Friday, March 27, 2009

Rolling Back the English Reformation, Inch by Inch

For more than three hundred years, the law of England has deprived both Catholics and those married to Catholics of the right of succession to the throne. Or, as the Act of Settlement of 1700 (official text) charmingly puts it:

...all and every Person and Persons who shall or may take or inherit the said Crown by vertue of the Limitation of this present Act and is are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome or shall profess the Popish Religion or shall marry a Papist shall be subject to such Incapacities as in such Case or Cases are by the said recited Act provided enacted and established....
The "Incapacities" are that such person or persons shall be
made for ever [incapable] to inherit possess or enjoy the Crown and Government of this Realm and Ireland and the Dominions thereunto belonging or any part of the same or to have use or exercise any regall Power Authority or Jurisdiction within the same....
Now there is talk of amending the Act of Settlement. A lot of attention is being given to the proposal to abolish the preference in English law for male heirs to the throne, even to the detriment of older female heirs; however, it is also proposed to remove the disability that results from a prospective heir marrying a Catholic. According to a BBC poll, 89% of the British public support the proposed abolition of the male preference, and 81% think prospective heirs to the throne should be permitted to marry Catholics without being knocked out of the line of succession. It is not proposed that the disability resulting from a prospective heir being Catholic himself be removed; if these changes to the law are adopted, Catholics themselves will still have no place in the line of succession.

Now, of course, I am a citizen of a country that fought a war to get out from under the rule of British monarchs, so as far as the political aspect of this problem goes, I am a complete outsider. But as a Catholic with hot Mediterranean and Celtic blood coursing through her veins, I find it difficult to read with patience some of the comments in the British press about the prospect of Catholics coming a step closer to the royal succession. Clearly, not a few people are operating out of prejudice, rather than a sound grasp of the facts about Catholicity. It is proposed, for example, that the loyalty of a Catholic is open to question: "Would Britain be prepared to accept a King whose Queen Consort owed at least part of her allegiance to the Pope, and who might consequently insist that their children were brought up as Roman Catholics?" After all, as it is argued, the Pope considers himself superior to all other rulers, and is told so at his coronation. And yet, it is hoped that perhaps the Pope might exempt English monarchs from the requirement that Catholic parents raise their children up in the Faith. "The Pope might feel that a change in law to end one form of discrimination merited a concession from him to avoid creating another."

It is difficult, I repeat, to read such nonsense with equanimity. And yet such notions reveal more about the Church of England than they do about the Catholic Church. These outpourings are clearly the product of an inability -- bred over centuries -- to separate politics from faith, or to distinguish between that which belongs to Caesar and that which belongs to God. They are the product of a materialistic world view that recognizes no transcending spiritual realities. They constitute an implicit admission that the Church of England lays no claim -- and indeed cannot lay any claim -- to the universality that is a mark of the true Church founded by Christ, Who commanded His disciples to go forth and make disciples of all nations. They demonstrate the extent to which members of the Church of England have been influenced by the example of their own communion which, having long ago detached itself from the True Vine, has abandoned Truth for the sake of convenience -- a development that is lamented even in Britain. They demonstrate an ignorance of English history, of life in (very) Catholic England before Henry VIII, the origins of the Church of England, and the consequences of England's revolt. Not the least of which consequences is the "can of ecclesiastical worms," as one commentator puts it, that is now being opened, gradually.

But cans of worms are what we get when we try to do things our own way, instead of walking the path that has been laid out for us. Meanwhile, painful operations and bitter medicines bring about cures, proving that that which hurts may in fact be for the best.

So expose the worms to the light of day, painful though it may be -- even if it has to be done one worm at a time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March 25th: Solemnity of the Annunciation

The Angelus

V. The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

V. And the Word was made Flesh:
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.


And in case you want to say it in Latin:

V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ:
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

V. Ecce Ancilla Domini:
R. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum.

Ave Maria...

V. Et Verbum caro factum est:
R. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria...

V. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix:
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.


Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Vernal Equinox

Today, at 11:44, Greenwich Mean Time, the Sun reached the point where the ecliptic (the Sun's apparent path in the sky) and the celestial equator (the projection of the Earth's equator outward into space) intersect. Today, the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the sun's rays, and we have a roughly (though not exactly) equal period of daylight and darkness.

In other words: Spring is finally here!

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!

-- Robert Browning, from Pippa Passes

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 19th: Solemnity of St. Joseph

Interestingly, devotion to St. Joseph in the west only caught on during the Middle Ages. Among his pioneering devotees in the west was Bl. Margaret of Castello, of whom it was said that if you were in a hurry to get someplace, you did not want to get her started on St. Joseph. It was not until the reign of Pope Sixtus IV in the 15th century that his feast was added to the Roman Calendar. Not surprisingly, this incredibly quiet saint is also the most powerful after the Blessed Mother herself.

With marriage and the family under relentless assault, St. Joseph's patronage is sorely needed now more than ever.

Litany Of Saint Joseph

Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary,
Pray for us.
Holy Joseph,
Pray for us.

Noble Son of the House of David,
Pray for us.
Light of the Patriarchs,
Pray for us.
Husband of the Mother of God,
Pray for us.
Chaste Guardian of the Virgin,
Pray for us.
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Pray for us.
Sedulous Defender of Christ,
Pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family,
Pray for us.
Joseph most just,
Pray for us.
Joseph most chaste,
Pray for us.
Joseph most prudent,
Pray for us.
Joseph most valiant,
Pray for us.
Joseph most obedient,
Pray for us.
Joseph most faithful,
Pray for us.
Mirror of patience,
Pray for us.
Lover of poverty,
Pray for us.
Model of all who labor,
Pray for us.
Glory of family life,
Pray for us.
Protector of Virgins,
Pray for us.
Pillar of families,
Pray for us.
Consolation of the afflicted,
Pray for us.
Hope of the sick,
Pray for us.
Patron of the dying,
Pray for us.
Terror of the demons,
Pray for us.
Protector of the holy Church,
Pray for us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

He made him master of his house,
and ruler of all his possesions.

O God, You were pleased to choose Saint Joseph as the husband of Mary and the guardian of your Son. Grant that, as we venerate him as our protector on earth, we may deserve to have him as our intercessor in heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 17th: St. Patrick's Day

Herewith "Dark Rosaleen," by James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), my favorite English version of the Irish song "Róisín Dubh" ("Little Black Rose"). The Little Black Rose, of course, is Ireland.

O MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There 's wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over hills, and thro' dales,
Have I roam'd for your sake;
All yesterday I sail'd with sails
On river and on lake.
The Erne, at its highest flood,
I dash'd across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
O, there was lightning in my blood,
Red lightning lighten'd thro' my blood.
My Dark Rosaleen!

All day long, in unrest,
To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon.
But yet will I rear your throne
Again in golden sheen;
'Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
'Tis you shall have the golden throne,
'Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over dews, over sands,
Will I fly, for your weal:
Your holy delicate white hands
Shall girdle me with steel.
At home, in your emerald bowers,
From morning's dawn till e'en,
You'll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My fond Rosaleen!
You'll think of me through daylight hours,
My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!

I could scale the blue air,
I could plough the high hills,
O, I could kneel all night in prayer,
To heal your many ills!
And one beamy smile from you
Would float like light between
My toils and me, my own, my true,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My fond Rosaleen!
Would give me life and soul anew,
A second life, a soul anew,
My Dark Rosaleen!

O, the Erne shall run red,
With redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread,
And flames wrap hill and wood,
And gun-peal and slogan-cry
Wake many a glen serene,
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
The Judgement Hour must first be nigh,
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Decreasing the Surplus Population

Everybody agrees it wasn't okay for Scrooge to hate the poor and the helpless. It wasn't okay for him to be in favor of prisons and workhouses. Most of all, it wasn't okay for him to be in favor of decreasing the "surplus population" of the suffering poor.

But what is unacceptable for a character of fiction is apparently acceptable for the people's elected representatives. And so we have the under-the-radar, blandly-named S1114, which passed unanimously in the Idaho Senate on March 3d. This bill would allow the withholding of treatment in cases where such treatment is deemed "medically inappropriate" or "futile" -- notwithstanding the directive, advance or otherwise, of a patient or his representative. Consider the following new language proposed to be added to existing law (emphases added):


(1) If the attending physician believes that the treatment requested by a patient, the patient’s advance directive or the patient’s surrogate decision maker is medically inappropriate or futile, the attending physician or health care facility in which the patient is admitted may request that an ethics committee of the health care facility review the facts and circumstances to determine if the requested treatment is medically inappropriate or futile.

(2) The ethics committee shall be comprised of at least two (2) physicians, and such other persons as the health care facility shall appoint. The attending physician may appear at the ethics committee meeting to explain the facts and circumstances of the case but may not participate as a member of the ethics committee.

(3) The patient or his legally authorized surrogate decision maker shall be given the opportunity to attend the ethics committee meeting and explain the basis for his or her request for treatment. The patient or surrogate decision maker shall be given prior notice of the ethics committee meeting at least twentyfour [sic] (24) hours before the ethics committee meeting unless the patient or surrogate decision maker waives such prior notice. The patient or surrogate decision maker shall not be entitled to be present during the ethics committee’s deliberations. [Sounds rather like a criminal proceeding, doesn't it?]

The ethics committee shall provide to the patient or surrogate decision maker a written explanation of the ethics committee’s determination.

(4) If the ethics committee agrees with the attending physician that the treatment requested by the patient, the patient’s advance directive or surrogate decision maker is medically inappropriate or futile, the attending physician and health care facility shall take reasonable action to assist the patient or surrogate decision maker to arrange the patient’s transfer within fifteen (15) days to another health care provider selected by the patient or surrogate decision maker who is willing to assume the treatment of the patient. The health care facility shall provide reasonably necessary lifesustaining [sic] treatment within the capacity and capability of the health care facility until the patient is transferred or until the expiration of the fifteen (15) day period described above, whichever occurs first. Following the patient’s transfer or upon expiration of the fifteen (15) day period described above, whichever occurs first, the attending physician and health care facility shall not be obligated to provide additional treatment that has been determined to be medically inappropriate or futile by the ethics committee. The patient or his surrogate decision maker shall remain responsible for the costs incurred in transferring the patient to another health care provider in addition to the cost of any health care provided prior to the transfer.

(5) If the patient or surrogate decision maker disagrees with the ethics committee determination, the patient or surrogate decision maker shall cooperate with the health care facility to arrange the transfer of the patient to another health care provider within fifteen (15) days following the ethics committee determination. The patient or surrogate decision maker may petition the district court in which the health care facility is located to lengthen the time to effect an appropriate transfer; provided however, that the district court shall extend the time only if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a reasonable probability that the patient or surrogate decision maker will be able to transfer the patient to another qualified health care provider who is willing to provide the treatment requested by the patient or surrogate decision maker within the extension requested by the patient or surrogate decision maker.

(6) If an ethics committee has determined that the requested treatment is medically inappropriate or futile, but the patient is later readmitted to the health care facility within six (6) months following such ethics committee determination, the attending physician may rely on the prior ethics committee determination and withhold or withdraw treatment consistent with the prior ethics committee determination if the attending physician and one (1) physician member of the ethics committee determine that the patient’s condition either has not improved or has deteriorated since the prior ethics committee determination and that the prior ethics committee determination still applies to the patient’s condition, and they document their conclusion in the medical chart.

Notice, however, the ease with which patients may be -- shall we say -- permitted to die. A "surrogate decision maker" -- that is, a person empowered to make care decisions on behalf of a patient who is incapable of making decisions for himself --

shall not have authority to consent to or refuse health care contrary to the patient’s advance directives or wishes expressed by the patient while the patient was capable of consenting to his own health care[.]

Furthermore, a court-appointed guardian of a patient MAY consent to the withholding or withdrawal of treatment ("other than appropriate nutrition, hydration or medication") where:

(b) The respondent [patient] is chronically and irreversibly comatose;
(c) The provision of such treatment would merely prolong dying, would not be effective in ameliorating or correcting all of the respondent’s lifethreatening [sic] conditions, or would otherwise be futile in terms of the survival of the respondent; or
(d) The provision of such treatment would be virtually futile in terms of the survival of the respondent, and the treatment itself under such circumstances would be inhumane.

Notice, too, that although a court-appointed guardian may not withhhold "appropriate" nutrition and hydration; and although the bill in its terms purports not to legalize or condone euthanasia, the bill clearly contemplates that "artificial nutrition and hydration" -- defined as "supplying food and water through a conduit, such as a tube or intravenous line, where the recipient is not required to chew or swallow voluntarily, [not including] assisted feeding, such as spoon feeding or bottle feeding" -- may be withdrawn:

Individuals caring for a patient for whom artificial lifesustaining [sic] procedures or artificially administered nutrition and hydration are withheld or withdrawn shall provide comfort care as defined in section 39-4502, Idaho Code.

"Comfort care" is defined as "treatment and care to provide comfort and cleanliness" as well as "dignity. It is not clear how this is possible for persons who are dying of hunger and thirst, but then can we expect the legislature to think of everything?

For the moment, let's pass over the utter moral bankruptcy of this proposed legislation and turn to some practical matters. Is this proposed legislation less likely to create more problems than it solves, or more likely? Is it less likely to spawn endless litigation -- notwithstanding the immunity clauses, which are not set forth here -- or more?

The late Fr. Richard Neuhaus once made the point (in Death on a Friday Afternoon) that a mark and effect of our fallen nature is that we make things so much harder than they need to be, or should be. Couldn't we take most of the complications out of these issues by just simply hewing to the Natural Law that has been handed down to us, rather than trying to force the square pegs of life and death and their attendant realities into the round holes of our whims?

Wouldn't it be much, much, much easier to just restore LIFE as the default setting?

H/T The Redoubtable One.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Spirit of Henry VIII: Alive and Well in Connecticut

Connecticut legislators Rep. Michael Lawlor (D. East Haven) and Sen. Andrew McDonald (D. Stamford) might not be trying (at this stage) to physically loot monasteries and distribute the proceeds to their cronies; but they are proving themselves worthy successors to the infamous autocrat who force-fed the Reformation to his reluctant subjects. The two legislators -- at least one of whom, McDonald, is an alleged Catholic -- have proposed a bill that would forcibly restructure the Catholic Church in Connecticut.

The proposed legislation -- which may be viewed in its entirety here -- applies only to the Catholic Church, and purports to strip pastors of control of their parishes, placing it instead in the hands of a lay board. Some key provisions of this bill include the following:
(b) The corporation shall have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than thirteen lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese or his designee shall serve as an ex-officio member of the board of directors without the right to vote.

(c) The members of the board of directors shall be elected from among the lay members of the congregation at an annual meeting of the corporation. The members of the board of directors shall serve for staggered terms of not more than three years. The members of the board of directors shall owe a fiduciary duty to the corporation and the members of the congregation.


(e) The general administrative and financial powers of the corporation shall be exercised by or under the authority of the board of directors.


(f) The pastor of the congregation shall report to the board of directors with respect to administrative and financial matters.


(h) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit, restrict or derogate from any power, right, authority, duty or responsibility of the bishop or pastor in matters pertaining exclusively to religious tenets and practices.
Naturally, this frontal assault on the Church in general and priests and bishops in particular has triggered a firestorm in Connecticut. Fortunately, it is unanimously opposed by Republicans in the Connecticut legislature, and has drawn fire from both Catholics and non-Catholics, who recognize that the integrity of more than just the Catholic Church is at stake. State Senator John McKinney, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate and a professed Episcopalian, declares the proposed legislation "offensive" and "patently unconstitutional," adding: "If government can change the Catholic religion, then it can change any religion. Says Marc D. Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress in New York: "You cannot tell a church how it can govern itself. The Church is entitled to govern itself any which way it wants."

The alleged inspiration for this bill is one Tom Gallagher, author of an asinine 2007 piece published, among other places, in the March, 2007 issue of Our Voice, an "e-newsletter" put out by Voice of the Faithful, in which he recommends state intervention in church affairs as a means of breaking what he views as a clerical stranglehold on parishes. In a press release issued yesterday, Sen. McDonald alleges that the bill was actually authored by "a group of faithful Catholic parishioners from Fairfield County" who were tired of embezzlements and other financial scandals in their parishes, and tries to show that there is nothing out of the ordinary about this legislation, citing to other laws that specifically affect other religions.

But one angle that few except the Catholic news outlets seem willing to mention is that both Lawlor and McDonald are both longtime advocates of gay "marriage," Catholic opposition to which has been vocal in their state. Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport lays it on the line, calling the bill "a thinly veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage." Is it a coincidence that the sponsors of this legislation have an agenda, the principle obstacle to the fulfillment of which also happens to be the target of the legislation, using a cadre of Catholics-in-name-only to give them the appearance of legitimacy?

Earth to Moonbats: this is precisely why we have the First Amendment. Not to shield the virgin eyes of atheists from nativity scenes, or their virgin ears from Christmas carols; not to tear down crosses; not to purge parks of Ten Commandments monuments; not to expunge crosses from city seals. The First Amendment is a bulwark of the Church against the predations of the State, which always tends to tyranny, especially when run by those who publicy pretend to advocate tolerance and human rights. It was in the name of "freedom" that so many secular rulers of the 16th century outlawed Catholicism and Catholic worship; murdered priests and bishops; and outlawed the Mass. And it was not the Church that was a threat to Henry VIII, except to the extent of standing in the way of his lawlessness; rather, it was Henry VIII who despoiled the Church of her property in England, and devastated the poor by laying waste to her system of private welfare (also known as "charity" in the best sense of the word).

Just as Henry VIII rebelled against the Church in order to legitimize his lust for Ann Boleyn, so it appears that Lawlor and McDonald, authors of a frontal assault on the Catholic Church disguised as legislation, may be motivated by their desire to legitimize their own preferred mode of sexuality, and to avenge themselves on the Church that has stood in their way. The spirit of Henry VIII lives on.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

March 8th: St. John of God

Find out here why St. John of God (1495-1550) is the patron of booksellers, publishers, hospitals and hospital workers, the sick, and firefighters.

He should also be the patron of those who are crushed beneath a load of debt. Here, from the Office of Readings for March 8th in the Proper of Saints, is an excerpt from one of his letters. (I'm sure he is quite content to have this second Sunday of Lent supercede his feast.)

If we look forward to receiving God's mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength. For if we share with the poor, out of love for God, whatever He has given to us, we shall receive according to His promise a hundredfold in eternal happiness. What a fine profit, what a blessed reward! Who would not entrust his possessions to this best of merchants, Who handles our affairs so well? With outstretched arms He begs us to turn toward Him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbors. Just as water extinguishes a fire, so love wipes away sin.

So many poor people come here that I very often wonder how we can care for them all, but Jesus Christ provides all things and nourishes everyone. Many of them come to the house of God, because the city of Granada is large and very cold, especially now in winter. More than a hundred and ten are now living here, sick and healthy, servants and pilgrims. Since this house is open to everyone, it receives the sick of every type and condition: the crippled, the disabled, lepers, mutes, the insane, paralytics, those suffering from scurvy and those bearing the afflictions of old age, many children, and above all countless pilgrims and travelers, who come here, and for whom we furnish the fire, water and salt, as well as the utensils to cook their food. And for all of this no payment is requested, yet Christ provides.

I work here on borrowed money, a prisoner for the sake of Jesus Christ. And often my debts are so pressing that I dare not go out of the house for fear of being seized by my creditors. Whenever I see so many poor brothers and neighbors of mine suffering beyond their strength and overwhelmed with so many physical or mental ills which I cannot alleviate, then I become exceedingly sorrowful; but I trust in Christ, Who knows my heart. And so I say: "Woe to the man who trusts in men rather than in Christ." Whether you like it or not, you will grow apart from men, but Christ is faithful and always with you, for Christ provides all things. Let us always give thanks to Him. Amen.

* * *

Prayer to St. John of God

Saint John of God, help us to act out of love as soon as we feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Help us learn to fight the little voices in our heads and hearts that give us all sorts of practical reasons to wait or delay in our service of God. Amen.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

From Humble Beginnings

See anybody in this picture you recognize? Hint: it was taken in Germany in 1938.

Here he is again in 1951.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Docs to Hugo Chavez: Put a Lid on It!

Whoever uses too many words will be loathed, and whoever usurps the right to speak will be hated.

Sirach 20:8

It's too bad Protestants don't accept the Book of Sirach as canonical, because it's full of gems like this one. One can imagine that perhaps the inspired writer of this line was granted a vision, far-off, yet distinct, of pressmen, Venezuelan party functionaries, diplomats and other unfortunates struggling through one of the Thug-in-Chief's speeches, in which it is not uncommon for him to drone on for five hours at a stretch.

Of course, Chavez is known not only for his logorrhea, but also his ungentlemanlike conduct. This is the same guy who, in 2006, turned up on American soil and accepted American hospitality in order to call President Bush Satan at the United Nations. And at a summit of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American leaders in Santiago, Chile in 2007, Chavez' obnoxious behavior provoked the King of Spain to turn to him and say, "Why don't you shut up?"

And so, no doubt in the national interest, doctors have advised Venezuela's Blutocrat: put a lid on it for a few days. The long-winded socialist dictator is suffering from an inflamed throat after flapping his gums non-stop during two consecutive "election" campaigns, including a seven-hour speech in January.

Hugo Chavez is the guy who says, among many, many, many other things, that Jesus Christ was the first socialist, and Judas Iscariot was the first capitalist. Maybe, in the long-term interest not only of Venezuela but of the world and of decency in public discourse, the docs ought to let Chavez go on running off at the mouth until his throat completely shrivels up and their advice becomes a moot point.