Monthly Archives: December 2006

OK, here’s a weird situation

On the one hand, it’s an interesting article about the reverse situation where some parents with genetic defects are actually using artificial procedures to choose the “defective” child, which is obviously wrong, since it’s reverse eugenics and it’s still artificial.

However, Mark Shea does not attack the eugenics of it, but rather the desire of disabled people to have children who share their disabilities. So far, two readers agree with him. I already know Jimmy Akin, Kevin Miller and Greg Popcak do. I know most “Catholics in the pews” do, because I know how they’ve treated me all their lives: like I’m a freak, like my health problems inconvenience *them*. After I had my heart surgery, when I’d have some problem or other pop up, dad would ask for prayers, and people would say, “I thought we were through with all that.” Heck, when I was getting married, my brother admitted–as I always knew in my heart–that my siblings always thought of me as a hypochondriac.

Meanwhile, I turn to my fellow “Marfs,” and I get consolation on my day-to-day problems, but find that most of them favor eugenics.

I am so glad I have at least a few people who support me in this, and that several of them are priests, as opposed to laity with advanced degrees who think they’re the arbiters of the Magisterium since they happen to have written popular books, hosted popular TV series or run popular websites. The likes of Akin, Popcak and Shea ought to take a lesson about such hubris from Deal Hudson and Bud MacFarlane.

Just because a person is a good and sincere Catholic who has some good thoughts on certain key issues and generally has a good manner of insight into more ambiguous areas does not make that person a “Guru of Everything.” One of the reasons I love C. S. Lewis is that he is fully willing to admit when a subject is outside his area of expertise, or when he’s just expressing a personal opinion. That is also true of Socrates, St. Paul and St. Teresa of Avila, among others. On of the things that turns me off to St. Thomas Aquinas, as much as I like him, is that he tends to treat every opinion as an expert one, even on the subjects where we know (at least now) that he’s dead wrong.

Take the Immaculate Conception, for example. There is nothing wrong with Aquinas being wrong on this. Obviously, it was not yet dogma when he lived, so he isn’t a heretic. But it *was* something that had happened historically and that many others had solid arguments in favor of, so that makes him *wrong*. of course, one does not have to be infallible to be a doctor of the Church or a saint. But if we look at his arguments *against* the Immaculate Conception, they are based upon several other faulty ideas or arguments.

Today’s “Catholic Gurus” make a very similar mistake–and most of them are big fans of Aquinas, so it’s understandable. They start with a bunch of premises about Catholicism (in this context, the premises are the importance of health and the idea that Original Sin totally corrupted all of nature). Then they build a logical argument *purely* from *those* premises without consideration of other factors–both other logical premises and also what Karl Adam calls the “psychological” element of a theological issue. They are guilty of what Dietrich von Hildebrand calls “incomplete truth,” exaggerating one aspect of Catholic teaching and ignoring any other dimensions to it. At the same time, they are not being fully logical–as it is impossible for any of us to be 100% logical, even Aquinas. Their reasoning is based heavily upon their “bias” as “healthy people.”

I am always struck by the fact that very few, if any, canonized saints had severe birth defects. Most of the Saints regarded as models of disabled people (e.g,. Alphonsus Liguori) had disabilities that came on *later* in life.

There are a couple prominent Blesseds who make the exceptions that prove my point: Margaret of Castillo and Hermanus Contractus (author of “Salve Regina” and one of the greatest scholars of his day, to whom the greatest minds of Europe came for consultation, but he was severely disabled and lived his entire life in a monastery).

Thus, the Church’s entire theology about “corruption of nature” and suffering is based upon the inherent bias of theologians, bishops and saints who are themselves fairly healthy or at least grew up in healthy conditions–people who have no idea what it is to be crippled or ill from the moment of birth.

The person who is born with an obvious “birth defect” has quite a different attitude about his or her condition from the person who develops problems later on or is diagnosed at a later age.

To that extent, I can forgive the “gurus” their ignorance. But their refusal to listen to a contrary voice–from someone who’s actually *experiencing* it–is upsetting.

And it was Mary, my physically “normal” wife, who, when we were first discussing these issues before our engagement, said, “I’d always hoped to have a special needs child.”

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Shifting from Advent hymns whose content applies to other occasions (or vice versa), let’s look at an Advent hymn with a reusable melody.
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in the popular 87.87.D metre (the same as, among others, “Ode to Joy,” “Pleading Savior,” “Nettleton,” “Austria“). Thus, it is often sung to the tune “Hyfrydol,” usually identified with “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus,” although its “official” setting is “Stuttgart,” which is really 87.87.

Thus, it’s a good one to select if you want to use a familiar melody with Advent lyrics.

Advent is a time of hope. It’s about realizing the reality of our exile–in its many forms–and praying for God’s deliverance, *knowing* that deliverance will come eventually. But we must be patient, just as humanity waited patiently for Christ to come for tens of thousands of years.

These days, of course, we pray for Christ to deliver His people from the Culture of Death, but that was the same prayer of Israel in Egypt, Israel in Babylon and Judea under the Roman Empire.

Arise from Sleep!

The basis for one of J. S. Bach’s most famous chorale preludes, “Wake, Awake” is a classic Advent hymn, and, like the previous two in our series, is a “multi-use” Advent hymn. Among other things, we used it as the opening hymn for our wedding Mass. Based upon the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, it calls upon the Virgins to awake, for the bridegroom comes and proceeds in the analogy of Christ to the Bridegroom, a crucial analogy in understanding just about everything about Catholicism, including the Church’s teachings on morality and social theory.

Advent Hymn of the Day (or, more specifically, the Day of Wrath

Today’s Advent hymn was written by an early Fransican, Thomas of Celano, who also wrote one of the first biographies of St. Francis of Assisi. It was originally an Advent hymn, since part of Advent is expecting the Second Coming. Later, a few verses were added and it became a funeral hymn, eventually the official Sequence (long song before the Gospel) in the Tridentine liturgy (sequences are almost completely out of use in the Pauline Mass, except for a couple major feasts).
Since the Novus Ordo does not use sequences (except in a few major feasts), the Dies Irae is no longer an “official” part of the funeral Mass. However, it can still be used as a hymn at Masses for funerals, All Souls Day and in the Divine Office, as well as Christ the King and Advent (see also this wikipedia article, to which I contributed).

Anyway, it’s a great hymn. It’s inspired some of the greatest music in western civilization (both in musical settings of its text and works that are based on its standard Gregorian setting). So as you’re preparing to celebrate Christmas, why not remember to “keep Satan in Christmas” and break out your Berlioz, Mozart or Lloyd Webber to remember why we need a Savior.

Some resources for Prayer

For perpetual, online adoration of the Monstrance, go to Obviously it doesn’t quite “count” as high as being physically in an adoration chapel, but John Paul II ruled that blessings and graces transmitted live via electronic media still transmit graces (those that are recorded do not, apparently, though one would think they’d at least carry the same grace as reading a prayer or spiritual text).

For perpetual adoration of the Tabernacle, with various links to recorded online devotions, go to

Lastly, and best of all, I just found this fantastic website that has the Liturgy of the Hours–Lauds, Vespers, Matins and Compline–online in PDF format:

Stem Cell Researcher: Stem Cells provide evidence for Genesis against Darwin!

Here’s a different take on the whole issue of stem cell research.

An anonymous stem cell researcher has contributed the column linked above to LifeSite News with the following argument:

1. What makes stem cells so great to scientists is that they are virtually immortal. Scientists even call them “immortal cells.”
2. We all have stem cells our entire lives, except young embryos are composed entirely of stem cells.
3. According to Darwinism, the best genetic traits randomly survive. You would think immortality would be a pretty darn good trait to have, right? If all our cells were stem cells, we would heal and regenerate much more quickly, and we would be virtually immortal.
4. So, from a Darwinist perspect, a human being ought to have evolved at this point that was 100% stem cell. That has not happened.
5. However, Genesis says God created us to be immortal, and we lost that immortality (we devolved, in fact).

That would be in keeping with the fact that we all *have* stem cells but they are extremely limited.

That has some interesting theological implications. The definitive “moment” for Christ was the Resurrection. That set Him apart from all other prophets and moral lawgivers before Him. It was the myrical that Pharoahs’ magicians could never mimic.

Yet what would happen if modern science *did* learn to mimic it? That claim would, of course, supplant the foundational princple of Christianity , which is that only Jesus can raise the dead. As soona s some mad scieentist can offer immortality through science, you will have the era of AntiChrist.

Happy New Year!

In the season of Advent, we reflect on what it was like for those who lived before Christ’s birth: for the human race for the millennia between the Fall and the Nativity; for the nation of Israel; for Mary and Joseph, specifically. We also reflect on our own expectation of Christ’s Return in Glory. In ancient times, a conquering general would pay a return visit to inspect a city that had surrendered in battle, and if it hadn’t turned fully loyal, he would destroy it. Such visits were called parousia.
Thus, in Advent, we reflect on what it was like to have to hope for Christ’s coming at all–thus appreciating our salvation, and we reflect on his Second Coming so that we prepare ourselves lest He come “like a thief in the night.” We also pray that He will, in a spiritual way, come into our society and drive out the Devil.
Meanwhile, Advent gets swallowed up in the secular Christmas season, and while there are many great Advent hymns, they get bypassed for Christmas and winter songs. Let’s reflect on some of them.

First up, from Julia Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners,
so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman,
crush the serpent with His heel,

Since God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him!
be jubilant, my feet;

Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool,
and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on