Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Goin' to the Fair

Tomorrow we're packing the kids into the minivan and heading west.

And a way's north, too, along I-90/94, 410 miles to my ol' stomping grounds, the hallowed soil of N.E. Minneapolis, wherein is Haus Jansen the Elder.

Among other things, this weekend we'll be going to the Minnesota State Fair, where we will surely consume large amounts of terribly unhealthy, albeit very tasty foodstuffs.

I can taste the cheese curds already...

Devout What?

Since the term "devout Catholic" is all but devoid of any real meaning anymore thanks to the Herd of Independent Thinkers in the mainstream media, perhaps we would do well to give over the term entirely to ironic usage.

E.g., "John Doe, a devout Catholic, was convicted on nine charges of embezzlement in federal court yesterday."

Or, "Jane Doe, a devout Catholic, was caught on camera desecrating a statue of the Virgin Mary last night."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Very Sad

There's a powerful story recently in the Daily Mail about Elizabeth Cameron (a pseudonym) who was raped at age 16, became pregnant, and despite everyone except her mother trying to convince her to have an abortion, kept her baby.

Perhaps the saddest part of the article is this:

Very few people know the truth of how Phoebe [Elizabeth's daughter] came to exist. Unfortunately, in their community, it is assumed that she is just another youngster who got pregnant through carelessness, foolishness or deliberate willfulness.

'At college, one of my tutors even asked if I'd got pregnant deliberately so I could get a council flat.'

Her mother shakes her head. 'Most people don't know the gory facts. To them, she is just a silly girl who got herself pregnant.

'We had always been regular churchgoers in our community before this. But we faced so many barbed comments from people at church that we stopped going there and went somewhere else. Sometimes, it has felt like me and Elizabeth against the rest of the world.'

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Running to Do Evil

For several years now, my backpack has been something of a Linus-like security blanket; rare is the day I leave the house without it.

It's also become a repository of items various and sundry: a tin of Altoids, more pens than I could hope to use in ten years, a rosary, an 11-week fetal model, numerous bus schedules, pamphlets, brochures, etc.

Just recently I found therein a mailing we (or, rather, my beloved wife Jocelyn, as it was only addressed to her) received from Bayer Pharmaceuticals on May 15, 2007—it was an ad for the IUD Mirena, which touts itself as "birth control that helps simplify your life".

I remember the exact date we got the mailing because it was a mere nine days after our son Joe was born.

Opening up the mailing, there's a picture of a smiling thirtysomething woman, and these words:

Baby bottles. Diaper duty. Family. Finding time for yourself. There are enough things to think about with a new baby—birth control doesn't have to one of them. Enjoy more and worry less with Mirena® (levnorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system), an estrogen-free birth control that is effective in preventing pregnancy for up to 5 years or less if you choose.

My first thought upon was that this brilliantly conceived marketing campaign was a fantastic example of "Running to Do Evil"—a term I first came across in a fine article I read several years ago in New Oxford Review (when I still read New Oxford Review).

Think of how easy it would be for a woman who just experienced a particularly excruciating labor and delivery—but who otherwise may have never given a second thought to contracepting thereafter—to be persuaded to have an IUD inserted.

Enter Bayer, the billion-dollar corporation all-too-willing to provide "birth control that helps simplify your life".

Of course, that means you'll no longer be expressing complete and total self-donating mutual love in a way that uniquely allows a married couple to reflect the inner life of God; in fact, you'll be doing exactly the opposite.

But who cares? From Bayer's point of view, they're making money, so that's helping The Economy, and isn't that what capitalism's all about?

So I put the mailing in my backpack with the intention of calling Bayer to complain, but I never got around to it. When I found the mailing again just recently, I figured there wouldn't be much point in calling, largely because it'd probably take me forever to actually talk to a real, live human being, and even so, I'm not sure what I would have said.

Instead, yesterday, I sent them an e-mail filled out a contact form on their website. (I can't stand it when companies make you fill out a contact form instead of providing an actual e-mail address, but I digress.)

I kept it very simple and very brief:

Shortly after our last child was born, we received a mailing from your company advertising Mirena.

If my wife and I love each other, why would we ever want to use contraception?

I'd be amazed if I get a response, even one that's an obvious form letter.

[Cross-posted at Catholic Dads]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Now That's a Simile

It's like trying to count the flies on a chunk of liver sausage in the alley.

—John Kass, writing in today's Chicago Tribune about the great difficulty in keeping track of the instances in our fair corrupt state in which relatives (usually, but not always, children) of clout-wielding politicians have benefited from nepotism by becoming clout-wielding politicians themselves.

In Court Friday

My co-worker Eric Scheidler and one of our attorneys, Peter Breen, just issued this press release:

Planned Parenthood Plays Dirty with Legal Battle Against Aurora Pro-Life Citizens

Billion-Dollar Abortion Giant Abuses Law, Verdict Could Have Major Implications for Political Action Groups

AURORA, Ill., Aug. 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- Planned Parenthood of Illinois is filing a motion in Kane County Circuit Court, alleging a small group of pro-life citizens is trying to squelch its right to free speech. Planned Parenthood is filing the motion based on an Anti-SLAPP law that originally was intended to protect small organizations or citizens against large corporations. On August 22, Judge Judith Brawka will decide on the motion put forward by Planned Parenthood. If the judge rules in favor of Planned Parenthood, it could open the door for other large corporations around the country to use Anti-SLAPP laws to silence any political action group that speaks out against corruption.

Eric Scheidler, plaintiff and Communications Director, Pro-Life Action League, and
Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, attorney for the plaintiffs

Available for media interviews after Kane County Circuit Court hearing

Friday, August 22, immediately following hearing, which begins at 1 p.m.

Kane County Circuit Court, 100 Third St., Geneva, Ill., Courtroom 350

SLAPP, which stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation," is a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Many states have enacted anti-SLAPP laws in order to protect small grassroots organizations from having their First Amendment rights trampled by large corporations. In Illinois, the Anti-SLAPP law is called the Citizen Participation Act and was enacted in August 2007.

"The billion-dollar Goliath is trying to misuse a law intended to protect David," says Eric Scheidler, lawsuit plaintiff and communications director for the Pro-Life Action League. "If this motion stands, Planned Parenthood would be getting away with labeling peaceful citizens as domestic terrorists. It would give them a license to lie."

The libel lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of Illinois and Director Steve Trombley was filed on October 1, 2007, in response to a letter by Trombley to the mayor and city council of Aurora, Ill., stating that local citizens who opposed the opening of their Aurora facility had "a well-documented history of advocating violence against both persons and property as well as other related criminal activity." These claims were repeated in a full-page ad in The Aurora Beacon News and Planned Parenthood press releases.

The suit filed by the Aurora residents who protested the clinic said the ad against them was maliciously false and libelous. In the anti-SLAPP motion, Planned Parenthood (whose affiliates nationwide earned more than $1 billion last year) is claiming that the small group of local citizens is trying to intimidate the corporation into backing down from its claims in the ad.

"Planned Parenthood's interpretation of this act is a 'SLAPP' in the face of the First Amendment in the United States," says Peter Breen, attorney for the Thomas More Society of Chicago, which filed the original libel suit. "This law is meant to protect the little guy who speaks out against big business wrongs and political corruption. If Planned Parenthood is able to twist it to its means, it would set a precedent that could be used by corporations to slander into silence anyone who opposes them."

The aforementioned full-page ad—which includes a picture of a bombed abortion clinic and the words "Joe Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League have a well-documented history of advocating violence against both persons and property, as well as other related criminal activity"—can be seen here [PDF].

Monday, August 18, 2008

Best. Church Picnic. Ever. 2.0

52 weeks ago I mentioned that the St. John Cantius annual church picnic was the best one I'd ever been to for one reason:

They served Hacker-Pschorr.

Ditto this year's picnic, yesterday.

And there was much rejoicing...

That, and the conversation (with folks like The Dutchman) wasn't bad either.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bad Writing

Molly alerted me earlier this week to this site that gives advice on how to write bad fiction.

One tip, "Thou shalt commit no plot", prompted me to call to mind the ironic "Notice" Mark Twain posts at the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

Interestingly enough, it was also this week that I first learned (HT: Mark Shea) of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, whose 2008 results were just released:

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

And boy, there are some gems. Here is but one, which won Grand Panjandrum's Special Award—whatever that is:

Upon discovering that Miles Black, the famous phrenologist from Yorkshire was going to take up yodeling to lonely goats in Bali, James White decided to balance four planks of wood on a beer keg and call it an abstract work of art in the style of a famous fourteenth-century architect, just going to prove that people will read any old garbage if they think there will be a good pun at the end of it.

The rest of the winners, runner-ups runners-up, honorable mentions, etc., are here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Say It Ain't So

MLB getting closer to rolling out replay

Major League Baseball is working out technical issues to start instant replay for boundary calls such as home runs, hoping to institute the system before the end of the season.

"We've got lots of time in August," Bob DuPuy, the sport's chief operating officer, said Wednesday as a two-day owners' meeting began. "There's plenty of August still to go."

Replay was among the topics discussed but doesn't require a vote because it is not a rule change.

"There's not any opposition to it that I've heard," DuPuy said.

Commissioner Bud Selig, once a staunch opponent, appears to be more comfortable with the use of replay. Agreements are needed with the players' association and umpires' union.

"We don't need a lot of lead-up," DuPuy said. "What we need is stuff installed, and what we need is people to make sure it's going to work, and what we need is for the umpires to understand the protocol. What we need is to make sure that everyone understands it."

No, what we really need is for the guys in charge to realize instant replay is a REALLY STUPID IDEA.

Selig should be ashamed of himself for caving.

A rash of missed boundary calls — fair or foul, over the fence or not — prompted the Selig to alter his opposition. Replays would not be used to review close plays on the bases or balls and strikes.

Oh, sure, now they say that. But once the cat's out of the bag...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Predictions That Weren't Meant to Be

I can't help but like stuff like this blog, which takes "a look into the future that never was".

It also reminds me of this:

Apu remembers his computer training course [in the late '70s]:

Apu: I enrolled in Springfield Heights Institute of Technology
under the tutelage of the brilliant Professor John Frink...

Frink: Well, sure, the Frinkiac-7 looks impressive, [to student] don't touch it! [back to class] but I predict that within 100 years, computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them.

Apu: Could it be used for dating?

Frink: Well, theoretically, yes. But the computer matches would be so perfect as to eliminate the thrill of romantic conquest. Mw-hurgn-whey.

[HT: Mark Shea]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

White People Like Being Offended

Watching this:

...when she said this:

It's very, very shocking and very unsettling and one of those moments where, you know, as like a female, you're not sure if you want to cry, if you want to get really mad.

...I couldn't help but call to mind Example #101 of Stuff White People Like—Being Offended:

To be offended is usually a rather unpleasant experience, one that can expose a person to intolerance, cultural misunderstandings, and even evoke the scars of the past. This is such an unpleasant experience that many people develop a thick skin and try to only be offended in the most egregious and awful situations. In many circumstances, they can allow smaller offenses to slip by as fighting them is a waste of time and energy. But white people, blessed with both time and energy, are not these kind of people. In fact there are few things white people love more than being offended. ...

White people also get excited at the opportunity to be offended at things that are sexist and/or homophobic. Both cases offering ample opportunities for lectures, complaints, graduate classes, lengthy discussions and workshops.

And then, of course, there's the reporter's transparently patronizing tone about the pharmacist and his wife having—gasp!—nine children!

I mean, like, doesn't it make you want to cry, or get really mad at them, for exercising their freedom of choice to have nine kids?

[HT: Newsbusters via Jill Stanek]

Monday, August 11, 2008

On the Air

I'll be a guest on Radio Maria this afternoon from 2:00 - 3:00pm (CDT).

You can listen online here.


After the art show Friday night, I happened upon a print version of The Onion for the first time in a long time. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the lead story:

Local Idiot To Post Comment On Internet

In a statement made to reporters earlier this afternoon, local idiot Brandon Mylenek, 26, announced that at approximately 2:30 a.m. tonight, he plans to post an idiotic comment beneath a video on an Internet website.

"Later this evening, I intend to watch the video in question, click the 'reply' link above the box reserved for user comments, and draft a response, being careful to put as little thought into it as possible, while making sure to use all capital letters and incorrect punctuation," Mylenek said. "Although I do not yet know exactly what my comment will entail, I can say with a great degree of certainty that it will be incredibly stupid."

Read the whole thing.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Goin' to an Art Show Tonight

My brother-in-law's—the venue for which, incidentally, is just a stone's throw from our parish.

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever been to an art show before.

It's from 6:00 - 9:00. If you're in the area, feel free to stop by (get directions here).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Graphic Abortion Pictures

I just posted this on the Catholic Dads blog:

I've written here previously about my work at the Pro-Life Action League (where fellow Catholic Dads blogger Matt Yonke also works).

One of the things we do on a regular basis is to organize demonstrations called Face the Truth Tours, where we line the roads at major intersections with huge graphic signs of aborted babies.

I can't tell you how many times during a Face the Truth day we've heard from people comments along the lines of, "I never knew what abortion was until I saw these pictures..."

One such reaction that sticks out in my mind was from a kid no more than 16 years old, who saw our display in downtown Chicago a few years ago with a group of friends:

Him: "Man, that's what an abortion looks like?!"

Me: Yeah, it is.

Him: (With genuine astonishment) "Damn!"

Other times, people really wish we would just go away. (Like the guy who got arrested for assaulting me on last year's Tour.)

After several years of experience showing graphic abortion pictures out on the streets, we've gotten used to hearing complaints. A while ago, we posted an FAQ page on the PLAL site's Face the Truth section that addresses the most common objections we hear:

  • What if children see these graphic abortion pictures?

  • What effect do these pictures have on a woman who has had an abortion?

  • Doesn't the public display of graphic abortion pictures make the pro-life movement look extreme?

  • Doesn't it dishonor the unborn babies in these pictures to show them out on the street?

As usual, following our most recent Face the Truth Tour a few weeks ago, we got a slew of angry e-mails, the vast majority of which came from parents who happened upon our display and who cite the "What about the children?" concern as their chief complaint.

By far, this is the most common objection we get, and that's why it's listed first in our FAQ. (It's also what prompted me to bring forth the issue here in Catholic Dads-Land.)

I've responded to this type of e-mail often enough before that I now have a form letter that I usually need to modify only slightly to reply to incoming messages along these lines.

I'm a big believer in meeting people where they're at, so I place great importance on taking (or at least trying to take) as understanding — and, it goes without saying, non-combative — a tone as possible in replying to this objection, especially since it's one that I can, on one level at least, legitimately
sympathize with.

What I usually write is this:

Dear [Name],

Thank you for taking the time to write to us about your concerns about the use of graphic images in the fight against abortion.

Like you, I too am a parent. In fact, just recently our daughters (ages 2, 4, and 5) helped my wife and their grandma hold one of our signs showing a baby boy who had been aborted at 21 weeks.

Prior to having them join us, we explained to them that we hold these signs "to show people why it's bad to hurt babies." Those, in fact, are the exact words I used when I explained to them why we show these signs.

Like many kids their age, our girls are easily frightened. However, they weren't at all frightened by the sight of the aborted babies on our signs because they understood why we were showing them.

Until someone tries to convince a child that abortion is okay, she will know that it is wrong to take the life of an unborn baby. Since children are naturally pro-life, and since they don't want to see other children get hurt, once they understand that we are showing the signs to protect other children, they will empathize with children who are victimized by abortion.

You may also want to check out the "What if children see these graphic abortion pictures?" from the "Answering Common Objections" page on our website.

Let me just mention here that one of the main reasons we continue to display graphic abortion signs out on the street is that these pictures save lives.

Every year, women and men who are considering abortion see our signs and choose not to go through with it.

On one occasion during our most recent Face the Truth Tour, a pregnant young woman in Mundelein, IL approached one of our volunteers and said that she had actually had an abortion scheduled, but after seeing our signs, she decided instead to keep her baby.

On another occasion in Rockford, IL, a young mother parked her car, got out and came up to a group of the Tour coordinators and began to tell us about her two-year old daughter Ariana. She started to cry as she told us about how she had been planning to get an abortion but then saw an abortion protest like ours. She said she owed the life of Ariana to seeing those graphic abortion pictures. She thanked us for being there to help other moms see the reality of abortion.

It's stories like these that make us return to the streets year after year with our graphic abortion pictures, as troubling as they are to behold not only for children, but for adults.

Thanks again for writing. I hope these remarks and the more extended article linked to above address your concerns at least to some degree.

Now, of course, "What about the children?" is not the only complaint we receive, although I'm increasingly convinced it might be the easiest (and least bothersome) one to respond to.

Another type of objection, however, that I find it far more troubling to reply to is the charge that showing graphic abortion pictures in public is uncharitable—and, indeed, un-Christian.

Personally, I'm not at all surprised when the average secular (or non-practicing Christian) parents work themselves into a lather upon seeing a display of graphic abortion pictures.

But it troubles me greatly when Christians try to claim that showing the victims of abortion in an effort to awaken people's consciences is actually contrary to the Gospel.

I've responded to a couple e-mails recently that have taken this tack, which has prompted me to come up with another form letter for future such e-mails:

Dear [Name],

As one Christian to another, you know as well as I do that Our Lord Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be mercilessly scourged, crowned with thorns, and marched through the streets of Jerusalem before being nailed to the Cross. It's probably safe to assume that there were children among the crowds that day -- these were public streets, after all.

Just as our faith demands that we face squarely the brutality that Jesus underwent for our sake in His Passion and Death, and to share this truth with our children ("Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it" --Proverbs 22:6), our duty as Christians and as American citizens requires that we face squarely the brutality being done to unborn children.

(For a more thorough response on what children are able to handle regarding discussions of abortion, I'd suggest this article by Fr. Frank Pavone. Although he is writing primarily about talking and preaching to children about abortion, much of what he says is also applicable to displaying graphic abortion pictures.)

The first Christians weren't popular for proclaiming Jesus "and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2), nor are we popular for showing what abortion does to unborn babies -- but it has to be done.

You may also want to read our reply to a question we often get, "Doesn't the public display of graphic abortion pictures make the pro-life movement look extreme?"

The first two paragraphs of that response are:

The very reason we are out there on the streets showing abortion pictures is that so many Americans need this reminder. They're not thinking about abortion. Much less are they thinking about the pro-life movement — when they're not thinking of us as extremists, they're not thinking of us at all.

If in the wake of our Truth Tours, a thousand conversations begin with "I saw a bunch of anti-abortion wackos today" and end with a frank, and long overdue, discussion of abortion, we consider our image worth the sacrifice.

The reality is that following Jesus Christ is not easy. In fact, it's extremely demanding, and can be very dangerous ("Behold, I am sending you out as lambs among wolves" --Luke 10:3). And, it always requires sacrifice.

If our intent as Christians who show graphic abortion pictures were rooted in pride and vindictiveness, I'd absolutely agree with you that doing so would turn people off to our mission.

It isn't, however. Rather, our intent is rooted in love: love of God, first of all, and also love of the babies He created who are victimized by abortion, as well as the parents who are considering abortion, as we do not want them to do something wrong that will cause them enormous hardship, and also love of those who have previously been involved in abortion -- that they may seek the mercy and healing that can only come from God.

One woman who has been participating in our Face the Truth Tours for years -- and who is one of the holiest, most loving people I know -- remarked to me on our most recent Tour that she never looks forward to going out on the street and showing graphic abortion signs. In fact, she said, she dreads it.

She dreads it because she hates the fact that we have to do it. She prays for the day that we do won't have to.

It is only when we show the horrific images of what abortion actually is that the abortion issue comes front-and-center in a community. Precisely because abortion is so harmful -- and has touched so very many lives -- nobody wants to talk about it. As the advocates of unborn babies, we have to break that silence.

(I should also make clear: I'm not saying I believe that every Christian must personally take part in a demonstration like one of ours. Clearly, many are not called to do that, as they are called to other apostolic efforts.)

I hope these remarks have clarified our position. May God bless you!

Coming to a Police State Near You

This post has turned out to be much longer than I had originally intended, but in closing, I just want to mention that 18 members of another pro-life group — Baltimore-based Defend Lifewere arrested without warning in Bel Air, MD during their own Face the Truth Tour last Friday.

This outrageous violation of basic rights guaranteed by the First Amendment should gravely concern all of us. You'll notice in this picture taken by Defend Life staff member Joe Healy that the pro-lifer getting arrested is wearing a shirt that says, "Pope Benedict XVI says: DEFEND LIFE":

Something tells me, though, that Defend Life isn't going to take this sitting down.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lust and Boredom

One of the consequences of The Fall is that man's ability to devise new and different ways to sin is essentially limitless.

As such, when a well-informed, spiritually mature Catholic hears about a particularly outrageous, supposedly "new" trend in sinful behavior, his reaction should, on the one hand, be one of disdain, as it should be for any other sins (including his own). On the other hand, though, he oughtn't be surprised.

This is especially true regarding sexual sins.

Lust, we observe, leads inexorably to boredom. And while other sins do, too, of course, I would contend it happens more so — or at least more quickly — in the case of lust.

Much like a drug addict, the man enslaved to lust is Absolutely. Never. Satisfied. by just one thought, or image, or video, or act (with whatever other person(s) or, well...).

Boredom soon sets in, as he realizes the fleeting satisfaction is gone. After a while on the pleasure/boredom roller coaster, he begins to wonder if dabbling in increasingly edgier porn and/or real acts themselves might finally forestall his heretofore inevitable loathsome boredom.

They won't, of course, but his conscience is too beaten down for him to know any better. For when a man is spiritually blind, all he can do is stumble around, and unless he asks for help, he ends up progressing further into the morass.

I say all this by way of introduction to this story:

Guys with a pregnant hooker fetish haven't always had a pregnant hooker fetish. No doubt, it's the result of having tried lots of progressively worse things before; perhaps this is just the flavor of the month.

But when the novelty of the pregnant hooker fetish wears off, where does their boredom take them?

And what about the women who allow themselves to be used (and then discarded) to satisfy some pathetic loser's messed up fantasy? How kinky do they have to become once a particular fetish becomes passé?

The possibilities are endless—thereby illustrating with shocking clarity why lust can only be justly regarded as a deadly sin.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

History Is Bunk

Pre-A.D. 1000 history, that is. At least, that's what this guy says.

You gotta love conspiracy theorists, if for no other reason than the entertainment value they provide the rest of us.

[HT: Peter Sean Bradley via Mark Shea]

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Police State of Maryland

Our office got a call over the weekend from Jack Ames of Defend Life, who told us about how he and seventeen other pro-life activists got arrested at their Face the Truth Tour in Bel Air, MD on Friday.

Joe Healy of the Defend Life blog links to more articles (read this one in particular) about the incident. Healy was there on Friday — but wasn't arrested — and got some pictures:

Methinks they'll sue, and methinks they'll win.

R.I.P., Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Rod Dreher has a fine tribute here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On the Air

If you listen to Relevant Radio, you may have heard this spot, which has been airing for the past few weeks.