Daily Archives: June 3, 2009

Muslims and infanticide

Last week, Ashley Herzog at Townhall.com published a piece on the rampant misogyny in Islam, and how Western Leftists give a pass to the horrible treatment of Muslim women, just because they see Islam as an ally against a common enemy in the Culture Wars: Christianity.

On the other hand, Christians often try to claim that Muslims are our allies in the Culture Wars against Secular Progressives due to our common moral beliefs.

“Not so, the wicked, not so.”

Islam is so anti-woman that Muslim women are beaten by their husbands for having too many daughters.

“As a child, I saw one of my paternal aunts being submitted to resounding slaps on her face because she had given birth to a third daughter,” Saadawi writes. “The father so hated this child that he used to insult his wife if she used to care for her…The baby had died before she had completed forty days of her life, and I do not know whether she died of neglect, or whether the mother smothered her to death.” Palestinian writer Souad, whom I mentioned in my last column, says that her mother suffocated nine of her own baby daughters.

This is a religion that claims to be “pro-life”, a “religion of peace”?

How are those Muslim saints to get their forty virgins if they don’t want female children?

Or is that where the forty virgins come from?

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Gasp! John Paul II carried on a correspondence with a woman! Halt the beatification!

Now, I have a few of my own reasons for hoping they take the beatification of Pope John Paul II very cautiously.

However, this bit of news that’s circulating the Catholic newswires would not count.

Apparently, some lady named Wanda Poltawska carried on a longtime correspondence with the Holy Father. She recently published their letters. She was a holocaust survivor, and their association started when Karol Woytyla was giving her emotional and spiritual counseling. There is no question of the propriety of their relationship, though the headlines give that impression. From the Catholic News Service:

La Stampa published an interview with Poltawska June 1 in which she said she met Father Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, in 1950 when she was looking for a confessor and spiritual director to guide her in the long process of recovering from her internment as a political prisoner in the Nazis’ Ravensbruck concentration camp, where medical experiments were performed on prisoners.
Along with her husband and often with their children, “we shared interests, important moments, spirituality and that love for nature that we experienced camping in the mountains of southern Poland and even in the golden cage that was
(the papal villa at) Castel Gandolfo,” after his election as pope in 1978, she said.
“From the first time I met him I knew he would become a saint,” Poltawska said. “His holiness was evident; he radiated an interior light that was impossible to hide.”
Poltawska said she has a “suitcase full of his letters,” written over the course of 55 years.

It’s just that she’s making a claim that violates Vatican protocol: the claim of being a “particular friend” of the Vicar of Christ. And since priests are not really supposed to have “particular friendships,” particularly with women, for a *variety* of reasons (not just reasons of chastity), this causes a problem. According to this article,

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz has expressed explicit criticism towards Mrs.
Poltawska claiming that Pope John Paul II had a strong relationship with many
Catholics and that she is exaggerating their bond. Dziwisz further criticized her decision to reveal the letters as being “out of place and inappropriate,” and explaining that “Karol Wojtyla maintained relationships with numerous people that he met in his youth, but others decided to maintain those letters and relationships in privacy.”

A classmate of Pope John Paul II, Stanislaw Jura, expressed his distaste in Poltawska’s decision to publish the letters to be “messing with holiness,” and explained that “a letter is a secret, and you are not meant to reveal them.”

The problem is apparently more a logistic one than a content one. Part of a cause for sainthood involves evaluating the candidates’ known writings. There is often discussion about whether it’s appropriate to maintain unpublished correspondence, diaries, etc. After all, this is where we often express our most intimate thoughts and frustrations.

Sometimes, there is a desire to burn such correspondence to avoid creating a bad impression. Other times, as with Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, the idea is to avoid writings that will be too sensational or unduly influence the evaluation in a positive way (such as references to private revelations or miracles worked during the individual’s lifetime).

Dziwisz has said he opted not to burn JPII’s personal correspondence because he knew that burning Pius XII’s personal papers only aided the smear campaign against him by creating the impression of a cover-up.

Actually, speaking of St. Pio, I just found out that Wanda Poltawska is the very woman who was the focus of the discussion of *his* letters. Before he died, Padre Pio demanded that all his correspondence be burnt–again, because he was afraid of his miracles and such biasing the investigation. He did, however, save two letters that he said would be important because of who wrote them: they were letters from Karol Woytyla, asking for prayers for a friend of his. The second letter was thanking Padre Pio for his friend’s miraculous cure. Turns out she was that friend.

Gasp! Holy Father calls on us to "fight" "spiritual pollution"! Apparently, he’s inciting violence!

Liberals define so called “hate speech” as “speech that incites violence.” This is the whole centerpiece of their master plan for social engineering and totalitarianism: outlaw free speech by labeling certain speech as unacceptable because it “incites violence.”

Of course, that is part and parcel with their fundamental assumption that people are good and get manipulated into doing bad. Scott Roeder is not responsible for his actions, they say. “The Devil made him do it”: in this case, “The Religious Right” (to Liberals, it’s not Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Lilith, Moloch, Ba’al and other demons, but Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and The Religious Right. You can substitute “Bill Donohue”, “Deal Hudson”, “Jerry Falwell” or “James Dobson” for any of the above names).

They tell us not to blame the Qu’ran when Muslim extremists go out and obey the Qu’ran’s command (not to mention the example set by Mohammed himself) to kill infidels. They tell us that “jihad” is only metaphor for the interior struggle.

Ironically, there is no real command in the New Testament to kill infidels, but any Christian understands that “spiritual warfare” means “fight sin”, it means to pursue one’s own virtue, like a soldier pursuing strength and combat skill. It means to pray and fast to fight off the demons that impede those, like George Tiller and Osama bin Ladin, whom we pray will convert to Christianity and repent of their deeds.

In his Pentecost homily, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI took the way the Holy Spirit expresses Himself as wind, and used air pollution as a metaphor for the things that keep us from God.

“And just as there exists atmospheric pollution, which poisons the environment and living beings, so there exists a pollution of the heart and of the spirit, which mortifies and poisons spiritual existence,” he said.

Pope Benedict said it is right that protecting the environment has become a priority today, but it is equally important that people begin combating “the many products polluting the mind and heart” today, including “images that make a spectacle of pleasure, violence and contempt for men and women.”

Does anyone except the loons at The Huffington Post believe that, by this statement, our Holy Father is calling on Catholics to “literally” fight this pollution by bombing “gentleman’s clubs” and assassinating Ron Howard?

No.

Now, the problem with liberals is that they always want to make into a metaphor that which is not.

A “culture war” is not a metaphor. It is a type of war. A “culture war” may be accompanied by a physical war between two groups of people, but a “culture war” does not have to be, and really should not be, a physical fight. It is a battle of ideas. All war is a reflection or type of the greater conflict that rages unseen around us. We use physical war as a metaphor for the war between the angels.

But angels do not have bodies, and they are not mortal. They do not fight with swords or guns or bombs. They fight with ideas.

The war in heaven is a gigantic philosophical debate. It is the mother of all blogs.

In many ways, what we have today with the Internet perhaps brings us closer to realizing what things are like for the angels, communicating at the level of pure thought, not having bodies and body language and such to interfere. Angels even seem to have something like to emotion.

And when we speak of “culture wars,” that’s what we mean: a gigantic exchange of diametrically opposed ideas, ideas that are battling for control of our society. Now, certain government structuers that culture wars have to also be physical wars. But in a society with freedom of speech and honest elections (can we have an honest election now that the Democrats have installed this unaccountable electronic voting?), culture wars can truly be intellectual.

Meanwhile, spiritual warfare means trying to engage, as humans, in the battle of the angels that happens around us.

There comes a time in the most heated combox discussion when one of three things happens: 1) very rarely, one person relents usually going off in a huff like Thrasymachus in The Republic, 2) both people grow weary of the debate, or 3) a moderator terminates the discussion.

But at some point there reaches a point where dialogue is impossible. This is what the term “irreconcilable differences” means. It’s why pro-lifers see an inherent self-contradiction in Barack Obama’s Notre Dame speech, when he acknowledged irreconcilable differences yet called for dialogue. And that point, the debate can only be continued at the level of rage.

That is where the Demons are at. They are filled with absolute rage and contempt for God and us. They may seem charming when they seduce us to sin, but it doesn’t take long for that true fury to come out (C. S. Lewis is excellent at illustrating this in characters like Jadis the White Witch, or Dr. Westin/The Un-Man in Perelandra). Spiritual Warfare means battling the demons at the level of their rage.

Again, it means praying and doing spiritual works intensely for the conversion of another person, particularly for the removal of obstacles that those enraged demons are putting in the other perosn’s way. Of course, it is going to elicit great anger from the demons, and it elicits anger from the persons who are totally under demonic control (as many of the posters at DailyKos and Huffington Post surely are).

But true spiritual warfare, and true cultural warfare *must* be spiritual and intellectual, first and foremost. If the goal is to defeat the devil, then the last thing to do is to adopt his tactics.

Because that’s what he wants. He wants us to take ourselves down to his level. Again, it’s like Batman confronting Darkseid with a gun: it doesn’t work. When you meet the Devil at his level, all you’ve done is given him the victory, since his goal is to bring down your soul.

That “once in a lifetime exception” when you think it might be justified to do evil that good may come of it, or even compromise your higher personal standards by opting for a justifiable act when you would have always chosen heroic virtue, could very well be “once in a lifetime” if that moment of compromise also happens to be your moment of death.

So “spiritual warfare” and “cultural warfare” are not metaphors, but they do not mean warfare with guns: they mean warfare with prayers and ideas. To bring guns into such a conflict is only to defeat the efficacy of the prayers and ideology.

And this is precisely shown in how Scott Roeder’s act has provided the abortion lobby with a prime example of their claim that we are not “pro-life” but merely “anti-abortion.” It has provided them with an excuse to challenge our ideas at the core.

They’re criticizing Bill O’Reilly for calling George Tiller “Tiller the Killer,” for saying that Tiller had blood on his hands . Tiller was a killer. Tiller did have blood on his hands.

They’re saying that we’re wrong to say abortion is murder, or that it’s slaughter, or that it’s “baby killing.” But that’s what abortion is. Those are not just metaphors. Those are not just emotive statements designed to rally a crowd. It’s not just rhetoric. It’s our fundamental position.

Were abolitionists engaging in “hate speech” and volatile rhetoric when they decried slavery as involving the subjugation of human beings?

Why embryonic stem cells will *never* be useful in treating diseases

From Don Margolis at the Repair Stem Cell Institute:

ESCs have no interest in sticking around and helping — they have but one
interest, to grow into a baby. . . .

To summarize — this is how far ESCs research has to go:

  1. Discover a way to avoid the need to destroy the patient’s immune system.
  2. Discover a way to “teach” these cells to continue to repair rather than proliferate, or
  3. Discover a way to “turn off” the cells before they become tumors.
  4. Discover a way to avoid the enormous cost in time and money to produce a trained ESC, something embryonic scientists never mention. America’s largest embryonic stem cell company tells investors quite clearly, in an SEC-required document, that the cost of its product may be too high to sell.

Evangelium Vitae on the Dangers of Socialized Medicine

At the same time a new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives crimes against life a new and—if possible—even more sinister character, giving rise to further grave concern: broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the State, so that these things can be done with total freedom and indeed with the free assistance of health-care systems. (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Ch. 1, pt. 4)

St. Teresa of Avila on humility

“God deliver us from persons who are concerned about honor while trying to
serve Him. Consider it an evil gain, and, as I said, honor is itself lost by desiring it, especially in matters of rank” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 12, para. 7).

Real Heroes Don’t Use Lethal Force

In a country where the top pop culture hero right now is “Jack Bauer” on 24, where “pro-life” conservatives justify waterboarding, where infanticide is compassion and police carry portable electric chairs, is the murder of George Tiller by Scott Roeder really that shocking to anyone?

We often hear, in contrast to fictional superheroes, that “real heroes” are police and firefighters. In some sense, that’s true.
But the real heroes are not firefighters and cops: they’re saints (though firefighters and cops may be saints).
And what makes superheroes special is not their powers. Their powers make them cool. But their *values* make them special. True superheroes are characters who are saints.
Sometimes, we Catholics-who-like-science-fiction think more in terms of making spiritual warfare something tangible: having a clear cut “good guy” fighting an evil “bad guy” in a physical representation of the intellectual warfare the angels are waging all around us, all the time.

But perhaps a better model is to see the superhero as kind of the saint-in-action, the person who combines the “policeman” model of hero with the heroic virtue of the saint, as well as the saint’s “special powers” that derive from heroic virtue.

Geeks are required to like Lord of the Rings. Conservative Catholics are required to like Lord of the Rings. People who like C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton are required to like Lord of the Rings.

I liked the Rankin & Bass Hobbit and Return of the King, but I wasn’t able to appreciate The Lord of the Rings until I read it simultaneously with the Peter Jackson movies.
What struck me most, in terms of Catholic themes, is how Gandalf doesn’t support killing people.
We want to see the bad guy get his due, but Tolkein holds back. Villains get killed in battle in Lord of the Rings, but whenever a defeated villain is confronted, and the other heroes want to summarily execute him, Gandalf says “No.” Wormtongue, Saruman, and Gollum are all given second, and even third chances. All three end up dying in acts of self-destruction (I forget which is shot by a hobbit, but it’s clearly justifiable self defense), but none is executed. It would have been nice, given the themes about Gollum/Smeagol, if Tolkein had allowed us a character who was evil and fully repented. But then again, maybe that is speaking to the lack of Christ’s salvific grace.

Recently, DC Comics completed the “Battle for the Cowl.” Apparently, Dick Grayson is the new Batman, with Bruce Wayne’s son Damian Wayne the new Robin. How long this situation will last is anyone’s guess. But since Batman was of course involved in multiple storylines, the “death of Batman” story actually happened a couple of times: in the main Batman titles, where Batman fell to his apparent death in battle, after a very literally maddening storyline, and then in the “DC Universe” wide story arc Final Crisis -published simultaneously but set months afterwards–in which it was explained that Batman had faked his death for some reason, but then he really does die in combat with demigod villain Darkseid, with the memorable image of Superman holding the charred body of his fallen comrade.
While the death was about as final as a comic book death could be, the writers left a loophole: Bruce Wayne is still “out there” somewhere, cursed to shift between eras of history in a perpetual, mind destroying hell of miserable lives. I’m not sure if it’s like reincarnation but he’s aware of it or if it’s like a negative version of the “Nexus” in Star Trek Generations.
Why do I bring this up? Well, part of Batman’s trademark is that he does not use lethal force or lethal weapons. The last time they tried a “new” Batman was in the mid-90s Knightfall storyline, where Bruce had his spine broken by newly introduced villain Bane, and an up and coming anti-hero called Azrael took up the Batman mantle. But Azrael-Batman was violent and brutal. Eventually, Bruce had to put a stop to him, and did as soon as his spine was miraculously healed, as happens in comic book/soap opera land (lending to the delusions of poor guys like Christopher Reeve).
This time around, as noted, Batman’s last couple storylines were apparently very harrowing, and the Caped Crusader left the R.I.P. story pretty torn up (including having fallen to his apparent death while battling a new mysterious archvillain and having that villain proclaim himself to be none other than Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father).
So there’s some kind of cosmic confrontation between the DC heroes and Darkseid. And Batman uses some kind of supernatural bullet and points it at Darkseid. Making a “once in a lifetime exception” to his “no firearms” rule, Batman shoots Darkseid, but Darkseid in turn curses Batman, destroying his mortal body and sending him on the aforementioned trip through time.
The writers saw it as the whole symbolism of Batman’s career starting with the gun that killed his parents and ending with the first time he’d ever use a gun: to shoot a being that was evil incarnate. Still, many fans were disappointed that Batman would even make this exception.
More recently, in the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline, former Robin Jason Todd (famously shot by the Joker 20 years ago but brought back from the dead a few years ago) took up the Batman mantle but was going around killing people, so, despite a will from Bruce Wayne saying he didn’t want the Batman mantle taken up, Dick Grayson took over as Batman to keep others from abusing it.
Superman: ‘Nuff said.

He-man: in some ways, just a Superman “rip off,” especially given that the original He-man story was developed by DC Comics (and actually involved a Superman cross-over).

But He-man could kill Skeletor with a single blow. But he won’t. Because, to use the Spider-Man phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and he’s morally obligated to use his power within moral limits, or he’ll lose it. His power is a sacred trust. It is precisely because of his great powers that he is able to use them to disable rather than kill his adversaries.

And then there’s Optimus Prime.

As Transformers mythology has developed, although recent incarnations have tried to steer away from the Unicron/Primus/Matrix thing, the “Prime” is basically almost like the Cybertronian Pope: the single guardian, per generation of the sacred Creation Matrix, the encapsulation of the divine power of Primus.

I think of the classic moment in the 1986 movie where, after their “battle to the death,” Prime has Megatron on the ground, gun pointed towards him.
“No more, Optimus Prime, grant me mercy,” says Megatron, seeing a gun just barely out of reach.
“You, who are without mercy, no plead for it?” asks Prime, himself not willing to shoot even Megatron in that circumstance.
(Although later comic book stories have dealt with Prime battling his conscience over whether his merciful nature merely perpetuates the violence by not putting an end to Megatron’s evil, that is answered by the various Decepticons who’ve taken over–sometimes more genocidally–in Megatron’s absences).
Gandalf would not have killed George Tiller. He would have called on Scott Roeder to respect Tiller’s dignity and give him a chance to change.
Batman would not have killed George Tiller. He would have committed him to Arkham Asylum and expressed hope that Tiller might change his ways.
Neither Superman nor He-man would have used his immense strength to kill George Tiller. They might have crushed his abortuary to a pile of rubble, but they would have, again, offered him the chance to change his ways.
Optimus Prime would not have killed George Tiller. He would have said, “all life is precious.”

And if this sounds trivial, it’s not. Because that is the real thing we look for in our fictional heroes: it’s why fictional “heroes” like Jack Bauer express the worst, not the best, in our nature.

We look for virtue. We look for the ability to stop the evil, to put an end to the threat without putting an end to the perpetrator.

As much as our fictional sagas give us catharsis in our desire to see evil defeated, they also do something else: they help us to see in the humanity in the villains. We don’t really want to see Skeletor or Megatron or Lex Luthor killed, both because then the story would be over and because we can see the good in them, whether it’s charm or nobility or some other feature we admire deep down. That admiration should remind us that all our brethren are made in God’s image and likeness.

And perhaps the last and best example of this is the redemption of Anakin Skywalker. I’ve read many commentaries on the Internet that condemn Return of the Jedi for allowing a genocidal mass murderer like Darth Vader a “pass”. He gets to go to Jedi heaven for something so meager as an act of self-sacrificing love.

But the hope of any Christian should be that the bad guys-real and fictional-will eventually see the light.

And that’s what spiritual warfare means, for those who say that “rhetoric” of spiritual warfare leads to incidents like the death of George Tiller.

Spiritual Warfare is not just a metaphor, and it’s not a code word for physical warfare. No, spiritual warfare is intense prayer for the liberation of one’s enemies from the grip of the greater enemy, Satan, and the prayer for their conversions.

After all, this is what happens when Batman resorts to using a gun: