Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Elena Kagan's "Partial-Truth Abortion Memo"

Over at the Weekly Standard is this (written by John McCormack), whose links you ought to follow:
Yuval Levin writes
If you haven’t read Shannen Coffin’s piece on Elena Kagan and the partial-birth-abortion debate today, you really should. What he describes, based on newly released Clinton White House memos, is absolutely astonishing. 
It seems that the most important statement in the famous position paper of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—a 1996 document that was central to the case of partial-birth-abortion defenders for the subsequent decade and played a major role in a number of court cases and political battles—was drafted not by an impartial committee of physicians, as both ACOG and the pro-abortion lobby claimed for years, but by Elena Kagan, who was then the deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy. 
Kagan saw ACOG’s original paper, which did not include the claim that partial-birth abortion “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman,” but, on the contrary, said that ACOG “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” She wrote a memo to two White House colleagues noting that this language would be “a disaster” for the cause of partial-birth abortion, and she then set out to do something about it. In notes released by the White House it now looks as though Kagan herself—a senior Clinton White House staffer with no medical background—proposed the “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman” language, and sent it to ACOG, which then included that language in its final statement. 
What’s described in these memos is easily the most serious and flagrant violation of the boundary between scientific expertise and politics I have ever encountered. A White House official formulating a substantive policy position for a supposedly impartial physicians’ group, and a position at odds with what that group’s own policy committee had actually concluded?
If Kagan twisted science to advance her political agenda, why wouldn't she do the same to the law?
Remember, she was nominated by a president who said in his 2009 inaugural address,  "We will restore science to its rightful place."   Apparently, science's proper place is to be found somewhere a few miles south of the truth. 

Bob Dylan, "Not Dark Yet"

Lyrics follow....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29: Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Today is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. What follows is Pope Benedict XVI's June 29, 2005 homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, 
The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is at the same time a grateful memorial of the great witnesses of Jesus Christ and a solemn confession for the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is first and foremost a feast of catholicity. The sign of Pentecost - the new community that speaks all languages and unites all peoples into one people, in one family of God -, this sign has become a reality. Our liturgical assembly, at which Bishops are gathered from all parts of the world, people of many cultures and nations, is an image of the family of the Church distributed throughout the earth. 
Strangers have become friends; crossing every border, we recognize one another as brothers and sisters. This brings to fulfilment the mission of St Paul, who knew that he was the "minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles, with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel of God so that the Gentiles [might] be offered up as a pleasing sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15: 16).  

Monday, June 28, 2010

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers: "Atheists Don't Have No Songs"

(HT: First Thoughts) Lyrics follow...

My contribution to forthcoming festscrhift in honor of LDS philosopher, David L. Paulsen

In a recent post on this blog I offered some criticism of the LDS account of church history and its relation to the doctrine of God. Because these sorts of theological disputes are sometimes accompanied by unpleasant rancor, I want the readers of Return to Rome to know that I have tried my best to offer my arguments in a spirit of charity and respect (though I know that I do not always succeed).

As evidence of this, I want to bring to your attention my forthcoming contribution to the volume, Sowing the Fields of the Peacemakers: Essays on Mormon Philosophy and Theology in Honor of David L. Paulsen, edited by Jacob T. Baker (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2010). My chapter is entitled, "Mormonism, Natural Law, and Constitutional Democracy: Reflections on the Romney Candidacy.” It is a revised version of a paper I delivered in November 2007 at the Mormonism & American Politics conference at Princeton University.

Although David Paulsen and I obviously disagree on theological issues, I am honored to be a contributor to this volume. I want my Mormon readers of Return to Rome to know that in spite of our differences, I consider you important friends and allies in shaping the trajectory of our public culture.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bob Dylan: Political World

Political World
by Bob Dylan

We live in a political world
Love don’t have any place
We’re living in times where men commit crimes
And crime don’t have a face

We live in a political world
Icicles hanging down
Wedding bells ring and angels sing
Clouds cover up the ground

We live in a political world
Wisdom is thrown into jail
It rots in a cell, is misguided as hell
Leaving no one to pick up a trail

We live in a political world
Where mercy walks the plank
Life is in mirrors, death disappears
Up the steps into the nearest bank

We live in a political world
Where courage is a thing of the past
Houses are haunted, children are unwanted
The next day could be your last

We live in a political world
The one we can see and can feel
But there’s no one to check, it’s all a stacked deck
We all know for sure that it’s real

We live in a political world
In the cities of lonesome fear
Little by little you turn in the middle
But you’re never sure why you’re here

We live in a political world
Under the microscope
You can travel anywhere and hang yourself there
You always got more than enough rope

We live in a political world
Turning and a-thrashing about
As soon as you’re awake, you’re trained to take
What looks like the easy way out

We live in a political world
Where peace is not welcome at all
It’s turned away from the door to wander some more
Or put up against the wall

We live in a political world
Everything is hers or his
Climb into the frame and shout God’s name
But you’re never sure what it is

Copyright © 1989 by Special Rider Music

(Originally posted on Southern Appeal)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lasers uncover earliest icons of apostles Peter, Paul beneath streets of Rome

Read about it in the Dallas Morning News.

Bob Dylan: Jokerman

What Would Reagan Do?

In 1984 President Reagan published a small book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation that included postscripts by his surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, and the British writer Malcolm Muggeridge. It was the first book published by a sitting president. Reagan's contribution to the volume had been published in the spring of 1983 in the Human Life Review, but he saw fit to republish it so that his argument could reach a wider audience.

On June 5, 2004, President Reagan died of pneumonia after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. His death brought an avalanche of media coverage, including commentary by the late president's friends and foes, and apparently neutral observers in the press. Despite all of that, his position on abortion was rarely mentioned in the mainstream media. I did, however, hear several mentions of Nancy Reagan's support of embryonic-stem-cell research — an endorsement based on that research's purported promise of finding a cure for Alzheimer's.

In fact, Ron Reagan, the son of Mrs. Reagan and her late husband, will be offering a prime-time address at the Democratic Convention tonight in which he will defend such research.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Public School in a Catholic Neighborhood: The Core Curriculum at Notre Dame

That's the title of talk given on June 5 to the Sycamore Trust by Notre Dame philosophy professor Alfred Freddoso. You may read the talk here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Christopher Lake, Welcome home

Via Bryan Cross at Principium Unitatis, I discovered that Christopher Lake has also crossed the Tiber, reverting to Catholicism, like yours truly. Writing in a combox at Called to Communion, Mr. Lake explains:

The Mormon Option

In the combox in a prior post, a commentator named Derek suggested that we consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as an option to Protestantism and Catholicism. As he correctly noted, I have published several works on the subject of Mormonism.

Below is an excerpt from an article I published 9 years ago that seems relevant to the discussion found under the entry about which Derek commented: "Mormon Theism, the Traditional Christian Concept of God, and Greek Philosophy: A Critical Analysis" (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44.4 [December 2001]: 671-95). I write (footnotes omitted):

The Justification Debate: A Primer

That's the title of a helpful summary published by Christianity Today here. The focus is on the Piper-Wright debate within Protestantism. For Catholics interested in this dispute within Protestantism, this is a nice place to start.  CT has also a pdf of its primer here

Monday, June 21, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

David Meyer at the New Christendom entering the Catholic Church

Over at the New Christendom blog, David Meyer, has posted an open letter to the congregation he and his family are leaving, Good Shepherd Presbyterian, as they prepare to be received into the Catholic Church. Here is what David writes:

St. Thomas Aquinas on whether matrimony is of natural law

From Summa Theologica:
A thing is said to be natural in two ways. First, as resulting of necessity from the principles of nature; thus upward movement is natural to fire. In this way matrimony is not natural, nor are any of those things that come to pass at the intervention or motion of the free-will. Secondly, that is said to be natural to which natureinclines although it comes to pass through the intervention of the free-will; thus acts of virtue and the virtues themselves are called natural; and in this way matrimony is natural, because natural reason inclines thereto in two ways. First, in relation to the principal end of matrimony, namely the good of the offspring. For nature intends not only the begetting of offspring, but also its education and development until it reach the perfect state of man asman, and that is the state of virtue. Hence, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 11,12), we derive three things from our parents, namely "existence," "nourishment," and "education." Now a child cannot be brought up and instructed unless it have certain and definite parents, and this would not be the case unless there were a tie between the man and a definite woman and it is in this that matrimony consists. Secondly, in relation to the secondary end of matrimony, which is the mutual services which married persons render one another in household matters. For just as natural reason dictates that men should live together, since one is not self-sufficient in all things concerning life, for which reason man is described as being naturally inclined to political society, so too among those works that are necessary for human life some are becoming to men, others to women. Whereforenature inculcates that society of man and woman which consists in matrimony. These two reasons are given by the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 11,12).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Anne Hendershott on "Another Catholic University Fails a Litmus Test"

Authored by Anne Hendershott of The King's College (New York City), this appeared in today's Wall Street Journal:
Marquette University's decision to withdraw an offer to Jodi O'Brien, a self-described "sexuality scholar" to become Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Jesuit-led institution continues to divide the faculty. Although Ms. O'Brien reached a settlement with the University last week, her supporters maintain that she is the victim of homophobia. Teachers who criticized the initial job offer say that Ms. O'Brien's sexual orientation is not what disqualifies her, but rather the fact that her publications disparage Catholic moral teachings on marriage, sexuality and the family.
In a post-settlement letter sent June 9th to the Marquette community, University President Father Robert A. Wild wrote, "[W]e have apologized to Dr. O'Brien for the way in which this was handled and for the upset and unwanted attention that we have caused to this outstanding teacher and scholar." Yet Fr. Wild also added that he stands by his decision to rescind the employment offer, a decision "made in the context of Marquette's commitment to its mission and identity."
The specific nature of the job at issue—as dean Ms. O'Brien would have been charged with helping to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II's 1990 apostolic constitution intended to revitalize Catholic higher education—may have driven Marquette to back off this particular appointment. But the real story here is that in the upside-down world of Catholic higher education, there is more status in hiring a sexuality scholar who denigrates Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage than in choosing a serious scholar who might actually support Catholic teachings.
Continue reading>>>

"Fool's Wisdom"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baylor's Ph.D. program in philosophy ranked #18 (out of 112 doctoral programs in U.S.) in scholarly productivity by Academic Analytics

This is great news for our Baylor PhD program in philosophy. You can read more about it here. According to the Baylor press release:
Several [Baylor] Ph.D. programs that were launched or grew rapidly during 2012 have already joined the nation's best, according to Academic Analytics. 
Philosophy, which did not begin recruiting doctoral students until 2004, is ranked No. 18 nationally out of 112 doctoral programs in philosophy in the Academic Analytics database. Political science and sociology, two other relatively new doctoral programs at Baylor, were in the top quartile of all Ph.D. programs in their respective fields.
You can read more about the Baylor Ph.D. program in philosophy here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Books I've read since May 15

The Spring Semester at Baylor ended on May 14. Since then I've read several books that I highly recommend. Here they are:

For those who are interested, I will be chairing a session on Arkes' Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths at the forthcoming meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, D. C.  The panel will be held at 2 pm on September 3. For more information, go here.

Cross on The Church Fathers and Baptismal Regeneration

The always thoughtful Bryan Cross has posted another instant class at Called to Communion, "The Church Fathers and Baptismal Regeneration."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Arlo Guthrie's "Prologue"

(Update: The video is no longer embedded. You will have to click, "Watch at Youtube," at the center of it to go to the YouTube page at which it can be viewed. Or, you can just go here).

I remember the day in 1979 when I first heard this song. It appeared on Arlo Guthrie's album, "Outlasting the Blues," which I purchased on a hot summer day at Odyssey Records in Las Vegas. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Gay Catholic Voice Against Same-Sex Marriage

From the June 4, 2010 New York Times

WASHINGTON — “I spent the summer before college reading Shakespeare and staring out the window and occasionally being a roadie for my friend’s band,” says Eve Tushnet, the celibate, gay, conservative, Catholic writer. That was all good fun, she says upon meeting in Union Station, but she was ready for more, although she knew not what. “I was hoping for something very different in college.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Glenn Beck on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Council of Nicea

Found this on Sancte Pater via Aggie Catholics:

Read the transcript here.

I'm surprised that Glenn Beck did not tie the Council of Nicea to Woodrow Wilson and the American Progressive Movement. :-)

Political conservatives who like Beck's style and audacity should take his history, especially his church and theological history, with a grain of salt. Whatever truth he speaks on political matters is diminished by these ridiculous outbursts of historical fiction.

If you want an accurate account of what happened at the Council of Nicea go here. Also, Mark Shea, at the National Catholic Register, eviscerates Beck's arguments here.  From a Protestant perspective, go to Razorkiss, who also offers a critique of Beck.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Must Theology Sit in the Back of the Secular Bus?

In early 2009 I published an article in the 25th anniversary issue of the Journal of Law & Religion, entitled "Must Theology Sit in the Back of the Secular Bus?: The Federal Courts' View of Religion and Its Status as Knowledge." This is how it begins (notes omitted):
Imagine that you are watching a hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on television. Each member of the Committee is asking questions of, and in some cases interrogating, the president's most recent nominee to the United States Supreme Court. She is an accomplished attorney with not only a law degree from an elite institution but also a doctorate in biochemistry and specialization in private practice on issues over which science and law overlap and intersect. For several years she has served on the federal bench on the D.C. circuit and has done so admirably, showing professional competence and jurisprudential insight that has become the envy of her peers, some of whom disagree with her conservative judicial philosophy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is the Pac-10 exclusion of Baylor motivated by religious animus?

Baylor alum, Terry Mattingly, at "Get Religion," quotes Berry Tramell of The Oklahoman:
Baylor has tried to play politics to usurp Colorado and be included in the Big 12 exodus to the Pac-10. I don’t think the Bears will succeed.
First, the Pac-10 is partial to Colorado. Always has been. The Pac-10 seems to sense a kindred spirit in the Buffs. Boulder is sort of Berkeley East; a funky, liberal bastion. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
And no way is Baylor attractive to the Pac-10. The Pac-10 always has been allergic to Brigham Young, another church-based school. Baylor is the nation’s largest Baptist university. A Baptist friend of mine says Baylor actually is quite liberal in Baptist eyes, but I don’t think that’s a concept Berkeley recognizes, liberal Baptist.  
And then there is Chip Brown's report at Orangebloods: "One top source close to the possible merger between the Pac-10 and six Big 12 schools said some schools in the Pac-10, including California-Berkeley, have a real issue with adding an institution with religious ties like Baylor to the conference.” (emphasis added)

Apparently, even “diversity” has its limits.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S. J.: The Advantages of a Catholic University

In this May 2002 article in America Magazine, the late Cardinal Dulles writes:

Unity of Knowledge
It is of the very nature of a university to impart knowledge of many fields. It is good to have courses in the various arts and sciences, even though no individual student will be able to take more than a limited selection. While specializing in certain areas, students should see their fields of specialization in relation to the realms of knowledge that they have not been able to study in detail.
A fourth criterion for Catholic education, therefore, is that it be such as to impart a sense of the unity of knowledge. In the absence of this sense, one could not have a true university but at best a “multiversity.” In some schools the struggle for coherence has been abandoned, with the result that the students are disoriented and perplexed. How can the claims of different specialties, they ask, be reconciled and integrated? Reason itself teaches us that there can be no ultimate contradiction between truth and truth. In the Catholic university, the search for a higher synthesis will be kept alive.
The Light of Faith
Christians are convinced that no synthesis of knowledge will be successful without reference to God, the supreme Truth, and to Christ, who is the divine Logos, the center of creation and human history ([Ex Corde EcclesiaeE.C.E., No. 16). In this season of national and international peril it needs to be said quite simply that the future of the world will be in danger unless it turns to him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (E.C.E., No. 4). A university that neglects the word of God deprives itself of an important source of truth.
Theology, which studies all reality in the light of divine revelation, has its proper principles and methods, defining it as a distinct branch of knowledge (E.C.E., No. 29). It should, moreover, interact with the other disciplines by bringing a perspective and orientation not contained in their own methodologies (E.C.E., No. 19). In the words of Pope John Paul II: “In promoting the integration of knowledge, a specific part of a Catholic university’s task is to promote dialogue between faith and reason, so that it can be seen more profoundly how faith and reason bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth” (E.C.E., No. 17). The university should be a place in which faith enters into conversation with reason on every level, including historical reason, scientific reason and philosophical reason.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

R. J. Snell on "Remembering the Pill"

Over at Public Discourse, Eastern University philosopher R. J. Snell offers this analysis the 50th anniversary The Pill:

The Pill turns 50 this month [May, 2010]. Such a significant anniversary prompted cover storieshistoriescelebratory remembrances, and calls for expanded access. None of this attention is surprising: the Pill was and continues to be an enormous source of social change in demographics, sexual activity, social mores, divorce, gender roles, and the economy. What is surprising is how mixed some of these assessments have been.
While one expects criticism of the Pill from some religious and political groups, the commentary found in mainstream, non-religious journalism has been remarkably subdued, with many essays expressing a sense of mixed blessings and paradox, moderating praise with frequent discordant notes of social problems, the rise of illegitimacy, the failure to make women happysexual dysfunction, and the Pill’s unhappy correlation with HIV/AIDS, among other hesitations.
In fact, so honest are the accounts of the Pill’s failure to deliver as promised that one might expect serious reservations about the Pill’s future. One Los Angeles Times story on the Pill’s dismal results in reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions paraphrases James Trussell, director of Princeton University’s Office of Population Research, who “thinks that the pill’s time is passing.”
Imagine: the very occasion of celebrating the Pill’s legacy to the world also brings a strong sense that the fruits have not been unalloyed, and even that the Pill might have seen its best days behind it.
Continue reading>>>

Thursday, June 3, 2010

William Lane Craig: "The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God's Existence"

My friend and co-editor (of To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview), William Lane Craig, has published an excellent essay on his website, Reasonable Faith. Entitled, "The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God's Existence," Bill does a nice job of clearly presenting some of the best arguments for God's existence.  Here's how it begins:

It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they to tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society. One might justifiably doubt that the social impact of an idea for good or ill is an adequate measure of its truth, especially when there are reasons being offered to think that the idea in question really is true. Darwinism, for example, has certainly had at least some negative social influences, but that’s hardly grounds for thinking the theory to be false and simply ignoring the biological evidence in its favor.
Perhaps the New Atheists think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are now passé and so no longer need refutation. If so, they are naïve. Over the last generation there has been a revival of interest among professional philosophers, whose business it is to think about difficult metaphysical questions, in arguments for the existence of God. This resurgence of interest has not escaped the notice of even popular culture. In 1980 Time ran a major story entitled “Modernizing the Case for God,” which described the movement among contemporary philosophers to refurbish the traditional arguments for God’s existence. Time marveled,

Continue reading>>>

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Going to Church on Sunday: A Question for Return to Rome Readers

Consider this post a blogosphere instantiation of Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

Over at his blog,, my friend Chris Castaldo writes this:
Theologians sometimes use the word “homoliturgicus” to describe the innate desire of humans to worship (why exactly we are drawn to such nomenclature is a subject for another post). Of the various ways in which this desire finds expression, “going to church on Sunday” is undoubtedly one of them. We are left wondering, however, what is it about the experience of corporate worship that draws us into the pew each week?

I am curious to know whether a Protestant perspective on this question differs significantly from a Catholic one. So, I’ve asked my friend, Frank Beckwith, if he would pose the following to Catholic readers of his blog while, at the same time, I ask you. Here it is.

How would you complete the following sentence? I enjoy going to church on Sunday because ____________________.
So, the question has been posed. Catholic readers, answer accordingly!

From the The Christian Century: "Aquinas for Protestants: What Luther Got Wrong"

Authored in August 2005 by a Church Historian at Duke University, David C. Steinmetz, "Aquinas for Protestants" begins with these words: "Thomas Aquinas has had a long but, on the whole, not very happy history among Protestants. While some early Protestant reformers were well versed in Thomistic theology, Martin Luther was not among them."  Continue reading>>>