Friday, December 12, 2008

Avery Cardinal Dulles 1918 - 2008

Cardinal Dulles with Pope Benedict during his April 2008 visit to the United States

Cardinal Dulles died this morning at Fordham, where he was the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society. He was an adult convert to Catholicism, becoming a Jesuit. His father John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State and namesake of Washington DC's international airport. His uncle was Allen Dulles, director of the CIA. Avery was a Navy lieutenant during World War II. In Fall 1985 he was the John A. O'Brien Visiting Professor of Theology at Notre Dame. He received an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame in 2001. You can read his full bio here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sunday Morning Quarterbacks

I don't usually post regarding football, but this is a satirical poke at American Catholicism in general. It's even better if you know who all of the people are; and the author is a Domer who teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Chicago, Dec. 3 — The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will convene an emergency meeting here today to discuss the University of Notre Dame’s decision to retain its embattled head football coach, Charlie Weis.

The bishops are, by all accounts, divided internally on how to proceed. Some bishops believe that aggressive steps are needed to shake up the complacency that has settled in at South Bend. They fear that, unless decisive and courageous action is taken, Notre Dame’s program will soon be indistinguishable from the rest of the college football landscape. Francis Cardinal George, USCCB president and archbishop of Chicago, said, “Three quarters just to get one first down against USC? Notre Dame football is in danger of becoming an exhausted project. It’s not a matter of whether we are ‘Holtz’ fans or ‘Parseghian’ fans or, heaven forbid, ‘Weis’ fans, but rather that we are simply Notre Dame fans united in our one father, Knute Rockne, in his only begotten son, George Gipp, and in the four evangelists—I mean, the Four Horsemen. I am disappointed that Notre Dame did not take the actions needed to restore its football program to fidelity and, therefore, greatness.” Cardinal George later clarified these remarks, stating that he was speaking only in his own name, and not as USCCB president.

The Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, USCCB vice president and bishop of Tucson, said, “We bishops share a common vision but differ on the best means to realize that vision. We are unanimous in our conviction that something must be done. But, at this moment of great importance for the Church and the nation, we must not reduce the situation at ND to the single issue of Charlie Weis. Instead, we offer all Notre Dame football fans a moral framework with which they can properly form their consciences on this delicate issue. We are not telling anyone whom to fire or not to fire.”

Kicanas’s remarks resonated with those who counsel a more nuanced, consistent ethic of football, sometimes known as the “four-seamed pigskin” approach. Firing Weis, these prelates argue, would not have addressed the root causes of Notre Dame’s now decades-long mediocrity in football. “How can we support the Notre Dame administration so that they aren’t trapped in a downward spiral of hiring and firing?” asked one bishop, who asked to remain anonymous. “How can we foster a culture of football in which such firings are both unthinkable and unnecessary?”

Reaction to the bishops’ surprise meeting was immediate and varied. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, president of Notre Dame, issued a statement: “The Notre Dame community always welcomes the valuable insights of the American bishops, and we look forward to continuing our conversation. I have always believed that dialogues are better than monologues.”

The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, professor of theology at Notre Dame, said, “Firing Weis would certainly have been a legitimate option. Having written several books on the papacy, I’d be a supporter of a contemporary Pope Urban, if you know what I mean. But the bishops shouldn’t intrude in an internal university matter. We must have the athletic freedom and institutional autonomy proper to any university sports program, Catholic or not.”

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Washington, DC-based Ethics and Public Policy Center and a close personal friend of the late Pope John Paul II, said, “I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. But the time has come for Churchillian action. The bishops as a body have to decide if they want to be the shepherds and leaders God has called them to be, or if they will settle for being bureaucratic discussion-group moderators. And Notre Dame has unfortunately decided to forgo excellence on the gridiron and settle for ‘Notre Dame Lite,” when it is clear that the mindless ‘Lite’ approach has led to declining win-loss records and television ratings.”

Other commentators counseled caution. The Rev. Thomas Reese, SJ, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center and former editor of America magazine, said, “Notre Dame administrators made up their own minds, and heavy-handed pressure tactics by the bishops will surely backfire. The best-educated Catholics in the history of the world just tune this stuff out.”

M. Cathleen Kaveny, professor of law and theology at Notre Dame, warned that the bishops needed to choose their tactics and words carefully: “Prophetic denunciations are satisfying in the short term, but they convince very few people and almost always fall flat in the end. We need a more pragmatic approach that respects the difficult, messy choices we all have to make. I think we need to ask ourselves, ‘What would Stephen Colbert do?’”

Coach Weis and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick are scheduled to meet on Monday, December 8 for a comprehensive discussion of the football program. The coming days will surely bring further resolution to a controversial matter, but whether that resolution will satisfy anyone is another matter altogether. Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek contributing editor and a Notre Dame alumnus (class of ’57), summed up the feelings of many fans and bishops alike: “It all went downhill after Frank O’Malley died.”

Cardinal George

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mother Mary: The Archetype of Woman, of Man.

This year, 2008, marks the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter to Women, Mulieris Dignitatem. This anniversary was celebrated in February earlier this year with a large conference in Vatican City, at which woman scholars from all over the world gathered to both commemorate the anniversary, as well as discuss this papal document and what it means for the women of today's world. As today is the Marian Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I thought that it was appropriate to reflect a little bit on this papal document.

Holy Mary is the archetype of woman. About a week ago, I finished reading Karol Wojtyla's (John Paul II) philosophical work, Love and Responsibility for a class. Having studied Mulieris Dignitatem previously in another class, I was stuck deeply by the extent to which Wojtyla's discussion and analysis of the human person and of human love can enrich the understanding of JPII's discussion of the dignity of woman, and how Holy Mary, as discussed by JPII, is the archetype not only of the dignity of woman, but also that of every person.

“What is a person?” and, more specifically, “What is woman?” Karol Wojtyla employs the personalistic norm to explain what is a “person” as he explains that a person is an unique and unrepeatable entity that has free will and is self determining. The person cannot be treated as an object of use because it is a “good toward which the proper and only attitude is love” (L&R 41). Pope John Paul II similarly says, “The person must be loved, because love alone corresponds to what the person is” (MD §29).

By its nature, “a person is its master and cannot be ceded or supplanted to another in any context where it must exercise its own will or make a commitment affecting its freedom” (L&R 125). Furthermore, the person never loses its essential value as that value is inseparable from the person’s essential being (L&R). Woman is the feminine expression of the person, the human being. Particularly, as Pope John Paul describes, woman has an originality, or genius, in what is the form of human excellence that is peculiar to woman (MD §10).

A woman’s dignity is connected closely to the love that she experiences by her being feminine (MD §30). By virtue of her femininity, the “order of love” first manifests in the created world through woman, and it is in this that the dignity of woman is appreciated. The “‘order to love’ belongs to the intimate life of the life of the Trinity, in which the Holy Spirit is the personal hypostasis” (MD §29). As the Holy Spirit unites the Father and the Son in love in the Trinity, the Spirit’s love becomes a gift to created persons that communicates itself to creatures. The creation of woman at the side of man, and their union, creates the condition for God’s love to given into the heart of human persons. Love is the authentic commitment of the free will of one person resulting from the truth about another person (L&R 123).

In this, it needs to be understood that woman must receive, or be given love so that she can give love in return. “Love is of its nature reciprocal: he who knows how to receive knows also how to give” (L&R 129; emphasis in original text). Woman’s experience of love is best exemplified in the life and love of the Virgin Mary, particularly in her fiat and in her motherhood to Christ.

In her fiat, or her unreserved assent to bear and be mother of Christ, the Son of God, Holy Mary makes of herself a self-gift in her opening of herself to receive and be in union with God’s will, which is love (MD §19).
Woman’s experience of self-gift and her experience of love are very similar. Indeed, woman’s capacity to make a gift of self originates from her capacity to love.

Woman’s dignity is exemplified in her self-gift in the act of motherhood as it is here that her genius as a woman is most evident. In Mary, we see her dignity as a woman, at the moment of her conceiving Christ, consisting in a supernatural elevation to union with God. This was only possible through her being woman and capable of motherhood (MD §4). Mary’s fiat is not only the most perfect example of love as self-gift, but in her fiat, which is an act of the will, she “highlights a form of union with God which can only belong to the woman” (MD §18).

In her union with God, Mary is the archetype of woman, but also she is the archetype of the human and self-gift (MD §4). Mary’s, woman’s readiness to make a gift of herself and the readiness to accept the “pangs of childbirth” includes a self-surrender and acceptance not only of the physical pain and discomfort of the act of childbirth, but includes all of the pains of motherhood. Indeed, Mary’s gift of self as mother of Christ continued in it faithfulness and strength even to her sorrow at the foot of the Cross (MD §18, 19). This readiness is a quality of the gift of self that is of love as goodwill or a divine aspect of love. Not only is it is a desire for happiness or unlimited good for the other person, but it also has its full value when it involves and is the work of the will (L&R 129). “The strength of such a love emerges most clearly when the beloved person stumbles, when his or her weaknesses or even sins come into the open. One who truly loves does not then withdraw his love, but loves all the more, loves in full consciousness of the other’s shortcomings and faults, and without in the least approving of them” (L&R 135).

Particularly in Mary’s motherhood to Christ, it is seen that motherhood is associated with woman’s interior structure and to the personal dimension of her gift of self (MD §18). “Woman finds its culmination in the motherhood of the Mother of God” (MD §19). Woman discovers herself, her dignity in the sincere gift of herself by which she opens herself to bear forth a new life for which she will care and nurture.

Though the nature of the person is that it is “its own master” (L&R 125), in woman’s self-gift, “the truth about the person and the truth about love is thus confirmed” for all persons in its demonstration that a person cannot find itself except through a sincere give of itself (MD §30). “Love forcibly detaches the person from its natural inviolability and inalienability and makes that person want to surrender itself to another” because the true nature of love is that it reveals itself most fully in the gift of self by the person who loves (L&R 125).

In Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II seeks to define and defend the dignity of woman, particularly by pointing to the Virgin Mary, in whom the world sees the archetype of the personal dignity and genius of woman. In view of this, Mulieris Dignitatem and, indeed, John Paul II have been held in general suspicion by modern feminist thinkers and philosophies. The suspicion holds that Mulieris Dignitatem seeks to define and promote a particular role of women, in motherhood and self-gift, that would assign and keep woman in a role in society in which she would remain vulnerable to be used by man. Contrary to this suspicion, Pope John Paul II seeks to illuminate the role of woman, which he more appropriate refers to as an “originality” or “genius,” to point to the dignity of this and to show that it is because of the dignity of this role that must be respected, not used, by man.

“Use,” here, refers to that which is the opposite or falsification of love (L&R 28) that violates the intrinsic value of the person. In his apostolic letter to women, John Paul specifically addresses use of woman that is not proper to her dignity as woman. While both man and woman are capable of and called to gift of self, the particular way in which woman gives of her self has a greater risk of her being used by man than man’s gift of self has of being used by woman (MD §18). Karol Wojtyla provides an in-depth analysis of the two meanings or manifestations of “use” in Love and Responsibility’s first chapter, “The Person and the Sexual Urge.”

Relations between two human persons that treat one or both persons as a means, Wojtyla explains, are not only impermissible, but these are problematic as they are contrary to the attitude of love that is only proper to the person. Objectification and/or use of woman by man or of man by woman must not only be avoided, but such a threat must be countered by true love. “True love, a love that is internally complete, is one in which we choose the person for the sake of the person…as the person on whom to bestow the gift of his or her own life” (L&R 134). Love of this kind requires a responsibility for the immensity of the love being given, which can only be understood by someone who understands the value of the person receiving the gift. “A woman is capable of truly making a gift of herself only if she believes in the value of her person and in the value as a person of the man to whom she gives herself. And a man is capable of fully accepting a woman’s gift of herself only if he is fully conscious of the magnitude of the gift – which he cannot be unless he affirms the value of her person” (L&R 129).

“Freedom exists for the sake of love” (L&R 135), Karol Wojtyla describes, as love is the authentic commitment of the free will in a gift of self, which has its full value when it involves and is the work of the will. The dignity of woman as such is constituted in her capacity to love and this is closely connected to the love that she experiences by her being feminine. As Pope John Paul II explains in Mulieris Dignitatem, the Virgin Mary is the archetype of the personal dignity woman as she exemplifies the “genius” of woman’s experience of love. Woman discovers herself, her dignity in the sincere gift of herself by which she opens or gives herself up to receive the love of another and, in the originality of motherhood, to bear forth a new life. It is because of this dignity that woman ought not to be defiled by any use or treatment that is contrary to that dignity, but rather honored and protected.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Catholic and spitting the truth?

I was at homeless ministry at the cathedral here in Washington one morning when I overheard a gentleman talking to another volunteer. To summarize, the gentleman was a bit crazy (but he is one of the nicest, most sincere people to come through the doors every week). That morning he was telling this volunteer all about some conspiracy with cell phone SIM cards and the government and some invention of his and the social services agencies are in on it too. It was quite fantastical and rather entertaining; I give credit to the volunteer for taking it all with a straight face. What struck me is that when this gentleman said that he was always being watched and the powers-that-be were trying to control him, the volunteer suggested that he best be silent and not tell others about the conspiracy. The man’s response was simple, Being silent is the worst thing you can do, you gotta speak up.

Conspiracy theories aside, he hit on a rather salient and continuous narrative of modern culture: the whistleblower, the revolutionary, the voice in the wilderness, Jefferson Smith. All those who “speak truth to power.”

Standing up for what’s right is so ubiquitous in all its forms (including Bob Marley’s sing-along anti-Church version) that it’s rather cliché and frankly we’re all a bit confused. Part of the problem is that we can’t all agree on what’s “right” and part of the problem is that it isn’t always fun to put oneself out there. For Catholics, an example from this election season should prove thought provoking.

When prominent Catholic legal scholar (and former Notre Dame professor) Douglas Kmiec, a Republican, endorsed Barack Obama for president he ostensibly felt as though he were speaking truth to the hierarchy and wrote a book defending his position against the Catholic hardliners who would never consider casting a ballot for a pro-choice candidate (or in Obama’s case truly pro-abortion). Not to be outdone, an unnamed Catholic priest at a Catholic business event denied Kmiec the Eucharist, eliciting a brief exchange with another Church go-er: “Are you judging this man, Father?” “He has judged himself and been found unworthy.” I’m sure that statement and accompanying actions were thought by the reverend to be some kind of truth telling against the evil forces sweeping the country, Catholic and otherwise. Little did he know that his religious superior, Roger Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles would call him into the diocesan office and reminded him of the truth in Canon Law 915 that his denial of Eucharist to Kmiec was “shameful and indefensible.” Nice of the man who openly instructed his churches to violate immigration law and settled sexual abuse lawsuits for $660 million to throw his guy under the bus and not offer much of an explanation about theology, politics or the Church’s role in America. It’s no wonder that many people are confused about Catholics and their beliefs.

Doubtless, all three men thought they were doing the right thing by not remaining silent in the face of some opposition. We could squabble about the merits of their individual beliefs and actions but the bottom line is that everyone wants to be some kind of honest, All-American hero going down to old Pharaoh and telling him to let the people go, from the chains on their hands or more often on their minds.

Kmiec may or may not be right about Obama being more Catholic than his opponent (his remarkably shoddy reasoning for a law professor is unconvincing but genuine) yet he put himself out there. The good reverend did the same. No one really won, though given the sit down with the archbishop, the priest may have lost. Their willingness to stand up for what they think is right gives us opportunity to reflect on how we conduct ourselves as Catholics.

From the daily-Mass-going, old school-to-the-core Latinist who still believes in weekly absolution and 12 child families as the standard to the eco-spiritual, twice-a-year New England crowd that wouldn’t get caught dead at a prayer vigil unless it was for gay marriage, Catholics run the gamut. Thankfully, most of us fall somewhere in between those two extremes. This philosophical diversity gives Catholics a great opportunity to dialogue with each other on our role in American society.

Obviously, there is only one light, one truth and one way; but while theological tenets are more rigid than fluid, there is no standard for Catholic engagement in civil society. In the United States we are nominally bound by the Catholic Bishops’ ambiguous harping on a properly formed conscience.

Some take that ambiguity and stretch it to mean that they can support and do anything as long as they can sleep at night, while others clamor for more of the rigidity found in doctrine. Kmiec is one of the former, though not as extreme and understandably upset that his public support for Obama, in spite of acknowledging and condemning Obama’s unmitigated support for intrinsic evil, resulted in the denial of communion. If there is to be open debate and dialogue on Catholic issues, shouldn’t there be protection against that kind of retribution? Though Kmiec was outside the realm of academia in making the endorsement, isn’t the idea of higher education some how aligned with free thought and inquiry? Shouldn’t Catholic academics embrace that paradigm and be the first ones on the scene interpreting the situation rather than just giving Kmiec a soapbox in the form of a book?

These are questions that I haven’t heard asked enough. Indeed, the whole Kmiec affair hasn’t been addressed enough in the Church. It should be known and thought about by all Catholics. To have one of our archetypal intellectuals shot down by a priest who was subsequently shot down by the archbishop is actually an incredible occurrence. Particularly at a time when the Church in America is hemorrhaging native-born Catholics, it is important to give young people the opportunity to question, struggle and learn about their commitments as religious and secular citizens.

We should all be wondering what it means to speak truth to power and whether within our own Church and government that is possible, reasonable and respectable. Certainly the Church isn’t perfect and has needed peaceful insurrection to correct itself before. Certainly our political arena isn’t perfect and has needed reformers to correct itself before. Woefully, that cowboy priest in Southern California and Clintonite-loving Obama are not as truthful and revolutionary as we might have hoped.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tradition and Football

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving has gone/is going well. I also hope that tonight's USC game doesn't make anyone lose their Turkey, but I am expecting the worst defeat in school history.

This break I went to Nebraska with my roommate and we attended the Nebraska-Colorado game. A huge rivalry game at a major, tradition-filled school which ended up going down to a 57-yard, school-record field goal and interception-return by a D-End. Exciting? Yes. But also thought-provoking as Notre Dame's own program has gone from BCS-bound my freshman year to the worst-two year stretch in history.

Notre Dame still has tradition. Yes, I enjoyed watching replays on Memorial Stadium's massive video screen, but the constant advertising is distracting. The game and energy surrounding it was something I haven't experienced in a long time.

This energy was the primary difference I felt between Nebraska Husker football and the second-most winningest program in college football history. At Memorial Stadium, the entire bowl and crowd is deeply engaged, its the highlight of the week to attend and cheer on the Huskers (a program which, like our own, has suffered in the new century after great success previously). Whereas, our student section has been policed by overzealous officer hoping to get their jollies off from arresting college kids for drinking before a depressing football game. The entire environment in Nebraska is one of solidarity and support for a team that everyone hopes can win. I have been to too many games lately, where we merely hope for a decent showing. Nebraska was and is a truly welcoming place to fans without the overriding presence of police and ushers in the student section and bowl area. This constraint has certainly dampened the enthusiasm of my own student seating area and I'm sure others as well.

This lack of energy at Notre Dame Stadium appears to translate to the field and between the coach and players. Now, I am not bashing our players and coach, but compare these two anecdotes:

After the Syracuse game (Senior Day), Weis said he felt sorry for the seniors and in post-game interviews, one player said that "They just wanted it more."

After the Colorado Game, Husker Coach Bo Pelini said that he talked to his kicker who swore he was ready to make the 57-yarder that would put the Big Red ahead. Pelini said that the entire time the kick was in the air, he was wondering if he had made the right decision or if he had let everyone down. This coming from a man that apologized to the entire state following a loss to Missouri, why can't Weis apologize following a loss to Syracuse? Missouri is top-15 and winner of the division. Syracuse? Bottom-15 and winner of three games, one against us. The defensive end who returned the interception for a touchdown, sealing the win, said "We just wanted it more. We weren't going to lose. Even when we were down 14 points in the first, we didn't panic."

What Charlie has done is recruit and recruit well. What he hasn't done is energized me as a fan the past two years or apparently a group of the most-talented players in the nation (three Top-5 classes in a row). If our team falls beyond 14, we crumble. We are team that can't hold a lead against Syracuse. That is energy, that is the coach's fault.

Change is needed both on the field and off the field.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The failed policies of big government: the source of our economic crisis

A number of things irritate me right about now. Sex-offender laws, people slow and incompetent at taking metal object out of their pockets in airport security lines, my football teams (Notre Dame and San Diego), and the sudden plummeting of the temperature in South Bend. Yet I'd gladly accept all that if only our government wasn't so incompetent. Here's my complete stream-of-consciousness rant about the state of our economy.

I've been against all this bailout/rescue plan/buying mortgage-backed securities/increasing liquidity/unfreezing the credit markets/propping up the auto industry shenanigans from the very beginning. I've written all of my Congressmen about the issue, this being the first and only issue I've ever contacted my elected officials about. I'll also be perfectly upfront about where I'm coming from on this issue. I'm certainly not an expert on the economy and know little about how the nation's economic institutions function. And if you don't know how things normally work, it's not easy to diagnose the pathology. I don't even have that firm of a grasp of the nation's economic history, as in what specifically caused the Great Depression, for example. All I know is what I read and what people I trust tell me.

I come at this economic problem asking the question: What is the proper role of the federal government in all of this? The clear answer is: Not what they're doing. Regardless of how unfortunate it is for people to lose their homes, it is not the role of the federal government to buy and renegotiate their mortgages. They are living in houses they cannot afford. No matter how essential General Motors seems to be to our economy, it is not the role of the federal government to decide that the taxpayers should support their business as opposed to any other. If they are not making products that are successful in the market, they should fail. Why give money to people who haven't even used their own money effectively? Toyota has. We, as consumers in the market, buy more from them because they have better products.

The US federal government claimed today that they are willing to lend about $7.5 trillion to...I-don't-even-think-they-know-what. We also guaranteed more than $300 billion to Citigroup Inc. yesterday. Did Citigroup's stock jumped over 50% as a function of sound business decisions as judged by its shareholders? Of course not. It was the result of government manipulation.

Just think about the amount of money that $7 trillion is. I don't even think I can. That is more than half of the nation's GDP, which is around $14.3 trillion. What? That is more than half of every single thing every single person in the country has produced in the last year. Half of everything has been promised by the federal government to our banking, financial, other other "too big to fail" institutions. That is taking $25,000 from every single person in the United States and giving it people who have made bad decisions and don't deserve a single penny.

Say I failed a test because I didn't study for it. Say this has happened a couple times all because of some bad decisions I've made. I didn't have my priorities straight. What would happen if I went to the teacher and said, "I know I've been incompetent, but it's going to be bad for Notre Dame as a whole if one of its Honors Program students fails out. Because of that, you should let me pass even though I've given no indication that I'm going to change the way I act." Maybe I'd get the response, "Oh sure, we can take some points away from the rest of the students to prop you up for a while. You're too important to fail." But then again, maybe I wouldn't. Maybe I shouldn't. Who knows. But people think the government is capable of determining that!

Another good question about that ludicrous amount of money is this: Where the heck is it coming from? I certainly don't have any idea where the federal government is going to come up with half our GDP. The Fed, on the other hand, is busy thinking of ways. My grandpa, before he died, used to preach the value of commodity money to me. He always said we should go back to the gold standard and all this fiat currency junk is a horrible thing on which to base our economy. I kind of laughed him off as being a bit old-fashioned, but he was right. The Federal Reserve and its fiat currency is the biggest scam in the modern economic world. The Federal Reserve is the complete antithesis of free-market capitalism. It serves as a tool for the government to interven in the exchange of the most important economic commodity: our currency.

If politicians were forced to tax the people directly to come up with these trillions of dollars, everyone would go nuts. There would be riots on the streets. Granted, there was a little rioting from all the Ron Paul shut-down-the-Fed fanatics a few days ago, which is great. As my favorite libertarian blog put it yesterday, "Where else would you see masses of handsome homemade signs noting that fractional-reserve banking is fraudulent?" I personally liked the sign the read "Bernanake cut 325 points and all I got was this lousy food and energy inflation." Wonderful. We need more people like that in the world.

Fortunately for the politicians (and the unelected people on the private boards of the private Federal Reserve banks which probably shouldn't exist), they can just print money and people don't and can't stop it. Printing money is the ultimate taxation without representation. This is probably an oversimplification as there are a million other factors, but here is one way to think about it: There is a given amount of wealth in the country at a given time. Imagine there are 100 $1 bills in the United States and each is worth 1 WU (wealth unit). That represents all of the wealth in the country. Say the government needs 50 WUs for a silly government program. One possibility is to take, through taxation, half of the dollars from everyone in the country. However, the people would not allow that and would revolt. On the other hand, they could instead print 100 new $1 bills and use them. There would then be a total of 200 $1 bills now circulating in the country. Unfortunately for the country, no wealth was actually created doing this. That means there are still 100 WUs spread around. Now every dollar that each private citizen had is worth 0.5 WUs instead of 1 WU. That is the same thing as a 50% tax, but the people can't do anything to stop it.

There's a reason that Thomas Jefferson said "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies," and "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." Then again, Jefferson owned slaves, so everything he ever said was wrong. I think that's what my high school history teacher taught me about him.

That inflationary policy is what's happening now. If gold and silver were allowed to be used as legal currency (bought and sold without being taxed), there would be open competition in the market for currencies. If people could store their wealth in gold, the Federal Reserve would be required to hold a constant value for their money, or people would be insane to use Federal Reserve notes. Open currency competition would be the beginning of the end for the Federal Reserve. If only...

So I suppose I'll get back to the current situation. The problem, as I understand it, is that the huge bubble in our economy right now isn't based on real value. It is all the result of a total manipulation of interest rates, the money supply, and access to credit. Politicians, and many people in the country, have come to believe in the idea that there is such thing as a free lunch. If we pull enough strings, we can prop up the bubble and keep the delusion alive. But that there isn't such thing as a free lunch is probably the one economic maxim everyone knows and it's still being disregarded. As Ron Paul puts it, "[It's] like the philosopher's stone that could turn lead into gold...prosperity without work is a dream of the ages."

Another sane guy and president of Euro Pacific Capital, Peter Schiff, has said about this issue that "we have to go back to a sane economy where we save money and actually make stuff." That sounds refreshingly reasonable to me. We cannot continue to borrow trillions of dollars from the rest of the world, import significantly more than we export, and continue not saving our money. The United States became an economic superpower through production and savings. Now we've spent our way into a recession, and no government program is going to maintain the current system, which is just fog anyway; it's not founded on any substantial production of goods and services.

Things have to get worse for this to sort itself out. Housing prices must collapse. People have to be evicted. People have to lose their jobs, maybe by the millions. Unemployment needs to skyrocket. All, or at least most, of the companies that made horrible, company-ruining decisions need to go bankrupt. Propping up companies that "are too big to fail" (as absurd an idea as that is) simply stifles innovation. That is not the proper role of government. A more efficient, better run company should take the place of all these awful, predatory financial companies when they fail.

The same thing should happen for GM and the other car companies. The capital that would go from the taxpayers to the car companies should be redirected, by the market, to companies that use the money well (and actually make profitable cars.) The government is in no way competent to determine which companies most deserve money. It is arrogant for the government to think that they can distribute capital in the most economically productive way. Only the price system of the free market can determine that. Friedrich Hayek made that point decades ago. And it's funny that the world gave him a Nobel Prize in economics, but then ignored what he had to say about the price system. Peter Schiff raised another good point a few days ago when he asked on CNN, "Why should we prop up an unprofitable company and tax profitable companies to subsidize them?" Bankruptcy exists for a reason. Let GM use it.

Steve Forbes called Henry Paulson, the current Treasury Secretary, "the worst treasury secretary we've had in modern times." One reason is that he's talked all about transparency, but hasn't done anything transparently. He did not buy the mortgage-backed securities like he said he was going to, he isn't forcing the actions of the Fed to be transparent, and he isn't clear really how much money is being spent or even where it's going. I'm not even sure if he's being fraudulent. He just might not have any idea himself. What's more is that he is a product of the financial companies themselves. He was CEO of Goldman Sachs, which recently collapsed because of a long chain of bad decisions.

So you might hope that with Barack Obama coming in, and all the rhetoric of change, we could move away from this incompetence. You might expect there to be no more influence from big, failed financial companies in Obama's regime? That would be real change, right? Opps. Turns out "change" really was nothing more than a buzzword and Obama is just another big-government, financial-corporation-pandering politician.

Obama's appointee for the new Treasury Secretary is New York Federal Reserve head Timothy Geithner. He helped orchestrate the rescue of both Bear Stearns and AIG. Robert Rubin is also part of Obama's economic team. He is the guy who bailed out Goldman Sachs when he was the Treasury Secretary for the Clinton administration and recently served as Chairman of Citigroup (who we the taxpayers are currently bailing out). There are a dozen more examples. One of today's comics in the Observer was wonderful and parodied this same issue. Sidenote: Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State? Yeah, that's change.

That same libertarian blog I mentioned above asked a great question today: "We are watching a grand experiment--how long can human beings working together as the state not deal with the consequences of their actions?" I don't know, but I hope we figure it out soon. Leave a comment and let me know what you think about the situation.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

O Cricket, how you befuddle me...

The second paragraph of cnn's article on a recent match between India and England reads:

England were bowled out for 240 and India had reached 198-5 off 40 overs, 16 runs ahead of the par score of 182 -- under the Duckworth-Lewis calculation -- when fading light ended play.

Remember when England did simpler things, like colonizing?

The rest of the article can be found here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Microsoft bleeds Gold and Green

If you type the phrase "Notre Dame football" onto a Microsoft Word Document it highlights 'football' as a grammatical error.


Because "Notre Dame Football" requires all capital letters.

Gloria in excelsis deo...

...and Go Irish!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

RIP Rev. James Riehle, C.S.C.

Fr. James Reihle, C.S.C., former Assistant Dean of Students, executive director of the Monogram Club, and, perhaps most famously, Chaplain of the Notre Dame Football team (you may remember him leading players in the Hail Mary before the Notre Dame football game in Rudy) passed away last Wednesday. An obituary may be found here.

On Monday, administrators, coaches, alumni, and former Notre Dame Football players and their families gathered at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for Fr. Jim's funeral.

I happened to be walking by the Basilica during the Funeral Service and, having not yet attended Mass, decided that this just might be something worth witnessing.

Wow. Aside from being dwarfed in both height and stature for one of the first times in recent memory, I could not help being taken aback by the solemnity of it all. The incense billowing upwards as dozens of Holy Cross priests stood behind the altar singing the Doxology was stirring, as was standing beside the simple covering of the casket- emblazoned with the Spes Unica seal of the Congregation and topped by a small wooden crucifix- to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion.

But by far the most awesome moment of the entire Mass came right after the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Out of silence, the chorus and the congregation began to sing in harmonic accord our alma mater:

Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory's mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.

In the singing of the Alma Mater, I discovered something about Notre Dame for the first time. Hearing those beautiful words at a funeral for one of Our Lady’s Own, I am now convinced that the aspiration of Notre Dame is not athletic, or academic, or social growth, or even the liturgical life, though it is certainly serves all of these needs.

The University of Notre Dame exists for Our Lady. She exists because of Our Lady. And all of our aspirations, endeavors, and pursuits are only truly meritorious in so much as they seek to give glory, praise, and honor to Our Lady.

"Praise thee, Notre Dame...Love thee, Notre Dame." That is what Notre Dame is all about. That is what She should stand for; that is what She must stand for; that is all She can stand for.

She is truly Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope.


After the funeral, the congregants were lead in processing from the Basilica to the Holy Cross Cemetery at the Northwest corner of campus. The walk in the autumn late afternoon was breathtaking, and the Final Commendation was truly beautiful (watching Fr. Hesburgh mouth a silent blessing after many had left being one of the many wonderful occurrences).

The most amazing event witnessed, however, was from none other than a Notre Dame fan:

Skip Plunkett, in his mid-sixties, is a life-long fan of Our Lady's University and, in particular, the Fighting Irish. He has rooted for the team through thick and thin and, of course, would not dare to miss the funeral of one of Her most beloved.

You would not necessarily know that Skip is a fan, though, because Skip can barely talk. Suffering from a severe case of Cerebral Palsy (among other ailments), Skip is confined to a motorized wheelchair, and has difficulty controlling the movements of his body. He weighs about 80 pounds, barring him from any real shot at making the team, though I don’t doubt he’d give it a try.

As individuals were leaving the burial, Skip drove his wheelchair about three feet short of the side of Fr. Jim’s casket to say good-bye. But Skip, being Skip, would never dare to give anything less than an extraordinary farewell.

Somehow (I still can’t figure this out), Skip managed to stand himself up at the edge of his wheelchair and, in a rather graceless arc, catapult himself against the side of Fr. Jim’s casket. There, he folded his hands together and offered a silent, shaky prayer for the repose of the soul of Fr. Jim. (By this point, a former football player had rushed to his side and was helping him stand.)

But before being helped back into his wheelchair, Skip leaned his head against the side of the sealed casket, and offered one last kiss good-bye.

If you have ever seen grown- really big- men cry….


This funeral Mass was truly a beautiful event for all who attended.

And, for Fr. Jim, a true Notre Dame fan, the words of Antiphon from his Mass:

In paradisium, deducant te Angeli…

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One tiny vote for McCain

A great little article about voting pro-life. Notice the mention of Scranton's Bishop. I hope all of our clergy does the same:

One tiny vote for McCain

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Vote Republican...

I think that this video can speak for itself. Good luck voting...let's hope the better man (and party) wins.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pope Creates 4 New Saints

About a week ago, Pope Benedict XVI canonized four new saints, the first canonizations to come in 16 months(?). The Associated Press had a short article on the news, here's something from the Catholic Globe, and even MSNBC ran a short piece. From the Pope's homily: “May their example encourage us; may their teachings guide and comfort us; may their intercession support us in our daily struggles, so that we too may come one day to share with them and with all the saints in the joy of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception (1910-1946), the first woman from India to be canonized. Born Annakutty from the ancient family of Muttathupadathu, she resisted marriage and professed vows with the Poor Clares on August 12, 1936. After a life of intense physical suffering, she died in 1946. She is buried at Bharananganam, South India. Popular in India among Christians and Hindu alike, her canonization comes at a time when Christians face increasing violence in India.
Here's another article on her and her Wikipedia page.

Feast: 28 July
Patronage: against illness

Gaetano Errico (1791-1860), a Neopolitan priest who founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary based on a vision from St. Alphonsus Liguori.

"Fr. Gaetano was truly a man of God, a man with a mission, a man on fire with an unquenchable love of Jesus and Mary. The first secret of his holiness was prayer. Ever on his knees, his small room in the house in Secondigliano bears the indentations on the floor where, kneeling, he found refuge and strength.

Penance further sustained his holiness. He fasted continuously, often only taking bread and water in order to give his share of food to the poor. Self-flagellation was part of his penance, offered humbly for the many sins that wounded the Heart of Jesus. He was never too tired to travel on, preaching, hearing confessions, encouraging the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. His comfort and caring presence reminded all of the love of God the Father... leading many in the small towns and villages to call him a saint."

Feast: 29 October

Sister Maria Bernarda (1848-1924), born in Switzerland, who worked as a nun in Ecuador and Colombia. She joined te Franciscans in 1869 and traveled to Ecuador, where she founded the Fransican Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Sinners. Violence forced her and her other sisters to flee, and they wound up in Columbia, where she remained for the rest of her life.

Feast: 19 May

Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran (1832-1869), a 19th century laywoman from Ecuador who helped the sick and the poor. During her life, "she had made a private vow of perpetual virginity, poverty, obedience, enclosure, eremitical life, fasting on bread and water, daily Communion, confession, mortification and prayer. All these vows she kept faithfully. She lived in continuous union with Jesus Christ."

Her incorrupt body rests in Nobol, Ecuador, where a shrine has been erected to the "Nina Narcisa"

Feast: 30 August

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vatican Simplifies Voting Guidelines for Catholics

For all you conflicted Catholics out there in this election, I've found help for you. The Vatican has published a guide for people who have a hard time choosing between abortion, economics, environmental issues, poverty, stem cell research, etc. In the Church's eyes, however, the most important thing is to preserve the sanctity of life.

Here's a link to the article.

Archbishop Ronald Talinger, Chairman of Catholics for Ethics and Family, has created a guide that is aimed at reaching all Catholics, even those that are not necessarily devout. "The Church does a great job of solidly stating their position," explained Archbishop Talinger, "but it does so in a way that not everyone can easily understand. That's why the common Catholic needs something that speaks to them about how they are required, as Catholics, to vote this year."

I found this article through the Catholic/conservative blog Southern Appeal, which I casually follow. I highly recommend the site. (Also, it has a cool picture of a bayonet.) One of its regular contributors, Francis Beckwith, is currently a Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

Senator Government

At first, I was just going to let that one go, but apparently John McCain's slip of tongue is pretty well-known at this point.

Yes, during the debate, John McCain (mistakenly) referred to Obama as Senator Government. I can't think of anything more appropriate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Re-envisioning Leadership for a Hope-filled Future

I’m writing this for you at 9:19 pm from 33,000 feet. I’m on my way back to Washington from the fall conference at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. I have to say that the moon has never looked so bright as it does from seat 27F right now. However, even here above the cloud cover, that brightness is unaccompanied by the billions of stars out there. In light of the theme of the conference, “Re-envisioning Leadership for a Hope-filled Future,” the current view out my window reminds me of the words of Dr. King: Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.

I don’t think anyone has any illusions about the state of the world. Those of us who read a newspaper or an internet wire service know fairly well that these are indeed the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times because never have so many people had so much food to eat, shelter under which to sleep, and education of which to avail themselves. Simultaneously, the ambitions and technologies that have made those miracles possible also allow more people to die of preventable disease, kill each other with the weapons of war and starve from lack of understanding of the environment. Perhaps we are in the stage of King’s analysis in which it is dark enough to see the moon, but not yet the stars. We can take ourselves in either direction, to light or to darkness.

The three keynotes at the conference were about children, the environment and interreligious dialogue.

Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman spoke on behalf of American children. Given the rather asymmetric quality of education in this country the issue of children should be no surprise. States spend more on incarcerating than educating and many kids still aren’t at grade level. The upside is that No Child Left Behind as flawed as it is, has helped close gaps in our education system; but based on current progress it won’t be enough to meet its own goals. To fill the rest of the gaps, religious institutions take an active role. As it is Catholic high schools educate a disproportionately large percentage of the college-matriculating African-American men in this country. Something about their model works when it is accessible. Increasing that access should be a goal.

Richard Cizik, lobbying point man for the National Association of Evangelicals in Washington, was a seemingly unlikely choice to speak on behalf of protecting the environment. He expressed a difficulty in bringing the environmental issue to evangelical congregations across the country but also a noted progress. Tongue in cheek as well as serious he noted that even if evangelicals couldn’t understand climate science, they could understand that “going green” can save them money. The real challenge though is convincing congregations that God’s creation is worth protecting. For those who believe in an apocalyptic end to the world, protecting it seems like a waste of time. But Cizik has done an admirable job of quelling evangelical apprehension about hippies and has given them a religious (and financial) framework within which to work in tackling environmental issues.

Given the strained relationship between America and the Middle East since pretty much the invasion of Tripoli, interreligious dialogue cannot be underestimated as a source of peace and understanding. Dr. Eboo Patel, a Rhodes Scholar from Chicagoland and founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps, spoke fervently and earnestly on his efforts to make interreligious dialogue an enriching reality for young people. Drawing on the fact that much of America is still insulated from and ignorant of religions other than Christianity, Dr. Patel stressed the importance to our future as a religiously diverse nation of understanding one another as neighbors. America is the most religiously diverse nation to ever exist, and that is a potentially dangerous moniker to bear if we are not also the most religiously pluralistic. Only a religiously pluralistic society can grow as one and support the religious diversity that has made America so strong and so desirable a place to live, the city on a hill.

All in all the conference was a deeply enriching experience—for a college student, free food is always good. But I don’t think “enriching” is descriptive enough.

I do have a special affinity for Emory, and would positively love to be a divinity student there one day. There is a certain kind of attention that you get when you are a Catholic from California among Protestants from the South. By chance, or by fate, I ended up at an alumni awards luncheon sitting next to the former Methodist bishop of Charlotte, who is a graduate and long time faculty member of Emory. I never really thought of having a Rolodex but with all the business cards I have after being at the Conference of Catholic Bishops and spending the last few days in Atlanta I think I might need one. I also think that I might goad the Office of the Architect at Notre Dame to plant some more trees on campus, we really are lacking in the arboreal category.

Yet, what I take away from this experience is that there is hope for the future. There are leaders willing to step up to the plate. There are youth who want to contribute to those of other faiths because it is their own faith that will be strengthened by that caritas. There are youth who desire to serve God’s creation because all creation is indeed His. There are youth that want these opportunities and the basic right if education but the agenda of adults are not giving them that chance. Because all it takes is a chance. Give a kid a chance to rise to a standard of expectations and he will. Ask her to articulate her beliefs clearly for students of other faiths and nations can understand that she is a human being worthy of love and respect and she will.

In the different concurrent session lectures that I attended there were a number of ideas and challenges thrown out. I’ll highlight just a few:
Pay for the college application for a student whose family might otherwise struggle to cover the cost.
Be a tutor for grade school kids. Really, they do think that college students are the coolest thing in the world.
Go to your parish and convince them to conduct an energy audit.
Go to your parish and convince them to start a dialogue with a faith community of a different tradition.

Lastly, and this is my own bit, I think the simplest task is to be Christ-like. Live the Gospels, teach the Gospels. Or as St. Francis put it—and you’d be surprised how much Protestants love St. Francis—Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain Spices It Up

McCain has been down in the polls significantly, but the economy is improving and McCain is unleashing a whole new wave of campaigning for himself and against his opponent.

Obama has accused McCain over and over of being the same ol' Bush (no doubt, the words "maverick" and "the last eight years" occur in direct proportion to each other) and a status quo kind of guy. It is an accusation that is supported by earlier attacks against McCain's age; the adage, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," I'm sure is never very far from the minds of voters, and this is just the way Obama wants it.

Yet, considering recent speeches (check out and a boast by McCain that he will "whip Obama's 'you-know-what,'" I will place all my credibility as a political pundit--which at this point looks something like doubling down with a nickel on the table--in a solid John McCain victory on Election Day. Let me tell you why.

First of all, like I said, it looks like the economy is going to come around. It went up nearly 600 points today, and it might drop another 600 tomorrow, but we've already broken all the records we're going to see broken. Nothing barring the most ridiculous financial surprise will make Americans more worried about the economy than they were before. This plays into McCain's favor, not because he doesn't have just as well articulated position on the issue, but because Democrats, by the very nature of their policies, will fare better when people fear they are losing control of their assets. This will give McCain the opportunity to present his policies while being more believable, though he does have to seem more knowledgeable about his own position than he has been. Nevertheless, McCain will improve among voters whose number one issue is the economy.

Secondly, McCain is able to play the maverick card, whereas Obama is not. In this troubling time, voters are drawn to Obama because he offers a sense of security and peace, of confidence in the Oval Office and the ability to work consistently on improving the common welfare. Therefore, Obama CANNOT change his message, and especially not so soon to election day. Up until Nov. 4, you will be hearing the same thing over and over; Obama cannot change. McCain, however, can. By changing the race up in such a "maverick" but "presidential" way, demonstrating that his unpredictable character truly is predictably for the common welfare, McCain can easily overcome Obama. The question merely is what stunt to pull. He tried to do it when it came time for the economy, but reading point #1 above, this did not work nearly as effectively as another stunt might in the future.

That brings me to my third and final point: the debate. McCain will not let this third debate be the second most boring debate in history. Considering the above two points, expect McCain to nail Obama on foreign policy, perhaps specifically his anti-free trade policies. He would do well to tie his own foreign policy experience, which is undeniable, to his policies regarding the economy. He will make arguments for nuclear power, for free-trade, etc. in the light of his foreign policy and he will do it passionately. Obama wants to paint McCain as erratic; but I think McCain will come out passionate, but controlled. Just like his acceptance speech at the RNC, as well as his most recent speech in Virginia, McCain can pull "controlled passion" extremely well.

Now that my one and only dime is on the table, let's hope I get dealt that Ace I'm looking for.

p.s. There are certain people who would prefer I not post about politics, but the Rover is a Catholic AND conservative paper.

p.p.s. My opinions are my opinions only and not necessarily the opinion of the Rover at large.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Time to Invest

Just a quick thought:

It's going to be really interesting to see how the markets do once everyone realizes that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" and that the world is not going to be destroyed because the stock markets fell a bit.

For all my peers, you are extremely lucky, as you will start to really invest during some of the greatest years in the market that this country has ever seen.

Good luck, and wise investing to you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Update on Americans in the Vatican

James Francis Cardinal Stafford from Baltimore is the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

John Patrick Cardinal Foley from Pennsylvania is the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Archbishop James Michael Harvey from Milwaukee is Prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household.

Bernard Francis Cardinal Law (yeah he's still around; and he was actually born in Mexico) is the Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

America! Hell Yeah! Vatican! Hell Yeah!

Raymond Burke

So I was surfing the internet news-o-sphere and apparently Raymond Burke is up to his old tricks. He's no longer the archbishop of St. Louis, he was promoted to the Vatican Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, where he serves as prefect. Now I really don't want get into any discussion about Burke. I think we all know that the guy tows the line and he, unlike some bishops, takes his job seriously and is outspoken. All of that is fine. Bishops should show some diplomacy in their personal attacks against politicians and basketball coaches, but at least Burke does, or rather did his job in St. Louis.

What I am more interested in is the fact that Americans are slowly working their way up the chains of command in Rome. William Cardinal Levada (California boy) has the Pope's old job as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And Burke has a fancy sounding job as well. I went on the Vatican website to try to find out if there are any more Americans with top jobs but there is simply too much stuff to go through. But this apparent rise in the last few years of some Americans makes me wonder if we will ever see an American chosen as pope. I know that when I was a kid we were told that it would never happen because America was too powerful a country. I don't know if that in itself is true, but regardless, with America's declining international stature, perhaps one day a strong leader of American origin will lead the global church.

William Cardinal Levada

Monday, September 29, 2008

This is probably not P.C. at all...

To be honest, I really don't have anything meaningful to post. Nothing that is all that important is going on in the world today about which is truly worth blogging. I only wanted to mix things up a wee bit. To prove to the wide and expansive readership who subscribe to this blog that it, indeed, is not just a blog of the opining and pontifications of the esteemed Mr. Dan Amiri.

To celebrate the end of Notre Dame's Energy Week, a posse of Roverites and friends went out dancing this past Friday night to burn up some energy on the dance floor. The music genre of the night was techno. Being that I am as white as a member of the caucasian race could be, I decided to challenge my brother, who was among the group, to a crump dance dance-off. While votes are still not in (Florida, yet again, is holding things up), I thought that I would give the general public an idea of what went down.

Disclaimer: Neither my brother nor I make an appearence in this video clip.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Faith, Hope, and Football

Through a wonderful string of good luck, I managed to go to the Purdue game on Saturday, a game which, without a doubt, turned out to be one of the best I have ever seen in Notre Dame Stadium. I saw a team that was excited to play, a team that could play, with a quarterback who took command of the field with poise and with swagger. I saw a dominating defense who played excellently in the secondary and who smashed up the middle, crushing the run. We saw only a couple of the long bombs that Clausen became famous for in previous games, but Allen notably made up for the lack of yardage via the air by blasting through holes and making his way confidently down field for a total of 137 yard, according the stadium scoreboard stats. Despite all this, there is one noticeable, most important factor that defined this game: the boys' didn't just have a desire to "play like champions," they knew that they already were.

For all those who play a sport, I don't have to remind you of the difference a swing in momentum can make in yourself. Whereas at one time, you never thought that you could ever overcome the opposition, a few good plays and a roaring audience and you start to believe that you can do great things, perhaps even win, and you do. When playing on a team, this phenomenon becomes even more pronounced. A confident team is a devastating force on the field of play. I also don't have to remind you of what happens when doubt starts to creep in, when you start to question everything and attribute your present success to coincidence and good luck. Team sports, once again, emphasize this phenomenon. No matter how hard you try to play with a positive mind, seeing your fellow teammates mope on the field, visibly loaded with the weight of impending defeat, is a crushing blow to your spirit.

I don't have to try hard to extend these observations to everyday events. Students tend to write better papers when they are confident about their success and the issues at hand. Relationships tend to succeed when the couple is more focused on being together in a more fulfilling way rather than "making things work," for it is this latter mentality which inherently supplies connotations of "defeat" into a supposedly constructive conversation.

More pertinently, however, this phenomenon takes on particular shape in our faith life. Because of the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and because of the continuous action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the faithful, we have hope of our salvation. This hope, however, does not mean to "become something one wasn't before" but, because of faith, to know that we already are--saved. This hope is essential to the life of the Christian, without which it is impossible to persevere.

Of course, just like a sporting event, this hope is not automatic. Just because we have hoped does not mean that we will definitely win the race, as Paul puts it. It requires constant effort and the working out of our faith in our daily lives. I am continuously drawn to the phrase, "victors in the midst of strife," which was sung recently at the Basilica. Yes, we are victors, but we are constantly battered and bloodied. In fact, this is a necessary consequence of, as John puts it, being "in the world, but not of the world." As long as this world remains apart from the will of God, as long as Christianity is counter-cultural--which, save Divine Intervention, it always will be--we will have to face these seemingly insurmountable trials.

But let us not be afraid. For our hope does not originate in ourselves--we are not solely responsible for our longing for God. God himself gives us the grace to live our lives of hope. He is like the great sports coach, who at half-time, despite the obstacles and the odds and the score, convinces us that we already won.

And so, with blood, sweat and tears, we do.

A lesson well learned for Notre Dame: "Play Like a Champion" does not mean "to become something you weren't before," but "to be who you really are."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Green Forum Is Not Representative

I really don't mean to turn this into the Dan Amiri blog, so I am definitely asking that others talk about things that I'm not interested in, as I'm absolutely sure I'm not eclectic enough to entertain everyone. There is, however, a pressing concern which has brought me out of my voluntary hibernation: the latest Notre Dame Forum on Energy and the Environment and all things Green, and more specifically, the implicit endorsement of a great hoax.

Perhaps "hoax" is a strong word, but I use it only to counter what I peceived as ignorant arrogance on that stage. Another phrase that I used with my wife in my frustration with the Forum was "intellectual propaganda." I'm not a psychologist nor a sociologist, but let it be enough to say that one of the speakers actually drew an explicit connection between WWII American propaganda (e.g., those which encouraged families to ration their supplies and work in factories to help the war effort against the Nazis) and what America must do today to save the world from global warming and oppression of the poor.

I digress.

Man-made global warming is a scientific theory which attempts to explain the correlations that have been drawn between carbon dioxide and a gradual rise in average global temperatures. Just as valid though not nearly as well-publicized are those theories which attempt to explain recent warming in the light of--no pun intended--more stellar proportions, i.e., the sun. What we have here is scientific disagreement. The problem is that many have accepted global warming as fact, so much so that what was once the presentation of a theory, spearheaded by one man, Al Gore, has in effect become the manifesto of entire nation's implicit policy on the environment. This is absoutlely unacceptable. If we to follow the suggestions of those four panelists at the Forum, we must spend at least $100 billion if are to even come close to averting what they predict to be nothing short of hell on earth--though I promise you it will still be snowing in 2050.

What irks me most, however, is that every panelist agreed that we had to spend billions of dollars to avoid a global crisis. Yes, not one panelist offered a dissenting opinion; not one panelist suggested that undergoing the vast amount of effort and capital might actully be detrimental to the world; not one panelist offered an opinion that gave deeper insight into some possible problems we might be facing. Instead, the panelists speculated about all the different infrastructure and power grids and what kind of renewable energy that would be used to power the country in 50 years. In short, not one panelist was there to keep the rest accountable to reality and to the real-world problems that this vast implementation of "environment-friendly" policies would cause.

I am not "in-the-know" enough to be able to tell you why this is the case. But if it is because Notre Dame and the American community has bought into a scientific theory in wholesale, without actually questioning its merit, we have a serious problem. More specifically, if Notre Dame is to be a place of critical engagement, it must not fall victim to the popular tides that sweep this country. It must stand amidst the waves of opinion in order to seek out that truth.

Notre Dame has failed in many respects to do so, the forum being only the most recent example. As long as we continue to seek popular approval, to define ourselves by popular criteria, we will fail to be the institution that seeks truth in the context of objectivity and rationality.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Most Liberal Senator Vows to Cut Spending

I read the following in an article at

"Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama moved to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility in a roiling economy, vowing on Monday to slash federal spending on contractors by 10 percent and saving $40 billion.... As president, Obama said he would create a White House team headed by a chief performance officer to monitor the efficiency of government spending."

Three things: 
1.) If Obama is worried about government spending, how in the world does Obama plan to have a net spending cut to the United States?  Spending will, undoubtedly, go up during an Obama presidency.
2.) Obama took this right out of McCain's mouth. That way, everyone believes him over the one who actually said them in the first place, over the one who actually means them.  
3.) I'm pretty sure the best way to cut government spending is not to create another government department.  What happened to going through the budget line by line, Obama?  Did someone tell you that was a stupid idea?  

Friday, September 19, 2008

Part of the problem, perhaps?

I'm perusing Fr. Jenkins 2008 Address to the Faculty, which he delivered on Tuesday. (Full text available here) I have plenty of thoughts, questions, and comments...but was curiously struck by this point he made towards the end, introducing his comments on ND's initiatives regarding energy sustainability, especially the upcoming ND Forum:

The proper activity of a Catholic University, wrote Pope John Paul II, is: (and I quote): “Learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.” Our ability to serve humanity is magnified many times over by the knowledge and discovery that comes with scholarly and educational excellence. And we serve humanity better, when we make a point of engaging humanity’s deepest problems.

Fr. Jenkins is here quoting
Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities that is often referenced by critics of the administration on issues such as academic freedom and Catholic faculty hiring. It's promising that the University President is citing it. But it's probably helpful to put Fr. Jenkins' selective quote of Pope John Paul II in context. The Holy Father wrote:

For many years I myself was deeply enriched by the beneficial experience of university life: the ardent search for truth and its unselfish transmission to youth and to all those learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.

It is clear to me that the Holy Father did not regard "learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better" as
the proper activity of a Catholic university, as Fr. Jenkins said. In this sentence, "learning to think rigorously" doesn't even stand alone as an activity--it is a modifier, describing "youth" and "all those" who are part of a university community. More importantly, John Paul II puts truth first in his account of what he finds to be most beneficial in Catholic university life. Indeed, the ardent search for truth is stressed in this part of the introduction to Ex Corde, and it remains the focus of the document.

The mission of a Catholic university is not to attempt vaguely to "serve humanity better," but to transmit the truth to the whole world, and thereby "serve humanity"! Every university these days is trying to solve humanity's deepest problems, but as a Catholic university--as the truly great Catholic university Jenkins would have us be--we must make a
unique contribution as we offer solutions to these issues.

Perhaps this portion of
Ex Corde is most relevant in speaking about how ND might make a unique contribution to the raging scientific debates of our day:

In the world today, characterized by such rapid developments in science and technology, the tasks of a Catholic University assume an ever greater importance and urgency. Scientific and technological discoveries create an enormous economic and industrial growth, but they also inescapably require the correspondingly necessary search for meaning in order to guarantee that the new discoveries be used for the authentic good of individuals and of human society as a whole. If it is the responsibility of every University to search for such meaning, a Catholic University is called in a particular way to respond to this need: its Christian inspiration enables it to include the moral, spiritual and religious dimension in its research, and to evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person.

In this context, Catholic Universities are called to a continuous renewal, both as "Universities" and as "Catholic". For, "What is at stake is the very meaning of scientific and technological research, of social life and of culture, but, on an even more profound level, what is at stake is the very meaning of the human person"(10). Such renewal requires a clear awareness that, by its Catholic character, a University is made more capable of conducting an impartial search for truth, a search that is neither subordinated to nor conditioned by particular interests of any kind.

It seems to me that the ND Forum--among many other things--would take shape very differently if we honestly strove to follow the guidelines set forth by Pope John Paul II regarding the proper activity of a Catholic university.

And it also strikes me as very indicative of the state we are in that the "ardent search for truth" is seen as
secondary in importance to thinking rigorously, acting rightly, and serving humanity better--or taken out of the equation altogether.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Socialists Might Not Need a "Pres. Obama" After All

What the heck is going on? I'm not big enough on economics to understand; what does it mean for the Government to have a "stake" in a compnay?

Can anyone say FDR? New Deal? Can any of us actually be thrilled that this is happening? All I know is that this sets a dangerous precedent, and that we'll be living with the direct consequences of these takeovers and super-assists by the Government for years.

Why can't a company fail? Isn't that part of free market capitalism?

Please leave comments, all those who can fully understand the implications.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Movies Never to See, Despite the Critics

Last night, after a long day, I thought I would enjoy a good movie and slowly crawl into bed. I had hopes of wine to go along with the movie, but in hindsight, I'm glad my judgment regarding the rather pathetic movie I ended up seeing wasn't clouded.

Last night, I saw "I Am Legend." It certainly did seem interesting and I think a lot of people were excited to see something along the lines of a Doomsday movie (it probably has something to do with the general pall overhanging the United States at the moment). It didn't take too long into the movie to realize, however, that all my hopes for the movie--a reflective autobiography on the last man's quest to reestablish humanity--were going to be crushed. What ended up happening for the next 93 minutes or so was a terribly ineffective hybrid of Resident Evil and Castaway, both of which I had already seen and didn't need to see again. If you want to see the internal struggles of a man who has been taken away from his friends and family, watch Castaway. If you want to see some really creepy creatures created by a mutated virus, watch Resident Evil. But I would strongly recommend not trying to watch both at the same time. It just doesn't work.

Another movie that I saw and would not recommend is "Wall-E." Now, I might be establishing myself as a pariah for even mentioning the fact that Wall-E was a bad movie, but I think it's worth the sacrifice. I can only say, first of all, that Robots are not Humans--nor will robots ever be able to be human and any movie that attempts to break that ontological barrier will fail miserably. I suppose that that was the irony: that the robot was more human than the thousands of tubs of lard floating in space, but again, I challenge the idea that a human being would ever allow themselves to grow so distant from virtue without feeling like a worthless human being. Where is Aristotle when you need him? One could argue that the movie was just being fantastical, but I counter, saying it was just flat-out offensive to humanity. It might be a cute movie for a kid to see--ultimately, the robot does em-metal some pretty heroic virtues--yet I would have to express that no machine will ever be able to be more heroic, on its own initiative, than a human being. At least, this is what I would make sure my kids knew.

Have a good day! If you have any suggestions for really good or really bad movies, please do comment. I love a good movie!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where Were You?

Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?

On this the seventh anniversary of the attacks, I could preach what I think, but the day is about America, Land of the Brave and Home of the Free. Instead, I'll let someone else more eloquent than myself do it. To me, this song sums up everything about that day. When it is done, take a moment to remember that day and how it changed the country, for good or ill. Take a moment to light a candle for the victims, for the heroes, and even the terrorists, for, after all, God is mercy and who are we to question God?

That said, here is the USS New York, made from 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center. It is the fifth in a new class of warship. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.

The ship's motto is 'Never Forget'.

The Catholic Vote

Working on production of Issue 3 tonight, and this just popped into my inbox. Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


So everyone knows that Obama's latest comment, though off the cuff, was really a lighthearted jab at McCain using a phrase that, apparently, is quite common in Washington circles--"lipstick on a pig." McCain himself used the quote of a Clinton policy a couple years ago.

Many might accuse the McCain camp of going off on nothing and making a mountain out of a molehill. But, either Obama knew what he was doing, and directly offended Palin with full intent. Or, he mistakenly made a comment that was eeriely similar to a comment Palin made of herself, without any intent whatsoever.

On the one hand, obviously, the first does not make Obama look good, and, of course, he's not going to admit that he consciously made a comment he knew would offend Palin. On the other hand, making the comment, so shortly after Palin's speech, and in the direct context of an atack on McCain (and by extension Palin), he simply committed a mistake. He messed up. He said something without really thinking out the implications.

It is this kind of president that I certainly don't want to be around the table with world leaders. (And knowing Obama, that's the ONLY way that we'll ever deal with world leaders.) But I don't want him sitting there with the leaders of Russia, China, or whoever, "making honest mistakes" and offending powerful men. His lack of experience shows.

Finally, it is quite possible that Obama made the comment, banking on the McCain camp to respond as they have done. Obama could then attack the McCain camp for being immature and practicing "politics as usual." Yet, it seems to me that it is Obama who is either severely inexperienced in the matters of dialogue and politics or even more entrenched in "politics as usual." Your call.