Monthly Archives: May 2009
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?
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.
Doug Kmiec has a rather bizarre article up at America entitled The Case For Empathy: Why a Much-Maligned Value Is a Crucial Qualification for the Supreme Court. If the article is any indication, I suppose we should be thankful Obama didn’t make any off-hand remarks suggesting ‘creativity’ or ‘imagination’ were traits he would look for in a potential Supreme Court justice, if only because it might have lead to more essays like this one. After some preliminary gushing about, you guessed it, empathy, Kmiec explains what an empathetic justice would accomplish:
To do this, it is possible that [Obama] will mine for legal talent in unusual places, but it is more likely he will attempt to find a nominee with appellate court experience whose skill set also shows the capability of challenging methods of interpretation that otherwise wouldn’t give empathy the time of day. If Obama succeeds even with this more limited challenge,he will have exploded the notion that swapping out a Souter for a new, most likely younger and intellectually energetic, justice is without effect.
Salvete AC readers!
Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:
1. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC made some extraordinary claims of how to manage dissenting Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi. His Excellency believes that Canon 915 does not apply in advancing the salvific mission of the Church which is basically a losing argument because there are no exemptions for Nancy Pelosi in regards to Canon 915. Archbishop Wuerl is mistaken if he can escape from his episcopal duty to apply Canon 915 to the pro-abortion representative from California.
Dr. Ed Peters responds to Archbishop Wuerls misapplication of Canon 915 here.
To learn what Canon 915 is click here.
2. Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison continues with his house cleaning of heterodoxy in his diocese. It was reported earlier this week that dissident ‘Catholic’ Ruth Kolpack was removed from her position of pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Church. In addition:
“Kolpack will be barred from all leadership roles in the parish, paid or volunteer.”
The diocese has not said explicitly why she was fired but strongly suggested that it may have had something to do with her opposition to church doctrine in her capacity as a Catholic teacher. The tide is continueing to turn as more American bishops evanglize boldly as St. Paul and act strongly as St. Ambrose. Deo gratias!
For the story click here.
3. There is more than meets the eye from the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper that showed an article giving a glowing review of President Obama’s presidency thus far. Apparently anything labeled from “The Vatican” carries magisterial weight, especially if it’s contra the Church’s position. Let’s get something straight first, a janitor walking out of St. Peter’s Basilica can give an interview and that can be called news from “The Vatican”. Second, there were glaring mistakes in said article and it was plainly obvious that Giuseppe Fiorentino, who wrote the article, did not know what he was talking about concerning embryo destruction and abortion. Mr. Fiorentino has fallen under President Obama’s rhetorical spell, just as many dissenting Catholics have, of falling for style over substance.
Austin Ruse of The Catholic Thing breaks it all down for you here.
I’ve set up a special blog devoted to the Papal Pilgrimage as a vehicle for rounding up news, coverage and commentary, and where I’ll be posting from now until the duration of the Holy Father’s journey (upon which time I’ll resume blogging here at American Catholic).
Following are some interviews and links which will set the tone for the papal journey:
I just finished reading Thomas F. Madden’s Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World, and I’m planning to write a couple posts shortly reviewing the book and the ideas it presents. As a prelude of sorts, however, I’d like to revisit some thinking I did a while back:
A month or so ago I finally had the chance to read Steven Vincent’s account of life outside the green zone in post-war Iraq: In The Red Zone. It’s a very fair book, and worth a read whether you support the war in Iraq or not. The author, since then killed in Iraq by militants, was a New York art reporter who watched the attacks on 9-11 and supported the Iraq war. Having supported the war, he felt like he should go over and see what was really happening over there. The book has the advantage of being writing from a culture writer’s point of view rather than a political writer’s. And although Vincent starts out as an enthusiastic supporter of the project, he ends unsure whether it’s possible for democracy to flourish in Iraq. (I’d be curious to read later work by him and see what he thought of the elections and the provisional constitution, both of which post date his book.)
This reminded me of my long held intention to read more about Islam, so I pull off the shelf the copy of Living Islam(now apparently out of print) by Ahbar S Ahmed which I’d bought on remainder some nine years ago and had been meaning to read ever since. Living Islam is half cultural history, half apologia (think a very, very light weight version of Letters To A Young Catholic with lots of pictures and basic intro information.)
The Italian Civil Defense administration was given a specially designed Fiat Docato Panorama for Pope Benedict XVI to ride in while he tended to the earthquake stricken areas of Abruzzo. The Fiat van is part of the fleet of cars that the Civil Defense uses for disaster relief efforts.
With the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel there are many stories that come to the surface that I find especially intriguing. For example, I came a cross an interesting article on the small community of Hebrew Catholics living in Israel. They consist of:
Christians married to Jews, monks and nuns who live in Israel out of solidarity, Christians who immigrated from the former Soviet Union and Jews who converted.
There are approximately 4000 in all of Israel today. They are in full communion with the Catholic Church. Probably the only difference between them and Latin Rite Catholics is that their liturgy uses Hebrew and they celebrate the Jewish holidays as well as those contained in the Catholic liturgical calendar.
I’d like to point out some historical nuances with certain Hebrew words that are used in their unique liturgy. For instance certain words are updated to remove the negative connotations that the Jews themselves had attributed to Catholic terms and names. An example is the name of Jesus:
Linguists say the modern Hebrew word for Jesus, Yeshu, is derived from the word, Yeshua or Yehoshua, which was given by rabbis in the Middle Ages and which is in fact an acronym of the expression “may his name and memory be obliterated.”
A refreshing news story from the mainstream media that portrays the Catholic Church in a positive light. A ‘min-comeback’ is the thread of the story, though I disagree with the main reasons for this being the distance from the priest sex abuse scandals combined with the U.S. recession.
This video exhibits more evidence that the tide is turning towards Catholicism.
(Biretta Tip: Creative Minority Report)
In my mis-spent youth, I used to listen to NPR’s Morning Edition every morning while doing my math (yes, that’s the kind of thing we wacky homeschoolers get away with). One morning (this was probably around ’93) they were covering a “guns for toys” program, where people were being encouraged to bring real or toy guns down to their local police station and pick up stuffed animals in exchange.
How warm and fuzzy can you get? (And seriously, how many hardened criminals did the people staging this imagine would repent and come get a teddy in return for their gat?) They interviewed a few kids who dutifully said that they knew it was better to play with animals than with their toy guys they’d turned in. Then they interviewed an eighty-year-old woman who’d just turned in the police revolver that her grandfather used to carry in the 1870s and 1880s. “I’ve never shot it,” she said. “But I’d kept it all these years as a piece of family history. But you know, things aren’t the same anymore. I heard about this exchange and I thought: It’s not the wild west anymore. I’d better go turn this in to the police where it belongs. I think we’d all be a lot safer without so many guns around.”
Maybe in some abstract sense we would — but I’m not sure we got any safer when that old lady turned in her piece of family history.
However as I was thinking the other day about the enthusiasm for gun control (or just outright banning guns) on the left, this clicked into place as half of the puzzle. Here’s the other half:
I think we all have, if we are fortunate, a few good friends with religious and political viewpoints very different from our own with whom we regularly hold long discussions. For me, one of these is an uncle of mine. My mom is the oldest of seven, so this uncle is actually only fifteen years older than I am. He’s a long lapsed Catholic (he describes himself as believing in God but having no religion), a comic book and movie buff, an independent rocker, and someone who thinks a lot about the meaning of life, though he does so from a very different perspective than I do.
A few months back, my uncle was telling me about how he’d recently become pro-life (or anti-abortion, for those who ride the hobby horse of not being willing to accept the common use of the term.) His reason, he said, was basically the same as the reason he’d come to oppose capital punishment a few years before.