Saturday, December 28, 2013

AB Cordileone to Introduce Benedict XVI Institute on Epiphany Sunday

Great news from the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco!

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will celebrate Epiphany Vespers and introduce the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship on Sunday January 5:

Epiphany Vespers with Archbishop Cordileone
January 5, 2014 (4PM)
St Sebastian’s Catholic Church
373 Bon Air Rd, Greenbrae, CA 94904-1709

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will introduce the new Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. Fr. Samuel F. Weber, OSB will give a talk on the spirituality of chant. Afterwards, we will celebrate vespers with the Archbishop. Refreshments will be provided.

For the latest updates, visit:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Equality at the Expense of Sanity: Women in the USMC Can't Do Pull-ups so USMC Changes Rules

From CNSNews:

Female Marines Not Required to do One Pull-Up

"Females in the Marine Corps currently are not required to do even a single pull-up, and a deadline mandating that by Jan. 1, 2014, they be able to do at least 3 pull-ups as part of their training has been delayed for at least a year, the Corps quietly announced on social media....

Currently, “women aren’t able to make the minimum standard of three pull-ups,” Marine spokesman Capt. Eric Flanagan told Fifty-five percent of female recruits tested at the end of boot camp were unable to do three pull-ups (1 percent of male recruits also failed)...."

Emphasis added. At the end of USMC boot camp they can't do three pull-ups. That's amazing. I'm 56 and can do eight pull-ups, and could do plenty more with a little practice.

"Pull-ups have been used to test Marines’ upper body strength for over 40 years. The ability to pull-up one’s own body weight over a bar shows the upper body strength that, in combat, is needed to lift fallen comrades, pull one’s self over a wall, and carry heavy munitions. Combat Marines also carry a pack that weighs around 90 pounds, with gunners carrying an additional 50 or 60 pounds."

Again, emphasis added. I've spoken with Marines. They know the rules for women in the Corps are absurd and very dangerous.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

May you have a blessed Christmas, and may Mary, Help of Christians be your guide throughout the New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

USF’s Privett Compares “Vagina Monologues” to “Grammar School Christmas Pageant”

Departing President Gives Farewell Interview

The winter 2013 issue of USF Magazine, the magazine of the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco, profiled the school’s departing President, Fr. Stephen A. Privett. The interview began:

“USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., believes the time has come for new leadership at the university. Now in his 14th year as president—one of the longest tenures in USF history—he has formally announced that he will not renew his contract. This decision is not a surprise. When he renewed his contract in 2009, the USF Board of Trustees reluctantly agreed that his third five-year term would also be his last. The board has launched a search for Fr. Privett’s successor. Fr. Privett is a man of conviction, and he says what he thinks. That was on full display in his three-hour interview with USF Magazine.”

The laudatory interview mentioned almost none of the things that readers of the Cardinal Newman Society, LifeSiteNews, or California Catholic Daily would associate with Fr. Privett’s name. An exception was a question about “The Vagina Monologues.” When asked “Why does USF stage the Vagina Monologues when other Catholic universities have banned it?” Privett began his response: “As I tell our students, the Vagina Monologues has all the appeal of the annual grammar school Christmas pageant. It’s the same old thing year after year….”

Privett’s comparison of sixth graders singing Silent Night to a play which includes an approving scene of a teenager being sexually abused by an adult can be interpreted in one of three ways.

If we take him seriously, Privett either means he finds a play which approves of teenagers being sexually abused by adults as cute as sixth graders singing Silent Night. Alternatively, it can mean that he finds sixth graders singing Silent Night as disgusting as a play which approves of teenagers being sexually abused by adults.

The third possibility is that he is speaking ironically. In that case, it’s the response of a jaded sophisticate, way too hip and morally blasé to understand why either Eve Ensler or faithful Catholics would take “The Vagina Monologues” seriously, let alone why anyone at all might take a “grammar school Christmas pageant” seriously. He is not concerned with the content of “The Vagina Monologues” nor of a grammar school Christmas pageant but only that it’s “the same old thing year after year….”

The comment crystallizes Fr. Privett’s enfeebled sense of morality. It is a fitting coda to his Presidency.

The article also included a timeline of USF events during his presidency that either the interviewer or Privett thought important. The timeline did not include the closing of the school’s graduate program in Theology; the disemboweling of the school’s St. Ignatius Institute; the appointment as Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies an open homosexual who left the Catholic Church to be ordained priest in a “Catholic” church not in communion with Rome; or the appointment of an open homosexual as Executive Director of University Ministry. It also did not list the hosting of any number of speakers, conferences, and guests, far too many to name here, who hold and promote positions in direct opposition to the Catholic faith, nor did it indicate that on at least two occasions speakers/groups were hosted in direct opposition to the wishes of then-Archbishop George Niederauer.

The search for a new President of the Jesuit University is underway. Those interested may visit: The webpage also accepts nominations for the position.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"You don’t get to pretend to enter into a gay 'marriage' and go on running a Catholic High School"

In Truth and Lies, Nature and Convention: The Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage, professor Jon Corvino, a supporter of same-sex "marriage" wrote: "Whichever side prevails in this debate, the other’s views will be marginalized. There’s no getting around that."

Which brings us to Archbishop Peter J. Sartain of Seattle, God bless him, who realizes what it takes to protect the faith today. A vice-principal at one of Seattle's archdiocesan high schools, is pretending to "marry" another man. In accordance with archdiocesan rules, that is grounds for dismissal. Needless to say, anti-Catholics are upset about this. Mark Shea, who lives in that archdiocese (and whose words we use as the title of this blog post) writes:

Your prayers for our Abp Sartain and the Seattle Archdiocese would be appreciated

"He’s a very good man and a very good bishop and he’s stuck with the crappy, thankless job of having to say to Seattle-style Catholics who see no conflict between the Faith and gay “marriage” that there is in fact such a conflict and you don’t get to pretend to enter into a gay “marriage” and go on running a Catholic High School. Seattle media and a large portion of his flock will treat him like an ogre. A real shame since he’s, you know, right."

One way to help the Archbishop is through the Archdiocesan Crozier Society. They describe themselves "Catholic leaders from around the archdiocese who support the Archbishop, and help fund seminarian formation." Here's a link to their donations page.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

More Homoactivist Totalitarianism: Phil Robertson

Many times on A Shepherds Voice we have documented the totalitarian nature of the homosexualist movement. The latest: Phil Robertson, of the TV show "Duck Dynasty" which is on the A&E cable channel, has been suspended from the show for stating his opinion that homosexual acts are sinful.

The outpouring of support for Mr. Robertson has been tremendous--as of this writing a Facebook page supporting him has received more than 1.2 million "likes." In addition to the everyday people who have liked the Facebook page, prominent people have supported Mr. Robertson. Among them is feminist Camille Paglia, who said:

“To express yourself in a magazine in an interview — this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades,” Paglia said. “This is the whole legacy of free speech 1960’s that have been lost by my own party.”

The situation also allows us to highlight another of the lies homosexual activists have to tell to support their irrational position. Mr. Chad Griffin, president of The Human Rights Campaign said:

"Phil Robertson's remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations," president Chad Griffin said in a statement. "We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful.

That's empirically untrue, as the number of ex-same sex attracted persons proves. Even the homosexualist  OUT magazine has an article about Charline de Blasio, the black wife of new NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio titled "When Bill de Blasio's wife was a lesbian." Mrs. de Blasio is no longer a lesbian, or in the more elastic terminology of today, no longer "identifies" as a lesbian.

She is still, however, as photographs show, black. That's not something one "identifies" as. It's just an observable, unchangeable fact. It demonstrates the fallacy of homosexual activists' attempt to co-opt the civil rights struggle of African Americans.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

John Podesta's Blood Libel: Democrat Compares Republicans to "Jonestown"

On Tuesday, John Podesta, a senior advisor to President Obama compared his political adversaries to Jim Jones, founder of the People's Temple.USA Today reported:

 "(in an article)... by Politico Magazine, Podesta is quoted comparing Republicans to the infamous cult led by Jim Jones, who was responsible for the 1978 cyanide poisoning of more than 900 of his followers in Guyana.

"They need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress," said Podesta of what Obama's White House team faces. Jonestown was the informal name of the settlement founded by Jones and his American followers.

On Wednesday, Podesta apologized for his impolitic comment.

'In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected.'"

As a native San Franciscan, I am quite familiar with the People's Temple. More than that, for a year, I attended Opportunity High, a public "alternative" high school, whose faculty were quite friendly to Jim Jones. A couple of years after I left, a large number of People's Temple children enrolled at Opportunity. A number of these young people were among the hundreds dead in Jonestown. A book has been written about the Opportunity High/Jim Jones connection by Opportunity teachers Judy Bebelaar and Ron Cabral. I remember both teachers well. Here's a timeline accompanying the book, called "And Then They Were Gone."

California Democrats would like everyone to forget their ties to Jim Jones and the People's Temple. Why let them rewirite history? Here's a short lesson:

San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, Democrat, Jim Jones, Lt. Governor Mervyn Dymally, Democrat.

California Speaker of the Assembly (later San Francisco Mayor) Willie Brown, Democrat, at left.
Jim Jones is at far right.

California Governor Jerry Brown, Democrat, and Jim Jones,

Again, Mayor George Moscone, Democrat, with Jones.

Letter from "gay saint" Supervisor Harvey Milk, a Democrat, in support of Jones.

First Lady Rosalyn Carter (center), wife of Democratic President Jimmy Carter, with Jones (right).

We have written about this before, here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

16th Century Nativity Scene Features People With Down Syndrome

This is from a post by Erna Albertz, writing at the Riftom website.

"In 1515 the painting 'The Adoration of the Christ Child,' was created by a follower of the Dutch painter Jan Joest of Kalkar. A close look at the artwork reveals two characters who appear to have Down syndrome. One a shepherd–looking down at the scene from behind a post at the center of the painting–and the other an angel standing beside the mother Mary, these two participants in the nativity are situated in what would seem to be places of honor. Because the painter is unknown, his motive for placing them there can only be surmised. He may have had a child with Down syndrome or simply known individuals with the condition. At that time, the syndrome also may not have been formally diagnosed as it is today. What seems beyond doubt is that he felt they belonged there, in the midst of the holy scene."

Ms. Albertz is not the first observer to note the presence of people with Down Syndrome in the painting--in responding to a comment to her article, she notes some scholars had written about it in 2003. 

What a lovely Christmas picture by the unknown artist!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Church Fifth Column Rewrites Vatican Family "Survey" for own Agenda

This article, to which we contributed, appeared in today's California Catholic Daily.
Vatican survey used as propaganda tool
LGBT efforts to skew results

The November 28, 2013 issue of San Francisco’s homosexualist Bay Area Reporter published an article titled “Vatican asks Catholics for views on marriage.”
The BAR article began “In yet another indication of a changing Catholic Church, the Vatican is asking members of the laity their views on marriage and family life – and a whole lot more.
“News of Pope Francis’s wish to hear from the faithful on a variety of topics – including same-sex marriage, contraception, cohabitation, divorce, and remarriage – broke in a recent story in the National Catholic Reporter.
From coast to coast, reaction from LGBTs is “uniformly positive…”
The Vatican document Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context  of Evangelization begins: “The mission of preaching the Gospel to all creation, entrusted directly by the Lord to his disciples, has continued in the Church throughout history. The social and spiritual crisis, so evident in today’s world, is becoming a pastoral challenge in the Church’s evangelizing mission concerning the family, the vital building-block of society and the ecclesial community. Never before has proclaiming the Gospel on the Family in this context been more urgent and necessary. The importance of the subject is reflected in the fact that the Holy Father has decided to call for a Synod of Bishops, which is to have a two-staged itinerary: firstly, an extraordinary general assembly in 2014, intended to define the status quaestionis and to collect the bishops’ experiences and proposals in proclaiming and living the Gospel of the Family in a credible manner; and secondly, an ordinary general assembly in 2015 to seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family.”

At the bottom of the document is a series of questions that “allows the particular churches to participate actively in the preparation of the extraordinary synod.” Certain Catholics have apparently taken “active participation” to mean rewriting the survey for use in furthering their political agenda within the Church. Anti-family groups have issued their version of the survey and will forward the results to Rome. The group includes Call to Action, New Ways Ministry, DignityUSA, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, and others. These groups’ survey can be accessed through the National Catholic Reporter. The introduction reads:  “As organizations committed to ensuring that all Catholics have a voice in Church governance and policy, we want to make sure that you have a chance to have your voice heard on these important matters. In order to do that, we have developed an online survey that reflects the original intent of the survey sent by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri for you to complete. Questions marked with * have been added for additional information, and were not part of the original bishops’ survey.”
That the anti-family survey “reflects the original intent” is not true. This survey was far more interested in controlling the response than was the Vatican document. The Vatican document had no “multiple choice” answers–Catholics could respond in any way they liked.  By contrast, 23 of the 49 questions in the Call to Action survey have multiple-choice answers, followed by a ‘comment” field. Multiple-choice surveys, which restrict the range of possible responses, are a well-understood instrument for producing prefab results.
In the Vatican document, question 8a reads: “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?”  No such question appears in the anti-family survey. In fact, neither the words “Jesus” nor “Christ” appear in this survey.
Here’s an example where the LGBT survey did not use an asterisk—indicating they did not consider it an “added” question. Question 5b in the Vatican document reads: “What is the attitude of the local and particular churches towards both the state as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?” Survey takers were invited to respond in any way they liked. But in the CTA survey the same question (#30) was presented as: “What is the attitude of the following towards marriage equality?”  “The following” were then disaggregated answer categories. The first three (of six) answer categories were: “Attitude of my diocese toward marriage equality,” then “Attitude of my parish toward marriage equality,” then “Attitude of my small faith community toward marriage equality.” The multiple-choice responses were: “Hostile and Condemning”; “Negative”; “Neutral/NA”; “Somewhat supportive”; or “Highly supportive”.
In the first three answer categories, although the question itself was deliberately spun, there was a logical relation to the question. The answer categories simply investigated the question at diocesan, parish, and small faith group levels. But in the second set of three answer categories new factors are introduced that have nothing to do with marriage, or even same-sex “marriage,” at all. The next three answer categories to the same question “What is the attitude of the following towards marriage equality?” were: “Attitude of my diocese toward same-sex couples” then “Attitude of my parish toward same sex couples in a committed partnership” then “Attitude of my small faith community toward same sex couples in a committed partnership.”  Those three categories of persons are not found in the Vatican’s question, which concerned people in same-sex civil unions. They aren’t even found in Call to Action’s own question “What is the attitude of the following towards marriage equality?” In a serious survey those questions would be seen as senseless, but this pro-homosexual survey is designed as a propaganda tool.

20 Year High in U.S. Vocations! Thank you JP2 & Pope Emeritus Benedict!

The Wall Street Journal interviews Christopher White, author of "Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops is Revitalizing the Catholic Church" about the wonderful number of vocations in the Church. Let's hope the trend continues under Pope Francis!

 You can watch the video below. Hat tip Fr. Z.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Some “Obsession” required: Hispanic abortion rate shows more episcopal leadership needed

On September 19, 2013, the New York Times reported that Pope Francis, the first Hispanic Pope, had said “that the church had grown 'obsessed' with abortion.” On December 4, 2013 Life News reported on the latest abortion statistics from the Center for Disease Control. The article began with “good” news—3% fewer children were killed in 2010 than were in 2009, but noted the astronomical rates in the Black and Hispanic communities:

"The new report from the Centers for Disease Control had good numbers across the nation when it came to abortion — with abortions declining three percent in 2010 after a five percent decrease in 2009. But they also contained shocking figures showing abortion targets blacks and Hispanics.

The CDC Abortion Surveillance Report dated November 29, 2013 reveals that in 2010, 56.7% of abortions reported to the CDC nationwide were done on Hispanic and Black women.

According to the report, there were 415,479 abortions for known ethnicity reported for selected states in 2010 and 153,045 (or 36.8 percent) were non-Hispanic white babies, 148,261 (or 35.7 percent) were non-Hispanic black babies, 87,240 (or 21.0 percent) were Hispanic babies, and 26,933 (or 6.5 percent) were babies of other races or ethnicities.”

According to the 2010 census, Hispanics comprise 16.3% of the U.S. population. The 21% of US abortions that are Hispanic babies thus significantly exceeds the Hispanic percentage of the population. Since most Hispanics identify as Catholic, this indicates a serious lack of catechesis. In the African-American community, which has been targeted by Planned Parenthood from that organization’s beginning, Protestant clergy such as California’s own Pastor Walter Hoye and the Reverend Clenard Childress of New Jersey have devoted their lives to fighting the nightmarish rate of black abortion. As the same trends are now afflicting the Hispanic communities, equivalent leadership in that community is needed.

One does not need to look far to see Hispanic Catholic clergy whose available resources (except for courage and determination) dwarf those of men like Hoye and Childress. I refer to the Hispanic Bishops. In California such men include the newly-elected leader of the California Catholic Conference, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento; Bishop Rutilio del Riego of San Bernardino; and above all, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, by far the largest Catholic Archdiocese in the country. There is no question about these Bishops’ pro-life beliefs: they have led pro-life vigils, attended 40 Days For Life events, and del Riego and Soto have been annual attendees at San Francisco’s Walk for Life West Coast. But as the numbers of Hispanic babies being killed shows, a far more systematic, day-to-day, and inflexible approach is needed, and needed now. Planned Parenthood, for one, is not waiting. According to the U.S. Census, San Francisco's population in 1990 was 10.9% African Americans and 13.3% Hispanic. By 2010 those numbers had shifted to 6.1% African American and 15.1% Hispanic. In 2011 Planned Parenthood Golden closed their abortion business on Eddy Street, right on the edge of one of the largest concentration of African Americans in the city and re-opened on Valencia Street, right on the edge of the largest concentration of Hispanics in the city.

“Obsession” over abortion is mandatory. If one accepts the Catholic teaching that murder is wrong, coupled with the scientific fact that each human life begins at conception, to not be “obsessed” at legal abortion is to be irrational, immoral, and anti-Christian.

Friday, December 6, 2013

CDC: 62% of Men Who Know They're HIV Positive Have Unprotected Anal Intercourse

From CNSNews comes the latest "contribution of the LGBT movement to American Society," to paraphrase State Senator Mark Leno. The article misuses language, unfortuately--"anal sex" is an oxymoron, and sodomy is not sex any more than masturbation is sex.

"Sixty-two percent of American men who know they are HIV positive continue to have unprotected anal sex, according to data released last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control.

This data, which was published Friday, came from the federal government's National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System.

The percentage of self-aware HIV-positive men who engage in unprotected anal sex has been increasing, according to the CDC. In 2005, 55 percent did so. In 2008, 57 percent did so. And, in 2011, 62 percent did so.

'Unprotected anal sex is a high-risk practice for HIV infection, with receptive anal sex having the highest risk,' said the CDC report. 'Unprotected anal sex also places MSM at risk for other sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.'"

In 2010, we wrote:

"Since 1980, over 18,866 people in San Francisco have died from AIDS...Of the over 18,000 deaths, 17,035 were of same-sex attracted men (14,125 men who have “sex” with men; 2,869 men who have “sex” with men who were also intravenous drug users). 15,330 of those who died were under 50 years old...In March, 2010 the Center for Disease Control reported that in the United States men who have “sex” with men are 44 times more likely to contract HIV than are other men. They are also the only risk group among whom HIV infection rates are increasing. This is neither random nor a chastisement from God. It is the clearly demonstrable result of specific behavior. In his important 1997 book "Sexual Ecology: Aids and the Destiny of Gay Men" activist Gabriel Rotello writes "For various reasons we are, in effect, defending the behaviors that are killing us."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NEW Walk for Life West Coast Video!

Get ready! The Walk for Life West Coast is on January 25, 2014! Below are excerpts from the latest press release, and the Walk's 2014 promo video. Of course, Fr. Malloy was the chaplain of the Walk from its inception until his death. He's working even harder for the littlest among us from Heaven!

Dynamic new video celebrates 10th Anniversary of the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, December 2, 2013 – A powerful new video chronicles the growth, determination, joy, and energy of the second biggest pro-life event in the United Sates: the Walk for Life West Coast.

The video opens with footage from 2005, when 7,000 pro-lifers, opposed by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors of the city of San Francisco, faced down volatile protesters and took to the city’s streets in a peaceful march for the littlest among us. Thus the Walk for Life West Coast was born. This powerful new video shows how the Walk has grown each year, ending with footage from 2013, when over 50,000 men, women, and children, joined by the Papal Nuncio, carried the pro-life message from the Civic Center, down Market Street to the Bay. Since its founding in 2005, the Walk for Life West Coast, now one of the largest annual events in San Francisco, has become a regular feature of the City’s life.

As the 10th anniversary approaches, West Coast pro-lifers are energized and making plans for the 10th Annual Walk for Life West Coast at San Francisco’s Civic Center on January 25, 2014. The 2014 Walk promises a bigger, more dynamic, and grassroots event that will make manifest an increasingly obvious truth: America is becoming more pro-life...

The Walk for Life West Coast is gearing up for some vibrant speakers this year, including:

Shari Rigby, actress in the film October Baby, who will share her powerful testimony of post-abortion healing

Grace Dulaney, founder of the Agnus Dei Foundation, who will share her personal experience with adoption and the work she is doing to help women who choose adoption

Monica Snyder, a representative of Secular Pro-Life, a group that seeks to unite all pro-lifers regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof

Rev. Clenard Childress, founder and director of, a website designed to reach the African-American Community with the truth about abortion

The Silent No More Post-Abortion Awareness Campaign, an important part of the Walk since its founding, will once again offer a program of testimony from abortion survivors and post-abortion healing prior to the rally. At this rally and through the Walk itself, participants are eager to respond to the call of Pope Francis, “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound.”

Founded in 2005 by a group of San Francisco Bay Area residents, the Walk for Life West Coast’s mission is to change the perceptions of a society that thinks abortion is an answer. Walk participants are expected from throughout the Bay Area and across the United States and Canada.

More details and the most up-to-date information about the walk is available at:

To set up an interview with any of the Walk for Life West Coast’s
dynamic speakers or event organizers, please contact:

Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Walk for Life West Coast, or (239)867-4180

Adult Stem-Cell UPDATE: Adult Stem-Cells Transformed into Functional Lung Cells!

It's been one of our mantras here at A Shepherd's Voice since Fr. Malloy, the Church and others opposed California's Proposition 71 in 2004: Are California voters having second thoughts yet about shelling out $3 billion + for immoral & unproven embryonic stem cell research, which has yet to show a single cure, while adult stem cells are curing people left and right?

This is from Stem Cells Freak, a website devoted to  stem-cell news:

"Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center announced today that they have succeeded in transforming human induced pluripotent stem cells into functional lung and airway cells.

The advance, has significant potential for modeling lung disease, screening drugs, studying human lung development, and, ultimately, generating lung tissue for transplantation.

"Researchers have had relative success in turning human stem cells into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, and nerve cells, raising all sorts of possibilities for regenerative medicine. Now, we are finally able to make lung and airway cells.
This is important because lung transplants have a particularly poor prognosis. Although any clinical application is still many years away, we can begin thinking about making autologous lung transplants -- that is, transplants that use a patient's own skin cells to generate functional lung tissue.", said study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck, MD, PhD (above, left), professor of medicine (in microbiology & immunology) and affiliated with the Columbia Center for Translational Immunology and the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative."

God bless all scientists who are ethically doing so much to better the human condition!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pope Francis on an Ethical Approach to Economics

In the first Apostolic Exhortation of his Pontificate, “Evangelii Gaudium” (Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis writes about a just economy. His thoughts included this:

“54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about great­er justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. ..” Emphases added.

I think that is correct, and well in line with what previous Popes have said, especially with the qualification "inevitably" properly understood. But what do we do about it? The Holy Father, quite rightly, does not offer specifics. Four sections later he writes

“58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determi­nation and an eye to the future, while not ignor­ing, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of econom­ics and finance to an ethical approach which fa­vours human beings.”

Certainly. But the practical question of how we get to this “ethical approach” remains. The Holy Father is “urging…political leaders… to face this challenge.” That the state should guard the interests of the people is correct. But how do you do that without unfettering the government? Who guards the guardians? Let’s remember the Holy Fathers warning against having “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic (read: political) power.” It’s the oldest conundrum in political philosophy: Who fetters the fetterers?

The scandal of “capitalism” is that, economically, it seems to work. An economic system that encourages men to look after number one, has managed, in spite of itself, to produce a surplus of goods. That these goods are not always distributed justly is another question—and it is the one that concerns the Holy Father--but the surplus is created. One problem, for a Christian, is that an economic system that encourages men to look after number one is quite likely to encourage behaviors that can prevent people from going to Heaven. And the related conundrum for the Church is: an economic system that is quite likely to prevent at least some people from going to Heaven also seems to be the best available means for enacting the “preferential option for the poor”—if by that is meant moving the poor out of material poverty. Before you can give to the poor, you need to have something to give. Despite what the Holy Father wrote, the argument that a “capitalist” economy produces more and better goods than a “socialist” economy seems to me to be empirically verifiable. “Capitalism” although with the enormous glaring flaw just described, seems to work, economically, while “Socialism,” beautifully moral in principle, does not. There is also no evidence that socialism, theoretically moral though it may be, produces more morally upright people. To believe so, to paraphrase the Holy Father, would require “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic (read: political) power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic (read: political) system.” The crimes of socialist regimes when in power: the U.S.S.R., China, the Third Reich, Cambodia are to well known to need repeating.

Towards the beginning of his essay on Charles Dickens, George Orwell writes “…Nadezhda Krupskaya, in her little book on Lenin, relates that towards the end of his life Lenin went to see a dramatized version of The Cricket on the Hearth, and found Dickens's 'middle-class sentimentality' so intolerable that he walked out in the middle of a scene.” A little further on, Orwell gives a hint as to why a man like Lenin would find Dickens intolerable “The truth is that Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work. He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places…There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it WERE overthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as 'human nature'. It would be difficult to point anywhere in his books to a passage suggesting that the economic system is wrong AS A SYSTEM. Nowhere, for instance, does he make any attack on private enterprise or private property… His whole 'message' is one that at first glance looks like an enormous platitude: If men would behave decently the world would be decent.” Emphases in the original.

Pages later, after describing the horrors of industrial age England, Orwell writes that there is always a new tyrant waiting to take over from the old tyrant, and comes to the conclusion “The central problem–how to prevent power from being abused–remains unsolved. Dickens, who had not the vision to see that private property is an obstructive nuisance, had the vision to see that. 'If men would behave decently the world would be decent' is not such a platitude as it sounds.’” Emphasis added.

So we’re back to where we started, where Plato started where Juvenal started: How do we get men to behave decently without exchanging one set of fetters for another, fetters more permanent because claiming justification and the right to use force from the will of the people. There is not a systemic solution to this, not a capitalist solution, not a socialist solution, because it is a problem at the level of the person. Engaging that problem, the problem of you and me, is exactly the job of the Church.

Croatia Defends Marriage: "I think children should grow up in a family that has a mother and father"

Common sense from Croatia! They voted to inscribe natural marriage in their constitution. From Reuters:

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croats voted overwhelmingly in favour of defining marriage in the constitution as a "union of man and woman" on Sunday, a move initiated by Roman Catholic groups but criticised by opponents as discrimination against homosexuals.

Almost 66 percent of those who voted in the referendum in the new European Union member endorsed the initiative, launched by the Catholic group "In the Name of the Family", according to preliminary results on Sunday night. Turnout was 37 percent.

The group had gathered over 740,000 signatures in support of the referendum, forcing parliament to call the vote.

The Social Democrat-led government disagreed with the referendum's demand, but the outcome was no surprise in a morally conservative country where 90 percent of the population of 4.4 million say they are Catholic.

The Church wholeheartedly backed the initiative, which sought to define marriage in the constitution rather than law so that its status can only be changed by a two-thirds majority in parliament.

"I am happy because, from now on, no future government will be able to legalise gay marriages," said Zeljka Markic, leader of "In the Name of the Family".

Ballet dancer Sanja Grgic said: "I have nothing against gay people, I have many gay friends, but I voted in favour because I think children should grow up in a family that has a mother and a father..."