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New issue, now live

The new issue of Commonweal is live.

From Eduardo Peñalver’s “Lawyer Up the Prey” (subscription):

In the wake of extraordinarily sloppy record-keeping during the mortgage spree that created our national housing bubble, many of the banks that have subsequently foreclosed on millions of homes have done so without producing the requisite documents. Instead of slowing things down to get their paperwork in order, these banks frequently foreclosed despite lacking proof that they were entitled to do so—in some cases knowingly submitting false affidavits to state courts. As a result, up to hundreds of thousands of properties have been sold by banks improperly. Laws in the majority of states allow lenders to foreclose without significant judicial involvement, putting the burden on homeowners to sue the bank and prove that a lender is not entitled to foreclose. Lacking the resources to hire a lawyer, the great majority of homeowners facing foreclosure were in no position to expose the banks’ fraud.

From Fr. Nonomen’s “Wedding Crashers” (subscription):

They paraded into the church for the wedding rehearsal like a Kardashian posse—all twenty of them, eight groomsmen, nine bridesmaids, and three toddlers. When I welcomed them, one smiled faintly, two others kept texting important messages, and the young lady with the wrist-to-shoulder tattoos sat down in a pew, made herself at home, and started touching up the polish on her nails. The rest simply ignored me. It was clear none had been inside a church since confirmation and hadn’t the slightest clue how to behave in a place of worship. We could just as well have been knocking back some tequila in Eddie’s Pool Hall and chatting about the Bruins.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me. After all, I was warned about it many years ago, by an old and seasoned pastor who told me that he would much rather preside at a funeral—even the most tragic funeral—than at a wedding, any day of the week. At the time, I didn’t understand. But now I know exactly what he means.

Also, fiction from Valerie Sayers, Jo McGowan on tragedies that test convictions, and Harold Bordwell on art and “the apple’s pride of place in our Edenic imaginations.”

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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Eduardo's article is must-read.

Eduardo - to what extent can law firm and individual attorneys' pro-bono activities fill the gap in civil legal aid?

From Jo McGowan's piece:

She showed me the ultrasound images in which her baby’s head was clearly malformed, and she informed me matter-of-factly that the doctor had already given her a pill to induce an abortion—the follow-up procedure would happen the next day at the hospital. I felt a strange sense of relief, a mixture of guilt and gratitude: the decision had already been made. There was no moral stand to be taken, no need to convince her to see the pregnancy through.

What a curious bit of failure of moral nerve.  Ms. McGowan, by your own estimation, you are like a mother to her.  Had you urged her not to take the pill, it's possible she wouldn't have taken the pill.  I agree that moral decisions are more difficult to make when they confront us in a personal way.  I am sure that is why she shared this crisis with you - she was asking for guidance.  Frequently, we need encouragement and love to strengthen us to do the right thing.  In this case, I fear that she asked you for bread, and you gave her a stone.  And so might I, were I in your place - I might also fail the test.  But I am disappointed that you let yourself off the hook so easily.  

And my disappointment extends to Commonweal's editors.  I don't know how this column can be characterized except as a pro-abortion piece.  It's the kind of thing I'd expect to read in the New York Times - and in fact, recently I did read something very similar in the New York Times.  


I hope Jim Pauwels's condemnation will not discourage anyone from reading Jo McGowan's article.  (Free.)

(And I hope his disappointment will not discourage the editors from running further articles by women.) 

This case has made me ask the following question. Suppose a fetus is sure to die in the womb. Is it morally necessary to let it continue to live until it does actually die in the womb? It's hard for me to see that it is morally necessary to do so.

Note that I do not know whether the fetus Ms. McGowan refers to was one that would would surely die before being born.

Re-reading the bit I had highlighted from the McGowan piece, I see I may have misunderstood the sequence of events.  When McGowan writes, "the doctor had already given her a pill to induce an abortion", I took that to mean that the doctor had handed her the pill, or perhaps had handed her a prescription for a pill, but that she had not yet consumed it.  But perhaps McGowan is relating that her friend had already taken the pill at that point.  That casts a very different light on McGowan's statement, "I felt a strange sense of relief, a mixture of guilt and gratitude: the decision had already been made."

If I've misconstrued what is being related as I'm describing it here, I apologize to McGowan and to the editors.






Imho, the article about the wedding is baloney.  

Why the pseud, Fr. Noname?  At least the other contributors to the issue were not afraid to use their real names.  

There's a poem by a man.

"The Last Word" is by a man.

There's a review by a man of a book edited by a man and a woman that has six male contributors and three female contributors.


There's a review by a man of a movie directed by a man based on a book written by a man.


There's an article about banks by a man.


There's a short story by a woman.


There's an article about a male magician by a man.


There's a review by a man of a book by a man.


Suppose a fetus is sure to die in the womb. Is it morally necessary to let it continue to live until it does actually die in the womb? 

Hi, Bernard, I hope that one of the folks here who is more expert than I am in medical ethics will give an authoritative answer to your question.  My own take is that ordinary measures should be taken to sustain the life, but extraordinary measures aren't required.  The way you've phrased it, "let it continue to live", would seem to me to mean, "Decline to take an extraordinary measure to end the life."  I'd think that's the right thing to do.  But note my qualifier at the beginning of this response.


Jim P.,

I know no medicine, so maybe the question I ask is about a situation that never arises, namely, that the medical evidence is never so clear that one could be sure that the fetus couldn't survive to birth. But on the supposition that this situation could arise, I wonder how killing the fetus would be really different from withdrawing a comatose patient from a life support machine. The fetus in question is, by hypothesis,  one that is not viable independently of its mother. In such a case, it's not clear to me that allowing the fetus to continue to live somewhat longer in the womb and at some risk to the mother is coonsistent with a thoughtful respect for all human life.

This is all so sad one hates to even think about it.  Still, one must wonder whether or not the little being  is actually a person.  According to Aquinas there is no person unless all of the bodily parts necessary for the creature  to operate as a rational being are actually in existence. It seems to me that common senses tells me that this is true:  if you were contronted on a battlefield with a body whose brain had just been shot away a minute ago, no doubt you would consider that person dead, wouldn't you?  Roughly speaking, no brain, no person.

We know from contemporary medicine that the prefrontal cortex is necessary to do our ordinary sorts of specifically human (rational) thinking, which includes abstract thinking.  However, in anencephalic  fetuses the prefrontal cortex is missing, it seems that they have not attained rational status == they are not persons.

Thomas even wondered at some point (sorry I don't hav the reference) whether or not human death might not take place in stages.  Contemporary medicine seems to corroborate the idea:  the heart's electrical system which keeps it beating is independent of the brain's functioning, so that in some cases  the brain will die before the heart  does.  That is, the heart keeps beating though there are no electical signals coming from the brain.  This, it seems to me, is acurately called "brain death".  And with it, it seems to me, comes person death, with an animal body still operating.

Biologists and MDs on the list please correct me where I'm wrong about the science.

We don't like to think about such things.  But thinking about death has always been difficult.  It's part of the human condiiton. 

Here are two unnecessary comments on Paul Giles's "A Good Gatsby."

1. His talk about Kant in the antepenultimate (I couldn't resist using this word, a word i can't ever remember using before) paragraph is sophmoric. A snippet: "Kant argued ... that, space and time should be understood merely as extensions of human consciusness" My emphasis. Giles doesn't show that he has any idea about what Kant was arguing about space and time.

2. Then there's the concluding sentence. It reads: "Not for the first time, a trans-national re-reading of classic American literature has succeeded in highlighting textual dimensions that the institutional formations of its home culture had unwittingly suppressed." This is worthy fo a parody in TLS.

With these two snotty remarks out of the way, let me wish all of you a Happy Fourth!

The head of the baby was misshappen?  Do head not change shape as they grow?  It used to be that there were faces that only a mother could love.  Now there are baby heads that no mother can stand.  Who knows but that baby may have been a genius in the making, no matter how his/her head developed. 

I have personally known three women who were told by doctors that they should abort their babies for medical reasons.  These women did not follow the doctors orders.  One of them even had on her hat and coat ready to depart for the hospital when she looked so pained that her landlady told her not to do anything that she would regret later.  All three women lived to raise their chidlren to adulthood.  My 47 year old aunt was delivered of her only child which had shared the womb with a fibroid tumor.  She is a ninety two year old grandmother now. 

It is my experience after seeing doctors and nurses kill two of my relatives that all doctors are not good doctors.  Of course, abortion is a positive good.  It cuts the population and makes more room and opportunities for our children if we can just convince other women to do it. 

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