Sunday, July 30, 2006

Today's Gospel reading, as you should know by now, was from John 6, about the multiplication of the loaves.

I've heard the notion that the real miracle was the sharing of food that people had already brought, but today was the first time I heard it suggested in the homily.

"We can take it to mean that God created the bread from nothing--after all, he turned the water to wine at the wedding in Cana," he started. Well, yes enough.

He did describe, though, the alleged act of sharing as a miracle of generosity, of God acting through us--instead of upon us--to do more good than we would have otherwise. He gave some other examples, which I don't feel like typing up right now, that made this particular idea more clear

His point's a good one, that we should become instruments of God's grace for one another, rather than simply sitting around and waiting for grace to happen. Without any grace, we can't do anything, but once we have some, we can do good, we can spread the grace around.

On the other hand, making people feel guilty so they share what they have is a little mundane. I have no objection to mundane miracles, but if almost everyone did plan ahead and brought enough food to fill twelve baskets after being shamed into sharing with the folks who didn't plan ahead, wouldn't the really remarkable thing be that so many people were hiding so much food (and hidden so well that none of the Apostles noticed, save for one boy's stash) that they'd have leftovers of that magnitude? Did the crowds really show up that day with lunches prepared but still hoping Jesus would be catering?

I know the Bible's pretty lean on incidental detail, but if we take the less dramatic and less direct interpretation, don't the crowds seem to be a little something other than lucid?

On another note, why don't we call them embryonic humans instead of human embryos?

I briefly locked antlers with Innocencio over at Jimmy Akin's blog (there is some related followup) over embryo adoption. I refrained from posting after a few exchanges because I've been a bit edgy lately so I found it difficult to keep treating Innocencio with the respect he (I presume Innocencio's male) deserves. It's probably from spending too much time watching debates on ISCA get obnoxious and drag on for weeks.

I'll try to clarify why I think the EA-prohibitive arguments are inadequate and then drop the whole matter. If you're interested, you can visit Jimmy or see my older post from a couple months ago to weigh the specific arguments. I'm trying to stay brief here.

Donum Vitae is very specific about how many fertility-influencing techniques are immoral for dissociating various components of the conjugal act, such as the unitive and procreative natures. However, the blacklist isn't exhaustive; there's a thread of silence regarding actual EA. The prohibitions on other techniques are banned on grounds that really don't apply. EA isn't IVF so the fertilization question is moot; it's not surrogate motherhood because it's not pregnancy for a third party. DV does mention embryonic transfer, which would cover EA, but it always cites embryonic transfer with IVF as a single illicit technique, not something condemend by itself.

Not stand-alone proof, but the holes in DV do leave an EA-shaped gap we should examine. Maybe EA's not morally tenable--there are two arguments I still find considerable--but DV doesn't close the book. It would be sloppy reasoning to suggest that DV certainly bans EA even though Cardinal Ratzinger didn't seem think of that possibility, or that he meant to but was also being sloppy.

CCC 2376 (also 2377) says, quoting DV in part, "Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife betray the spouses' right to become a father and a mother only through each other.'" It sounds pretty cut and dried, but it's not that simple. 2376 specifies these dissociative techniques as heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization, neither of which is EA. If it only used these two techniques as examples and intended to rely on the rationale of DV itself, then we're back where we started, except for the two arguments I referred to.

One comes from the DV quote in 2376 about dissociative interference violating the spouses' right only to become parents together. I don't have a solid rebuttal, but maybe someone else could make hay of the few escape hatches I can see. For one thing, a married woman who is raped by a stranger doesn't have the option of "allowing" a child so conceived to die in the interest of maintaining her marriage's integrity. For another, DV is emphatic about protecting life, not just protecting its dignity, so we should hesitate before literally throwing out the baby with...okay, the metaphorical bathwater. For yet another, traditional adoption also circumvents the normal order of a married couple raising the child they conceived normally. I'm not sure the differences from traditional adoption are that meaningful; a child's origin, proper or not, is historical and remote from the adoptive act, and the parents can accept the disruption (albeit a different sort) that opening their home to a needy child would cause. One can also suggest pregnancy itself is sacrosanct, but in light of the rape example and the uniformity of the silence in DV otherwise, I don't think this concern is developed enough to stand on its own.

The other comes from the Magisterium itself. I don't fully grasp how the Holy Spirit works, but it may very well be that CCC 2376 was a comprehensive extrapolation, a small leap of faith and logic to ban the things unspecified that resemble or relate to the things specified. Then again, 2376 and 2377 don't leave room for technological assistance in conception, which DV does provide for.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Since I feel something more serious brewing, here's a dream I had last night to tide us over

The beginning was unclear. I was in the back yard of the house I grew up in. Many weedlike plants appeared to be under cultivation. They were about waist high, but once my sister watered them they soon grew into mature sunflower like plants, and then into ponderosa pines that looked to be almost a century old.

Somehow, as dreams do, things shifted, and I was at some religious...well, it wasn't a retreat in that it was open to the public rather than only to people who'd registered in advance. Most of the people about seemed to be youthful, perhaps college age young adults.

For some reason I decided to go to confession, even though my usual confession day wasn't too long from then. My confessor was the Pope. We didn't have a confessional, but he was sitting behind a fancy desk that would look at home in any church if they made altars out of ebony or mahogany, and I brought one of those portable kneelers up from someplace and set it in front of him.

As I confessed, I saw him taking notes, as if making a list of my major sins (or at least their categories) and then adding details, looking for patterns, or something. My confession wasn't remarkable, for me, but it seemed to drag on, especially because we kept getting interrupted by throngs of youths seeking the Pope's input on one social-spiritual exercise or another. For some reason I wasn't bothered by the fact that many people were overhearing bits and pieces of my confession; maybe I had figured it's just how things are when you try to confess to someone as busy as the Pope.

At one point, the throngs managed to call him away from his desk, and I looked over to see the notes he was taking, but they weren't notes at all. They were drawings.

I'd seen him doodling a bit, but when I first noticed it it looked more like he was sketching ideograms encoding my confession and his assessment thereof. Now that he'd completed many of them, they looked more like coats of arms; not just a decorated shield surrounded by symbolic figures, but a helmet and whole cuirass in fancy textures and colors.

Never figured out what he was on about. I woke up before receiving absolution.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Because I haven't been as whimsical or fun lately as I'd like...

You scored as Neither. You think neither like a man or a woman. What you are you may decide for yourself. Most people will consider you strange, alien, weird or funny. You are probably quite interesting.









Should you be MALE or FEMALE?*
created with

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gender-specific abortions go unnoticed

Maybe it's one of those things where nobody reports on it until a few grassroots organizations start clamoring to bring global attention to it. They tried to do it in Afghanistan around the turn of the century, with the mistreatment of women by the Taliban, but Osama bin Laden brought attention to himself there before anyone else had much of a chance. They've been doing it all over the blogosphere and now in the national media for Darfur. They did it for the Mexican border porosity issue...well, all right, Bill O'Reilly isn't exactly grassroots, but a few other people were making noises about it as early as the last quarter of 2001.

Read for yourself at Mercatornet about societal pressure decreasing live female births in Asia (yeah I know I'm falling behind), with minimal attention from women's rights groups. Maybe the issue hasn't reached a critical mass in the media yet.

Maybe, though, it's pro-choice people who are being consistent in their philosophy. If a fetus isn't a human, or isn't worth considering as a person, what would the gender matter?

(If you're thinking of a mail-order bride from one of these countries, you better hurry up. There may not be many more coming down the pipe)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Worth repeating...

As we all know, some activist atheist is suing to have the cross removed from the Mount Soledad monument in San Diego because it offends him. I don't know what the current status is.

Since when does anyone have the right not to be offended in this country? What happened to "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it?" Does it have to do with the ascention of Tolerance to the pinnacle of all virtues, so that if someone is offended, it is ironically the offender who is not tolerating something about the offendee? I sure don't see it taken seriously in the public sphere the other way around very often.

Oh, he's just looking out for the Separation of Church and State, you say? You mean the Separation of Religion from Society at Large?

What will it take for us to find standing in court to file a suit claiming that the detheization of all things in our society is tantamount to enforced cultural atheism? What will it take to show that this phenomenon will leave us with nothing distinct from a prohibition of the free exercise of religion?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bleg, as they say

I could use your prayers.

I've been tapped to help someone who got himself into a bit of a crisis. He's the one who needs your prayers, really, but while I'm sympathetic, I'm not always the most helpful person when it's not a matter of "can I help you carry heavy objects and give you a lift across town?"

So, for both of us. That I can help point him to the graces he needs, and that he'll be ready and willing to accept it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Belated Happy Independence Day

Not just the Fourth of July.

Call it so if you like--sometimes even I am too tired and lazy to use four-syllable words, and I enjoy them more than I should--but don't forget what it's supposed to mean. Remember the reason for the season.

Easter ain't just about eggs and candy, Christmas ain't just presents and an evergreen tree, and the 185th day of the year ain't just fireworks and picnics and the occasional Sousa march.

(Not that the third holiday's in the same league as the first two.)

Remember what we're commemorating, and why it was ever important. Remember it's not just the Memorial Day analog to Sweetest Day alongside February fourteenth.

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Do you know where your Bible is?" saith the billboard I passed on my way home this afternoon, along with a few excerpts from the Psalms about God on His throne.

Yes, yes I do. It's right next to my Magisterium and my Tradition. Where's yours?