Monthly Archives: April 2010

An Example to Us All


Hattip to Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons.  I have long thought that the way we will win the battle against abortion is by simple persistence.  Pro-lifers will never give up until we prevail and abortion is banned.  Tommy Behan is an example to us all:

T. ANDREW DEANERY — The White House staffers who open President Barrack Obama’s mail are likely well aware of Tommy Behan’s pro-life stance.

Behan, a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish and a sophomore at Lakota East High School, has written the president every day since Obama’s inauguration asking him to change his position on abortion. The 16-year-old has handwritten and mailed more than 430 letters.

“His stance is the most radical pro-choice one for a president who has ever held office,” said Behan. “In the first letter I made a vow to never stop writing until he changed it or he’s out of office.”

The teen usually writes in the evenings. He avoids email, preferring to show his passion with the extra effort a handwritten letter requires. His parents supply the pens, paper and stamps. If Behan gets pressed for time and misses a day, he’ll write additional letters until he is caught up. The letters are sometimes mailed in batches.

Behan begins each letter by telling Obama how many times he has written before. Then the teen argues the constitutionality of abortion, talks about justice for the unborn and tells of the lives that have been lost. His stance is straightforward: Life begins at conception and comes before liberty, he said.

“I keep building on my argument,” Behan said. “It really upsets me how some people choose to have an abortion when others really want to have children.”

One of six children, Behan has seen his sister and her husband suffer miscarriages. That experience has made him more passionate and given him more resolve to try to get Obama to publicly change his position.

After about three months of writing Behan received a form letter from the White House. There have been about 17 more since. The generic replies thank him for writing and sometimes acknowledge the topic.

The teen also debated the issue in an editorial in Spark, a well-known student magazine at Lakota East.

“He’s always had a deep respect for life,” said Behan’s mother, Jude Behan. “We’re very proud of him. This was not initiated by us.”

She said her son is dedicated to the letter-writing campaign and is self-motivated. Continue reading

Looking Back on Justice Stevens: Kelo

From a Catholic point of view, retiring Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ extreme commitment to supporting unlimited abortion in our country is clearly one of his worst legacies as a justice, and one most likely to be mirrored by whoever is chosen to replace him by President Obama.

There are other reasons to look back with a critical eye on Stevens’ tenure on the court, however, and blogger Lexington at The Economist highlights what he regards as the worst opinion that Stevens’ authored: the majority opinion in Kelo v New London, in which Stevens and the liberal majority of the court held that the constitutional powers of “eminent domain” can be used by local government not only to secure land for true “public use” such as building roads or public buildings, but to secure land for private development. In simply terms: Kelo means your city can force you to sell your home to make room for a new shopping center.

Kelo is certainly one of the worst decisions of recent years (giving far more real room for abuse of power by large corporations than the Citizens United decision, which Obama demagogued in his state of the union address) and underscores in an important way how the “progressives protect the little guy while conservative protect big business” narrative fundamentally misses the real and more complicated dynamics at play in our polity.

Using Religion To Defend Slavery

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina:  Continue reading

The Tea Party and Social Conservatives

Hattip to my friend Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative.  When asked what type of conservative I am, I have usually responded “just conservative”.  Like most conservatives I know, I am conservative on social issues, fiscal policies and foreign policy.  When one part of conservatism is ignored in a political race, electoral disaster often looms.  That is why I embrace completely what my fellow Illinoisan, Paul Mitchell said in a recent speech:

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Looking into the Cloudy Ball

Tax day is a day when all Americans are reminded about the importance of politics and think about the importance of the political future so they can adjust their budgets accordingly. Most of the time in politics we have a reasonably good idea of what’s going on: what the issues are going to be, who the favorites in the next election are, who are the main blocs, etc. Of course, there are always surprises and upsets.

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Happy Tax Day!

It takes me approximately eight hours each year to prepare my federal and state income tax returns.  This does not take into consideration the quarterly estimated payments I make which probably take 20 minutes each.  After a long and frustrating day preparing a fairly complicated tax return, I, Union loving Don McClarey, often end the day as I am writing the check to the Federal government by playing the song below: Continue reading

Tax Man Max

From School House Rock.  A celebration of taxes on Tax Day!  Don’t you feel better?  Actually, neither do I.

I'm So Tired of Hearing Jesus' Name in Vain (Tiger Woods Should Apologize Again)

Be warned- the video above re-plays Tiger Woods unleashing his fury over his golf game with abusive, offensive language.

I’m not interested in getting into the whole sordid Tiger Woods’ womanizing issue- I am, however, ready to start challenging the whole phenomena of using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as some kind of throw-away profanity. It doesn’t really matter what the religious make-up of the blasphemer is, but it seems to me that when a Buddhist like Tiger Woods decides it is fair-game to throw out the use of Jesus’ name in a derogatory way on National TV- well this should be a teachable moment.

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ObamaCare Bounce? What ObamaCare Bounce?

Perhaps a sign of public discontent with the passage of ObamaCare, the Republicans now lead by four points, 48-44, on the Gallup Generic Congressional ballot among registered  voters.  It is rare for Republicans to take the lead in this poll as Gallup notes:

The trend based on registered voters shows how rare it is for the Republicans to lead on this “generic ballot” measure among all registered voters, as they do today. Other recent exceptions were recorded in 1994 — when Republicans wrested majority control from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years — and 2002, when the GOP achieved seat gains, a rarity for the president’s party in midterm elections.

On the other hand, the Democrats are not performing in the poll as they have in years when they have won Congress:

In midterm years when Democrats prevailed at the polls (such as 2006, 1990, and 1986), their net support among registered voters typically extended into double digits at several points during the year — something that has yet to happen in 2010.

Gallup notes the enthusiasm gap that currently exists between the parties:

Gallup will not begin identifying likely voters for the 2010 midterms until later in the year. However, at this early stage, Republicans show much greater enthusiasm than Democrats about voting in the elections.

In other poll news, the Republicans retain a nine point lead, 45-36, over the Democrats on the Rasmussen Generic Congressional ballot of likely votersRasmussen also reports that in his latest poll on repeal of ObamaCare, 58% of voters support repeal.  Nate Silver at 538, a site which leans left politically, states the following in regard to current generic ballots:

Their bad news is that the House popular vote (a tabulation of the actual votes all around the country) and the generic ballot (an abstraction in the form of a poll) are not the same thing — and the difference usually tends to work to Democrats’ detriment. Although analysts debate the precise magnitude of the difference, on average the generic ballot has overestimated the Democrats’ performance in the popular vote by 3.4 points since 1992. If the pattern holds, that means that a 2.3-point deficit in generic ballot polls would translate to a 5.7 point deficit in the popular vote — which works out to a loss of 51 seats, according to our regression model.

These sorts of questions have been the subject of many, many academic studies, almost all of which involve far more rigor than what I’ve applied here. This is just meant to establish a benchmark. But that benchmark is a really bad one for Democrats. One reasonably well-informed translation of the generic ballot polls is that the Democrats would lose 51 House seats if the election were held today. Continue reading

The Birth of Freedom

A trailer for a documentary from the Acton Institute.  This documentary examines the role of Judaism and Christianity in creating the conditions which led to the concept of human freedom cherished in the West.  A number of short clips from the video are available on-line and I will be using them in posts in the days to come.  In regard to the trailer I would state the following propositions for discussion:  (1)  The clash between Church and State that characterized Western Europe in the Middle Ages was a fundamental pre-condition for the concept of limited government as it developed in the West; (2) the insistence of the Church that all men and women were equal in the eyes of God established the basis for the concept of human rights; and (3) that as a Western society becomes divorced from its religious roots the very concept of freedom as it has been understood in the West becomes difficult to maintain from a philosophical standpoint.

Safe Eating!

From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  I can think of many things depressing in this world but eating alone is not one of them.  Of course, between the sound of kids eating, a dog seeking handouts, telephone calls and my wife bringing me up to date on household and school events, the eating portion of a meal often seems to be of secondary consideration around my house!

Maybe They Should Have Read the Bill?

Hattip to Allahpundit at Hot Air.  Sometimes life is so much funnier than any comedy ever written.  Apparently the wise Congress Critters who passed ObamaCare may have taken away their own health insurance.  According to the New York Times:

The law apparently bars members of Congress from the federal employees health program, on the assumption that lawmakers should join many of their constituents in getting coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.


But the research service found that this provision was written in an imprecise, confusing way, so it is not clear when it takes effect.


The new exchanges do not have to be in operation until 2014. But because of a possible “drafting error,” the report says, Congress did not specify an effective date for the section excluding lawmakers from the existing program.


Under well-established canons of statutory interpretation, the report said, “a law takes effect on the date of its enactment” unless Congress clearly specifies otherwise. And Congress did not specify any other effective date for this part of the health care law. The law was enacted when President Obama signed it three weeks ago.

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Is John Paul II still great?

I’ve been asking myself that question as I’ve read the discussions about the sex abuse scandal and asked it again while I read Ross Douthat’s editorial at the NYT this morning. The most pertinent part is this:

But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.

The church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle.

Only one churchman comes out of Berry’s story looking good: Joseph Ratzinger. Berry recounts how Ratzinger lectured to a group of Legionary priests, and was subsequently handed an envelope of money “for his charitable use.” The cardinal “was tough as nails in a very cordial way,” a witness said, and turned the money down.

This isn’t an isolated case. In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church’s haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel’s conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.

So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.

Douthat is not alone here; most have pointed out (including Rod Dreher, who left the Church b/c of his disappointment w/ the abuse scandals) that Benedict has gone to great lengths to clean up the mess that his predecessor made. But does a “great” make that kind of mess?

Now I certainly think that JPII is a saint. I don’t think that’s in question. Interestingly enough, I have not gathered from the media’s coverage that they would disagree with that. In fact, I would say that he probably merits very serious consideration as a doctor of the Church for Fides et Ratio and “man and Woman He Created Them: a theology of the body” Heck, I even have a poster of him in my living room (which is useful for showing to Mormon missionaries when they ask if I’m religious).

But having the title of “the great” means something extra than sainthood, doesn’t it?

Of course, this is difficult b/c “the great” title has no requirements, no set guidelines. This can be a big deal, as often the rules determine the result (for example: the importance you attach to Superbowl wins affects whether you think Manning or Brady is superior. of course this question is irrelevant b/c Brees is better than both of them but I digress).

Adding further difficulty is determining how significant this scandal is. While I’m sure this has profoundly affected those who have suffered from child abuse, I’m not sure if this will be a big deal thirty, fifty, a hundred years down the road. Right now of course it seems huge but how many people will be aware of it in the coming generations?

For JPII to not be determined great, it would have to be that the sex abuse scandal made enough of a dent in his legacy. This is not a minor feat, as JPII deserves significant credit for stabilizing the Church following Vatican II (setting the stage for the current traditonalist revival), excellent contributions to theology (including Fides et Ratio and Theology of the Body), an excellent charismatic approach that changed the nature of the papacy, and-oh yeah-helping to peacefully bring down the Soviet Union.

I tend to think that in the end, he will be deemed great though for the moment I hesitate to use the term. In the end, I think this storm will pass and we’ll be left with the memories of a great man with great accomplishments. But I think it’s possible that in reflecting on the failures of JPII’s papacy that perhaps we’ll choose not to use the term, and that’s not a possibility many were entertaining 5 years ago when JPII came into eternal life.

I would really like to know how other people are approaching this problem. Please leave comments.

Of course, one has to think that if Benedict is doing better than JPII, and JPII is “the great”, ought perhaps Benedict be up for the term? Food for thought.

Are Great Books Not The Answer?

Patrick Deneen of Georgetown University has an essay on Minding The Campus in which he argues that cultural and intellectual conservatives should be more cautious about championing Great Books type programs in colleges and universities as an antidote to the rootlessness and relativism of the modern curriculum, because the Great Books format itself is often essentially relativistic:

Most curricula in the Great Books offer the various philosophies as inherently coherent and valid systems, suggesting to each student that there is finally no basis on which to decide which philosophy to adopt other than mere preference. One must simply decide. This Nietzschean (or Schmittian) lesson is reinforced by the typical organization of such curricula (where they persist), which is typically chronological. Given that most students today have deeply ingrained progressive worldviews (that is, the view that history has been the slow but steady advance of enlightenment in all forms, culminating in equal rights for all races, all genders, and all sexual preferences), a curriculum that begins with the Bible and Greek philosophy and ends with Nietzsche subtly suggests that Nietzsche is the culmination of Enlightenment’s trajectory. The fact that his philosophy is reinforced by the message that an education in the Great Books consists in exposure to equally compelling philosophies between which there is no objective basis to prefer only serves to deepen the most fundamental lesson of a course in the Great Books, which is a basic form of relativism. The choice of a personal philosophy is relative, and the basis on which one makes any such choice is finally arbitrary, the result of personal preference or attraction.

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Sex, Lies and Planned Parenthood

Hattip to Patterico’s PontificationsWorse Than Murder, Inc, aka Planned Parenthood, has written a guide entitled Healthy, Happy and Hot.  It is subtitled a Young Persons Guide to Their Rights, Sexuality and Living With HIV.

This pamphlet is truly based upon irony in that if there is one organization more dedicated to promoting sexual promiscuity other than Worse Than Murder, Inc, I am unaware of it.  From passing out contraceptives to kids without parental consent, to promoting the idea that sex is the be all and end all of life, to killing the inevitable offspring that result from sexual activity between men and women, Planned Parenthood has done everything possible to promote a cultural atmosphere in which sexually transmitted diseases can run rampant.

So a teenager who has followed the advice of Worse Than Murder Inc and has HIV now is supposed to look to them for guidance?  I honestly sometimes think that Satan has a deep streak of the dark comedian about him.

Well, what sort of advice does Planned Parenthood dispense to their victims who have a fatal illness?    On page one the pamphlet stresses that people with HIV have a right to express and enjoy their sexuality.  But of course!  For Worse Than Murder, Inc, life boils down to:  “I fornicate therefore I am.”

In regard to disclosing the fact that a person has HIV to someone they are having sex with, the pamphlet states:

Some countries have laws that say people
living with HIV must tell their sexual
partner(s) about their status before having
sex, even if they use condoms or only
engage in sexual activity with a low risk
of giving HIV to someone else. These laws
violate the rights of people living with HIV
by forcing them to disclose or face the
possibility of criminal charges.

What about the well-being of those people who might be infected by you or have been infected by you?  Page 3 indicates that those people really have to take second place behind number one:

You know best if and when it is safe
for you to disclose your status.
There are many reasons that people
do not share their HIV status. They
may not want people to know they
are living with HIV because of
stigma and discrimination within
their community. They may worry
that people will find out something
else they have kept secret, like they
are using injecting drugs, having
sex outside of a marriage or having
sex with people of the same gender.
People in long-term relationships
who find out they are living with HIV
sometimes fear that their partner
will react violently or end the

Sharing your HIV status is called
disclosure. Your decision about whether to
disclose may change with different people
and situations. You have the right to
decide if, when, and how to disclose your
HIV status.

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The Last Enemy to be Destroyed is Death

If we are going to be Catholic spokesmen going public with our views, we have to pay special attention to our spiritual lives. I can see how easy it is to get bogged down in the blogosphere in the mire of negativity, in heated exchanges like we never encounter in our normal daily lives- like before in the days before the internet.

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