Monday, February 27, 2006


Reaching the Big 40: A Birthday and a Milestone

Today is my birthday; not just any birthday, but my fortieth birday. That's right, I hit the big 4-0(0 as in Oh my I'm getting old). Turning forty is considered something of a monumental event in our popular culture. And as such, many see it as an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. In keeping with this spirit, I decided to post a couple photos from my younger days in addition to the photo here to the left taken at Nagasaki, Japan back in November of 2005 ( a most recent picture of me).

First is my First Holy Communion circa 1974:

The second is my Navy boot camp graduation picture circa 1985:

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Why The U.S. Cannot Afford to Write Off "Old Europe"

In following the Blosser v. Blosser debate regarding the trajectory towards the assinine that the New Oxford Review, led by editor Dale Vree, has been on (for about at least the last two years in this writer's opinion), I happened to read an article the younger Blosser linked to titled Europe’s Problem—and Ours by John Paul II biographer George Weigel.

After explaining how Europe's problem with its demographic and cultural freefall along with its perilous penchant for appeasement of Islamic terror is at root a spiritual problem, he echoes a conviction that I have held for some time: and that is if the U.S. serious about winning this war terror it cannot be indifferent to the European problem.

There are, I think, a few obvious reasons why I think this is so. Coincidently, Weigel touches directly on them all. The first of which is that America's cultural, political, and above all spiritual, roots are planted in European soil:

"A United States indifferent to the fate of Europe is a United States indifferent to its roots. Yes, Americans have developed a new form of European civilization. But that American civilization has long understood itself to be in continuity with the civilization of the West that we associate, in its origins, with Europe—with the unique civilizational accomplishment that emerged from the interaction of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. Americans learned about the dignity of the human person, about limited and constitutional government, about the principle of consent, and about the transcendent standards of justice to which the state is accountable in the school of political culture that we call “Europe.” We should remember that, with pietas. We have seen what historical amnesia about cultural and civilizational roots has done to Europe. Americans ought not want that to happen in America."

I am of the view that this factor weighed heavily in the FDR Administration making the European theater the higher priority than the Pacific in WWII, although Imperial Japan was the most fierce foreign enemy we have ever faced in war. I think this was something Gen. Douglas MacArthur either failed or refused to understand. While I think he understood better than anyone the impact of Asia in the foreign policy equation, he failed to grasp the paramount importance of the cultural ties America had with Europe and how that factored in.

This leads right into the second reason, that of the impact this has on our own security:

"The second reason we can and must care has to do with the medium- and long-term threat to American security posed by Europe’s demographic meltdown. Demographic vacuums do not remain unfilled—especially when the demographic vacuum in question is a continent possessed of immense economic resources. One can see the effects of Europe’s self-inflicted depopulation in the tensions experienced in France, Germany, and elsewhere by rising tides of immigration from North Africa, Turkey, and other parts of the Islamic world. And while, in the most optimistic of scenarios, these immigrants may well become good European democrats, practicing civility and tolerance and committing themselves to the religious freedom of others, there is another and far grimmer alternative. Europe’s current demographic trendlines could eventually produce a Europe in which Sobieski’s victory at Vienna in 1683 is reversed, such that the Europe of the twenty-second century, or even the late twenty-first, is a Europe increasingly influenced, and perhaps even dominated, by radicalized Islamic populations, convinced that their long-delayed triumph in the European heartland is at hand."

If the refusal of the Muslims who are emigrating into Europe en masse to assimilate into European culture along with their tendency to violence is any indication, the best case scenario discussed above is highly unlikely, if not impossible.

This goes right into the third reason Weigel lists:

The third reason why the “European problem” is ours as well as theirs has to do with the future of the democratic project, here in the United States and indeed throughout the world. What Pierre Manent laments as Europe’s “depoliticization” already has its parallels in our own public life. What is most disturbing, for example, about the bizarre debate over the mere mention of Christianity’s contributions to European civilization in the proposed European Constitution is that the amnesiacs who wish to rewrite European history by eliminating Christianity from the historical equation are doing so in service to a thin, indeed anorexic, idea of procedural democracy. To deny that Christianity had anything to do with the evolution of free, law-governed, and prosperous European societies is more than a question of falsifying the past; it is also a matter of creating a future in which moral truth has no role in governance, in the determination of public policy, in understandings of justice, and in the definition of that freedom which democracy is intended to embody.

Were these ideas to triumph in Europe, that would be bad for Europe; but it would also be bad for the United States, for that triumph would inevitably reinforce similar tendencies in our own high culture, and ultimately in our law. The judicial redefinition of freedom as personal willfulness manifest in the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas was buttressed by citations from European courts. And what would it mean for the democratic project in global terms if the notion that democracy has nothing to do with moral truth is exported from Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe via the expanding European Union, and thence to other new democracies around the world? If Christopher Dawson was right that a thoroughly secularized democracy, constitutionally and politically disabled from bringing transcendent moral truths to bear on its public life, is self-destructive, then the entire democratic project—in Latin America, in south and east Asia, in Oceania and Canada—is being imperiled by the prospect that the “European problem” will metastasize beyond the current membership of the EU.

So there are many reasons why we should, and must, care. We sever ourselves from our civilizational roots if we ignore Europe in a fit of aggravation or pique. Our security will be further imperiled in a post–September 11 world if Europe’s demographics continue to change in ways that give new advantage to the dynamism of radical Islamism in world politics. The American democratic experiment will be weakened if Europe’s “depoliticization” reinforces similar tendencies here in the United States, and so will the democratic project in the world."

I don't think it is by accident that those who are undermining our efforts to effectively fight terrorism here in the U.S. are the same one chanting the "Why can't we be more like Europe?" refrain across the ideological spectrum. I have always thought that much of the moral and cultural trash that washes up on American shores comes from Europe.

So what do we do about it? Weigel makes the following suggestion:

"Is there anything to be done about all this, at the level of public policy? Let me return one last time to Christopher Dawson, who, in an earlier phase of the 'European problem,' wrote that 'the modern dilemma is essentially a spiritual one, and every one of its main aspects, moral, political, and scientific, brings us back to the need of a spiritual solution.' If Dawson was right, and I think he was, then the long-term answer to the demise of Europe will only be found in a revitalization of Europe’s Christian roots and the rebirth of Christian conviction in Christianity’s historic heartland. Europe, in other words, needs something like a Great Awakening—by which I mean, not necessarily a fourth wave of the Wesleyan revolution, but a rebirth of life-transforming and culture-forming Christian conviction, especially Catholic conviction. And that, by definition, is something that cannot be produced by public policy—either European domestic policy, or American foreign policy."

Along these lines, I think it is crucial that we understand that winning the culture war is a necessary element in winning the war on terror. I fail to see how an America that kills its own posterity at the rate of about a million and a half{1} a year under the guise of a "woman's right to choose" and allows a redefintion of marriage, whether you call it "gay marriage" or "civil unions" can win this war unless we not only stave off this tide but start to reverse it. This is especially true when you consider the fact that we are facing an enemy who understands this. They know that abortion, contraception, and homosexuality are lethal to their being able to reproduce themselves, which is why they forbid engaging in such behaviors. In this light, I think the concern over Europe's rejection of its Christian heritage expressed by the former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, needs to be taken all the more seriously.

Although Weigel is correct this is something that public policy cannot, of its own resources alone, bring about. But there are a number of ways public policy can be of badly needed assistance. One of which is that a better understanding be forged between the diplomatic quarters of the Holy See and the U.S. If there is one thing the run up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq turned up (other than no WMDs) was that neither understood one another. I think this was due to the fact that the Bush Administration did not seem to think that it needed to go to great pains to make it case to the Vatican. After all, why did it seem content with having Michael Novak, who did not represent the U.S. government, instead Colin Powell (or even then Ambassador Nichelson matter) make the case? It's not that Novak wasn't competent in making the case (I think he made passable arguments), it was just that the U.S. government not sending someone who could speak for it in an official capacity didn't give the Curia a very good reason to take it seriously. Another contributing factor, I think, to this confusion is the fact that there were some prominent figures in the Roman Curia who were infected with the same penchant for appeasement like that of Old Europe. Since, as Weigel correctly points out, the European crisis, and by extension the threat posed by radical Islamic terror, is primarily a spiritual one, the contribution of the Vatican in dealing with this crisis is vital.

Weigel ends the article with this:

"These difficult first years of the twenty-first century have taught us the importance of reading world politics in new ways. Europe’s crisis of civilizational morale teaches us that, while there are many lenses through which history can be read, theological lenses help us to see deeper, farther, and more truly."

Toward this end I would suggest the book Truth and Tolerance by Pope Benedict XVI.


{1} 6-16-06: Revision: I had originally said almost three million legal abortions in the U.S. each year. This was an error. The number of legal abortions in the U.S. each year range from 1.3 to 1.5 million a year.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) On Christian Opposition to the World

"It is not Christians who oppose the world, but rather the world which opposes itself to them when the truth about God, about Christ and about man is proclaimed. The world waxes indignant when sin and grace are called by their names. After the phase of indiscriminate 'openess' it is time that the Christian reacquire the consciousness of belonging to a minority and of often being in opposition to what is obvious, plausible and natural for that mentality which the New Testament calls--and certainly not in a positive sense--the 'spirit of the world'. It is time to find again the courage of nonconformism, the capacity to oppose many of the trends of the surrounding culture, renouncing certain euphoric post-conciliar solidarity."(The Ratzinger Report pp. 36-37)

In the view of your host, the Christian approach to world trends boils down to the recognition of what is true and what is false. To the extent that these trends are in accord with the truth, we should not only support them, but also show that it is only in the fullness of Christian faith do they have any real chance of coming to fruition in addition calling the false ones false.

In other words, it is simply not a matter of nonconformism (or conformism for that matter) for its own sake. It is fidelity to the truth pure and simple.

To parlay this into an effective strategery requires we be as "wise as serpents and innocent as doves". (Matt. 10:16)

Honestly, we Catholics need to do a better better job of actively exegeting this Scripture passage.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Memo to Stephen Hand and Any Other Seditious Idiot Who Would Rather Fight President Bush Instead of The Terrorist Bastards Who Want to Kill Us

Anedote to the stupid call for impeachment of Bush courtesy of Daryl Worley

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