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"
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.
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,
THE WHITE HOUSE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear [Collegiate Catholic],
Extreme, overheated rhetoric can have dangerous consequences.
By now, you may have heard or read that last Sunday, Dr. George Tiller, a physician who has been targeted for years for his willingness to provide abortion procedures often in the most difficult circumstances, was assassinated in his church in Kansas. [Are we really going to start using the word "assasinated," now? While I think I've made clear that I see his murder as a tragedy, we need to be on guard against those who would make him out as some kind of martyr.]
Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished constitutional values and rights -- and should always be protected. But just because speech might be constitutionally protected does not make it right or decent. [Much of this e-mail is garbage, but let's remember this very valid distinction. I have a feeling PFAW types won't appreciate it when this is applied in other circumstances.]
There can be little doubt that the irresponsible, inflammatory, dehumanizing and violent speech of some around the abortion debate -- much of it targeted [Warning... this link is pretty bogus. It tries to characterize complaints about Sebelius' Tiller ties, similar to the one I directed to Senator Casey, as hate-mongering rhetoric.] at Dr. Tiller himself -- contributed to this tragedy. [Perhaps. We do, however, have to distinguish between true statements and "dehumanizing" speech.] The reaction to the assassination by some of these same people has been pretty shocking.
Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry said Tiller "reaped what he sowed."[Terry was guilty of insensitive timing, but in context, his point was perhaps a valid one. Tiller was an integral part of the culture of death. His murder was another symptom of that culture. If you watch the video of what he said at the first link in the paragraph, you'll probably see that the comment was misrepresented here.]
Ann Coulter basically equated a woman's decision to have an abortion with a would-be assassin's decision to kill an abortion doctor. [Ann is a font of obnoxious, offensive statements. She's an entertainer and that's her schtick. But, abortion does take an innocent life.]
And Wiley Drake, a former vice president of Southern Baptist Convention who last year was Alan Keyes' running mate, called Tiller's death "an answer to prayer." Drake then unabashedly told FOX broadcaster Alan Colmes on his radio show that he prays for the death of President Obama! [On the radio, Drake indicated that he gave up on praying for Tiller's salvation after years of doing so. I understand his frustration, but we have to rely on God not gunmen. When we let the challenges Satan gives us turn our love to hate, he wins.]
Dr. Tiller's death is a sad reminder that stoking the flames of hate has serious ramifications, yet the Radical Right [I don't like that phrase at all. WHo, exactly, is the "Radical Right" ?] is seemingly doing everything it can to continue the extreme demonization of its opponents, even suggesting violence with the use of images.
In the wake of Tiller's death, a Religious Right group calling itself Answers in Genesis has a billboard up in Texas and a TV ad comparing Atheism to murder [Answers in Genesis believes in that Young Earth stuff and what not... they're a little out there, IMO. But, it's a gross mischaracterization to say that the billboard compares atheism to murder.]. And the FOX Nation web site actually featured side-by-side articles with images that appear to have firearms aimed at the heads of progressive leaders who also happen to be African American. The absolute best that can be said of this is that FOX Nation is guilty of sloppy and irresponsible negligence. [Oh, Puh-leez. Grasp at straws much?]
It's incredibly important that we all stay vigilant in exposing the fear mongering and hate that drive people inclined towards violence to take action. PFAW's RightWingWatch.org blog is one such place for activists like you to stay informed [if by "informed," you mean that you're actually seeking a left-wing brand of fear mongering and hate]. Please visit the blog often, sign up for regular "Best of the Blog"updates and help spread the word about this resource.
Thank you for all you do. [Obviously not intended for me...]
-- Michael B. Keegan, President
P.S. On a far more positive note [If they think it's positive...], New Hampshire Governor John Lynch on Thursday signed into law legislation that makes New Hampshire the sixth state in which same-sex couples now enjoy legal marriage equality. This is a tremendous step in the fight to make sure ALL of our LGBT Americans have equal protection under the law. A special thanks to all PFAW members and activists in New Hampshire who took action in the effort to pass these bills (New Hampshire folks, please consider calling your legislators to thank them as well as Gov. Lynch). [I'm hoping to put up what I think will be a rare sane look at the gay marriage debate sometime in the near future.]
"Following the surprise introduction of Bill 1098, a proposal that singled out Catholic parishes and would have forced them to reorganize contrary to Church law and the First Amendment, our Diocese responded in the most natural, spontaneous, and frankly, American, of ways: we alerted our membership – in person and through our website; we encouraged them to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives; and, we organized a rally at the State Capitol.
“How can this possibly be called lobbying?"
In a letter to the faithful, he wrote:
'Lobbying'? Exhortations from the pulpit, information posted to the world wide web, a rally in the middle of the day on the State’s most public piece of property? This cannot possibly be what our Legislature had in mind when it enacted lobbying laws to bring more transparency and oversight to a legislative process that has been corrupted by special interests and backroom deals.
“Let’s be clear: we violated no law.”
Americans of all faith backgrounds should decry this absurd violation of our First Amendment rights. For the legislature to have first attempted to violate the establishment clause by intervening in the structure of the Catholic Church, and then to jump in and seek to discipline the Church when Catholics exercised their rights to free speech and assembly is against everything the United States is supposed to represent. Even pro-gay-marriage atheists should be united with Catholics here in defense of our Constitutional liberties. People of all political and religious perspectives must stand together in favor of our right to have our beliefs, free from government attack.
The Archdiocese of Bridgeport is now filing suits in the Federal District Court against OSE Ethics Enforcement Officer, Thomas Jones, and against the OSE's Executive Director, Carol Carson. They are asking that the Court bar the OSE from applying these lobbying regulations to the Church, allowing it to continue to provide its religious and social services without intimidation. Without such a prohibition, the Church and all its agents would have to operate in fear of financial punishments and even criminal prosecution.
The Diocese of Bridgeport has its comments here.
It's a sad time to be an American, folks. Hopefully the necessary groundswell against the Democratic Party's current onslaught against all that America has stood for will develop, and quickly... and hopefully that will bring some change to our government. It's sad that the neoconservatives are comparatively a beacon of civil liberties and free enterprise.