Friday, January 30, 2009

Digest of Today's Posts (30 January 2009)

  • Catholic Michael Steele New GOP Chairman

  • Mass and Lunch with Bishop Blair

  • Hypocrite Hollywood Celebs Break Pledge to Obama ... Couldn't Even Keep Promise to Be Neighborly for 2 Weeks

  • (Digest of Yesterday's Posts (29 January 2009))


    Catholic Michael Steele New GOP Chairman

    The Washington Post reports:
    The Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele as its first African American chairman today in Washington, a decision that came after an excruciating series of ballots that displayed a level of drama rarely seen in national politics.

    On the sixth and final ballot Steele bested South Carolina Republican party Chairman Katon Dawson 91 to 77.

    "It's time for something completely different and we are going to bring it to them," Steele said after his victory. "This is our opportunity. I cannot do this by myself." (Watch the full speech.)

    Steele acknowledged that the GOP has an "image problem" but cast his election as a "new moment" for the Republican Party.

    It was -- interestingly -- former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell who ultimately swung the race to Steele when he dropped out before the fifth ballot and endorsed the former lieutenant governor. The move was somewhat unexpected as Blackwell had staked out the turf as the most socially conservative candidate in the field while Steele had had to beat back rumors that he was not sufficiently conservative.


    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Deal Hudson: Give Michael Steele the Benefit of the Doubt

    CBN Reporter David Brody Attempts to Rehabilitate Michael Steele's Pro-Life Credentials

    Creative Minority Report Asks: "Is Michael Steele Pro-Life?"

    Racial Politics: Obama vs. Steele

    Is Michael Steele on McCain's "Short List" for VP?

    The Story Behind Steele: No One Offered RNC Chair to Marylander

    Incredibly Stupid Move

    Michael Steele to Head GOP?

    Steele Gaining

    Black Democrats Pledge Backing to GOP's Steele

    One of the Best Preemptive Political Ads That I've Ever Seen

    Maryland Lt. Gov. (and U.S. Senate Candidate) Michael Steele Reaffirms Catholic Values


    Mass and Lunch with Bishop Blair

    Earlier today, I, along with several other supporters of Norwalk Catholic School, had lunch with Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair. The luncheon followed a special all-school Mass for Catholic Schools Week, at which Bishop Blair presided.

    I had the opportunity to speak briefly with His Excellency twice. The first time was immediately after Mass. As the school kids processed out, I watched as my son Jamie shook Bishop Blair's hand, and I read his lips as he told the Bishop "I want to be a priest." The Bishop seemed delighted by that. So, after all the kids had left, I went over to see the Bishop and bragged to him that it had been my son who had told him earlier of his vocational aspirations.

    Jamie tells Bishop Blair of his plans to become a priest.
    (photo by Richard Russell, Norwalk Reflector)

    During lunch, Bishop Blair delivered an excellent talk on Catholic education and the part that "sacrifice" plays in ensuring that Catholic education continues to exist.

    After lunch, I had the opportunity to speak with Bishop Blair once more, and told him how much I appreciated his monthly column in The Catholic Chronicle (excerpts of which, as readers of this blog may know, I post here regularly).

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Photo of the Bishop and Jamie

    More Bishop Blair (and Jamie, Too)

    Meeting the Bishop - After Action Report

    Meeting the Bishop

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    Hypocrite Hollywood Celebs Break Pledge to Obama ... Couldn't Even Keep Promise to Be Neighborly for 2 Weeks

    (Hat tip: HotAir)

    Big Hollywood has the story:
    It’s been less than two weeks — ten days to be exact — but it seems that May-December Hollywood power couple Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have already broken the spirit of their “Presidential Pledge” to Barack Obama.

    Last week Big Hollywood drew attention to a
    4:13 video directed by Demi Moore and starring Kutcher and fifty-six of their famous friends and intended to “illustrate how they will help make the nationwide change, inspired by President-elect Barack Obama, a reality.”

    One of the central tenets of the pledge is to be more neighborly.
    From the script — “I pledge”:
    Ioan Gruffudd: “to meet my neighbors”…
    Rex Lee: “Find out their names”…
    Cameron Diaz: “I am gonna give ‘em a smile”…
    Tatyana Ali: “And ask them how I can be of service to them”…
    The smiling and community service-mindedness ended Thursday morning on the affluent side of Beverly Hills. According to TMZ, “Kutcher went absolutely insane when he was woken up by a neighbor who started construction on a house at 7:30 in the morning.”

    My Comments:
    When the "I Pledge" video first came out, there were many commentators who noted ironically that there was nothing stopping these newly patriotic celebs from being good citizens for the previous 8 years.

    Now we know that those commentators were wrong. There was one great big thing that kept these sunshine patriot celebrities from practicing basic civic mindedness prior to now (and, apparently, in the present and foreseeable future): they're all a bunch of self-absorbed @$$holes.

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    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Digest of Today's Posts (29 January 2009)

  • New Tyburn Memorial Planned

  • Obama to Peasants: "Heat for Me, But Not for Thee"

  • NBC Rejects Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad

  • Only 6 of 24 Catholic Senators Vote to Restore Mexico City Policy

  • Rich Leonardi on the "Obnoxiousness" of the Concept of "Carbon Footprints"

  • (Digest of Yesterday's Posts (28 January 2009))


    New Tyburn Memorial Planned

    (Hat tip: Rich Leonardi)

    From The Catholic Herald (U.K.):

    A monument in honour of hundreds of Catholics executed for their faith is to be erected in the heart of central London.

    Consultations are underway to instal a striking memorial on the former site of the Tyburn gallows at the western end of Oxford Street, the capital's busiest shopping street.

    Between 1535 and 1679 nearly 400 Catholics were executed on the spot, and 105 of these have been recognised by the Vatican as martyrs, with a number canonised as saints.

    Since the Fifties the site of the gallows has been marked simply by a stone roundel in a traffic island at the intersection of Edgware Road and Bayswater Road, near to Marble Arch, bearing the image of a plain black cross and the words: "The site of the Tyburn Tree."

    But Westminster City Council has begun looking for ideas for a more fitting memorial.

    Tyburn became a place of public execution in the 12th century, and, as the "King's gallows", was used in particular for those people convicted of capital offences against the Crown. The first martyrs of the Protestant Reformation - St John Houghton and companions - were executed together for treason there on May 4 1535 after they refused to accept King Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England.

    In 1571 Queen Elizabeth I erected the Tyburn Tree, triangular gallows purposely built for multiple executions, with 24 men and women executed there together in one instance.

    Catholics to die there included St Edmund Campion, the first English Jesuit martyr, who wrote in his "brag" to Elizabeth's Privy Council, that the Jesuits would never cease to work for the conversion of England "while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn".

    The last Catholic Tyburn martyr was St Oliver Plunkett, the Archbishop of Armagh, executed on July 1 1679, the last of 25 innocent victims of the Titus Oates plot.

    Most men were hanged, drawn and quartered - a slow death that involved castration and disemboweling before the head was struck off and the body quartered - but Catholic women, such as Mary Ward and Anne Line, were hanged instead.


    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Martyr's Walk DVD Available

    Tyburn Memorial Gone? [UPDATED]

    National Catholic Register on "Our Lady's England"

    London: Plans Unveiled for Memorial to Pre-Reformation Shrines [UPDATED]

    Joanna Bogle on "The Island of Saints"

    A Possible St. Edmund Campion Movie?

    A Memorial in Chelsea to the Marian Shrines Destroyed in the English Reformation

    Forty Martyrs of England and Wales - 25 October (Formerly Commemorated 4 May)

    Auntie Joanna on The Martyrs' Walk

    Today Is The Feast Day of St. Edmund Campion, Martyr (1 December)

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    Obama to Peasants: "Heat for Me, But Not for Thee"

    Ed Morrissey reports:
    Last week, Barack Obama caused quite a stir when he allowed himself to be photographed in the Oval Office without wearing a suit jacket, ending the Bush tradition of coat-and-tie for the West Wing. The New York Times reports on how Obama made that possible during a colder-than-usual Washington winter. All Obama did was turn up the thermostat to Hawaii hothouse levels:

    ... Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

    “He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”
    While candidate Obama talked endlessly of the need for energy conservation and limits on the use of fuels that produce so-called greenhouse gases, President Obama has no trouble heating the White House for himself to greenhouse levels, according to David Axelrod. Did the Times even note the hypocrisy, or at the very least the incongruity, in its report on Obama’s White House? Not at all.

    Many people in America, especially where I live, would like to heat their homes to a comfort level where sweaters and coats become unnecessary. However, Obama and the Democrats want to impose ruinous taxes and penalties on energy production and fuel that produces carbon dioxide — a naturally-occurring element — and make that choice economically unbearable for us. In fact, candidate Obama spoke directly to that end in
    May of this year:
    “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,” Obama said.

    “That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen,” he added.
    Well, apparently some of us can, and those lucky few do call themselves “leaders”. The rest of us call them hypocrites as we fetch another sweater.
    My Comments:
    Maybe some of us would take so-called "global warming" a little more seriously if those of our leaders who are out front pushing that agenda acted as if they themselves took it seriously by putting their money where their mouths are rather than expecting the rest of us to take up their slack.

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    NBC Rejects Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad

    I just received the following email from Fidelis:
    Source: Fidelis Center for Law & Policy
    January 29, 2009

    NBC Sacks Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad
    Network Nixes Commercial Celebrating Potential of Life

    NBC has rejected an uplifting and positive pro-life ad submitted for its Super Bowl broadcast this Sunday. After several days of negotiations, an NBC representative in Chicago told late yesterday that NBC and the NFL are not interested in advertisements involving ‘political advocacy or issues.’

    Brian Burch, President of reacted: “There is nothing objectionable in this positive, life-affirming advertisement. We show a beautiful ultrasound, something NBC’s parent company GE has done for years. We congratulate Barack Obama on becoming the first African-American President. And we simply ask people to imagine the potential of every human life.”

    “NBC told that they do not allow political or issue advocacy advertisements. But that’s not what they told PETA,” said Burch. “There’s no doubt that PETA is an advocacy group. NBC rejected PETA’s ad for another reason altogether.”

    According to an email posted on, Victoria Morgan, Vice President of Advertising Standards for Universal, said: “The PETA spot submitted to Advertising Standards depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards.” Morgan even detailed “edits that need to be made” in order for the spot to run during the Super Bowl.

    “NBC claims it doesn’t allow advocacy ads, but that’s not true. They were willing to air an ad by PETA if they would simply tone down the sexual suggestiveness. Our ad is far less provocative, and hardly controversial by comparison,” said Burch.

    “The purpose of our new ad is to spread a message of hope about the potential of every human life, including the life of Barack Obama,” said Burch. “We are now looking at alternative venues to run the ad over the next several weeks.”

    The ad aired on BET in Chicago on Inauguration Day. It has become an Internet hit with over 700,000 views in seven days. The ad was in the top 10 ‘most viewed’ category on YouTube on Inauguration Day last week.

    The ad reads: “This child’s future is a broken home. He will be abandoned by his father. His single mother will struggle to raise him. Despite the hardships he will endure…this child…will become…the 1st African-American President.” The ad concludes with the tagline, “Life: Imagine the Potential.” The ad is the first of several ads in new campaign launched by

    The ad can be viewed at - a project of the Fidelis Center for Law and Policy.
    My Comments:
    I'm wondering if this might not be the REAL problem with the ad:
    ... Either way, the pro-life ad already has won over some hearts at NBC.

    “Meanwhile, I’ve been in conversations with NBC,” Burch said. “We have a package slotted. And the key was whether they would even run it in the first place. When I first talked to NBC it went through legal in Chicago and then went up to legal in New York.

    “When I first told them it was an abortion ad, they freaked. Typically abortion ads are things that cause a lot of problems for them, especially because a lot of them are very provocative and in your face.

    “So while I was on the phone I said, ‘You need to watch our ad right now because I don’t want to waste more time with you if you’re not going to run it.’ They watched the ad, and a person who is involved with Super Bowl ads with NBC said, ‘I’m neither pro-life nor pro-choice, but this is the best pro-life ad I’ve ever seen.’

    “She said, ‘I think this is really good.’ And this was the whole point of the ad in the first place, to not be in your face, to drive our message in conjunction with the momentum over Barack Obama’s inauguration
    (emphasis added)

    Perhaps the ad is too effective.

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    Only 6 of 24 Catholic Senators Vote to Restore Mexico City Policy

    Deal Hudson reports:

    Only 6 of the 24 Catholic Senators voted “yea” yesterday to restore the Mexico City Policy. Last week President Obama rescinded the policy of President Bush, and first instituted by Reagan, not to provide federal funds to organizations doing abortions overseas.

    Six of the eight Catholic Republican senators voted "YEA," to restore the policy: Martinez (FL); Brownback (KS); Bunning (KY); Vitter (LA); and two newly elected senators: Johanns (NE) and Risch (ID).

    Two Republican Catholic senators who frequently vote anti-life with Democrats on life issues voted against restoring the policy, thus allowing federal funds to be given to groups providing abortions overseas: Murkowski (AK) and Collins (ME).

    These two Republians joined 16 Catholic Democrats voting "NAY," including the “pro-life” Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (PA). Not voting was Sen. Kennedy (MA).

    (emphasis in original)

    My Comments:
    The vote of the allegedly "pro-life" Senator Casey should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention. As a general principle, he hasn't voted remotely pro-life since entering the Senate. But specifically, back in September of 2007, Casey voted to rescind the Mexico City Policy while it was still in place under President Bush.

    Definitely NOT his father's pro-life Democrat.

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    The Mexico City Policy: Getting It Straight

    Perhaps, One Day ...

    Obama Culture of Death Update™: Among President Obama's First Official Acts is Promoting Abortion Abroad [UPDATED]

    Obama Administration to Export Culture of Death

    Senate Democrats (Including Allegedly "Pro Life" Bob Casey) Vote to Rescind Mexico City Policy

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    Rich Leonardi on the "Obnoxiousness" of the Concept of "Carbon Footprints"

    Rich Leonardi asks: "Is there anything more obnoxious than the concept of the 'carbon footprint'?"

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Malthusian Nonsense Alert: "Save the Planet — Have Fewer Kids"

    Deacon Fournier Reviews Population Controllers

    Malthusian Nonsense Alert: Babies a Drag on the Economy, Report Says

    Darwin Catholic: "Want Sustainable? Try a Family"

    Malthusian Nonsense in the Extreme: "When Should You Die?"

    Population Control Movement is "Number One Violator of Human Rights," Author Claims

    USAToday Columnist: Religion is Killing the Planet

    The Pitter-Patter of Carbon Footprints ...

    Cardinal Pell Criticizes Australian Medical Ass'n for Publishing Letter Advocating Carbon Tax on Children

    Professor Solves Global Warming: Let’s Tax Reproduction

    Global Alarming Update: Focus on So-Called "Carbon Footprint" Anti-Family

    Malthusian Nonsense from "Global Warming" Alarmists

    Cardinal Pell on Global Warming Alarmists: "Scaremongers" and "Zealots"

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    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Digest of Today's Posts (28 January 2009)

  • At the Inauguration

  • The Mexico City Policy: Getting It Straight

  • Deal Hudson: Give Michael Steele the Benefit of the Doubt

  • Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas - 28 January

  • (Digest of Yesterday's Posts (27 January 2009))


    At the Inauguration

    A poem by Ben Douglass (hat tip: Mark Shea):
    I am out of place here.
    Am I out of place?
    Yes, but in a different sense,
    In the cravenness whence
    I've ill used this day's grace,
    Blending while I should appear
    A sign of contradiction.

    A man of God mounts the stage.
    The godless look sheepish as he prays.
    No fear: this one's no Ambrose, Leo;
    He lacks the perspicacity and candor of Pio.
    Repent! Repent! you butcher of your ways
    Is what he should have told that brephophage.
    Or was that above his pay grade?

    Time fumbles to the Moment,
    And tumid enthusiasm erupts
    Into a cheer, spasmodic
    Eructation of unhealthy souls,
    Which reechoed on the air extols
    gods both olympian and chthonic.
    The miasma out and in corrupts.

    Some woman reads some spiny prose,
    Exceptionable for its affected solemnity
    And unshaped metaphors, ill framed
    By periodic carriage returns.
    She remembers some oppressed yet spurns
    The names of the dead who were not named;
    She writes them no indemnity.

    Now who will do the benignity?
    Who will tell that one
    That his ideology needs darning?
    If not cleric, nor artist, nor I disarming?
    Few indeed, and of those some
    Surpass the very liberals for indignity,
    Whose bacchanalia lasts past 4 a.m.

    There is nothing left today
    But to bitterly clutch my Rosary and say,

    O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. Through the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.

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    The Mexico City Policy: Getting It Straight

    Zoe Romanowski clarifies the Mexico City Policy:
    ... The Mexico City Policy (MCP) was an intermittent U.S. policy requiring all non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from providing or promoting abortion services in foreign countries (apart from the cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother). When MCP went into effect eight years ago, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes chose to decline federal funding instead of ending their abortion services and referrals. Since that time, they've been forced to pay for all of their services through private donations and have as a result been significantly weakened.

    With the repeal of the MCP, they will once again receive federal funding, though not directly for abortion. Korzen is correct that the Helms Amendment of 1973 (not to be confused with the Hyde Amendment) prohibits U.S. tax payers' money from directly funding abortion in other countries.

    However, refunding these groups even for non-abortion related services frees up the private monies they were forced to use to operate the past eight years. In other words, these organization are now able to pour their own funds back into abortion services and use the U.S. public money to fund the rest of their work. The president's repeal will strengthen international organizations who provide abortion while not directly funding those abortions.
    (emphasis added)

    My Comments:
    Money is fungible. If Planned Parenthood et al have X amount of dollars and it costs X amount to fund abortions overseas and X amount to provide "educational" programs overseas, if we give Planned Parenthood X amount of dollars for their "educational" activities, it frees up X amount of dollars to fund abortions.

    It doesn't take a genius to know that if you fund abortion providers, you're at least indirectly funding abortions.

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Perhaps, One Day ...

    Obama Culture of Death Update™: Among President Obama's First Official Acts is Promoting Abortion Abroad [UPDATED]

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    Deal Hudson: Give Michael Steele the Benefit of the Doubt

    Deal Hudson writes at InsideCatholic:
    I have known Michael Steele since 2000, when he helped with the Catholic Outreach in the Bush campaign. He went on to become Lieutenant Governor of Maryland before making an excellent, but failed, run for the Senate in 2006. Steele is an African-American, pro-life, Catholic who is a top candidate to lead the Republican National Committee, which is badly in need of a shake-up. The election is later this week.

    I have never been a fan of the RLC, of course, and I have been particularly critical of its founder, Christie Todd Whitman, in my
    "Warning to the GOP," published shortly after the election. But Michael Steele, who resigned from the RLC in June 2008, should not be dismissed as a potential RNC chair because of his association with Whitman.

    It is enough for me that Michael Steele made his pro-life views very clear when he was running for the Maryland Senate seat in 2006. Maryland is not a state especially friendly to pro-life politicians, and the fact that Steele did not down-play his convictions should settle the matter.

    But I have another reason to trust Michael Steele, if he were elected to the RNC post. In 2003, Russ Shaw and I convened a meeting in DC with the then-president of the USCCB, Bishop Wilton Gregory, and its executive committee. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss various concerns that had risen from their
    secretive meeting with a group of prominent dissenters earlier in the year. I invited Michael Steele, then Lt. Gov. of Maryland -- very few people in D.C. knew Steele then, and even fewer knew he was a Catholic.

    Steele talked about being raised as a Catholic in Northeast Washington, DC and attending Archbishop Carroll H.S. before spending three years in the Order of St. Augustine Seminary before receiving his law degree at Georgetown University.

    Steele then proceeded to speak very directly, but diplomatically, to the bishops about their need to promote the pro-life cause with greater vigor. He talked about his disappointment with their leadership and its consequences among the African-American community. When he finished talking there was a powerful silence in the room. Bishop Gregory, as readers may know, is also an African-American, and Steele's words had a visible impact on him.


    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    CBN Reporter David Brody Attempts to Rehabilitate Michael Steele's Pro-Life Credentials

    Creative Minority Report Asks: "Is Michael Steele Pro-Life?"

    Racial Politics: Obama vs. Steele

    Is Michael Steele on McCain's "Short List" for VP?

    The Story Behind Steele: No One Offered RNC Chair to Marylander

    Incredibly Stupid Move

    Michael Steele to Head GOP?

    Steele Gaining

    Black Democrats Pledge Backing to GOP's Steele

    One of the Best Preemptive Political Ads That I've Ever Seen

    Maryland Lt. Gov. (and U.S. Senate Candidate) Michael Steele Reaffirms Catholic Values

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    Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas - 28 January

    From the Medieval Saints Yahoo group:
    St. Thomas Aquinas, priest, confessor, Doctor of the Church
    Also known as Doctor Angelicus; Doctor Communis; Great Synthesizer; The "Dumb Ox"; The Universal Teacher

    Died 1274 at Fossanuova near Terracina of apparent natural causes; relics at Saint-Servin, Toulouse, France

    Canonized in 1323 by Pope John XXII and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1567

    Commemorated January 28

    Patronage: academics, against storms, against lightning, apologists, book sellers, Catholic academies, Catholic schools, Catholic universities, chastity, colleges, learning, lightning, pencil makers, philosophers, publishers, scholars, schools, storms, students, theologians, universities, University of Vigo

    In art, he is shown as a portly Dominican friar, carrying a book; or with a star on his breast and rays of light coming from his book; or holding a monstrance with Saint Norbert. At times he may be shown: (1) with the sun on his breast; (2) enthroned with pagan and heretic philosophers under his feet; (3) at a teacher's pulpit or desk, with rays coming from him; (4) with a chalice and host; (5) listening to a voice speaking to him from the Crucifix; (6) as angels bring him a girdle; or (7) in a library with Saint Bonaventure who points to the crucifix

    St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, Patron of Catholic Schools

    Thomas the Apostle challenged the story that the Lord was risen, and his unbelief brought froth a glowing testimony of the reality of the Resurrection. Twelve centuries later, his namesake, Thomas of Aquino, questioned; without doubting; the great truths of faith, and demonstrated for all time the relationship of faith and reason.

    As the first Thomas found by experiment: "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hands into His side"; that the Man who stood in the midst of them was none other than Jesus Christ, so Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, proved for all time that there is no quarrel between reason and revelation.

    Thomas, son of the count of Aquino, (b. 1225-d. 1274) was first trained at the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino, and here, even in childhood, his great mind was wrestling with theological questions, "Master, tell me--what is God?" In order to better to train the boy's mind, his father sent him at an early age to the University of Naples. There he studied under Peter of Ireland and, undisturbed by the noise and wickedness of the great university city, proceeded rapidly on his quest for God.

    Meeting the Dominicans, he was strongly attracted by their apostolic life and petitioned to be received as one of them. While recognizing the gifts of the young student, the friars refused him admittance to the Order until he was eighteen. Acting deliberately, without a backward glance at the power and wealth he was leaving, Thomas, at eighteen, joyfully put on the habit of the new Order.

    Like many gifted young men, Thomas was bitterly opposed by his family when he attempted to become a religious. When both threats and persuasion failed, he was kidnaped by his brothers and locked in a tower for more than a year. His sisters were sent to influence him, and he proceeded to convert them to his own way of thinking. A woman was sent to tempt him; but he drove her from the room with a burning brand from the fire; afterwards, angels came to gird him with the cincture of perpetual chastity. When captivity failed to break his determination, his brothers relaxed their guard, and Thomas, with the help of his sisters, escaped from the tower and hurried back to his convent.

    Thomas was given the finest education available in his day. He studied first at Cologne and later at Paris, under the Master, Albert the Great. This outstanding Dominican teacher and saint became his lifelong friend and loyal defender. They taught at Cologne and became a mutual influence for good in one of the most beautiful friendships in Dominican history.

    For the rest of his life, Thomas was to teach and preach with scarcely a day of rest. What makes the amount of writing he did remarkable, was the great deal of traveling that he undertook. Death found him in a familiar place, on the road, where he was bound for the Council of Lyons in obedience to the pope's command. He died at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, in a borrowed bed, obscurity hardly fitting the
    intellectual light of the Order, but perfectly suited to the humble friar that Thomas had always been.

    Overheard in a colloquy with the Master he served so well with heart and mind and pen, Thomas was heard to ask as his reward from the Lord, "Thyself, 0 Lord, none but thyself!" St. Thomas Aquinas is a Doctor of the Church and is honored as the patron of Catholic Schools. He is celebrated in the Church Calendar on January 28th.


    Saint Thomas experienced visions, ecstasies, and revelations. He stopped writing the Summa theologiae because of a revelation he experienced while saying Mass on the feast of Saint Nicholas 1273. He confronted the consternation of his brethren saying, "The end of my labors is come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been, revealed to me." Nevertheless, the work became the basis of modern Catholic theology. (full article at )


    More on St. Thomas Aquinas at:

    My Comments:
    St. Thomas Aquinas is of special significance to me, as Sarah and I were received into the Church at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Charlottesville, VA.

    The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas by Francisco Zurbarán

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    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Digest of Today's Posts (27 January 2009)

  • Prof. Robert George: Notion that Obama's Policies Will Reduce Abortion is "Delusional"

  • "Conservative Catholic Grandmother"™ Pelosi Backs Down: Contraception Removed from "Stimulus Package"

  • Catholic Schools Week, January 25-31, 2009: "Catholic Schools Celebrate Service"

  • (Digest of Yesterday's Posts (26 January 2009))


    Prof. Robert George: Notion that Obama's Policies Will Reduce Abortion is "Delusional"

    From LifeSiteNews:
    WASHINGTON, D.C., January 27, 2009 ( - Those who think that Obama's economic policies will ultimately reduce abortions are "delusional." says Professor Robert George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

    In remarks delivered at the Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life last week and published in the Witherspoon Institute's online journal Public Discourse, George, a McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, explored the polarization of America's political parties over abortion. The rise of this issue to the forefront of party politics was sparked, he said, by the unified Christian effort to end injustice to the unborn - an effort that must not be derailed.

    "Barack Obama is trying to win over religiously serious Catholics and Evangelicals, without altering in the slightest his support for abortion, including late-term and partial-birth abortions, the funding of abortion and embryo-destructive research with taxpayer dollars, the elimination of informed consent and parental notification laws, and the revocation of conscience and religious liberty protections for pro-life doctors and other healthcare workers and pharmacists." George wrote. "He will ultimately fail. We must see to it that he fails."

    Nonetheless, George warned, Obama "is being served and abetted" by some high-profile Christians "who have been peddling the claim that Obama, despite his pro-abortion extremism, is effectively pro-life because of his allegedly enlightened economic and social policies will reduce the number of abortions.”

    "This is delusional," said George.

    "It is the pro-abortion side that tells us that the Hyde Amendment alone has resulted in 300,000 fewer abortions each year than would otherwise be performed - and that is why they so desperately want it to be repealed," he continued. "Yet the putatively pro-life Obama apologists claim that the man who pledges to repeal it is going to reduce the number of abortions.

    "Let me say it again: this is delusional."

    See also Deal Hudson's "Exposing the 'Abortion Reduction' Scam".

    Let us recall that in his inexcusably despicable "tribute" to Fr. Neuhaus, Prof. Kmiec tried to ascribe the Obama position on "abortion reduction" to having also been the position of Fr. Neuhaus, as well. In the comments to Deal Hudson's piece linked above, Fr. George Rutler takes issue with Kmiec's bald assertion:
    Mr. Kmiec's Active Imagination
    January 26th, 2009 8:32pm

    If Mr. Kmiec wants to drop a name, he should drop the right one. Father Neuhaus was sometimes called Father Richard, but to my knowledge no friend called him Father John. Kmiec's apophastic "tribute" to Father Neuhaus was tasteless. In an essay on Mr. Kmiec in the National Catholic Register (July 13-19, 2008), Father Neuhaus wrote: "... to say that (Obama’s) position is closer to a Catholic understanding of subsidiarity is, I am sorry to say, risible." He also wrote: " Mr. Kmiec claims his candidate wants to reduce the number of abortions by reducing the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, and he will do that by encouraging 'responsible sexual behavior.' One may be permitted to point out that four decades of sex education, including the massive promotion of contraception, has not been a great success in reducing unwanted pregnancies or abortions." Kmiec is not the only man who lost an argument with Father Neuhaus. Now that his opponent has died, Mr Kmiec should not try to win a second match through a seance of his own imagining.

    Written by Rev. George W. Rutler

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Mark Stricherz: "Why the Democratic Abortion Strategy is Worse"

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    "Conservative Catholic Grandmother"™ Pelosi Backs Down: Contraception Removed from "Stimulus Package"

    (Hat tip: American Papist)

    Ed Morrissey reports:

    Democrats thought they could sneak subsidies for Planned Parenthood into the stimulus package, and why not? After all, in a bill that will cost $825 billion, who’d notice? Unfortunately for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, George Stephanopolous did. After failing to explain how hundreds of millions of dollars in new contraception funding would stimulate anything except libidos and Democrats, Pelosi will reluctantly remove the provisions from the stimulus bill this morning ...

    In this case, Reid and Pelosi wanted to toss hundreds of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood, an important contributor to Democratic candidates and the party. It has nothing to do with economic stimulus; it has everything to do with political stimulus.

    Barack Obama hinted strongly yesterday that he didn’t need this distraction when trying to sell this humungous pork bill on Capitol Hill. He’s right. Perhaps at the same time, Congress can start removing anything else not related to immediate economic stimulation and start exercizing a little fiscal discipline.

    My Comments:
    Thomas Peters at American Papist is reporting that Speaker Pelosi's decision to "reluctantly" remove the provisions from the bill came after a "personal appeal" from President Obama. Kudos to the President for that.

    And despite her reluctant decision to do the right thing and remove contraception funding from the "stimulus" bill, Speaker Pelosi still has that troubling Malthusian justification she offered to George Stephanopolous hanging out there. Either she should repudiate that statement, or her Bishop should do it for her.

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    "Conservative Catholic Grandmother"™ Pelosi Says Birth Control a Boon for the Economy [UPDATED]

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    Catholic Schools Week, January 25-31, 2009: "Catholic Schools Celebrate Service"

    This week is Catholic Schools Week.

    Here in Norwalk, we have a lot of things going on in celebration of our Catholic schools. Below is a list of just some of the activities (pdf) taking place this week at Norwalk Catholic School:
    Jan. 26, Monday
    'St. Paul the Apostle' Presentation by Ted Swartz at 10am

    Jan. 28 & 29, Wednesday & Thursday
    Eucharistic Adoration in Saint Paul High School Chapel - All are Welcome!

    Jan. 29, Thursday
    Early Childhood Center Story Time For Tots 10:45 am

    Jan. 29, Thursday
    5th Grade D.A.R.E. Graduation

    Jan. 29, Thursday
    Spaghetti Supper 5-7 pm
    Early Childhood Center Reynolds Hall

    Jan. 30, Friday
    All School Mass K-12 with Bishop Blair
    Saint Paul Convocation Center 10am
    In addition, I've been invited to attend a luncheon with Bishop Blair following Mass on Friday (probably because I'm on the Early Childhood/Elementary Advisory Board). I'm really looking forward to that.

    If you're interested, you can read the talk that I delivered last year for Catholic Schools Week here. It details my family's decision to relocate to Norwalk from Virginia so that our kids could be educated in the Catholic schools here.

    Finally, you should also check out the Mustardseed newsletter (pdf) to read about some of the excellent programs and opportunites offered at Norwalk Catholic School.

    St. Thomas Aquinas (whose feast day is tomorrow), patron of Catholic schools, pray for us!

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Catholic Chronicle: "Schools Initiative Spotlights Catholic Identity"

    Norwalk Catholic School Offers Marine Biology Courses

    May Crownings Yesterday ...

    Norwalk Catholic School's Mrs. Cindy McLaughlin Announced as a Golden Apple Award Recipient by Diocese of Toledo

    Catholic Schools Week 2008 - "Catholic Schools Light the Way"

    Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebrated at Norwalk Catholic School

    Norwalk Catholic School on The Golden Compass

    Two Toledo Diocesan High Schools Ranked Among Nation’s Best (Only 2 Schools in Ohio to Make List)

    Yesterday: Norwalk Catholic School's "Spirit Day"

    Back to School - 1st Day of Kindergarten

    The Good News and Bad News of Catholic Schools Week

    Catholic Schools Week

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    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Digest of Today's Posts (26 January 2009)

  • Obama Culture of Death Update™: Obama Nominee for Deputy Sec. of State Says Taxpayers Constitutionally Obligated to Fund Abortion

  • Up From Conservatism

  • "Conservative Catholic Grandmother"™ Pelosi Says Birth Control a Boon for the Economy [UPDATED]

  • (Digest of Weekend's Posts (25 January 2009))


    Obama Culture of Death Update™: Obama Nominee for Deputy Sec. of State Says Taxpayers Constitutionally Obligated to Fund Abortion

    (Hat tip: Opinionated Catholic)

    David Freddoso writes at The Corner on National Review Online:
    There is nothing pro-choice about requiring others to pay for abortions. But President Obama's new nominee for Deputy Secretary of State believes that taxpayers are constitutionally obligated to fund them. Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) writes today on his blog:
    James B. Steinberg, President Obama's nominee to be the next Deputy Secretary of State, claimed in written testimony to the Foreign Relations Committee that Congress cannot constitutionally restrict taxpayer funding to perform or promote abortions. Mr. Steinberg stated that the Mexico City policy, which bars taxpayer funding of abortions overseas, "is an unnecessary restriction that, if applied to organizations based in this country, would be an unconstitutional limitation on free speech."
    DeMint notes that Steinberg's opinion directly contradicts the Supreme Court's view on the matter, expressed in the majority opinion in the 1991 case Rust v. Sullivan:
    The Government has no constitutional duty to subsidize an activity merely because it is constitutionally protected, and may validly choose to allocate public funds for medical services relating to childbirth but not to abortion.

    This Obama Culture of Death Update™ has been brought to you by Prof. Douglas Kmiec, Eric McFadden, all the fine folks at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good / Catholics United / Catholic Democrats, and countless other Catholics for whom "Hope" and "Change" trumped LIFE.

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    Obama Culture of Death Update™: Abortion Necessary to "Ensure Our Daughters Have the Same Rights and Opportunities As Our Sons"

    Obama Culture of Death Update™: "White House Web Site Becomes Pro-Abortion After Obama Takeover"

    Obama Culture of Death Update™: Among President Obama's First Official Acts is Promoting Abortion Abroad [UPDATED]

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    Up From Conservatism

    At The American Conservative, Reid Buckley writes that "America needs a better Right than the GOP can provide":
    ... I cry within myself, where is the inspiration? Where is the audacity? And I wonder often whether the young radical today reading conservative publications does not suffer from the tedium that suffocated me as a young man reading the liberal press.

    Tell me quickly: what is new in conservative political thinking since 1955? Can you come up with a single tenet that rises fresh to the mind in treating vicissitudes that were undreamed of back when my brother founded National Review—the worldwide torrent of the Internet, bursting through ethnic, national, and ideological barriers, maybe reducing all philosophies of government to chauvinism; or the impact of economic globalization, which snatches some Third World peoples from penury but as suddenly dumps them back into it; or the acceptance of infanticide and euthanasia by a majority of the American people, upon whom, according to populist conservative creed—descending from Ronald Reagan, intoned from all platforms—we conservatives exhort ourselves to depend; or the religious and imperial irredentist menace of Islamic terrorism, which threatens a 100-year war of civilizations? What have conservatives to hurl at these urgent historic challenges other than the same bromides? For 40 years, smug, snide right-wingers have made merry mocking Greenpeace fanatics and ecological doomsayers without learning a blessed thing about the precariousness of the ecology and the effect of human action (not to speak of avarice) on it, as when we promiscuously exfoliate the rain forests or condemn yet one more green acre on the southeastern shore of New Jersey to the desolation of heedless urban development. We conservatives are so self-satisfied that we have incapacitated ourselves from peering beneath the antics of idiots and the wild exaggerations of scruffy environmentalist kooks to the gathering of real dangers that their hysterical rhetoric obscures. The climate is most probably changing, and the human impact on it should be studied.

    When last did you hear a conservative spokesman deplore yet another six-lane highway, yet another fast-food alley, yet another graceless subdivision, yet another Super Wal-Mart or Lowe’s that sucks the life out of small village businesses, yet one more onslaught against neighborhood and nature that is masked under the name of progress? Unless it is a bridge in Alaska from nowhere to nowhere, you will not hear the deepest red-dyed congressman denounce the progressive uglification of our natural inheritance, as though beauty is of no concern. Have you flown recently from Newport News to Boston at 25,000 feet on a clear day and gazed down upon the horror of American civilization? What man hath wrought! What we have done to this beautiful land? Dear God, forgive us! But when last did you hear a conservative oppose a new mall because it is ugly, an affront to the eye, accustoming thousands of human beings to dehumanizing blows against the aesthetic sense until it is benumbed? The good, the true, and the beautiful are inseparably joined. One cannot damage one without doing harm to the others. Those who fail to comprehend this are morally in error on the dialectical front, though they may be personally virtuous.

    I wonder—I am nagged by the doubt—has the disheartening failure of the conservative movement on the domestic front, dating from the second Reagan administration, been anywhere sufficiently acknowledged or analyzed by our great conservative institutions of scholarly learning? Has sodomy become the groovy kinkiness in our society? Is prayer ever to be restored to our schools? Are the unborn in America never to be safeguarded? And our infirm or derelict elderly—are they now to be at the mercy of the avariciousness of their heirs or the parsimony of the state? Will ever an amendment to the Constitution win through defining the Republic now and forever as Christian bred and born and deliberately affirmed at the founding, putting the quietus to secularists, who seek to desacralize society as well as life?

    Recall heroic General Armistead pinning his hat on the tip of his sword and—thrusting the blade high, yelling to his brave men to follow—charging through the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, at once to fall mortally wounded. That’s been called the high-water mark of the Confederacy. Did the high-water mark of the 20th-century conservative movement of the United States take place back in December 1995/January 1996 when—in what might as well have been a railroad car’s tobacco-sodden men’s room, among the cuspidors—squat, puffy Newt Gingrich stonewalled smooth, sleazy Bill Clinton?

    Judging from the political deportment of the Republican Congresses and the White House in domestic matters since that time, has anyone had the audacity, courage, and honesty to tell the bald truth—which is that the Republican Party has failed the cause to which my brother Bill and so many other brilliant souls—Frank Meyer, Jim Burnham, John Chamberlain, to mention just a few—gave unstintingly of their lives? Is any establishment conservative organ today declaring unequivocally that conservatives who have any respect at all for the political philosophy they profess must forswear the Republican Party and on many major issues break ranks with government-trusting (and agnostic) neocons? Or is that fresh young mind this minute deciding that whatever the right wing says about anything is tired polemics from which candor and the imagination have long since leaked out?’

    When I ponder the future of American culture, I wonder, first, whether in the future there will ever again be respect for truth in this Republic or whether we conservatives, like the vainglorious Greeks 2,500 years ago, are so tainted intellectually and corrupted philosophically that we have lost the capacity for critical thinking about ourselves, relying on euphemisms in place of truth.

    On the political level, then, what will be the future of American civilization as far as we conservatives are concerned? Why, of knaves and charlatans on both sides of the aisle driving the Republic headlong into a metastatic colossus of a state in which the citizen has been reduced to a hapless serf; in which blunt, honest language has been euphemized out of existence; and in which a bland and servile acceptance of the inevitability of Big Brother is the received wisdom.

    Where are our Friedrich Hayeks of The Road to Serfdom, our Eric Voegelins of The New Science of Politics, our Russell Kirks of The Conservative Mind? Where is our philosopher? Meantime, on the practical front, what can conservatives do? The very first thing is to dissociate from the Republican Party, which has become an albatross around the neck of integrity.

    [Read the whole thing]

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    "Conservative Catholic Grandmother"™ Pelosi Says Birth Control a Boon for the Economy [UPDATED]

    Matthew Archbold reports:

    Your favorite grandmother Nancy Pelosi defended the inclusion of millions of dollars being spent on birth control in Obama's new economic "stimulus" package by claiming "contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

    So that's what you are folks. You are a cost to the state and federal government. You are not a product of love, an immortal being with a soul. You are the product of a cost/benefit analysis.

    Here's the exact exchange on ABC's THIS WEEK. (H/T Drudge)
    STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

    PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

    PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.
    Now this just might explain why Obama and Pelosi are so vehemently pro-abortion. It's because they're so worried about the economy.


    Video (Hat tip: American Papist):

    UPDATE #2
    You just knew Bill Donohue wasn't going to let this slide (hat tip: again, American Papist):

    “Looks like the Democrats have abortion and contraception on the brain. Last week, President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on federal funds being used to promote and perform abortions overseas. Now we have Pelosi arguing that the way to balance the budget is not by cutting expenditures, but by cutting kids. Her comment matches up well with what Obama said during the presidential campaign about comprehensive sex education: speaking of his own daughters, he said that ‘if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.’ (My emphasis.)

    “We have reached a new low when high-ranking public office holders in the federal government cast children as the enemy. But at least it explains their enthusiasm for abortion-on-demand.”
    Meanwhile, the sound of crickets chirping could be heard emanating forth from the chancery offices of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

    UPDATE #3
    Catholic Mom responds with "Economics (Eugenics): Nancy Pelosi Style".

    UPDATE #4
    An example of why Don McClarey is one of my favorite bloggers/commenters:
    Pelosi and Biden combined would not have enough intelligence to make a half-wit. Astonishing that these two jokes are what the public will think of during the next four years when they think of Catholic politicians in Washington.

    UPDATE #5
    For the Greater Glory: "The Pelosi Revolution".

    Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
    More U.S. Bishops Issue Statements on Abortion

    LA Times Columnist Lies to Cover for Pelosi

    Obama Camp to Speaker Pelosi: "Shut Up, Already!

    The Follow-Up Question Brokaw Should've Asked

    Pelosi: St. Augustine Agrees With Me - That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It [UPDATED]

    Archbishop Chaput on Speaker Pelosi: "On the Separation of Sense and State" [UPDATED]

    Biblical Scholars Challenge Pelosi's "Scripture" Quote

    "Conservative Catholic Grandmother" Pelosi Defends Removal of "God" from Flag Certificates

    President Bush to Veto Stem Cell Bill

    Never Mind Church Teaching, Catholic Nancy Pelosi Says ESCR "a Gift of God"

    "Anti-Catholic" Pelosi Accused of Promoting "Culture of Death"

    Pelosi Sings Praises of Embryo Destruction

    Bishop Vasa on Nancy Pelosi: It's "Categorically Impossible" to be Catholic and Hold Abortion is "Just a Choice"

    Worth a Thousand Words

    Nancy Pelosi: "My Family is Very Pro-Life"

    Catholicism, Pelosi style

    Archbishop Wuerl's Stand on Lawmakers Who Back Abortion Angers Some Conservative Catholics

    NARAL Pro-Choice America Salutes Nancy Pelosi on Her Inauguration as Speaker of the House

    More on Speaker Pelosi at Open Book

    A Catholic Speaker in the House

    American Life League's Judie Brown: Pro-Abortion Pelosi Insults Catholic Faith

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    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Digest of Weekend's Posts (25 January 2009)

    Sunday, 25 January
  • 250th Birthday of Scottish Poet Robert Burns - Born 25 January 1759 [UPDATED]

  • Saturday, 24 January
  • Perhaps, One Day ...

  • Moral Accountability . com

  • Kmiec Claims He's In the Loop for Vatican Post

  • (Digest of Friday's Posts (23 January 2009))


    250th Birthday of Scottish Poet Robert Burns - Born 25 January 1759 [UPDATED]

    Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's greatest poet, Robert Burns. Below is a Burns poem that will be recited many times throughout the world tonight in the bard's honour:
    Address To A Haggis

    Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
    Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
    Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
    Painch, tripe, or thairm:
    Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
    As lang's my arm.

    The groaning trencher there ye fill,
    Your hurdies like a distant hill,
    Your pin was help to mend a mill
    In time o'need,
    While thro' your pores the dews distil
    Like amber bead.

    His knife see rustic Labour dight,
    An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
    Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
    Like ony ditch;
    And then, O what a glorious sight,
    Warm-reekin', rich!

    Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
    Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
    Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
    Are bent like drums;
    Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
    Bethankit! hums.

    Is there that owre his French ragout
    Or olio that wad staw a sow,
    Or fricassee wad make her spew
    Wi' perfect sconner,
    Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
    On sic a dinner?

    Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
    As feckles as wither'd rash,
    His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
    His nieve a nit;
    Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
    O how unfit!

    But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
    The trembling earth resounds his tread.
    Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
    He'll mak it whissle;
    An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
    Like taps o' trissle.

    Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
    And dish them out their bill o' fare,
    Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
    That jaups in luggies;
    But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
    Gie her a haggis!
    And here is my favorite Burns poem:
    Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
    Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
    Welcome to your gory bed,
    Or to victory!

    Now's the day, and now's the hour;
    See the front o' battle lour,
    See approach proud Edward's power—
    Chains and slavery!

    Wha will be a traitor-knave?
    Wha can fill a coward's grave?
    Wha sae base as be a slave?
    Let him turn and flee!

    Wha for Scotland's king and law
    Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
    Freeman stand or freeman fa',
    Let him follow me!

    By oppression's woes and pains,
    By your sons in servile chains,
    We will drain our dearest veins,
    But they shall be free!

    Lay the proud usurpers low!
    Tyrants fall in ev'ry foe!
    Liberty's in ev'ry blow!
    Let us do or die!

    That's me about 3 days before my first encounter with a haggis, which took place during Sarah's and my honeymoon in Scotland.

    Happy birthday, Rabbie. I'll drink a wee dram of the single malt to your memory this Burns Night.

    Further Reading:

    Burns National Heritage Park

    BBC - Burns Night - Homepage

    On the trail of Robert Burns in Scotland

    World marks 250th anniversary of Robert Burns in day of celebrations

    Bard's birthday launches Homecoming Scotland

    Scotland turns to 18th-century poet for economic stimulus

    The Scottish Haggis Website

    UPDATE (26 January)
    Christian Science Monitor: Scotland turns to 18th-century poet for economic stimulus

    Dumfries, Scotland - Can an 18th-century poet help save Scotland’s faltering economy?

    Keen to find ways of boosting the economy as it heads into increasingly dark times, the Scottish government recently unveiled an initiative that banks on famed poet Robert Burns to lure tourists to visit and invite expatriate Scots to come home.

    This year is the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth and the start of a year-long celebration across Scotland, much of it centered here in Dumfries, where Burns was born.

    Standing by the original manuscript of Burns’s “Auld Lang Syne” in Edinburgh’s National Library of Scotland, the country’s first minister, Alex Salmond, used his New Year message to describe the “Homecoming Scotland,” initiative:

    “As we enter a new year, a wonderful opportunity presents itself to turn a threatened tourism downturn into a visitor boom.”

    Economic stimulus or political diversion?

    Political opponents, while supporting the idea of a homecoming, see the first minister’s enthusiasm as little more than an attempt to deflect attention from the country’s economic problems and promote his own agenda of Scottish independence. Mr. Salmond wants to hold a referendum on a split with the rest of the United Kingdom in 2010.

    Since 1999, the country has had its own parliament, but remains within the UK, alongside England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It has powers over education and healthcare, but others, like defense and foreign affairs remain with the Westminster government in London. Salmond wants Scotland to go one step further and become completely independent.

    Whatever his intentions, Scotland is going to need all the help it can get this year. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry predicts 2009 will be an “incredibly difficult year” for Scotland’s economy, with negative growth expected for the first time in almost three decades.

    Tourism totals $5.5 billion a year

    Tourism, still very strong here, is viewed as part of the solution. It’s one of Scotland’s biggest industries, drawing $5.5 billion from tourists and providing about 200,000 jobs – roughly one out of every 12 jobs.

    Few, if any, places have stronger links to Burns than Dumfries, a picturesque town of about 30,000 people near the border with England. It was once said that Dumfries was “The grandest city in the world, for thou hast Burns’s grave.” With this in mind, many here are banking on “Homecoming Scotland” being translated into a sharp increase in visitors this year.

    Among the town’s other Burns’s sites is the Globe Inn, Burns’s favorite pub, which retains the same wood panels and beams, and even the “Burns’s chair,” where the poet once held court. Pub owner Marion McKerrow welcomes the homecoming plans.

    “It’s time to highlight what Robert Burns is about and the attraction he is all over the world,” she says.

    A poor boy named ‘Rabbie’

    Robert Burns – better known as Rabbie – was born in Ayrshire on Scotland’s west coast in 1759. One of seven children, he grew up in poverty and hardship, but was well-educated by his father, reading the Bible and Shakespeare from an early age. He had some schooling and began writing verses while also working as a farm laborer and plowman.

    He went on to write scores of poems and songs in the Scots dialect and became known as “The Ploughman Poet.” His works include “O my Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose,” “Address To a Haggis,” and “Scots Wha Hae,” once considered Scotland’s unofficial national anthem. He enjoyed tremendous success and travelled all over Scotland, settling in Dumfries before his death at 37.

    This weekend is key test

    The first real test of the year’s initiative will come this weekend as the homecoming year is launched with events in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dumfries, and Ayrshire. Jan. 25th each year is known as Burns Night, when people gather for traditional suppers of haggis, neaps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), and to hear readings from Burns’s works. In Dumfries, four lantern processions will make their way through the town, converging for a fire show and a display of traditional celtic music ahead of one of the country’s biggest Burns suppers.

    Skeptics of the initiative, including Elaine Murray, Dumfries’ Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament, asks what impression visitors will get of town’s like Dumfries if the Scottish Government doesn’t do more to rescue the economy.

    “What they’re going to see is a pretty empty looking High Street with a lot of closed- down shops,” she says. “We need to know how the Scottish Government intends to promote town center regeneration…. All we’ve got here is warm words and nothing very substantial at all.”

    Mr. Salmond, however, spoke in his New Year message of a “spirit of optimism abroad that will pull us through the hard times.” He ended his address by quoting from Burns’s poem “For A’ That and A’ That:”

    “For a’ that, an a’ that,
    It’s comin yet for a’ that,
    That man to man the warld o’er,
    Shall brithers (brothers) be for a’ that.”

    Many in Dumfries hope he’s right.
    Here's the Homecoming Scotland ad featuring famous Scots such as Sean Connery singing "Caledonia":

    Pretty cheesy. I'm not sure the bard would approve.

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