Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times (Vol. 9, No. 100)
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
May 1, 2018
Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker
~St. Joseph, like Jesus and St. Paul after him, shows us that work is not only necessary, it is noble and can be a way that we imitate God in his own work of creation.
~“The fertility doctor who impregnated a patient – and the ethics of procreation” (see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/the-fertility-doctor-who-impregnated-a-patient—and-the-ethics-of-procreation-60698). You think this story was from 2018? Try 1980. It will be 40 years in July since the first “test-tube” baby, Louise Brown, was born. This story shows that IVF is not abused; it is itself the abuse.
~As I get older, I feel the communion of saints coming closer to me. When I was younger, it was I moving toward them.
~St. Pope John Paul II tells us in his 1993 encyclical, Veritatis splendor, no. 19 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html) that Christian perfection consists in the “following of Jesus, sequela Christi…” In fact, he says, “Following Christ is thus the essential and primordial foundation of Christian morality…” He explains this point: “More radically, it involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and his destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father.” And later, John Paul II will speak of imitating (no. 20) and following Christ (no. 21). But the latter is not “an outward imitation,” he tells us, since “it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:5-8).” Ever since I’ve had children (and now a grandchild), I often think of what John Paul II is saying this way: We have to cling to Christ in the same way a baby steadfastly clings to his or her mother.
~I don’t “make” anything (Just ask my wife). Most of what I do is in the realm of information and its flow and evaluation.
~One of the reasons I’m Catholic is that I’m afraid of who I’d be if I wasn’t.
~In our high tech world today we greatly emphasize STEM education. And there are good reasons for that. But what about the liberal arts, the humanities? (Well, at least when they’re done right). Aren’t they important too? Where will our ethics and values “come from”? They have to come from somewhere (And hopefully from the Church and the Bible). There are no “stems” on STEM from which these values will “grow.”
~When we say that an artist is doing a version of another artist’s song, for decades we have called it a “cover.” I have often thought this an odd term to use. Couldn’t we just say “version”?
~In an April 18, 2018 column, “Parenting of the future: Many embryos, each with DNA profile” (see https://www.apnews.com/daa979776f584c0da4bc8bb03fbd51af), Malcolm Ritter writes: “Here’s what Greely [i.e., Henry Greely, a Stanford University law professor who works in bioethics] envisions: A man and woman walk into a fertility clinic. The man drops off some sperm. The woman leaves some skin cells, which are turned into eggs and fertilized with the man’s sperm. Unlike in vitro fertilization today, which typically yields around eight eggs per try, the new method could result in 100 embryos. The embryos’ complete library of DNA would be decoded and analyzed to reveal genetic predispositions, both for disease and personal traits. The man and woman would get dossiers on the embryos that pass minimum tests for suitability. Out of, say, 80 suitable embryos, the couple would then choose one or two to implant.” Such a humanistic process isn’t it? Couples get “dossiers” on the embryos that pass the initial fitness test (And I thought it was only spies who got dossiers. And presidents too if you’re Trump). If these researchers weren’t scientists, we’d be calling them mad. All of this work in the name of “choice.” Let’s substitute “human persons” for every time the article speaks so clinically of “embryos.” Would we think differently of the science?
~Matt Ridley’s piece on AI (see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/britain-can-show-the-world-the-best-of-ai-585vsthvn) speaks of ethics but doesn’t really address where they come from or whose they’ll be.
~Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s article, “To be blunt, Shania, your comment backing Trump was really dumb” (see http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article209667779.html), is, to be blunt, really dumb.
~Michael Brendan Dougherty’s review of Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West (see https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/off-the-shelf-suicide-of-the-west/), is a perfect example of what a book review should look like. It is informative, interesting, insightful, fair, and critical. When you finish it, you want more.
~If you’re looking for a piece that insightfully engages the crazy student activism on campuses these days more from the perspective of Martin Luther King, Jr. than Black Lives Matter, then this article by the black theologian Vincent Lloyd of Villanova University will be useful (see https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/02/letter-to-a-campus-activist).
~James Kalb, in an interesting article, “Liberalism: An Option for Catholics?” (See https://www.crisismagazine.com/2018/liberalism-option-catholics) doesn’t have much hope for moral arguments based on the natural law. “As for natural law,” he writes, “from a practical standpoint it’s basically a front for conservative Catholicism. Non-Catholic natural law thinkers do exist, but most of them eventually convert. And in any event respectable public opinion considers the view intolerably sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise reactionary.” Rather than lament this state of affairs, however, I say we must rely on natural law more so than ever. Without natural law reasoning, we have no way of engaging the culture on moral issues on its own terms.
~“Cardinal Tobin warns against temptation to shrink Catholic community to pure members” (see https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/04/13/cardinal-tobin-warns-against-temptation-shrink-catholic-community-pure-members). Memo to Cardinal Tobin: This is not a temptation. No one wants a smaller Church of “pure members.” Rather, acknowledging the shrinkage is simply recognition of the current situation. What we should do about it is another matter. But attending to the “signs of the times” (cf. Mt 16:3) is necessary for informing our strategy of evangelization.
~“Natural Family Planning NFP: Where Catholics and non-Catholics get it wrong” (see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/misunderstanding-nfp-where-catholics-and-non-catholics-get-it-wrong-58130). This is a very good article about NFP (It effectively quotes my colleague, Janet E. Smith, among other good things) except for this confusing line: “As long as couples do not impede the possibility of pregnancy through artificial means (contraception) or natural means (withdrawal), they act according to Church teaching, Pope Paul VI notes in Humanae Vitae.” There seems to be an equivalence made between means that are “artificial” and “contraception.” What makes a means “contraceptive,” however, is not its artificiality, but whether the couples using it intend to impede procreation or not. Also, “natural means” would include NFP. So, it’s confusing to call “withdrawal” a “natural means” that is wrong, but then label NFP a “natural means” that is morally okay. I would say that withdrawal – although it may be natural – is a form of contraception.
~Jonah Goldberg’s “Alfie Evans & Machine Thinking — Losing Human Element” (see https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/machine-thinking-alfie-evans-china-social-credit-score/). Citing recent examples of Big Brother in action in England (e.g., Alfie Evans) and in China, Goldberg argues: “We might need a moral panic about dehumanization.” Even though, he remarks, we are already “thinking” like machines and so: “[The] process seems well under way already, and I wonder what it will take before we get the moral panic we need.” Three cheers for moral panic!
~Not all of our bishops have fallen off the deep end. My evidence for this claim is that we have those shepherds such as Gerhard Cardinal Müller (the former Prefect of the CDF) who can write articles as clear and concise as “Who May Receive Communion?” (See https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/04/who-may-receive-communion). It’s a breath of fresh air.
~“Reflecting on the frightening lessons of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’” (see https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2017/04/28/reflecting-frightening-lessons-handmaids-tale). Nope, sorry, I’m not going to reflect on or learn from this garbage.
~At the bottom of an article on the passing of the CUA professor of canon lawyer Msgr. Thomas Green (see https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/commentary-lessons-from-msgr-green-27726), under the “You may also like,” were three articles – all of them on environmentalism and “going green.” Who said computers were smart?
~Do yourself a favor and watch this interview with Dr. Thomas Sowell (soon-to-be 88 on June 30) conducted by Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report discussing, among other things, his new book, Discrimination and Disparities (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ivf9jrXGAY).