Thursday, March 31, 2005

MH - Allow Me a Moment of Personal Bitterness...

There's no truth to the rumor that Clint Eastwood was down in Pinellas Park, Florida today scouting out location shots for his next movie.

In case you're wondering, this is not black humor at Terri's expense. It's bitter commentary at Clint Eastwood's expense, and at the rest of the pro-death crowd. Hope that explanation wasn't too obvious.

There. I'm better now.

MH - "Born Toward Dying"

A tip of the hat to K-Lo for steering us toward this excellent meditation on death by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus - a man who himself once stared down death. Can't find an excerpt; the whole piece is too interrelated and deep to cut it into pieces. Just read it. Death is inevitable; with death comes rebirth (we pray) into a new and eternal life. That doesn't mean we go out of our way to seek it.

MH - Responding to the Culture of Death

If you page down a little, you'll find a comment by Ethan, who from the tone of his message probably wouldn't want to be called a Hadleyblogger. My response to him is in the comments section, and will probably be there by the time you read this. (I forgot to mention to him that Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson both supported Terri; I hope that doesn't burst his bubble too much.) I also hope he answers, and some of the rest of you join in, because I think there's a real opportunity for discussion here, and perhaps the chance for some of us to explain our beliefs more fully.

In the meantime, an excellent comment from Blogodoxy. A large excerpt:
I find it heartbrakingly instructive that the Holy Father is teaching the entire world the sanctity not only of life but of suffering centered in God. While Terri Schiavo's life was devalued by many, it was valued by her parents, family and friends, the Pope and the Vatican, and a great many people in Terri's own country. Whereas Terri's death advocates have not moved a finger to share Terri's struggle--and will stand to make parasitic if lucrative deals by telling the story of how they made her die--the Holy Father has, by his own very public struggles, placed himself side-by-side with Terri, and suffered with her.

But not even Terri's executioners could mask the reality of the life that was hers and the enormity of the evil that has been done against her. We know this, and it is illuminated for us by His Holiness, John Paul.

God in his providence has woven together the end-of-life struggles of Terri and the Holy Father. One had no choice in the matter, and was put to death too soon. The other has freely embraced suffering, and offers himself as a living sacrifice. The suffering of both is redeemed in the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is instructive for us that God has done so. Let us treasure these things in our hearts.
I've copied most of the post, but I suggest you go here to read it all, and then read more from this thoughtful and well-written blog.

MH - More on Terri

Sorry for the flurry of writing, but I've been out of the house and away from the computer for most of the day. There has, as always, been some excellent writing on Terri today, and I've always been quite proud to link to my fellow bloggers, who so often can say it better than I can.

Shrine of the Holy Whapping has some pertinent thoughts on forgiveness. Dawn Eden talks about "Defining Humanity Down" in a story that should not be missed. The editorial at National Review Online "Killed by Euphemisms" reminds us that Orwell was right - it's not what you do, but how you describe it. “Next timeit will be easier. It always is.” If that doesn't make you shudder...

There are more, many more, and as I get to them, I'll give you a heads-up.

MH - Pray for the Pope

Someone on CNN just reminded us that the Pope is the comeback kid, after all, so don't rule him out yet. Very true, and also true that receiving the Last Rites (Annointing of the Sick) doesn't necessarily mean that his condition is imminently fatal.

Nevertheless, continue your prayers for him, that God will be gentle with him, that our Blessed Mother will console him, that the Saints will be with him no matter what happens, and that God's will be done.

MH - Rest in Peace

Terri Schiavo has died, and the peace which eluded her in life as finally come to her. In the midst of this heartbreak, I can't think of anything better than to recall the words of St. Augustine: "For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist." We must fall back on the words of the good Saint, because otherwise what has happened seems to have no meaning at all.

Why did this happen, and what does this mean for the unborn, the disabled, the sick, the elderly? We scramble for meaning, and we wonder what the future holds for ourselves and our loved ones. We wonder why God allowed this to happen, why He didn't change the minds of the judges who heard the case, why He didn't strike Michael Schiavo or his attorney dead. These are gut feelings, visceral desires, bitter herbs. They're understandable, and God will forgive us for having them, but still we must put our trust in the words, inspired by God, which Augustine spoke. (See more here for St. Augustine on faith, hope and love.)

"For God judged it better to bring good out of evil . . ." Will we ever know what that good is? Perhaps, perhaps not. Not in our lifetime, that is, although I'm confident we will find out should we reach Heaven. On the other hand, there's no question that many people, including many of us bloggers, have been brought together in a way we wouldn't have if not for Terri. The entire issue of medical treatment for the disabled and ill has been brought to a very high profile, and I don't think it will be possible to put that horse back in the barn. I've long thought that people were energized in an unprecedented way from The Passion of the Christ, and I think we see that energy being displayed here, in the efforts which total strangers undertook on behalf of Terri and her family.

"For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist." To deny this is to deny the power of God, power that has no limits. We've been guilty so often in the past of putting limits on God, of seeing situations as "too big" for Him to handle. Whether talking about selling a house or finding a job or forgiveness of sins, we think it's too much for God. Now really - for One who created the heavens and the earth, do you really think you can put limits on Him?

Therefore, don't put limits on God - put your trust in Him instead. Trust His saints, who assure us that there is a reason to this apparent madness. Trust in Him, and cooperate with Him. Cooperate by prayer, by looking at the ways in which we live our lives, by continuing to preach and teach and be a witness to our faith. Cooperate by offering our sufferings to Him, by joining Him on the Cross, by joining in His redemptive work.

One last thought. There may be a danger in sanctifying Terri Schiavo in the days to come, and we don't want to be guilty of presumption. I don't know much about Terri's life, whether she was a good person or not. I'm assuming, from what I've read and heard, that she was; but ultimately it doesn't really matter. I'm not trying to be cold by saying that, but the fact is that we're talking about the dignity of the human, and whether we're talking about good or bad, Catholic or Protestant or stone-cold disbeliever - that dignity exists. It's a real thing, a thing that knows no bounds. Terri Schiavo was denied that dignity. We've heard people talk about "dying with dignity," but that's not what happened here.

As I write this post, I'm listening to the news bulletins on the Holy Father's health. He's running a high fever, his blood pressure has dropped. Some sources say he's been given the Last Rites. The media death watch, crass as it sounds, has started. The Pope's long Way of the Cross seems to be nearing an end.

Here is a man who with his life provides us the definition of the phrase "dignity of life." In his words, in his actions, and ultimately in his life - and his inevitable death. He has been and continues to provide us with his living example of how to live and how to die. Remember how just after the O.J. verdict, when the country was on the verge of being torn in two over racial issues, the Holy Father made a trip to America? One of the most vivid recollections I have of that trip was an editorial cartoon that showed the country as a mass of hate and divisiveness, and the Pope moving through the country leaving a path of whiteness in his wake. In the same way that our stained garments are washed clean in the Blood of Christ, the Pope was bringing a sense of God's dignity to a country in dire need of it, and we were made better for it. So is it a coincidence that both of these stories, Terri Schiavo and the Pope's, are coming to a head at the same time? I think not.

"For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist." Don't try to understand it, just go with the flow. God's flow is a good one indeed.

Requiescat in pace, Terri.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

MH - Are There Lasting Effects from Terri Schiavo?

From Jay Nordlinger's column on NRO today, mostly regarding Terri:
I am asked — by readers — whether I think the Bushes have done enough. The answer is no. I am further asked whether Governor Jeb should go for the (Bill)
Bennett option: Do what it takes to feed Mrs. Schiavo, risk impeachment and jail. Yes. There is more to being an American — and more to being a leader — than following the edicts of judges.

Hear, hear! And another:
To continue to ramble: We are told that, no matter what, this debate is "agonizing," "anguishing," etc. No, it isn't. I do not believe that the Schiavo matter is a close call. There are hard cases in this country, and the world, and this isn't one of them. If Terri Schiavo must be starved to death — dehydrated, whatever — then patients in other circumstances have no chance whatever.

Mrs. Schiavo has parents willing to feed her and watch over her. No one else need lift a finger. Terri Schiavo's continued existence is no skin off anyone else's nose. No one need bestir himself; no one has to visit; everyone can just go on doin' his thing: drinkin', buyin' Lotto tickets, chasing the neighbor's daughter — whatever. People can go on studying Shakespeare or exploring Patagonia. Terri's parents ask for nothing except that their daughter not be starved to death.

Not all of his correspondents agree with him (he's receiving the usual amount of hate mail that supporters of Terri have been getting), but here's a very interesting comment he received from an emailer:
With the deluge of mail you get, I doubt you'll read this, but I'll feel better for saying it. This case has been eating away at my heart. For the first time, even after eight years of Bill Clinton, I want to say I'm ashamed to be an American. . . . Even people in my own party seem more inclined to gripe about state sovereignty.

As I said earlier, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if something bad happened to this country because of the way its agencies have handled the Schiavo case, and I predict it's going to become harder and harder to get Americans like the gentleman above to really believe that it's a country worth fighting for.

I like reading Nordlinger, not just because of his music reviews (which are excellent), but because of columns like this, which really hit at the core of this issue. And I much prefer his column to today's by Jonah Goldberg, entitled "Conservatism isn't dying with Terri Schiavo":
Whatever you think of the legislative branch's involvement, it's doubtful the issue will be a political albatross for the GOP any more than, say, the Elian Gonzales scandal permanently tarnished the Democrats. Indeed, recall that the Clinton impeachment drive was far more deleterious for the GOP's standing in the polls over a far longer period of time, and if that effort did permanent damage to the Republican party, it's hard to find today. The federal government is run by Republicans for as far as the eye can see.
Now in fairness to Goldberg, he's been pretty good on this issue. But as I wrote yesterday, I'm really getting tired of people allowing labels to dictate their thinking. He may be right that the federal government is run by Republicans, but to that I say "so what?" This just adds fuel to the fire of those who say that Republicans and Democrats are just flip sides of the same coin. If you think this country is going to hell in a handbasket, you probably also don't see that the Republican majority is doing anything to prevent it.

To recap, you can be morally consistant in your thinking without restricting yourself to an ideological tagline. If "conservatives" can't figure this out - and here I'm talking about the conservatives who are putting economics or federalism or whatever excuse they want ahead of saving this woman's life, who seem to think the judicial tyranny is sacrosanct enough that they shy away from engaging in hand-to-hand combat over it - then perhaps, to coin the phrase by Emmett Tyrrell, it's time that there is a conservative crack-up.

MH - Quick Takes

Terri Schiavo certainly has brought together some interesting groups, hasn't she? Click here for comments from Ralph Nader, and here for what Jesse Jackson has to say. Kind of puts the lie to Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young's comment that the religious right is "about as close to a Taliban as you can have in modern American society. These are people who really do want the state to enforce their vision of 'what God wants.'"

In other news, here's the latest on that so-called "Talking Points" memo purporting to show the Republicans using Terri for political gain. Seems that it might the other side who might be up to tomfoolery. Didn't Dan Rather teach these people anything?

Here's an item on the gestapo - whoops, I mean police - preventing a priest from giving Terri Communion.

GetReligion also has a very good story which talks about the pro-death crusade, and includes observations from Jesse Walker at Reason an the coming scenario:
The picture was of a soft, suffocating, ever-evolving consensus between doctors and medical ethicists to refuse to offer treatment to ever more patients whose chances they judge to be futile -- and not in the classical understanding of the word.

"Instead," the nurse wrote, some medical ethicists now "argue for a new definition of futility to overrule patients and/or families on a case-by-case basis based on the doctor's and/or ethicist's determination of the 'patient's best interest.'"

And K-Lo at NRO has the growing trend toward infant euthenasia - didn't want to leave the kids out of all this.

Fortunately we still have the Holy Father's heroic example to show us the joy, the mystery, the dignity of life.

MH - Blood on the Fingers

You’ve just come face-to-face with a murderer.

He may not be a threat to the public at large, but he has killed already and he might kill again, if necessary, to protect his secret.

You know that secret, and he knows that you know.

You could call the police, have him taken into custody, but you know there probably isn’t enough evidence to convict him. But even if there was, there are other people you have to think of, people who would be hurt by what might come out at the trial – disclosures that could ruin reputations and destroy lives, needlessly and perhaps beyond repair. Information that’s better left forgotten, lost in the mists of time.

Oh, one more thing I might have forgotten to mention – this murderer you’re face-to-face with? You’re armed, and he isn’t. His hands are up, and he’s wondering if we can’t just forget the whole thing.

So what do you do?

I suspect most of us have a real reluctance to kill, even in a case like this. There’s that self-defense thing, for one. Even though you could probably make a case that the police would buy, there’s something deeply ingrained in our moral psyche against shooting an unarmed man.

On the other hand, as I mentioned before, there are real doubts that a conviction could be obtained. You may know what the truth is, but that’s not the same thing as persuading a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. If he’s tried and acquitted, not only you but a lot of other people could be in real danger. And then there are those others you’re worried about, the ones who’d be hurt by a trial regardless of the result. So clearly there’s a need for some kind of action – something has to be done.

I’ve read my fair share of murder mysteries over the years, and one popular method of resolution to this situation is to “allow” the murderer to commit suicide. There are a lot of reasons why this seems a neat, tidy solution. While you may be worried that a jury won’t convict, the murderer may be just as worried about his own reputation. If he’s an important businessman or a prominent member of the community, for example, he may well prefer death to disgrace. To him, the results of the trial are irrelevant. Looking at it that way, you might be able to convince yourself that you’re offering him a way out.

You might be able to appeal to his better side. Justice may be screaming out that he needs to face the consequences, but perhaps he’s as worried about the other people that would be hurt – family, friends, loved ones – as you are. It might not take much prodding on your part to make him see things that way, to come to the conclusion that this way would be the least harmful to everyone.

And then there’s the big one, the one that appeals to us more than any of the others – it gets the blood off our hands. After all, if he kills himself, we can’t really be responsible for murder, can we? It wasn’t us who held the gun, who pulled the trigger. His death seems to serve some kind of cosmic justice, especially when it comes at his own hand, leaving you in the clear.

This seems to have happened to many of the great detectives at one time or another – Ellery Queen, Archie Goodwin, Hercule Poirot, to name a few. In these situations they’ve either given the murderer the gun and left the room (“You know what to do…”), deliberately put them in a position where suicide becomes the only option, or allowed the guilty party to ingest some type of poison without making any attempt to stop them. Did they do the right thing? And what would you do if you were in their shoes?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Hadley, this is crazy. How many of us are ever likely to be in this situation? You might as well be asking us what we’d do if we were President of the United States.

True. But before you dismiss this little exercise as the product of an overactive imagination, let’s take a look at it in terms of our moral teaching. I think that by putting ourselves in this position (unlikely though it may be), and asking what we’d do if we were there, we might be able to learn something – about ourselves, about the moral law.

Frankly, I don’t know what the right answer is. I’ve described the most extreme situation, but only to make a point. And the point is that by allowing someone to commit suicide, you’re not taking putting yourself in the clear. You may not have blood on your hands, but it’s certainly on your fingers.

By allowing someone to commit suicide you’re attempting to shift the responsibility from you to them. You’re telling yourself that it was their choice, setting aside the fact that you’ve left them with no other. After all, we're talking about a murderer here. It's pretty easy tell yourself that through their actions they're "asking for it."

More important, you’re allowing them to commit mortal sin. True, you might tell yourself the murder already took care of that. That’s right, but murder, no less than any other sin, is forgivable. Our Lord does not put you in a situation from which you have no means of escape. By forcing (or allowing) them to commit suicide, you’re removing from them the right to seek forgiveness. You’re foreclosing on their options. In other circumstances, the legal term would be “aiding and abetting.”

In an earlier post on the death penalty I said one of the features of having an execution date staring you in the face was that it could serve to focus your mind, lead you to conversion and forgiveness, give you the hope of ultimate salvation. By contributing to someone’s death through suicide, you take away all of those options. To think that you bear no responsibility for what happens to them is to deny that you’re part of the body of Christ here on earth.

There, that was fun, wasn’t it? Fun because we probably won’t ever have to face it.

But now let’s change the plot just a little bit.

Instead of a murderer, you’re in a hospital room with a critically ill patient. Maybe terminal, maybe not. But they’ve had it, they can’t take the pain and suffering anymore. And they’re asking you to help them end it all.

What’s the difference? It saves the family from misery and prohibitive expense. It saves the patient from unbearable suffering, suffering that doesn’t do anyone any good. And it’s a whole lot easier to help them die than to simply kill them yourself, isn’t it?

There are some other differences, of course. For one, an increasing number of countries and states are assuring you that you don’t have to worry about prosecution if you do this. No need to create any complicated excuse like “self defense.” For another, those in authority – the state, the doctors, maybe both – might even say, “Don’t worry about it – we’ll take care of it for you.” Nice and easy does it. If only our other scenario was that neat and uncomplicated.

Of course, there is that moral responsibility thing, isn’t there?

To tell you the truth, when I started this post I had no idea where it was going to wind up. I just had this interesting idea, and I thought it might be worth exploring. But one thing I know for certain – no matter how satisfying it might be when it happens in the pages of a thriller, “helping” a killer commit suicide, regardless of how it’s done, can’t be morally justified.

And if that’s the case, I don’t see how it could be justified when you’re talking about someone who’s guilty only of being ill. Even if they’re “asking for it,” even if you’re able to convince yourself that they mean it, you’ll find, as did Lady Macbeth, that there’s no way to get their blood off your fingers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

MH - The Role of Faith in America

Hadleyblogger Mike calls our attention to Sunday's edition of NBC News' Meet the Press. The topic: Faith in America. Not surprisingly, the discussion focused on the Schiavo case. Forthwith, an excerpt from a very interesting exchange between Tim Russert and Senator Joe Lieberman:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman, your Republican colleague from Connecticut in the House, Christopher Shays, had this to say. "This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. ... There are going to be repercussions from this vote [on Schiavo's constitutional rights]. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

You agree with that?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (D-CT): I don't. But that's a very credible and respectable opinion for Chris to take. See, I think--and Chris was there on the floor of the House, so maybe he heard in the debate some things that I didn't hear following it from a distance. The fact is that, though I know a lot of people's attitude toward the Schiavo case and other matters is affected by their faith and their sense of what religion tells them about morality, ultimately as members of Congress, as judges, as members of the Florida state Legislature, this is a matter of law. And the
law exists to express our values.

I have been saying this in speeches to students about why getting involved in government is so important, I always say the law is where we define the beginning of life and the end of life, and that's exactly what was going on here. And I think as a matter of law, if you go--particularly to the 14th Amendment, can't be denied due process, have your life or liberty taken without due process of law, that though the Congress' involvement here was awkward, unconventional, it was justified to give this woman, more than her parents or husband, the opportunity for one more chance before her life was terminated by an act which was sanctioned by a court, by the

These are very difficult decisions, but--of course, if you ask me what I would do if I was the Florida Legislature or any state legislature, I'd say that if somebody doesn't have a living will and the next of kin disagree on whether the person should be kept alive or that is whether food and water should be taken away and her life ended that really the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to life. And the family member who wants to sustain her life ought to have that right because the judge really doesn't know, though he heard the facts, one judge, what Terri Schiavo wanted. He made a
best guess based on the evidence before him. That's not enough when you're
talking about aggressively removing food and water to end someone's life.

MR. RUSSERT: You would have kept the tube in?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I would have kept the tube in.
A courageous statement by Lieberman both morally and legally, covering the 14th Amendment question which others have raised. Now, contrast that with the statements below from Fr. Robert Drinan, who from 1971-81 also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts:

MR. RUSSERT: Father Drinan, do you think it was appropriate for Congress to be involved in this matter?

REV. ROBERT DRINAN: No, I don't. I think it's rather well settled at the state level, and it's rather well settled also in Catholic theology. I would recommend that the viewers look at the Web site of the Catholic Hospital Association. For years, they have been developing a coherent philosophy on this matter and the Holy See in the last year seem to have been a bit more conservative, which is understandable. It's a terrible, terrible, agonizing thing. But I think that all the judges that heard it, 20, 25 judges, we have the most certainty that we can have in this difficult situation.

MR. RUSSERT: I want to read something that you said to The Washington Post in
2003: "Catholics have no right to impose their views on others. Even if they say homosexual conduct is unfitting for a Catholic, they have no right to impose that on the nation."

If you believe that homosexuality is immoral or that abortion is the taking of a life, or that you believe very strongly that Terri Schiavo should remain on a tube, are you not honor-bound as a political figure to try to, in effect, bring about that result, if it's a firmly held motional belief?

REV. DRINAN: Yes and no. Go back to Vatican II. Three thousand bishops agonized over this, and at the end of the day, they said that the church should never seek to impose its views. They should not have any shadow of coercion, renouncing 20 centuries of the church dominating the scene. So I think that it's a different world, and we respect everybody else and there's lots of things that are immoral that should not be illegal.
Now, lest anyone get the idea that Fr. Drinan always articulates the Catholic position, we should note that when he was serving in the House, he practically wrote the manual on how a Catholic politician could be pro-abortion. (Notice how he suddenly says these things should be handled "at the state level." Wonder if he felt that way about Roe v. Wade?) More recently, as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus reminds us in the April edition of First Things, he “gained public attention by his vigorous opposition to a ban on partial birth abortion, also known as live birth abortion.” Fr. Drinan says it’s not appropriate for a public official to let his religious beliefs influence his stands. Looking at Fr. Drinan’s record, it’s difficult to see how he lets his religious beliefs influence any part of his life.

And let’s look again at that last quote: “Go back to Vatican II. Three thousand bishops agonized over this, and at the end of the day, they said that the church should never seek to impose its views. They should not have any shadow of coercion, renouncing 20 centuries of the church dominating the scene.” Granted, but there’s a huge difference between the Catholic Church “telling” Congress what to do, and individual representatives, informed by their Catholic beliefs, voting to do something. At least I thought it was a huge difference, but apparently the subtleties have escaped the good Father.

Yes, I know that’s rather uncharitable, but once again we have to remember that it is only though our public actions that we give others the opportunity to draw conclusions about us. What Fr. Drinan has told people in the confessional may well be responsible for saving hundreds of lives, and in the box he may be a shining example of Catholic charity. But, as I’ve said before, we have to live our lives according to our beliefs, and that includes the public lives of public servants. And you gotta believe something. Evidentially Fr. Drinan believes the Constitution of the United States, or the platform of the Democratic Party, makes that impossible. I do not.

But that’s getting a little far afield (I do seem to have that problem, don’t I?). Here’s another exchange:

(Videoclip) PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let us go forth to lead the land that we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. (End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own," Father. That's politics and religion together in a very clearly stated way.

REV. DRINAN: And I think that it--we all agree with that. The problem is when some religions say that you have to impose in the law our particular beliefs.
Yes, but once again Fr. Drinan has it all wrong. An example of what he’s talking about might be if the Catholic Church lobbied to have divorce outlawed because the Church doesn’t accept it, or pushed to have the Immaculate Conception made a public holiday. That’s an example of enforcing our “particular beliefs.” Last time I checked, though, murder wasn’t a particular belief of any particular denomination or sect. I haven’t been watching much TV lately though, so maybe I missed something.

Anyway, don’t listen to Fr. Drinan. It’s much more interesting to listen to Sen. Lieberman answering this question later in the show (we should also note that he said the Congress missed having Fr. Drinan there):

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a risk where politicians will say, "We must ban gay
marriage because God wills it? We must ban abortion because God wills it. We must not drill in the arctic wildlife because Adam and Eve say no"? Is there a risk in that?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I think that people have--this is another part of the First Amendment, everybody has a right to petition their government and to petition it in terms that are relevant to themselves. And some of that will be faith-based, some of it will be totally secularly based sense of justice or morality. I mean, the answer to the question that you posed to Father Drinan in the end is the democratic process will decide, Congress will decide, the courts will decide. But I think that the public square is greatly strengthened and enriched when people are prepared to speak, not just about secular notions of justice, but about the moral sense that our faith gives us. And again, I want to say that to me that is not un-American, that is very American. We are--our Constitution says we don't establish a religion, but it also says everybody has freedom of religion, and everybody has the right to speak their mind. And if your mind is faith-based, God bless you. Speak your mind.
Speak your mind. I like that. Unfortunately, not enough people share that opinion.

Of course, Lieberman has been wrong a lot in his political career (take the 2000 campaign, for example), but you have to give the man his due when he says something like this. And even if you don’t agree with everything he says here, it’s thought-provoking at the very least. There's also some other good stuff from other panelists. Mike says it’s essential reading, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Read the entire transcript here.

MH - Pope May Get Feeding Tube

Via AP. As Judie said, "How ironic."

MH - The Meaning of Labels

I've been reading The Corner at NRO this morning, looking at the emails some of their writers are getting because of their support for Terri Schiavo. Here's an excerpt from one: "You have exposed yourself as shill for the Christian Right. Where's the sanctity of marriage now you hypocrite?" And another: You are sadistic. It is none of your business that the husband wants to treat his wife like a human, while you prefer to treat her like a bunch of bones. No decent person would treat a sick dog like that . . . There is dignity in life, there must be dignity in death."

Now, one is at a loss as to how exactly to think about people like this. My first thought would be to ask why in the world these people are reading NRO in the first place? To have this kind of mindset seems kind of incompatible with the general philosophy of National Review. (The writers at NRO don't all agree on Schiavo, but at least they're intelligent and civil about it.) I know that there are people who read what "the other side" writes so they can keep in touch with the thinking of "the enemy camp," but for my money these are the kind of people who have way too much time on their hands.

There's a possibility, of course, that they're being provocative, playing devil's advocate, trying to elicit some kind of response. Now, that may be a generous assessment of them, I don't know. For my gut feeling, see comments above. Of course, there's always a third possibility - these people are idiots, stark-raving bonkers, or evil incarnate. (Which reminds me of a great Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy said to Linus "Your stupidity is appalling," to which Linus replied "Most stupidity is.") Many times you read comments like this and wonder what these people could have been thinking - if, indeed, they were thinking at all.

But let's suppose for a minute that they aren't agent provocateurs, aren't enemies of the state, and aren't wackos. What does that leave? Possibly the most disturbing thought - that people who apparently have decent conservative credentials, who consider themselves (at least in some cases) Christians, who share many of the moral convictions (such as they are) that are identified with conservatives, can be so far off base in this case.

You must tread cautiously with these people. Pin yourself too closely to "family values" politics, and they'll hit you for being against marriage when you suggest that Michael Schiavo should not be making the decisions for Terri. The fact that his actions throughout the whole affair have brought into question his own commitment to his marriage doesn't seem to matter to these people. They only see the mantra you use in your thought, and hit you over the head with it. Many "conservatives" have real problems with the Federal government interjecting itself into this situation - setting a dangerous precedent for future government intervention - and I'll agree that these concerns aren't without merit. I might counter that where life issues are concerned, the barn door's already open - it was government intervention that started it all in the first place - but that's beside the point now.

I hark back to Michael Moriarty's column yesterday, in which he said "Even the conservative, spasmodically pro-life voice of business has supported Terri's husband. The costs alone, like those of sheltering convicted murderers, make life support counterproductive to the community." Too often, when economics becomes the dominant aspect of your political theory, you reduce people to statistics, and the meaning of life to the bottom line of a balance sheet. Those people - popularly called "economically conservative, socially moderate" - tend to divorce the two wings of thought, and I think that is a huge mistake. Actions have consequences, and any school of thought that purports to guide your way of thinking and acting has to have a level of consistency that can take new and different situations into account and lead you to a logical yet moral conclusion.

Liberals are no different - pro-abortion types are afraid of supporting Terri because they fear it will weaken their overall "pro-death" philosophy. Those who have come out in her defense risk political alienation, and it's all because they might have chosen to apply a different set of standards than those allowed by the rigid ideologies of their fellow travelers. What I mean to suggest here is that many people, left and right, have a way of thinking that oftentimes makes no allowances for real people and situations. They look at everything in terms of being a lab experiment.

Fact is, politics has become too nuanced to be contained simply by labels. There has to be something larger, some more consistent set of values by which one can live his life. For me, that is the teaching of the Catholic Church. Once I adopted her set of values, understood what the Church taught and why, it changed my way of thinking - dramatically in some areas, barely noticeable in others, but it gave a consistency to my thought that had been previously lacking. No longer did I have to put together some kind of Rube Goldberg mental contraption that would allow me to justify my positions on various issues. Now I had something solid - natural law - that could help me to understand different situations and come to a Catholic appreciation of how to handle them.

That's why I've stressed that this is not a political blog, even though we deal with politics with some degree of frequency. Once you lay out a political agenda, identify yourself with one particular brand of political ideology, you're asking for trouble. I've always insisted that there has to be a certain kind of holistic thought involved in anyone's political thinking, a synergy that will on occasion transcend political and ideological labels.

I make no bones about the fact that I consider myself a political conservative. Although I don't hold to any specific party affiliation, most people would identify me with the Republicans (and it was as a Republican that I ran for state representative a few years ago). But many "conservative Republicans" would have trouble with my criticism of big business and capitalism that I've offered in my continuing essays on Distributism. (And just wait until I get to companies who promote abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, and other morally repugnant policies simply to make a profit.) When I was hosting my monthly television program on public access, I used to take heat from those who didn't appreciate my frequent criticism of Republicans whom I felt fell short in one area or another. Others would label me a "paleo-conservative," and I think that's closer to the point. Yet even there, we may differ when it comes to support for the war in Iraq, and the war on terrorism in general. My point here is not that I'm subscribing to a smorgasbord style of thinking - one from column A, two from column B - unless we're talking about a philosophy born of a consistency that will withstand logical scrutiny. Therefore, while those of you who are more politically inclined may see me as a "Republican" thinker, there will be many times when I'm harshly critical of positions one might associate with Republicans. Other times my thought will seem more liberal - or at least moderate. But no matter where I stand on an issue, I try to make sure that there is a consistent unity of thought to it.

Some might ask if this isn't similar to the "big-tent" approach that I've ripped so many times. But "big-tent" thinking tries to accommodate several varieties of truth. I prefer to take my cue from Our Lord, Who pointed out that the truth cannot contradict itself. There is only one Way, one Truth, one Light. If you use these as your guidelines, you can't go far wrong.

Monday, March 28, 2005

MH - The Heart of the Matter

Michael Moriarty - yes, the actor-turned-activist - has a good column on Terri today at the website Enter Stage Right. I bring you this for a couple of reasons: first, because I think it's a well-written column:
The visionaries of the postmodern world of the United Nations believe that the moral delusions of the entire Judeo-Christian civilization – America in particular – will be exposed as such and its memory relegated to a Dark Age, which will eventually be as relevant to man as his ancestor's evolution in the Cro-Magnon era. To these postmodern visionaries, the ultimate triumph of science is inevitable.

I personally believe that the zenith of this value system will face its Waterloo in the election year of 2008. The socialist federations of the United Nations – and the American scientists, artists and philosophers who agree with its ideology – will see a majority vote "no" to it for a third time. America's voters will elect another George W. Bush, who has clearly stated on several occasions that he opposes Terri's being taken off life support.

Second, I think it's worthwhile to bring different websites to your attention. I learned about this myself in a reference from Dawn Eden's blog. Now, I was probably the last person to learn about it - you're all probably wondering "where has Hadley been all these years?" I knew that Moriarty was quite outspoken, had left Law and Order and the country over disputes with Janet Reno over censorship - but the MSM had given me to believe that he was just something of a nutcase. Well, maybe he is - but people have said the same about me. One of the great things about joining the blogosphere is that been introduced to all kinds of new and interestig sites and articles that I really enjoy reading, and I hope you will too. I find Moriarty's writing provocative, usually right-on, and eminently quotable, as in this situation - one that encapsules many of the complaints about capitalism that I've been voicing in my Distributist series:
Even the conservative, spasmodically pro-life voice of business has supported Terri's husband. The costs alone, like those of sheltering convicted murderers, make life support counterproductive to the community. Therefore, the pro-capital punishment constituency will most likely welcome Terri's death. That she committed no crime is no more persuasive than a pro-choice woman's decision to abort her child for being an inconvenience to her lifestyle.

It sort of makes a weird kind of sense, doesn't it?

Well, not to me, but I'm a romantic. I believe that a human race without sentiment is worse than one with excessive sentimentality. The wheels of historical justice will eventually vindicate the intolerable pain that Terri's parents are now suffering.

Check this site out more often, especially some of their recent articles on Terri. I don't agree with them on everything - perhaps I'm not as staunch a capitalist and individualist as they are, and Moriarty's comment "the pro-capital punishment constituency will most likely welcome Terri's death," isn't right in my case, nor is it in many other cases. But as I said in my earlier post today, capital punishment is (or should be) an issue that people can debate and disagree about while maintaining a respectful, civil dialogue. Heck, as I suggested, I'd be more than willing to be convinced that the death penalty is unnecessary.

To conclude Moriarty's thoughts:
This will of course place the United States on the record as being for the heart of love and courage over the increasing obsession with the powers of human intelligence. The drama of Terri Schiavo will be a seminal chapter in America's Third Millennium History. That and the eventual overturning of an abomination devised by the Supreme Court – the Roe v. Wade decision of January 1973 – will mark an end to the intolerably deep inroads of an indifferent and scientifically tyrannical philosophy carved into an America that was originally founded upon our "inalienable right to life."

If Terri Schiavo isn't at the heart of the matter, then 1.5 million abortions in the United States each year have no more meaning than the death of one million Africans every year from starvation, ethnic cleansing and genocide, which the UN has neglected as indifferently as the Supreme Court rendered its decision to stop Terri Schiavo's heart.

MH - The Way of Suffering

The title of a very, very good column by Larry Kudlow at NRO. Kudlow, a Catholic convert and a man who has faced his own struggles over the years, is one of those few economists to grasp the subtle shades of life, that there is something to life beyond the raw numbers. Some economists may view Easter in economic terms, representing little more than lost revenue due to stores being closed, but Kudlow sees more to it than that. Doubtless being a convert has a little more than something to do with it.

I've been liking Kudlow more and more over the past few years, and never more so than in some of the things he's written regarding Terri. Read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:
“Bid to Save Terri Schiavo Is All But Finished.” That was the Easter morning headline in the Washington Times. But she will ultimately be saved, either in this life or the next. As Father Neuhaus suggests in his exploration, Schiavo’s suffering is another example of those “who in their troubles find themselves, as they say, at the foot of the cross.” Haven’t we all been there? Isn’t suffering in pursuit of God’s will the exact center of religious life? Isn’t the life of faith all about steep costs and consequential losses on the road to greater wisdom and a better, more faithful life?

For those who understand, accept, and believe in this, Father [Richard] Neuhaus is certainly right when he says, “If what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything.”

This just points out to me what the real meaning of the Schiavo affair is. It's true that for the country one of the major impacts is in the area of judicial power. There are, as many pundits have pointed out, major contradictions involved, ones that can find people keeping strange and unusual allies. But for me, what this really does is point out the strange (or maybe not so strange) dichotomy in our culture regarding life and death. We fear death, and at the same time we crave it. How can this be? My thought is that in the end, it all boils down to time. If you accept that, the rest falls into place.

Time, and how to manage it, has become a multi-billion dollar industry. We never seem to have enough of it, and we do whatever we can to enjoy it. We undergo medical procedures to extend it, we seek cosmetic aids to ignore the effects of it, we flaunt lifestyles that deny it. No matter how old you are, you want to live as if you were twenty, thirty, fourty years younger. The great enemy of time is death, and we do everything we can do deny it. What we truly want is immortality.

But what if we can't enjoy time? We talk about "the quality of life," which really means "the quality of our time." And if we can't have it the way we want it, then we take our lives and go home - or in this case, to the grave. Then we choose death, as if to say "it's our way or no way at all."

For those who believe this, of course, they fail to realize that the only Way that really counts is His Way, and to that end we must cooperate with it as much as possible. This, as Kudlow points out, means embracing suffering - not running away from it - when it comes our way. Some fail to, or refuse to, understand this. But death is a part of life, like it or not, and to a great extent the way we face death tells a lot about the way we approach life. The quality of life means different things to different people, but for those that have done their part, however great or small, to assist in the killing of Terri Schiavo, there is one, and only one, definition for the quality of life. It is their definition, and it is that intolerance that we will be forced to live with in the months and years ahead.

MH - The Fallacy of "The Seamless Garment"

Well, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is at it again. They're now looking at that old chestnut of the 80s, the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin's "Seamless Garment," that draws a kind of semi-moral equivalency between capital punishment and abortion.

"We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. We cannot defend life by taking life," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told a news conference last week in Washington, D.C. You remember Cardinal McCarrick, of course. He's the one who gave such a, shall we say, creative interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter regarding denial of communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. One might be tempted to wonder if Cardinal McCarrick is accurately representing the USCCB now, except for the fact that the bishops have, in every area throughout the years from tax reform to calls for a nuclear freeze, made their viewpoints distressingly clear.

Proponents of the anti-death penalty policy cite, in part, a recent Zogby Poll showing that Catholics are moving away from support of the death penalty. "In past surveys," Zogby said, "Catholic support for the death penalty was as high as 68 percent. In our November survey, we found that less than half of the Catholic adults in our poll now support the use of the death penalty." Of course, one has to ask whether bishops are now planning to run the American church based on public opinion polls. In that case, they'd better be willing to question the church's stand on abortion and divorce as well.

But it would be too easy to sit here and take potshots at some of these death penalty opponents. Easy, and ultimately pointless, because there is a serious issue here, one that deserves to be taken seriously even if some of its supporters do not. A great many people oppose capital punishment for very legitimate reasons, and while I might disagree with them, I have the utmost respect for them and their opinions. Surely this is an area where people can still have respectful disagreements. And let me be the first to state that this will not be a scholarly analysis of capital punishment – what it really boils down to is looking at what the church teaches and asking whether or not the United States meets the criteria that makes capital punishment virtually unnecessary.

For many, the “Seamless Garment” must be quite tempting. It unites the strongest points of the liberal opposition to the death penalty, which is offset by their almost fanatical devotion to abortion on demand; and the conservative pro-life movement, which is compromised by their attachment to sometimes harsh economic policies.

In uniting the two, half from column L and half from column C as it were, they must feel they get the best of both worlds. By eliminating the extremes, so goes the thought, they have created a philosophy that, precisely because it irritates so many in each camp, must be a sound one.

The Catholic Church has traditionally recognized the legitimacy of capital punishment, but during the reign of JPII, church teaching has become increasingly anti-death penalty. Cardinal McCarrick cited this rationale, saying that the Pope and other Catholic leaders believe the state "should forego this right if it has other means to protect society." He said that's the case in the United States.

Does all this mean that Catholics are bound, in good conscience, to oppose capital punishment? First, as always, let's take a look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say:
2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
In other words, while continuing to acknowledge that the state has the legal authority to put a prisoner to death, the church discourages the state from exercising this authority unless there is no other way to protect society - which, according to the CCC, is highly unlikely.

The Holy Father has driven this interpretation as part of his unending quest to reaffirm the dignity of the human individual. It should be noted that this is not an infallible declaration by the Holy Father - I don't know that it is even his interpretation of past teachings of the church. It’s his personal opinion. Of course, the opinions of the Pope count for a lot more than yours or mine - maybe ten or twelve times as much.

Why, then, do I appear to be disagreeing with him? Well, as learned as the Pope is, he is not an American, not familiar with the legal system in this country. And, notwithstanding Cardinal McCarrick, one has to ask whether it is in fact true that in the United States "cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

As a nation, we are reluctant to execute prisoners – those who think we’re trigger-happy should look at the ratio of executions to those on death row (according to the Department of Justice, 3,374 inmates were on death row in 2004, while only 59 were executed). And we should be reluctant when it comes to execution. Our legal system must be dedicated to ascertaining the guilt of the individual beyond a reasonable doubt – including automatic appeals and use of DNA and other technology. While the appeals system must be reformed and streamlined, there’s no question that we should be very, very sure of what we’re doing. Complete certainty, as is the case in all other walks of life, is impossible.

Some argue that executions cut short a life that could possibly be reformed while in prison. This may be true, although there’s no way to prove it. What we do know is that there are many cases of prisoners who have experienced a true conversion while awaiting execution. Impending death has a way of focusing the mind on what’s truly important – we’re familiar with stories of people suffering terminal illnesses who use the knowledge to put their spiritual house in order –make amends, set things straight, say what needs to be said while there is still time. Add to that the redemptive power of suffering (if encountered during that final journey) and one could argue that impending death becomes the great engine that powers conversion.

There are other pros and cons to the death penalty, but they are really tangential to our particular discussion. For the core of this argument relates to the ability of the state to secure some means of protecting society short of execution. And for that to be the case, the state must show both the means and the will to effect such a solution.

Is this the case? Are we really doing all that we can to keep society safe from homicidal criminals? This is not a rhetorical question, but one asked in true sincerity. I’m in full agreement with the Pope’s statement, provided that such a situation exists in the United States. Cardinal McCarrick and others say it does. I do not agree.

Too many times we put murderers behind bars for limited periods of time (in some states, the average sentence for murder is less than seven years). Overburdened penal systems are often forced to let prisoners out early in order to accommodate the increased flow. Murder victims such as Polly Klass, Dru Sjodin and Jessica Lunsford testify to the threat posed by released sex offenders. We've seen prisoners and prison guards terrorized and killed by inmates (and we should acknowledge that the dignity of man includes safety for those serving time in prison). And we know terrorists, like mob bosses before them, are often able to operate their organizations even from prison.

Faced with this, we must ask ourselves whether or not we truly have a situation in which "cases . . . are very rare, if practically non-existent." In fact, I would argue that we lack both the will and the means to enact a penal system engaged in "effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." In other words, the elements that make the death penalty an excessive form of punishment – fitting the definition set forth by the CCC and by JPII – do not exist here.

Perhaps if we had the determination to do what it took - for example, to introduce mandatory life-without-parole sentences for certain criminals guilty of offenses such as murder, child molestation, and terrorist acts, to more closely screen prisoners up for parole, and to take every step to ensure that those in prison pose as little threat as possible to others - I might agree that the death penalty is not necessary. But until this happens, my conclusion is that in this country we have not yet reached the Holy Father’s goal of being able to protect society without recourse to the death penalty.

Rather than calling for an end to capital punishment, perhaps the bishops would be better served by calling for genuine creation of a system that might truly make capital punishment an unnecessary alternative.

MH - Reflections on the Triduum Just Past

Welcome back from your Easter break, everyone. Remember when schools actually called it that? At some point it transitioned to "Spring Vacation," and I guess now it's become "Spring Break," which we all know is just a polite term for unrestrained orgies. Oh well, that's progress.

We hope you all had a nice Easter. We had a rare burst of springtime here, with sun all weekend and temperatures in the 50s - perfect weather to remind us of the spring rebirth that is implicit in the story of the Resurrection.

We attended the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, marking the end to a typically dramatic, emotional Triduum at St. Agnes. It started on Holy Thursday with the Solumn Mass of the Lord's Supper, as I mentioned last Thursday night. For the final time before the Vigil, the organ is played and bells are rung during the Gloria, one of the most memorable moments of Holy Thursday. After Fr. Zuhlsdorf chanted "Gloria in excelsis Deo," the organ played for over a minute, a very sinister-sounding solo riff (I wish I knew what piece it came from), while the church bells peeled and the Sanctus bells were rung, clanging away unseen as if they were the bells preceeding the appearance of Marley in A Christmas Carol, before the schola chanted the remainder of the Gloria. It was a moment of indescribable drama. There was Fr. Zuhlsdorf's homily, the washing of the feet of six of the Altar Boys, the solumn procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose, and the stripping of the altar. This merely set the stage for Good Friday.

What does one take away from Good Friday afternoon? The silent, solumn entrance; John's account of the Passion sung in Latin; the singing of the Improperia (Reproaches) during the Veneration of the Cross; and Allegri's Miserere sung during Communion, all as the sunshine of the late afternoon streamed in through the stained glass windows, and the dust particles danced in its beam as if they were remnants from so many Good Friday services through the years. Confessions were heard in the chapel downstairs, and there was something good about standing in the long lines in the silent room, watching the afternoon shadows lengthening, and being told by the priest that Christ died for us on this Good Friday afternoon so that our sins might be forgiven. Then, that evening, the final Stations of the Cross for Lent, and the opportunity to venerate relics of the True Cross.

I was struck by the Vigil Mass this year because we were still in March, still on Standard Time, and the church was totally dark when the small candles were lit at the beginning of the vigil, hundreds of pinpoints of light bobbing as if at sea, casting heat and light throughout the church. Fr. Zuhlsdorf sang the glorious Exsultet, the Litany of the Saints was chanted in Latin, the congregation renewed its baptismal vows (Fr. Altier reminded us to respond with conviction - "Let the Devil hear you!"), while the choir sang Josquin des Pres' Pange Lingua mass. The statues were unveiled, flowers adorned the altar and sanctuary.

Fr. Altier's homily was typically excellent, reminding us of the meaning of this night:
Therefore, Our Lord speaks to each one of us and says, You are the light of the world. He is the light of the world, and yet He tells each one of us that we are the light of the world. He also says, If the light is in you, then everything is bright; but if your light is darkness, how dark it is. On this night of the Resurrection, Our Lord has dispersed the darkness. He has broken through the chaos of death, and He has won for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He has called each one of us then to choose life, to choose supernatural life, to reject sin and to live according to the grace of God given to us through the Holy Spirit, Who is the gift of the risen Christ. Each one of us baptized into Christ shares already in His Resurrection, and we are called to live in this world of darkness as the light of the world, to live holy lives, to live Christ-like lives, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, to inspire us, to fill us with His light and with His love. Even in this world, as all of the pressures surrounding us tell us that we are to give in, that we are to be like everyone else, that we are to sin, the Holy Spirit within us tells us that we are to rise above death and darkness, that we are to shine like a brilliant light, and that the life which is given to us through water and the Holy Spirit is to help us to reject death and to spring up to life everlasting.

And with that we arrive at the joy of Easter.

In a time when darkness seems to be increasing hourly, casting its shadow across our world, it is good for us to remember Who has the power to dispel the darkness, and how He expects us to share in spreading His light. The forces of darkness will keep trying to beat us down, to make us tired, to fill us with despair, to spread darkness within us. As Terri faces her death, as so many other things around us invite us to taste of that despair, let us call on the energies given us during the Triduum and let the love of Our Lord fill us, refresh us, prepare us once again to do battle in His name.

Many times we will win and sometimes we will lose, but we will always fight the good fight, run the good race, and know that Our Lord is there at the finish line, arms outstretched as they were on the Cross, waiting with His Divine Mercy, waiting for us.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

MH & JH - Happy Easter

He'll be back on Sunday.

We'll be back on Monday.

MH - Falling Under the Good Friday Spell

"You see, that's not how it is. It is the tears of repentant sinners, that fall like holy dew today to moisten field and meadow; thus making them fertile. Now all creatures rejoice in visible signs of the Redeemer, to whom they dedicate their prayers. Since they cannot see Him on the Cross, they look up instead to man redeemed, who feels free from dread and the burden of sin because of God's loving sacrifice. The grass and flowers of the meadows notice that the foot of man does not trample them today, but that, as God, with heavenly patience and mercy, suffered for man, so mankind today in pious gratitude spares nature with gentle tread. Then all creatures give thanks, all that blooms and soon will fade, and nature now absolved from sin today enjoys its day of innocence." *

These words come from the Good Friday Music in Act III of Richard Wagner's final opera, 1882's Parsifal.

In 1858 Wagner wrote to Mathilde Wesendonk: "... if this suffering can have a purpose, it is simply to awaken a sense of fellow-suffering in man, who thereby absorbs the creature's defective existence and becomes the Redeemer of the world by recognizing the error of all existence. (This meaning will one day become clearer to you from the Good Friday morning scene in the third act of [Parsifal])."*

Parsifal was and remains one of Wagner's most controversial works, and also one of his most moving. (It's also, at an average running time of four-and-a-half hours - not including intermissions - one of the longest operas ever written.) And it's tempting to read too much into Parsifal. Tempting, and also dangerous. Although Wagner's references seem obviously to refer to Christ, others have said that they could apply to Buddist doctrine as well. In fact, if you read the libretto of the opera you'll notice that Parsifal himself speaks only of the Redeemer - in the famous Good Friday scene it is only Gurnemanz who mentions the name of God.

In addition, Wagner was, of course, a notorious anti-Semite, which makes Christian use of his words particularly dicey. And Wagner was never particularly accurate in his theology in the first place - he sees the Holy Grail as not only the vessel used by Jesus at the Last Supper, but also the receptacle for the Blood that flowed after He was pierced by the Spear. (The sacred Spear is also crucial to the plot of Parsifal.) Read this essay from the 2003 Met Opera broadcast of Parsifal for more on Wagner's confused theology.

On the other hand...

Some point to Wagner's use of Good Friday (rather than Easter) as the day of redemption as a further misunderstanding of Christianity. But here I think we may be onto something. As we have stated many times in these pages, Catholics have what is perhaps a unique insight into the nature and necessity of suffering. Wagner recognizes, even if it's only inadvertenty, that without Christ's sacrifice on Good Friday there can be no Easter Sunday. This is the purpose for which He was born: to suffer and die for our sins, so that in His Resurrection we might all be reborn into eternal life.

And with this it's perhaps time to cut to the chase. Although it may be impossible for us to ever know exactly what Wagner had it mind when he wrote Parsifal, the fact remains that Parsifal has always been associated with Easter. Most classical music radio stations play selections from it on Good Friday (usually an arrangement featuring the Prelude and Transformation Scene in Act I and the Good Friday music from Act III). When the Met stages it, it's done around Eastertime, with the radio broadcast on the Saturday before Palm Sunday and a performance on Good Friday itself. Whatever Wagner might have intended, the popular interpretation (such as it is) is that it is a Christian work.

And what a work. The music, some of Wagner's most stunning and lovely, emphasizes Alan Wagner's comment that "The contradictions melt away, transfigured, in the incredible beauty of his music." For those disposed to view it through a Christian lens, the symbolism and meaning are powerful and moving. For an opera there are unusually long stretches where there is no singing at all, just the "beauty of his music."

And the message is there: in the Act I commemoration of the Last Supper, and of Parsifal's sharing in the suffering of the Amfortas, ailing leader of the knights who serve as guardians of the Holy Grail (Parsifal feels in his heart the pain fron the wound in Amfortas' side, a wound that is the result of past sin, a wound that refuses to heal). In Act II, where the temptress Kundry attempts to seduce Parsifal into sin (as she had Amfortas) - first by an appeal to sensual pleasures with a kiss (the kiss of betrayal?), then by pity for the life she has led (having been cursed to eternal life for having mocked Christ on the Cross). In an echo of the Devil's tempting of Eve in the Garden ("your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."), Kundry tells Parsifal "If you are a redeemer, what evil stops you, from uniting with me for my salvation?" Parsifal resists Kundry's temptations and regains the Spear from the evil Klingsor. And in Act III, where after a search of many years (reflected in the slow, weary atmosphere of Wagner's music for the act's Prelude; music that you'd never hear at the beginning of a 4 1/2 hour opera), Parsifal relocates the knights of the Holy Grail, baptizes Kundry, and uses the Spear to heal the wound in the side of Amfortas, thus winning redemption both for Kundry (who finally can experience death, and therefore rest), and Amfortas (whose wound is healed by the relic of Christ's sacrifice).

As I said, one must be careful here. Christ is never mentioned by name - the description above is the Christian interpretation. But, as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has said, "The Catholic sensibility, however, going back to the patristic era and its happy use of 'the spoils of Egypt,' is inclined to embracing truth wherever it is found." And Parsifal is far from what one would describe as "the spoils of Egypt." If God is present in everything, then it's surely not hard to believe that the truth of His sacrifice is present in Parsifal as well, even if Wagner himself was confused about it.

In a letter to King Ludwig, Wagner wrote,

"Today is Good Friday again! - O, blessed day! Most deeply portentous day in the world! Day of redemption! God's suffering! Who can grasp the enormity of it? And yet, this same ineffable mystery - is it not the most familiar of mankind's secrets? God, the Creator, - he must remain totally unintelligible to the world: - God, the loving teacher, is dearly beloved, but not understood:- but the God who suffers, - His name is inscribed in our hearts in letters of fire; all the obstinacy of existence is washed away by our immense pain at seeing God suffering! The teaching which we could not comprehend, it now affects us: God is within us, - the world has been overcome! Who created it? An idle question! Who overcame it? God within our hearts, - God whom we comprehend1 in the deepest anguish of fellow-suffering!"
1(It might not be coindidental that Wagner makes a play on begreifen, to take in, and ergreifen, to grasp, which suggests Luther's translation of the first chapter of St. John's Gospel:Und das Licht scheint in der Finsternis, und die Finsternis hat's nicht ergriffen. [John 1:5])*
Ultimately, writing about Parsifal is one thing. Experiencing it is another. Wagner isn't to everyone's liking, of course (Mark Twain famously said that Wagner wasn't as bad as he sounded), but to experience the beauty and emotion present in the music he composed and the poetry he wrote for Parsifal is surely worth taking a chance. Watching the Met's version on DVD last Saturday night, one can't help but be stirred by the music and moved by the lyrics. Parsifal tells the rest of the story begun in other Easter productions, making it the perfect conclusion to our pre-Easter film festival.

In the dark days that we all know lie ahead, we can look back at the words with which I began this post: "the tears of repentant sinners, that fall like holy dew today to moisten field and meadow; [will make] them fertile. Now all creatures rejoice in visible signs of the Redeemer, to whom they dedicate their prayers . . . as God, with heavenly patience and mercy, suffered for man, so mankind today in pious gratitude spares nature with gentle tread. Then all creatures give thanks, all that blooms and soon will fade, and nature now absolved from sin today enjoys its day of innocence."

Let this be our meditation for Good Friday, as we reflect on the death of Christ on the Cross. And as we think of Terri Schiavo, and Pope John Paul II, and all our other friends, loved ones, and relatives in need. Tread softly and pray unceasingly, in the days and nights to come.

*This English translation and commentary are copyright © 2001 by Derrick Everett. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See this link for more.

MH - Holy Thursday

Fr. Zuhlsdorf was the celebrant at tonight's Mass. His homily was a reminder that tonight is the anniversary of both the institution of the Eucharist through the Mass, and the creation of Holy Orders. Without the Church, there is no Priest. Without the Priest, there is no Eucharist.

He also quoted from the Holy Father's Holy Thursday letter to priests:
In priestly spirituality, this expectation must be lived out through pastoral charity, which impels us to live in the midst of God's People, so as to direct their path and to nourish their hope. This task requires from the priest an interior attitude similar to that of the Apostle Paul: "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal'' (Phil 3:13-14). The priest is someone who, despite the passing of years, continues to radiate youthfulness, spreading it almost "contagiously" among those he meets along the way. His secret lies in his ``passion'' for Christ. As Saint Paul said: "For me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21).

As the Holy Father said, "Vocations will certainly not be lacking if our manner of life is truly priestly, if we become more holy, more joyful, more impassioned in the exercise of our ministry. A priest 'won' by Christ (cf. Phil 3:12) more easily 'wins' others, so that they too decide to set out on the same adventure."

Finally, Fr. Zuhlsdorf spoke to the 30 altar boys who were part of tonight's procession. St. Agnes is famous around the world for the beauty of our liturgy, and our altar boys are one major reason why. People see the responsbility they carry during the Mass, and the reverance with which they go about it. Fr. Zuhlsdorf reminded them that they were all an inspiration and a reminder to the priests of St. Agnes, and that the priests in return would continue to serve them and the parishioners of St. Agnes in their spiritual needs. Since St. Agnes has produced 25 priests in the last 25 years and currently has 11 young men in the Seminary, they too receive inspiration from serving at Mass.

Now the church is darkened. Confessions are being heard until midnight. Christ is reserved in the side altar, and the high altar and sanctuary have been stripped. It is a lonely place without Him there, and it will be lonelier still tomorrow. Don't let Him be alone - join Him tomorrow on His Way of the Cross.

MH - Our Assignment As Part of Holy Week

Hadleyblogger Mike emails with some comments that we all can take to heart:
You know I think about faith, and I'm struck by something . . . We should be [praying for Michael Schiavo]. The hardest part about being a Christian is in praying for him. I'm sure you'll find a better way of linking this to the Holy Week, so I'll leave that up to you.

Actually, Mike puts it pretty well. If left entirely to me, I'd probably make a shambles of what needs to be said, but fortunately Our Lord left us with the words:
"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Matthew 5:43-48]

Most of you are already probably doing this. It's something that I've always had trouble with, and maybe this Holy Week gives me an opportunity to work harder on it. If Michael is the evil man that many have portrayed him as, we must, as Christians, pray for his conversion. If he is not, however - if he sincerely thinks he's doing the right thing - all the more reason to pray for this misguided man, that the truth of God comes to him, a truth that can never contradict itself. After all, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And we must also pray for those who wish the pro-life movement malice, who (as Peggy Noonan put it earlier today) are in love with death. While death is not to be feared, neither should it be embrased as an alternative to life.

The tragedy of this whole situation is that so many lives are being hurt by it. Our hope is in the knowledge that God can bring good from any situation. Let us finally pray for the grace and the wisdom to accept the good that He will reveal from this.

MH - Happening Here and Now

Dawn Eden shares an email from a reader who finds the truth about Terri in the words of Chesterton. GKC's description of the crowd that gathered around the Cross on Good Friday:
The mob went along with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the philosophers and the moralists. It went along with the imperial magistrates and the sacred priests, the scribes and the soldiers, that the one universal human spirit might suffer a universal condemnation; that there might be one deep, unanimous chorus of approval and harmony when Man was rejected of men.
We wonder how that could have happened, just as we ask how an event like the Holocaust could have happened in our "enlightened" age, while at the same time America is engaged in a holocaust of its own against its unborn, its elderly, and its disabled. But the events of the last week are indeed playing themselves out in this country, and will continue to do so long after Terri Schiavo's life has ended.

Well, perhaps "long after" is a little bit of a stretch. It may not take that long. The concluding comments echo what I've been thinking, but this says it with a much greater impact:
But America today is like Rome was then - the best and highest accomplishment of human beings, and yet it's still not enough. It's failing the test, and in the same way that Rome failed. If 'the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world' is not a fair description of America, I don't know what is, and yet this is where it has brought us. We know what came after Rome; what can come after America, I don't know, but I do think that THIS America is not one that can resist the avalanche that's just started under its feet.
I've quoted Jefferson before (and, by the way, what must the Founders think of all this?), and I'll do it again: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever." After Pearl Harbor Admiral Yamamoto said (or at least is credited with saying) "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." How ironic that we are now in Japan's shoes, awaiting the terrible resolve of God's awakened justice.

MH - In Love With Death

The title of another dead-on column by Peggy Noonan. Is there another writer around who can cut to the heart of the matter and see what's really important in the way she can? Here are some excerpts, but by all means read the whole column.
God made the world or he didn't.

God made you or he didn't.

If he did, your little human life is, and has been, touched by the divine. If this is true, it would be true of all humans, not only some. And so--again, if it is true--each human life is precious, of infinite value, worthy of great respect.

Most--not all, but probably most--of those who support Terri Schiavo's right to live believe the above. This explains their passion and emotionalism. They believe they are fighting for an invaluable and irreplaceable human life.


Everyone who has written in defense of Mrs. Schiavo's right to live has received e-mail blasts full of attacks that appear to have been dictated by the unstable and typed by the unhinged. On Democratic Underground they crowed about having "kicked the sh-- out of the fascists." On Tuesday James Carville's face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren't a buffoon.

Why are they so committed to this woman's death?

They seem to have fallen half in love with death.


I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the stop-abortion-please people.

The PETA people, who say they are committed to ending cruelty to animals, seem disinterested in the fact of late-term abortion, which is a cruel procedure performed on a human.

I do not understand why the don't-drill-in-Alaska-and-destroy-its-prime-beauty people do not join forces with the don't-end-a-life-that-holds-within-it-beauty people.

I do not understand why those who want a freeze on all death penalty cases in order to review each of them in light of DNA testing--an act of justice and compassion toward those who have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law--are uninterested in giving every last chance and every last test to a woman whom no one has ever accused of anything.


Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.

Once you "know" that--that human life is not so special after all--then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.

MH - An End to Democracy?

Catholics in the Public Square reminds us of the provocative 1996 First Things symposium on "The End of Democracy? - The Judicial Usurpation of Politics." As Christopher tells us,
"The stated purpose of the symposium was not to advocate 'noncompliance to resistance to civil disobedience to morally justified revolution,' but to question the future prospects of a country host to 'a growing alienation of millions of Americans from a government they do not recognize as theirs . . . an erosion of moral adherence to this political system' and 'the displacement of a constitutional order by a regime that does not have, will not obtain, and cannot command the consent of the people.' "

This symposium was much-discussed at the time, and in light of the reprehensible court rulings regarding Terri, this seems a timely reminder. Excerpt:
The government of the United States of America no longer governs by the consent of the governed. With respect to the American people, the judiciary has in effect declared that the most important questions about how we ought to order our life together are outside the purview of "things of their knowledge." Not that judges necessarily claim greater knowledge; they simply claim, and exercise, the power to decide. The citizens of this democratic republic are deemed to lack the competence for self-government. . . .

Take some time and read the whole discussion here. If one suspects, as I do, that some type of Divine Retribution may be in the offing, then one might also ask if it will be even harder to convince Christians that this is a country worth fighting for.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Doctor Who and Symbols of Christ

By Mitchell

My friend Badda-Blogger emailed me this essay (when he told me about his ideas I replied that he had to write it up and send it to me), which I am delighted to share with all of you. You might remember Badda - he's the one who came up with the provocative analysis that found links between Frosty the Snowman and the Resurrection of Christ. Well, he's done it again, this time with a series that ranks as an all-time favorite of us both, the British sci-fi classic Doctor Who. After reading this you might be prompted to check the show out. Conversely, you might think we're both crazy. Be that as it may, I thought it was time for a change of pace from our previous posts. Enjoy!


Springtime typically conjures up images of rebirth… the end of winter and the return of green grass, not to mention the rediscovery of our driveways. The Resurrection of Jesus plays heavily in the Catholic faith, of course. Now we see another return… that is, if you are a science fiction television fan. The long running, but long missed, British series Doctor Who comes back to television this Saturday (at least in Great Britain) after an absence of almost nine years.

For anyone who knows nothing of Doctor Who, it started in November of 1963 (the first episode was aired the day after the assassination of John Kennedy) as an adventure in time travel and other worlds. Stories alternated between historical settings like the Aztecs or the French Revolution and science fiction-styled adventures. Each type of story would hopefully entertain families and spark an interest in historical events and science. Over the course of 26 years the main character, the Doctor, remained fairly mysterious although the series revealed him to be an alien from the future. He is only known as the Doctor, he comes from the planet Gallifrey, and he is part of a class of Gallifreans known as Time Lords who can change their appearance(regenerate) after severe injuries or accidents. Time Lords are pledged to non-interference (because of their vast powers), but the Doctor can not resist meddling in the affairs of the downtrodden… especially those on Earth. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after its 26th season. (For more information about Doctor Who just do a web search, look on the BBC website, or visit Outpost Gallifrey (at, or check the Doctor Who link on the sideboard for more details than you probably care to know.)

In 1996, the Doctor returned to TV screens in the form of a one-off movie put together by the BBC, Fox, and Universal in the hopes that after seven yeras, American and British audiences were ready for a new series. For one reason or another, the series was not to be. However, the movie did succeed in rekindling interest that spawned more stories of the time-traveling Doctor in books and audio recordings.

You probably wonder why anyone would even think of comparing a fictitious do-gooder with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Firstly, I’m a Catholic who grew up with the Doctor so I’m very excited to see his triumphant return. Secondly, the comparison has already been made in the television movie.

Don’t get the wrong idea. No one really thinks Christ is a time-traveling alien, nor does anyone believes the Doctor brings redemption for our souls. Some of our greatest heroes can be modeled after the Savior. Consider the similar comparison to the film superhero Superman. Really, it’s all for fun, to honor our heroes, and to honor Christ. Some fans will grumble that I’m justa Red State, Bible-thumping, Jebuz worshiper desperate to force my beliefs into my surroundings. I respond with: whatEVER. ;) (Such folks are often easily annoyed… just tell them you will pray for them and they get unhinged.)

The first possible allegory in the film is the Doctor’s regeneration. The Old Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) has died on an operating table and has been locked up in the morgue’s fridge. His face twists into his new form (Paul McGann) as he regenerates... the regeneration is obviously symbolic of The Resurrection. Shortly after, he breaks out of the room while wearing his shroud - symbolic of Christ’s tomb. The Doctor walks into a storm-tossed locker room where he sees his (new and unfamiliar) image in a few mirrors... he collapses on his knees and shouts, "Who... am... I?" Rephrase that into “I am who?”...hmmm, we've probably heard that somewhere before. (I understand this may beforcing a square peg into a round hole, but you can see why I might want to force-fit this example.) The shot eventually pulls out to reveal the New Doctor with his arms outstretched in a manner similar to his crucifixion.

To play with numbers for a moment, note that Time Lords can regenerate twelve times... a welcome number to Christians as it evokes the apostles. This means that Time Lords have thirteen incarnations... Christ and the apostles makes thirteen. (Just for reference, the Old Doctor was the seventh body and the New Doctor is the eighth.)

Eventually, the Doctor meets the medical doctor who operated on him, Grace Holloway (make of her name what you will). The Doctor tries to convince Grace that he is a Time Lord, comes from the planet Gallifrey, has two hearts, and has come back from the dead. Grace states that only children would believe someone can come back from the dead. (Of course, Christ often said you had to have the faith of a child.) To her surprise, the Doctor confronts her with the fact that she became a doctor because of her childhood dream that she could hold back death. How would he know that if he apparently only just met her? Perhaps the Doctor learned a little something about Dr. Holloway in his travels... that's believable in Doctor Who, I guess. However, such knowledge (and similar knowledge of other characters in the movie) is also symbolic of divine omnipotence. (Later in the movie, the Doctor tells a young security guard that he shouldn't answer the easiest looking essay question on his upcoming college literature exams, and he tells a young friend, Chang Lee, to avoid San Francisco on New Year's Eve in 2000.)

The next Christ reference comes when the Doctor's arch-enemy, the Master, plots against the Doctor in his time travel machine called the TARDIS. The Master, like the Doctor, is a Time Lord from Gallifrey, but he is evil - he no longer can regenerate like the Doctor, and is forced to possess and take over a human body to cheat death. (Read into that what you will.) When the Doctor mentions the Master to Grace, she specifically asks, "Is he like the Devil?" She asks in disbelief though, as if she's humoring a madman.

(Of course, I remember a friend refer to C.S.Lewis' comments on whether Jesus was the Christ. Said Lewis, he's either lying, crazy, or telling the truth. If I remember correctly, the Doctor never appears to lie in this movie.)

Back to the next reference. The Master has snuck into the Doctor’s TARDIS to spy on the Doctor with the Eye of Harmony (see below). He sees the Doctor's eye and retinal pattern, which looks like a human eye. The Master says this means the Doctor must be half-human. What does this suggest? Well, Christ is both God and man. The reference with the Doctor is that he is both human and Gallifrean, a mortal and a Time Lord. While alien and very different from us, he is also like us, and shows genuine affection for Earth and humans. In a sense, he loves us and frequently struggles to protect us and keep the world safe. The Doctor even admits to someone (with Grace nearby) that his is half-human on his mother's side. Well, of course he is. If we use the Doctor as a reference to the Christ, he simply must have a human mother ... Mary, Mother of Jesus is the obvious answer.

When the Master meddles with the TARDIS and the Eye of Harmony, strange things begin to occur, such as the Doctor being able to walk through a large glass window. This is hardly walking on water, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. Further evidence of weird goings-on: news reports of catastrophic weather such as record-breaking tide levels, flood warnings, and snow in Hawaii. Of course, we’re familiar with disastrous floods in the Bible.

In the last third of the film, the Master captures the Doctor after taking over Grace's will. He orders Grace to attach a bizarre looking metal device to the Doctor's head so his eyes will be forced open. The thing fits around his head with spikes (or nails) securing it in place... of course, it looks like the Crown of Thorns.

Obviously the Doctor gets free, Grace shakes off the Master's possession, and Chang Lee discovers the Master's evil nature. After all this, the Master kills both Lee and Grace. Eventually, the Master is sucked into the Eye of Harmony and is defeated (and probably dies). With the power of the Eye of Harmony, the Doctor brings both Lee and Grace back to life... just like Lazarus.

Let me go out on a limb for a minute. One element of the film's plot involves a colossal power source within the Doctor's TARDIS, the time machine he travels in. The power source is called the Eye of Harmony... which may not be symbolic of anything, especially considering the name was used in the series many years ago. However, I wonder if something is up.

The Eye of Harmony may only be opened by a human, and neither the Doctor nor the Master can do it since they are both Time Lords. Since they're humans, both Grace and Chang Lee can open the Eye, and they're forced by the Master to do it. The Master hopes to use the open Eye to steal the Doctor's remaining regenerations, after which he will force the Doctor to look into the Eye. If that happens, the Doctor says, his soul will be destroyed. Not only that, if the Eye isn't closed Earth will be sucked through it... which must mean the end of the world.

Could the Eye of Harmony represent... I don't know, salvation, redemption, forgiveness, heaven, the end times? It must be something even the Master (a Time Lord, and thus greater than mortals) cannot attain on his own. He's trying to steal the Doctor's lives... perhaps he's stealing souls, and he can only do this with the Eye of Harmony, which he can only open with the aid of humans. Is there some kind of connection between Satan corrupting man to steal souls, to prevent souls from entering Heaven, to keep souls from triumphantly earning a place in the presence of God?

I'm probably reading a little too much into the Eye of Harmony, or if I'm not I'm probably getting needlessly complicated. However, am I reading too much into the references to Christ? I think not. In fact, the story was set in the days before January 1st, 2000... a date some speculated would see the Second Coming of the Christ since it was a rollover year. (Of course, the new millennium actually occurred on January 1st, 2001... but who's counting?)

The film might have more references, but I haven't really gone over it with a fine tooth comb. In addition, since so many Doctor Who fans (like many sci-fi types) seem to bristle at the thought of any Christ reference, my online fan resources are a little limited. You might very well think that Doctor Who fans (and sci-fi fans in general) cannot tolerate Christianity... I couldn't possibly comment. ;) Actually, I was fairly surprised how many conservative, Republican, religious, and/or Christian fans there are out on the web, but I was also fairly surprised at how many contrarians there are, too. (To be fair, most of them are pretty well behaved and have a good sense of humor.)

Happy Easter to everyone... and welcome back to the Doctor! It's been a long time since May 1996.
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