Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tiller Murder Update

The identity of the man suspected of carrying out the murder of George Tiller has come to light.  He is 51 year old Scott Roeder from Merriam, KS.  He has not, at this point, been charged in this case, but is being held for parole violations related to a previous conviction from 1996.  He violated his parole when he failed to fill out required tax forms and refused to provide his social security number to his employer.  

Roeder has been active in the Sovereign Citizen Movement and is a tax protestor.  The Sovereign Citizen Movement is a fringe movement of people who claim that under common law principles they are unaccountable to Federal Law.

Daily Kos is claiming that Roeder was an active member in Operation Rescue, citing an alleged posting on the OR message board under his name that read:
Bleass everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp. Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.
The post at Daily Kos implies that Operation Rescue should be ashamed and tries to direct anger in that direction.  According to LifeSite News, the National Organization for Women is similarly trying to direct blame beyond Roeder to unnamed Pro-Life groups.  

Let me first say, for the record, that I don't support Operation Rescue's tactics.  I think that it's ineffective to rely on major creating spectacles to win the abortion battle and that only reinvigorating our culture with virtue, love, and respect will do the trick.

That said, we must be very clear where the blame for the murder today lies... with the murderer.  While the hateful hacks at Daily Kos and with the NOW would like to manipulate these events for their own political gain, doing so is completely illegitimate, and they should be ashamed of themselves for the attempt.

Very soon after news of the shooting broke today, Operation Rescue released the following statement:

"We are shocked at this morning's disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down.  Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning."
However one may feel about Operation Rescue's methods, they have never advocated violence.  Blaming them for today's violence is a lie.  Trying to pin the events on "the Pro-Life movement" is also illegitimate.  It would have been absurd to smear the civil rights movement due to a few violent acts in the 1960s and 70s.  Similarly, the several acts of anti-abortion violence that have occurred over the past decade are not representative of the Pro-Life movement and should not be used to smear the many good people working to protect the rights of the unborn and to provide aid to women in need.

And, to the Pro-Life movement, now is not a time to back down in shame.  We have no reason to be ashamed of being a witness to the dignity of human life.  We need to continue to affirm the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death.  We need to clarify for any who may be confused that this dignity extends even to those who stand against us.  And, we need to take this opportunity to remind all of our own that at the core of our own beliefs must be a genuine sense of love.  For the many of us who are Christian, we need to remember that our God IS Love and commanded us to love each other.  This, of course, should also be the cue to reach out to the Tiller family... not to disrespect them by trying to politicize their family tragedy (we should show more class than NOW) but through an honest outpouring of the Love Jesus modeled for us.

Now, on a related note...

I think this is as good a time as any to plug something I've been urging for as long as I can remember.  I implore the United States government to STOP demonizing the pro-life movement, the gun ownership movement and conservative Christianity, and I ask that while they are at it, they drop the focus on the so-called "radical right," which is difficult to define.  Instead, law enforcement really needs to look harder at Christian Identity, a radical white supremacist "Christian" group.  Nearly every act of domestic terrorism committed in the past several decades in the US have been linked to this movement, and while I don't want to jump the gun and assume Roeder's guilt before the evidence has even been presented or the man has been charged (though, I don't sense much doubt out there on this one), I can't help but note that the Sovereign Citizen Movement, of which he is a part, is largely a child of Christian Identity.

So, while I doubt anyone with real power on these matters is reading this, please urge those in power that instead of a large scale politically motivated crack down, and instead of repeating the debacle at Ruby Ridge or at the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco with a continued witch hunt against the amorphous "radical right,"  law enforcement in the United States needs to hone in on the group who's always tied to the violence... Christian Identity.

George Tiller, RIP

Late-term abortionist George Tiller was shot dead outside Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.  While I find his career reprehensible, I pray that his soul rests in peace.  I also pray that his family will find the comfort of Our Lord.

Vigilantism is not the appropriate response to the tragedy of abortion.  I hope that those who, like me, are deeply disturbed by the innocent blood of the unborn that's spilled across our country, will be filled with the Holy Spirit on this Pentecost, and that the Spirit will sharpen our tongues to beat back this genocide while teaching us to act always in Love.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Some comments on Sotomayor

I can't say I'm a huge fan of Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.  I favor a very different legal philosophy from hers.  I have concerns about her previous left-wing judicial activism, and her membership on the National Council of La Raza.  Despite my many concerns, I think a lot of people on the right are getting ahead of themselves with their criticisms of her, and are sometimes just being plainly unfair.

Criticizing her previous legal record is, of course, very reasonable.  Criticizing her organizational affiliations can be fair, too.  But, let's face it, Obama could have found an ideologically worse nominee, so let's not paint her as the worst we could get... that could come back to bite, later, anyway.

Secondly, everyone needs to stop taking people's comments out of context.  I was tired of seeing it done to McCain in the presidential elections, I'm tired of seeing it done to the Pope and other leaders of my Church, and I'm tired of being expected to do it to President Obama and those on the other side.  Pulling a comment out of context, playing "gotcha," trying to demonize the other side with mischaracterizations... it's juvenile.  And, when people are doing it, they're not talking about the real issues at stake.

Rather than discussing Sotomayor's judicial record, everyone from conservative talk radio to left-wing MSNBC have been harping on this quote:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
I know... it sounds shocking!  Very few of these people want to give this line any context... For one thing, it was part of a speech about racial and sexual discrimination cases.  While I don't think that I, despite being a white male, am incapable of judging discrimination fairly, I think her position that someone who's lived as a minority would have a better understanding of the issue is at very least a fair one to have.  Comparing her to David Duke over the comment is absurd.  Especially since a few sentences later she clarified saying:
"I...believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group.  Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown."
So, I'm all for slamming her record as a judicial activist.  I don't like La Raza any more than the next guy.  And, if you haven't noticed, I take issues like abortion dead seriously.  I, also, think it's ridiculous that people are trying to make her out as somehow MORE qualified than those currently on the court, who have very comparable degrees and legal experience.  But, let's not stoop to the gotcha level.  It just looks stupid, and it clouds the important parts of our message, like that Lady Justice should be blindfolded, that judicial activism usurps democracy, that the unborn should be defended, and the Constitution upheld.  Instead of talking about her opposition to the Second Amendment, which will inevitably be a big issue during her time on the court, instead of critically analyzing her understanding of the Fourth Amendment, an area where sometimes legal philosophies are ditched, and instead of getting to the bottom of her positions on important matters, like abortion, where her opinions are still unclear, we're wasting time on a misrepresented comment trying to insist that she's a racist.

I agree with many Conservatives that all the race whining that comes from the left is annoying.  It's hard enough to stomach from minority criminals trying to squirm out of jail... it's not any better when it's coming from millionaire white guys.

Kmiec and George discuss abortion politics

I know many of the other Catholic-related blogs have already covered this, but on Thursday, the Catholic University of America hosted a discussion between Doug Kmiec and Robert George.  Kmiec is the Pepperdine Law professor, who despite having long standing Republican ties and despite working on Mitt Romney's campaign, became a leading voice in the attempt to justify Catholic votes for Obama and George is a Princeton professor of politics with more solidly conservative credentials, who just launched the American Principles Project to promote knowledge of the academic arguments for social conservatism.  The discussion (this was not a debate, they tell us) was moderated by Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, former US Ambassador to the Apostolic See and president of the Pontifical Academy on Social Sciences.  All three, of course, are Catholic.

If you have some spare time, I strongly encourage you to watch the discussion, which is available here.  If you don't have time for that, the transcript for his main remarks is availablehere.

Now for my take.  First, for Kmiec.  His statements left me unconvinced.  For one thing, I disagreed with his characterization of bishops who enforce Canon 915 as "intimidation."  Is it really that farfetched to say that Kathleen Sebelius' support for late term and partial birth abortion drives a wedge between her and the Church?  915 tells us that "those who obstinately persist in grave manifest sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”  Support for the taking of innocent human lives certainly seems to count as a grave sin.  Her support for it is public.  And, it is obstinate, as her Bishop has addressed this point with her in the past.  I agree with the general idea that the Sacraments should not be wielded as a political weapon.  It seems entirely possible that the priest who denied Kmiec Communion was overstepping prudential bounds (a matter which I'll leave up to our bishops and canon lawyers.)  But I do not believe that it was his place to question Archbishop Naumann's decision in the case of Ms. Sebelius.

Furthermore, I think "intimidation" is a mischaracterization because it ignores the very legitimate motivations behind Canon 915.  For one thing, it is absolutely the purview of our bishops to shepherd their flock, and this means limiting the harm inflicted by scandal.  With public figures, it is sometimes their job to step in and make an example of them, lest their misconduct lead other Catholics astray.  Secondly, I fear that this "intimidation" characterization is symptomatic of decreased reverence for the Holy Eucharist among many Catholics.  All Catholics should respect the validity of the concern that the Body and Blood of Christ might be disrespected by giving it to people not in Communion with the Church.  And, thirdly, when people are not in Communion with the Church, it is wrong for them to receive the Eucharist, and thus refusing it to them can be an act of  mercy as it prevents them from continuing on to act wrongfully.  

I'd additionally like to add that even if it is "intimidation," while I certainly understand that Kmiec sees his own viewpoints as entirely valid, might it be appropriate to use some level of intimidation against the Sebeliuses and maybe the Bidens of the world?  If we could get all Catholics on board in the battle to stop abortion, the current regime of abortion-on-demand would be gone.  It is the complicity of many Catholics that makes the killing of a million unborn humans in the US each year possible.  If a little bit of intimidation would right this wrong, it would be entirely worth it.  And, if such intimidation keeps people on a more righteous path, it might be the most merciful option.  There would be nothing right or merciful about a shepherd  nonchalantly watching his sheep walk right into a fiery pit.  It is the responsibility of our bishops to keep the well-being of our eternal lives in mind when determining how to work with us.

More on the topic of the overall debate, Kmiec tried to drive home a focus on "common ground," an emerging catchphrase for liberal Catholics and or the Obama administration especially since the Notre Dame uproar.  Robert George, however, responded very well to this idea.  For one thing, the pursuit of common ground should not eliminate our goal "to frustrate at every turn the administration’s efforts, which will be ongoing and determined, to expand the abortion license and the authorization and funding of human embryo-destructive research."

And while, obviously, we would not object to the actions of our president where we share beliefs, our common ground with the president is, in fact, much more limited than those in Kmiec's camp might like to claim.  For one thing, the President does not share our conviction that abortion is wrong.  He sees it as a very legitimate solution to an unfortunate problem.  He does agree that unwanted pregnancy is unfortunate, and I think that's supposed to be the basis for our common ground.  While George didn't address this in his remarks, this turns out to be pretty shaky common ground with orthodox Catholics because for the American left, a reduction in unwanted pregnancies means widespread promotion of contraception.  Obama is in the process of cutting federal support for abstinence education.  Those of us in the pro-life community need to realize that there is a cultural struggle going on here, and that a worldview that de-commoditizes sexuality and restores it to its proper place of value within the context of the human person is the only means of restoring an ethic of life.  Without an understanding of the dignity of humanity, we will continue to face the onslaught of abortion, embryo-destructive research, euthanasia, etc.  President Obama does not affirm this fundamental truth.

As professor George points out, he doesn't believe in the universal value of human life.  Here, I'll go back to quoting him...  

The President speaks of human rights, and I do not question his sincerity. But he does not understand the concept of human rights, as Professor Kmiec and I do, to refer to rights—above all the right to life—that all human beings possess simply by virtue of our humanity. For the President, being human is not enough to qualify someone as the bearer of a right to life. Professor Kmiec and I, by contrast, believe that every member of the human family, simply by virtue of his or her humanity, is truly created equal. We reject the idea that is at the foundation of President Obama’s position on abortion and human embryo-destructive research, namely, that those of us who are equal in worth and dignity are equal by virtue of some attribute other than our common humanity—some attribute that unborn children have not yet acquired, justifying others in treating them, despite their humanity, as non-persons, as objects or property, even as disposable material for use in biomedical research...Even in opposing the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which was designed to assure that such babies were rescued if possible or at least given comfort care while they died, Barack Obama did not deny the humanity of the child. What he denied, and continues to deny, is the fundamental equality of that child—equality with those of us who are safely born and accepted into the human community."

So, on the fundamentals, we do not share common ground.  If we both happen to support a common piece of legislation of course both sides should "work together" to pass it.  For example, pro-lifers and Barack Obama are both likely to support the Pregnant Women Support Act proposed by the Democrats for Life, and should feel free to see it passed.  (NOTE: Obama has not actually endorsed this legislation.) The "search for common ground," however, does not provide an excuse to be derelict in our duties to affirm our fundamental values.  And, contrary to Kmiec's suggestion, the fact that Obama slightly softened his embryonic stem cell research policies does not make his policies on ESCR acceptable, nor does it make it respectable for the pro-life community to accept them in the name of dialogue.  We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to advance the respect for human life.  If cooperation on a particular side issue does that, then absolutely that should be pursued, but we cannot waver in our affirmation of what is true, and we certainly should not commend policies simply because they only make things a little bit worse rather than a lot worse.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Senator Casey on Sebelius

About a month ago, in the wake of the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius to the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services, I wrote a letter to my Senator, Bob Casey. I was rather miffed that a Catholic and supposedly pro-life politician would vote to confirm Ms. Sebelius given her radical pro-abortion stance and given the revelations of the depth of her political, financial and personal ties to Dr. George Tiller, the late-term abortionist from her home state of Kansas.

I recently received his response and find it disconcerting. I will share my letter and his response (with my commentary). I would, however, like to note that in retrospect I realize that I might have been a little bit uncharitable in my letter in the passion of the moment. While I have clear disagreements with Senator Casey, if my letter seems to question his faith or to accuse him of acting disingenuously (and, who am I kidding, it does...) I apologize. I trust that, as misguided as I believe he is on this matter, he takes his positions in good faith.

So, here it is:

Senator Casey:

I am disturbed by your decision to vote in favor of the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius. Leaving morality aside, her inept fiscal management of the state of Kansas should have given all members of our Congress serious pause before entrusting such an important federal department as Health and Human Services to her.

But, much much worse is her history of militant support for abortion, including support for the murder of post-viable fetuses. The strong financial ties between her and late-term abortionist George Tiller should be nauseating to any human being, let alone to a follower of the Roman Catholic Church.

I recently sent you a letter applauding you for your opposition to President Obama's rescission of the conscience protections for America's medical professionals. Now that you've just voted to confirm the radical Sebelius to head HHS, giving her authority to implement new policies in that vein, I can't help but wonder if your previous stands have been sheer demagoguery.

Your party is making it more and more uncomfortable for faithful Catholics to live in the United States. You have an obligation to our God, our Church, and the people of Pennsylvania to use your position to be a constant witness to the Natural Law. Here, you've betrayed the principles on which you've campaigned and on which you've claimed to believe in the depths of your heart.

God's will for our Nation does not follow party lines. I will be praying that God will give you the courage to stand up to evil, regardless of the political party putting it forward. I ask that you continue to seek the Holy Spirit's guidance as you proceed with your work in the Senate, and that you keep in mind that it is the Truth, not political expediency, that shall set us free.

In Christ,
[Collegiate Catholic]

And the Senator's response [My comments in bracketed italics]:

Dear [Collegiate Catholic]:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. I appreciate hearing from all Pennsylvanians about the issues that matter most to them. 

Governor Sebelius was nominated by President Obama to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services on March 2, 2009. Although I disagree with her on some issues related to abortion [Wait, wait, wait... let's be very clear here.  Sebelius does not simply disagree on "some issues related to abortion."  She is an abortion extremist], Governor Sebelius is a leader with a proven record of bipartisanship and eight years of experience as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner [a job which the Washington Post tells us " had little to do with the delivery of care or the achievement of the sort of quality improvements and efficiencies that Obama and policy experts speak of when describing a high-performing health-care system of the future"]. As governor of Kansas, Governor Sebelius has overseen many reform efforts in the areas of health care and early childhood education.

She brings extensive knowledge of America's health care infrastructure, which will be critically important in the coming months as President Obama and the Congress work to reform our Nation's health care system. I also believe that it would be irresponsible to leave the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services vacant while the Nation and the world are confronting the Influenza A H1N1 virus and the potential pandemic that it may cause.  [Bird flu?  Is this a joke?  It seems like excuse-making to me.  Even if it is genuine, I think we need to start putting the abortion issue in perspective.  Abortion results in 1 million deaths each year in the United States.  Policies directly shaped by the Secretary of HHS will hold thousands of unborn lives in the balance, and Ms. Sebelius has made clear that she sides against these lives.  Bird flu should not compare as a concern.]

Governor Sebelius came before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of which I am a member, on March 31. However, her nomination was only voted on by the Committee on Finance, which approved her nomination on April 21. When her nomination came before the full Senate on April 28, 2009, I was pleased to vote to confirm her as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. [Here's where things get downright disturbing.  If Sen. Casey had claimed that he had reluctantly voted for Ms. Sebelius because he made the calculation that it was a lesser evil, that would have been one thing.  But to be PLEASED to vote for such a clear ally of the culture of death...  Well, I find it very hard to understand how that's reconcilable with the pro-life position.]

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you. [Don't worry, sir.  You'll continue to hear from me regularly.]

If you have access to the Internet, I encourage you to visit my web site, I invite you to use this online office as a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Bob Casey
United States Senator

Friday, May 8, 2009

About Me

My name is Mike. I'm an often sarcastic, but still usually genuine Catholic student at a major northeastern university. Most would describe my political views as conservative. Judge 'em as you'd like.

I'm going to use this blog to publish basically whatever I want to write... usually commentary on American culture and politics.

Enjoy, and read often.