Archived Posts April 2005 - Page 6 of 9 | Acton PowerBlog

After Pope John Paul II’s death on April 2, the European Parliament was torn over a “difficult” decision – whether to lower the flags of the European Institution to half-mast. It seems that some members thought it was inappropriate to honor one of the most pro-European statesmen who ever lived with such a simple gesture. Eventually, they came to their senses and agreed to do so.

Now it seems that the Polish members of the Euro Parliament have bit off more than they can chew – they want to name an entire wing of the parliament building in Brussels after the late Pontiff and beloved compatriot. The reason for the cold feet now is the Catholic Church’s teachings on contraception, homosexuality, and even the perceived response to the paedophilia scandals in the US.

“The European Parliament is not the Holy See of Rome,” said one Alejandro Alvaro, just in case there was any doubt.

Update: In a foreseeable move, the Young European Federalists have opposed naming any EU buildings after the late Pope.

On this date in 1955, Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants in Illinois.

On a related note, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is the latest political figure to float the idea of a “fast food tax,” the newest incarnation of the “sin” tax. The reasoning is that fast foods, which tend to be higher in fat and cholesterol than other types of food, are unhealthy, and therefore worthy of special government attention.

The Detroit Free Press editorial page goes Kilpatrick one better, however, suggesting that the government “tax take-out food statewide — but by calories, not cost.”

Now of course the Christian tradition views gluttony as a sin. But as Thomas Aquinas writes, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire.” And in this case, it is worth asking which is more gluttonous: the fast food consumer who orders a combo meal, or the State which constantly seeks new ways to feed its ever-voracious appetite.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, April 15, 2005
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1) According to the BBC, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “The bulk of the money that Saddam [Hussein] made came out of smuggling outside the oil-for-food programme, and it was on the American and British watch” (HT: The Corner). This assertion is based on the contention that the $4 billion that Hussein was alleged to have received in the oil-for-food program is “dwarfed” by the $14 billion is said to have come from “sanctions-busting,” illegally smuggling oil to neighboring states such as Jordan and Turkey.

Also, Bloomberg has the latest on US indictments in the case.

2) The Canadian government’s Adscam scandal has been called by an opposition leader “a criminal conspiracy of the like never seen in this country before.” Keep up with news and commentary over at Captain’s Quarters.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, April 14, 2005
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Courtesy of Pulpit & Pew comes Factors Shaping Clergy Careers: A Wakeup Call for Protestant Denominations and Pastors, by Patricia M. Y. Chang (HT: Mere Comments). This study is based on surveys conducted primarily with mainline Protestant denominations.

Perhaps most helpful are the observations of a minister whose denomination was not included. Here’s a brief excerpt from James A. Meek of the Presbyterian Church in America:

The ministry is a calling, not just a career, as Chang notes at the outset of her study. It is her failure in some ways to appreciate this that bothers me most about her study. While I understand the point of the pyramid-shaped “structure of opportunity,” thinking of clergy careers in this way hurts more than it helps. The pyramid accepts the view that upward mobility is the goal of clergy careers and that those who do not continue to move up have “stalled.”

For some other information about pastors, visit The Barna Group. See especially “A New Generation of Pastors Places its Stamp on Ministry,” which states, “Many young pastors are avoiding seminary due to their growing skepticism about its necessity and relevance to their ministry. Past studies have also shown that a growing number of large churches are training congregants for full-time ministry from within, rather than sending people off-campus for more traditional academic training for ministry.” Seminaries seem to be increasingly places for the academic rather than the pastoral study of theology. Even as a seminarian pursuing an academic career, I’m still inclined to think that this isn’t such a good thing.

But such analyses are interesting in part given the four offices of the church that John Calvin derived: the presbyterian offices of pastor (preaching) and elder (disciplining), the office of doctor (teaching), and the office of deacon (caring for the poor). Schaff writes (s.v. “PRESBYTER,PRESBYTERATE,” II.2 “Calvinistic”) that Calvin “derived four offices, of which the teachers (chiefly professors of theology) are mentioned only in specifically Calvinistic ordinances,” so that the non-pastoral office of teacher is unique to Calvin.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, April 14, 2005
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From Live Science, there are plans to create a pseudo-woolly mammoth from frozen DNA. The trick is to take the male sperm DNA from a woolly mammoth sample and the egg from its closest living relative, the elephant. “By repeating the procedure with offspring, a creature 88 percent mammoth could be produced within fifty years.”

Such a creature is technically a chimera, “an organism or tissue created from two or more different genetic sources.” This usage is related to the creature from Greek mythology, the Chimera, who had various and sundry body parts from different animals.

I’ve written a piece (yet to appear) on the recent attempts to create animal/human chimeras and the theological and ethical implications. But what would you call this woolly mammoth/elephant chimera? A mammophant? An elemmoth?

Update: Jonah Goldberg at NRO indirectly gives us a good suggestion: “Snuffleupagus”

Update #2: It’s settled. Apparently, according to Everything2.com, “When the male and female of both species can each be combined to form the hybrid, it is the name of the male that is used first.” So we have the name: “mammophant.” I think that the full scientific taxonomy should be mammophantus snuffleupagus, however. Also, there’s a dispute on the definition of chimeras, which Everything2.com contends involve “more of a Frankenstein-type process of gene splicing, cell modification, implantation, and embryo modification.” I find this to be a sub-category of chimera. Perhaps there should be a natural/artificial distinction among chimeras.

HT: The Corner

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, April 14, 2005
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In the words of the Cornwall Declaration, “A clean environment is a costly good.” A round-up of recent stories attests to the truth of this statement.

Wal-Mart pledged on Tuesday to provide $35 million for use to protect wildlife habitat. Wal-Mart can afford to use this money to “buy an amount of land equal to all the land its stores, parking lots and distribution centers use over the next 10 years” in part because of its economic success, topping the 2004 Fortune 500 list.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on efforts to integrate energy development and environmental stewardship. The push to keep land with energy deposits untouched and pristine amounts to an opportunity cost. Instead, adaptive management attempts to balance economic and environmental concerns. “We’ve got a world-class gas play occurring in the same landscape that is home to world-class populations of wildlife,” says Mr. Belinda, the lead wildlife scientist with the Pinedale office of the BLM [Bureau of Land Management]. “I think we can have both without sacrificing one for the other.”

And finally, we should keep in mind that countries with developing economies are often the ones that do not have the economic strength to implement environmentally-friendly practices. The Cornwall Declaration, when talking about the costly good of a clean environment, states that “growing affluence, technological innovation, and the application of human and material capital are integral to environmental improvement. The tendency among some to oppose economic progress in the name of environmental stewardship is often sadly self-defeating.” Case in point, Huaxi Village in Zhejiang Province, China, in which villagers, many of them elderly, demonstrated against the pollution from nearby factories. According to The New York Times, Wang Yuehe, a villager, said “We can’t grow our crops. The factories had promised to do a good environmental job, but they have done almost nothing.”

C.S. Lewis calls “Friendship” the “least natural of loves; the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary.” Head on over to Mere Comments to see my response to “Walking With Friendships.”

Blog author: kschmiesing
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
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For those concerned about the way corruption hinders development in Africa, a hopeful story in the Wall Street Journal today (subscription required). Here’s one paragraph:

“Since taking charge of the new Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ribadu has pursued oil mobsters, Internet fraudsters and corrupt politicians. The former street cop has 185 active fraud and corruption cases working their way through the courts, up from zero before the commission started its work two years ago. Working in the capital of Abuja from an office overlooking goats grazing in a vacant lot, the wiry 44-year-old has locked up 200 alleged smugglers and seized $700 million in property, including a collection of office buildings, from suspects in oil smuggling and other crimes. Royal Dutch/Shell Group, whose joint venture with the state petroleum company pumps about half of Nigeria’s oil, says the amount of crude stolen from its network has fallen by almost half since early last year.”

Blog author: kwoods
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
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Bob Woodson of National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise fame taught me a lot about strategic partnerships. In the interest of getting something important done for needy people, it’s ok to invite others with good contributions to make to join you, despite disagreements with them on other issues. Good advice. And on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine and Dr. Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine, Rotary International demonstrates an impressive strategic partnership with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, partnering with the World Health Organization, U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Rotary is the world’s first volunteer service organization, tapping 1.2 million members in 166 countries when it launched a flagship PolioPlus program in 1985 to achieve a polio free world for all children. Polio cases were cut 99% by 2004, but there are six polio endemic countries including Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt, and five countries where transmisison has been re-established in the Sudan, Central Aftican Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and Burkina Faso. Multiple volunteers have travelled safely into war-torn Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire to vaccinate children.

Contributions have been received from 528 or the 529 Rotary Districts and from 153 countries. Twenty thousand clubs have made contributions and eight districts have rasied more than $1 million each. Rotary contributions to the global project will exceed US$600 million. Rotary is to be commended for not looking at an overwhelming global issue and thinking “governments should fix this.”

Such is the admirable Soul of Civil Society.

136 Catholic schools were closed nationwide in 2004, even as the Catholic population in the United States has been rising. Kevin Schmiesing writes that “the economic bind that religious schools and their students increasingly find themselves in highlights an injustice at the heart of American education.”

Read the full text here.