Thursday, December 24, 2009

Real men wear the pants ... and keep them zipped!

 “Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grownups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to wear the pants.”

So runs the copy of Dockers’ new “Man-ifesto” ad campaign that’s caused a bit of an uproar among the talking heads. Some praise it as refurbishing the image of “noble masculinity”, bringing it forward not as a threat to women’s rights but as a “valuable and enriching quality”. Others damn Levi Strauss for “waxing romantic for the days of submissive ladies and alpha males” … although there’s nothing in the ad about women being submissive (unless having a door opened for you makes you a servant, which it does in the looking-glass world of second-wave feminist theory).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Of fake Catholic organizations

 Back in March, I asked if it was possible for someone to be both pro-choice and Catholic, and answered “yes and no”. Technically, a person doesn’t stop being a Catholic unless and until s/he formally apostatizes, either by joining another church or by abandoning worship altogether. (Even then, a person may remain very much a Catholic in the way his/her imagination interprets symbol and story.) In such a functionally crippled sense, a person can be a “pro-choice Catholic”, although the two concepts linked together create an oxymoron.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bringing gay porn into our children's schools

I am a hypocrite.

How so?

The purpose of OTA is not self-revelation. I’m not St. Augustine; I’m not even Odd Thomas. However, I can’t discuss the following breaking news without publicly confessing that I am a porn addict and have been for some years. I don’t say this with any pride; I say it with deep shame.

Now, I invite you to read Gateway Pundit’s blog in the First Things website. (I warn you, first: If you’re easily offended, or if graphic descriptions of gay sex disturb you, it’s probably best to take my word for it.) What Jim Hoft, the author, cites from are eleven books on a list of over 100 listed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group founded and formerly presided over by Pres. Obama’s “safe school czar” Kevin Jennings, as materials supposedly meant to raise the self-esteem of young people struggling with homosexual urges, as well as to raise awareness and tolerance among straight kids. The books are specifically marketed to teachers to use as required classroom assignments, although students can order them directly. The citations come with scans of the pages in question, so there’s no issue of “you made this up”.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Love and tolerance in the Pine Tree State

Maine Proposition 1 should have lost, by many people’s reckoning. Its opponents had clear advantages in funding and media support, as well as the same legal targeting that their coevals in California used during the Prop 8 fight there. (They lost there, as well. Isn’t insanity defined as “doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result”?) And Maine has been a “blue” state as long as such a color has been used to tag liberal/Democrat-leaning states.

Instead, it won. By a six-point margin. Not a landslide, by any means, but certainly enough of a margin to stun those who confidently expected gay marriage to remain legal.

Of course, the gay lobby immediately blamed the Catholic Church. “It is time to acknowledge that the Catholic church hierarchy can no longer pretend that it isn't the active enemy of gay people and our families,” Andrew Sullivan thundered. “That this church hierarchy—especially in its more conservative wing—is disproportionately gay itself and waging war against their fellow gays through the cowardly veil of the closet, is not new.” [Yeah, as lies and wishful thinking go, this particular charge is pretty old.] “But it is, as we flinch with the sting of defeat, harder to take than ever. It is time to demand that gay priests who are actively fighting against the dignity of gay people own their enmeshment in injustice, stigmatization and cruelty. It is time to reveal them in this respect as the enemies of the Gospels, not the champions.”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book Review: Get your Catholic mad on

Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America, by Bill Donohue (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2009)

When I picked up Secular Sabotage, I expected that Bill Donohue, the former educator who is the pugnacious president of the Catholic League, would load down the pages with innumerable references to the battles he’s fought over many issues in the last two decades, from his study of the ACLU’s political positions in 1988 to the recent attempt by the Connecticut legislature to dictate the structure of the Catholic Church.

In this much, I was actually disappointed. Donohue, both as a writer and as a speaker, is often so darn witty and likeable that, when he does pat himself on the back—and he does so quite often—it’s like a great speaker’s monologue being periodically interrupted by a loon rushing onstage to splutter a few vulgar notes on a cornet. Given the book’s gloomy, apocalyptic subtitle, you would expect that the book would and even should be devoted to the battles that have been lost, not those that have been won (save in the penultimate, or even the antepenultimate, chapter). Yet at times Secular Sabotage reads as though it were a campaign book for a political candidate in danger of losing his office.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kicking the Habit

 (This article was originally published in two parts on my journal at my weight-loss support site.)

I’m not even sure when it started. Up until I was nineteen or twenty, I was a “social smoker” at best, smoking only when I was drinking (which wasn’t often because I didn't have the money for it). And then my “Irish twin” sister (eleven months younger than me) was smoking; then my best friends were smoking as well.

And then, one morning, I was smoking in the kitchen when my father walked in. It wasn’t just that he was disappointed (a pack-a-day man himself, he would eventually die of complications from emphysema), it was also then that I’d realized I’d fallen into the habit without meaning to ... or wanting to.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God?

 In the next series of articles, I’d like to discuss several atheist arguments and their weaknesses. Of course, I have the right to interrupt the series at any time if any kind of news breaks that bears commenting on. The point of the series, though, is as much to get myself back into the regular habit of writing as it is to provide an apologetics resource. Eventually, I hope to have enough collected to form the spine of a book.

In 1996, atheist Michael Martin first proposed the Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God (TANG). Since Immanuel Kant, many Christians have argued that logic, science and morality all depend for their existence not just on a God but a specifically Christian God. Not content to demonstrate the argument to be false, Martin chose to claim that the opposite is true: logic, science and morality can’t be true as long as the Christian God is held to be true.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Meanwhile, down in North Carolina, liberty was subverted

In March, the Charlotte, NC district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission closed the investigation of a complaint by eight faculty members against Belmont Abbey College, finding that the college’s decision to exclude contraceptives from its health plan was not discriminatory.

Then, disturbingly, the case was reopened.

Early last month, as reported in the Wall Street Journal by Patrick J. Reilly, director Ruben Daniels Jr. ruled that Belmont Abbey did in fact violate federal law. The EEOC considers that contraceptive coverage in employer-provided health plans is required by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Now, if Belmont Abbey doesn’t knuckle under, the EEOC will recommend court remedies.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Caritas in Veritate and Papal Infallibility

On August 18th, a group of sixty-eight people representing the intelligentsia of Evangelical Protestantism released a statement titled “Doing the Truth In Love: An Evangelical Response to Caritas in Veritate”. Now, having been exposed to many years of out-of-power party responses to sitting presidents’ speeches, and having built up the uncharitable notion “Evangelical = anti-Catholic” in my subconscious mind, I was more than a little prepared to read something condemnatory of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical.

Imagine my surprise when I found the response advocated was warm adoption: “We commend the way in which this encyclical considers economic development in terms of the true trajectory for human flourishing. … We echo its call for a new vision of development that recognizes the dignity of human life in its fullness, and that includes a concern for life from conception to natural death, for religious liberty, for the alleviation of poverty, and for the care of creation.” In short, they love it, love it, love it!

Yeah, that’s our Pope! Gotta love him!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Making the world safe for stupidity

Sometimes, it seems like the only issues religious debates hang on now have to do with sex and reproduction. It’s like listening to Johnny One-Note playing the kazoo: it gets old very fast. Like much else, the same ground gets covered over and over, like a flock of crime-scene investigators looking for a toenail in a farm field.

Take the issue of contraceptives, for example. At least since 1968, the year Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, various people (both Catholic and non-Catholic) have been grumping about the Church’s decision to maintain its traditional opposition to artificial birth control, either damning it as an example of the Church’s refusal to join the twentieth (now twenty-first) century or bemoaning it as well-intentioned but ineffectual.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The "Lazy Man's Diet"

I’ve used this line quite a bit, but I’ll go ahead and repeat it anyway: It wouldn’t be true to say I’ve battled obesity since I was fourteen. Rather, it’s been a long, slow surrender punctuated by occasional fits of dieting.

The least I’ve weighed since graduating high school, at a slightly short 5’8”, was 175 pounds, just before I was released from the Marine Corps. For most of my adulthood afterward, it varied between 200 and 220, with a peak of 240 and a valley at 187.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is "pro-choice Catholic" an oxymoron?

In a recent article in the National Catholic Reporter, Kate Childs Graham declared as her final argument for being pro-choice, “… my Catholic faith tells me I can be. The Catechism [of the Catholic Church] reads, ‘[Conscience] is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths’ [CCC 1776]. Even St. Thomas Aquinas said it would be better to be excommunicated than to neglect your individual conscience. So really, I am just following his lead. After years of research, discernment and prayer, my conscience has been well informed. Being a prochoice Catholic does not contradict my faith; rather, in following my well-informed conscience, I am adhering to the central tenet of Catholic teaching—the primacy of conscience.”

Um, no. Where she got the idea that the primacy of conscience is the central tenet of Catholic teaching, I couldn’t tell you, but it wasn’t from The Catechism of the Catholic Church. (If there is a single central tenet, it’s that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection set us free from sin.) Let’s look a little further, in paragraphs 1790-1792:
A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. … Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case where a man “takes little trouble to find out what is good and true, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 16). In such cases, the person is culpable for the sins he commits.

Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching [emphasis mine], lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.