Recently in Ethics Category

An expert on palliative care recommends that Oregon's physician-assisted suicide laws not be taken as a model for any practice in the UK. In sum: (1) Patients with suicidal thoughts need evaluation and treatment for depression. (2) Palliative services are more freely available in the UK than in Oregon. (3) The reasons death advocates present in favor of PAS laws are not the reasons why real patients actually kill themselves using PAS:

It is also commonly assumed that patients who carry out PAS must be suffering terrible pain.

However, the patients who use PAS in Oregon are generally not in pain, but wish to use PAS simply so that they can control the timing of their death.

The report found the major concerns of those undertaking PAS were loss of autonomy, being less able to take part in activities they enjoyed and loss of dignity (86%).[...]

Oregon physicians describe patients requesting PAS as having strong personalities, characterised by determination and inflexibility.[...]

The question here is not one of the patient's right to commit suicide, but whether this small group of people who have an exaggerated need for control have any right to demand the involvement of doctors, nurses and pharmacists in their suicide.


We're number one! (humbly speaking)

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An atheist writer is fed up with eco-correct clergymen and the New Atheists, who agree on one thing: that man is just another animal among the animals. I wonder whether he's seen Pope Benedict's words from the World Peace Day address:

7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves.

(emphasis added)

Now that's a statement: not only is man in first place among the critters, he's of "supreme worth vis-a-vis creation as a whole."

In more than one case, the population-controllers have been imposing vaccines on poor countries that cause infertility. (ALL has info on UNICEF/WHO programs exposed in 1995 and 2004.)

Now Merck's HPV vaccine distributed in the US turns out to contain two troublesome chemicals: a roach poison and a chemical associated with infertility in rats.

Not an advance for human dignity

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Sure, let's posit that Keivin Cohen wanted to have children; he wanted to be a father. That doesn't necessarily mean he wanted to be a sperm donor after his death.

Mark Shea is accusing Michael Ledeen of National Review Online of encouraging "murder." As many commenters point out, this is a complete misreading of Ledeen's words. Essentially, Ledeen is agreeing with a Ralph Peters article, which argues that terrorist thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq should be killed in almost all circumstances.

On Catholic Light, I've consistently argued for this position, more or less. There is nothing wrong, legally or morally, with killing illegal combatants. There should be a just mechanism for determining whether they are illegal combatants, if there is a doubt in particular cases. But they should be killed to deter others, and because justice demands it.

Morally, there is nothing wrong with killing terrorists who wield lethal force with the intent to overthrow a legtimate state. The reservations expressed about the death penalty in the Catechism are not really applicable outside the West and other settled, civilized countries. In Iraq and Afghanistan, truly there are no alternatives to killing those who would destroy any possibility of a just society.

Legally, there is absolutely no reason to respect anything other than the basic human rights of terrorists. That includes treating these thugs like adults, i.e., rational human beings capable of choosing their vocation of murder and mayhem. The Geneva Conventions have never been construed to include people who blow up marketplaces, mosques, and commuter buses. Yet we see the spectacle of well-educated, seemingly reasonable people arguing that terrorists should be treated like forger apprehended by the FBI.

The people arguing this, almost exclusively, are members of the New Class -- they will not enter military service themselves, nor will their children, nor will hardly any of their relatives. Terrorists in the Middle East and Central Asia will not threaten their upscale lives. Their sentiments are the secular equivalent of "cheap grace" -- it costs them nothing to shed tears over the fates of detainees, but it gives them that frisson of moral superiority they crave.

Yet Mark Shea is not a member of the New Class. I've given up trying to analyze his motivations when he uncorks a bottle of fresh malice and pours it out on his blog. You all are welcome to speculate as you wish. I do think it's ironic that Shea is fond of hurling wild accusations of malefaction while misrepresenting what other people say.

Second thoughts about lobsters

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I love eating animals of any kind -- there's no such thing as an "unclean" animal that Christians can't consume (c.f. the book of Acts). And whether it's jellyfish in China or lamb brains in Kuwait, when I'm in an ethnic restaurant or foreign country, I love to try new animals, or parts of animals I've never eaten.

That being said, I have some sympathy for Whole Foods' decision to end the sale of live lobsters and crabs. Maybe you will tell me they did this because their management is a bunch of secular left-wing pinko commies, and they are trying to appeal to the pale, squeamish upper-middle-class yuppies who patronize their stores. I'll take your word for it.

Have you ever stuck a metal skewer through the length of a lobster's body? In one of the restaurants where I was employed, that was part of my job. I did it a few times, and the things reacted...pretty much as you would expect: they tried to curl up and defend themselves, but their claws were banded and there was little they could do. So I had to pry their tails down, ram the skewer as straight as I could up their bodies, and out through their heads, with bits of their innards oozing out through their faces. Then I threw them into a steamer where they cooked for a while and died at some point. We served their tails cold and with three kinds of sauce on the side.

Unhappy with this cooking method, I thought I would euthanize the lobsters before skewering them. I did some research, and found out that if you stick a knife between two of the plates near the head, it would sever something important (I forget what) and the things would die instantly. I tried this a couple of times, but botched it and ended up with pissed-off crustaceans.

After that, I refused to use the skewer. Patiently, the sous chef explained that a straighter tail made for a better presentation. I politely told him that I didn't care if people ate lobsters, but I saw no reason to make another living creature suffer just to make its lower half look better on a bed of ice. He shrugged and said he'd get somebody else to do it, and that was the end of it.

I am not the least bit squeamish about the use of lethal force against human beings. If someone broke into my house tonight, I wouldn't think twice about shooting him (it would fill me with disgust, but not remorse.) But there is something uniquely repulsive about causing unnecessary suffering to an animal when the end is the carnal pleasure of consuming its flesh. Lobsters and crabs are luxury foods; practically nobody relies on them for sustenance. Even if these creatures were a significant part of the food supply, they could be killed and their flesh preserved through refrigeration or freezing, just like other animals.

Crab meat doesn't take that well to freezing, and lobsters even less so -- true gourmands would shudder at the thought of eating a frozen lobster tail (though the Safeway near my house sells them). The only reason to sell them in tanks is to keep them completely fresh. If catching, processing, transporting, and displaying live animals causes pain, then it isn't necessary to preserve human lives, and the practice should be abandoned.

That's where the case against Whole Foods' prior practice breaks down. Kids tapping on the lobster tank glass is not torture (except perhaps in Mark Shea's world.) The CEO's comment about "the importance of humane treatment and quality of life for all animals" is risible. What does "quality of life" mean to a lobster or crab? Maybe they prefer being in a big glass tank with no predators.

But even though the management of Whole Foods is probably made up of morally silly people, avoiding pain in animals isn't morally silly per se.

On Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was responsible for the flooding of New Orleans, because of bad design decisions in the city's levees and floodwalls. As you will recall, the mainstream media had blamed the Bush Administration, but CNN and the BBC could not be reached, and so it is not known if they will issue formal apologies to the president.

I haven't read the 6,000-page report issued by the Corps, but it sounds like they're being a little hard on themselves. New Orleans has been slowly sinking into the earth for a long time, and it will continue to do so. Hurricanes will keep forming in the Gulf of Mexico, barring some drastic change in the Earth's climate. Those two facts militate against any "solution" to the city's long-term survival.

But it isn't "nice" to ask whether it's prudent to spend tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on rebuilding a doomed city. In the past, the Corps has occasionally asked whether a proposed project made economic sense. It shall repent from this violation of the Gospel of Nice:

Thursday's report urged the Corps to shift its formulaic cost-benefit approach on how it decides what projects are worthwhile. The agency was urged to look at potential environmental, societal and cultural losses, "without reducing everything to one measure such as dollars."

There are certainly cultural landmarks that are worth spending an "irrational" amount of money to save. If the Washington Monument were about to topple over, it would be worth spending millions to fix it, but surely that shouldn't be the normative way to decide if a public-works project is worthwhile.

According to the Gospel of Nice, we are supposed to ignore such scruples. Once you start measuring flood losses by "societal and cultural losses," get out the Federal checkbook and don't put it away. Nevermind that by the time New Orleans is rebuilt and the flood defenses are strengthened, the Feds could have bought a new house on high ground for each of the displaced families. No, President Bush has already pledged "whatever it takes" to rebuild, and Congress is always happy to spend obscene amounts of money.

This Gospel abets so many evils in the world -- and this is a comparatively minor evil of misusing public money. Members of the Church are certainly not immune to it. Niceness dictated that bishops should not punish priests for heterodoxy or homosexual molestations. It continues to damage the Body of Christ by encouraging Christians not to live lives of heroic virtue, but rather embrace a fuzzy, non-judgmental credo of never giving offense to anyone.

The word "tragedy" gets abused a lot these days, but here's something truly tragic:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. forces killed two Iraqi women — one of them about to give birth — when the troops shot at a car that failed to stop at an observation post in a city north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials and relatives said Wednesday. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, 35, was being raced to the maternity hospital in Samarra by her brother when the shooting occurred Tuesday.
The U.S. military said coalition troops fired at a car after it entered a clearly marked prohibited area near an observation post but failed to stop despite repeated visual and auditory warnings.

Given the frequency of suicide car bombings in Iraq, the rules of engagement are justified. That is no comfort to the family involved. And imagine if you were the gunner who killed the two women -- knowing that you acted properly, and in ignorance of what the vehicle was really doing, is no comfort either.

But there's a reason Kim Gamel of the AP filed an 800 word story on a simple incident: to blur the moral distinction between accidental killing and murder.

[The victim's brother] said the killings, like those in Haditha, were examples of random killings faced by Iraqis every day.
The killings at Haditha, a city that has been plagued by insurgents, came after a bomb rocked a military convoy on Nov. 19, killing a Marine. Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., a decorated war veteran who has been briefed by military officials, has said Marines shot and killed unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot others.

Kim didn't mention that the congressman, a living disgrace to the Marine Corps, declared that the Marines were guilty though none have been charged with anything yet, and he implicated the Marines' chain of command, too. Very discreet. Then she reveals her main theme:

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi told the BBC that the allegations have "created a feeling of great shock and sadness and I believe that if what is alleged is true — and I have no reason to believe it's not — then I think something very drastic has to be done."
"There must be a level of discipline imposed on the American troops and change of mentality which seems to think that Iraqi lives are expendable," said Pachachi, a member of parliament.

Pachachi was being droll -- for if anyone considers Iraqi lives expendable, it's other Iraqis. And then comes...you can see this coming...Abu Ghraib!

If confirmed as unjustified killings, the episode could be the most serious case of criminal misconduct by U.S. troops during three years of combat in Iraq. Until now the most infamous occurrence was the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse involving Army soldiers, which came to light in April 2004 and which Bush said he considered to be the worst U.S. mistake of the entire war.

I wouldn't put barking dogs and naked Iraqi pyramids on the same level as mass murder, but the AP is as mainstream as journalism gets, and mainstream journalism decided two years ago that Abu Ghraib is equivalent to Dachau.

It's 5:00 a.m. in Baghdad as I type this. Thousands of Marines and soldiers have already woken for the day, and they are getting their gear ready to go out on patrol, man checkpoints, give fire support, render medical aid, and countless other tasks. Over the last three years, hundreds of thousands of men have risked their lives to save Iraqi civilians, and many more will in the future.

If Marines really committed murder in Haditha, people like Kim Gamel of the Associated Press will use their guilt to eradicate any good that servicemen did in Iraq. They've done a good job so far: most of the American public thinks that the war hasn't been worth the cost. Who can blame them? The feckless Big Media never ceases to highlight bad events in Iraq, and no one can answer them effectively.

Drug wakes up "PVS" patients

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This BBC story tells of an amazing story: in a small trial, three patients diagnosed with PVS woke up temporarily when given an anti-insomnia drug.

Each of the three patients studied was given the drug every morning.

An improvement was seen within 20 minutes of taking the drug and wore off after four hours, when the patients restored to their permanent [sic] vegetative state.

Notice how the BBC's culture-of-death mentality appears here, when the writer uses the wrong name for the condition: "permanent vegetative state" vs. the usual "persistent". Even when the patient has awakened to an obviously conscious condition with the help of a medication, the writer still calls the patient's uncommunicative state "permanent".

It appears that the tendency to deny the patient's humanity and worth is persistent.

We owe the land a day off

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Today's Old Testament reading speaks of the sabbath:

Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon,
where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons
until the kingdom of the Persians came to power.
All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah:
“Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths,
during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest
while seventy years are fulfilled.”

The day of rest is worth remembering: it gives thanks for what God has given to us in the created world. It sets a limit to our sometimes constant labor: a limit to our using the world. It expresses a faith in God's providence, by desisting from work for a day.

The passage from 2 Chronicles presents the sabbath as something we owe the land. If I may return to Rod's book again: he's been thinking about what we owe the land too, in an excerpt about environmental conservation.

Fr. Bryce Sibley is now podcasting

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In his first program, Fr. Bryce has a lesson about concepts of human nature, natural law, and morality. Human freedom, a great good, exists within a context: the reality of human nature. Ignoring human nature leads to erroneous thinking about human action: that is, about morality.

I love when the NYT descends into self-parody. Here they seem to lament the fate of Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban ally and heroin distributor, who has apparently lost weight in the John Gotti Suite in the Manhattan Federal pen. And his guards don't speak Pashto! Worst of all, he was lured to New York under false pretenses: he thought he was attending a "political meeting," and the Feds had the nerve to arrest him instead for trying to sell $50 million in heroin to U.S. consumers!

Two unwittingly funny things about the article:

1. This dimwit Islamofascist is being represented by a lawyer named "Goldenberg."

2. Mr. Goldenberg complains that his client "did not know that the [Bush] administration had publicized his name as a most-wanted drug dealer." If he did, "it might have affected his travel plans."

Here's a serious ethical question, though: is it morally permissible to deceive a criminal? I think it is under limited circumstances, because a criminal doesn't have a right to the truth, if revealing the truth means he will get away with his crimes, or commit other evils.

That is (roughly) Saint Thomas Aquinas' teaching. Saint Augustine took the strict view that speaking an untruth was ipso facto sinful. Your thoughts?

I admit it: I'm impressed. Here's Frances D'Emilio, an AP reporter covering the Pope's illness and his recent statements on medical ethics, and doing a solid, accurate job of describing what the Catholic Church believes and teaches on these matters.

Later that day, the Vatican announced he had been fitted with a feeding tube in his nose to help boost his nutritional intake.

The use of the feeding tube illustrates a key point of Roman Catholic policy John Paul has proclaimed: It is morally necessary to give patients food and water, no matter their condition.

As Parkinson's disease and other ailments have left him increasingly frail, the pope has been emphasizing that the chronically ill, "prisoners of their condition ... retain their human dignity in all its fullness."

The Vatican's attitude to the chronically ill has been apparent in its bitter condemnation of a judge's order two weeks ago to remove a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged American woman who died Thursday.

Vatican Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, reacting to Schiavo's death, denounced the removal of her feeding tube as "an attack against God."

Although different, some see parallels in the two cases.

Under John Paul, Vatican teaching on the final stages of life includes a firm rejection of euthanasia, insistence on treatments that help people bear ailments with dignity and encouragement of research to enhance and prolong life.

A 1980 Vatican document makes the distinction between "proportionate" and "disproportionate" means of prolonging life. While it gives room for refusal of some forms of aggressive medical intervention for terminally ill patients, it insists that "normal care" must not be interrupted.

John Paul set down exactly what that meant in a speech last year to an international conference on treatments for patients in a so-called persistent vegetative state.

"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory."

John Paul's 26-year papacy has been marked by its call to value the aged and to respect the sick, subjects the pope has turned to as he battles Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments.

High taxes are not a family value

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I finally got around to opening my Fairfax County real estate tax assessment today. It was sitting in a stack of papers for a couple of weeks, and it has not improved with age.

They don't actually come right out and saw how much you're going to pay. No, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is coy about that subject, though they helpfully included a pamphlet explaining why assessments are completely justified and rational. Another shows the county budget that explains how they're going to spend $3 billion (that's right, with a "b") in fiscal 2006.

But we peasants should rejoice! The good people on the Board are cutting our taxes, you see: to offset the obscene tax increase, they are lowering the tax rates, from $1.13 per $100 of value to $1.03. I did the math that they didn't want to show us, and I see that what for us would have been a tax increase of $1,150 is "only" about $700.

In other words, I ought to shut up because my real estate taxes only went up 17% instead of 28%, and our county is such a wonderful place to live. But I can't help but ask the question: if the county was wonderful when it was getting $4,000 last year from the Johnsons, why does it need the extra 700 bucks next year? Inflation, sure — that accounts for about $100. There aren't 17% more students in the schools, and (thankfully) the cops don't have 17% more criminals to catch. The firemen aren't putting out 17% more fires. Et cetera.

To our family, the increase alone represents almost a month of groceries. Now I have to work for three weeks out of the year, just to pay my real estate taxes, mostly to support schools that my children do not attend. Those taxes are more than our phone, water, electrical, mobile phone, basic cable TV, and Internet connection bills combined.

It doesn't stop with real estate. My federal taxes will probably be more than all of those things I just listed, plus all of our grocery expenditures. Aside from our rather substantial mortgage — itself a result of the Board keeping a lid on the county housing supply — our biggest expense is paying The Man in all his guises.

And you wonder why suburban parents vote for Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin?

It must have been a slow news day for the Washington Post to use this article as its Military Outrage Story du jure:

Imaad said they were startled by a loud banging at the door. He went quickly to open it. When he did, Imaad said, there were about a dozen U.S. soldiers standing with their guns pointed at his head.

Imaad and his mother said the soldiers rushed in, ordering them to sit together while they searched the house. "You look poor," Imaad recalled one of the soldiers saying. "Why?"

Imaad answered in English: "I have not been able to find a job, although I'm a graduate of the College of Arts." His heart was pounding, Imaad said. His mother, a chatty widow who adores her son, sat next to him, shaking.

The soldiers went to search his bedroom. He heard laughing, and then they called for him, he said. Imaad went to his room and saw that the soldiers had found several magazines he kept hidden from his mother. They had pictures of girls in swimsuits and erotic poses. Imaad said the soldiers spread the magazines on his bed and put his Koran in the middle.

"This is a good match," Imaad said one of the soldiers told him.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "I will never forget those bad soldiers when they put the Koran among the magazines."

Within 20 minutes, the soldiers left without arresting him or his mother. While the soldiers went next door to search his neighbor's house, Imaad began to slap his mother, he said. "The American people are devils," Um Imaad recalled her son repeating.

I dunno about this. In high school, when Mom discovered the cigars in my suitcase when I was about to leave on a beach trip, my first instinct wasn't to give her the back of my hand. (Instead, I launched on an impassioned, adolescent rant about her invading my privacy, as if minor children have privacy rights.) Has any major liberal news outlet ever so blithely reported on physical abuse of women, without so much as a single word to condemn it?

More than that, the only sources for this story are a mother-smacking jobless homebody, and the target of his violence. No one else corroborated any details of the story, other than there were U.S. troops in the neighborhood that night.

It's also curious that the Post — which ran article after article repeating condemnations of "The Passion of the Christ" as anti-Semitic — would also repeat laughably anti-Jewish statements without comment.

Um Imaad brought Imaad pills from the doctor to try to calm him. He looked at the yellow ones, then the red ones and refused to take them. "All these belong to Jewish people," he said, pushing one set aside. "And these others are from bad or foreign people."
This guy sounds like Pat Buchanan at the pharmacy!

More seriously, there are a few things to know about Arab communication if you have not dealt with Arabs before. WARNING: the following paragraphs contain generalizations, which are sometimes mischaracterized as "stereotyping." However, just about anyone who has communicated with Arabs for a significant llength of time will agree with these generalizations.

1. Arabs exaggerate. Most people can embellish, but Arabs have a knack for inventing or magnifying details. Case in point: why would 12 men all point their weapons at one guy in a doorway? Why would they bunch up, unless they wanted to present an appealing target for a bad guy with an AK-47 or hand grenade? Most likely, there were two or three guys at the door, and others providing perimeter security.

2. In part because they exaggerate, Arabs do not expect their words to be taken at face value. You, the listener, are expected to read between the lines. If you don't, it's your fault, not the speaker's.

3. Arabs will make up events in order to save their personal honor. Thus, it is very unlikely that the soldiers would have arranged the naughty pictures around a Koran; it's more likely that Imaad made that up. You see, looking at provocative photos of sluttish infidels is bad, but juxtaposing them with the words of Allah as dictated to the Prophet? Incomparably worse! So the real crime wasn't Imaad's lack of chastity, it was the blasphemy of the Crusaders!

That's why Imaad says later in the article, "I asked God to forgive me...because I could not prevent American sins" (emphasis mine). Not forgiveness for his sins, but other people's.

(Thanks to Australian blogger Tim Blair for the original link to the article. Read his take, which is a lot funnier than mine.)

...while the United Nations, the "last, best hope of the world," sends some well-paid bureaucrats to Asia, where they will assess the situation and attend meetings. But the U.N. has more "moral authority." Right?

UPDATE: Kevin Sites, the NBC journalist at the scene, doesn't seem convinced that he saw a murder: "I have witnessed the [M]arines behaving as a disciplined and professional force throughout this offensive. In this particular case, it certainly was a confusing situation to say the least."



An NBC camera crew filmed a Marine shooting a wounded Iraqi insurgent in Fallujah, and the media will doubtless give this the objective, calm treatment for which they are famous. However, I wouldn't rush to judgement on this one. Here are a few things to consider:

1. The guy wasn't a prisoner, he was a combatant. After a combatant indicates he wishes to surrender, and is searched and restrained (hands tied, blindfolded, etc.), then he is a prisoner. Until then, he's a combatant.

2. Unlike civilians, enemy combatants are presumed to be mortal threats unless they are obviously incapacitated or have surrendered. This combatant was apparently making no move to surrender, although he may have been incapacitated, which would be a crucial fact.

3. From the time of the initial invasion last year, the insurgents have completely disregarded the laws of war, which ban the use of the "ruse," appearing to surrender and then continuing to fight when the Coalition forces approach them. They have also booby-trapped dead and wounded men, as well as used the suicide-bomber attire that is so fashionable on the West Bank.

4. We have no idea what all the facts are. One left-wing Australian paper calls this incident "cold-blooded murder." I am betting that they haven't used that phrase to describe the bombings of Iraqi marketplaces or police stations.

5. Under Catholic teaching, it is permissible for servicemen acting under legitimate authority to use deadly force against the enemy -- even when the an individual member of the enemy poses no immediate threat. For example, if a enemy soldier is sleeping in his bed, one can justifiably slit his throat. It might not be nice, it might not be sporting, but it is permissible.

6. Sprinkled in with our military — indeed, any fighting force — are those contemptable persons who enjoy the thrill of killing for its own sake. They can be weeded out beforehand, but some will always slip through. That being said, I have no idea whether this Marine fits into that category.

7. Marines will protect their own, but if one of their own has done something criminal or dishonorable, God help him, because the Marine Corps won't. Robert Bork, himself a Marine lawyer in the 1950s, says that if he were a innocent defendent, he would want to face a military jury, but if he were guilty, he would prefer a civilian jury.

An aside: This has no bearing on the moral question of whether this shooting was justified, but I am reminded of the Iranian response to the USS Vincennes accidently shooting down one of its civilian airliners, killing dozens of people. According to one account that I read, the Iranian government believed that it wasn't an accident — they truly thought the U.S. directly ordered the shooting.

Here's the sick part: afterwards, the Iranians were impressed with our "bloodthirstiness," and resolved to treat the U.S. with more respect. After all, it's something they would have done to demonstrate their own lack of scruples. That's one of a zillion examples of why we're deeply involved with pacifying the Middle East.

Superman would indeed have fought against the villian you describe. The fact is people like Reeves, Reagan, Jr. and Kerry have been lying about the results of embryoinc stem cell research.

See this short comment on the Presidential debates - The Big Lie by Robert P. George.

God swiftly answered the prayer for vengeance on Paul Johnson's murderers. Thanks be to God. May he have mercy on the three dead terrorists' souls. Let their examples stay the hands of other evil men, and move them to repentance.

Corporate America comes out

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It's "Citigroup Pride Month," a celebration of homosexuality at the Manhattan headquarters of one of the worlds biggest corporations!

In celebration of Pride Month, the GCIB and Smith Barney Office of Global Diversity invites you to attend its special panel discussion "Being Out in the Workplace: The Impact on Relationships with Colleagues and Customers." The panel will feature several gay, lesbian and straight Citigroup professionals who, over the course of the luncheon, will share their experiences about being "out" at work. Among other things, the panelists will also share their views on the issues facing LGBT employees today.
"Diversity," defined as the acceptance of the gay agenda, is apparently mandatory at Citigroup. I wonder if any of the panelists are orthodox Christians or Orthodox Jews.

Another way to be bought and sold

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What goes around comes around: the immoral medical techniques vaunted as great breakthroughs create new opportunities for treating people as things.

UK authorities have banned a scheme that would, in effect, pay infertile women who seek in vitro fertilization. Under the proposal, women would undergo extra rounds of treatment to stimulate egg production and give all the eggs from those treatments away.

The payoff of about 2000 -- call it $3400 -- per cycle would come in the form of a price discount on the lady's own IVF procedures.

If we're willing to treat our own offspring -- our human embryos -- as the object of production techniques, including the selection of desired ones, freezing of surplus, and disposal of those rejected -- well, we can't be surprised if people try to treat the woman's body as an object, an egg factory that can be rented.

Addictions and moral culpability

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I'm moving this dispute out of the comment box because it's not germane to the original topic. In my post on the aggressively eccentric Martin Sheen, I said "the 'root cause' of most poverty is bad morals: infidelity leading to divorce, illegitimacy, drug and alcohol addictions, etc."

Gordon Zaft strongly disagreed with my characterization of addictions, calling me a "fool." (Join the club! "Gordon Zaft" might be a pseudonym for one of my former teachers, or perhaps an ex-girlfriend.) Gordon elaborates in a subsequent comment:

Drug and alcohol addictions are most certainly NOT merely "bad morals" and it is, pardon me for saying so, unChristian to suggest that it is. It also does not square with a great deal of real research which shows real causes for addictive personalities. To deny them is, in fact, foolish.

If by "real" you mean that certain people are genetically predisposed to addictions, then you're right. The idea that certain weaknesses can be passed along to children is an insight that predates modern medicine by more than 2,000 years. Further, it wouldn't surprise me if the same studies confirmed that the level of predisposition varies from individual to individual.

The Catechism leaves no room for doubt that abusing drugs or alcohol is intrinsically sinful:

2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine....

2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense....

[see quotation in context]

So there is a physical, genetic component to addictions, and a moral component. In some individuals, the physical component can be overwhelming, and the moral component minimal. In others, the opposite can be true. As addictions progress, the addict's will tends to become weaker and weaker, until the choice to take another drink or reach for the syringe is barely a choice at all.

I'm not a moral theologian. I don't even play one on the Web. But I can't really see how "bad morals" is an incorrect way to describe drug and alcohol abuse. I am not saying that addiction is exclusively a moral matter in every case, but unless someone is clinically insane and not responsible for his actions, then the addict must confront his own sinfulness and repent. It doesn't do him any good to explain away the addiction as merely genetic.

Gordon, maybe you could elaborate a little more about your objection. Perhaps I'm not understanding your point. Anyone else who wants to throw in their two cents (or if you're from Canada, two pesetas), please do so.

Can't touch this

| 4 Comments

Or this, or this, and certainly not this.

It's too bad, really. Gotta say no.

My driver's license renewal form came in the mail last week, so I looked it over and started to fill it out. One of the questions is:

Do you want to have the organ donor designation printed on your driver's license?
Now, that is basically nice. The thoughtful people in our state government decided to take the opportunity to recruit all the drivers in the Commonwealth to manifest their willingness to be organ donors.

And my choice the last time around was: Sure, why not. The Church approves of organ donation; it's a charitable way to help somebody, to do a pro-life act. Fine. Happy to help.

But this LifeSite item reminds me that not everybody has the ethical details quite right. (Read the story here if you don't have access to CWN.) It's about unscrupulous doctors in Russia collecting organs from people who weren't dead yet. (They are now.)

Dr. John Shea, medical advisor to Campaign Life Coalition, said that he is not surprised: "The less dead a person is, the better," for purposes of organ harvesting. The practice now is to have the attending physician in a trauma ward make a decision against continuing life-saving efforts, shut off the respirator, and remove organs as soon as possible after even a simple head trauma, he said.
But surely it's only over there?
"Let's not blame the Russians, this is going on in Canada and the United States under new protocols for 'non-heart-beating' organ donation. The patient does not even have to be brain dead. The term 'brain death' is useless anyway. No-one ever knew what it meant; now it is being ignored," he said.
And when I can't trust the medical system to respect my wishes and wait until I'm really dead (no heartbeat, no breathing, no brain activity) before sending me to a chop-shop, it seems best that I withdraw the permission that I previously gave.

If I'm going to give anybody the OK to collect second-hand body parts from me, it's going to be in some other document that spells out the ethical conditions a little more precisely. I'm not going to leave it to the legislature.

Until then, I'll break it down for ya in the words of the Rev. M.C. Hammer: ...can't touch this.

Thongs at church

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Yesterday at 10 a.m. Mass, we were sitting together as a family, an uncommon occurence because my wife Paige is often the cantor. When we sat down for the Liturgy of the Word, I noticed that the woman in the pew in front of me was wearing a cropped shirt that exposed about three fingers' worth of belly, as well as a skimpy thong.

"You should have been concentrating on the liturgy or praying," you might say. I agree, but I had my squirmy 3-year-old daughter in my arms, so my concentration was not as acute as it might have been. I happened to glance past my daughter and saw more than I wanted to see: when the woman sat down, her low-cut pants didn't conceal the top part of her underwear.

Is it really too much to ask for someone to refrain from dressing provocatively at church? The guy next to me was wearing an untucked shirt and jeans; there were many overly casual people there. I've learned to filter that out. There could be a charitable explanation for dressing sloppy -- maybe she's sick and could only put on sweatclothes; maybe he's poor and that "Brew Thru" t-shirt is all he owns. There's no excuse for dressing like a tart, though.

If being disrespectful to God isn't enough to get people to reconsider their clothes, there are a couple of other good reasons. First, it's a terrible example to kids. We've already got our hands full -- quite literally -- when we take the kids to Mass, and we're trying to convince them that church is a special place where we're on our best behavior. When other people look like they're going to a picnic, that's hard.

Bad examples don't just influence the pre-school set. Last summer when we were in Maine, I noticed some girls who must have been 11 or 12 wearing low-riding jeans with thong straps sticking out. It made me mildly ill. Where did they get the idea that they should present themselves as sex objects? From older females like their favorite singers (thanks, Britney!) and other people they see around them.

The last, weakest, and perhaps the most convincing reason to dress up for church is that these clothes render you unattractive. Men, most women are turned off by slobs, and other men won't respect you much. Women, those super-keen fashions probably don't work on you. Spaghetti straps on a thin, tall woman can make a woman look more graceful and elegant, but on 97% of the female population it makes you appear thicker.

Low-cut tight pants make your butt look bulbous and your hips wider than they are (again, unless you're skinny and tall, but all clothes look better on skinny, tall people.) If you have the least bit of fat on your hips -- in other words, you're a normal woman -- your pants will show that fat to the world, making your abdomen look like sausage meat that's trying to escape its casing.

Like women priests and gay marriage, I find discussions about inappropriate attire to be tedious not because there aren't important issues involved, but because there aren't that many interesting aspects to the debate. I bring it up in the hope that someone, somewhere, will read this and think about wearing nice clothes to meet the King of the Universe.

Stem Cell Research: a Myth?

Comedian Jerry Lewis (a genius in France) is running his annual fund-raising telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The little spiels they present about research are mentioning possible treatments based on stem cells. Keep your expectations low.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz


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