Sursum Corda
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Topical musings from a Catholic perspective

Tuesday, December 31, 2002
CLONING: I'm holding off on commenting on reports of a human clone being born until we receive confirmation that it is, in fact, a clone. In the meantime, you might want to read Bill Saletan's observations on the issue in Slate or this symposium in The Public Interest on Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry, a report from the President's Council on Bioethics. Click here to read the Commission's report. If you are interested in my view of the President's report, click here and scroll down to the post entitled "Can We Trust Our Judgement?".

posted by Peter Nixon 12:54 PM
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Monday, December 30, 2002
THE SOURCES OF FAITH: ONE STOP SHOPPING: A couple of weeks ago, Fr. Jim Tucker and I had a spirited discussion about the sources of faith. However, since the discussion carried on for a few days, it may have been difficult to follow. For those who have expressed interest (and since my archives are worse than useless), I am posting this post with all of the links in one place. For those of you interested in following the entire thread, Fr. Jim's original homily is here, my initial response here, Fr. Jim's first reply is here, my response to his reply here, and Jim's final response here. At some point, I may try to create a file with the entire text of the exchange, but that would require some free time, of which I have very little right now. Until then, this will have to do.

posted by Peter Nixon 2:39 PM
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IRAQ SYMPOSIUM: The quarterly journal Dissent has long been one of the most intelligent publications of the American Left. Founded by the late Irving Howe more than half a century ago, it is now edited by Michael Walzer, a Princeton ethicist who has written a number of good books, including Just and Unjust Wars. On the Dissent web site, Walzer poses some questions to the members of the Dissent editorial board, who constitute something of a cross-section of left/liberal opinion:

1. Do you support an American war against the current Iraqi regime? If so, under what circumstances? And should this be a war for disarmament or for "regime change"?

2. Do you favor a UN-imposed inspection system for Iraq? Would you support the threat or the use of force to impose and sustain such a system?

3. What is your view of the Bush administration's new doctrine of preemptive war?

4. If there is a war, would you join an antiwar movement? Of what sort?

5. What are, what should be, the long-term goals of the United States in the confrontation with Iraq?
The answers from several of the editors are posted on the Dissent web site, and make for interesting reading. Of particular interest is the response from Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi dissident who now lives in exile in the United States and is the author of Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq. Makiya writes:

I support a war on the grounds that the current regime of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq is a criminal state that has gone beyond the pale even as judged by the very low standards of the Middle East region, and certainly of the international community. My position rests on the exceptional nature of Ba'athi totalitarianism in Iraq (and is therefore not extendable to all the nasty states that exist in the world). Moreover, it derives from the particular historical experience-dating back to the 1991 Gulf War-that binds the United States to Iraq. The outcome of that war, which left the dictator in place and precipitated one of the harshest sanction regimes of recent times, places an extraordinary moral responsibility upon the shoulders of the United States to finish that which it in a very important sense left unfinished. Such a responsibility might not exist were it not for that particular historical experience. One does not transport half a million men halfway across the world and then leave the people of a country, who were not responsible for their state's outrage, broken and bleeding for ten years with no end in sight to the torment that they are going through.
Makiya's words raise a difficult question. One of the arguments against going to war that has its roots in the just war tradition is that the point of "last resort" has not been reached, i.e. that it is possible to obtain the legitimate objective of neutralizing Iraq's threat to the region by less violent means. But such an approach would certainly involve a severe tightening of the sanctions that have, by now, become quite porous. At what point do the sanctions become so destructive to the civilian population that a war to remove Hussein becomes a more morally licit option? I don't know the answer to that question, but I think it is worth pondering.

Some of you may want to try to answer the above questions yourself. Feel free to use the comment function on this blog to record your responses.

posted by Peter Nixon 2:08 PM
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THE TODDLER PROPERTY RULES: Abbot Davis of the Abbey of New Clairvaux has some great reflections on Christmas that include a recitation of the Toddler's 9 property laws, which my current toddlers seem to have boned up on recently:

1. If it is in my hand, it’s mine;

2. If I like it, it’s mine;

3. If it looks like mine, it’s mine;

4. If I think it’s mine, it’s mine;

5. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine;

6. If I can take it from you, it’s mine;

7. If I’m doing or building something, all of the pieces are mine;

8. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way;

9. If it’s broken, it’s yours.
The rest is worth reading, too! Thanks to Fr. Jeff Keyes for the link.

posted by Peter Nixon 10:16 AM
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