Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation

HT: Rev. Hoppe's "Meditations of my heart":


Vatican clarifies pope's comments re: condoms

From an AP article:

Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil.

"Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told the AP. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility."

He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church's teaching hadn't been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security.

"This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional," Suaudeau said. "He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear."

Lombardi said the pope didn't use the technical terminology "lesser evil" in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant.

"The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems," Lombardi said. "This is not the job of a book of this type."


The Problem is Not Too Many People

An article by Thomas Storck at The Distributist Review.

Reducing Human Life to a Popularity Contest in Which Your Vote Counts

On ongoing poll at Birth or Not? will determine whether Pete and Alisha keep or kill their child in the womb. From their blog:

You can vote and choose whether we abort or keep our unborn child. For the first time, your vote on the topic of abortion can make a difference.
This is their child, from a seventeen-week ultrasound:


Vote and comment here. The deadline (what an unfortunate word) is December 7. At last check, the baby was loosing by about 200,000 votes.

Kyrie, eleison.


A Lutheran Reappraisal of Natural Law

Be sure to check out this new CPH book due out January 7, 2011: Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal. Pre-order your copy today!
Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal presents engaging essays from contemporary Lutheran scholars, teachers, and pastors, each offering a fresh reappraisal of natural law within the context of historic Lutheran teaching and practice. Thought-provoking questions following each essay will help readers apply key Bible texts associated with natural law to their daily lives.

Why the Natural Law Is Necessary
No contemporary thinker is interested in a wooden repristination of the natural law that is tied necessarily to the particular metaphysical foundations in the Thomistic–Aristotelian synthesis. The history of natural law shows a wide variety of interpretations and applications. But they all have some elements in common. They all oppose cultural relativism, the notion that laws are mere moral conventions that vary among societies, with no transcendent ontological claim to being universally valid and binding. To the contrary; those who hold to the natural law believe that for a law to be just, it must conform to the structure of reality itself and not depend on the oscillating opinions and preferences of human beings. The law must be the same for all human beings and at all times, so that if murder is morally wrong in America, it is equally so in Asia and Africa. If torture is to be condemned as evil in Jerusalem, it must be equally so in London and Tehran. The United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights formulates rules with respect to freedom and equality that are binding on all nations and peoples, not because of any majority vote, but because of an inherent correspondence between reason and nature. That is what is meant by saying that the Law is “written on the hearts” (Romans 2:25) of all human beings.
- Carl Braaten -

Rev. Robert C. Baker (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Carl E. Braaten (ELCA)
Mr. Matthew E. Cochran (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III (LCMS)
Mr. Jacob Corzine (LCMS)
Dr. Adam S. Francisco (LCMS)
Rev. Gifford A. Grobien (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Korey D. Maas (LCMS)
Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson (ELS)
Dr. Thomas D. Pearson (ELCA)
Rev. Prof. John T. Pless (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Carl E. Rockrohr (LCMS)
Rev. Dr. Armin Wenz (SELK)
Rev. Dr. J. Larry Yoder, STS (NALC)
Prof. Marianne Howard Yoder (NALC)
Rev. Prof. Roland Ziegler (LCMS)

What Others Are Saying

Natural law was a common idea among the Reformers and their heirs. There has been some fledgling reconsideration of this heritage in recent years in my own Reformed tradition, and it is very encouraging to see similar discussions taking place among Lutherans. Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal helpfully wrestles with natural law from various historical and theological angles and also explores its relevance for several important social and ecclesiastical controversies of the present day. These essays on natural law—some enthusiastic, some cautious, others skeptical—are a wonderful contribution to the literature and should help to stimulate important conversations about this perennial issue for years to come.
David VanDrunen
Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic
Theology and Christian Ethics
Westminster Seminary California

As a Catholic, I found it fascinating to read these fine essays and “listen in” on a conversation about natural law conducted by an outstanding group of Lutheran scholars. The authors consider such topics as whether there really is a natural human capacity to identify and affirm valid moral norms, and whether belief in a moral law accessible to unaided reason is compatible with an acknowledgment of the devastating impact of sin on the human intellect as well as the human will. Lutherans will benefit from reading these essays, but so will everybody else.
Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Princeton University

God's law is written in two ways and two places: Not only in the words of revelation, but in our being, for we are made in God's image. For a long time, many Christians neglected or even denied this insight because of the mistaken idea that if the image of God can be obscured by sin, then for all practical purposes there is no natural law. How ironic, and how deadly to our common witness, that this common ground among all human beings, this universal prologue to the gospel, should have become a battle ground among Christians themselves. Catholic myself, I rejoice to see the rekindling of reflection on natural law among Lutherans, and I look forward to many interesting conversations.
J. Budziszewski
Professor of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin


Pope approves condoms?


There seem to be some reports that indicate that the Pope was speaking specifically of homosexual condom use (e.g. "a male prostitute"), where conception is already impossible. The media seems determined to blow this up into a major change in Roman Catholic teaching on contraception.


Actual quoted text:


His [the Pope's] comments came in a series of interviews given to a German Catholic journalist, Peter Seewald, which are published in a question and answer format in a book to be launched on Tuesday.

Here is an extract of the book - entitled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times - in which the Pope refers to the use of condoms in preventing the spread of Aids:

Peter Seewald: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican's policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church's traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church's own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

Pope Benedict: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim.

Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering.

In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work.

This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.

That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Pope Benedict: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Light of the World is to be published in English on Tuesday and available for general release from Wednesday. To order a copy of the book, or for more information, please contact the Catholic Truth Society.


Worldwide vigil for all nascent human life 11/27

I recommend we join with Christians throughout the world in beginning this Advent penitential season with a solemn “Vigil for all nascent human life” on Saturday, November 27.


Pope Benedict XVI has issued what Catholic pro-life advocates are calling an unprecedented request for prayers worldwide from all pro-life people. The call is not limited to Catholics as the Pope is asking that “all Diocesan Bishops (and their equivalent) of every particular church preside in analogous celebrations involving the faithful in their respective parishes, religious communities, associations and movements.” The head of the Catholic Church will begin Advent by celebrating a solemn “Vigil for all nascent human life” at St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, November 27.

Mary McClusky, the Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the call is especially important at a time when attacks on the dignity and worth of human life seem to be at an all-time high. “At this moment in history, when societies are now endorsing the killing of humans as a perceived solution to social, economic, and environmental problems, the Holy Father is reminding us of the necessity and power of prayer to protect human life,” she said. “Despite the challenge of these events being held on Thanksgiving weekend in the United States, Catholics should not miss this opportunity to pray for unborn life.” She said the Pope’s call “may help increase awareness among family and friends about abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and other threats to children in their earliest days and weeks of life” while women who have had abortions “may be inspired to learn more, or to begin a much-needed conversation about healing from a past abortion.”


The Wrongs of Women's Rights

The Wrongs of Women’s Rights
by Thomas Fleming

(More by this author, and along these lines, can be found here: http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/category/thomas-fleming/ )

The recent decision to deploy women on submarines has been hailed as a victory in the continuing struggle to liberate women from the oppression of the domineering male sex. Conservatives have generally deplored the move, citing the inevitable sexual tensions and lowering of morale that will result from putting young males and females in such close quarters for long periods of time. (And, think of all those poor male homosexuals who find the submarine service so attractive because of the lack of female competition!). Some conservatives even go so far as to declare their opposition to women serving in any military capacity, but they are a species on the endangered list: Even the great nemesis of women in uniform, James Webb, has backed off, proving once again, that no honest man can be a US senator.
What almost no decent conservative is willing to revive is the old argument that differences between men and women should be reflected in legal, social, and economic structures that encourage women to pursue their traditional role as wives and mothers under the protection and authority of the senior men in their life: fathers, husbands, or guardians. There is, it is true, a “men’s movement,” consisting mostly of disgruntled peripheral males who are forever whining about their manhood. But if we set such marginalized creatures aside, we can safely conclude that there are few defenders of what feminists like to call “the patriarchy.” Even conservative Republicans have largely adopted the feminist myth that one of the triumphs of civilization has been the liberation of women that has taken place in the past, roughly 150 years.
The “patriarchalist” counter-argument, which I have been making for over 30 years, denies the so-called facts in the case. Traditional sex roles, they say, are a function of natural differences—physical, emotional, intellectual—between the sexes. The authority of senior males over a woman is, then, a natural means of protecting her in her role as wife and mother, a role essential for the bearing and rearing of the next generation, which is, after all, the primary duty of each generation. To speak of the oppression of women is like speaking of the oppression of men whom gravity prevents from flying.
When we say that an institution or custom is “natural” (as I have indicated earlier), we mean that it is a response—sometimes quite imperfect—to natural needs. To determine the naturalness of an institution, we look first for a biological basis and then try to establish a base line by making a broad cross-cultural examination. Finally, since there can be quite a wild variation in cultural forms, we should look most closely at the highest traditions to which we are heirs—Christian, Greek, Roman, Medieval. If we determined that the subordination of women was natural, it would not follow that we should approve of clitorectomies, foot-binding, or brutality.
Then, in talking about the “liberation” of women, we shall have to be very careful about what we mean. Many people speak of women’s suffrage as a large part of the liberation movement, but the right to vote is clearly irrelevant. A French resident-alien female here in the United States cannot legally vote, but she is possessed of nearly every other civil and social right the feminist revolution has dreamed up. To make the discussion very precise, let us speak only of the liberation of married women from their husbands and look most carefully at the Anglo-American tradition.
But before beginning such an inquiry, we should also make up our minds about corporal punishment within the home. Do we think it is never to be permitted? (If so, on what grounds.) Is it permitted against children but not women? Are there limits that have been observed among civilized peoples? The most extreme case is killing an adulterous wife and/or her lover for honor. This was permitted in Italy and in several American states down into the second half of the 20th century. Are Italians and Texans simply brutes or are such customs—extremely common both in our own and in other traditions—a reasonable response under certain circumstances.
In any such discussion, we must set aside irrational convictions and all the misinformation we may have picked up in school or in popular books on either side, whether the pro-feminist inventions of modern social historians like Lawrence Stone or the simian fantasies of Lionel Tiger, followed by George Gilder.
Then let us start with some very simple propositions. To make the task easier I am going to insert a brief overview that summarizes my earlier work as a preparation for a discussion of the revolutions in English and American law that took place in the past 150 years:
“Feminists, looking back at the traditional sex roles of 19th and 20th century Europe and the Americas, have often written sneeringly of “the patriarchy,” as if the insertion of the definite article confers an academic anathema upon the word. Anti-feminists have responded by explicitly defending patriarchy or by discussing male dominance in terms of the rigid hierarchy of baboons. But human social life has little in common with that of the boorish baboon, and “patriarchy,” as the word suggests,[ refers properly not to the virtually universal human tendency toward male dominance but to societies in which the fathers and senior males rule over the family and tribal structure with sovereign authority.
Our image of patriarchy inevitably comes from Old Testament patriarchs like Abraham and Jacob, who exercised a regal authority over their wives, children, and extended kinfolk. This pattern of authority is not uncommon among other pastoral peoples, but, as societies grow and develop greater complexity, much of this authority is transferred to chieftains, kings, and representative bodies. Nonetheless, in every known society, men have occupied and continue to occupy most of the highest niches of power and prestige.
Why is this so? Anyone who has taken a look, however brief, at his fellow human beings, will have noticed that members of the male sex tend to be bigger and stronger than their nearest female relatives. The difference–on an order of roughly 10%–is not so great as in some species, but it is enough to ensure that most men can physically dominate most women. This disparity is partly a function of inherent physical differences but even more of the different roles played by men and women in society. Most women in history have had to spend a good deal of their time and energy on bearing and rearing children. In primitive societies, this burden, though it might be shared with female relatives, was a good deal heavier than it is in an era of daycare and electrical appliances.
Social roles are not, however, the whole story. Organized women’s athletics are, for the most part, a recent development, but they have existed long enough and, in recent decades, with a good deal of government encouragement without really eliminating the gap between the sexes. Even today women do not often compete with men in aggressive male sports such as boxing and football, and even in sprinting men maintain a significant advantage. The fastest official score for a man running 100 meters is Usain Bolt’s 9.58 seconds, about 9% faster than Florence Joyner’s record 10.48, about which questions have been raised. At the 2008 Olympics, gold medal winner Shelly-Ann Frazier’s 10.78 seconds was beaten by the number 8 male runner’s 10.00. We can begin to believe in sexual equality in the physical sense when there is no sexual distinction in sports, that is, when men and women compete in the same leagues.
It is only natural to assume—and scientific research has gone a long way to verify this assumption—that in the evolution of mammalian, specifically primate species, males and females developed specialized roles: Men became the experts in hunting large game and fighting the enemies of family and clan. Because these specialties are associated with certain attributes of mind and spirit as well as with bodily functions, the nervous and hormonal systems of males and females develop somewhat differently. The differences, in any individual cases, may be quite slight, but overall women are more verbal, men more analytical, women more inclined to what is now called “multi-tasking,” men more prone to concentrating on problems one at a time. For a detailed survey of evidence down to the early 1980’s, see my book, The Politics of Human Nature. As human societies have grown and developed—often in strange and wonderful ways–they have always been shaped by these fundamental facts of sexual dimorphism. In a near-universal pattern of dominance, younger humans defer to their elders and females to males.
But, given the creativity of the human race, the type and extent of that power varies greatly, from the easily familiarity of pygmy husbands and wives to the rigidity of Chinese men who (down into the early 20th century) bound women’s feet to make them more dependent. Then we have to distinguish between the basic principle, the sexual differentiation of political power, and, for example, the family practices of nomadic shepherds. Wherever our search may lead us, it will not be toward the reestablishment of a patriarchal theonomy based on Old Testament law.
It is dangerous to speak too broadly, but, in general, sexual distinctions have been more marked in developed civilizations than in primitive societies. At the same time, the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome–and of Medieval Europe—developed traditions and rules that required respect for mothers and wives, sisters and daughters. Men controlled the government and the army, dominated the economy, and occupied most of the high status positions. Women who inherited power were often regarded, fairly or not, as weak rulers, and both the woman pharaoh Hatshepsut and Queen Elizabeth I were sometimes portrayed or described in terms that hinted at masculinity. Nonetheless, while men may have ruled (theoretically) their children as absolute monarchs, their authority over wives was, as Aristotle says, political rather than monarchical in the sense that it was limited by law, custom, and respect.
Ancient civilizations, as they developed more complex social, political, and liberal systems, increasingly took steps to protect wives from abusive husbands. The institutions of power were, nonetheless, dominated by men. This domination did not reduce women to slaves or chattel or even to the level of dependent children. While Athenian women were generally subject to the authority of a father, husband, or guardian, some of them were involved in commerce. Roman women were much freer to engage in business and to evade the control of a guardian. They could not, however, engage in public (that is, most legal and political) business, which must have restricted their sphere of operations. Nonetheless, Roman women had greater economic opportunities and a wider sphere of liberty than most European and American women had down to the late 19th century.”
So, to conclude this introductory argument, distinct sex roles are more or less universal in human societies and a natural adaptation of the human species to the needs of propagation and social order. Natural tendencies, however, can find almost infinite types of expression. Higher civilizations, while continuing to protect women, have also found ways of accommodating the needs of complex societies, for example by finding the ways of establishing contract rights for married women engaged in business. What the feminist movement has done is to destroy the institutional framework of marriage and society and reduced many men and women to a form of social organization more typical of non-human primates than of even the most primitive human societies.
More to come…


Newly-weds offered 'no baby' bonus

If they manage two years without having children, the government of India will pay them US$110 – a decent amount of cash in rural India.