Theophany 2015

  1. Doerflinger on Physician-Assisted Suicide
  2. What Do We Do After Liberalism?
  3. Do ancient evils pale in comparison to today’s?
  4. Cuomo and Dionne: Birds of a Feather
  5. Where angels don’t come from

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, and called Thee His beloved son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of his word. O Christ, our God, who hast revealed Thyself, Glory to Thee!

Troparion of Theophany


Whether doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients should be legal is a question that tends to divide Americans right down the middle. Certainly the prospect of authorizing assistance in the suicides of one class of citizens, while retaining full legal protection for the lives of everyone else considering suicide, should trouble anyone committed to equal protection under law. But A. 2270 is bad public policy by any reasonable standard. Like its predecessors in Oregon and Washington, it is shot through with dangerous loopholes and contradictions that threaten to push many vulnerable citizens of New Jersey toward death.

Assembly members may be assuming that A. 2270 would provide the option of a “humane and dignified death” for people fitting the profile projected by Maynard. In this scenario, a lucid person of sound mind, facing an imminent death of intractable pain and suffering, consults with her loving family and makes a voluntary and uncoerced decision to obtain a physician’s help in taking her own life. Whether that profile fits Maynard’s own case is anyone’s guess—we have seen only the “reality television” show that C&C wanted us to see. But it unquestionably has little to do with the real-world impact of A. 2270. To understand why, we must read the bill carefully.

(Richard Doerflinger) There may be nobody in America better able to assist in that careful reading that Richard, Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a veteran of bioethical discussions.

Not to put too fine a point on it (this is blunter than Richard by far), assisted suicide laws in reality are mainly a way for us to get rid of people who are (or can be made by abusers to feel that they are) a burden on others, and to do so in a way that feigns careful consideration and medical punctiliousness, if only we’ll suspend critical thought. We’re making physicians the priests of a deadly new religion.


Today many of the communal forms of life that might once have been thought to link the fates of the strong and weak are attenuated or all but dissolved. There has been extraordinary geographic sorting, a result of extensive educational sorting (even President Obama sends his daughters to the Sidwell Friends School). We are engaged in the human equivalent of strip mining, identifying “rational and industrious” young people in every city and town and hamlet through standardized testing, extracting them for processing at one of our refining centres (universities), and then excreting them now as productive units of economic production to be conveyed to an hub of economic activity while leaving behind a landscape stripped bare of talented and industrious people that God thought wise to distribute widely.

(Patrick Deneen via Rod Dreher, in What Do We Do After Liberalism? No, not that kind of “liberalism,” bunky, but the kind secretly shared by MSNBE and Fox News.)

Dreher continues:

Deneen’s essay is challenging on a number of fronts. As a reader of Dante, I am struck by how the world of atomizing liberalism described by Deneen resembles Dante’s Inferno. In Dante’s Paradiso, the mutual and joyful interdependence of others is characteristic of heaven; utter and eternal solitude is what it’s like in Hell. In Paradiso, there exists a kind of inequality (this is dealt with in the episode with the nun Piccarda), but it is explained by saying that God desires harmony, not uniformity. In heaven, all are equally blessed, but not equally positioned — and to be united with God is to accept His will in that regard. All the blessed in Paradiso live with the good of all the others foremost in mind, because they are filled with divine love.

I think my own political development goes like this:

1. Young Rod: Liberalism is great, freeing me of the tyranny of roots.

2. Older Rod: Liberalism is seriously problematic, making it very difficult to form and to sustain deep roots.

3. Even Older Rod: Liberalism is seriously problematic, but so is everything else, including traditionalism. We can’t continue as a society to live under liberalism, because it’s tearing us apart, and creating exactly the world Pat Deneen identifies. But all the alternatives seem worse.


[T]he perversions of the ancient Canaanite may seem a bit tame in comparison with the demonic conditions that surround Christians in the world today. Arguably more than the Church Fathers, we modern Americans – our culture shaped by Philistines and our government run by Baal-enthusiasts – are in an excellent position to understand the evils of the Amorites, the atrocities of the Jebusites, and the cruelties of Moloch-worship.

(Patrick Henry Reardon, Cursing Psalms and Spiritual Laziness)


In his Washington Post column [Monday}, E.J. Dionne pays tribute to the late Mario Cuomo. It is right and fitting that he should do so, since what Cuomo was to politics, Dionne is to journalism: a man constantly reminding us he is Catholic while he counsels and supports the violation of central tenets of the faith, at least where one of those central tenets—the sanctity of life—is concerned.

The substance of what Cuomo had to say [at Notre Dame 30 years ago] revealed him to be constitutionally incompetent, politically ham-handed, morally confused, and theologically ignorant. The sum of his lecture was that since there was no national consensus on whether abortion is wrong at all, and since Cuomo was a Catholic who “accept[ed] the Church’s teaching on abortion” but could cite no other reason than “dogma” for agreeing with his Church, and since the Supreme Court had determined that the Constitution to which he as governor took an oath protected the abortion license, he therefore concluded that he must, in his public capacity, work to preserve that license.

(Matthew J. Franck) It always boggles my mind how many Roman Catholic politicians with a “D” after their name talk as if their Church opposing abortion makes it a merely sectarian position, whereas a preferential option for the poor, say, is a truth accessible to all persons of good will.

See also Robert P. George.


I feel like a Grinch, and those who need to hear it won’t hear it here because they’re not likely to be reading this blog, but for the record: children, grandmothers and other nice people do not become angels when they die.

Angels are a different order of created being, among the “all things visible and invisible” that God created, according to the Creed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church on angels is in the right ball park.

Human death is the separation of the soul from the body. We’re meant to have bodies. That’s at least one way we’re different than angels. So death is our disintegration, quite literally: the way our bodily integrity is broken. It’s not our transformation or translation to a higher key.

But then there’s always the Resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come (our re-integration and translation to a higher key all in one).

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There are 5 Orthodox Christians in the new Congress. That’s nearly 1%, and that, I’m afraid, is disproportionately high.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.