Libel, Damned Libel, and the Mainstream Media

The Setting

There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there’s the kind of thing reported by the mainstream media. I am referring here to three cases of sexual abuse, in neither of which is implicated the Holy Father, but both of which are constantly mentioning said Supreme Pontiff. The first is the case of the priest—Fr Peter Hullerman, sometimes referred to as “priest H.”—who sexually abused minors while serving in the Archdiocese of Munich. At the time, the archbishop of that diocese was Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). The second is the so-called Murphy Case, involving s priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, involving Fr Lawrence Murphy, who was accused (though never formally convicted) of molesting up to 200 children. The third and final case is a lawsuit one launched in Kentucky which “seeks to have the pope deposed over claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to report abuse claims.”

It is of the utmost interest that justice be done in regards to all of the child abuse cases. People of good conscience can agree on that point in good faith, and can agree that the people who are directly involved can and should be prosecuted. The scandals themselves are widespread geographically (though everywhere involved only a very small number of the clergy—about 4% in the US by one account, and as small as 0.3% by another), and some occurred as recently as 20 years ago. Because of the sensitive nature of these cases, they ought to be dealt with both fairly and justly, being careful to separate those guilty of abuse from those not guilty, and those who actually harbored these molesters from those members of the hierarchy who were not involved in any cover-ups.

Unfortunately, this is not the approach taken by the mainstream media. These are much more interested in forming a witch-hunt, both against the Church writ large and against the Pope himself. Unfortunately, the negative effects of this media frenzy are already being felt here in the states, as people’s favorability of the Holy Father is dropping. The Holy Father, for his part, is scarcely implicated in these despicable deeds.

How a Society Slips--Contraception

"Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down."
--G. K. Chesterton (The Innocence of Father Brown)

Professor J Budziszewski offers his own version of this quote (even citing the quote itself) in his books about the natural law philosophy. The good professor notes that just as no man can keep at a level of evil, neither can any society. We begin with our favorite sin--usually something specific like fornication or theft which is based upon something abstract such as lust or envy--and our refusal to repent of said sin. Yet, if we can't go through a normal and healthy repentance, we will be dragged through an abnormal, unhealthy form of repentance. Failing to confess the sin--and our guilt in it--we tell all of the sordid details about the sin, in gory detail. A simple sin seems to become an obsession--perhaps even a possessive one; but even having confessed every detail, even crying out "Peace, peace," we find that there is not peace to be had.

Reflection About a Rib

“The LORD God cast the man into a deep sleep and, while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib the LORD God took from the man, He made into a woman, and brought her to him. Then the man said, ‘She is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, for from man she has been taken.’ For this reason a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:21-24).

In his fifth “Theology of the Body” address as Pope, John Paul the Great notes about this passage that it is the first time in this Genesis account of creation in which the man Adam is identified as being explicitly male (and not generic man). It is only after the creation of a woman that the distinction between male and female really makes sense. In the words of Mr Christopher West, “Our bodies do not make sense without each other.” A man’s body does not make sense on his own, without a woman’s, and vice versa.

Contraception and Discernment

A little more than three years ago, when I first moved to Austin, I had very few friends of my own in the area. The nearest and dearest person I knew was my brother, who at the time lived less than a mile away from my apartment complex. He was a residential assistant at the time, and so lived in the dorms and had all of the duties and responsibilities which go with that post. I spent a good deal of my free time with him at St Edward’s, but he often had to make rounds or resolve some crisis or other, and so I spent a good deal of time talking to his fellow RAs and his residents.

I remember very few specific conversations which I had, but one stands out a bit in my mind today. One of the residents had taken up riding horses—my favorite activity growing up, and a thing which I still dearly miss—and so I had frequent short conversations with her. We talked a few times about horses, but on this particular night, we talked about something else. I don’t specifically remember how we got onto the topic of birth control and religion, but we did. It actually may have been a conversation about religion—she was an Anglican of some sort—but it drifted into the realm of birth-control. At some point, she mentioned that some relatives of hers were Catholics and that they insisted that one couldn’t use birth control. They didn’t know why they couldn’t, only that they couldn’t BECAUSE THE CHURCH SAYS SO.

Some Thoughts Concerning the Permanence and Sacramentality of Marriage

The topic of marriage has been on my mind quite a bit as of late. My fiancée and I are in the midst of our wedding (and marriage) planning. We just sent out the cards announcing date and time (so save the date!), and I've been discussing suits with my groomsmen. She's changed her bridesmaids' outfits a couple of times (making picking the aforementioned suits a bit more difficult), and has been meeting with her tailor to make the wedding gown. Today my fiancée and I begin our marriage preparation classes, and last night was the first of three NFP classes. We've even found a little time to read up on some materials and go to a few extra talks to prepare us for marriage: Fulton Sheen, John Paul the Great, Christopher West, and even a few discussions with the local priest.

All of this has caused me to think a bit about the theology which underlies marriage, especially in light of the high divorce rates. There are many people who believe that marriage ought not to be necessarily permanent, and others who want theirs to be permanent, but excuse failed marriages by saying "Too bad, so sad," but then turn around and complain about the Church's teaching against "remarriage" after a divorce.

Eros at Most

The Boston Globe has a piece up about Polyamory in Boston. On the one hand, I'm tempted to agree with Marcel of the Aggie Catholics: this isn't "love." Mark Shea also has a bit to say about the subject.

I have a few thoughts of my own. First of all, this is exactly why the slippery slope argument against gay marriage is valid. Indeed, the slippery-slope argument applies more properly to divorce in general and no-fault divorce in particular more so than to gay "marriage." If marriage was recognized as an indisovable (or at least irreplaceable "until death do they part") union between one man and one woman, we would not be seeing what amounts to an endorsement of polyamory printed in a fairly major paper (let alone the outright praise given to gay "marriages" and other such unions lavished by a number of major media outlets). I won't further rehash Mr Shea's arguments regarding the "slippery slope."

A Malthusian Proposal

I have long been thinking about the problem of unwanted pregnancy. The solution proposed by most of the more old-fashioned Protestant Christians is just to abstain from sexual activity until marriage; and the oft-unspoken advice is to contracept in marriage to limit the number and timely arrival of children. Catholics, with all their fuss against contraception, have an abstain-until-you-are-married-and-want-children approach to this problem. Neither of these approaches deals fairly with the single biggest problem faced by people who don’t want children: unplanned sexual activity.

A Reflection Concerning "The Longing"

Before I begin, a word about my notation in this reflection. I did not take any notes, and thus have to rely on memory alone about what was said. Thus, I cannot use any direct quotes, only paraphrases; I thus will use italics and single quotations (‘ ’) to denote anything which I am taking as a paraphrased quote, and regular double quotations marks (“ ”) to mean things which are quoted directly, e.g. from other sources.

Abstinence, Chastity, and Sexuality

Two days and two columns from the Daily Sexan--err, I mean, Texan--about the subject of sex. I am, of course, not counting the weekly "Hump-Day" column in which Ms Mary Lingwall writes about how to have better (and often, more depraved) and sometimes "safer" sex; the explicit purpose of this column is to subvert traditional attitudes regarding sex, but I digress. Yesterday, we had Ms Anna Russo's "Who can be promiscuous;" today, we have Ms Ashley Shew's "Texas' failed sex education."

Blairing the Issue

The telegraph has an article about Cherie Blair's attack on the Church for her teaching on contraception.

"Despite being a devour [sic] Catholic and encouraging her husband, Tony, to convert from Anglicanism, she said she used contraception.

The wife of the former Prime Minister said: 'I feel if you look at what progress women have made in the world, one of the reasons is because they have been able to control their fertility.' "

I would here argue--along with Blair's countryman, Chesterton--that her definition of "progress" leaves something to be desired. There was a time when "progress" meant that things are getting better and not merely changing.

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