Thursday, March 31, 2005

the pope's "living will" and on the murkiness of the Church's teaching on feeding tubes and ventilators

A report from Reuters quotes America magazine's editor Rev. Thomas Reese S.J. as saying that the Pope effectively wrote his own "living will" when he delivered on March 20, 2004 an allocution (speech) to the participants in the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas." This allocution expressed the Pope's view that artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) constitute "a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act." He added that "Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering." This is the basis for the Church's call not to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, whose death was just announced today.

Reese, commenting on the artificial nasal tube administered on the Pope recently to help feed him, said that "It would be very difficult to unplug him if it came to that," in light of the Pope's own words in his allocution.

Anyway, the article from Reuters correctly points out that "The Catholic Church has traditionally taught that doctors and families could end artificial life-extending measures in good conscience if a dying patient's prospects seemed hopeless." So when the Pope made this allocution last year, it seemed to have left many moral theologians scratching their heads (I remember that I wondered about the Pope's statement as well when I heard it last year).

And the reason is because the Church's moral tradition has never been "vitalist" with regards to issues such as this. Vitalism is the belief that earthly life is an absolute value and that it must be preserved by all means and whenever possible. As we all know feeding tubes and ventilators have the effect of keeping all of us alive indefinitely. The Church knows that no one is to be kept from dying if death is inevitable, knowing that eternal life is a greater good. I mean, isn't this part of the whole message of Easter? Anyway, as I noted in an earlier post, Pope Pius XII and the Declaration on Euthanasia from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith articulated this Church teaching. The article then quotes Rev. James Keenan S.J., ethics professor at Boston College, saying that "We've [the Church] spent centuries letting people figure out how they want to go to meet God, and now we have these fairly intrusive claims on a patient."

Also, and a very big also, the Pope's allocution left things a bit murky, because of the fact that this is a mere "speech"--an allocution (stay tuned for an upcoming post on the hierarchy of papal pronouncements). The point is, allocutions are not dogmatic pronouncements and do not require an assent of faith. If any amendment in the Church's teaching has to be made, the usual route is for the pope to consult with the College of Bishops. So, Keenan comments that "The Pope can say any number of things but he has to tell the bishops' conferences when they have to change something...He hasn't done this."

One of the things therefore that this sad event with Terri Schiavo has done is to expose a rather confusing aspect of the Church's teaching on artificial nutrition and hydration. The Church has to articulate a clearer teaching on this for the sake of patients and their families.

Read the article from Reuters here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

understanding PVS and raising questions

From comes an accessible write-up on persistent vegetative state (PVS). This is the type of medical information which I have been looking for. And the infomation contained here is quite interesting, especially the point about the state of Terri Schiavo's brain by analyzing her CAT scan:
"The University of Miami web site has a link that it identifies as Mrs. Schiavo’s CAT scan of the head.To the medically trained person this scan appears grossly abnormal and sickening. The blue areas are remaining brain tissue but most of the scan shows black areas which are essentially fluid (cerebrospinal fluid). The normal body reaction to irreversibly damaged tissue is to replace it with fluid and this is clearly what has happened after Mrs. Schiavo suffered severe anoxic damage to her cerebral cortex . Most of what remains of her brain is essentially a fluid filled sac surrounded by a thin shell of brain tissue rather then the solid structure we normally associate with a brain. The deeper parts of her brain including the hypothalamus and brain stem (not shown in the scan) remain intact and these continue to function to cause wakefulness and regulate other automatic body functions. These deeper areas are more resistant to anoxic damage and so were for the most part uninjured from her cardiac arrest."

If this and the findings of Schiavo's doctors raise questions about the appropriateness of providing continued medical care such as artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) to someone in her condition, then that's to be expected. Is ANH in the case of Schiavo as presented by still "proportionate" care? Does it constitute a burden to the patient and her family (considering the stress which I presume her family seems to be currently in, due in part from all the media attention, I would say this is a "burden")? Are we keeping Schiavo from a greater and more desired good which is letting her pass from this world and onto the next?

The Church's position is not a vitalist one (for an explanation, see previous post). Yet the Church calls ANH obligatory care. In light of the state of Schiavo's brain, would a restoration of ANH be considered humane?

Read here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Catholic tradition on end-of-life issues is not "vitalist"

The latest report I read concerning Terri Schiavo's condition is that her life is slowly drawing to a close. One's thoughts and prayers naturally go out to her and her family.

As I was thinking about this sad situation yesterday, I noticed that there seems to be one strain in Catholic tradition concerning end-of-life issues and bioethics which I have not heard mentioned a great deal in the media or in blogosphere. Yet it is important to be reminded of it.

It is simply this: Catholic tradition with respect to end-of-life issues and terminal illness has never been "vitalist," which is the belief that earthly life is an absolute value and that it must be preserved by all means and whenever possible.

Rather, Catholic tradition has held that the greater value to be sought after is life eternal: that this ought to guide health care professionals, patients and their families, and ethicists. To unpack this point, there are three things/principles that need mentioning.

First, the Church upholds the sacredness of human life and that the sick and the dying in their condition possess the same dignity that everybody else has. Therefore, the Church teaches that the sick is to be given every treatment necessary for their well-being and restoration to good health. Their interests must guide their doctors.

Second, that the medical treatment given to a terminal patient should be "proportionate" to the patient's condition. This means that the treatment must offer some real benefit and that the patient and the patient's family are not burdened. If prolonging treatment causes hardship and burden (emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually), then it is deemed "disproportionate" and the Church allows its discontinuation.

One way of looking at this is figuring if the treatment negatively affects a patient's quality of life. If it does, then continuing the treatment is considered "disproportionate." And another way of viewing this is figuring if the treatment is considered "basic" or "ordinary," given the patient's condition: if the treatment is aggressive or over-zealous, then it is "disproportionate." "Proportionate" is "ordinary" and "basic" medical treatment.

John Paul wrote on this only last year. But his message only deals specifically with artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH): that is, feeding tube and ventilator. His main point--now listen closely--is that these are not medical treatment, but rather medical care: these are not meant to "treat" or "cure" a patient in a "persistent vegetative state," but are meant to provide care. And because of that, ANH are morally obligatory. In other words, these are considered "proportionate" and "basic" care to a patient in PVS. In his allocution, he wrote that "the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory."

John Paul's words are partly the basis for the Florida's bishops' own words calling for the continuation of Schiavo's use of artificial nutrition.

Third, that earthly life is indeed of sacred value, but that it is secondary to the value of eternal life. In other words, life in this world is not of absolute value. Eternal life is. Indeed, our life here on earth is but a foretaste and a shadow of the life to come. Therefore, clinging to this earthly existence at all costs when all possible medical treatments have been exhausted and found wanting says quite a lot about that patient's lack of spiritual readiness and preparation.

Now, applying this third principle to Schiavo's case, does it mean that the feeding tube should not be reinstated? No it does not, because, as the Florida bishops and the Pope himself have said, ANH constitute obligatory medical care.

But these third and second principles do have something to say to the many people out there who are watching the Schiavo case and who are probably aghast at the thought that one day they may have to go through a prolonged death as they are being kept alive artificially. The Church allows her members to refuse aggressive medical treatment if it is "disproportionate" and if it prevents them from attaining the greater spiritual value of peacefully passing from this world and onto the next life. This is what it means to say that "the Church's ethical position is not vitalist."

Now, Pope Pius XII nicely integrates all three principles in his Allocution from 1957: "Normally one is held to use only ordinary means--according to circumstances of persons, places, times, and culture--that is to say, means that do not involve any great burden for oneself or another....Life, health, all temporal activities are, in fact, subordinated [emphasis mine] to spiritual ends."

Supporting Pius' words, the Declaration on Euthanasia from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980 says that "Everyone has the duty to lead his or her life in accordance with God's plan. That life is entrusted to the individual as a good that must bear fruit already here on earth, but that finds its full perfection only in eternal life."

So, from all of that, there are three things which I would like to reiterate: First, that earthly life is indeed sacred, but not absolute; it is relative to eternal life. Secondly, that ANH are obligatory and are considered basic medical care, not treatment. This is the reason why the Church has said that Schiavo's feeding tube ought to remain; it is not because the Church wants everyone to be kept alive no matter what. Thirdly, that it is moral to refuse further medical treatment when one is reasonably convinced that life is coming to an end, and that a prolongation of dying is a burden.

This is not suicide, nor is this euthanasia. In suicide or euthanasia, although there may be an irreversible disease or medical condition, death is caused by an inflicted lethal act. However, in refusing some sort of aggressive medical treatment, one that is "disproportionate" or "extraordinary", a person is accepting what is inevitable. There is a great deal of difference between suicide/euthanasia and allowing oneself/a patient to die. The former constitutes killing, but the latter recognizes the greater value of eternal life when one's earthly life is irreversibly coming to an end.

In support of this, the Catechism says that "Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of 'over-zealous' treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected" (article #2278).

The many folks who have called for the restoration of Schiavo's feeding tube have said that its removal is yet another symptom of our society's prevailing culture of death and of the diminishment of human dignity. They have a point. However, I would caution them when they make such statements, because one can also argue the flip-side of this:

Medical technology has advanced to such an extent that we can all be kept "alive" artificially, pushing back the inevitable advent of death. The result of this infringement (or even arrogance) of medical technology with regards to the natural rhythm of life and death is a diminishment of patients' quality of life, robbing patients of their dignity. The term "vegetative state," as horrid as it sounds, is not a term that was coined by accident. Patients have been rendered like "vegetables" because of the "advancement" and the over-zealous intrusion of technology. This is no way to live. And this is why the Church has an ethical tradition which is not "vitalist."

Monday, March 28, 2005

keeping the spirit of Easter alive

Keeping the spirit of Easter alive during the next 50 days can be a challenge. Lent is only 40 days long, but Easter is 50! Somehow we don't seem to have a problem with keeping the Lenten spirit of penitence and solemnity for 40 days. But 50 days of joy and gladness and merriment? Maybe for a week or two...or possibly three. But seven weeks of Easter joy? Hmmm...That can be difficult.

So, I was looking for suggestions today out there on blogland on how to keep the spirit of Easter going. I found a few and they are listed below. Some of these are my own and some are from various sources. And yes, these suggestions are easy and do-able. I found one suggestion that says: "Start going to the gym, start an exercise regimen: bring health and life into your dreary, dry bones!" Now that's healthy...But, no, I won't tell you to do that. Anyway, here are ten suggestions...I hope these help:

--I have seen Advent candles around, and so I don't see why we can't have an Easter Candle in our homes. It can be a simple candle, but reasonably large enough to last 50 days (it doesn't have to be as big as your Church's Paschal Candle now). Set in a nice holder. Light it when reading, or meditating, or praying. Or, set it in your home dining table and light it every Sunday at family meals.

--Be on the lookout for hidden blessings in unexpected places as you go about your day at work or at home, with friends or co-workers. An Easter "egg-hunt" shouldn't just be for eggs, but for moments of blessings and grace throughout the day.

--Know a nice, catchy, upbeat tune? Let that be the "background" music in your head as you work, or drive, or run errands, or go shopping. If it's a favorite song or hymn of yours, the better: Go right ahead and "play" it.

--Notice the "good news" out there. The papers and TV news are full of dreary, sad newsbits. But search for newsitems that catch your attention and which raise your spirits: stories that affirm your belief in the nobility of every person and of the hidden hand of God.

--Remember the times in your life when you had to overcome adversity and trials and worry. Remember how you overcame those. Easter is all about overcoming death and defeat.

--Cut blooms from your garden to enjoy in a vase indoors. Or....

--Bring new life into the world. Go to your backyard or frontyard and plant something. If you live in an apartment with no yard of your own, buy a potted plant and take good care of it.

--Find a creek or river and enjoy the moving water. During a rainstorm, make the house quiet, sit, and listen to the rain.

--The next time you enter Church, pay closer attention to the font. Remember that the holy water in it is meant to remind us of the waters with which we were baptized. So go ahead and bless yourself with that water. And if you have kids, tell them that the water in that font is just like the water with which they themselves were baptized as babies.

--Recognize Christ on your daily journey of faith, the way the disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus. This encounter changed the disciples! Allow Christ to change you by taking the time to listen, being present and "breaking bread" with those on your journey.

If you have other suggestions, great!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

from John Donne

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppie, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

from the Exsultet--the Easter Proclamation

Rejoice, heavenly powers!
Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
Radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy!
Echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

Friday, March 25, 2005

from C.S. Lewis--Love's diagram

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing--or should we say "seeing"? for there are no tenses in God--the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocations as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath's sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a "host" who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and "take advantage" of Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A primer on Triduum

If you would like to know what the next three days is about for the Church throughout the world, listen up. The next three days are the most special time in the calendar of the whole Church: it is called Triduum--"the three days"--the high point in the Church's calendar. The preparations of Lent during the past 40 days--the fasting, the prayers, the almsgiving--have led the members of the Church in the celebration of these three days.

During this time the Church enters into the experience of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus (which we call the Paschal Mystery). Gathered together as a community, the Church enters this Mystery through rituals, symbols, singing, music, readings, sermons, and prayer. All of these rituals and celebrations make up ONE liturgy over three days. It's not that we all stay in Church for three days without going home: we get to go home. But rather, all of these celebrations constitute ONE liturgical act and movement.

That means for instance that at the end of each of the rituals beginning today until Saturday night, you will not hear the priest dismissing the assembly (although they may disperse), and you will not hear the priest giving the assembly a blessing at the end. The reason why the Church regards this as one liturgy spread over three days is because the Church is celebrating one central and unified event in the experience of Jesus--his trial, torture, execution, burial, and resurrection. These make up one event that has saved, and continues to save, the whole world from sin and death.

Triduum begins this evening when the whole Church celebrates the Mass recalling Jesus' Last Supper. A special liturgical rite during this evening's Mass is called the "washing of the feet." Through this ritual we recall Jesus' action of washing the feet of his disciples. It is a sign of humility and service. We are called to do as Jesus did--serving and loving others--and we symbolize our serving and loving by ritually washing each other's feet.

Also, the Mass this evening (Thursday) commemorates the time when Jesus took bread and wine and told his disciples that these are his body and blood. Then he commanded his disciples to partake of this consecrated bread and wine in his memory. This is the command that the Church observes not only whenever she celebrates this special Mass remembering the Last Supper once a year this evening, but also whenever Mass is celebrated every week on Sunday and every day.

Triduum continues on Friday with the observance of Jesus' passion and death. Usually held at three o'clock in the afternoon, which is traditionally believed to be the time when Jesus was nailed to the cross, the Church's observance of this day includes a reading of the story of Jesus' trial and execution, traditionally from the narrative of St. John.

A special ritual on Friday is called the veneration of the Cross. Members of the assembly come forward and venerate the Cross through the gestures of kneeling in front of it, kissing the cross, or touching it. Also, an expanded set of prayers is offered this day; that is, the general intercessions are lengthened. At regular Masses, these petitions occur after the homily and are usually a sentence long. On this special day these intercessions are brought to prominence by having periods of silence and by having special prayers spoken by the priest after each intercession.

After the commemoration of Jesus' passion and death, the whole Church pauses and waits. No Masses will be celebrated the following day, on Saturday. In fact, the whole Church is encouraged to fast. But this is to be a different sort of fasting, unlike the fasting in Lent which is all about discipline, penance, and sorrow for one's sins. The type of fast called for on Saturday is called the Easter fast--a fast of joyful anticipation and excitement.

Triduum culminates on Saturday night with the celebration of the Great Vigil of Easter. On this night, the Paschal Candle (symbolizing the Light of Christ) is lit and processed into the darkened Church. Then, the beautiful words of the Exsultet--the Easter Proclamation--is sung. If you decide to attend the Easter Vigil at your local Church, I encourage you to listen to the words of this Proclamation closely: they are simply beautiful.

On this special night, there will (hopefully) be more than three readings from the Bible. The Church encourages parishes to read as many of the seven prescribed readings from the Hebrew Scriptures as possible. Following these Scripture passages, the letter of Paul to the Romans is read. Then, the "Alleluia" is sung: a word which the Church has "fasted" from during the past 40 days of Lent.

Following the singing of the Alleluia, the Gospel is proclaimed. This year the Gospel reading that will be proclaimed is the story of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary being told by an angel at the tomb that Jesus has risen. The story continues to relate how Jesus then actually appeared to them as they were on their way to tell the disciples the good news of the resurrection.

The elect--those who have been preparing for baptism--are called forward this night in order to be baptized and confirmed. Also on this night, those who previously belonged to different denominations but who wish to enter into a fuller communion with the Catholic Church are received. Their time of catechesis and instruction has led them to this night, and the Church welcomes them as her own.

The Vigil of Easter gives those who are already baptized an opportunity to renew their baptismal promises. It also commences their joyful celebration of the season of Easter which is to last for 50 days--all that time holding in their hearts the words they have heard this night from the Exsultet: "Jesus Christ is risen!"

I encourage you to attend as much of this beautiful liturgy as you can at your local parish.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

pvs vs. mcs

with news that the US appeals court in atlanta has turned down a request by terri schiavo's parents for an emergency review of its earlier decision not to intervene, comes a report that the governor of florida, jeb bush, has suggested that doctors might have misdiagnosed schiavo's condition, which he says might be one of a minimally conscious state (MCS) rather than a persistent vegetative state (PVS). what's the difference?

well, i didn't know there was a difference until i read today an article from a site called neuroethics which drew a distinction between patients in PVS and those in MCS. it quoted a study published in 2003 which says that:

"In the persistent vegetative state, patients have lost cognitive neurological function but retain vegetative or noncognitive neurological function such as cardiac action, respiration, and maintenance of blood pressure… This state follows coma and is characterized by the absence of cognitive function or awareness if the environment, despite a preserved sleep-wake cycle. Spontaneous movements may occur and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli, but the patient does not speak or obey commands… The diagnosis of PVS should be made cautiously and only after extended periods of observation.

The term minimally conscious state [MCS] is distinguished from coma and persistent vegetative state by the preservation of discernible behavioral evidence of consciousness… The diagnosis is established by the presence of one or more of the following behaviors: (1) ability to follow simple commands, (2) gestural or verbal yes/no responses, (3) intelligible verbalization, or (4) purposeful behaviors that are contingent upon and relevant to the external environment."

in other words, patients in a MCS are more conscious compared with patients in a PVS. the article continues:

"The preponderance of medical opinion is that Terri Schiavo is in a PVS. However, based on her behavior; some have suggested that she is conscious. Although neither her brain damage nor her behavior are consistent with a locked-in state, in which patients are fully conscious, some observers would argue that they are consistent with a minimally conscious state. And most agree that the line between PVS and MCS is fuzzy."

what i have not heard discussed with any great detail and definitiveness is the opinion of her doctors and the actual state of schiavo's brain: namely, what tests have been administered on schiavo, has she undergone functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), is her brain now irreversibly necratized (liquidized), and other hard medical facts such as those. maybe these facts are out there and i have missed them (in which case if i could be guided to those, i would appreciate it). i'd hate to have some politician (whoever he may be, governor or what-not), telling my doctors that their diagnosis has been wrong.

especially in a case such as this which has drawn the attention of the nation if not the world, the medical dimension of this sad situation should be made clearer and definite. sadly, in light of the article's words that "the line between PVS and MCS is fuzzy" this is perhaps one medical aspect which probably might never be made clear or definite.

read the article from neuroethics here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

yawning and sex

as someone who will be taking the vow of celibacy pretty soon, this particular topic is very close to my heart. dutch academic wolter seuntjens of the vrije universiteit in amsterdam recently wrote a thesis called "the hidden sexuality of the human yawn." in it he says that "the yawn and the associated stretch of the 'stretch-yawn syndrome' have been linked to desire and even of being in love, figuring in the courtship process both in the West and in passages in ancient Indian literature," according to the guardian. seuntjens, the same article says, has even found "one pair of authors who described the feeling that accompanies the acme of yawning as a 'mini-orgasm.'" hmm....interesting....i had never thought of associating yawning with sex.

anyway, thanks to suentjens, i'll never think of yawning the same way again--another way of "channeling" one's sexual energy as a celibate. *yawn*

read the article here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

get yourself a living will

if there's one thing that the case of terri schiavo has taught me, it's the importance of getting a living will. i might complete one soon after ordination in light of all the goings-on back east. a living will is something i learned about in my medical ethics course here in seminary a few years back: the prof handed all of us copies of california's durable power of attorney for health care and said, "i strongly urge you to complete one of these in the near future." well, that was a couple of years ago and i still have that form uncompleted.

according to the form itself, it "gives the person you designate as your agent (the attorney in fact) the power to make health care decisions for you. Your agent must act consistently with your desires as stated in this document or otherwise made known." i'd rather make my exact desires known in writing, thank you.

california's durable power of attorney for health care looks like this. if you're not in california, you may find information about your state's living will here. in the california form, as you can see, there's a section entitled "Statement of Desires, Special Provisions, or Limitations." in this section you may state whether or not you want efforts made to prolong your life and whether or not you want life-sustaining treatment to be provided or continued.

the form even gives you an opportunity to state whether you would like any of your organs to be donated to science or to be made available for transplant.

completing this form is not really so much for myself, as it is for my loved ones. i wouldn't want them to go through what terri schiavo's family must be experiencing right now, with the congress, the prez, and the courts duking it out.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

from alfred lord tennyson

In the Spring a fuller crimson
comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing
gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris
changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy
lightly turns to thoughts of love.

portrait of a young man
by steve levin: lightly turning
to thoughts of love?

new feature!

a new feature of this humble blog is the links found in the margin entitled "Interesting Bits On The Side." it will feature links to sites which i have found interesting, but on which i do not have a comment. i have set the limit of these links to about 15, so that the last link on the list will disappear when i post a new "interesting bit." i am thinking of updating this list on a regular basis by posting new bits of interest every now and then. so, you are more than welcome to take a look at these posted bits.

the process of installing this sidebar is actually quite involved. being new to blogging i had to quickly skim through the meaning of "new" concepts such as RSS, CSS, tags, feeds, burning, and a myriad of others. and all of that on top of catching up with readings on theology!

but as soon as i got the hang of it, it's actually quite easy to use. so, to give those guys a plug, this new feature is powered by

now, posting pictures recently on the other hand has been a nightmare as hello and picasa2 seem to be disabled. and it seems that they've been disabled for a few days now. let's hope for their speedy recovery.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

on the passion of jesus christ according to matthew

at catholic masses throughout the world, the passion of jesus christ according to matthew will be proclaimed this sunday. as in the other passion narratives of the new testament, references to the flogging, spitting, scourging, and beating that jesus experienced are mentioned. but unlike the passion of jesus according to mel gibson, where the torture that jesus endured is quite prolonged and emphasized, the focus in the biblical narratives of the passion is on the moral, psychological, and emotional agony and suffering that jesus endured. in many ways, this type of agony is more painful than the physical, making the evangelists' accounts more dramatic perhaps and powerful. so, mindful of this fact, a few elements in matthew's narrative are noteworthy.

first, in the matthean narrative, the betrayal of jesus by one of his followers, judas iscariot, is brought to prominence. for instance, in addition to receiving payment from the chief priests for his betrayal, judas calls jesus "rabbi" twice, even though jesus had forbidden his followers to use this title (matthew 23:7-8). that judas uses this title in addressing jesus gives his betrayal an added sting.

secondly, a typically matthean theme is how the old covenant is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of jesus. so, when one of the followers of jesus cuts off the ear of a soldiers, jesus reprimands him and says, "But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?"

this points to the fact that in matthew, jesus knew what was going to happen to him--that he was perfectly in control of the situation and his arrest. and he goes to his death willingly and deliberately. he had foreknowledge of the death in store for him.

peter's denial of jesus, as in judas' betrayal, is also held up in matthew's story. and it is stressed in a particularly dramatic way. at jesus' trial--at the same time when peter thrice denied knowing jesus--jesus was being interrogated by the high priest himself who pointedly told jesus: "I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." ironically this is the same title that peter himself used when he confessed: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (matthew 16:16). matthew then in a very skillful and crafted way weaves in peter's earlier confession with his subsequent denial and with the high priest's interrogation, making peter's denial even more powerful.

also, references to "innocent blood" are also found in matthew. judas uses this phrase as he flung the thirty pieces of silver in front of the chief priests. the priests themselves referred to the ransom paid to judas as the "price of blood." and the plot of land they bought with the ransom money is called the "Field of Blood." this makes the imagery of jesus' death more stark and vivid.

moreover, the passion narrative refers to a dream by pilate's wife, revealing jesus to be an innocent man. what is interesting is that matthew in his infancy narrative refers to dreams as well: specifically, the dream of the wise men not to return to herod after visiting the infant jesus and the dream of joseph to take his family to egypt. matthew nicely goes back therefore to the theme of dreams in the passion--a theme found at the beginning of the gospel.

lastly what happened at the moment of jesus' death was also emphasized, and the significance of those events is full of meaning. the veil of the sanctuary at the temple was torn from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of those who were long dead were raised. this is classic biblical language pointing to the reality that the "end times" have arrived--that the history of salvation begins its fulfillment and that the vindication of God--his plan and purpose for humankind--is reaching its fruition. as the renowned biblical scholar the late rev. raymond brown puts it: "Human relationship to God have been changed, and the cosmos has been transformed."

on the anniversary of operation iraqi freedom

demonstrations were held around the world today to mark the second anniversary of the start of military hostilities in iraq, commencing operation iraqi freedom. according to the london telegraph, around 45,000 protesters marched on the streets of london protesting the war. marches were also held in japan, australia, greece, turkey, norway, spain, italy, in other parts of the globe and in several cities in the US.

one can say that due to US military involvement in iraq, freedom has been brought to that country, as well as democracy.

but it is also perhaps fitting especially on this day to inform oneself on what this military incursion has cost the nation, in terms of lives and financial resources. according to the department of defense, 1,158 americans to date have been killed in action and 355 have been killed in non-hostile activity: bringing the total to 1,513 americans killed in iraq. the source for these figures is found here.

and the number of iraqi deaths is more difficult to obtain. but one can imagine the number exceeding far beyond the american casualties.

in terms of financial cost, the figure i have for this very second is $153,111,703,134 and counting. if you would like to see the exact figure, click here.

Friday, March 18, 2005

national review contributor quotes antigone

quoting classic literature when making one's point on a very controversial subject matter earns my admiration: it's classy. andrew c. mccarthy, writing for the national review on terri schiavo whose feeding tube was just removed today, has done just that. the following are his words:

The right of the innocent to live isn’t contingent on the good will of governments and courts. — It derives from a higher law, as does the obligation to defend it. That there is such a higher law is not just an American principle (see the Declaration of Independence), a conservative principle, or a Judeo-Christian principle. When those defending Terri Schiavo’s right to live reject the state of Florida’s antinomian determination that she may be slowly starved to death, they echo Sophocles’ Antigone, facing down King Creon, across the millennia:

For me it was not Zeus who made that order.
Nor did that Justice who lives with the gods below
mark out such laws to hold among mankind.

Nor did I think your orders were so strong
that you, a mortal man, could over-run
the gods’ unwritten and unfailing laws.
Not now, nor yesterday’s, they always live,
and no one knows their origin in time.

So not through fear of any man’s proud spirit
would I be likely to neglect these laws,
draw on myself the gods’ sure punishment.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

an irish blessing on the feast of st. patrick

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always with you.
May the sunshine warm you always
'til we meet again.
May the rain fall softly on you.
May the hand of God uphold you.

monument to the queen mother planned

plans were revealed today for the construction of a monument to the UK's queen elizabeth, the queen mother, who passed away almost three years ago at the age of 101.

according to the telegraph, the monument is probably going to stand at the vicinity of the monument to her husband, the late king george VI in london and perhaps a fountain will also be built. hopefully not the kind of fountain that was built for diana at hyde park--a fountain that some thought wasn't dignified enough and which proved to be dangerous to kids.

now why should i, a republican (with a small "r") care enough about this that i should blog about it? well, i had the chance several years ago to read a biography about her. and i was quite impressed by her "coolness." i mean that in the most positive sense. she kept her cool when her brother-in-law, king edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry the twice-divorced mrs. wallis simpson, thereby thrusting her husband, the stuttering prince albert, then duke of york, and herself onto the throne; she kept her cool as she and her husband saved the throne at the wake of the abdication; she rallied the people of london during the nazi bombings; she was cool when the whole fracas over her daughter margaret and peter townsend was in full swing during the 1950's; she was unperturbed when the whole charles-and-diana saga was going on; and she presented a calm and soothing presence at other difficult events in the life of her family and her country. one wonders how she would have reacted to charles' decision to marry camilla, a divorced woman, evoking the jarring events of the abdication.

anyway, it is to be a monument to a woman who devoted her life to duty and to displaying the best that is british.

queen elizabeth at the balcony of buckingham palace after germany's surrender: hitler once called her "the most dangerous woman in europe."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

a trying time for the local church

this is a particularly trying time for the local churches here in the san francisco bay area as the local diocese of oakland and the archdiocese of san francisco face possible huge payouts in the wake of the trials that are currently undergoing concerning the alleged abuses committed by priests in the 70's and 80's. at present there are about 150 suits filed against catholic dioceses and religious orders across northern california. these suits came forward soon after a state law came into effect in 2002 which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on damage claims against organizations that gave known pedophiles access to more victims.

certainly this is a time not only to get to the truth behind these allegations but also for the local clergy to stand even closer to the calling to which they have committed themselves.

the story concerning the trials in the east bay diocese is found here, and the one for the archdiocese is here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

catholic cardinal debunks dan brown's da vinci code

i am quite glad that someone higher up in the catholic church has finally said something about that silly book by dan brown. yes, silly.....even though it's a best seller. the story that jesus had a child with mary magdalen for starters was never even in the oral tradition of the church, yet people have gobbled up the book, and are continuing to do so. the main concern i have is that there are many people out there who are unchurched--whose knowledge of the great stories of the faith is minimal. and then here comes a book which is just pouring with pure fiction and fabrication, and people think it's the truth.

anyway, tarcisio cardinal bertone, the archbishop of genoa, has broken the church's official silence on the da vinci code by saying that "The book is everywhere. There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe that the fables it contains are true."

read the BBC story of this here.

Monday, March 14, 2005

judge rules that same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

san francisco's superior court judge richard kramer ruled today that the ban on same-sex marriage in california is unconstitutional. california's proposition 22, which 59% of voters passed in 2000, is only 14 words long: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." this is the first time that a judge in california has ruled that the voice of 59% of the voters violates the constitution.

the judge basically rejected the argument made by california's attorney-general bill lockyer that california is entitled to maintain the traditional definition of marriage. the judge said that same argument was offered for the state's ban on interracial marriage, which was struck down by the state supreme court in 1948.

so, this means that those who lost this case will appeal to the state supreme court. that could happen next year.
anyway, if you are wanting to know, it's an absolutely sunny day here in the san francisco bay area....temperatures range today from the high 60's to the low 70's....very pleasant.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

on the Living Church of God

to date, police have not yet found why the gunman opened fire at the worship service of the Living Church of God in brookfield, wisconsin on march 12, killing seven people and then himself. in the face of this tragedy, one can't help but join the denomination in its prayers for the injured and for the families of the deceased and of the gunman.

upon learning that the denomination is an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), i became even sadder, as i had followed the history and the teachings of the WCG for many years. before the mid-1990's and certainly before the death of its founder herbert w. armstrong in 1986, the WCG held many beliefs and doctrines which were considered by many as diverging from the orthodox faith of traditional christianity. i will refer to some of these beliefs later. but when the WCG realized the error that it had been teaching for decades, the leadership of the denomination began to gently steer its members toward orthodoxy during the 1990's.

when the WCG in the mid-1990's publicly renouced some of the doctrines that it had found erroneous, many people fled from the denomination. when mr. armstrong passed away he left a denomination that numbered 120,000 people in attendance every week and that had an annual income of around $200 million. the denomination's membership is now half of what it was. various groups split from the WCG, some of which held on to the earlier teachings of the denomination.

that was truly a painful and heartbreaking time for the WCG as friends and even family members were torn--some leaving to form new denominations, while others stayed with the WCG. but those who stayed regarded the denomination's change in its doctrines as grace-filled. it was a real conversion by a congregation--moving from a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture to something more or less orthodox. the WCG subsequently became part of the national association of evangelicals. it has a nice narrative of its history here.

so, it is within this historical context that the Living Church of God was founded. its present leader, roderick c. meredith, was one of the original ministers ordained by the late herbert w. armstrong in december 1952.

as i looked at the official statement of fundamental beliefs of the Living Church of God, i can detect remnants of the doctrines previously held by the WCG. for instance, the belief that christians are called to worship on saturday is one, matching the old covenant's command to worship on the sabbath. they also believe that the old covenant command to observe the jewish high holy days is still binding on christians. so, they observe feasts such as passover, the feast of unleavened bread, the feasts of trumpets, tabernacles, and the day of atonement.

it also teaches that the descendants of the anglo-saxon tribe are directly descended from the ancient israelites, in particular, the lost tribes of manasseh and ephraim. moreover, the Living Church of God believes that the Godhead is comprised of the Father and the Son, and that the Holy Spirit is not a Being but is rather the "very essense, the mind, life, and power of God," contradicting the first ecumenical council of constantinople, held in the year 381, which taught the divinity of the Holy Spirit. the denomination holds other doctrines which can be viewed here. but perhaps it is the latter teaching on the Trinity that should stand out. most of these teachings stem from armstrong's own interpretation of the bible.

i should note that armstrong and the leaders of the WCG taught these beliefs sincerely, without any intention to maliciously deceive. so it was a very courageous move on the denomination's part to publicly admit its error and risk losing its membership. that they did just that deserves admiration, in my book.

and in a way one can understand why some, including the members of the Living Church, have chosen to hold on to these teachings. it can be more than disconcerting and dismaying to be told that the doctrines one has learned over the years are actually false. it takes a lot of humility to allow oneself to undergo conversion--and i should think double humility to undergo doctrinal conversion.

anyway, this is a sad time for the members, and for one who has so followed their teachings and beliefs for years, i truly feel their present loss.

Friday, March 11, 2005

medical tool shows minimally conscious patients "aware"

as the deadline of march 18 approaches, the date given by circuit court judge george greer as the day on which artificial nutrition and hydration may be removed from terri schiavo, it may be interesting to note the recent findings published last month in the journal neurology from the american academy of neurology.

the journal presents a study which shows that by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists were able to discern the alertness of patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS). by the way, i think "minimally conscious state" is a better term to describe patients in this condition rather than "persistent vegetative state" which the present pope himself branded as undignified.

anyway, according to this recent study by the medical scientific team from the Functional MRI Research Center at Columbia University Medical School, "active cortical networks that serve language functions suggest that some MCS patients may retain widely distributed cortical systems with potential for cognitive and sensory function despite their inability to follow simple instructions or communicate reliably." in other words, patients are aware. an abstract of the report can be seen here.

dr. joy hirsch, director of the research center that produced the report said that: “The most consequential thing about this is that we have opened a door, we have found an objective voice for these patients, which tells us they have some cognitive ability in a way they cannot tell us themselves. The patients are more human than we imagined in the past, and it is unconscionable not to aggressively pursue research efforts to evaluate them and develop therapeutic techniques.”

with respect to dr. hirsch, i hasten to point out that the patients were never less human at any point in their condition. otherwise, kudos to her and her team for this amazing finding. patients in a minimally conscious state have indeed found an objective voice to tell us they are aware thanks to this new medical tool.

interview by templeton prize winner charles townes

national public radio has a short interview of this year's templeton prize winner charles townes whose inventions include the laser and who has spent years as a leading advocate for the convergence of science and religion. the purpose of this prize, which is valued at $1.5 million, is to "honor and encourage the many entrepreneurs trying various ways through discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity" according to the prize's own site.

townes once wrote that: "Understanding the order in the universe and understanding the purpose in the universe are not identical, but they are also not very far apart." it instantly reminded me of what the present pope has said, namely, that "truth cannot contradict truth."

townes apparently once said: "I have enormous respect and adoration for Christ and what he did," though he wasn't sure if he is indeed the Son of God. then he added: "He's closer to it than anybody else I know of."

listen to the interview here.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

from edwin muir

But famished field and blackened tree
Bear flowers in Eden never known.
Blossoms of grief and charity
Bloom in these darkened fields alone.
What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

on the Trinity

here's a portion of the response I gave in a different blog concerning the Trinity:

we have to acknowledge that when we humans speak of God, we are using human language, which can never adequately, fully, and precisely describe and even approach the reality of the transcendent God. our human language, including our human concepts and categories, can never fully describe divinity. the best we can do is to “hint ” at who God is and to draw similarities and images based on our human experience that will help us understand. this is a fundamental principle in theology.

and so, when Christians use the terms “Father” and “Son,” we are not really attributing a gender to the Godhead; we believers know that God is spirit and is infinitely beyond the limitations of gender.

rather, when we say “Father” and “Son,” we are expressing a relationship between the two Beings. The First Person of the Trinity is called “Father” because he is the source of all beings, the original originator, the One who engendered and begat the Second Person of the Trinity who is first called the Word, who then became flesh and was born as Jesus, the “Son” of God. and the Word has always existed and shares fully the divinity of God. the terms “Father” and “Son” describe a relationship, and not gender. but we have used these gender-laden words to point to the intimacy and the love existing in the Godhead.

to use an image, think of a candle. the flame of that candle is the source of the light being emitted. there can be no light without that flame and conversely a flame is not a flame if it doesn’t emit light. flame and light exist simultaneously. however, we can say that the flame generates the light and “precedes” it. this is one way that theologians have described the relationship within the Trinity: the flame being the First Person and the light emitted as the Second. the other images have been parent/child, instrument/notes, speaker/word. these are not perfect images, but we, being humans with limited intelligence compared to God, have to use pictures and images to help ourselves describe something of the Eternal, the Majestic, the Divine, and the Mysterious.

now, related to this is the comment you made that you “find the Holy Trinity rather impotent in terms of creative, creation and transforming powers.” my fellow believers, including our theologians, will roundly disagree. to explain why, let me tell you briefly the story of the Trinity.

first we have the eternal God (the First Person) who didn’t keep divine life all to himself–selfishly hording all of it–but who rather generated the Second Person and allowed his divinity to be subject to the will, the acceptance, and the love of the Second Person (the Word, before being incarnated as Jesus). God made himself vulnerable to the Word to whom God gave the freedom either to reject God or to lovingly and joyfully accept God’s love. therefore, there exists in the Godhead One being yielding to the Other–a mutual giving and surrender: God, with great love and affection, “generating” the Word–making his divinity vulnerable to the Word’s acceptance. and the Word with total freedom and love accepts God’s will and paternity. it’s like (to use another image) a mother who showers her baby with all the love and the affection she can give, all the while waiting and hoping for a response, a gesture, a smile. and what joy that mother feels when she sees her baby smiling back at her. there is a great deal of joy in the Trinity.

and that connection, joy, and love between God and the Word is such a big, powerful, and majestic happening that it became a Person, the Third Member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. that’s why Christians have always believed that the Spirit “proceeds” from the first two Persons: we say this every Sunday at Mass. this is also why we say that God is One and complete: because within the Godhead, love is being given and received–there is perfect self-giving and generation. and you know, the exchange of affection and love between the Three is constantly moving, always vibrant, and full of energy that theologians have used the image of “dance” to describe it. the greek christians for instance have used the word perichoresis (dance) to describe what is going on in the Trinity.

so where do humans fit in? God didn’t have to create humanity or the cosmos. God is so complete in God’s self in this love dance that Christian theologians can confidently say, “God doesn’t need humanity.” BUT, God desires to share this dance with other creatures and to have them bask in this love unconditionally. and so, completely out of love, God created the first humans, giving them a kiss to bring them to life, wishing that they be caught up in the divine life, the Trinitarian dance.

and so, the same freedom and yielding that God offered the Word, that same posture of waiting and longing, is also being offered to us humans by the Trinity. the same primordial principle is at work: God creates the cosmos and waits for a response from his creatures to the lavish love and gifts that God has showered on them. God is making his love vulnerable and “powerless,” subject to our (humanity’s) acceptance or rejection. like that mother who waits for her baby’s smile, God too waits for our acknowledgement.

and you know, to say that the Trinity is “impotent” is incomplete. God is “powerful in his powerlessness” (a phrase used by the Christian theologian hans urs von balthasar, check him out). and this is because–how can we humans, upon gazing at the incomprehensible love given to us, the love that doesn’t force us to love back, but rather one that waits and watches (as a mother would watch her child), would not respond in return? the real life force in the cosmos is not merely the union between male and female and the urge to “split.” the real life force is the one that is contained in the Trinity–the force that generates, gives, yields, loves, and waits–powerfully waits.

the life-force we see in the higher forms of life on earth as well as in the tiniest cells are trying to move in rhythm to the love dance that generated and created the whole of creation. we are trying to move in sync to the primordial generation that occurred when the Word was generated by God. and we are trying to dance in the same beat that was created by the union that first existed between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.

living without women?

if the BBC gets its way, the menfolk in the town of harby in england will get to experience what life is like for a week without women. that's right, imagine that (i don't have to as i get a dose of this everyday living in a catholic seminary). with expenses paid for by the BBC, all of the women of the town will be lodged elsewhere, away from the town, while the men tend for themselves. they will be filmed for a reality program which the BBC will air at a later date.

some of the women love the idea, and some of the men are skeptical. also, some fear this will make their village a laughing stock. anyway, the aim of the producers apparently is to conduct “an intriguing social experiment designed to see how a community of men rises to the challenge of filling all the roles in village life." some think the bbc is wasting its money.

read the story here.

the united nations condemns all forms of human cloning

the united nations' general assembly has recently announced that it has issued a declaration condemning all forms of human cloning "as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life." the declaration passed with 84 nations in favor to 34 against, with 37 abstentions. the united states voted in favor of the declaration. carolyn willson, minister counselor for legal affairs on human cloning gave the US' explanation for its vote.

one of the reasons for the votes against this declaration is that some nations wanted a stronger prohibition--a ban--on all forms of human cloning. while others, such as the uk, japan, belgium, norway, france, and south korea voted against because the declaration failed to explicitly allow therapeutic cloning.

what is telling is that if one reads the explanations from some of these member states for their votes against, they recognize the indignity brought about by a reproductive cloning process, which would create a cloned human. however, they fail to see the indignity from therapeutic cloning which necessitates the destruction of embryos so as to harvest stem cells from them for research. interesting.

in any case, this declaration is non-binding and carries no legal force.

Monday, March 07, 2005

paglia on poetry

one of my favorite social critics, camille paglia, is set to release her new book, break blow burn, by the end of the month. she says at an interview released by matt drudge: "At this time of foreboding about the future of Western culture, it is crucial to identify and preserve our finest artifacts... As a student of ancient empires, I am uncertain about whether the West's chaotic personalism can prevail against the totalizing creeds that menace it. Hence it is important that we reinforce the spiritual values of Western art, however we define them."

wouldn't quite agree with her view on those "totalizing creeds," but she has always been perceptive. the form of art she extols in her new book is poetry. and in this book she reads 43 of the best poems. i for one am looking forward to this new work.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

a time to mourn

a friend asked yesterday what i have been doing in terms of preparing for ordination to the priesthood. interestingly, the first thought that came to mind wasn't the hundreds of little bits of odds and ends on my to-do list. instead i blurted out the same thing that somebody else had told me when i had asked him the same question years ago: "i am in mourning."

perplexed, he asked "mourning for what?" i told him exactly what i have been going through these past few weeks. i am mourning for the children whom i will never have and meet; mourning for a spouse, a lover, which i will never have; mourning for the family life enjoyed by so many.

it helped little to be reminded that "children", "a spouse," or a "family life," are all in store for me as a priest in a spiritual sense through the community and the people i will serve. this is true. and i am looking forward to a life with my spiritual family.

however, this is a time to mourn my family out of my own flesh and blood. it's the physical that i am mourning. and these days i began to feel the door to it shutting definitely. it hit like it never did before. no love to ever fall asleep with, no son of my own to feel proud of, no daughter to admire. and growing old alone, without loved ones to take care of me when i am old and frail and cold. i would have to depend on the kindness of hired help or the community i am in.

as a teen, during my greener years, the thought of such sacrifices sounded easy to me. age perhaps has an effect of making me more mellow. it certainly has an effect of making me more in touch with feelings for intimacy and companionship.

i was told it's best to stay here for a bit and feel this deprivation. but i have a feeling this sense of loss will be with me throughout my years of ministry, perhaps not as intense as the present. in that case, being at peace with this is important if i hope to live out this calling fully and happily.

so, my friend understood, and i am glad he did. the conversation went smoothly soon after he stopped "consoling" me, not that i needed consoling anyway. but it really was comforting when he realized that the time to feel the joys of priestly life is still out there in the future for me. today however is a time to mourn.

from mr. brightside by "the killers"

I just can’t look it's killing me
And taking control
Jealousy, turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibis
But it’s just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr Brightside

Friday, March 04, 2005

the european union? a catholic plot?

so a tory minister in the UK has advanced a theory that the european union is really a catholic plot in order to subvert the sovereignty of the british crown. and the cardinal archbishop of westminster, cormac murphy-o'conner, has roundly denounced him, and rightly so. it's a hilariously ridiculous theory. perhaps this kind of conspiracy theory would be best ignored if it's made by a private citizen, but not if it's by a member of parliament. it reminds me of the sentiments of xenophobia and the feeling that the church is by-and-large "undemocratic" that runs through anti-catholic rhetoric.

read it here.

more on the very first pro-life cartoon character

this is the first time i've heard of the pro-life cartoon character named "umbert the unborn." the comic-strip character is the creation of gary cangemi and is being carried by about 20 publications. the caption to his strip reads, "a womb with a view"....funny. one report exclaims, "the unborn finally has a voice of it's own." read about umbert here.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

atheism's star on the decline

so it seems that atheism is on the wane these days, according to a recent article written by uwe siemon-netto. this can be attributed partly to the experience of millions of people througout the ages who adhere to some form of religion and to atheism's losing its scientific buttress. i have written about atheism before, as well as about the recent "conversion" of well-known scientist and atheist antony flew.

but disturbingly, according to the same article, rather than people moving from atheism towards the traditional forms of religion, such as christianity, the shift has been towards paganism. hmm.

in the article, catholicism gets special mention. read it here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

from t.s. eliot

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

mermaid and merman
puerto vallarta, mexico.

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