Joseph Bottum argues that the mediocrity of the hierarchy has not prevented the emergence of a class of influential Catholic public figures who are holding the line against the nihilism of the liberal elites. There may be some truth to that, except it is not clear that their cultural arsenal is really that much stronger than (or different from) mainstream (protestant) american conservatism. Unfortunately, opposition to abortion is not, per se, enough to build a new culture.
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This is absolutely fascinating. And it is not just a weird Japanese phenomenon; it expresses a situation shared by most modern societies: that parents give their children literally everything except hope that their lives may have any meaning whatsoever. Japan is extreme only inasmuch the situation is not mitigated by any residual Christian cultural influences.
We in the U.S. are familiar with controls that allow parents to block their children from viewing pornographic web sites on the Internet. If you live in China you can find all the porn you want, but you won't see terms like "demonstration", "democratic movement" and "Taiwan independence" on your screen, thanks to the government, with the help of U.S. software companies. It seems that some big names like Microsoft, Yahoo, and yes, even Google, are helping Chinese authorities crack down on dissenters and even put some in jail, according to Asianews. Yahoo has already been the target of protests by human rights groups for its policy of collaborating with Big Brother.
The Pope gave a moving homily on baptism.
"In Baptism, the child is inserted in the company of friends who will never abandon him, in life and in death. This company is the family of God which bears the promise of eternity within. A company which will accompany him always, even in days of suffering, in the dark valley of life, giving him consolation, comfort and light. This family gives him eternal life. It indicates the right direction, offers the consolation, comfort and love of God even in the dark valley and on the threshold of death, it gives friendship, life. This company, absolutely trustworthy, never abandons. No one knows what will happen on our planet, in our Europe, in the coming 50,60,70 years, but of one thing we are certain: whoever belongs to the family of God is never alone, he always has the secure friendship of he who is life. This family of God, this company of friends, is eternal because it is communion with He who has won over death, who has the keys of life in hand. Being in the company of the family of God means being in communion with Christ, who is life and who gives eternal love beyond death."
This interview with Fr. Fessio has an interesting quote from the Pope where he explains why he thinks that Islam is constitutionally incapable of adapting to modernity. Which generates a very dramatic situation in which, once the two come in contact, one has to kill the other.
The weekly column by John Allen is worth reading. "The emerging heart of Benedict's papacy is about truth -- his belief that modern men and women must find their way back to objective truths about human life, imprinted in nature by the Creator. Even if the fallen human mind needs the "purification" of faith to perceive this truth, Benedict believes that it nonetheless responds to something deep in the human heart."
Along the same lines of previous posts, here is the new Spengler column: "Something more than democracy is required for peace and prosperity, and that is a people committed to good rather than evil. Democracy in the Middle East means something quite different: Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. The sooner President Bush changes the subject, the better."
Liberal pro-israeli hawk Marty Peretz has a scathing column on the growing anarchy in Gaza. Whereas one should well be irritated by how clearly he despises the Palestinians, one cannot refute his basic claim just by producing a list of Israeli moral abuses and trying to weigh them against Palestinian ones. This moralistic approach would ignore a more fundamental issue: that, by and large, Judaism educates its people, who are of course capable of terrible moral failures. Conversely, Islam in many of its current historical incarnations does not seem able to educate. This is why the fate of the middle east depends so much on the fate of its Christians. Is anybody helping them?