Friday, December 25, 2009

Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis! Merry Christmas, everyone!

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."-Luke 2: 10-12

"For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace."-Isaiah 9:5

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!"

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kathleen Sebelius exposes Casey's "Compromise"

Exams for me are over.  They went well, except for one which was a disaster of epic proportions, but, this past semester is finally over, which means I will have plenty of time to read and comment on the goings-on of the world.

So, to the point...

Kathleen Sebelius did an interview with the blog "BlogHer" in which she bragged that Senator Casey's abortion "compromise" is really just an accounting trick that will still push Americans into funding abortions they oppose.

Here's the video:

Yup. She said:

I would say that the Senate language, which was negotiated by Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, who are very strong defenders of women’s health services and choices for women, take a big step forward from where the House left it with the Stupak amendment, and I think do a good job making sure there are choices for women, making sure there are going to be some plan options, and making sure that while public funds aren’t used, we are not isolating, discriminating against, or invading the privacy rights of women. That would be an accounting procedure, but everybody in the exchange would do the same thing, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re 75 or 25, you would all set aside a portion of your premium that would go into a fund, and it would not be earmarked for anything, it would be a separate account that everyone in the exchange would pay.

Got that? Many Americans would still be effectively forced to pay for abortion access.

The Senate is unlikely to stop its version of the bill at this point, but then healthcare reform will go into
conferencing and this whole abortion issue will be rehashed. Make sure to contact your senators and 
reps to tell them where you stand on this critical issue.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Discussions" in the campus newspaper

So, this piece of tripe was printed in the Johns Hopkins University News-Letter attacking the Church and the Stupak Amendment:

(If you're only going to read one, read the response ;))

Friday, December 4, 2009

New Stuff Coming

I will definitely have some new stuff up in the next few days.  There's a lot of stuff I want to talk about, including a "debate" of sorts I've been having on campus, a discussion of justice in war in Afghanistan, and comments on the current state of dialogue on liturgical issues in the Church.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comments on Time magazine's nonsense

Since it's stirred up a lot of controversy lately, and since I want to do a series of posts on mis-reportage of Catholicism in the secular press, I've decided to do a Fr. Z-style (for those of you familiar with the What Does the Prayer Really Say blog) parsing of Amy Sullivan's piece from Time magazine "Priests Spar Over What It Means to be Catholic."

As I've done before, I will use [Bracketed Blue Italics] to show my comments


The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church traditionally couch even the harshest disagreements in decorous, ecclesiastical language. But it didn't take a decoder ring to figure out what Rome-based Archbishop Raymond Burke meant in a late-September address when he charged Boston Cardinal Seán O'Malley with being under the influence of Satan, "the father of lies."   [False.  Archbishop Burke did use the phrase "Father of Lies," but not in specific reference to Cardinal O'Malley.  He said that "One sees the hand of the Father of Lies at work in the disregard for the situation of scandal or in the ridicule and even censure of those who experience scandal. "  This is hardly the same thing as implying that Cardinal O'Malley has a secret pact with Satan.] 

Burke's broadside at O'Malley was inspired by the Cardinal's decision to permit and preside over a funeral Mass for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. And it has set the Catholic world abuzz. [Really?  I was unaware of all this buzz, and I'm usually pretty up on my Catholic news.] Even more than protests over the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak, disputes over the Kennedy funeral have brought into the open an argument that has been roiling within American Catholicism. The debate nominally centers on the question of how to deal with politicians who support abortion rights. Burke and others who believe a Catholic's position on abortion trumps all other teachings have faced off against those who take a more holistic view of the faith. [Ah.  I see.  Those who oppose Archbishop Burke have a more holistic view of things.  Because, ignoring certain core teachings of the Church is "holistic."] But at the core, the divide is over who decides what it means to be Catholic.

A Bull in a China Shop
It strikes no one as surprising that the 61-year-old Burke is at the center of the current fight. The former Archbishop of St. Louis made national headlines in 2004 when he became the first Catholic leader to say he would deny the Eucharist toDemocratic presidential candidate John Kerry. He led an unsuccessful drive to bar Communion for politicians who support abortion rights. And as Election Day approached in 2004, Burke issued a warning to Catholics in the key swing state of Missouri that they should not present themselves for Communion if they voted for pro-choice candidates. [While I overall support Archbishop Burke, I will admit that I don't really see that voting for a pro-choice candidate in itself removes someone from communion with the Church.  While I would not vote for a pro-choice candidate myself, I think that it is theoretically possible that in some instance one could believe that it was the right thing to do even if they were solidly pro-life.  That said, if you've been voting for pro-choicers, please give heavy consideration to the prime importance of the abortion issue.]

The Archbishop's outspoken comments did not go unnoticed in Rome. In June 2008, Burke was unexpectedly transferred to the Vatican. The move was widely interpreted as a way to put some distance between Burke and the political contest in the States. [I don't buy this idea] "It was not unrelated to issues of political timing," observes Mark Silk, a professor of religion at Trinity College.  [And obviously Mark Silk is the unquestionable authority on the Vatican's motives.]

Burke's new assignment came with an impressive title: Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — essentially chief justice of the Vatican's highest court. But the job, which involves hearing appeals of lower-canon-court rulings on issues like annulment requests, did not stop him from commenting on American politics. [Is there something wrong with that, Ms. Sullivan?  Bishops should not be silent on moral issues, and as an American citizen, Burke has every right to express his views on American politics, anyway.]  In January he charged that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was responsible for Obama's victory because it overwhelmingly approved a document suggesting that Catholics could consider issues besides abortion when deciding how to vote. The conference's in-house news service, he added, failed to highlight Obama's moral failings in its campaign coverage. And he called Health andHuman Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-choice Catholic, a "source of deepest embarrassment to Catholics." [I'm embarassed...]

Burke's confrontational approach doesn't always mesh with the more discreet diplomacy favored by his Italian colleagues. "He's seen as a bull in a china shop," says an American priest and longtime Rome resident. "I've seen Italian bishops roll their eyes."  [Who is this "American priest?"  Given the dishonesty Ms. Sullivan employs in this piece, I wonder if he even exists.  Plus, what's the significance of his opinion, anyway?  And, whoever may "roll their eyes," Burke was recently appointed to the powerful Congregation for Bishops... so he's hardly being marginalized at the Vatican.]

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that the funeral plans for Kennedy would reignite a lingering dispute within the church. The question of whether the Senator should even be described as a Catholic because of his support for abortion rights and his checkered life history was hotly debated on Catholic blogs and religion websites like Right-wing Catholics lobbied the Boston archdiocese to refuse the Kennedy family a church funeral. [Most of the objections I heard were to the tenor of the funeral, not its occurence.]  Robert Royal of the Faith & Reason Institute called O'Malley's decision to go ahead with the Mass a "grave scandal" on a par with the sexual-abuse crisis.  [Mr. Royal claims he never said such a thing here]

But it's one thing for partisans and bloggers to disparage a Mass for a dead Senator; it's quite another for a Vatican official to do so. Even some leading conservative Catholics may find they cannot support Burke's latest salvo. When told of the Archbishop's assertion that pro-choice Catholics should not be permitted funeral rites, Princeton professor Robert George was taken aback: "That's a very different, and obviously graver, claim than that with which I would have sympathy. I haven't heard before any bishop say that pro-abortion politicians should not be given a Catholic funeral." [Professor George claims that his quote here was misrepresented.]
Friends of O'Malley's say the cardinal was stunned by the criticism. [I don't know how Cardinal O'Malley feels about much of anything, having never met the man, but after a long series of lies, I'm disinclined to take seriously the alleged claims of Ms. Sullivan's anonymous "friends"] The 65-year-old O'Malley is temperamentally Burke's opposite, a shy man who dislikes celebrity and shuns politics — a major reason he was appointed to the sensitive post in Boston. With his full beard and preference for wearing the brown robe of a Capuchin friar, the man who goes by "Cardinal Sean" is not easily identified as a Prince of the Church. When O'Malley received his red hat in 2006, he persuaded some friends to go out for a late-night snack in Rome after a long day of ceremonies. But he ran into some trouble when he tried to return to his quarters. The Vatican guards didn't believe that the casually attired man who smelled of pizza was a newly minted Cardinal. [So, you see, Cardinal O'Malley likes pizza, and the media has determined that he and Archbishop Burke are at loggerheads.  Therefore, we should all disagree with Archbishop Burke.]

Though he has presided over the difficult task of closing parishes and schools within the archdiocese, O'Malley is well liked in Boston and the broader Catholic community. He celebrated his inaugural Mass in Boston at a Spanish service, and he once joked that his scarlet Cardinal's robes would come in handy if Dick Cheney ever invited him to go hunting. O'Malley, however, should not be mistaken for a liberal member of the hierarchy. He is a conservative on matters of doctrine, and for the past few years, he has been the face of the church's opposition to Massachusetts' gay-marriage law.

But O'Malley did not hesitate to push back against the uproar that surrounded the Kennedy funeral. In a Sept. 2 post on — he is the only Cardinal with a blog — O'Malley wrote, "In the strongest terms I disagree" with those who believe Kennedy did not deserve a funeral Mass. "We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief," he continued. "At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church."

It was the first time a Cardinal had directly and publicly challenged the Burke position. O'Malley's statement was followed by another from Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., who lamented that "the death of Senator Kennedy has called forth at least an apparent rejection of mercy on the part of not a few Catholics." [Is Sullivan honestly trying to pretend that Bp. Morlino, of all people, is against taking a hard line on the abortion issue?  Bp. Morlino got national attention when he berated Joe Biden and Kathleen Sebelius "because they claim to be Catholic," for "confusing God's good people."  He's not exactly encouraging of pro-abortion "Catholics."]  It was inevitable that Burke would emerge to fire back. At a Sept. 18 dinner in Washington sponsored by the conservative media outlet Inside Catholic, Burke declared that "neither Holy Communion nor funeral rites should be administered to [pro-choice] politicians." [Note that she edited Burke's statements to use the word "pro-choice," since that suits her political sensibilities.  Lifesite covered what he REALLY said] The audience gave Burke a prolonged standing ovation. 

Silence from Rome
The American hierarchy has been divided before, most recently in the 1990s by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's argument that abortion is not the only issue in the "seamless garment of life" that Catholics are called to promote. [That, too, was a rather contrived controversy.  Contrary to the picture some would like to paint, Cardinal Bernardin was not denying the moral significance of the abortion issue.] But the current debate, which is expected to surface again when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) holds its general meeting later this month, is the bitterest yet. [And boy is it bitter ] A minority faction of bishops had hoped Pope Benedict XVI would lead the way in punishing those who dissent from church teaching.  His preference for avoiding the political fray has both frustrated them and emboldened them to act on their own. 

The question now is whether the Vatican will move again to muzzle Burke. [Because the Vatican has "muzzled" him in the past?]  When he criticized Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl last spring during a videotaped interview, he was forced to apologize less than 24 hours after the video aired.  [Forced to apologize?  He made the mistake of trusting Randall Terry (of Operation Rescue).  Terry interviewed him and misrepresented the context of his remarks to make it sound like he was condemning Archbishop Weurl when he never intended to do so.  He apologized for the confusion.  Why, exactly, should we assume that the apology was forced?]  In early September, the bishop of Scranton, Pa. — a Burke protégé — abruptly resigned after a stormy tenure and was not reassigned.  [While I don't really know the details of Bp. Martino's resignation, he claimed he was resigning because he was sick.  That would explain why he wasn't reassigned.  It's very unlike the Vatican to kick a bishop to the curb over a few anti-abortion remarks...] Veteran Vatican watchers took it as a sign that some Burkean antics — such as threatening to refuse Vice President Joe Biden Communion and disparaging the USCCB — would not be tolerated. [Was that a consensus among "veteran Vatican watchers?"  Wait?  It wasn't!?!?!  I'm shocked... SHOCKED, I tell you... that Amy Sullivan would try to mislead us!]

Rome has been silent about Burke's most recent public statements. [Sometimes, silence is not a statement.] In late September, O'Malley was named to the Pontifical Council for the Family, a minor and expected appointment, but also a reminder that the Boston Cardinal has friends in high places. [And, as I mentioned before, Archbishop Burke recently got a major appointment to the Congregation for Bishops.  The Vatican doesn't care about stupid media-fabricated faux-feuds.]   "From the point of view of doctrine, Benedict has absolute firmness," says a Vatican insider. "But he does not want to see it play out in a confrontational way."

There are other signs that the word has gone forth, at least for now. In years past, the annual Red Mass held the Sunday before the U.S. Supreme Court's term opens has been so heavily steeped in pro-life rhetoric that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg now declines to attend. This year's service, however, featured a homily by the new chair of the bishop's pro-life committee that included only the subtlest of references to abortion. [This new chair, Archbishop DiNardo, was the first bishop to criticize Notre Dame over the Obama debacle... so, don't think that he's averse to speaking strongly on these matters.]   More striking was the image of Biden taking Communion without incident.


While I'm sure that each bishop has their own preferred way of dealing with controversial matters, it looks to me like the bishops are, if anything, more united now than they traditionally are.  You can see it in the widespread calls from our bishops against Notre Dame's honors for President Obama.  You can see it in the unprecedented effort they've undertaken against abortion in healthcare.

Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Burke might have very different personalities, and might have differing opinions on how an isolated incident here or there should be handled.  Our bishops, however, seem unified in their increasing call that we reaffirm our Catholic identity and embrace what it really means to be a part of the Church.  

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fair Trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

There's been a lot of controversy about how the United States should go about bringing  to justice Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists held at Gitmo.  Attorney General Holder announced that KSM and four other detainees will be tried in a US civilian court in New York City.

I have serious doubts that this was the correct decision.  My worry is not so much about NYC's security, which I think federal authorities and the NYPD should be able to handle.  I simply don't believe that the US courts can competently provide justice to these (alleged) terrorists.  I'm also not sure that the civilian standards for justice are practical in these circumstances.  There are countless examples of standards for our civilian trials that cannot be applied here.  For example, our usual rules of evidence might be inappropriate in these cases.  Rather than discuss all of them, though, I'm going to focus on just one: the use of an "impartial jury of peers."

First, who, exactly, are KSM's peers?  Doesn't the fact that a jury would be made up of US citizens already preclude it from having a balanced "peer group?"  Must the jury include Muslims?  If so, does their personal version of Islam matter?  The detainees religious views are usually on the fringe.  Should we have a muslim extremist on the jury?  Then, do we have to include people of the racial or ethnic groups of the detainees on the jury?  More directly, I don't believe that any group of twelve Americans can really be considered a group of peers of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

More critically, though, I don't think any jury in the United States is impartial about figures like KSM.  We've been hearing about these cases for years.  These detainees have been (probably rightly) demonized for years.  Any jury pool you find in the United States will be tainted.

Quite frankly, I believe that a military tribunal, where judgements are made by intelligent people trained to make judgements in these difficult cases, would be more capable of fairly administering justice in these cases.  It seems to me that Holder's plan will inevitably lead to either hung juries or, more likely, after these detainees are rightly found guilty, constant legal challenges about the validity of the trials.  Honestly, those legal challenges will be the responsible response from lawyers for detainees, because it seems highly unlikely that these trials could possibly meet the standards for fairness we apply to our civilian courts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Message to Senator Bob Casey

Senator Bob Casey told CNSNews that he wasn't in favor of "drawing lines in the sand" with the healthcare bill, including with regards to abortion funding.

I understand his reluctance to make hard and fast statements that would prevent him from effectively negotiating creative solutions to legislative problems, so I don't want to overstate my criticism on this point.  Still, the pro-life people of Pennsylvania need to make perfectly clear to Senator Casey that abortion funding is not an arbitrary "line in the sand" matter.  Senator Casey claims to agree with us, and his Church, that abortion is an objective moral evil.  Forcing Americans to pay for this evil is, thus, also wrong.  Senator Casey should keep this straight going into discussions about healthcare.  Some principles should not be compromised.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Maine: The Aftermath

First, I'd like to congratulate the State of Maine on upholding Marriage as defined by the Natural Law and as set forth by God's plan for us.  May we never lose sight of the beauty and uniqueness of the union of man and woman, where man finds the suitable partner God made for him "and the two of them become one body."

After offering up a great Deo Gratia, and our thanks to Bishop Malone (of Portland, ME) for his courageous support of the campaign for Traditional Marriage, it's time to start looking the challenges facing us in Q1's aftermath.

I'll start with the less important.

I was tipped off to this blog post by our friend, the American Papist, Thomas Peters.  In it, lesbian blogger Bridgette LaVictoire wrote:
Maine voters have decided that they would rather be bought out than uphold the traditions of liberty and freedom that have made New England a haven for those seeking rights away from the tyranny of others. They have bowed their heads to the nameless, faceless financiers of campaigns which continue to sew bigotry, hatred, and suspicion of their fellows. They have bowed their knees to potentates in the Catholic and Mormon Churches and claimed that this was about their freedom of religion...

The day will come very soon when Maine will regret turning its back on equality. It is time that the legislature of Maine strip the Catholic Church of all its exemptions.

First, let me just point out the absurdity of the assertion that those who voted yes on 1 were "bought out" or, as she implies later, were like Judas "accepting those pieces of silver to betray" what is right.  No one was paid to vote "yes."  This was plainly not about money.  The "No on 1" campaign had four times the funding of the "Yes" campaign, anyway.

Still, she is not alone in suggesting retaliation against the Catholic Church.  This would obviously be a huge blow to the Church, financially.  It would ultimately hurt not only Catholics in the state, but also the poor, the elderly, and the children who the Church aids.  It's also a big mistake for the "gay lobby."  Yes on 1 made their case largely by pointing to the militancy of gay "rights" advocates and claiming that gay marriage is just one step in their war on traditional values.  Do gays really want the "Homosexuals attack Church" headline to succeed the ones about Kevin Jennings trying to "Queer the Schools" ?  Additionally, I've gathered from some probing around her blog that Ms. LaVictoire is an abortion "rights" supporter.  If we're going to reexamine tax exemptions, I'd be thrilled to have the tax exemptions of the social left examined.  If her camp wants to play scorched earth they better consider all that dry brush on their side of things.

To me, though, this seems like a lot of sour grapes that isn't going to go anywhere.  There may be some post-Prop 8 style hate crimes perpetrated by militants from the gay lobby, but Christianity has always endured that nonsense.  Odds that they would succeed in stripping the Catholic Church (the world's largest provider of charitable services) of its tax exemption are quite small.

In my opinion, the more important issue is where we go from here.  As I mentioned before, the Yes on 1 campaign focused mostly on the gay lobby's militant opposition to traditional values.  They specifically relied on the (largely true) assertion that where "gay marriage" goes, it is quickly followed by a radical sexual agenda in public schools.  Basically, they warned that if gay marriage came to Maine, it wouldn't be long before Kindergartners were learning to read from "Heather has Two Mommies" and "One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dad."  This, historically, isn't entirely false, and it's probably the best approach to defeating "gay marriage" in a brief political campaign.  While a decent short term tactic, though, I don't think that this should become a long term strategy.

This issue is not only an attack on Traditional Marriage.  It's a symptom of the deterioration of the standing of Marriage in society.  Many people think homosexual marriage is a good idea because they don't understand Marriage at all.  With the prevalence of cohabitation, divorce, out-of-wedlock births, marital infidelity, etc., these days people don't understand what Marriage is.  They see it as, at best, a declaration of love, or at worst, just a financial structure.  And, if that's all Marriage is, it'll be a hard case that it should be confined to straight couples.  If it's just a structure to be entered and exited at will for some tax benefits and a cloak of legitimacy on sexual relations, then the battle for Traditional Marriage is lost.

Moving forward, our focus cannot be solely on decrying the ills of homosexuality or the gay lobby.  Campaigning against gay marriage is not enough.  If this struggle is to have any value, it has to be a struggle for all the things marriage should be, not just a statement of what it's not.  We have to go out and teach people about the total self-giving that should really make two people become one flesh.  We have to teach the value of motherhood and fatherhood, the importance of the virtue of Chastity, and the beauty of sex in its proper context.  We have to show the complementarity of the sexes in action in our own lives.  We have to show that it's not just a cheap slogan when we quote the Book of Genesis saying that "a man ...clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body."

Our zeal should come not from hatred of the gay brothers and sisters we're called to love but from love and respect for the divine plan for Matrimony. This campaign will be long and difficult, but it is the one we're called to undertake as bearers of God's message of love and mercy.  If we succeed here, the defeat of gay marriage will be only a small side story to our victory over so many problems that plague modern American society.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guess who's back...

So, after a long absence, I've decided to try to revive this blog.  The few of you who subscribed to this feed... COME BACK, PLEASE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Episcopal Church

According to CNN:

The Episcopal Church has moved decisively closer to full acceptance of gay men and lesbians, taking steps toward recognizing same-sex marriage and gay bishops.

A key committee voted overwhelmingly Monday to start putting together blessings to be used in same-sex marriages, the church's official newspaper reported.

Separately, the House of Bishops voted by a wide margin to allow gays and lesbians to become bishops, Episcopal Life reported.

The same article says that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed "regret" about the decision.

It certainly seems like this is a case where the Episcopalian leadership has chosen the whims of the time over God's immutable truth.  They seem to have sold out the Gospel for a humanist false-gospel... something that all too many Catholics seem keen to do, too.  "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator" (Romans 1: 25).  When secular society approaches moral bankruptcy, God says to His followers "Depart from her, my people, so as not to take part in her sins" (Rev 18: 4.)  Instead, many Christians seem to be running to embrace the "morals" of secular society at the expense of the Gospel.

Hopefully the Anglican Communion will distance itself from these decisions, and hopefully the many Episcopalians who really love God's Truth will find their way through the missteps of the Church's leadership.

It's time that we remember, as the Pope's recently released encyclical reminds us, that Charity lies in Truth.  Obfuscating the Natural Law, ignoring the Truth revealed in the Bible, etc., is actually an uncharitable act.  While some may feel like they're being nice to homosexuals or others by ignoring the Word of God, that's not actually the case.  It's the Truth that sets us free.  Trying to hide it and hide from it only leaves more and more people to be trapped by the snares of the Devil.  Christians are called to have faith in all that God has revealed, and to love and respect others enough to share that truth with them.

I would like to remind anyone who might misunderstand, of course, that sharing the Truth is part of respect, and that includes respect for people from different churches, and for people who are homosexual.  Whatever you may believe about the beliefs or the conduct of others, it doesn't make it OK to act like an ass towards others.  That's not the point.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kmiec to Malta

"Catholic" Obama advocate and Obama abortion-policy apologist Doug Kmiec is finally receiving his kickback.  He's being sent out as the US Ambassador to Malta.  So, for all the squirming and fact-manipulating he's done for the Administration, he and his family are getting an extended all expense paid vacation in the Mediterranean.

Kmiec has demonstrated a knack for quoting, ironically, A Man for All Seasons in his attacks on those who uphold Catholic orthodoxy.  Well...

Why Doug, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for a stay in Malta? 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson, Laptop Fixed, and my up next...

So, I got my laptop back, which will allow me to ramp up my posting as I had planned before.  I'd like to cover Obama's moves with the Bioethics Council, the implications of the events in Iran, healthcare, my frustration with Amnesty International, and some brief comments on the Citi pay "scandal."

The world just lost one of its most talented men, though, and I'd be remiss to ignore it.  All of the allegations and criticisms aside, Michael Jackson was an entertainment genius, and in many ways seemed to me to be a very good man.  Requiscat in Pace.

Some of my favorite of his lyrics:

"I've Been A Victim Of A Selfish
Kind Of Love
It's Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They're Not

"I can hear your prayers
Your burdens I will bear
But first I need your hand
Then forever can begin
Everyday I sit and ask myself
How did love slip away
Something whispers in my ear and says
That you are not alone
For I am here with you
Though you're far away
I am here to stay"

"What have we done to the world 
Look what we've done 
What about all the peace 
That you pledge your only son... 
What about flowering fields 
Is there a time 
What about all the dreams 
That you said was yours and mine... 
Did you ever stop to notice 
All the children dead from war 
Did you ever stop to notice 
The crying Earth, the weeping shores 

I used to dream 
I used to glance beyond the stars 
Now I don't know where we are 
Although I know we've drifted far "

Tell me will you hold me
When wrong, will you scold me
When lost will you find me? 

But they told me
A man should be faithful
And walk when not able
And fight till the end
But Im only human"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Factual Oversight

I've been alerted that I made a pretty egregious oversight in my previous post.  Of course, the United States doesn't have an embassy in Iran... a fact that I guess I ignored in my thinking before.

I'm sorry for the error and I will try to do better in the future.

Obviously that reality would make it impossible for the administration to mirror the behavior of the Australians.  I continue to believe that our government's pro-liberty stand here has been anemic, but I'll elaborate on that tonight.  Next up, though, I have a domestic politics issue...

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The Iranian government seems to be getting more violent in its crack down on those seeking freedom and justice.  Many protesters claim that the Iranian government is dumping chemicals on the crowds out of helicopters, causing burns.  There have even been reports of tanks on the streets.  There have been 19 confirmed killings today, with some claiming that today's death toll in this unrest is as high as 150.

When those wounded by the Iranian government have sought medical attention, many have been arrested in hospitals, and rumors are that a number of them have apparently vanished from hospital beds.

Since even the hospitals are not safe for the protesters, several countries are providing medical attention to the injured in their embassies.  Australia is one of the countries doing this.  In the lists of them, though, the United States has yet to be mentioned.  Aiding those wounded in pursuit of justice is the right thing to do.

Please send the Obama Administration an e-mail here or call them at (202) 456-1111 and tell them that supporting human rights cannot be just a rhetorical task.

Here's what I said:

A number of countries have opened up their embassies to provide medical attention to protesters injured in Iran, since apparently they are not even safe in their hospitals from government retaliation. Has the U.S. done this? If not, will we start providing at least basic humanitarian assistance to those being burned, beaten and shot for exercising their natural rights to free assembly and political speech? I encourage your administration to recognize that human rights are not merely a point of rhetoric. Respecting and defending them is a universal obligation. If the United States cannot even bandage those wounded in pursuit of justice, I fear the light that has made us a beacon to the world is growing quite dim. Sincerely, 
[Collegiate Catholic]

P.S. Updates for the next few days may be sparse because my laptop is in need of repair.


The White House released the following statement on Iran earlier today:


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                        June 20, 2009

Statement from the President on Iran

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights. 

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion. 

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

"Bear witness" seems to mean very little to this administration.  Apparently releasing a 3 paragraph statement with no accompanying action counts as bearing witness these days.

To be clear, I don't support hyper-involvement on the part of the United States on Iranian internal affairs.  Not only is that not our place, but we do need to be careful not to allow ourselves to become a scapegoat or to provide the "Supreme Leader" with a rallying call.  But, we could at least act like we care... Obama seems more interested in taking cover.  I urge caution against too strong of a response... but the response thus far has been weak.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catholic Controversies

On the America Magazine blog "In All Things," Fr. James Martin, S.J., posted up the story of Commonweal Editor-In Chief Paul Baumann's sniping rebuttal to First Things editor Joseph Bottum's op-ed in the Weekly Standard about The Obama/Notre Dame controversy and about Commonweal's coverage of it.

Quoting Fr. Martin: "Don't let all that concatenation of magazine names fool you; this is important stuff... as did the Obama controversy, the CW/FT conflict lays bare some of the conflicts in the Catholic church today." 

I recommend reading Mr. Bottum's piece here.

Commonweal had, as I interpret it, two main complaints with "God and Obama at Notre Dame."

I'll start with their more valid but less central complaint.  Commonweal was naturally a little miffed with this paragraph:

On the First Things website, a young woman named Lacy Dodd published an account of her pregnancy during her senior year and the pressure her boyfriend applied to talk her into an abortion. "Who draws support from your decision to honor President Obama," she reasonably asked her alma mater, "the young, pregnant Notre Dame woman sitting in that graduating class who wants desperately to keep her baby, or the Notre Dame man who believes that the Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is just dining-room talk?" Commonweal put a notice of the article on its own website, and 83 comments later, the young woman had been called everything but a slut. Her story was "flimsy," "manipulative," "hardly fair," a "negative stereotype," "polemical"--and she was just "a horny kid," one of the "victims of the Russian roulette moral theory of premarital sex" so rampant in the protesters' troglodyte version of Catholicism.

Bottum is interpreting several commenters’ respectful criticisms of Dodd’s argument as attacks on her person and her personal decisions, which were in fact widely praised. When Bottum writes, “Her story was ‘flimsy,’ ‘manipulative’…” he is apparently quoting the following sentences: “It’s a moving story, but a flimsy argument.” And “Bless the young woman for all she did to keep her baby, but her article is emotionally manipulative.”

More seriously, Bottum distorts two phrases from another comment when he writes, “She was just ‘a horny kid,’ one of the ‘victims of the Russian roulette moral theory of premarital sex’ so rampant in the protesters’ troglodyte version of Catholicism.” In fact, the use of the former phrase did not refer to Ms. Dodd, and Bottum’s interpretation of the latter phrase is totally inverted. Here is the original comment (which was addressed to another commenter on the blog):

Your metaphor of the pregnant ND girl and the Blessed Mother also implies that the Holy Spirit was just a horny kid. Come off it.

Do I feel sorry for the ND girl? Of course, and also for her child and even the father. They are all victims of the Russian roulette moral theory of premarital sex - take a chance! :-( But contraceptives are not fail-safe, and it does a tremendous disservice to kids to let them think it’s OK to act otherwise. The possibilities of negative consequences are simply to [sic] great to risk.

Yes, the old teaching ‘no marriage, no sex’ is a hard saying. So?

In context, the line Bottum quotes as an attack on the moral outlook of “the protesters” is in fact an endorsement of abstinence education. And his suggestion that Dodd was called “a horny kid” is simply false.

Bottum should know better than to pretend that comments on a blog post are representative of a magazine’s editorial stance. But if he insists on using blog comments to make his argument, he ought to make sure he doesn’t misconstrue their meaning.

I'll let you decide what to think about this one, but, much as I'd like to side with Bottum/First Things, on this, Commonweal's right.

There's a more important issue here, though... the main message of "God and Obama at Notre Dame."

Politics has very little to do with the mess. This isn't a fight about who won the last presidential election and how he's going to deal with abortion. It's a fight about culture--the culture of American Catholicism, and how Notre Dame, still living in a 1970s Catholic world, has suddenly awakened to find itself out of date.

The role of culture is what Fr. Jenkins at Notre Dame and many other presidents of Catholic colleges don't quite get, and their lack of culture is what makes them sometimes seem so un-Catholic--though the charge befuddles them whenever it is made. As perhaps it ought. They know very well that they are Catholics: They go to Mass, and they pray, and their faith is real, and their theology is sophisticated, and what right has a bunch of other Catholics to run around accusing them of failing to be Catholic?

But, in fact, they live in a different world from most American Catholics. Opposition to abortion doesn't stand at the center of Catholic theology. It doesn't even stand at the center of Catholic faith. It does stand, however, at the center of Catholic culture in this country. Opposition to abortion is the signpost at the intersection of Catholicism and American public life. And those who--by inclination or politics--fail to grasp this fact will all eventually find themselves in the situation that Fr. Jenkins has now created for himself. Culturally out of touch, they rail that the antagonism must derive from politics. But it doesn't. It derives from the sense of the faithful that abortion is important. It derives from the feeling of many ordinary Catholics that the Church ought to stand for something in public life--and that something is opposition to abortion...

for American Catholics, the Church is a refuge and bulwark against an ambient culture that erodes morality and undermines families. Catholic culture is their counterculture, their means of upholding the dignity of the human person and the integrity of family--and, in that context, the centrality of abortion for American Catholic culture seems much less arbitrary than it first appeared.

This is what the leaders of Notre Dame need to grasp. They do not necessarily have bad theology when they equate the life issues with other concerns. They do not necessarily have bad faith just because they say that war and capital punishment outweigh the million babies killed every year in this country by abortion. But they lack the cultural marker that would make them Catholic in the minds of other Catholics. Abortion is not the only life issue, but it is the one that bears most directly on the lives of ordinary Catholics as they swim against the current to preserve family life. And until Catholic universities understand this, they will not be Catholic--in a very real, existential sense.

To which Commonweal said

If you had a penny for every time a First Things writer has pronounced this or that Catholic (and especially this magazine) “out of date”–well, you’d have almost as much money as First Things gets each year from right-wing foundations. To be sure, Bottum takes pains to inform his readers that the Obama/Notre Dame controversy was not about politics, but culture. Reaching for the highest rhetorical notes in his impressive register, he argues that legalized abortion is irrefutable evidence of America’s corruption and decline, if not impending doom. “For American Catholics,” he writes, “the church is a refuge and a bulwark against an ambient culture that erodes morality and undermines families.” Notre Dame’s alleged squishiness on abortion, exemplified by its invitation to President Obama, means it lacks “the cultural marker that would make [it] Catholic in the minds of other Catholics.” Until Catholic universities understand this, the essay pronounces, “they will not be Catholic–in a very real, existential sense.”

Bottum’s writing has always been brightened by a wonderful indifference to mundane facts, a winning embrace of the fantastical. Still, it is rather stunning, in the aftermath of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis, to read that Catholics find a refuge and a bulwark for their families in the church. (That must be why every parish in the country requires anyone involved in church work to attend a “safe environments” workshop. And you have to attend in the real, not merely the existential sense.) Just as problematic is the attempt to define who is or isn’t Catholic. Granted, reading this or that person or group out of the church is a passionate hobby for some. But doing so in the “existential sense” seems a bit squishy for the editor of a magazine that prides itself on its gimlet-eyed defense of “orthodoxy.”

Apparently, Commonweal still doesn't get it.  They're still more interested in claiming they're right to understand why many of us believe they are so wrong, and until these Catholics are willing to listen to their Catholic brethren, the rift between these camps is only likely to grow larger.  They'll sink to trying to open the old wounds of the sex abuse scandals in their fit to insist that the feelings of other Catholics are just partisan screams, and that's not it at all.

Here was my comment on the "In All Things" blog:

It seems to me like Baumann either missed the point of the First Things article, or deliberately misrepresented it.  Bottum was writing about the way many Catholics FEEL about the Church.  A big part of his point was that this was not necessarily entirely a matter of "orthodoxy."  Bottum was trying to classify the very real sense of betrayal many Catholics felt over Notre Dame's actions, and I believe that his point was that no matter what defense you can erect of Fr. Jenkins' decisions, many of the Catholic faithful feel wounded, nonetheless.

The whole point was that even though Fr. Jenkins didn't see any contradiction between his decision and Catholicism, and even though CW agreed when it came to all of the documents of the Church, canon law, etc., that, in itself, is indicative of the fact that they're out of touch with the Catholic identity and culture as it exists for many of us.

Baumann can try to thrown insults back, but Bottum was right.  In the setting of an ultra-secular university, I go out every day and find myself under siege.  For standing up for the rights of the unborn, and not even in an in your face or aggressive manner, I've been smacked, spit on, publicly cursed out, etc.  I've been asked my opinion on the abortion issue and then shunned for expressing it. I count on my Church for support.  When my beliefs are under attack, I fall back on the Church.  And, when Notre Dame selected Barack Obama as its commencement speaker, it encouraged those who oppose my beliefs, as they made very clear, and I felt betrayed.  I know that there are many more like me.  Baumann can write off our beliefs, feelings and experiences, claim we're partisan hacks, etc., but once again, it only shows that he doesn't understand the realities of many Catholics.
Long post, I know.  I hope it gives you something to think about.  I also hope that the two sides in this debate can rediscover what it means to be united with the Church.  While, as I wrote before, I think the whole "common ground" line regarding Obama is pretty empty, as Catholics, we DO hold a lot of common ground.  The Commonwealers would be doing themselves, the Church, and us a service if they would listen to us instead of trying to see everything as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, and, going the other way, misquoting and misrepresenting the "more liberal" side is not helpful... it doesn't exactly make them more receptive.


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