Saturday, July 31, 2010

Obama Politics: Isolate and Polarize

Just a sampling of headlines, and for each one there were plenty of others not captured here.

President Obama Blasts GOP During Speech.
Obama Accuses GOP of “Lack of Faith in the American People”.
Obama Criticizes Republicans on economy
Obama Slams GOP for Opposing DISCLOSE Act
Obama chides Republicans on campaign finance.

And that’s just a sampling. Why this sudden assault on Republicans?

Here’s my guess. Barack Obama was brought up in his early formative years in the Saul Alinsky school of community organizing, putting to great effect Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. One of those rules was to pick a target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. Obama has used this strategy unlike any president of memory. He has ‘named the enemy’ throughout his presidency and attacked Republicans, Sarah Palin in particular (though why the president would take on a former small-town mayor and state governor who ran for vice-president, and lost, is both questionable and telling), Fox News, the Cambridge Mass. police force, the Supreme Court (in an unprecedented criticism of that body during a State of the Union address), Arizona lawmakers, and now the Republicans again.

The attack is timed to the November mid-term elections. If the other party can be diminished, maybe they can be defeated, or at least their victories can be minimized.

This is unpresidential. Sympathizers and staffers of George W. Bush asked him why he wouldn’t go before the public and the press to confront his attackers, and he contended it was beneath the office of the presidency. Period. No more would be said. Let history judge, for better or for worse.

Read it all here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quote of the Week - Alex Kinchem

“Sometimes the difference between average and awesome is not what you know but what you do with what you know.” --Alex Kinchem

U of I's Empty Offer to Fired Teacher

A local Champaign reporter who has been interviewing me about the aforementioned affair told me earlier today about the U of I’s offer to Ken Howell. Apparently they have rehired him to teach one class per semester for $10, 000 per semester but he has to cut all ties with the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center. He asked me for my thoughts on the matter. Here is what I told him:

On the one hand, this is positive news. The commission of the faculty senate has put the lie to the claims by LAS that teaching about the Catholic faith in a class about Catholicism is hate speech. Nevertheless, the good fruit is laced with poison.

The offer seems to be exactly what I was afraid of. The prohibition against Dr. Howell’s association with the Newman Center is another violation of his academic freedom and it is likewise a violation of his freedom of religion. How many other adjuncts or part time faculty are prevented from working for an organization associated with their faith as a condition of employment?

The U of I appears to be making an economically untenable offer with the intent of voiding a 90+ year relationship with the Newman Center. I suspect that they are banking on the fact that since Dr. Howell cannot work for the Newman Center, which paid him a full professor’s salary, he will not be able to afford to take the position. The U of I is offering him perhaps a little more than a quarter of his Newman Center salary.

Read it all here.

GDP No Indicator of National Well-Being

Ron Robins writes:

Everywhere politicians, the general public—and even many economists—crave to increase the GDP. Falsely, I believe, they feel that the GDP measure offers the ability to make real cross country comparisons in living standards and economic growth, much like one compares football scores. But for many reasons, comparisons are erroneous without knowing much more about other factors. Even the U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis does not endorse the idea of GDP reflecting Americans’ well-being.

The GDP was never intended for measuring our well-being. It was created in the 1930s and came into use during World War ll to measure war output. It is simply the value of all final goods and services within a country.

Elaborating on why the GDP cannot be used to describe our well-being is the following by Clifford Cobb and colleagues. They state, “much of what we now call the growth of GDP is really just one of three things in disguise: (1) fixing blunders and social decay from the past [paying for pollution, costs of crime, etc.]; (2) borrowing resources from the future [GDP excludes the costs related to farmland depletion, water, other resources]; or (3) shifting functions from the traditional realm of household and community to the realm of the monetized economy [i.e. eating out rather than at home].”

Read it all here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alveda King: "Lock Me Up"

ATLANTA — A pro-life event at the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site was disrupted by officials July 24.

Participants in the “Freedom Rides for the Unborn” rally — more than 100 pro-life supporters — were kept from rallying on the federal park surrounding the gravesite of the black civil-rights activist.

Meanwhile, pro-choice opponents who showed up were ushered onto the grounds for a counter rally.

Organized by Priests for Life and Martin Luther King’s pro-life niece Alveda King, who heads the organization’s African-American Outreach, the event brought about 30 pro-life black pastors and a busload of supporters, accompanied by King and Father Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, from Alabama to the King Center in Atlanta in emulation of the civil-rights Freedom Rides of the 1960s.

The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, founded by the King family, is part of a National Historic Site under the National Park Service, so both King Center staff and Park Service personnel were present at the event.

Free Speech Obstructed
When King and Father Pavone arrived with the Freedom Riders, they were denied access to the King tomb by King Center staff.

When Park Service staff finally allowed King onto the federal property surrounding the center, she managed to get to the gravesite via a back way.

When she was stopped by the King Center’s CEO, John Mack, King was distressed enough by the obstruction that she climbed into a reflecting pool beside the grave and declared, “Okay, lock me up, but explain to my uncle why you locked me up; explain to my father why you locked me up … explain to Jesus why you locked me up.”

Read it all here.

Spain's Socialist Govt Smacks Catholic Network

MADRID, July 26, 2010 ( - Spain's socialist government has fined the Intereconomia television network 100,000 euros (130,000 USD) for running a series of advertisements that it claims "attacks the dignity" of homosexuals.

The spots, which are self-promotional advertisements by the group Intereconomia, show scenes of outlandishly and scantily dressed participants in "gay pride" marches making sexually suggestive gestures to the camera and denouncing religious belief. The scenes, which are typical of such “pride” events, are so lewd that Google requires viewers to state that they are at least 18 years of age before showing the YouTube version.

In one of the ads, the images are interposed with a series of questions, including "is this the society that you want?" and whether or not the viewer would like to "support this with public money?" It ends with the question: "Proud? Of what?"

Another shows a series of photographs of homosexual activists followed by photos depicting families and children, and concludes, "One day of gay pride, 364 days of pride for normal, everyday people." The spots reportedly ran 273 times between July 22 and September 17, 2009 on the network.

Following a complaint filed with the Ministry of Industry in January of this year, the ad was deemed unacceptable by the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a socialist regime that has established homosexual "marriage" in the country and strongly favors the gay political agenda. The fine was announced on June 2.

Political payback?

The Zapatero administration's swipe against Intereconomia may also be political payback against the network, which has been a constant thorn in the side of Spain's socialists.

Intereconomia's promotional ads regularly attack Zapatero and socialism. One ad begins by noting that "socialists have never ceased to kill," after which it shows a series of socialist dictators, including Stalin, Hitler, and Mao Tse Tung, and the corresponding death toll associated with each one. It then displays the face of Prime Minister Zapatero and says "Spanish Socialism, 100,000 deaths per year - before birth."

Read it all here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bible Serves No Educational Benefit?


For years, the Collier County School District allowed World Changers to offer Bibles to interested students during non-school hours on Jan. 16 in honor of Religious Freedom Day. But since last year, the superintendent and the Community Request Committee have refused to grant permission to the Southern Baptist Convention-related mission group to do so.

School officials claim Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students and thus distribution should stop.

But Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, the legal group representing World Changers, pointed out that many of the founding fathers learned to read using the Bible.

“How sad that on the eve of Independence Day, when we celebrate the religious and political freedom our forefathers won for us at the cost of much blood and great sacrifice, we are compelled to sue to protect the right simply to make free Bibles available to students in public schools,” said Staver.

If the Bible serves no educational benefit, then Biblical Archaeologists and Biblical Anthropologists are wasting their time. There is nothing to learn in the Bible, nothing informative. Instead these scientists have pieced together a picture of the ancient world more accurate than any historian, and they are using the Bible. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BP's Obstruction of Independent Journalists

I caught this satellite photo from a Saudi News source.

SOURCE: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) - Between 2.9 and 4.9 million barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since the explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig on 20 April 2010. It is a major environmental disaster that is rapidly turning into a national disaster. Yet the media have often found it impossible to obtain verifiable, independent information and have had to settle for what they are told by BP. And it took until 12 July for the restrictions BP imposed on journalists covering the spill to be lifted.

The journalists questioned by Reporters Without Borders for the most part said they had been shocked by the lack of information.

The Federal Aviation Administration imposed restrictions on overflights on 9 June, three weeks after the oil started pouring into the gulf. It announced that the media could not fly over the affected area at an altitude of less than 3,000 feet (914.4 metres) "for safety reasons" (

The New York-based Associated Press news agency objected in a letter to the White House on 10 June: "We disagree strongly that journalists could not be permitted to fly safely below 3,000 feet ( . . . ) Media aircraft covered the spill without incident from between 500 and 1,000 feet before the Temporary Flight Restriction was imposed."

Ted Jackson, a photographer who has worked for the New Orleans-based "Times-Picayune" newspaper for the past 26 years, said: "It has changed since then and now we can fly lower. But during the third week of the oil spill, when the limit was 3,000 feet, I could not even go there because I said I was media. I was in a plane and I was denied access because I said I was a media photographer. But worse still, the decision was taken by a BP consultant, not by anyone from the government!"

CBS News journalists were threatened with arrest when they tried to visit polluted beaches on 20 May to do a report on the environmental damage. According to the Associated Press, there were at least four incidents of this kind involving journalists from 6 to 13 June.

Louisiana announced on 30 June that anyone approaching within 65 feet (20 metres) of any of the booms deployed to block oil slicks risked a fine or a felony conviction. Florida followed suit on 3 July. A felony conviction is punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and a fine of $40,000.

All these restrictions have been widely reported and commented on by journalists on the Internet. According to Tamara Lush, the AP's correspondent in New Orleans, AP president Tom Curley wrote to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs as early as 5 June requesting better access to information. Gibbs replied that if journalists had any complaints, they should call an information centre being operated by the federal government and BP at Houma (southeast of New Orleans).

But if you call the centre, it turns out that its job is not to field to media complaints but to manage clean-up operations. In fact it is run by the US Coast Guard. One of its employees nonetheless said: "We did not receive complaints in the past two and a half weeks. If a journalist is having a particular issue, he or she would have to send the complaint by phone or letter for us to take that request and take care of it. But I work for the coast guards so it would have to deal with the coast guards."

Such confusion is commonplace and it is hard for journalists to know where to turn. Mac McClelland of the magazine "Mother Jones", who has been down in the gulf covering the disaster since the outset, offers this advice: "If you are having encounters with police officers, you should ask them if they are private security for BP or actually Louisiana cops. Some wearing Louisiana cop uniforms can earn extra money by being a security guard for BP."

After so much bad publicity, the US authorities reaffirmed the supremacy of the First Amendment on 12 July, making it possible for more media to cover the oil spill. One of the first organisations to react was the American Civil Liberties Union. Its Louisiana representative, Marjorie Esman, said: “This change is needed to ensure public access to information about this catastrophe. This was a significant improvement for media but it still was not enough because it does not allow the general public the access that they are entitled to have. Everybody has the right to access the beaches. They are public land.”

Read it all here.

Capt. Semrau Found Guilty

A Canadian Army officer has been found guilty over the "mercy killing" of a wounded Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan. Captain Robert Semrau could face up to five years in jail for "disgraceful conduct". However, the jury of fellow officers found him not guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder.

The incident occurred in 2008 in the Afghan province of Helmand. The prosecution alleged that Captain felt bound by a "soldier's pact" to end the suffering of a gravely wounded man. "He told us that he shot the Taliban, he put him out of his misery and if anything came of it, he would wear it," a corporal told the court. However, with no body, no autopsy, and conflicting witnesses, it was difficult for the prosecution to establish a case for murder. There is no defence for mercy killing in Canadian law. 
In 2004 an American soldier tried to excuse a battlefield execution in Baghdad's Sadr City suburb as "mercy killing". However, he was found guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced to three years in jail.
Source:  Globe and Mail, July 19

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pentagon: Give Pakistan Military Due Credit

WASHINGTON: The Pakistani military and government don’t get enough credit for the sacrifices they are making in the fight against terror, says a Pentagon report released a day after the US military chief urged Islamabad to be sensitive to American interests.

The report by the American Armed Forces Service noted that since the beginning of the Swat campaign, the Pakistani military has been involved in 16 months of continuous combat against extremist groups in Swat, other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and South Waziristan.

The report is based on a background briefing by a senior US military official. Although, the report does not identify the official, it is worth noting that the news service’s correspondent accompanied US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen during his recent visit to Islamabad.

It noted that the Pakistani military had more than 140,000 troops involved in the operations — or more than seven infantry divisions. “It’s the longest military campaign in Pakistani history,” a US military official said. “They have never fought anything this hard, for this long.”

Read it all here.

Higher Returns from Ethical Investing?

By Ron Robins

Yes, it is possible that ethical investing can produce higher returns. For instance, America’s Social Investment Forum found in a “ …review of 160 [U.S.] socially responsible mutual funds from 22 members of the Social Investment Forum (SIF)… that the vast majority of the funds—55 per cent—outperformed their benchmarks in calendar year 2009, most by significant margins… ”

In fact, most studies of ethical and socially responsible (SR) investing do find roughly similar or even sometimes higher returns when compared to conventional investing. And this is what reviewers concluded after examining thirty key academic and broker studies related to ethical/SR investing for the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative and Mercer in late 2007.

Based on such evidence, and particularly the results found and lessons learned from some new studies, I believe that in the future and over the longer term ethical/SR investments will generally produce higher returns than conventional portfolios. Furthermore, ethical/SR investments have another benefit: they are more likely to enrich the quality of our lives and for society as a whole.

Read it all here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Resources for Families with Alzheimers

For a list (with links) to the top 50 resources for coping and caring for Alzheimers, go here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

BP to Sell Assets in Pakistan and Vietnam

NEW YORK: BP Plc said on Tuesday it plans to sell company assets in Vietnam and Pakistan to help pay for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A spokesman for the British oil giant said the company has notified the governments of both countries about its plans.

Spokesman David Nicholas said BP would use proceeds from the sale of various facilities in those countries to help raise $20 billion for a Gulf spill relief fund.—AP

Obama Administration Approves Tax-Funded Abortion

The Obama administration has officially approved the first instance of taxpayer funded abortions under the new national government-run health care program. This is the kind of abortion funding the pro-life movement warned about when Congress considered the bill.

The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new “high-risk” insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March.

It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

Read more here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quote of the Week - Isaac Newton

"It is the glory of geometry that from so few principles, fetched from without, it is able to accomplish so much." —Sir Isaac Newton, preface to the Principia

Poverty Worse in India than in Africa

LONDON: More people are mired in poverty in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries, according to a new UN-backed measure of poverty out Tuesday.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) looks beyond income at a wider range of household-level deprivation, including services, which could then be used to help target development resources.

Its findings throw up stark statistics compared to regular poverty measures.

The study found that half of the world's MPI poor people live in South Asia, and just over a quarter in Africa.

There are 421 million MPI poor people in eight Indian states alone Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and 410 million in the 26 poorest African countries combined.

The researchers said that the extent of poverty in India had often been overlooked, by figures comparing percentages of poor people in countries as a whole rather than sheer numbers.

According to the index, 64.5 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa are MPI poor. In South Asia, 55 percent of people are MPI poor. Both figures are higher than the number considered extreme income poor living on less than 1.25 dollars per day.

The new index was created by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University in southern England, and the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme.

“Our measure identifies the most vulnerable households and groups and enables us to understand exactly which deprivations afflict their lives,” said OPHI director Sabina Alkire.

“The new measure can help governments and development agencies wishing to target aid more effectively to those specific communities.”The MPI will be used in the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report. It supplants the Human Poverty Index, which has been used since 1997.

The index takes into account that people living in MPI poverty may not necessarily be income poor: only two-thirds of Niger's people are income poor, whereas 93 percent are poor by the MPI, it found.

It also showed that “multi-dimensional poverty” varies a lot within countries. In Delhi, 15 percent of people are MPI poor, compared to 81 percent in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar. – AFP

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Does "Sin Investing" Pay?

By Ron Robins

The stock market plunge in 2008 changed investment returns and investor consciousness in many ways. Prior to 2008, many investment studies found ‘sin’ stock portfolios providing better returns than ethically or conventionally oriented ones. Since then however, there is preliminary evidence that ethical stock portfolios have probably performed better.

Over the next five to ten years, and with the effects of the sovereign debt crises upon us, I suspect that ethical stock portfolios could outperform both the sin and conventional variety.

Sin stock portfolios generally include holdings in tobacco, alcohol, gaming and defence companies. Ethical or socially responsible (SR) portfolios on the other hand typically comprise of stocks in companies related to the financial, technology, medical/health, alternative energy, consumer staples industries etc. However, with the growing focus on environmental, social, governance (ESG) and ethical issues, ethical/SR portfolios are becoming increasingly diverse.

American supporters of sin stock investing like to quote a February study, “Socially Responsible Investing vs. Vice Investing,” by Hoje Jo et al. It compares the Vice (sin) Fund (VICEX) and Domini SR funds. It stated, “our research shows while the annualized return of SRI [socially responsible investing] through Domini Social Index (DS 400 Index) from 1990 to 2009 has been higher than that of S&P 500 …[and the] Domini Social Equity Mutual Fund (DSEFX) outperformed vice investing through vice fund (VICEX) over the most recent one year, VICEX has outperformed DSEFX over the long term.”

Incidentally, in the twelve months ended June 30, 2010, the DSEFX continued to lead with a gain of 16.81 per cent, outpacing the VICEX’s gain of 7.73 per cent. It is also worthwhile to consider the time period of this ‘long term’ study: seven years. It begins with the inception of the Vice Fund in 2002. Generally, long term performance is better analyzed over ten, fifteen, or more years’ time frame. Also, comparing two funds in a universe of thousands, though probably representative of the chosen criteria, does pose a question of statistical significance.

From a European perspective, one outstanding 2009 German study with excellent methodology is, “Vice vs. Virtue Investing,” by Sebastion Lobe, Stefan Roithmeier and Christian Walkshausl. It clearly indicates no difference in returns between ethical and ‘unethical’ portfolios. I quote, “we find no compelling evidence that ethical and unethical screens lead to a significant difference in their financial performance, which is in contrast with the results of prior studies on sinful investing.”

Another 2007 French study finds fault with the idea that sin stock portfolios perform similarly in all countries. In “The Determinants of Sin Stock Returns: Evidence on the European Market,” by Julie Salaber, she states that, “ …sin stock returns vary with the level of excise taxation on alcohol and tobacco products. Sin stocks earn significantly higher abnormal returns in countries where the excise taxation is high… average sin stock returns depend on country-specific factors such as religion, litigation risk and excise taxation.”

Incidentally, a comprehensive listing of studies related to ethical/SR and sin investing can be found on my website.

Proponents of sin industry investing say that many ethical/SR funds often have higher annual management fees, thereby decreasing returns. Also, that fund managers and analysts avoid sin industries. Because of this sin industry stocks are relatively cheap. And due to their enormous, regular cash flows they are able to make large dividend payouts. These big dividends combined with low stock prices frequently provide exceptionally good dividend yields.

Thus, sin stock proponents argue that when looking at stock returns you also have to consider not only stock price appreciation or losses, but also the ‘total return’ which is inclusive of dividends. These are valid points that are not accounted for in many studies which only measure stock/fund price changes.

However, the often high dividend yields of sin investments are shunned by numerous investors as they are concerned about the effects of sin industries on the quality of life for themselves, their families and for society as a whole. However, that discussion is for another day.

There is a major new factor impacting our quality of life and the sin versus ethical investing debate. This is the massive sovereign debt crises.

Countries like the United States, Britain, Japan and many others face enormous unfunded health and pension liabilities. The pressure for those countries to increase taxation on goods such as tobacco and alcohol that contribute disproportionately to health costs is going to be immense.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

State Dept Brokers Empty Concession

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will provide a ‘side letter’ to Afghanistan for Indian exports to the war-torn country in future trade arrangements under the US-facilitated Afghan-Pakistan transit trade agreement (APTTA) signed on Sunday.

The two sides agreed that “no Indian exports to Afghanistan will be allowed through Wagah at this stage”. However, a feasible proposal in this regard can be discussed at an appropriate time in future.

“Pakistan will provide a side letter to Afghanistan giving this understanding. The side letter shall not be part of the APTTA,” according to a ‘record note’ signed by commerce and trade ministers of the two countries, a copy of which was obtained by Dawn.

The agreement required Pakistan to facilitate Afghan exports to India through Wagah. Afghan trucks will be allowed access to designated route up to Wagah. “Afghan cargo will be transferred back to back on Indian trucks at Wagah,” it said.

Some analysts were of the opinion that “back to back transfer of Afghan cargo on Indian trucks” also meant that Afghanistan could purchase Indian goods and then transfer these through trucks to Kabul.

“This is not the case,” commerce secretary Zafar Mehmood said. He told Dawn: “India will not be able to export its products or goods to Afghanistan under the current arrangement.”

He said Pakistan’s trade with India was a bilateral issue. Neither Islamabad had given the most favoured nation status to New Delhi nor did trade with India take place through Wagah, except for some items on which decisions were taken on a case-to-case basis, he added.

Asked if Pakistan and Afghanistan had finalised any timeline for Indian exports to Kabul for which Islamabad would provide a ‘side letter’ outside the APTTA, Mr Mehmood said the indication referred to a possible future scenario in which case India and Pakistan might be able to reach an understanding to start bilateral trade. “This is a non-binding understanding under which any feasible proposal can be discussed at an appropriate time in future.”

An official said assuming that Islamabad and New Delhi resolved their bilateral issues and started trade, it would not be difficult to dovetail this trade with Afghanistan under the said clause and Pakistan would simply issue a side letter to Afghanistan.

Asked about the difference between the fresh APTTA and the 1965 Afghan transit trade agreement, Mr Mehmood said the new agreement provided a major concession to Afghanistan to use its own trucks to carry export goods to India through the Wagah border. This was not allowed under the old agreement.

He said that Afghanistan’s major exports like fresh vegetables, fruit and dry fruits perished through sea routes because of longer transportation time. “That will be a big benefit for Afghanistan.”

The secretary said that under the new arrangement, Pakistan would be able to combat unauthorised trade and smuggling because goods would now be transported through containers of international specifications and under verifiable standards of sealable trucks to be monitored through tracking devices installed on transport units or trucks.

He said that Afghan goods would be subject to full customs duties to be charged at the import stage in Karachi or Lahore and reimbursed to Afghan traders after the consignment reached its destination.

In reply to a question, Mr Mehmood said the current ATTA mostly took place through the National Logistic Cell, which would lose its monopoly and revenue as well, but it was illogical not to allow Afghans to use their own trucks for their own trade. He said he did not see a big deal in allowing Afghan trucks to transport Pakistani goods within its cities on their return after offloading at Wagah.

Some observers said the ‘record note’ did not envisage physical examination of goods to be transported onboard Afghan trucks which was a main concern. For example, they said, it would not be known to Pakistani authorities whether Afghan trucks were carrying vegetables and fruit or drugs and ammunition.

They said that since the entire trade would depend on “customs to customs information sharing (IT data and others)”, it was practically impossible to verify exactly what products were passing through Pakistani soil given the general reputation of revenue authorities and the fact that most products imported under the old ATTA made their way into Pakistani markets.

These technical details required further discussion before the formal signing of the new agreement, they added.

From here.

Gifted Individualism: How NOT to Lead

Very true words!  Read this Editorial from the Sydney Church Record on what leaders in the post-baby-boomer church need to be like:

But gifted individualism is not leadership. The ability to rule others by the persuasive force of personality is not leadership. The ability of a 'charismatic' personality to sway the crowds is not a sign of good leadership. The attractive power of decisive action and even impressive ability are not signs of beneficial leadership. Ability in rhetorical pulpiteering, whether inside or outside the Church, says nothing about whether the teaching is true leadership.

And what has any of this got to do with Christian leadership? Jesus came amongst us to serve. God gifts his people for their works of service, exercised in a spirit of love and desire for edification. Shepherding involves serving up the word of God to feed the flock. True and proper use of God's charismata will be corporately expressed for the common good of the body, building itself towards maturity. Spotting those gifted for Christian leadership is therefore a tricky task, for it involves spotting qualities of self-effacing service; other-person-centred motivations and actions; integrated relational connectedness already displayed; quiet godliness already in operation amongst God's people; faithfulness in teaching by which the people of God are already being nurtured towards maturity; and the like.

Unfortunately, those influenced by the sixties' destabilization (and at the moment, that must be most) may completely overlook such quiet achievers in the quest for 'charismatic leaders'. They may even express a disappointment at the absence of leadership in the next generation - but according to what criteria is this judgment being made?

Western society is on the brink of its next turning-point. The sixties generation are being forced to let go (not of their own will, but through thoroughly 'natural processes'). Presumably there will be sixties' disciples who continue to push forward the quest for the 'charismatic leader'. But, perhaps too the moment is ripe for a different form of 'leadership' to emerge from the next generation. Hopefully within Christian circles, this leadership might reflect more of the Master.

Read the full Editorial here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Homosex and Constitutional Law

From Legal Theory Blog

Mary Anne Case (University of Chicago Law School) has posted A Lot to Ask: Review Essay of Martha Nussbaum's ‘From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law’ (Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 19, 2010) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The title of Martha Nussbaum‘s recent book From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law encapsulates well the book‘s normative and descriptive claims. In Nussbaum‘s descriptive account, the politics of disgust have been and remain at the root of all opposition to recognition of legal rights for homosexuals, whether the issue be sodomy laws, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, same-sex marriage or venues for public sex. Although she acknowledges that explicit appeals to disgust have declined in recent years, Nussbaum argues that disgust "has not gone away, it has gone underground." In Nussbaum‘s normative view, disgust not only should be ruled categorically out of bounds as a basis for law and policy, but must be thoroughly extirpated and replaced with a "politics of humanity" involving not only sympathy, imagination, and respect, but "something else, something closer to love."

From the moment early in its conception when she first sought my input on this new book, I had to confess myself troubled by its central claims, given my own very different take on the constitutional law of sexual orientation. As I shall explain in this essay, it seems to me that From Disgust to Humanity descriptively accounts for too little and normatively asks for too much. Although I am a lawyer and not a moral philosopher, I shall begin by questioning the more philosophical, less legal aspect of Nussbaum‘s normative claims before moving on to give an alternate account of developments in the law.

First let me ask, what is the minimum Nussbaum now demands of the opponents of homosexuality? From this overarching question a number of subsidiary questions arise. These include: If disgust has indeed, as Nussbaum acknowledges,"gone underground" in contemporary debates about gay rights, is this a bad thing? If disgust is out-of-bounds, is there, in Nussbaum‘s view, a more appropriate emotion for opponents of homosexuality to mobilize in aid of their opposition? Or is Nussbaum in effect demanding nothing short of complete capitulation from them?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vatican II: Aggiornamento or Radical Change?

Hermeneutic interpretations of Vatican Council II
by Agostino Marchetto

I would like to begin by recalling – by way of setting the stage – the vital importance of the profound connections between theology and Church history and law. I have worked in this area for the past thirty-five years, as shown in part by my book "Chiesa e papato nella storia e nel diritto. 25 anni di studi critici [The Church and the Papacy in History and Law: 25 Years of Critical Studies" (Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, 2002).

I add the fundamental consideration of the importance and doctrinal, spiritual, and pastoral value of Vatican Council II: it is, intrinsically, an "icon" of Catholicism, in communion with its origin and past – identity in evolution, fidelity in renewal. This brings the need for a genuine hermeneutic – meaning a well-grounded, respectful interpretation of what an Ecumenical Council is.

Vatican II was colossal. The official proceedings alone fill 62 large volumes that provide a solid foundation for a correct assessment and interpretation. But many began to weave their interpretive web before the publication of the indispensable proceedings issued by the council's ruling bodies, basing themselves instead upon private writings (personal diaries), contemporary newspaper reports and columns, although these were sometimes exceptional. I think, for example, of those of P. Caprile.

This already brings into question their judgment, their crosswise criticism, because even a superficial reading reveals discrepancies and a variety of attributions and "merits" (for some positions that in the end were "victorious"), an incomplete understanding with respect to the complexity of synodal affairs (a canvas of regulations, "pressure," movements, "battles" against "conservatism" or the curia, or in defense of tradition or of the avant-garde, the teaching of the Magisterium, or pastoral-ecumenical interpretations of John XXIII).

This naturally does not mean a rejection of material from diaries, as, for example, E. Manieu did with Congar's conciliar diaries. Among other things, these bring flavor and constitute "ingredients" that go into the whole, but they must be subordinated to the official proceedings without sliding toward a fragmentary history, in the style of a news account or an encyclopedia, with dispersion, dissection, vivisection, or excoriation of the Council itself. We recall here the diaries of Chenu, Edelby, Charue – and the archived letters of Suenens and De Smedt – Congar, Prignon, Betti, and Philips, in anticipation of that of Felici. We mention, furthermore, the volumes of S. Schmidt on Bea, B. Lai – for Siri – and J. Ratzinger – with two "reminders" on the purpose of the Council and on the "sources" of Revelation, not to mention – still speaking of recollections - that of Card. Suenens. On all this, see my book "Il Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II. Contrappunto per la sua storia [Vatican Council II: A Counterpoint to Its History]", Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005, pp. 407.

The underlying problem with the use of diaries is, for many, connected to the effort to diminish the importance of the final conciliar documents (the "spirit" of the Council! But it is, instead, the spirit of this corpus), a synthesis of Tradition and renewal (aggiornamento), to assert research "guided" beforehand, which appeared ideological from the beginning. This focused solely on the innovative aspects, on discontinuity with Tradition. We find the most striking testimony in the volume "L'evento e le decisioni. Studi delle dinamiche del Concilio Vaticano II [The Event and the Decisions: Studies on the Dynamics of Vatican Council II]", edited by Maria Teresa Fattori and Alberto Melloni.

The focus on discontinuity is also the result of the current general historiographical tendency that (after and against Braudel and the Annales) privileges, in historical interpretation, "the event," understood as discontinuity and a traumatic transformation. So then, in the Church, if this "event" is not so much an important fact, but a rupture, an absolute novelty, the emergence "in casu" of a new Church, a Copernican revolution, in short the transition to a different form of Catholicism – losing its unmistakable characteristics – this perspective cannot and must not be accepted, precisely because of the uniqueness of Catholic identity. The aforementioned volume, consequently, criticizes the conciliar "hermeneutics" of men who are certainly not "closed" toward Vatican II or opposed to it, such as Jedin, Kasper, Ratzinger, and Poulat himself. It thus emerges that what was an extreme, radical position (opposed to "consensus") in the heart of the conciliar majority (there was also extremism in the minority, which would later be manifested with the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre), succeeded, after the Council, almost in monopolizing the interpretation until now, rejecting any alternative approach, sometimes with the barbed accusation that these are anti-conciliar (see G. Dossetti, "Il Vaticano II. Frammenti di una riflessione [Vatican II: Fragments of a Reflection]").

It is therefore necessary to recall here the intention (in the singular, although many contrast the two) of John XXIII and Paul VI concerning the Council. After a mild initial perplexity ("a tangled thicket"), Montini in fact adhered wholeheartedly to the Council's initiative, meaning aggiornamento. It should be enough to think of his letter to Card. Cicognani to unite reflection on the Church ad intra and the Church ad extra. By way of illustration, I cite my article "Tradizione e rinnovamento si sono abbracciati: il Concilio Vaticano II [Tradition and Renewal Have Embraced: Vatican Council II]", in "Rivista della Diocesi di Vicenza", 1999 / no. 9, pp. 1232-1245, and in "Bailamme", no. 26 / 4, June-December 2000, pp. 51-64). The subtitles of this article: Underlying problems; The intention of Pope John and the significance of T(t)radiiton; The intention of Paul VI; A model embrace: collegiality and primacy; Dialogue and consensus at the Council, in order to arrive at the embrace between renewal and Tradition.

Here I will cite just one passage, in which Paul VI attests that "it would not, therefore, be accurate to think that Vatican Council II represents a breach, a rupture, or a liberation from Church teaching, or that it authorizes or promotes adherence to the mentality of our age, in what is ephemeral or negative about it" ("Insegnamenti di Paolo VI [Teachings of Paul VI]", vol. IV, 1966, p. 699).

With this background in place, we can now recall the hermeneutic situation in the 1990's, for those who want to complete and deepen the study of my book on the Council.

We must first say immediately that for us, this situation is not good, because it presents an imbalance, an almost monotonous interpretation, failing to follow the idea of embrace as already presented.

The "Bologna group"
In fact, that group of scholars from Bologna – let's call them that – led by Prof. G. Alberigo and ably assisted by an affiliated team of authors (including, but not limited to, some from the Louvain), who find themselves fundamentally united in a single line of thought, succeeded, through a wealth of means, industriousness, and generous friendships, in monopolizing and imposing an off-kilter – in our opinion – interpretation, thanks especially to the publication of a "Storia del Concilio Vaticano II [History of Vatican Council II]," published by Peeters/Il Mulino, in five volumes, already released in Italian and nearly ready for final publication in French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Japanese. The gravity of the resulting situation can be grasped by reading the presentation of my research in the volumes of the work already cited (pp. 93-165). To be specific, I will review some of my criticisms of the "Conclusione e alle prime esperienze di ricezione [Conclusion and the first experiences of implementation]" written by G. Alberigo in volume V. There the author resumes his perennial points of view, which we have criticized many times. I refer to the contrast drawn between John XXIII and Paul VI, to the question of "modernity" (what does this mean?), and to the unwarranted passage from this to "humanity." We refer to the displacement of the Council's center of gravity from the assembly (and the accompanying Acta Synodalia) to the committees (and to the personal diaries), to the tendency to consider as "new" frameworks that are not new at all, to the view of an "autocephalous" conciliar assembly, to the biased vision of religious freedom.

We also intend to refer to the reductionist inspiration of the Synodus Episcoporum; to the "disparity among the various approved measures: their degree of elaboration and of correspondence to the major outlines of Vatican II is strikingly uneven" (we ask ourselves: who has the right to judge in this regard?); to the view that the voting of the Council Fathers was worthless, to the belittling of the code of canon law in favor of the selective application of its norms. I also refer, in a critical vein, to the "black week" – which was not dark, but instead was a week of renewed clarity – to the "Nota Explicativa Praevia" (which was intended to constitute a pre-existing "hermeneutic standard"); to the supposed "long delay" between the conciliar decisions and their implementation, which was thought to justify "tumultuous spontaneity"; to the reform of the curia "in the context of a new centralizing ecclesiology, which was therefore inconsistent with Vatican II." We also intend to refer to the "conciliar silence" (the council remained "mute": but was this really true?) on certain arguments (the ends of matrimony, responsible procreation, and priestly celibacy); to the "trauma caused to the entire Christian world by the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae'"; to the need for a new criterion of interpretation for Vatican II; to the reiterated defense of the conciliar canonization of Pope John; to the downplaying of the conciliar texts relative to the event; and to the criticism of the standard edition of these texts and, by extension, of the Acta Synodalia edited by Mons. Carbone.

But the great question (an "epochal transition?"), which is answered in the affirmative, is posed in the following chapter, again by Alberigo, in volume V of the "History." In it, the author's thought is a bit less drastic and more limited in its expression, in some cases, than it was before (see for example the correct assertion that "there did not exist a council of the majority and a council of the minority, much less a council of winners and one of losers. Vatican II is the result of all the factors at play within it"). We, too, make note of this with pleasure after writing at such length, in previous volumes, against the idea of an "anticonciliar" minority.

Nevertheless, in this last chapter as well Alberigo continues to advance his well-known points of view, which to us are highly deserving of criticism because they are clearly compromised by his ideology. We will leave aside a number of questions, important as they are, and consider that the author presents Vatican II "above all as an event," and after this as "the totality of its decisions." It is here that we must object to this prioritization. If, then, "event" is understood as seen today by secular historiography, which we have already considered – in the sense, that is, of a rupture with respect to the past – we cannot accept such a characterization (see our note on "L'evento e le decisioni [The event and the decisions" in A. H. C., 1998, pp. 131-142, and in "Apollinaris," 1998, pp. 325-337).

The event is then presented, rightly, with its connection to "aggiornamento," but it is passed through the filter of Chenu and of the "pastoral focus," but here again with further recourse to this theologian, and the mention of the disagreement with his "approach to research" on the part of the late Mons. Maccarrone.

Pastoral focus and aggiornamento, for Alberigo, created "together the premises for overcoming the hegemony of theology, understood as the isolation of the doctrinal dimension of the faith and its abstract conceptualization, and also of legalism," with rather serious assertions: "The faith and the church no longer appear as commensurate with doctrine, which does not even constitute the most important dimension of these. Adherence to doctrine, and above all to a single doctrinal formulation, cannot be the ultimate criterion for discerning membership in the Unam Sanctam."

In any case, on the topic of ecumenism, Alberigo returns to maintaining that the non-Catholic observers "were substantially members, although sui generis (informal), of the council," during which there was a "communicatio in sacris," albeit an imperfect one. The author continues: "In this manner there emerged – although in faint outline – in Vatican II a pastoral-sacramental conception of Christianity and the church that tends to replace an earlier doctrinal-disciplinary conception." To replace? I ask, stunned.

There follows the chapter "Physiognomy of the church and the dialogue with the world," with an initial confusion of terminology and a differentiation of Pope John and Pope Paul VI on this topic. The author also notes differences between the two popes with respect to Vatican I: "Thus Pope Paul found himself insisting upon the hierarchical constitution, to the point of introducing the possibility of a hierarchical communion. This led to difficulty with full agreement with the ecclesiology of the conciliar majority, which would have preferred not to revisit the depiction of the church as 'mystical body.' This difficulty culminated in the 'Nota Explicativa Praevia' for the third chapter of Lumen Gentium." So many wild leaps, even after this, to differentiate the two popes.

Another burning question is illustrated under the title "Vatican II and tradition." In this regard, for the author, there is "substantial continuity" between the preparatory and final texts, but there is also "discontinuity with respect to Catholicism during the centuries of medieval Christendom, and during the post-Tridentine period. What emerge are not substantial novelties, but an effort to re-propose the ancient faith in terms understandable to the contemporary man." And yet, immediately after this, there reappears the distinction between the Church and the Kingdom of God (in such a way that the Church is not considered as the seed and beginning of this Kingdom), thus establishing "the premises for the overcoming of ecclesiocentrism, and thus a relativizing of ecclesiology itself, and for a refocusing of Christian reflection."

Prof. Alberigo thus introduces the vision of a "parallelism of powers: episcopacy-pope-curia-public opinion." There is indulgence here toward a certain psychologism (fear, weariness, apathy, marginalization), the singling out of continental episcopal conferences that do not exist, the creation of unfounded analogies (with parliamentary lobbies, with the "nations" of the councils of the late middle ages), and a reminder (which was valid for all, and not only for the Coetus of the traditionalists) of the warnings from Paul VI against the organization of groups within the Council, and of the "test of jealousy, which has stalled almost all the commissions."

The treatment that Alberigo reserves for the curia is of the usual sort. The curia had a "hegemony in both the pre-preparatory and preparatory phases." It was "the central axis for the entire life of Vatican II, an axis with its own vision of the church, which it jealously guarded," and here he mentions by name Card. Ottaviani, Mons. Felici, and the Secretaries of State, who "had powerful influence over the council, both directly and by influencing the pope." And Alberigo does not realize that the Secretaries of State in particular are the pope's closest collaborators, his longa manus. "The greatest extent of curial influence," the author continues, "was seen above all in the impact that the preparatory outlines had on the council's work, right until the end." Alberigo here persists in his error - those outlines were not drawn up by the curia.

Alberigo then takes up his well-known thoughts on the "primary importance of the action of the Spirit, and not of the pope or of the church and its doctrinal universe" concerning the Council, on the Church's social doctrine, on the "steering" of the Council, on the manner of confronting the "profane" sciences, and, with theological reflection of Protestant origin, on the "acceptance of history." He speaks of "an organic relationship between history and salvation," with the transcendence of "the dichotomy between profane history and sacred history. [...] Thus history is recognized as 'theological terrain'." He also presents his well-known thoughts on the rigorous use of the historical-critical method, and the weighing down of Vatican II with "a certain number of decrees of pre-conciliar inspiration," although Alberigo does concede that the Council, "on the whole, exceeded expectations."

Our critical presentation is also directed against the supposed "novelty" of this Council if, beyond what is said about its legitimate differences with respect to previous councils, he means that the criteria of "pastoral focus" and "aggiornamento" had been "unusual for Catholicism – or even foreign to it – for too long," while underestimating the juridical aspect of the Council (its decisions are imagined to have been "guidelines, and not rules").

Again on the institutional theme, the author attests, erroneously, to an "overturning of priorities [...] consisting in the abandonment of reference to ecclesiastical institutions, to their authority and effectiveness as the center and standard of the faith and of the church." This is a serious and imbalanced assertion, if one considers that, before this, Alberigo had asserted: "The hegemony of the institutional system over the Christian life had reached its apogee with the dogmatic definition of the primacy and magisterial infallibility of the bishop of Rome. [...] It is instead faith, communion, and willingness to serve that make the church; these are the guiding values by which is measured the evangelical inadequacy of its structure and of the behavior of its institutions." But why contrast things this way? I ask myself.

From this one draws the conclusion that "the implementation of Vatican II – and perhaps even its comprehension – are still uncertain and embryonic." We would not be so radical, and in any case, Alberigo especially should not have invoked the support of the extraordinary Synod of 1985, which came out in opposition to hermeneutics such as his. Besides, how can the author condemn the presumed melding of the Church with secular institutions, when he continually proposes a democratization of the Church? Could the Council have done more? he asks himself in the end. "The question is embarrassing, and the answer is unclear," but Alberigo does reply, revealing his disappointment. And yet Vatican II was not ecumenical "strictu (sic!) sensu." Why not? "It left the Catholic church much different than the one in the bosom of which it had begun." At this point, the author calls "for consultation" Jedin, Rahner, Chenu, Pesch, Villanova, and Dossetti, to introduce us to the "third era of the Church's history" (thus Pesch, who finds me highly critical), and to define the event of Vatican Council II as an "epochal change," and an "epochal transition." In fact, "on the one hand it is the point of arrival and conclusion for the controversialist post-Tridentine period, and – perhaps – for the long Constantinian centuries; on the other hand it is the anticipation and the point of departure for a new cycle of history."

And what do we say in this regard? We repeat, first of all, that we do not accept the perspective of separating the event from the conciliar decisions, and we reiterate that this is, for us, a great event, not a rupture, a revolution, the creation almost of a new Church, the rejection of the great Council of Trent and Vatican Council I, or of any previous ecumenical Council. There was certainly a change of direction, but to use a traffic metaphor, this was not a "U-turn." There was, in short, an "aggiornamento," and this term explains the event well, with the combination of "nova et vetera," of fidelity and openness, as demonstrated moreover by the texts approved at the Council - all the texts.

The event, therefore, is an ecumenical synod (see M. Deneken's ""L'engagement oecuménique de Jean XXIII," in Revue des Sciences Religiesuse", 2001, pp. 82-86), which means it should not be considered prejudicial to analyze it as such, beginning with what this represents for the Catholic faith, albeit with its own distinctive characteristics, which cannot contradict what other ecumenical Councils have defined. It is an event of unity, of consensus. The Church, furthermore, has always been the friend of humanity, although this naturally does not mean friendship with modernity tout court - and besides, what is meant by that? Alberigo is inclined to believe that "the council displays many elements of continuity with traditions, but its novelties are also significant, and possibly more numerous." But we do not make an issue of quantity, but of quality rather, of faithful evolution, not of subversive revolution. And it will be history that will tell us if Vatican II will be considered an "epochal transition," an "epochal shift." We need do nothing but wait and work, in the meantime, for a correct, true, authentic "reception" of this Council, not only in its novelties, but also in its continuity with the great Christian, ecclesial, Catholic tradition. If I have discussed Prof. Alberigo here at great length, it is because I find in him the root of so much false interpretation.

For the sake of consistent treatment, I will also recall here the volume "Il Concilio inedito. Fonti del Vaticano II [The Undisclosed Council: Sources of Vatican II]", edited by M. Fagioli and G. Turbanti, with two significant citations. The first concerns the "organization of the archive and the official publication of the proceedings, [which] seem intended to place significant preconditions on the authenticity of the possible interpretations of the council itself. In effect, Paul VI always demonstrated preoccupation and sharp discomfort toward the consequences that biased (sic!) interpretations of the documents might have upon ecclesiastical discipline, fearing that radical tendencies might prevail in the process of implementation, and that serious divisions might arise within the ranks of the Church." And isn't this a legitimate concern for a pope? The authors concede this only in part, because "inspection of the available documentation [...] ultimately paints a clear picture of the council which, in the light of other sources, appears be biased on the whole." In what sense? we allow ourselves to ask. Certainly it is the one given by the official documents, which leave room for the pursuit of other contributions ("different sources"), but not in such a way as to contradict that which emerges "ex actis et probatis."

The second citation concerns important news about the "History of Vatican Council II" overseen by Alberigo, and that is the fact that "the studies conducted up until now have used a relatively small portion of the raw documentation." In a footnote, they add: "The sources gradually collected by the team that collaborated on the 'History of the Council' were ordinarily made available to all. But this does not alter the fact that each of the collaborators on the 'History' made more or less extensive use of these, according to his own discretion, even referring to other outside sources." This is good to know, because it confirms our judgment on the selection "ad usum delphini" of the sources. This is one of the great literary weaknesses of the "History," in which the combination of official and unofficial sources appears difficult and forced.

The volumes published under the direction of Prof. Alberigo were also prepared from conferences and colloquiums arranged for that purpose, held in various places and reported in specific publications. These meetings have their significance, because they reaffirm the tendencies outlined above. Those who wish to do so can find ample representation of this in my volume already cited. I also point out, in particular, "A la veille du Concile Vatican II. Vota et réactions en Europe et dans le catholicisme oriental" (M. Lamberigts and Cl. Soetens ed., Leuven, 1992), in which Alberigo (as he also does elsewhere) furnishes his personal "hermeneutical criteria" for a history of Vatican Council II that I have strongly criticized. A meeting of a certain importance was then held in Klingenthal (Strasbourg) in 1999, giving rise to the volume by Mons. Doré and A. Melloni, entitled "Volti di fine Concilio [Perspectives at the End of Council]." The book includes "Studi di storia e teologia sulla conclusione del Vaticano II [Historical and Theological Studies on the Conclusion of Vatican II]." The final comments are composed by Mons. Doré, who is fundamentally engaged in a difficult effort of combining and assembling what others separate. I published a review of this book in "Apollinaris" LXXIV (2001), pp. 789 - 799.

General research on the Council and the accompanying hermeneutics
It was around 1995 that there resumed the audacious attempts at overarching investigations, with accounts that were somewhat "narrative," provisional, and a little bit rushed, of the conciliar event "as a whole." The risks? The authors remained tied to their biased view of the council, and it is difficult to carry out truly scholarly research with an interpretive goal that requires a certain sedimentation over time (that is, a certain "distance" from the event), a long and patient work of assimilation and perusal of the conciliar "chronicles" and of the contemporary journalistic articles (which still exert broad and harmful influence), in the light of the "Atti Conciliari [Council Proceedings]," completed only in 1999.

Remaining in Italy, we find first of all volume XXV/1 and 2 of the "Storia della Chiesa [History of the Church]" begun by Fliche-Martin, edited by M. Guasco, E. Guerriero, and F. Traniello. There the treatment of Vatican Council II was entrusted to R. Aubert, a well-known Belgian historian. In this presentation (see op. cit., pp. 177-196) I observed, first of all, a few flaws similar to those found in the "Bologna group," but with a more balanced approach.

In any case, Aubert's final consideration, which places Paul VI "entirely on the course marked out by John XXIII," tells us much about his contrary position with respect to the conviction of Alberigo and those who take after him, including those in Belgium. Chapter VII then illustrates the synodal texts, the theological "merit" of which should be more strongly emphasized, in our view, partly for the sake of the implementation desired by all, beyond all partiality. In fact, by virtue of underlining certain shortcomings of the conciliar documents, we ask ourselves whether sufficient room is left for the acceptance of that "doctrinal magisterium in a pastoral perspective" that was characteristic of Vatican II. This is a general question and a difficulty of our times, even if, clearly, "the power and authority of the documents must be evaluated according to their literary genre, developmental parameters, and topics of discussion."

Still on the subject of the conciliar hermeneutic that most interests us here, we ask whether it is right to assert – as Aubert does – "the persistence of numerous ambiguities in the text, in which traditional affirmations and innovative proposals often find themselves more overlapping than truly integrated." And again: "This lack of consistency often produces divergences of interpretation, according to the unilateral insistence upon certain passages rather than others. Under this aspect, a serenely conducted historical study can permit a better understanding of what were the deep intentions of the great majority of the assembly, beyond the concern for the wider 'consensus'." Nonetheless, we maintain that one cannot arrive at conciliar thought as such, abstracting from the preoccupation with that "consensus" which was a distinctively synodal feature, and was sought not only for its own sake, but also because it expressed fidelity to Tradition and the desire for embodiment, for aggiornamento. Furthermore, only the definitive texts approved by the Council and promulgated by the Supreme Pastor are genuine; otherwise, everyone would accept them, as often happens, in his own way, as a pretext for his own personal excursion or for his own theological or factional preference.

Aubert addresses the same argument in a work written with two other authors (G. Fedalto and D. Quaglioni), entitled "Storia dei Concili [History of the Councils]" (San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 1995), and, more recently, with N. Soetens, in volume XIII of the "Histoire du Christianisme" (entitled "Crise et Renouveau, de 1958 à nos jours") published in 2000, under the direction of Jean-Marie Mayeur (there is also an Italian translation). In comparison with the previous effort, which was largely successful, collaboration with Soetens does not seem to have been to Aubert's advantage.

Situating himself a bit beyond this author, possibly in the right direction, is Joseph Thomas, who was entrusted with the treatment of Vatican II for the collective volume "I Concili Ecumenici [The Ecumenical Councils]," published by Queriniana and edited by Antonio Zani, in 2001, in an Italian translation from the French in 1989. His entry seems to me not sufficiently restrained or impartial.

Alberigo, too, undertook a synthesis of his own, with the edition of a "Storia dei Concili ecumenici [History of the Ecumenical Councils]" by various authors, published in Brescia in 1990, reserving for himself the treatment of the Vatican Councils. About fifty pages were dedicated to Vatican II. Having noted this, we have nothing to add to the extensive observations already made above.

I cannot, moreover, fail to mention, leaving Italy behind, because it is indicative of a theological-sociological combination, "Vatikanum II und Modernisierung. Historische, theologische und soziologische Perspektiven", (hrsg. F-X. Kaufmann, A. Zingerle, ed. F. Schoening, Paderborn, 1996). I am not a sociologist, so I do not express critical judgments in this area, but there are many things that should be said in this instance as well, at least when one erupts into one-dimensional and, for us, arbitrary interpretations of the Council itself. This is the case with the professor Klinger, and, to a lesser extent, with Pottmeyer, but in another context. In regard to sociology, we reject the idea that this is the "mistress" of theology, and we maintain our distance from its so-called sociological "scope." This seems right and well-founded to us. On the other hand, "Montanism" or "neo-Montanism" (which can give rise - it is said here - to a "ghetto") are historical-theological concepts, about which the historian and the theologian must say something, as in the case, for example, of "hierocracy." We do not mean by this to devalue an "interdisciplinary project" such as this book, although we do acknowledge the underlying risks.

For a correct interpretation of the Council
Before such a vast hermeneutical effort - and we could have gone on much longer - so fundamentally one-dimensional in its prevailing interpretive approach, we might feel a bit isolated, holding a much different position, even though we are consoled by what happened with the Council of Trent, and think of the exegesis of Sarpi, which was ultimately surpassed. We are in any case convinced that the history, the documents, the future judgments (ex actis et probatis" will bring hermeneutical justice, with time. In the meantime, we need patience, but also work, effort, resources.

The new phase, nonetheless, appeared – it seems to us – during the last decade, and we first recall here the volume of the late Prof. L. Scheffczyk (later made a cardinal) entitled "La Chiesa. Aspetti della crisi postconciliare e corretta interpretazione del Vaticano II [The Church: Aspects of the Preconciliar Crisis and the Correct Interpretation of Vatican II]" (Jaca Book, Como, 1998, with a presentation by Joseph Ratzinger), in which the hope is expressed that there will be a recovery of the "Catholic" meaning of the Church's reality, after the postconciliar crisis in this regard. The author has put his finger on the affliction of modern hermeneutics, in exactly these words: "Every interpreter and group seizes upon only that which corresponds to his preconceptions," and to those of the (conciliar) "majority."

But the one who escapes this affliction is precisely the one who was the guardian and editor of the "Acta," collected in the Archive of Vatican Council II, founded with extraordinary prescience by Paul VI. I refer to Mons. V. Carbone. I will not list here his various studies of clarification, on crucial topics of conciliar hermeneutics, but just one apparently tiny yet exceptionally important volume, "Il Concilio Vaticano II, preparazione della Chiesa al Terzo Millennio [Vatican Council II, Preparing the Church for the Third Millennium]", Città del Vaticano, 1998. The work collects the articles on the great council published by the author in "L'Osservatore Romano."

Also on the positive side, and still in the field of wide-ranging studies of the council, there is the book by A. Zambarbieri "I Concili del Vaticano [The Vatican Councils]" (San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 1995). This is, in our view, the best overview published so far in Italian, partly for the historical sense that pervades it. It sometimes displays, however, a certain indulgence toward positions created by the ideological vortex of the "group of Bologna," while its most serious shortcoming is revealed in the presentation of the "Nota Explicativa Praevia." It is, however – we repeat this happily – good research, with concise, fast-paced presentations of the various documents, thanks in part to extensive knowledge of the bibliography. The language is plain and the judgments are almost always moderate, far from the journalistic style, relying upon the sure guidance of P. Caprile in the matter of the daily events, and with precise references to the "Acta" edited by Mons. Carbone.

Finally, it would seem unjust to me not to cite here, in the positive context, the volumes entitled "Paolo VI e il rapporto Chiesa-mondo al Concilio [Paul VI and the Church-World Relationship at the Council]", and "Paolo VI e i problemi ecclesiologici al Concilio [Paul VI and Ecclesiological Problems at the Council]," both published by the Paul VI Institute in Brescia. These conclude the "trilogy" of international study colloquiums on Paul VI's contributions at the Council, which are of great importance for us, too.

But we cannot go any farther, because with the bibliography on pope Montini we would enter into an extremely vast field, even if this pertains to his conciliar efforts and postconciliar exegesis. Nor can we address here the hermeneutical sector, in relation to papal primacy and the relationship between primacy and collegiality, an eminently synodal pairing that has given rise to various interpretations and different emphases.

But I will make three exceptions, to recall, above all, the publication of the proceedings of the important theological symposium held at the Vatican in December of 1996, on the primacy of the successor of Peter, and then a complete study by R. Tillard on "L'Eglise locale. Ecclesiologie de communion et catholicité." I cite this work because it indicates how far one can move the theological pendulum in the direction of "localization," while still taking one's cue from Vatican II, in order to balance, perhaps, the earlier excess of an almost disembodied "universalism."

But it's always a question of excesses. The third exception concerns the work of J. Pottmeyer, "Le rôle de la papauté au troisième millénaire. Une relecture du Vatican I et du Vatican II", published in Paris in 2001, which first appeared in English. Of special interest to us is his exegesis of Vatican II, from which emerges a "(papal) primacy of communion." What this mean is that it is the pope's role "to represent and maintain the unity of the universal communion of the Churches." But the part of the work that we find "progressive" to the point of extremism, with rather harsh judgments, is the last part.

I do not want to end without referring to three relatively recent positive developments, which provide solid hope for a general change of tone in the future interpretation of the Council. I conclude in this way not because I want to respect at all costs the expression "dulcis in fundo" [sweet at the end], but because there is truly reason for it.

Not long ago, a new center of research on Vatican Council II was created at the Pontifical Lateran University. This center organized, in 2000, an interesting international study conference on "The Lateran University and the preparation of Vatican Council II," and after this it repeated its scholarly efforts with another conference, on the topic "John XXIII and Paul VI, the two popes of the Council." The title itself expresses the intention of not presenting these two great popes in opposition or contrast. And this is significant, even apart from the addresses given at the conference.

Even more "sweet" for us was the international conference on the implementation of Vatican Council II, held at the Vatican at the end of February, 2000, for the occasion of the Great Jubilee. There we finally saw attention being paid to our many hermeneutic preoccupations. To understand this, one need simply read the pontifical address published in the February 28-29, 2000 edition of "L'Osservatore Romano," pp. 6-7. I will cite just one passage from this: "The Church has always understood the rules for a correct hermeneutic of the contents of dogma. They are rules that are contained within the fabric of the faith, and not outside of it. To interpret the Council while supposing that it involves a rupture with the past, while in reality it adheres to the course of the perennial faith, is decidedly misleading."

Finally, the address that Benedict XVI gave to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, sounded extraordinarily sweet to our ears. In it, he pointed out the correct hermeneutics of the Council, which is not of rupture. I encourage you to read it attentively (see "L'Osservatore Romano," December 23, 2005, pp. 4-6).

The Magisterium has now clearly indicated the correct way to interpret Vatican Council. For this we are profoundly grateful to the Lord, and to the pope.


Romano Amerio's greatest book was Iota Unum. For many Traditional Catholics, it is the most comprehensive and most objective analysis of the crisis in Catholicism which has developed since the Second Vatican Council.

"Mass of Ages" May 2007, The Latin Mass Society's quarterly magazine stated:
Put simply, one could say that Amerio's method in Iota Unum was to follow the truth, relentlessly and fearlessly, wherever it led him. [W]here he saw error, compromise or contradiction he was no respecter of persons – not only the highest personalities in the Church (Popes included) but even longstanding friends and patrons (such as Cardinal Siri of Genoa) were subject to his ruthlessly honest criticism. Yet Amerio's authorial voice remains dispassionate at all times, and he never descends to personal criticisms, still less to uncharitable judgments.

For Amerio, the problems which emerged in the years following the Council can be traced directly back to the Council itself. They have their origin in unfortunate Papal pronouncements, in the methods and procedures of the Council Fathers, and in the very language of the Conciliar Decrees. True, as Amerio would agree, the worst aberrations emerged after the Council had closed, but nevertheless it was the Council itself which made them possible, and more than that, which created a favourable climate for errors to flourish. It was this element in his critique which so enraged Amerio's opponents, and polarised the reaction to Iota Unum.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Conservative Latinos Resist Family Pressures

Gil Dominguz

Because I am a Latino, most people automatically assume that I am either a liberal or a Democrat, or both. In fact, I am one of those rare creatures: a conservative Hispanic. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of Latinos in my hometown of San Antonio and elsewhere are Democrats, even though they may not share all of the national party's social views or vote in every election. About the only Latino group that is an exception are the Cubans.

Party identification is an inherited family trait, passed down from generation to generation. My wife and I, however, have broken the chain, much to the dismay and even animosity of our respective families. I once told my younger sister that I was leaning more toward the Republican Party, and she responded mockingly: "Where do you get that from?" as if I had contracted a contagious disease. She was dismissive of my views despite the fact that she has a high school diploma and I have a master's in government.

But my sister, like many other Latinos, has always identified strongly with the Democratic Party, which is more of an emotional bond than an intellectual one. I remember as a kid hearing some of the older folks speaking fondly of "el viejito" Roosevelt -- old man Roosevelt -- only they pronounced his name "Rosabell." In some homes, decorative plates with the visage of JFK painted on them were proudly displayed on walls or cupboards. In other homes, a photo of the late president sat atop a home altar, next to a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. More than once I have heard a Latino declare that he or she is "a Catholic and a Democrat" -- an incongruous marrying of the sacred and the profane. The implication is that they are no more likely to change religion than party affiliation.

My late father-in-law, a blue-collar union member, was a socially conservative family man, although that didn't stop him from voting for candidate Bill Clinton. There, of course, had been questions about Clinton's veracity and questionable moral judgment -- including possible drug use, draft-dodging, and philandering -- but those things weren't as important as the fact that Clinton was a Democrat.

Read it all here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Christian History and Violence: David Bentley Hart

Watch the interview with David Bentley Hart here.

Hamas Seizes Smuggled Antiquities

GAZA, July 12 (Bernama) — Hamas authorities on Monday said they have foiled an attempt to smuggle ancient antiques from the Gaza Strip to Israel.

The police arrested four smugglers who were trying to take the antiques out through the security fence separating Gaza and Israel, Ayman al-Batniji, spokesman for the police told China’s Xinhua news agency, adding that the arrested have been sent for interrogation.

Al-Batniji said “the antiquities are owned by the state.”

According to sources from the Hamas-run Ministry of Tourism, the seized antiques could date back to the Canaanite era in 2300 BC and the Roman era.

The unnamed sources said Gaza, controlled by the Hamas since 2007, had been the place of several civilization, but many of its monuments were stolen during the occupations and mandates it suffered during the last century.

Some rich people in Gaza used to collect antiques. In 2008, a Gaza businessman opened the first museum in the enclave, housing what he could collect and buy from people.

Feminists in C of E Synod: "Sexism Writ Large"

A Statement from the Chairman of Forward in Faith

Jul 15, 2010

Like you, I was very disappointed at the outcome of last weekend’s debate at General Synod in York and appalled at the intransigence of some feminist clergy and their supporters. What kind of a church is it that is willing to ignore the leadership of its Archbishops and to renege on a solemn promise given to Parliament about an honoured and permanent place for us.

We now face a most serious situation, made all the worse by the refusal of the Synod to pass the Archbishops’ amendment. Resolutions A & B - which provide the basis in law on which the ordination of women can be opposed - are to be removed. This means that any opposition which might be tolerated will be based on the recognition of supposed prejudice rather than the respect of theological principle. Further, the abolition of the PEVs is proposed, which will leave our constituency in an intolerable position. All we would be allowed under the draft Measure as it now stands is access to a male bishop, whose own beliefs need not coincide with ours. That is sexism writ large.

Despite the dreadful result in York, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Catholic Group in General Synod, along with all those who supported them in the debate. In the coming weeks, a new Synod is to be elected and it is vital we all do all we can to ensure the return of as many orthodox candidates as possible, in order that a Catholic presence on the Synod can be there to continue to represent the interests of Catholic Anglicans throughout this divisive and unnecessary process.

That these are very difficult times for all of us goes without saying; we need, above all, to take time to pray, to consult together and to support one another, as we try to discern our respective ways forward – not just in faith, but also of course in hope and in love.

Every blessing,

X John Fulham

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pakistan Fears India's Involvement in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Stiff US opposition to Pakistan’s initiative for rapprochement between the Haqqani network and Kabul has halted the negotiations, possibly jeopardising Karzai’s plans for reconciliation with militants.

The halt in negotiations came after the recent change in the Isaf command because of Gen McChrystal’s unexpected sacking. The new commander, Gen David H. Petraeus, who is said to be a hawk, believes that warring groups need to be first hammered in the field before they agree to reconciliation.

Moreover, the less than congenial working relationship between the new Isaf commander and the Pakistan Army’s top brass has also contributed to this stoppage, which many think is temporary.

Negotiators involved in the mediation told Dawn that talks were progressing well until this recent snag and they had noted a change in the group’s position for the better.

The government had last month started efforts for brokering a deal between Karzai and the Haqqanis, offering the warring group’s leadership a plan for a political settlement.

Senior officials, in background interviews while explaining Pakistan’s position on the issue, said Islamabad foremost wanted the reconciliation process to be Afghan-led and also desired that it should have international, more importantly American, support. “Pakistan cannot do it alone,” one of them noted.

Although the Obama administration is in favour of a Pakistani role in the reconciliation process, it is sceptical of success of in its current efforts. The dominant thinking in Washington is that it is not the right time for reconciliation.

The Obama administration deems Haqqanis as irreconcilables and has been pressuring Islamabad to launch an offensive against the group in North Waziristan.

“The US position is negatively impacting the Afghan endgame and is encouraging other players, both domestic and international, to exploit the situation,” an official observed.

The reconciliation issue is expected to feature during the coming visit of the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to Islamabad for the second round of Pak-US dialogue.

“We will be possibly having very intense discussions with the secretary of state on this issue,” an official at the Foreign Office said.

Pakistani strategists looking after the talks with Haqqani network leaders were always aware that the biggest challenge to their plan would come from the US. But, still they launched the process with an understanding that the US attitude towards the Haqqani network will become less intransigent with the passage of time given the Americans were keen to begin withdrawal by July 2011 – the deadline set by President Barack Obama.

Pakistani strategists consider the group as their best bet for countering Indian influence in a post-US Afghanistan.

From here.

Quote of the Week - Elder Paisius

"God loves every person very much, knows the problems of each one of us perfectly and is wishing to give help before our asking for it, because nothing is too difficult for the all-mighty God. But even God is facing a difficulty in the case of a non-humble man! I repeat that there is but one problem that God can face — that He “cannot” help as long as the soul of a person is not humble. Then the all-good God, in a way, is “upset,” seeing that His creation is thus tortured, and He “cannot” help, because He knows that what is requested will harm the person, the latter lacking a humble disposition. Whatever happens to us is absolutely dependent of humility." --Elder Paisius the Athonite

H/T to The Burning Bush

Anglo-Catholics May Go to Rome

By Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service

The largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England is expecting an exodus of thousands of Anglicans to Catholicism after a decision to ordain women as bishops without sufficient concessions to traditionalists.

Stephen Parkinson, director of Forward in Faith — a group that has about 10,000 members, including more than 1,000 clergy — told Catholic News Service in a July 13 telephone interview that a large number of Anglo-Catholics are considering conversion to the Catholic faith.

His comments came after the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, voted at a meeting in York to approve the creation of women bishops by 2014 without meeting the demands of objectors.

A July 12 statement from Forward in Faith advised members against hasty action, saying now was "not the time for precipitate action."

"This draft measure does nothing for us at all," said Parkinson. "We explained very carefully why we could not accept women bishops theologically.

"We explained what would enable us to stay in the Church of England, but the General Synod has decided to get rid of us by giving us a provision that does not meet our needs," he said. "They are saying either put up or shut up and accept innovations, however unscriptural or heretical, or get out."

Read it all here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Archbishop Orombi on World Cup Bombings

The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi Archbishop of the Church of Uganda and Bishop of Kampala Diocese

I learned, with great shock, of the bomb blasts that went off at Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Restuarant in Kabalagala, killing and injuring many innocent people who had converged to watch the World Cup Final on Sunday night. As a result, there is a spirit of gloom and doom over the city of Kampala and the people of Uganda. Many people are bereaved; parents and children have been separated; brothers and sisters, lovers and friends are all feeling a great sense of loss and there is great pain.

This act of malice and hatred towards mankind is completely ungodly,especially towards innocent and unsuspecting persons. I condemn this act in the strongest terms possible and hope to see the perpetrators of this hideous crime brought to justice.

In the mean time, I call upon each one of us to desist from anger and revenge; this will only perpetuate the pain we already feel. Revenge is not a solution and neither is a sectarian approach to this problem helpful. Let us instead now focus our energies on being a part of the fight against terrorism in our country. Each one of you can use your eyes as a great weapon to fight this evil. Even as we do so, let us not breed unnecessary suspicion against one another but instead seek for the common goal of a peaceful and just society. Remember a peaceful society is the right of every one regardles of their age, race, gender or religious inclination. It may cost this nation a lot to try and be a good neighbour to the Somalis who are struggling to have a governable nation.

To the bereaved, I extend my sincere condolences. We share in your pain and wish you God's comfort during this difficult time. And to the entire nation, I ask you to fix your eyes on the cross of Jesus. The cross is a reminder of human cruelty to an innocent person; the agony of pain He went through enables Him to share in our pain as well. He had to pay a price for us to receive our freedom. The blood of the Ugandans spilled on Sunday will bring to Ugandans peace.

Perpetrators may not know what they are doing but Jesus prayed a powerful prayer, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." Yet with this blood on their hands, the Righteous God will be the one to avenge our cause while human justice will also take its course. For indeed our help comes from the Lord as Psalm 46:1 says, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

I pray for the President, his Cabinet, the Members of Parliament, the Police and all Security Agencies as they address this challenge. May God's wisdom direct you and give you victory over the enemies of our people. And may Ugandans remain united during such a trying time.

The Peace of God be over this nation now and forever. For God and my country!

The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi Archbishop of the Church of Uganda and Bishop of Kampala Diocese

More news at Global South Anglican.

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

David Skeel

I was boarding a plane to Israel a few hours after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in CLS v. Martinez last week, so I was a bit behind the curve in reading it. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Ginsburg, the Court upheld Hastings Law School’s decision to ban CLS from law school recognition because it requires its members and officers to sign a Statement of Faith that includes a provision affirming that sex should only occur in a marriage between a man and a woman. Relying heavily on a stipulation between the parties stating that Hastings’ policy required student groups to accept “all comers,” Ginsburg held that the policy did not violate the CLS groups’ free speech rights (it wasn’t viewpoint discrimination) or association rights (it withheld recognition and the benefits that come with it but did not coerce CLS to change its policy).

Although the Christian blog posts I’ve seen (including some by Constitutional law scholars who know vastly more about these issues than I do) have argued that a “take all comers” rule is inherently discriminatory, I don’t see the argument. If you agree that this is Hastings’ policy—and the stipulation does seem to say this—I think Justice Ginsburg is right. Such a policy strikes me as a bad idea, but lots of groups would be affected by a policy that didn’t allow them to police their membership, not just CLS.

A more serious complaint about the decision, it seems to me, is that it’s likely to lead to a lot more litigation, as groups like CLS contend that the policy isn’t being handled in an even-handed fashion. Justice Kennedy’s concurrence—the 5th vote in the case—makes clear that he would vote the other way if it were shown that the policy was really a pretext for excluding CLS.

My other concern is a more practical one. It seems to me that CLS, and evangelicals generally, should be careful about just what we fight for. Arguing that law school groups should be able to place limitations—such as a belief in Jesus Christ as our savior— on who can be a leader without sacrificing law school recognition strikes me as defensible. But I’m less certain about insisting on these strictures for ordinary members, at least of this kind of group. After all, a key purpose of CLS and other on-campus evangelical groups is evangelism. It may be that such a group could make a more winsome case for Christ if it maintained clear requirements for the leaders but were more flexible about who can participate in other capacities. If, on the other hand, the group concludes that the strictures need to apply to everyone, perhaps it shouldn’t be asking for law school recognition.

From here.