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Universalis

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

WaPost Religious forum shows it's bias

This is from Bloggernews essay:

December 25th, 2007 by Nancy Reyes

One of the RSS feeds I get is the Washington Post’s forum on Religion. To say the selection of commenters is biased is an understatement: Quick, find the Catholic. Yes, Father Reese sometimes writes an essay, but I mean find a Catholic who follows the Pope.And what makes it worse is not that non Christians tend to be over represented in the rosum, and even those who claim to be Christian tends to write from the liberal spectrum of churches…
So are Conservative Christians represented? Well, yes. Chuck Colson is there. Period. And once they had Father McCloskey write an article…how they allowed him to get published, I’ll never know…
So this weeks’ topic for bashing conservative believers is about a Congressional resolution 847, that recognizes the importance of Christianity and the Christian faith.

Horrors! Pandering to the religious right (hmmm…silly me, since I thought Hillary and Obama were both believing Christians).

So how do the writers on Faith feel about that routine resolution?

The Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, is the 11th President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She has been a Professor of Theology at the seminary for 20 years and director of its graduate degree center for five years. Her area of expertise is contextual theologies of liberation, specializing in issues of violence and violation. An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ since 1974, the “On Faith” panelist is the author or editor of thirteen books and has been a translator for two translations of the Bible. Her works include Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States (1996) and The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Translation (1995). Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Thistlethwaite has been working diligently to promote peace, including a presentation at the U.S. Institute of Peace, which appears in one of their special reports. Most recently she edited and contributed to Adam, Eve and the Genome: Theology in Dialogue with the Human Genome Project (2003).

Congressional Christmas: Pork and Piety

This bill seems designed not to serve others, but to serve the Congressional representatives who voted for it. But you can’t legislate Christmas — you can only live it.

The Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, is the 11th President of Chicago Theological Seminary. …. An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ since 1974,

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Congressional Waste

Is this really what Jesus would have been spending his time on?

Rabbi Irwin Kula is the President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership…

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Founding Religion, Not Established Church

Attacks on this legislation will center on the claim that it violates the First Amendment. It does not.

An ordained United Church of Christ and American Baptist minister, “On Faith” panelist Dr. Willis E. Elliott…

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Resolution of the Heart

Resolutions are meaningless if people don’t resolve the same thing in their own hearts.

Charles W. “Chuck” Colson is founder of Prison Fellowship…

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Caesar Renders Unto the Holiday

If Congress wants to honor Christianity… Gee, I can’t finish that sentence. It seems out of place here in America.

Gustav Niebuhr is an associate professor of religion and the media…His articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the Carnegie Reporter, the Christian Century, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and Beliefnet.com.————————————-

Christmas

Legislating the importance of Christmas does not make Americans good Christians. How do we make non-Christians realize that this is the day of Love and Peace and not about being a Christian?

Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of India’s legendary leader, …. He is a regular participant in Renaissance Weekend deliberations with President Clinton…

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Ever-Present Political Panderers

This bill pledges “support for Christians in the United States and worldwide.” Whew! And here I thought our government hated Christians around the world!

“On Faith” panelist Susan Jacoby is the author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, (2004)….

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And when you are done, go read all the Christian bashing in the comments.

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My first thought about all those essays: Gee, even their token Pope bashing Catholic Father Reese didn’t make the cut this week.
My second thought: Wait a second.

These Congressional resolutions are passed all the time. HERE is a list of these commemorative resolutions: everything from Prostate Cancer to Desmond Tutu to congratulating the University of Florida football team to renaming part of Interstate 395 as Cal Ripkin way.

So what’s the big deal? Is it because the resolution was about religion, and all religion is a forbidden subject?

So I checked it out.

The biggest Hindu festival of the year is Diwali, celebrating the victory of light over darkness.
And sure enough, both Houses of Congress passed a resolution (TEXT HERE)
recognizing the importance of the feast…Passed unanimously by the US Senate on November 14, 2007.
Similarly, both Houses of Congress passed resolutions noting the importance of Ramadan, a time of fasting, instrospection, and prayer for the Muslims of the world. (TEXT HERE)
It too passed without opposition.

Yet a similarly worded resolution noting the historical and religious importance of Christmas to Christians living in America passed, but nine congresspersons voted against it. Now, if that doesn’t show bias, I’m not sure what does.
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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she sometimes writes about ethics at Boinkie’s blog.
When asked if she is a Christian, she usually answers by saying, well, I almost got my ass shot off when working as a missionary, does that count?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Asia

I posted a version of this at Bloggernews. I will add comments here, in blue...

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December 24th, 2007 by Nancy Reyes

The headlines on the BBC report:

Millions celebrate Christmas Day

People queue to enter the Church of Nativity grotto
People queued to enter the grotto under the Church of the Nativity

Millions of Christians around the world are marking Christmas Day - the traditional day of Christ’s birth.

The article then goes on to discuss the fact that pilgrims are again visiting Bethlehem.

The problem?

The word “Millions”…

Yup. No bias at the BBC, folks, just those "nutters" to use Tony Blair's expression to describe how the UKPress approaches anyone who even hints at a serious belief in God.

The last time I looked, there were 2.1 Billion Christians in the world. A few minor sects don’t celebrate Christmas, and some Orthodox still use the Julian Calender, but that still leaves well over a billion Christians who do celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th.

So my question to the BBC: Are you religiously challenged or Mathematically challenged?

The answer is both...and they are snobs. You see, they not only look down their noses at religious "nutters" but don't really think Asians or Africans are serious about Christianity.

Presumably both, since recent polls indicate that the UK is increasingly deChristianized, with more Catholics than Anglicans attending church weekly.

All the articles blame the increase in Catholics on all those Eastern Europeans living in the UK...guess they don't see the Pinoys like my cousins who work there...Of course, given the liberal bishops in the Catholic church, it's amazing that the fall away in Catholic church attendence isn't worse.

However, there is a growing Christian church in Asia that has it’s own customs, and many others have adopted the cheerful secular version of the holiday, with Santa Claus and gift giving.

Here in the Philippines, we attended midnight Mass, with a choir in traditional Filipino garb singing hymns in English and Tagalog.

The story of Mary and Joseph is much more believable here in the provinces, where children are still welcome but people are poor and identify with a family unable to find shelter during their travels.
We had the “live” Nativity scene, with first Mary and Joseph, then the baby, then the shepherds, and finally the three kings arriving during the service.

In today’s world, it would be travelers to find work, or to flee a nearby disaster finding refuge in a side room or garage but who survived with help from nearby neighbors, both rich and poor, giving gifts.

The Philippines has a majority Christian population, but there are Christians in other Asian countries that also tend to be ignored by the world press.

In a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, the BBC has an article on their front page discusses the underground Christians in China…this story is about Protestant Christians who refuse to join the state operated church but prefer to worship in homes. It also discusses the only printing press in China that is allowed to publish Bibles: 41 million so far.

The “official” number of Christians is 16 million, but some feel that 40 million is a closer estimate. China has both church run and “underground” Christian churches: Catholic and Protestant, so numbers are vague.

And those belonging to the underground churches risk arrest: there have been quite a few bishops, priests and pastors arrested and jailed in recent years..the BBC article dares to suggest some become Christian to better get visas to leave China, but of course this would only be true for those belonging to the official churches...

China also has over 200 million who follow other religions, mainly Buddhism. Yet like many other countries with few Christians, the secular Christmas is becoming popular.

Some in China are trying to fight against the holiday by stressing traditional values, but a Photo montage from ChinaDaily, and shows a choir in Hefei, East China.

The ChinaDaily has a photo montage here of mainly secular celebrations of the holidays, including SantaClaus in Syria and Tehran. Hmmm…

I thought it was ironic that their most Christian photo was from China...but the photo montage included Santas in Tehran and Syria, yet the US ally Saudi Arabia forbids any hints of Christian belief. No news on the press about this, or that many Pinoys take "holidays" in Dubai or Kuwait so they can go to church....

Christians outside of the Philippines still celebrate the religious aspect of the season, but the secular holiday with Santa is gaining popularity in other countries.

Japan, with a tiny Christian population, has embraced the secular holiday, but it is less celebrated in Korea, despite that country’s larger Christian population.

I found hardly any stories about Christmas on the English Korean websites, and both the stories I found were about the Santa type celebrations. Where are the Christians, or does the large Presbyterian influence make Christmas a minor holiday?

So the Santa Man is spreading in Asia, and is quite visible, but with less publicity so is the story of the homeless child whose parents took shelter with the animals but whose birth was greeted by angels.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Theologians who see the handicapped as life unworthy of life

If you look way way back, the first post on this blog is in answer to a theologian who insisted that Terri Schiavo and others who were similarly handicapped were "life unworthy of life".

So today's Life site has a similar very terrible list of those who helped kill her.

Schindler said Jesuit Father John Paris, professor at Boston College, commented on Pope John Paul II's statement mandating life sustaining treatment. Paris said in these situations, "I think the best thing to do is ignore it and it will go away. It's not an authoritative teaching statement. The problem here is that non-Catholics think when the Pope says 'Jump,' we all say, 'How high?'"

Father Kevin O'Rourke, ethics professor at the Loyola University of Chicago Medical School, told the Miami Herald that preserving Terri's life was "blasphemy." He also said, "For Christians, it is a blasphemy to keep people alive as if you were doing them a favor."

Father Richard McBrien, theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, told Bill O'Reilly of Fox News that, "This is not a question of euthanasia," directly contradicting the Vatican. "This is the removal of an 'extraordinary' means of sustaining life …"

Removing a feeding tube, or refusing to place one, is a subtle decision, part of which depends on the person's wishes, and the prognosis.

If a feeding tube is placed for not swallowing, the average "life span is only six months. Much of this is because of the risk of pneumonia: If you can't swallow food, you can't swallow saliva either, so tend to aspirate it into your lungs, especially when you lay flat.

In nursing homes, often we lift up the head on a wedge pillow, but in the severely handicapped, this puts pressure on the coccyx, making bed sores more common.

Finally, feeding might cause diarrhea (again, bed sores) and can aggrevate diabetes, or make renal failure worse.

Finally, often feeding tubes are placed for convenience: feeding by mouth might take two hours of a trained aid's time, three times a day. Putting in the feeding tube is cheap and easy....but leads to the person being more isolated in bed instead of going out and enjoying time in the dining room.

I had one patient who was weaned off his tube when he aspirated and got pneumonia. His doctor placed the tube back, but the patient got upset because he lost the pleasure of eating and the fellowship of the dining room. So he pulled the tube, started eating again, and died of massive aspiration pneumonia within a few days.

Indeed, an early court case on removing feeding tubes was of a fire chief who told all and sundry he didn't want to be kept alive on tubes...and the courts (and the local clergy) repected his wishes.

This is why the decision is not a "black white" thing.

Catholic theology has long recognized that you could refuse medical care if it was disproportional to the benefit. Once I watched doctors discussing this on Mother Angelica, and a priest intervened and quoted a decision from the 1600's that discussed if a man with an open fracture could refuse amputation.

(Back then, an open fracture of the lower leg usually resulted in gangrene and death; amputation was the treatment, but if the man was a farmer, in those days before artificial legs and wheelchairs, it would place a burden on his family at a time when there might not be enough food to go around).

A similar case is our cousin, who just broke his hip. The choice is expensive surgery or bedrest until it heals, but he is so old either choice could kill him. The family chose bedrest because they lacked money, so my husband gave them a very large gift to pay for most of the surgery bill. Whether or not they operate now depends on his other medical problems.

In the US, he would have had the hip operated on and been in a nursing home within a week.

So what's the answer? A family meeting, and a joint decision.

The problem with the Schiavo case is that the one wanting to pull the tube benefitted from her death...and the family was willing to care for her.

Most families agree with stopping extraordinary treatment, but there is a trend for neurologists to recommend stopping feeding tubes for those who are far from comatose: with the express purpose of killing them. That is why John Paul II, who is well acquainted with the questionable trends of bioethics, released a paper reminding people that ordinary food and water were never allowed to be stopped.

But the very real problem is liberal bioethicists who see the lives of the handicapped as "life unworthy of life".

Ever hear of that phrase? It was used by the German doctors to justify getting rid of the handicapped.

It shows that we are judged for our utility, as if helping the handicapped was an evil, and letting them die was a mizvah.

"For Christians, it is a blasphemy to keep people alive as if you were doing them a favor." declares Father O'Brien.

On the other hand, my Ojibwe patients saw it differently. They saw life as a journey that had certain challenges that had to be met. When someone was old or handicapped, they saw them as being partly "on the other side", with the ancestors, and that they still had more of their journey before leaving the earth.

Imagine that: That everyone is on earth for a purpose, and even the poorest and most handicapped person has a life that is meaningful.

Once, one of our aides went with the family to have their brain damage relative evaluated by a neurologist (she was not vegetative, but partially paralyzed with frontal lobe damage from an accident).

The neurologist spent most of the visit pressuring the family to stop her feeding tube, insisting that her life was worthless. The family, traditional Indians, kept their silence until finally they got up to leave, and the neice said to him:

"We Indians don't kill our elderly. That's the difference between us and you white people."

Tch tch...how un PC.......

Friday, December 14, 2007

Films

Yup.
Another day, another Anti Christian film

French producer Philippe Rebboah says Spears is a great choice to play the pregnant virgin who gives birth on Christmas Eve. The film entitled Sweet Baby Jesus is a satirical retelling of the nativity story.

Of course, Brittney hasn't accepted the contract, and this "producer" (of two films) has made the announcement already....meaning he needs publicity and used her name to hype it.

There are good films out there, but when it comes to religion--or even simple PG films with a pro family theme, there is a dearth of good films. Barbara Nicolosi sniffs at "Christian" films like the sleeper hit "Bella": yet the fact that Bella is a hit suggests a large untapped audience that would come out to see good films. In the meanwhile, we are stuck watching reruns of Ratatoulle and Enchanted.

However, for those who would like to hit the religious audience, I could suggest some interesting books that might make films or tv series. Nicolosi might prefer something more ethereal, but if you want to make money, try one of these:

1) "Tumbleweed": about a social worker promoting racial justice in the 1940's. Her biography starts with the word "sex"...(she is telling off a rich lady who criticized Harlem prostitutes). Eddie Doherty, a thrice married debonaire reporter and screenwriter falls in love with her while doing a story. He could be played by Richard Gere. Catherine could be played by any enthusiastic blond actress with a big bosum (sorry, Meryl).

2). Father Albert Braun he got a DSC in WWI, and while working with the Apache he volunteered to go with the NMNG...and ended up at Bataan (and received a SilverStar). His last days were spent working with the homeless in Phoenix...in a wheelchair.

3) The Mitford Books. We've had alcoholic priests and weirdo ministers, so it would be nice to have a "normal" priest in a movie or TV series....and, being Episcopalian, he has a love interest...

4). If we were going into R rated movied, one of Father Greeley's romance novels would be a good movie. There must be a reason the Cardinal Sins hasn't been made into a movie...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christ statue dedicated in Indonesia


A lot of people think Christianity is European, but forget that it has been in Asia for centuries; not just in the Philippines, but in VietNam.

So today I ran across a post in an Australian newspaper about a Protestant real estate developer erecting the largest statue of Jesus in Asia...well, maybe not the largest, but it is 30 meters high, and shows Jesus almost flying with outstretched arms, as if he's trying to welcome us into his arms...or waving to get our attention. It's name is the "Jesus Blessing Monument", and Christ is pictured welcoming the just into heaven.

Northern Sulawesi's population is about one half (mainly Protestant) Christian, and has suffered some pretty bad persecution from terror groups-- including the beheading of two schoolgirls-- resulting in strife between the religions.

The Australian news article merely says businessman who constructed the statue sees it as a way to encouarage tourists.
The SperoNews reports include the religious motivation behind the statue, and notes the multi ethnic and multi religious attendees at the statue's dedication.
The monument's stand is inscribed with the phrase Torang Samua Basudara, the province's slogan, which means "we are all brothers and sisters," in the local dialect.

As for tourism, well, the governor ... thanked Ciputra for building the monument, calling it a religious icon as well as an attraction for the World Ocean Conference, to be held May 11-15, 2009, in Manado, 2,215 kilometers northeast of Jakarta.

Mixing Christ and Cesar? Why not? Pilgrims have to eat and drink, and hospitality for strangers is a "good deed" in both Islam and Christianity.

The same Australian news article mentions two other large statues of Jesus in Asia.

One is in the southern part of VietNam, in Vung Tau: erected in 1971, the statue was erected by the local Catholics on the southern end of a small mountain, and overlooks the countryside.

There are also Buddhist statues in the VungTau area, as well as a famous golf course and beaches. Like the Indonesians, the Vietnamese government sees the statues as another tourist attraction, something for tourists to visit while staying at the planned Sai Gon Atlantis Resort when it's finished.


But a more controversial statue is outside the capital of Dili in East Timor. Constructed in 1995 partly with money from the Indonesian appointed governor and the Indonesian airlines, it's construction was resented by many, including the local bishop who pointed out that treating people with justice was more important than building a statue. Now that East Timor is independent, the statue remains a reminder of their oppression and therefore is not a popular tourist site.


This is in contrast to our most famous "big statue": Our Lady, Queen of Peace, that commemorates the 1986 People power revolution against Marcos, where a million people stood between Marcos' soldiers and the Generals backing Cory Acquino, who won the election.

Alas, although beautiful (and not so beautiful) statues of Mary are all over the Phililippines (nearly every Catholic family seems to have a "Lourdes shrine" in the garden) for some reason this sense of beauty didn't extend to the sculptor: which is why locals call it "the ugly madonna".

Wikipedia
has a list of huge statues if you are interested in trivia. A lot of the largest are either to Buddha or self made monuments to megalomanac tyrants; some were made as objects of devotion with popular support, and some erected by governments to encourage popular support; some are funded by rich people and some are erected with the support or the donations of ordinary people.

In the US, there are statues of anything from Mt.Rushmore to Paul Bunyan are all over the place, but a public monument with a religious theme, even one on traditional monument, are likely to get you sued. Nevertheless there are crosses and religious monuments all over the place.



One of my favorite is the Round Mountain cross, in Tularosa New Mexico, celebrating the last battle between the Apaches and the local Hispanic settlers (both groups visit the cross to commemorate their dead, but they do so on different days).

Another favorite monument was constructed by some out of work miners on the continental divide. Our Lady of the Rockies.
From Wikipedia:
The statue was first imagined by local resident Bob O'Bill. In 1979, his wife was seriously ill with cancer. He promised the Virgin Mary that he would make a 9 foot statue of her in his yard if his wife recovered. When she recovered he began the project with his fellow workers who gradually changed the initial vision to a mountain top statue nearly the size of the Statue of Liberty (111 feet).

To me, a monument that comes spontaneously from people's hearts has meaning no matter what one's religion. None of these things are works of artisitic merit, but monuments built by small people to express express what is deep in their hearts are something worth a visit.

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crossposted to Bloggernews.net

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

A bit late to call for a movie boycott

I posted this over at Bloggernews.net

When my sons were in their early teens, we had a VCR and rented movies.

They could rent any G or PG movies (this was before PG 13) but I would have to go with them and approve any R rated movies. (If this sounds strange, it was because some R rated action movies had better morals–friendship, sacrificing self to save others, fighting for the rights of the weak– than some PG ones, which showed manipulation of other people or made light of stealing or drug use). But one type of movie I did not allow were the “slasher” movies so beloved of teenagers.

But one day, my son was having a friend over whose parents weren’t so strict, and he decided to “push the limits”. He picked up a famous slasher type movie, with a gory bleeding and cut face on the cover and asked:

“Mom, what do you think of this?”

“Well, son”, I replied loudly, “I think if we put saline compresses on the face to stop the bleeding, start an IV of Ringers Lactate, give some IV antibiotics, check the XRay for facial fractures and arrange a plastic surgeon, I think we’ll be able to fix him up okay.”

Several people nearby laughed, and that was the end of R rated slasher/horror movies, at least until he hit 17 and could rent them on his own.

That’s why I think the arguments over the “Golden Compass” are sort of beside the point.

Is Pullman’s triology anti Catholic? Of course. Anyone who remembers the blantant anti Catholicism during the Kennedy campaign (or has read the “jack chick” conspiracy comics so beloved of some Evangelicals here in the Philippines) could mistake it otherwise. It’s an old conspiracy theory that goes like this:

The big bad Catholic church controls people’s minds and tries to destroy them if they question the church. These big bad priests/bishops/pope hates sex and hates parties, and wants people to live a sad and rigid life. So it is our duty to destroy the evil church, and take off the chains so that we can make a utopia of happy people.

Of course, how one can believe such a thing and see the fiestas (and huge families) of the Catholic Philippines or go to a Polish wedding, but never mind. Conspiracies never hold up to close scrutiny; but the sad thing about this one is that it was one of the lynchpins of the communist world…which turned itself spawned a godless utopia that controlled people a lot more than any bishop ever tried to do.

As for the movie “The Golden Compass”, it sounds like the producers “watered down” the blatent anti Catholicism, making the plot weaker for lack of bad guys.

(Hmmm….wonder what would have happened if they had put the Mullahs of the Taliban as the bad guys instead of bishops in the plot? Well, never mind…even Islam rarely fits the stereotype in practice that the strictist Mullahs try to push in theory.)

Well, anyway, all the talk of boycotts are beside the point. The movie (but not the book) is probably harmless, and has a lot of good in it.

What worries me a lot more than watered down blasphemy are movies that glorify violence in the name of…whatever.

Here’s a paragraph describing a movie that will be coming out soon where

“One by one, as each of these victims meet their terrifying ends in the hands of a deranged killer, ….

It just amazes me how [director] Quentin came up with a character who can actually personify death in the most dreaded and heartless manner. You can’t cheat him, you can’t outrun him … there’s just no escape from him. And there’s nothing you can do but to face him and pray that he’ll go easy on you. All I can say is that you have to see the movie for yourself, and then you decide what’s the worse way to die.”

So while we’re at it, people, how about boycotting films that glamourize the torture and killing of young women? Especially those aimed at young men as the audience?

Years ago, Hollywood had standards, which they hated. And then Hollywood decided to eliminate standards in the name of “artistic freedom”. Have movies gotten better? Not really. And a lot of the best “R” rated movies would be even better if they had small things cut out to make them PG 13. (Thank God for the “fast forward” button on the VCR).
Which brings us back to Pullman:

“Indeed, Pullman’s God is not the God of religion, but the didactic, authoritarian voice of adulthood. It’s the Authority that pays lip-service to free thought, but then limits free thought within the narrowly defined parameters of what it judges comfortable and acceptable. It is this Authority – and not the God of the Bible – that Pullman silences.

Yes, we have eliminated the maturity of adulthood, silenced the wisdom of the past in the name of freedom, and have inherited the whirlwind of our own dark desires.

Boycotts? A bit late for that, isn’t it?

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Monday, December 03, 2007

UK Lancaster bishops speaks

UKTelegraph blog reports he told Catholic schools to be Catholic: Teach the catechism, put crucifixes on the walls, and start prayer time

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Family update

Well my husband's cousin is back home. His kids in the US sent some money, but by the time it arrived it only paid the hospital bill, not the surgery. So Lolo and I went over and visited. He's coughing, on pain medicine, incontinent and has bedsores.

Sigh.

Lolo will pay half the estimate for the hip surgery, but the family will have to get the other half. His daughter just had an artificial knee placement, so can't afford much since she is out of work.

If the surgery was done immediately it would be good prognosis despite his poor nutrition and rheumatoid arthritis. But he didn't go to the hospital for two weeks, and now he is home with bedsores etc.

I can't do anything, since he is not my relative. All we could do is send over a clean new mattress and some blankets for the bed.