Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of Whose Nation?

After the confirmation of Judge Alito, Bush will arrive at the podium tonight feeling very flushed with victory. However, the nation and the world will be looking for some acknowedgement of a failed occupation in Iraq with some strategies for ending the bloody mess we have created and provoked. Will Bush step up to this with candor and energy? Will he explain how he now intends to comply with US law about spying of citizens? Will we just hear the usual self-congratulatory phrases and hollow judgments. We wait.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Watching Oprah

I don't know why I have never watched a whole Oprah until the other day when she had the James Frey showdown. My sister had actually alerted me to it earlier in the day and I am grateful. My primary question was the same old one, "Where's the money?" The book will have even bigger sales now that its been revealed as largely a fabrication. Doubleday, Nan Talease, Frey and Oprah have all made their cut and now will get in line again. For all the sanctimonious posturing on the show, no one told us about the money already secured and what will happen to it and to future profits. Oprah called Frey a liar, but he did not quite admit to that (probably on legal advice) but he could have legitimately agreed and then turned on the whole bunch and said "Liars yourself." But that will be the next book, won't it?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas Victory

No longer can the American apologists for Israeli policies make the argument (really as a justification) that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. The Palestinians have spoken, loudly and democratically. The fact that many powers may not like the outcome is no warrant for interference or hectoring. Is anyone suggesting that the Canadian election might warrant such interference? The people of Palestine were probably voting first to dethrone Fatah which is corrupt and inefficient and then to offer a strong NO to the unilateral policies of Israel, the wall, the piece-meal pullout and the constant attacks on the innococent. Of course, it would be much better if now Hamas could put down the guns and negotiate from their newly acquired democratically secured mandate, but the overwhemling military and police power of Israel (paid for by the US) makes it very dangerous for the Palestinians to let down their guard. The US and others are always talking up democracy. Fine. The people of Palestine have voted and spoken. Listen up.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Roe v. Wade Anniversary

Rest assured that you will not extensive media attention paid to the huge march for Life that is taking place right now in Washington. Yet most people, whatever their legal analysis, seem to now think of legalized abortion-on-demand only with sadness. Maybe there is no clear way of reform but surely the overwhelming tragedy for babies, their mothers and for all of us, cries out for remedy. Ever since the Supreme Court decision, this nation has been torn apart, and will continue that way until we find our way to a full witness to all life; unborn, poor, prisoners, refugees and the victims of violence, and until the United States ends it reliance on weapons and force.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ordinary Time

Often people make comments after Mass about the use of the term, "Ordinary Time," as in the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (tomorrow). Of course, it is a sort of default period in which no great liturgical feasts or celebrations are taking place. Yet there is something very rich and subtle in this designation because it covers the weeks in the liturgical year that mimic many stretches of our own lives. Days, weeks, months and even years which are basically uneventful and mundane. Perhaps we are remembering a recent Christmas or family part, or looking forward to a vacation or a new baby. Right now we are in-between. We are doing much more than simply waiting or marking time. We are living each day in the fullest way possible. Ordinary Time in the liturgical year invites us to see and receive the gift of such intervals and to be ready for the unexpected to break into our ordinary time to claim our attention. We are blessed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Scientific Fraud, Literary Deceits and Oprah

More news today about fraud in a cancer study is added to the larger revelations about the stem cell debacle in South Korea. Oprah picks a book which turns out to be riddled with fake assertions but claims to be a memoir. She calls a TV show to defend the author and her pick by arguing, in effect, that even its not all true, its still an inspiring story. Then just a few days later she picks another book, Night by Elie Weisel, which has been contested for its accuracy for decades. In fact, the publisher once marketed it as fiction but now its back again as non-fiction. Its all a matter of viewpoint, of perspective, of taste. I hear again the words of then Cardinal Ratzinger about the "dictatorship of relativity." The cool shrug that usually accompanies the word, "whatever," has become the icon of this age.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper article

Here you will find a press account from Catholic New Service that provides common sense and insight into the debate over evolution, Intelligent Design, and Creationism in the US these days. The Vatican approach is not new to the Catholic Church but clearly requires re-statement in the midst of all the current confusion. We really need to end the insane conflict between science and religion that has been welcomed by religious fundamentalists and a few dogmatic scientists. Now let us continue to love God and serve him by developing all our gifts in science and research.

CNS STORY: Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper article

Monday, January 16, 2006

Judge Sam Alito

Even his strongest critics now concede that Alito will be confirmed by the Senate. He presented himself very well under the most embarrassing (not for him at all) circumstances which was the endless speeches from Senators Biden, Kennedy, Schumer and others. Arlen Specter rightly said at the outset: A nominee answers as many questions as he/she thinks he needs to in order to get confirmed. Abortion was the major issue and the ProChoice crowd is pretty scared about what might happen to ROE. I doubt it will be directly overturned but it will continue to be qualified by restrictions. But Alito displayed an intelligence and legal proficiency that his most ardent critics cannot match. He really earned my respect in these hearings.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Mehmet Ali Agca

The release this week by a Turkish province of the man who attempted to assassinate of Pope John Paul II leads us all back many years to one of the most powerful images of the otherwise horrendous 20th century: the image of the pope visiting the Italian prison cell where Ali Agca was serving his sentence. Even within a week of the shooting, John Paul spoke from his hospital bed, extending forgiveness to this man. Some have said that his visit to the prison was an effort to make his forgiveness more tangible in person and to ask the Turk why he had shot him. Italian authorities at the time insisted, but could not prove, that Ali Agca was acting at the behest of the Bulgarians who where acting on the nod of the Soviets. Perhaps we will never know for certain exactly what was behind it. Perhaps a newly freed Al Agca will tell us. Whatever the case, the enduring and most enthralling image of that whole era, and perhaps of that century, is the one of John Paul sitting in the prison cell, his chair pulled up close to his assassin and and the forgiving hand of John Paul that rested on hands of his would-be killer.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

So Korean Stem Cell Debacle

The fraud in the So Korean laboratories does not make all the hype about embryonic stem cells to become automatically invalid. Yet when one looks at the scope of the publicity that informed the world about these breakthroughs, plus the wide range of the fraud itself, people are wise to become more skeptical. Embryonic stem cells have not yet proven human effectiveness. Adult stem cells have already. I am the very grateful beneficiary of such a stem cell transplant eight years ago. I have often wondered why the medical community has not been pushing more aggresively for greater funding and research for adult stem cell research which is already doing marvels. I have moral objections to the use or production of embryos for scientific experimentation. Right now there is enormous confusion about what stem cells, of either kind, can reasonably promise. This is the time to push for adult stem cell research by government and private research centers.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Truthiness

I did not misspell the word in the title here because the American Dialect Society picked truthiness as the word of 2005, with blog as second. On a Media Blog about NY, the following announces the news and the slight controversy over its, can I say, truthfulness.

"Truthiness" was defined by the ADS as "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true." I think that's actually not entirely accurate. My impression was that truthiness referred to "the quality of seeming to be true, or of being spun to seem true despite what actually is true." I do agree with North Carolina State University lexicology professor Michael Adams, who said "truthiness" means "truthy, not facty." That statement is both truthy AND facty. Unlike the AP article.

Nothing could be truer that the emergence of truthiness as the word of 2005.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Celebration of Eternal Life

Yesterday a number of us joined in the con-celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial for a 93 year old religious sister who was also the slightly older sister of one of our great Paulists, Fr. John Reynolds. With some help, he was able to be the main celebrant and preached a beautiful homily full of gratitude. The funeral was at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood and the entire celebration was truly a Christian prayer of thanksgiving for a life, lived long, faithfully and generously. Death is always present on our horizons and usually we do not know what to make of it. Yesterday I was vividly reminded of what Christians make of it - a prelude to God and eternal life.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Carnage in Iraq - again

Already today the news tells of the horrible killings of over 50 Iraqis and 5 US military. The December 15 elections have not lessened the violence. Shouldn't it be plainly obvious now that a US occupation cannot solve the problems? And why not 3 separate countries: Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni? Perhaps someday they will re-confederate, perhaps not. How can we delay turning this tragedy over to international authorities that can begin the political divisions that will help what is clearly a bloody civil war, along with violent resistance to the occupation? What horror will it take to move the US Administration and US public opinion?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

All We Know

I am back in NYC after a few wonderful days visiting friends in Washington. Its always another experience to return home, even when the journey was as enjoyable as mine. The New Year is rapidly aging already. We are always in transit. News just arrived about the death of the 92 year sister of one of our priests and we can rejoice in a long and faithful life which she led as a woman religious. Yet even when someone has completed such a long journey, we are still in awe of the Mystery from which we came, in which we are now held and to which we shall one day return. May she rest in the Lord and pray for us on the way.