divine Providence to take the helm of the barque of Peter to steer her through a historical period marked by numerous challenges and problems.

In thinking back over the years of his Pontificate, it is striking to note the missionary zeal that motivated him and impelled him to undertake demanding Apostolic Journeys even to distant nations in order to make prophetic gestures of great ecclesial, missionary and ecumenical importance.

He was the first Pope to go to the Land where Christ lived and from which Peter set out on his journey to Rome. That Visit, only six months after his election as Supreme Pastor of the People of God and while the Second Vatican Council was underway, had a clear symbolic meaning. He showed the Church that the path of her mission is to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

This was precisely what Pope Paul VI sought to do during his Petrine ministry, which he always exercised with wisdom and prudence in complete fidelity to the Lord's command.

In fact, the secret of the pastoral action that Paul VI carried out with tireless dedication, at times adopting difficult and unpopular decisions, lies precisely in his love for Christ, a love vibrant with moving words to be found in all his teachings. His soul as a Pastor was totally consumed with missionary zeal, nourished by a sincere desire for dialogue with humanity. His prophetic invitation, several times repeated, to renew the world troubled by anxieties and violence through the "civilization of love", sprang from a total entrustment of himself to Jesus, Redeemer of man.

How can I forget, for example, the words I too heard in the Vatican Basilica, when I was taking part as an expert in the Second Vatican Council at the opening of the Second Session on 29 September 1963?

"Christ, our principle", Paul VI said with deep feeling, and I can still hear his voice, "Christ, our Way and our Guide! Christ, our hope and our destination.... No other light shines out at this meeting except for Christ's, Light of the world; no other truth than the words of the Lord, our one Teacher, concerns our hearts; no other aspiration guides us than the desire to be absolutely faithful to him" (Teachings of Paul VI, I [1963], 170-171). And until he drew his last breath, his thought, his energy and his action were for Christ and for the Church.

The name of this Pontiff, whose greatness public opinion understood on the occasion of his death, continues to be specially linked to the Second Vatican Council. If it was John XXIII who organized and inaugurated the Council, it was left to Paul VI, his Successor, to bring it to completion with an expert, delicate and firm hand. The government of the Church in the post-conciliar period was equally exacting for Pope Montini.

Even when he had to tolerate suffering and sometimes violent attacks, he did not let himself be conditioned by misunderstanding and criticism, but on every occasion remained a firm and wise helmsman of the barque of Peter.

As the years pass, the importance of his Pontificate for the Church and for the world, and likewise, the value of his lofty Magisterium which has inspired his Successors and to which I too continue to refer, appear ever more clearly.

I therefore willingly take this opportunity today to pay him homage, as I encourage you, dear friends, to persevere with the work you started some time ago.

Making my own the exhortation addressed to you by our beloved Pope John Paul II, I gladly repeat to you: "Study Paul VI lovingly.... Study him with scientific thoroughness.... Study him with the conviction that his spiritual heritage continues to enrich the Church and can nourish the consciences of the men of today, who are so much in need of "words of eternal life'" (Address to the Scientific and the Executive Committee of the Paul VI Institute, 26 January 1980; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 4 February, p. 15).

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you once again for your visit; I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I bless you with affection, and your families and all the projects of the Paul VI Institute of Brescia.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Some Richard Heinberg stuff

Via EB:
Speaking to European Parliament about peak oil
by Richard Heinberg

Via EB:
Peak Oil and Beyond - Q&A with Heinberg, Campbell and Leggett - Part 1, 2, 3.
Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture

Crude addiction: Interview with Dr. Bakhtiari (PDF)\
Bruce Madden, Macquarie Bank Ltd.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lewis Regenstein, My Grandfather and Confederate Gold

My Grandfather and Confederate Gold by Lewis Regenstein

Ah, but is it a sign of reproductive fitness?

Men lust for hourglass curves, say researchers

By Roger Highfield Science Editor

via Lew Rockwell

Science or unscientific nonsense (non-science)?

Secret of attraction? It's all due to the wiggle
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

A curvaceous figure has to wiggle in the right way too - or swagger in the case of men - according to a series of experiments that show the science of romance is much more complicated than researchers had thought.

And what of cultures where the female body is covered up, and because of standards of comportment there is no wiggle? Or on the other extreme, cultures where there is very little clothing?

The wiggle might draw one's attention to certain areas.

2 by Laurence Vance

The Anti-Federalists Were Right
And the Federalist Papers were all wet.

The Elastic Clause
The Anti-Federalists on the Constitution.

The Anti-Federalist Papers
Anti-Federalist Papers

The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945

George Nash

Kirk Center Bio
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945
Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition (ISI Books)

The New Counterculture
Right Reason interview: pt 1, 2

Russell Kirk

The Russell Kirk Center
10 Conservative Principles

The Conservative Mind
Politics of Prudence
David Frum, The Legacy of Russell Kirk
Bradley J. Birzer, The American Cicero: Russell Kirk
The Chronicle: 5/7/2004: A Conservative of the Old School

Jeffrey Hart, The Burke Habit

Richard Viguerie Speaks Out About the GOP

Richard Viguerie Speaks Out About the GOP

Perhaps with enough mobilization through the Internet and word of mouth, Dr. Ron Paul might have a shot? Perhaps those who support Giuliani are ignorant of what he really stands for, and certainly those who still hold out hope for the Republican Party need to become informed about who he is and what he supports. It would be good if the three main contenders, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain, were to engage in "negative campaigning" against one another. But if they don't, someone needs to step in and tell others how poorly qualified they are to bring about reform.

Magister on Sacramentum Caritatis

“Sacramentum Caritatis”: Everyone to Mass on Sunday

HT to Fr. Finigan

Beijing worried about inflation and speculative bubbles

Beijing worried about inflation and speculative bubbles
The cost of living, especially food prices, and the money supply are rising at faster rate than the government expected. NPC Standing Committee Vice-Chairman Cheng warns stock market is overvalued and needs further reductions. Economists expect central bank to raise cost of borrowing.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee Vice-Chairman Cheng Siwei warned investors yesterday that the speculative bubble in capital markets might still burst despite February’s correction. In February inflation was still rising fast, heightening expectations that the central bank might raise interest rates and adopt other tightening measures.

“The bubble has become a bit smaller, but we cannot say there is no such thing at the moment,” Mr Cheng said on the sidelines of the annual NPC session. “It is good the market has fallen somewhat, which reduced the risk of the bubble bursting.” However, stocks are still overvalued and investors must avoid “blind optimism.”
In February mainland stock prices plunged almost 9 per cent in one day, but benchmark indices had soared more than 130 per cent last year, making mainland stock exchanges among the world's best performers.

But for Cheng the recent bull market had only been supported by a rise in the value of a batch of blue chips rather than an improvement in the quality of listed companies; only about 30 per cent of the more than 1,300 listed firms had investment value.

Meanwhile Hong Kong’s exchange lost 2.8 per cent today with Shanghai losing 2 per cent, mostly as a result of losses on Wall Street. And inflation is rising despite government price controls on key staple goods.

The consumer price index rose in fact 2.7 per cent year on year last month, with the food component of the price index ring 6 per cent, much faster than non-food items, which increased 1 per cent. The price of meat was up 15.4 per cent year on year last month; eggs were 30 per cent more expensive.

With such rising costs higher farming revenues, involving the bulk of the population, can’t keep up. Even the price of clothing and durable goods, such as washing machines, has been rising for the first time in a decade.

Data released Monday showed that China's trade surplus soared to its second-largest level ever, at US$ 23.76 billion last month. Thus, the mainland's reserves stockpile reached US$ 1.066 trillion at the end of last year and is now the largest in the world.
Because of this Mr Cheng said the government should invest part of its foreign exchange reserves overseas in an effort to narrow trade imbalances.

Separately, the Ministry of Commerce announced yesterday that China attracted US$ 9.71 billion in foreign direct investment over the first two months of this year, up 13 per cent from a year earlier.

With inflation rising and banking interest rates relatively low, there was little incentive for investors to keep money in their accounts. Instead, they probably would look to invest it in stock markets or property, increasing the chances of an asset bubble developing.

Premier Wen Jiabao last week said China's inflation rate should remain below 3 per cent this year, but economists at Goldman Sachs said “if the trend of monetary expansion continues to accelerate at the current speed, it will likely post renewed inflationary pressures heading into the second half of the year.”

Hence, experts believe, if the current trend continues it is highly likely that the central bank will raise interest rates and adopt additional anti-inflation measures. (PB)

From Pyongyang to Vladivostok to learn the Orthodox Easter Liturgy

From Pyongyang to Vladivostok to learn the Orthodox Easter Liturgy

Two priests, ordained last August by the North Korean Orthodox Church, visited Vladivostok to learn about Lenten celebrations and the Easter Liturgy. The links between the two Churches remains, both under the authority of Alexi II.

Vladivostok (AsiaNews) – At the beginning of Lent North Korean Orthodox priests visited the Russian city of Vladivostok, to attend the Cathedral of St Nicolas and learn the seasons liturgy and Easter celebrations. The decision to journey to the Siberian city was born of the fact that the two, who were ordained priests in the only Orthodox Church in the North Korean capital, the Holy Trinity, received their formation in Vladivostok.
With the two – Fr. Feyodor Kim and Fr. Ioann Ra – was Kim En Chang, a graduate from the Gnesiny music school, who also studied scared music in Vladivostok. The formation of North Korean clergy in Russia was granted thanks to the efforts of the North Korean Orthodox Commission, set up in Pyongyang in 2002.
According to Fr. Dionisy Pozdnyayev, a Russian Orthodox priest from the Moscow Patriarchate invited by the North Korean government to minister to foreign nationals in the North Korean capital, the creation of an Orthodox Committee "marks the official recognition of Orthodoxy".
During the Russian “workshop”, ties between the two Churches were strengthened – both fall under the authority of the Patriarch of the Russias Alexi II – and it was confirmed that a Russian priest and choir have been sent top take part in the Korean Easter celebrations.
By the early 1900's some 10,000 Koreans converted to Orthodoxy as a result of Russian missioners' work in cities like Seoul (South Korea) and Wonsan (North Korea) and several villages. However, Japanese colonial rule and the Stalinist regime in the north cut short the process of evangelisation.
Missionary activity did start again in South Korea where there are now four Orthodox churches
The Vladivostok's delegation is not the first on Russian ground: four North Koreans are studying at the Moscow Patriarchate's Theological Seminary. Two Russian students from the Moscow Theological Academy are also currently studying the Korean language and culture at Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung University.

Confession: A School of Mercy

Confession: A School of Mercy

Interview With Archbishop Gómez of San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, MARCH 14, 2007 ( The sacrament of penance and reconciliation is a "school of mercy" that teaches the values of forgiveness and unconditional love, according to the archbishop of San Antonio.

Archbishop José Gómez wrote this in a pastoral letter entitled "The Tender Mercy of Our God," released at the beginning of Lent.

The publication of the letter also coincides with the end of a Jubilee Year declared by the archbishop to commemorate the 275th anniversary of the archdiocese's San Fernando Cathedral, one of the oldest Catholic sanctuaries in the United States.

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Gómez speaks to ZENIT about why he wrote the letter on the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, and the lessons that confession can teach all who approach it.

Q: The No. 1 task for a Catholic during Lent has always been to go to confession. In your new pastoral letter on the sacrament, you seem to suggest that this practice has gone by the wayside a little bit. Could you explain why this has happened, and why it is so important to approach this sacrament?

Archbishop Gómez: The signals on confession are mixed -- there are shadows and light. On the one hand, it's no secret that many of our brothers and sisters have stopped going to confession altogether, or they haven't been in a long time. This is a sad truth.

As I point out in my pastoral letter, I believe the problem is rooted in our culture's loss of the sense of sin. Our culture is relentless in telling our people that there are no absolute truths or moral norms, and that what's true or good or evil is all relative -- that it depends on the subjective opinion of the individual. So, a lot of people are morally confused -- deceived, really. And we have to reach out to help these people to come back to the sacrament.

On the other hand, in the years since the Second Vatican Council we see that many Catholics have developed a very mature, positive, and joyful attitude toward the sacrament. They're going to confession regularly. They see regular confession as an essential part of their spiritual lives and their quest for holiness and true friendship with Jesus Christ.

Through regular confession, they know they're growing in self-knowledge and in their love and knowledge of Christ. Confession for them is a source of spiritual growth and gives them great joy.

In fact, in some of the parishes here in the archdiocese we have too many people coming on Saturday afternoon for confession. That's why in my letter I'm asking our priests to be creative in looking for new ways to offer the sacrament to their parishioners.

What I'm hoping to get across in this new letter, and in my ministry of reconciliation in San Antonio, is the power, the beauty and the joy of confession. There is no greater happiness than to know that our sins have been forgiven and that we've been reconciled with God. That's what we all long for -- wholeness, union, friendship with God. That's true happiness. And confession gives us that.

Q: You say in your letter that mortal sin can lead to our spiritual death. Do you think Catholics are as conscientiousness of and concerned for their spiritual health as they are of their physical health? How can the faithful become more aware of and maintain their spiritual well-being?

Archbishop Gómez: Again, because of the cultural climate we live in, I felt it was very important in my letter to recall the clear teaching of Jesus about the reality of sin and the consequences of sin.

I wanted to get across two things. First, that sin is real and that if we think we aren't sinners we're deceiving ourselves. And second, that God's mercy is greater than our sinfulness -- that if we come to our Father with a contrite heart, if we confess with true sorrow, he will take away our sins and give us a clean slate.

This, too, is the clear teaching of Jesus -- that our Father has a tender love for all of us; that he desires all of us to know salvation through the forgiveness of sins; and that there is great rejoicing in heaven whenever a sinner repents and comes home. Confession brings us joy and it brings joy to our Father too.

In terms of their "spiritual health," I think people realize that it's not healthy to be in a state of sin, because through sin we lose our friendship with God; and when we're separated from God, we don't feel right.

What I don't think most people fully realize is the power -- the grace, peace and strength -- that comes to us in the sacrament. Penance is a remedy, yes. It heals us of our sins; it makes it possible for us to live again in God's grace. But it does more than that. In the sacrament, God strengthens us. He gives us the spiritual strength we need to live a new life -- to love more deeply, and to overcome our selfishness and weakness.

The beautiful truth is that the more we go to confession, the more we grow in holiness. We experience real conversion every day. We are less absorbed in material things. We find we have the grace to see the world differently and to think and act differently. We have real friendship with Jesus.

Q: Regarding the reception of Communion while being in a state of mortal sin, what types of pastoral steps have you taken to help the faithful understand that they must confess their sins and restore their communion with the Church before approaching the sacrament of the Eucharist?

Archbishop Gómez: Confession and Communion belong together. Before Communion we always pray the prayer of the Roman soldier: "Lord, I'm not worthy to receive you, but only say the word." Confession is that word of pardon that heals us, that cleanses us of our faults and makes our souls worthy to receive our Lord in the Eucharist.

We can't be in communion with God if there are things in our lives that aren't worthy of our baptismal calling as children of God. People know this in their hearts. I think that's why some people stop going to church -- they sense that their sins have made them unworthy of the sacrament. They're like the prodigal son who says to his father, "I've sinned against heaven and earth. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son."

Of course, our Father never stops loving us as his children. But it's still true that our sins can make us unworthy to be called to Our Lord's supper. I think people understand that -- that receiving the Eucharist under those conditions would be somehow false and wrong.

What I hope to help those in that situation see is how much our Father wants them to come back. Sometimes people stay away from confession because they're ashamed or they're afraid to tell the priest about their failings and weakness.

They've forgotten that confession isn't a conversation with a priest; it's a dialogue with God. The priest has been chosen, ordained to serve "in persona Christi," in the person of Christ -- to forgive sins in Christ's name. No one else but the priest has been given this power on earth.

That's why the sacrament of reconciliation is such an amazing gift of God's love. And it has been given to us because God wants every one of us to be worthy to be called his sons and daughters and to join together with him at the heavenly banquet of the Eucharist.

In my pastoral letter, I talk about the prodigal son. After wasting his life in sin, he was scared to go home. But when he got there, his father came running out to meet him, filled with compassion.

The son confessed his sins, the father forgave him, and then prepared a banquet of joy to celebrate his son's return. That's how it is with every confession. There is nothing to fear. In the confessional there is no anger, no condemnation. There is only peace and pardon. And confession leads us to Communion, to the joy of heaven.

Q: You say we are living in a "culture of revenge." In other words, society as a whole has lost a sense of forgiveness and a desire for mutual understanding. You add that the confessional is a "school of mercy." What can we learn from going to confession?

Archbishop Gómez: In my pastoral letter, I talk about the phenomenon of terrorism and some disturbing trends in American society. And yes, I think we can trace the root causes to our loss of the sense of mercy and forgiveness. We just don't seem to believe anymore that it does us any good to forgive those who do us wrong. And that refusal to forgive is tearing up our society.

The teachings of the Gospel are again very clear: We are to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful. We are to forgive those who trespass against us, as our Father forgives us our trespasses. The mercy and forgiveness we hope for from God is the mercy that we should show to our brothers and sisters.

We learn these things in the confessional. That's where the saints and martyrs learned how to forgive their persecutors. I think a lot about the Mexican martyrs from the 1920s. They suffered horrible things for their faith. Yet many of them went to their deaths pardoning their torturers. Blessed Luis Magna Servín promised his executioners they would be the first people he would pray for in heaven!

Where does a young man get that kind of strength and wisdom? From the grace that comes in the sacrament. And we can have that grace, too.

The truth is: There can be no peace in our hearts or in the world unless we learn again how to tell God we're sorry for our sins, and unless we learn again how to forgive those who trespass against us. Confession will teach us that.