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.

Crisis in Vocations--Or Identity?

There are several publications which I don't tend to read unless either I'm very bored or I've been sent a link. There's the ostensibly Catholic paper The Tablet (Britain's "Bitter Pill" as it's known around the orthodox Catholic regions of the Blogosphere), the ecumenical Sojourners' magazine, the Jesuit-run America magazine, and, of course, there is the National Catholic Reporter (excluding Mr John Allen, whose articles are often quite enlightening, to say the least). Yet, on occasion I find myself reading a linked article here, a facebook-shared article there. Occasionally, I am delightfully surprised, but more often I am reminded as to why I tend not to read these publications in the first place.

Thus, when a friend posted a link on facebook to an article about the "vocation crisis" in the National Catholic Reporter, I didn't hold my breath. I was expecting the article to be the amalgamation of several groups with perceived grievances against the Church, and I wasn't disappointed. That the article was written by Miss Jamie Manson, who happens to be a member of the national board of the Women's Ordination Conference is par for the course.

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.

Abortion, Torture, and the Culture of Death

The Texas Alliance for Life—along with the Diocese of Austin—commemorated the infamous Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions on Saturday. It was a day filled with Masses and marches, rosaries and rhetoric, statistics (over 50 million dead in the American abortion holocaust alone) and speeches—of prayer and politics. The problem in America—indeed, in what was and may someday again be Christendom—is one not merely of politics, but also of culture. The late (and perhaps great) president Ronald Reagan once referred to the Soviet Union as the evil empire; it was true, but the late and certainly great Pope John Paul II offered a more profound critique of culture when he called ours “the culture of death.”

My Review of The Line Through the Heart

It's been up for a while now, but I only recently found the site where the ISI book reviews get published. Here, then, is the link to my review of Professor J Budziszewski's "The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction." The book itself was well-written; Budziszewski is fast becoming one of my favorite writers and speakers, and is also one of the most welcoming professors I've met. Here is an excerpt of the review:

The Golden Calf of Narcissism

When the people became aware of Moses' delay in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will be our leader; as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him." Aaron replied, "Have your wives and sons and daughters take off the golden earrings they are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, who accepted their offering, and fashioning this gold with a graving tool, made a molten calf. Then they cried out, "This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." ( Exodus 32:1-4)

So begins the story of the golden calf—Israel’s “sacred cow”—as recorded in the Book of Exodus. Many a person hears this story and laughs at it, or at the foolish Israelites who would abandon God so easily. Others take more heed of the literally dozens and more homilies for the Sunday Masses about not making idols for ourselves, not worshiping the things of this world, and of being faithful only to God. While these are good lessons to draw from this passage, there is another and often-overlooked lesson which can be drawn.

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.

Optical Bullets and Scientific Testimony

How much do we take "on faith" in our everyday lives? This question arose in my mind yesterday as I sat through a colleague's talk in my research group's meeting. He was talking about a phenomenon which has been named "optical bullets," and I began to wonder why these are scientifically interesting. The talk in question is to be delivered at the upcoming meeting for the American Physics Society's Division of Plasma Physics. Though I wondered about the importance of optical bullets, I next came to realize that they must be interesting if for no other reason than that Professor Downer was interested in them. In other words, I can place trust in their importance, because a prominent member of the scientific community is also interested in them.

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.

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