"For weeks we have been hearing about the MTV special that would feature a teen couple contemplating abortion … We know that MTV is no bastion of decency or truth, but we did not think the show would actually go as far as it did. We were wrong.
"One very telling feature of the show was that it played without commercial interruption; this is not normal for MTV. This show was obviously funded by some one or some organization with an agenda; a very deadly agenda.
"To be honest it felt like this was almost scripted as the perfect pro-abortion propaganda film. The couple was young, poor, and volatile; and they also already had one baby. They talked about God and the father had a Jesus tattoo on one shoulder and was wearing a necklace that looked like a rosary. They could have made it an extreme case, but they kept it simple; I don't think they could have cast a better couple for this show to make the audience sympathize with their decision to kill their child."
— Bryan Kemper and Kristan Hawkins, writing on "Youth Pro-life Leaders Respond to MTV's Abortion Episode," on Dec. 29 at LifeNews.com
"The Party Where You Cry — we've all been there, but chances are we weren't shedding tears for something so grave as the death of an entire class structure and way of life, like Burt Lancaster's melancholy Prince Don Fabrizio Salina. The ball scene that comprises 'The Leopard's' full final third is justifiably famous, and the purplish claret, tawny flames in vintage candelabra, and fading frescoes look better than ever in this ravishing new restoration …
"'Straddling two worlds and ill at ease in both,' the Prince stands helplessly by as Italy in 1860 moves toward Garibaldi's revolution and unification. In awe at the Leopard's graceful deportment and dignity, you mourn with him.
"As historically encompassing and big as 'Gone with the Wind,' 'The Leopard' was likewise birthed from a bestseller, this by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, himself a prince, who based his only novel on his grandfather, another. The New York City-born Lancaster does not just adequately fill these excellent Italian shoes — he's perfect. Taller and buffer than his American actor colleagues, Lancaster brings his lifelong gymnastic athleticism and rarified heritage … to Don Fabrizio, he of erect carriage and a warm, brilliant smile even for the nouveau riche climbers who are invading and co-opting his family and his Sicily."
— Justin Stewart, writing on "The Leopard: The Party Where You Cry" on Dec. 30 at the L Magazine blog the Measure
God and Islamism
"Iran, it seems, is experiencing a textbook case of conflict between the aggressive and absorptive power of the secular state and religious authority. … Iran's highest ranking cleric is getting sideways with the officially Islamic regime in Tehran, a symptom, perhaps, of clerical unhappiness with the tendency of the modern state … to become the sole arbiter of all dimensions of society, including the sacred dimensions.
"The particular issue is narrowly legal. Grand Ayatollah Hosein Vahid Khorasani has told his students that self-incriminating confessions made under the duress of imprisonment are not valid. This bears on the controversy surrounding a woman condemned to be stoned to death after confessing to having engaged in an adulterous affair. …
"The larger issue, it seems to me, is … Who will speak for God? Just as the church faced an aggressive secular power during the medieval investiture controversy … the Iranian clerics must reckon with a secular state that wants to maintain its legitimacy by claiming sacred sanction, which, at the end of the day, will tend toward gaining control over the mechanisms, institutions, and authorities who rule on questions of the sacred."
— R.R. Reno, writing on "The Next Iranian Revolution?" on Dec. 30 at the First Things blog First Thoughts