Monthly Archives: May 2009
Part I. A Catholic Vision of Health Care
by Eric Brown & DarwinCatholic
The rich body of Catholic social teaching provides the faithful with moral principles to guide their thoughts and actions in political life. All too often, however, discussion of the Church’s social teaching is hijacked by a partisan political agenda — with the elements that seem to agree with one’s own party emphasized and all else ignored in order to give the stamp of Church approval to one’s party of choice. This deprives American Catholics of a meaningful analysis and reflection over the wisdom of the Church. This could not be more true on any subject than on health care.
The American bishops in Faithful Citizenship remind Catholics that “affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. With an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health care coverage, it is also an urgent national priority. Reform of the nation’s health care system needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations.” The Bishops also state that “religious groups should be able to provide health care without compromising their religious convictions.”
Salvete AC readers!
Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:
1. In sharp contrast to having the most pro-abortion president in the history of our great nation, my favorite prelate Francis Cardinal Arinze delivered an electrifying speech at Thomas More College which is located in Merrimack, New Hampshire. His Eminence touched on the importance of a Catholic university shaping and forming solid Christian citizens. Some highlights include the following [emphasis mine]:
“A Catholic college or university educates students to appreciate that moral rules of right and wrong apply also to science, technology, politics, trade and commerce, and indeed to all human endeavors.”
“But what does it profit us if a student is an intellectual giant but a moral baby… if he or she can shoot out mathematical or historical facts like a computer but is unfortunately a problem for the parents, corrosive acid among companions in the College, a drug addict and sexual pervert, a disgrace to the school, a waste-pipe in the place of work and Case number 23 for the Criminal Police? It is clear that intellectual development is not enough.”
Cardinal Arinze doesn’t play the cowardly intellectual game of “nuance”. That is why I love this man. He speaks the truth without inhibition and with charity.
For the article click here.
2. In a recent Knights of Columbus-Marist College survey, Pope Benedict XVI is receiving a 59% approval rating from Americans. The number jumps up to 76% when polling only American Catholics. One interesting fact from this poll is that Americans want to hear our German shepherd speak out about abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and marriage by a margin of 2 to 1 or more!
Very impressive numbers considering the negative light the mainstream media has put his papacy. It goes to show that Pope Benedict XVI’s communication skills are highly effective and have found a receptive audience in America. The constant barrage of moral relativism and biased reporting from the likes such as CNN and the New York Times hasn’t been able to cloud the message of love that our Pope constantly sends out.
This is wonderful news combined with the fact that more Americans identify themselves as pro-life than pro-abortion/pro-choice for the first time since the passage of Roe v. Wade, we are making strides.
For the poll click here.
On the Ordination of Women, Pt. I
The Catholic Church in the modern world has faced numerous petitions to alter her doctrine in regard to several theological and moral matters. The ordination of women is amongst such petitions, particularly after the Second Vatican Council. Several Protestant religious traditions have authorized women ministers and preachers. Many churches in the Anglican Communion already permit women to serve at the altar. The Catholic Church is virtually alone, with the sole exception of the Eastern Orthodox, in her commitment to an exclusively male priesthood. Despite these realities, the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II solemnly declared in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis “…the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” Despite the Holy Father’s attempt to reaffirm the Church’s tradition of male-only priests, the question, at least in debate, still remains. Despite the sincerity of advocates for conferring the sacrament of ministerial priesthood on women, theologically and doctrinally it is impossible. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) too has reiterated that the church teaching regarding women’s ordination is “founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
For consideration: an excerpt from President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame:
The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.
The question, then — the question then is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?
From last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, an article on the not-yet-crowded heritage treasures in the world:
As dawn breaks on top of a mountain near the China-Vietnam border, hundreds of water-filled rice terraces reveal themselves, clinging to the mountainside in geometric patterns in every direction. The rising sun, reflecting off the water, turns some of the terraces bright shades of orange and gold. Then solitary figures appear, black against the rising sun — peasants with their water buffaloes hitched to wooden plows.
Contributor Joe Hargrave posted a link to an interesting new essay of his today on the topic of the Culture of Death and its connections to consumerism. It’s an interesting essay, and I encourage people to read it. I do not pretend to similar length or erudition in this piece, but in formulating some thought about Joe’s essay I realized that it would be very long for a comment, so I’m writing it up as a post here instead.
There are a lot of things I found interesting and wanted to discuss (or dispute) in your essay — perhaps in part because I get the impression that our areas of historical knowledge are somewhat non-overlapping (I know most about 3000 BC to 400 AD, you seem to be most expert on the last two centuries), and the person who imagines himself an expert in anything invariably has all sorts of quibbles with what the “outsider” writes. However, I’m going to try to stick to what I think is my most central critique.
Joe finds at the root of the culture of death the materialistic and individualistic phenomenon of modern consumerism, and about consumerism he says the following, beginning with a quote from Pope John Paul II:
A discussion I have been having with my Catholic brothers and sisters about the causes of abortion helped to speed along an essay I had planned on writing as a follow-up to previous articles I have written about consumerism and the culture of death. Fully adequate treatment of this subject will require a book, and hopefully one day I will write it. For now, an essay, limited in scope, but hopefully not in substance is what I have to offer.
After months of discussion, Obama finally gave his commencement address at Notre Dame University today. Due to a near fascistic exercise on the part of the ND administration, the event was virtually free of any signs of protest, and Obama made full use of the event to do his “don’t you wish you could be as moderate and measured as I am” shtick which we know so well from the campaign. The text is as follows:
It is often have pointed out — in response to suggestions that such matters be funded via charity or other non-governmental organizations — that if there is not a single, government run, consistent program to provide benefits such as unemployment insurance and health care to those who need them, there is no guarantee that people will receive the benefits that they need.
This does not surprise me. One of the reasons why we set up bureaucratic social programs is because we don’t want to accept the level of inconsistency and unfairness that can result from organically developed community systems of mutual obligation.
Some have, however, taken this argument farther and suggested that it is simply impossible for needs such as health care, unemployment, etc. to be provided through any system other than a large government run one, which spreads the risk across millions of people (and allows nearly unlimited deficit spending.) It’s all very well to want personal mutual obligation to take care of things, I’m told, but you simply can’t deal with some issues that way.
I disagree. It is possible to take care of all of these things at the community level through mutual obligation. And there is a test case which we can look at to see how that looks. The Amish applied to congress to receive an exemption from social security.
Out today from Ignatius Press is The Death of a Pope, a new novel by Piers Paul Read, a mainstream novelist (his survival novel Alive about a rugby team whose plane crashes in the Andes topped the New York Times bestseller list when it came out 25 years ago, and was later made into a film) who has also written both fiction and nonfiction on Catholic themes. He wrote a popular history of the templars a few years back, and On the Third Day, a thriller about the discovery in modern Israel of a crucified skeleton that some allege to be proof that Christ did not rise from the dead.
I had not read any of Read’s previous books, but when Ignatius emailed me and offered me a review copy, the premise of the novel sounded interesting and I could not resist the lure of a free book. However, I did not initially expect much of it, my idea of modern “Catholic thrillers” having been formed by the likes of Pierced By A Sword, whose prose style treads that delicate line between incompetent and downright laughable.
However, I need not have feared. Read’s prose is deft and indeed literary, though the modern device of using present tense narrative to convey immediacy is not necessarily my cup of tea. Those inclined to literary snobbery will not find themselves holding their noses as they read this novel by any stretch. The less pretentious reader will enjoy the fast-paced plot, which whisks him from a terrorist trial in London, to the refugee camps of Uganda, the chemistry labs of Cairo and at last to the 2005 papal conclave.
This is only one survey, but it is encouraging all the same. The denial of legal protection to an entire class of human beings is one of the most serious human rights issues of our time. Here’s an excerpt from the article, with some thoughts below:
A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42% “pro-choice.” This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.
Reflecting on Nancy Pelosi and the torture controversies, E.D. Kain makes the following prediction:
To me, Pelosi’s denial (and accusation against the CIA) lays bare a deeper truth about the Democrats. Without Obama they’d be nearly as big a mess as the Republicans. Most of them are complicit in the Bush torture program and the wars. The party is almost headless without Obama – led by the fickle and hardly inspiring Reid/Pelosi duo. After Obama, if conservatives learn anything over the next eight years – yes, I’m predicting it will be eight – unless the Democrats get some sort of order and discipline and more importantly, some grander vision, then I think the GOP should have no trouble at all coming in and cleaning up.
I have thought for a while that the Republicans will be out of power for a significant period of time, both because of the Bush administration’s failures, and because the current Republican attempts to rebuild (e.g. constant infighting, unconvincing narratives about the role of fiscal excesses in Bush’s unpopularity, rallying around Rush, and Michael Steele’s various embarrassments) seem woefully ill-suited to the current political environment. I still think E.D. overstates things considerably when he says that Republicans “should have no trouble at all coming in and cleaning up,” but the idea that Obama is a sui generis figure is worth entertaining. The gap in charisma between Obama and Nancy Pelosi or Henry Reid, for instance, is substantial, and Obama is significantly more popular than many of his policies. Will the Democrats still look as relatively desirable once Obama is no longer the spokesperson of the party? And will Obama’s popularity wane significantly as his Presidency progresses?
Joseph Susanka of Inside Catholic posted about an account of Pope Benedict’s speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Apparently, some Jews are upset that the Pope did not ‘apologize’ for the Church’s alleged complacency and indifference during the Holocaust. They also wanted the Pope to apologize on behalf of Germany, as a German.
These expectations, demands, and the outrage that follows when they are not met, are preposterous. Most of it revolves around the ‘Pius Wars’, claims that Pope Pius XII was either indifferent to, or worse, complicit in the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. The historical record reveals the falsehood of this claim. How is it that in 1943 the following statement could appear in TIME magazine?
But no matter what critics might say, it is scarcely deniable that the Church Apostolic, through the encyclicals and other papal pronouncements, has been fighting against totalitarianism more knowingly, devoutly and authoritatively, and for a longer time, than any other organized power.
Salvete AC readers!
Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:
1. Mark Shea has accused the pro-life anti-abortion torture defenders for creating the ‘nightmare’ of Patriot Act abuse. A homeschooled kid was arrested under suspicion of sending death threats to President Obama via his computer. It seems as if someone hijacked his IP address to issue those death threats. As of now he is in jail and hasn’t been allowed to meet his family nor lawyers.
To read Mark Shea’s posting on this click here.
2. Child molesters in the Church again? Nope, but the mainstream media isn’t picking up on the story of a Los Angeles school district ‘repeatedly’ returning child molesters to the classrooms. In a front page story on May 10 the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) “repeatedly” returned teachers and aides credibly accused of child molestation back to classrooms, and these individuals then molested children again. The major networks, MSNBC, and CNN have failed to pick up on this story.
For the full story by Dave Pierre of NewBusters click here.
3. It seems that Fr. John Jenkins believes in the promotion of condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. Which is directly contrary to Pope Benedict XVI’s (as well as the Magisterium’s teaching) statement that condoms were not the solution to the problem of AIDS. Fr. Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame, is a board member of Millennium Promise which promotes condom use to fight the spread of AIDS.
For the article click here.
[Update I:I want to make an addendum that so many of you insist I make. I want to also add that Fr. John Jenkins seems to support abortion as well as condom usage.
Millenium Promise, the organization that Fr. John Jenkins is a board member of clearly states on their very own website the following:
Which can be found on the main webpage of Millenium Promise. Emphasis mine.:
Page 84 of Millenium Villages Handbook on condom usage:
Budget and Procurement. The budget for the HIV/AIDS response depends on a number of factors. On the treatment side, the major budgetary concern is the provision of ARV drugs to those in need. Beyond ARV costs, other costs include staffing, other medication, CD4 counts, prevention programming, condom provision, nutritional supplementation, and VHW support.
Page 85 of Millenium Villages Handbook on condom usage:
Communication for Preventing Disease and Changing Behavior: Behavior change communication plays a key role in preventing the spread of HIV and must be seen as a central element in any response to HIV/AIDS. This core intervention includes education, awareness building, advocacy, condom distribution, and education (both male and female), rights building, and voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) promotion among other activities.
Page 92 of Millenium Villages Handbook on condom usage:
Contraception and family planning: Family planning and contraception services are critical to allow women to choose family size and birth spacing, to combat sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection, and contribute to the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality. Services include: (1) Counseling; (2) Male and female condoms; (3) Pharmacologic contraceptives including oral, transdermal, intramuscular, and implanted methods; and (4) IUDs
Page 92 of Millenium Villages Handbook on abortion:
Abortion services: In countries where abortion is legal, safe abortion services in controlled settings by skilled practitioners should be established. In villages with a nearby district center with sound surgical capacity, these services can be referred. However, in instances where no district center or alternate post for safe abortion practices is accessible, abortion services can be offered at the village level, provided that sufficient surgical capacity exists.]
Listening to this week’s EconTalk interview with Alan Wolfe, author of the recently released The Future of Liberalism, I was struck by the following quote from the book, “Modern liberalism promises equality through what [Isaiah] Berlin calls a positive conception of liberty. It is not sufficient for me merely to be left alone [which is negative liberty]. I must also have the capacity to realize the goals that I choose for myself. If this requires an active role for government, then modern liberals are prepared to accept state intervention into the economy in order to give large numbers of people the sense of mastery that free market capitalism gives only to the few.”
In discussion with host Russell Roberts, himself quite libertarian, Wolfe says that liberals do and should concede that at times empirical evidence will show that such government intervention actually reduces personal autonomy, in which case he advocates changing one’s position. He cites school choice and welfare reform as to examples of traditionally conservative positions he has adopted because he considers that these were both cases of alleviating dependence created by government programs.
But the examples that Wolfe provided of intervention to assure positive freedom struck me as interesting, and provided me with some insight into how thoughtful liberals view the world.
First of all let me say that I intend for the title of this piece to be polemical. I hope it is not the case, in all circumstances, that pro-life organizations and major players in the movement, are unfairly excluding, or consciously undermining budding pro-life Democratic candidates and causes. But my own experience is worth sharing and considering- just in case.
Having recently re-read one of the most insightful critiques of the socially destructive effect of mass pornography I have ever come across, I was struck by how the central message was actually present in George Orwell’s 1984. The article is titled “The Politics of Porn”, authored by Robert R. Reilly, and the important message to take away from it is summarized in the following lines:
No matter how democratic their institutions, morally enervated people cannot be free. And people who are enslaved to their passions inevitably become slaves to tyrants.
The mass production and consumption of pornography, Reilly argues, has “morally enervated” the American public and poses a serious threat to the true foundations of liberty – personal virtue.