24

Our Country

So to sum up: we now live in a country where students at ostensibly Catholic universities testify on national television before Congress that they are freely engaging in pre-marital intercourse, and that the university’s failure to pay for their $100 per month contraception is severely cramping their style – as they pay on the order of $50,000 per year for the privilege of said education.

But Rick Santorum is considered kooky and extreme.

 

12

Dr. Mengele Can Empathize

 

“After birth abortion” sounds like a catchy substitute for words like “infanticide” and “murder” doesn’t it?

Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.” The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborns.

The circumstances, the authors state, where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an “acceptable” life. The authors cite Downs Syndrome as an example, stating that while the quality of life of individuals with Downs is often reported as happy, “such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

This means a newborn whose family (or society) that could be socially, economically or psychologically burdened or damaged by the newborn should have the ability to seek out an after-birth abortion. They state that after-birth abortions are not preferable over early-term abortions of fetuses but should circumstances change with the family or the fetus in the womb, then they advocate that this option should be made available. Continue Reading

32

The Weathervane Avoids Disaster

 

What could have been a very bad night for Mitt Romney, a/k/a The Weathervane, turned out to be mixed.  He won handily in Arizona, a state none of his opponents seriously contested.  In Michigan he dodged a bullet by eking out a 3 point victory over Santorum  The problem for the Weathervane is that Michigan should have been one of his strongest states, a state where his father was governor, and which he won by nine points in the Republican primary in 2008.  Outspending Santorum three to one, he barely won a victory in a state which should have been his going away.  Ironically he owed his victory to the fact that his old nemesis Gingrich stayed in and deprived Santorum of a winning margin. Continue Reading

12

The Human Face of Suffering

About a week ago, I wrote on a article that I read from Slate.com. Having never really been to this site, I have now found myself with the same sort of reaction one has to a horrible car accident … I just have to look. On the bright side, I think that any conservative blogger could find a lifetime of material on which to comment in but a few short days of perusing Slate’s archives.

Yesterday, there appeared a very emotional piece by a mother of a child with Tay-Sachs. My heart and prayers go out to this woman – I can’t even begin to imagine the daily struggles and emotional roller-coasters that she goes through. Yet there is something terribly unsettling with her story. Her opening paragraphs read:

This week my son turned blue, and for 30 terrifying seconds, stopped breathing. Called an “apnea seizure,” this is one stage in the progression of Tay-Sachs, the genetic disease Ronan was born with and will die of, but not before he suffers from these and other kinds of seizures and is finally plunged into a completely vegetative state. Nearly two years old, he is already blind, paralyzed, and increasingly nonresponsive. I expect his death to happen this year, and this week’s seizure only highlighted the fact that it could happen at any moment—while I’m at work, at the hair salon, at the grocery store. I love my son more than any person in the world and his life is of utmost value to me. I don’t regret a single minute of this parenting journey, even though I wake up every morning with my heart breaking, feeling the impending dread of his imminent death. This is one set of absolute truths.

Here’s another: If I had known Ronan had Tay-Sachs (I met with two genetic counselors and had every standard prenatal test available to me, including the one for Tay-Sachs, which did not detect my rare mutation, and therefore I waived the test at my CVS procedure), I would have found out what the disease meant for my then unborn child; I would have talked to parents who are raising (and burying) children with this disease, and then I would have had an abortion. Without question and without regret, although this would have been a different kind of loss to mourn and would by no means have been a cavalier or uncomplicated, heartless decision. I’m so grateful that Ronan is my child. I also wish he’d never been born; no person should suffer in this way—daily seizures, blindness, lack of movement, inability to swallow, a devastated brain—with no hope for a cure. Both of these statements are categorically true; neither one is mutually exclusive.

I want to try very hard to not be callous in my comment, but rather pastoral in the best sense of the word. As I stated from the beginning, this woman’s story is clearly one of great suffering.

That being said, what is the proverbial “missing piece” from this philosophy? I can think of three such pieces that are worth considering.

 

1. Suffering is Redemptive

There is something drastically “new” about the Christian take on suffering. If we define suffering as that gap between desire and reality (or between what we want and what we have), the ancient east and the modern west have opposite takes on how to close the gap. The ancient east suggests solving the problem by eliminating desires. According to Peter Kreeft:

We suffer because of the gap between what we want and what we have. This gap is created by our dissatisfaction, our wanting to get what we do not have or wanting to keep what we do have (e.g., life, which causes fear of death). Thus desire is the villain for Buddha, the cause of all suffering.

 

The modern west takes an opposite approach: we attempt to eliminate suffering by bringing what we have up to the level of what we want. This is true in both modern medicine and modern economics.

Although both work in opposite directions, the goal is the same: to eliminate suffering.

Christianity, through the Paschal mystery, takes a radically new approach: it redeems suffering and thus allows us to see it as a value in and of itself. As Christians, we are called to embrace suffering for the redemption of ourselves and of the world. I am reminded of the scene from Passion of the Christ where the Lord has hold of his cross and the soldiers ridicule him saying, “Look, he embraces his cross!”

 

2. God is the Author of Life – and the Soul is Eternal

It seems to me that this is an essential tenant of the Christian faith. The very first thing we learn about our nature from the Book of Genesis is that we are created. In other words, we are not our own, and nor are we each other’s. God is the author of life, and only God can decide when “it is time” (for lack of a better phrase). None of us ever wants to see an innocent child suffer to the degree that this mother has had to endure, yet even in these difficult cases, it is not our decision to make. Let us not forget, however, that the human soul is immortal. It has an existence well beyond the confines of time. Further, we know for certain that a baptized child not yet of the age of reason will be welcomed into Heaven – so whatever this child suffers here on earth, it will pale in comparison to the joy he will experience when standing for eternity face to face with the Living God.

There is actually something very laudable with the mother’s desire that “no person should suffer in this way.” While we embrace our own suffering, we also should work to a certain extent to minimize the suffering in others. Yet the line is crossed when first things fail to be kept first. The “first thing” in this case is the notion that God is the only one who takes the blessed soul from their suffering and welcomes them into eternal life.

 

3. God’s Ways are not Our Ways

This is so impossible to fully understand, and every one of us is guilty of crying out for justice, mercy, or some seemingly illogical combination of the two when faced with the hardest moments of our time here on earth. Few of us will experience moments as challenging as this mother’s trials, and virtually none of us will have to undergo the pain experienced by her son. Yet as hard as it is to grasp, the truth haunts us in the quiet of our hearts: as finite beings we are incapable of seeing the “whole picture.” We do not yet know everything that God has planned for both the world and for a particular individual. Only when it is all said and done, and we are granted the opportunity to “understand the whole” will we be able to find true solace in the events of this world.

What is curious about this point is that it is either a source of great consolation or bitter confusion. One either sees in the mystery of a plan not-yet-fulfilled a God who is a great architect that ever so slowly reveals His design, or one sees a tyrannical dictator who hides the truth from his subjects. It all comes down to the fundamental lens through which one sees the drama of life.

Regardless, my heart goes out to this woman. In fact, I can agree with her on not just one, but both of her points, properly understood. As such, I agree that they are no mutually exclusive. I believe with everything I am that she is telling the truth when she says, “I love my son more than any person in the world and his life is of utmost value to me. I don’t regret a single minute of this parenting journey, even though I wake up every morning with my heart breaking, feeling the impending dread of his imminent death.” I also believe that she deeply wishes her poor innocent son would not have to endure the suffering that he has already had to go through let alone that which is to come. Moreover, I too wish that I had it in my power to save him from any more suffering in his life. In fact, I even agree that his “life” would be better if he were already in the presence of God. Nevertheless, I cannot agree that taking a life of which we are not free to take, making a choice that we are not free to make, is a viable option towards such an end. The end can never justify the means.

I have already decided to dedicate a part of my Lenten spiritual reading and preparation to both this mother and her very blessed child, and I encourage others to do the same. Through all the suffering, it is clear that his mother as an authentic love for him, and that is something that many of our “healthy” children lack so desperately.

3

Assessing Potential Supreme Court Vacancies

Supreme Court appointments have been a relatively muted issue during the campaign.  It might be worth taking a look at the Court and in order to see where we might be headed over the course of the next presidential term.  I will be listing Justices in order from least to most likely to retire over the next four years.  Letter in parentheses indicates party of the president under which they were appointed.

John Roberts (R), Samuel Alito (R), Sonia Sotomayor (D), Elana Kagan (D):  All recent appointments, and all relatively young.  None of these guys are going anywhere anytime soon barring a catastrophic health crisis.

Clarence Thomas (R): Even though he recently started his third decade on the Court, Thomas is still fairly young, as he won’t turn 70 until 2018.  He is the Justice most committed to completely overturning decades of bad precedents, and I have a hunch he’d like to be on the Court to help shape those future rulings.  There is a tiny sliver of a chance he could retire if a Republican wins the presidency, but it would be a fairly big surprise.

Antonin Scalia (R), Stephen Breyer (D): Scalia and Breyer are fairly close in age.  Scalia turns 80 at the end of the next presidential term, and Breyer is two years his junior.  Scalia would also be completing his 30th year on the Court in 2016.  Both are still vigorous and active.  Neither will retire if a member of the opposite party wins the forthcoming election, and I would put the odds of retirement at just under 50/50 if someone from their party wins.  I would imagine Scalia would share some of Thomas’s desire to be able to shape opinions, so he might hang on through the next term.

Anthony Kennedy (R):  The Court’s swing vote, he is just a few months younger than Scalia and has served just one less year on the Court.  His retirement would be the game changer, and whoever gets to pick his replacement could be altering the course of the Court for the next thirty years.  It doesn’t matter which party controls the White House, the confirmation fight over his replacement will be a bloodbath, and I would fully expect a filibuster effort.

Will he retire, and will he peg his retirement to whoever is in the White House?  He’s a moderate, but he was appointed by a Republican.  Ultimately Kennedy will probably decide upon his retirement in the same manner as he decides most of his votes: by flipping a coin.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (D): The only one of the eight clear ideoloigical justices who could retire during an administration of the opposite party.  She is the oldest member of the Court, and she has had some health problems in recent years.  I personally have seen her up close a couple of times, and she looked incredibly frail – and this was several years ago.  But she is still fairly vigorous, even travelling to Egpyt in order to tell the Egyptians how rotten our Constitution is.  She has evidently indicated a willingness to retire at 82, the same age as Louis Brandeis.  That would occur in 2015.

If Barack Obama wins re-election, I would put the odds at just about 100 percent that she will retire over the next four years.  Even if  a Republican wins the White House, health issues might force her hand.  If that happens, the confirmation battle will be just as intense, if not more so, than for whoever would replace Kennedy.

Ultimately the question we have to ask is which of the candidates is likely to go to the mats when it comes to a Supreme Court nomination battle?

12

Some troubling catholic thought masquerading as Catholic thought…

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has all but declared war on the authority of the Catholic Church to teach its faith and morals.

Telegraphing a “message” to the hierarchy last week, Ms. Pelosi said that the Church’s teaching on birth control “isn’t  even accepted by the laity churchgoing people themselves.”  She noted that “an overwhelming number” of American Catholic  girls from age 14 “or younger” use birth control.

Evidently, the Minority Leader would prefer a more democratized Catholic Church, where decisions are made by taking votes or, perhaps, hiring Gallup to do some public polling.

(The relevant remarks begin at 51:40, although the entire video is worth watching.)

Representative Pelosi had called a Georgetown Law School student, Sandra Fluke, to  testify concerning the Sebelius’ regulations that will compel all healthcare plans—including those  provided or purchased by Catholics and Catholic institutions—to cover sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortifacients.  Fluke, the former President of Georgetown Law Students for  Reproductive Justice, had complained that Georgetown did not cover contraceptives in its student health insurance plan.

Interrupting Ms. Fluke, the Ms. Pelosi said:

…it also speaks to the fact that this is what the practice is in our country. If an overwhelming number of Catholic women of childbearing age—and stretch that from 14 to 50 or however older or younger you want to go—are practicing birth control,  then that has to be some message to the church that please don’t expect  employers and insurance companies to enforce an attitude that you have that isn’t even accepted by the laity churchgoing people themselves.

So, we have a problem here, which you have really  clearly presented an answer to: A voice of a young woman in an institution of higher learning that is Catholic, I always thought with a capital C and a small c. Let’s hope that that is the case.

As a Catholic, The Motley Monk must note two problems with Ms. Pelosi’s analysis:

  1. Truth is determined by popularity: The Motley Monk would suggest that Ms. Pelosi rethink this.  After all, just because a majority of the citizens of the South in the 17th century believed that slavery was moral didn’t make enslaving human beings moral.  In the 20th century, just because the majority of Nazis believed the extermination of the Jews was moral, didn’t make exterminating them moral.  Even if 99% of humanity believed that contraception and abortion were moral, doesn’t make either moral.
  2. “Catholic” means different things to different people: The Motley Monk would suggest this assertion turns a fact—yes, different people believe the word “Catholic” can mean different things—into a principle, one that ultimately means “nothing can mean anything.”  Why?  Anyone is free to believe anything, whether true or not!  In contrast, The Motley Monk would argue that “words have meaning.”  Accordingly, a Catholic university would present the teaching of the Catholic Church by engaging it in principled discourse with other non-Catholic ideas so that students would, as Blessed John Henry Newman wrote, “think about these matters as Catholics do.”  A catholic university would discuss what catholics think the Catholic Church should teach, informed by the current Zeitgeist and supported by the magisterium of public opinion. (In some circles, catholics are called “Catholics-in-Name-Only” [CINO’s].  As this phenomenon impacts the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges, The Motley Monk calls it the “Georgetownization” of U.S. Catholic higher education…to wit: Ms. Fluke.)

If all of that isn’t troubling enough, Representative Pelosi also said that preserving the Sebelius regulations was about protecting the “God-given free will” of women.  Of the Chairman, Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ms. Pelosi asked mockingly:

  • Does that person, or that Chairman of Committee, have any judgment on what it means to a family to personally and religiously make decisions about the size and timing of their family?
  • Does that person have any knowledge, is he qualified to talk about the danger to women’s health, and therefore the care of the family, to a Mom if she and her husband, their doctor and their God cannot make  those decisions?
  • Is that committee chairmanship and leadership of the Congress qualified to make a decision about how people exercise their God-given free will to take their responsibility and to answer for how they  exercise that God-given free will?

Whew!  Where is one to start?

For Catholics, The Motley Monk notes three problems with the line of argumentation inherent in Ms. Pelosi’s  questioning:

  1. The “if you don’t have it, you have nothing to say about it” argument: Just just because a member of the U.S. Congress is a male and Chairman of a committee, does not ipso facto render that man incapable of making a judgment or render him unqualified to speak about women’s “health” issues.  According to Ms. Pelosi’s reasoning, would the fact that she is not a Catholic theologian render Ms. Pelosi unqualified to render a judgment or unqualified to speak about Catholic teaching?
  2. It is up to individuals to determine what their God requires: This argument is to the heart of the Protestant Reformation.  The Motley Monk would note that the Protestant reformers argued that they didn’t need an intermediary—a priest, a bishop, or a Pope of Rome—to tell them what the Scriptures taught.  Ms. Pelosi sounds more like a Protestant than a Catholic. (Or, is that a protestant rather than a catholic?)
  3. Human feelings trump God’s rights.  Ms. Pelosi failed to address the Creator’s “rights”…from which are derived all other rights and “human rights,” in particular.  Neither did Ms. Pelosi discuss the “right” of those who will be compelled to pay for “healthcare” practices and procedures that violate their consciences.  Also left out of Ms. Pelosi’s discussion were the Church’s rights to teach about the faith and morals as She (meaning the Church, not Ms. Pelosi) sees fit.

Ms. Pelosi is engaging in this discourse for strictly political purposes.  It is part of the overall Obama re-election strategy: To divide U.S. Catholics in order to shore up just enough votes to ensure re-election.

If The Motley Monk’s analysis is accurate, the House Minority Leader is selling her Catholic faith for political expediency.

 

 

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

2

If

The ninth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here ,here and here.  By far If is the most famous poem of Kipling’s, written in 1909 in the form of advice to his only son, John (Jack) Kipling, who would die fighting bravely at Loos shortly after his eighteenth birthday in 1915.  The poem was inspired by the Jameson raid,  undertaken in 1895 by Doctor Leander Starr Jameson.  Jameson, who became a close friend of Kipling, became a British national hero by his leadership of the unsuccessful raid which attempted to start a revolt of British settlers, who outnumbered the native Boers two to one, against the Boer government of the Transvaal.  Jameson, who rose to be Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, throughout his life embodied many of the virtues praised in the poem.

If you can keep your head when all about you

  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

 If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

  But make allowance for their doubting too;

  If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

  Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

 Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,  

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

 If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

 If you can meet with triumph and disaster

  And treat those two imposters just the same;

 If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

  Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

  Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

  And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

 If you can make one heap of all your winnings

  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

  And lose, and start again at your beginnings

 And never breath a word about your loss;

  If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

  To serve your turn long after they are gone,

 And so hold on when there is nothing in you

  Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

 If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

 Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch;

  If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

  If all men count with you, but none too much;

 If you can fill the unforgiving minute  

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

  Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

 And—which is more—you’ll be a Man my son! Continue Reading

10

It Takes A Family

I recently completed Rick Santorum’s It Takes A Family.  I quipped on Twitter that had I read this before the campaign started then Santorum would have been my top Rick pick before that other Rick entered the race (though I still maintain that Governor Perry would have been an outstanding nominee, but no need to go there).  At times Santorum slips into politician speak – you know, those occasions when politicians feel compelled to tell stories of individual people in order to justify some larger agenda.  And some of the book is a little plodding, especially when he gets into wonkish mode (which fortunately is not all that often).  Those quibbles asides, there are large chunks of this book that could very well have been written by yours truly.  That isn’t meant to be a commentary on my own genius, but rather a way of saying I agree with just about everything this man has to say.

The book title really says it all.  The heart of Rick Santorum’s political philosophy is the family, meaning that to him strong families are the heart of any functioning society.  The family has been undermined both by big government programs and by the culture at large.  Santorum mocks the “village elders” who view more government programs as the solution to all problems.  Santorum acknowledges that many of the problems we face don’t have quick and easy fixes, and often no legislative action can be taken.  Santorum offers a series of small policy proposals that are aimed at giving parents and individuals in tough economic circumstances some tools to help, but he also emphasizes the doctrine of subsidiarity.  Ultimately we must rely principally on local institutions, starting with the family.

Santorum understands what even some on the right fail to appreciate, and that is we can’t divorce social issues from economics.  The breakdown of the family coincides directly with economic hardship.  If we want a healthier economy, we need healthier families.  It’s a central tenet of conservatism that is somehow ignored by large swathes of the political right.

His approach to politics can be summarized in a passage on page 341 of the hardback edition: Continue Reading

24

Peter Shrugged

 

Year in and year out, the Catholic Church in this country, as well as around the globe, is the largest single private provider of charitable services to the poor.  However, what if a government makes it impossible for the Church to carry out her mission? The Church in America with the HHS Mandate is facing just such a dilemma, and Francis Cardinal George of the Chicago Archdiocese tells us what to expect:

The Lenten rules about fasting from food and abstaining from meat have been considerably reduced in the last forty years, but reminders of them remain in the fast days on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and in the abstinence from meat on all the Fridays of Lent. Beyond these common sacrifices that unite us spiritually to the passion of Christ, Catholics were and are encouraged to “give up” something voluntarily for the sake of others. Often this is money that could have been used for personal purposes and instead is given to help others, especially the poor.   This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must “give up” her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice. It is the consequence of the already much discussed Department of Health and Human Services regulations now filed and promulgated for implementation beginning Aug. 1 of this year.

 Why does a governmental administrative decision now mean the end of institutions that have been built up over several generations from small donations, often from immigrants, and through the services of religious women and men and others who wanted to be part of the church’s mission in healing and education? Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience.

 So far in American history, our government has respected the freedom of individual conscience and of institutional integrity for all the many religious groups that shape our society. The government has not compelled them to perform or pay for what their faith tells them is immoral. That’s what we’ve meant by freedom of religion. That’s what we had believed was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Maybe we were foolish to believe so.

 What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down. Continue Reading

8

Jesuitical 12: America and the Bishops

 

Part 12 of my ongoing survey of the follies of many modern day Jesuits.  For a nano second the Jesuit rag America was on the side of every Catholic bishop in this country in opposition to the HHS Mandate.  However, where your heart is so is your treasure, and America is back on the side of Team Obama.  I was going to take the Jesuits of America to task, but Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Faith that I have named him Defender of the Faith, has eloquently beaten me to the punch:

You Roman Catholic bishops have had your fun and put on your little temper tantrum, the editors of The REAL Magisterium Wannabe Episcopalian Weekly America write.  But the adults are here now so why don’t you all just look liturgically impressive, babble a little Latin and keep your stupid opinions to yourselves.  We’ll take it from here:

For a brief moment, Catholics on all sides were united in defense of the freedom of the Catholic Church to define for itself what it means to be Catholic in the United States. They came together to defend the church’s institutions from morally objectionable, potentially crippling burdens imposed by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act. Catholic journalists, like E. J. Dionne and Mark Shields, and politicians, like Tim Kaine and Robert P. Casey Jr., joined the U.S. bishops in demanding that the administration grant a broad exemption for religiously affiliated institutions from paying health care premiums for contraceptive services. Then, on Feb. 10, President Obama announced a compromise solution by which religious institutions would be exempt from paying the objectionable premiums but women would not be denied contraceptive coverage. A confrontation that should never have happened was over. But not for long.

Every single time we let the hierarchy think it’s in charge, the idiots completely screw things up.  Every.  Single.  Time.

After a nod to the White House’s retreat as “a first step in the right direction,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the president’s “accommodation” as insufficient. Their statement presented a bill of indictments on the fine points of public policy: It opposed any mandate for contraceptive coverage, expanded the list of claimants for exemption to include self-insured employers and for-profit business owners and contested the administration’s assertion that under the new exemption religious employers would not pay for contraception. Some of these points, particularly the needs of self-insured institutions like universities, have merit and should find some remedy. Others, with wonkish precision, seem to press the religious liberty campaign too far.

“Some of these points…have merit and should find some remedy?”  From where?  From the same people who wrote the initial rule and the transparently fraudulent “compromise?”  I can’t for the life of me understand why the bishops might be reluctant to take that offer.  Foxes, hen houses and all that.

And it’s difficult for me to see how the objections of the bishops constitute “press[ing] the religious liberty campaign too far” since forcing Church ministries to facilitate the acquisition of free contraceptives by any employee who wants them is the only option left on the table.  The idea of not being forced to provide free birth control at all seems no longer to be possible.

The bishops have been most effective in influencing public policy when they have acted as pastors, trying to build consensus in church and society, as they did in their pastorals on nuclear war and the economy. The American public is uncomfortable with an overt exercise of political muscle by the hierarchy. Catholics, too, have proved more responsive to pastoral approaches. They expect church leaders to appeal to Gospel values, conscience and right reason. They hope bishops will accept honorable accommodations and, even when provoked, not stir up hostility. In the continuing dialogue with government, a conciliatory style that keeps Catholics united and cools the national distemper would benefit the whole church.

I think you all know what’s going on there.  It’s the age-old story.  As long as the bishops are commenting on the issues that are important to the America editorial staff the right issues, we’re behind them 100%.  But once they move on to those…other issues(you know the ones America means), they are exercising “political muscle” and contributing to the “national distemper.”

On issues like nuclear war and the economy, the bishops should certainly take no prisoners and accept no compromises.  But on those relatively trivial issues that the laity constantly insists on whining about, Roman Catholic bishops need to “accept honorable accomodations,” they need to “not stir up hostility,” and, most importantly, they need to be “conciliatory.”

After all, we have the example constantly before us of the Author and Finisher of our faith who was always willing to accept honorable accomodations, who never stirred up hostility and Whose first name was Conciliatory.  Actually, we don’t have that at all.  What the heck was I thinking?

The campaign also risks ignoring two fundamental principles of Catholic political theology. Official Catholic rights theory proposes that people should be willing to adjust their rights claims to one another. It also assigns to government the responsibility to coordinate contending rights and interests for the sake of the common good. The campaign fails to acknowledge that in the present instance, claims of religious liberty may collide with the right to health care, or that the religious rights of other denominations are in tension with those of Catholics. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in “Deus Caritas Est,” the church does not seek to “impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to the faith.” Furthermore, the campaign fails to admit that the administration’s Feb. 10 solution, though it can be improved, fundamentally did what Catholic social teaching expects government to do—coordinate contending rights for the good of all.

Um…nuh-uh.  I have no idea what “Catholic rights theory” really consists of but I seriously doubt that “adjust[ing] their rights claims to one another” obligates Catholics to commit sins themselves or acquiesce in their commission.

As for the “contending rights” that America believes were coordinated by the Administration’s “compromise,” we have the long-established Constitutional right of Christian churches to order their own affairs versus the newly-created “right” to free birth control pills, a “right” which remains in place by means of an accounting trick.

Once again, there is no possibility of the Catholic Church not being forced to provide free birth control at all; the default position is the liberal one.  And that is not coordination of contending rights at all; it is soft tyranny.

By stretching the religious liberty strategy to cover the fine points of health care coverage, the campaign devalues the coinage of religious liberty. The fight the bishop’s conference won against the initial mandate was indeed a fight for religious liberty and for that reason won widespread support. The latest phase of the campaign, however, seems intended to bar health care funding for contraception. Catholics legitimately oppose such a policy on moral grounds. But that opposition entails a difference over policy, not an infringement of religious liberty. It does a disservice to the victims of religious persecution everywhere to inflate policy differences into a struggle over religious freedom. Such exaggerated protests likewise show disrespect for the freedom Catholics have enjoyed in the United States, which is a model for the world—and for the church.

What are you mackeral snappers complaining about?  It’s not like anyone’s burning down your churches or anything.  And you don’t have to pay for anyone’s abortion so chill out.

But here’s the problem.  A government that thinks it has the right to determine what are or are not Christian ministries is a government that can(and probably one day will) not only order Christian hospitals to provide free birth control but also order Christian hospitals and churches to provide free abortions for any staff member who wants one.

Were that to happen, what would America say?  That the bishops shouldn’t be so “wonkish” because this is yet anothern policy difference that doesn’t rise to the level of religious persecution?  That the bishops shouldn’t “provoke hostility” and need to take the lead toward cooling the “national distemper” over the fact that the Church is now being forced to participate in one of the greatest evils it is possible to conceive simply because somebody claims a right to access to it? Continue Reading

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The American Catholic in Good Company

 

We get a fair amount of drive by troll comments here at The American Catholic.  One such comment appeared in the Apologias thread from a William L. Zimmerman.  Here is the comment by Mr. Zimmerman:

Mr. Obama’s apology over the burning of Korans was entirely appropriate.  If you really think Muslim outrage over the incident is insincere, think back to when Mapplethorpe’s “Piss Christ” art work was enough to enrage the Christian world.  I truly wish you web site would stop posing as a “Catholic” publication.  It isn’t.  It’s at best a political rag for the American right.  Stop misrepresenting my religion to the world.  You are as out of touch with the message of Jesus Christ as I can imagine.

 

In regard to the comment, a hint for Mr.  Zimmerman:  If you are going to bring up a red herring, it should have some relevance.  The banally blasphemous Piss Christ of Andres Serrano, not Maplethorpe, aroused ire largely because it received an award partially funded by the National Endowment of Arts, a taxpayer supported institution, and no one lost their life or suffered any injury in the subsequent completely peaceful protests by Christians and those art lovers who could distinguish art from a con job.  As for his critique of The American Catholic, we seem to be in good company when it comes to Mr. Zimmerman’s attempt to drum us out of the Faith.

At the site Our Common Thread, the web site of Catholics United, a George Soros funded astroturf group of Catholic Anti-Catholics, Mr. Zimmerman left this observation about the Bishops: Continue Reading

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Father Barron and Edmund Burke on Atheism

 

 

We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness, by throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and amongst many other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition might take place of it.

14

Apologias

 

I believe that President Obama has been a notable failure in most ways as President, but he is a champ in regard to abject, groveling apologies to those who hold us in contempt:

President Barack Obama apologized to Afghans on Thursday for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base, trying to assuage rising anti-American sentiment as an Afghan soldier gunned down two American troops during another day of angry protests.

The U.S.-led military coalition says the Muslim holy books were sent by mistake to a garbage burn pit at Bagram Air Field and the case is under investigation. The explanation and multiple apologies from U.S. officials have yet to calm outrage over the incident, which has also heightened tension between international troops and their Afghan partners.

Thousands of protesters, some shouting “Long live Islam!” and “Death to America!” staged demonstrations across Afghanistan for a third day. Protesters climbed the walls of a U.S. base in the east, threw stones inside and adorned an outside wall with the Taliban’s trademark white flag.

At other sites, demonstrators burned tires or American flags. Afghan police and international troops fired guns in the air to disperse the crowds.

Such apologies simply play into the hands of the enemies of the US who use mock outrage as an excuse to go on murderous rampages.  Two US soldiers were murdered by an Afghan government soldier during the current on-going riots and of course no one has apologized for that true outrage.  There is a time for diplomacy and there is a time for blunt speaking.  Time, past time, for some blunt speaking to our enemies and our “friends” in the Islamic world.  In that regard, I believe this is an appropriate apology from Kira Davis to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.  (Content advisory:  harsh language and refreshingly undiplomatic sentiments.) Continue Reading

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Something for the weekend.  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.  I have featured this song before in one of my Saturday posts, but the superb video above that melds the song with information about the sinking of SS Edmund Fitzgerald compelled me to post it again.  Besides we can never have too much Gordon Lightfoot, one of the few musical brightspots in that vast musical wasteland of the last century known as the Seventies.

15

Gingrich and the Fourth Estate

No one is better than Gingrich in pointing out the wretched double standard of the Mainstream Media:

 

I want to make two quick points, John. The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. Continue Reading

13

Vice-Presidents of the United States

Ah, the occupants of an office which is only of importance upon the death of someone!  Many of the men who have occupied the office have left some pungent quotes about it.  Here are a few:

John Adams, first Vice-President:   “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-sixth Vice-President:  “I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than vice president.”

Thomas Marshall, twenty-eighth Vice-President:  “Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again”.

Charles Dawes, thirtieth Vice-President:  “This is a hell of a job. I can only do two things: one is to sit up here and listen to you birds talk….The other is to look at newspapers every morning to see how the president’s health is.”

John Nance Garner, thirty-second Vice-President:  “The vice-presidency is not worth a warm bucket of spit.”  (Cactus Jack probably used another term instead of “spit”, but this is a family blog.) Continue Reading

22

Some In Mainstream Media In Full Anti-Catholic Meltdown Mode

Some in the mainstream media are so angry about the existence of faithful Catholics that they can’t help themselves in becoming unhinged. I will reference the main points, but suffice to say that I could write a book on the subject. These latest quotes have caused me to scramble to get information to my editor so as to include at least some of this in my upcoming book; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism, a follow up to my first book.  For starters it seems some in mainstream media are so ignorant of religion that even though 90% of Americans belong to some form of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which all believe that evil is manifested through a figure known as Satan, the media still finds it in their power to mock anyone who thinks evil exists. Some in the media seemed to take glee in pouncing on Catholic and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. He was called a kook, a nut, deranged, a mullah and an ayatollah, not by nameless posters on leftwing blogs but named writers in serious newspapers.

Leading the charge was that maven of militant secularism and angry people everywhere Maureen Dowd. Here are some of the spoiled nuggets from her dung heap. She calls Santorum a “mullah” who wants to take, “women back to the caves.” She goes on to deride anyone who actually believes in the teachings of the Catholicism that she once practiced.

Never one to miss a chance at apostasy and heresy; Chris Matthews entered the fray with both of his tingling legs.   Matthews claimed the reason the Catholic Church is growing is because homophobic converts are coming into the Church. It would appear that Mr. Matthews is off his meds. Has anyone ever informed mister leg tingler that groups like Courage; the Apostolate run by those who are same sex attracted, is a rapidly growing organization with men and women from all walks of life? They feel the comfort and assurance of living in God’s chaste plan for their lives. The New York Times of all papers did a favorable story on Eve Tushnet, a popular Catholic writer who has ties to the group. She is a successful woman and an Ivy League grad. Are these militant secularists going to claim that she is homophobic?

David Gergen and Donna Brazile (who is Catholic) didn’t take any pot shots at Catholics per see but did point out that liberal feminist organizations didn’t seem smitten with any of the GOP candidates, because they kept talking about religious liberty instead of the rights of birth control? David Gergen even said it with a straight face, which should really frost Rush Limbaugh who has dubbed the Washington establishmentarian; David Rodham Gergen. As much as they refer to the New York Times, they somehow missed Ross Douthat’s op-ed piece on the growth of Natural Family Planning and the number of women who help teach this non birth control view of family planning across the country and world.

The coup de grace of hate came from David Waldman who writes for a number of publications. This little nugget would make the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s smile. I would rather not give him the pleasure of repeating such delusional hatred; if you want to read his screed click here.   UPDATE In a Lisa Miller Washington Post article just out; Ms. Miller not only mocks Catholics but calls bishops “zealots” three times in her article.

If the Catholic Church is so irrelevant why would the likes of Dowd, Matthews and Waldman froth at the mouth at her beliefs? The simple answer is the Catholic Church is growing while their favorite liberal religious bodies are not only dying on the vine, but shriveling in a complete statistical freefall. Catholics and Evangelicals continue to increase in numbers which drive these mouthpieces of militant secularism nuts. Continue Reading

8

Cardinal Newman on Lent

 

Is it not, I say, quite a common case for men and for women to neglect religion in their best days? They have been baptized, they have been taught their duty, they have been taught to pray, they know their Creed, their conscience has been enlightened, they have opportunity to come to Church. This is their birthright, the privileges of their birth of water and of the Spirit; but they sell it, as Esau did. They are tempted by Satan with some bribe of this world, and they give up their birthright in exchange for what is sure to perish, and to make them perish with it. Esau was tempted by the mess of pottage which he saw in Jacob’s hands. Satan arrested the eyes of his lust, and he gazed on the pottage, as Eve gazed on the fruit of the tree of knowledge  of good and evil. Adam and Eve sold their birthright for the fruit of a tree—that was their bargain. Esau sold his for a mess of lentils—that was his. And men now-a-days often sell theirs, not indeed for any thing so simple as fruit or herbs, but for some evil gain or other, which at the time they think worth purchasing at any price; perhaps for the enjoyment of some particular sin, or more commonly for the indulgence of general carelessness and spiritual sloth, because they do not like a strict life, and have no heart for God’s service. And thus they are profane persons, for they despise the great gift of God. Continue Reading

Alternate Georges

On the birthday of the Father of Our Country it is proper to take a moment and reflect that in all likelihood the United States of America would not exist today but for the leadership shown by George Washington during the Revolution.  The poets Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet explored long ago some of the many different paths the life of Washington might have taken which would have altered our history so profoundly.  We call Washington the Father of Our Country not to honor him, but as a simple statement of fact. Continue Reading

4

Sin is Poison

even when you didn’t do it.

 

A few minutes ago, I was dancing around with my two year old Princess, and the baby Duchess got herself into a corner again– she can’t turn or go in reverse, yet.  Princess, of course, wanted me to dance with her, so I said: “Princess, I can only handle one baby at a time!”

 

As soon as the words left my mouth, I thought of “selective reduction,” and the kids that won’t ever have a chance to play with mine.  I’ve never done anything like that, but it still poisoned my mood.  A silly, small example, but it’s interesting how having words to hold a concept can help you identify it, even when it’s tiny.

It is Time to Get Rid of Most Campaign Finance Laws

One of the big items today is news that the Romney campaign is bleeding cash.  Considering his all out assault first on Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum, this comes as no surprise.  Yet while Romney spends more in a day than Santorum spent through most of the campaign thus far (only a slight exaggeration, I think), Santorum continues continues to poll ahead of Romney nationally and is neck-and-neck in Romney’s home state.  Of course Romney still has plenty in reserve thanks largely to his Super PAC.  Even Newt Gingrich’s fledgling campaign is still alive thanks to the generosity of one supporter funding a pro-Newt Super PAC.

These Super PACs have come under fire.  They are the indirect result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, a law which itself amended the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), a law meant to restrict the amount of money that individuals could donate to individual candidates.  FECA created a two-tiered structure that basically divided federal contributions into two categories: hard money and soft money.  Professional sports fans probably recognize the terms as related to soft and hard caps, and it’s really the same concept. Under FECA individuals could only contribute $1,000 to a candidate per election cycle.  Yet there were no restrictions placed on “soft money,” meaning contributions to party committees.  This was the original end-run around campaign finance law.  Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), or McCain-Feingold, individual contribution maxes to candidates were raised, but soft money contributions were phased out.  This, in turn, gave rise to other organizations, mainly 527s, which were able to raise unlimited amounts of money to air issue advocacy ads against candidates.  These various organizations are not technically affiliated with any candidate, and it is a violation of campaign finance law for candidates to collaborate in any way with these groups.

So is it time for another set of reforms?  Indeed it is.  And the reform is simple: repeal all these ridiculous (and arguably unconstitutional) provisions, and allow individuals to contribute whatever amount of money they want directly to candidates.

Continue Reading

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The Effrontery of Rick Santorum

 

 

Rich Lowery has a post at National Review Online which explains why Rick Santorum drives the Mainstream Media crazy:

Santorum is a standing affront to the sensibilities and assumptions of the media and political elite. That elite is constantly writing the obituary for social conservatism, which is supposed to wither away and leave a polite, undisturbed consensus in favor of social liberalism. Santorum not only defends beliefs that are looked down upon as dated and unrealistic; he does it with a passionate sincerity that opens him to mockery and attack.

If Santorum had the social views of a Barbara Boxer, he would be hailed in all the glossy magazines as a political virtuoso. He has fought a front-runner with all the advantages to a jump ball in Michigan. His aides can’t provide advance texts of his speeches because he always extemporizes and speaks from a few notes. He is indefatigable, willing to lose on behalf of what he believes and committed to trying to convince others of his positions.

In the wake of his surprise showing in the Iowa caucuses, news coverage focused on Santorum arguing about gay marriage with college kids at his New Hampshire events. It was taken as a sign of his monomania. Yet he genuinely — if naïvely — wanted to convince them. If the cauldron of a presidential campaign is not the best place for Socratic exchanges on hot-button issues, Santorum was trying to do more than repeat sound bites back at youthful questioners.

Although his critics will never credit him for it, Santorum’s social conservatism brings with it an unstinting devotion to human dignity, a touchstone for the former senator. The latest position for which he’s taking incoming is his opposition to a government mandate for insurance coverage of prenatal testing often used to identify handicapped babies who are subsequently aborted. For his detractors, his respect for the disabled is trumped by his unforgivable opposition to abortion. Continue Reading

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The Unmanly Bitterness of the Manosphere

[cross posted from the DarwinCatholic blog]

Sin has the tendency to inspire sin. The abused becomes the abuser, the person who believes himself oppressed begins to take on all the least likeable characteristics of his oppressor.

This has always been struck me with particular force when I’ve stumbled across the writings of the “manosphere”, a region of the internets in which men wail about how in the post-feminist age women are all money hungry cheaters with inflated senses of entitlement.  The solution to this is, allegedly, to use to the rules of “game” to dominate women by proving the practitioners to be “alpha males”. A highly technical process with all rigor of a pseudoscience behind it (perhaps some enterprising gamester can introduce the taking women’s head measurements into the process) practitioners council each other on how to deliver “negs” (negative compliments) which will cut women down to size by informing them of their SMV (sexual market value).  Then once the women feels like she needs to pursue since she isn’t being pursued, she melts when given “kino escalation” (he touches her).

You get the idea. I always get the sense of a couple rather mangy looking lions hanging around outside the pride talking about how they’re really more alpha than the lion who actually has all the mates and cubs. For all the acronyms and specialized terminology, you can tell that these boys’ manes are more than half weave.

As with most wrongheaded worldviews, there are some insights buried in there. The Sex-in-the-City feminist manifesto “from now on, we’re going to have sex like men” (which in feminist speak apparently means without thought or commitment) is most certainly something which has managed to make a lot of women (and men) unhappy — potentially for life. Once having correctly diagnosed this as seriously messed up, however, the manosphere solution appears to be that men should retaliate by turning into a bunch of whiny Carrie Bradshaws themselves. A group of guys supposedly outraged by the fact that many modern women demand special treatment and aren’t interested in marriage spend their time whining about how mean girls are and generally advocating an approach to dealing with women that seems guaranteed to make them singularly unattractive marriage material.
Continue Reading

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Rate that President! : Part II

The second part of my rating of US Presidents.  The first part may be viewed here.

24.  John F. Kennedy-From a moral standpoint perhaps the worst man ever to sit in the White House, the recent revelations of his teenage White House intern mistress during that time period helping to cement that status.  Kennedy was a strong advocate of the space race and set the country the goal of landing a man on the moon which the nation met in 1969.  He presided over a prosperous economy, helped along with a reduction in marginal rates which he pushed through.  In foreign policy he presided over the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and our widening involvement in South Vietnam, lending support to the coup that toppled Diem. He will always be best known for the Cuban Missile Crisis which he successfully navigated, but it was a very close shave for the world.  On civil rights, he gave much lip service to it, but it would be his successor who would push through the key civil rights legislation.  The second most over-rated president in our nation’s history.

25.  James Garfield-A Union Civil War general with a superb combat record, Garfield was also a canny politician with seven terms under his belt in the House.  During the brief four months he held the office before his assassination, he staked out positions in favor of civil service reform, the hot domestic issue of the day, and reform of the post office.   He refinanced a substantial portion of the national debt at a lower interest rate, saving the nation millions in interest payments.  An ardent advocate of civil rights for blacks, he sponsored a bill to provide for universal federal education to combat the fact that in many Southern states no provision was made to educate blacks.  It failed in Congress after Garfield’s death.  He appointed many blacks to federal office, and began to reverse President Rutherford’s policy of conciliation white Southerners at the expense of blacks.  Garfield began the policy of modernizing the Navy carried forward by President Arthur.

26.  John Tyler-Known as “His Accidency” by his critics after he took over when President Harrison died just after thirty days in office, Harrison set the mold for Vice-Presidents who assumed the office.  It was by no means clear that he would be called President and that he would have the full powers of the President or be considered to be simply conducting a caretaker “regency” until the next election for President.  Harrison had none of that.  He insisted on being called President and was quite clear in his own mind that he had all of the powers of an elected President.  Aside from this setting of precedent, the most signficant event in his presidency was the annexation of Texas at the very end of his term.  Tyler was a former Democrat and he acted like a Democrat as president, vetoing almost the entire Whig agenda, including vetoing a proposed national bank twice.  The Whigs in the House, for the first time in the nation’s history, began impeachment proceedings.  Tyler probably would have been impeached if the Whigs had not lost their majority in the 1842 election in the House.  Tyler died in 1862, shortly after his election as a representative to the Confederate Congress.  Stunningly, he still has two living grandsons.

27.  Herbert Hoover-Hoover rose from poverty to become a self-made millionaire as a mining engineer.  He was a noted philanthropist, organizing relief efforts in Europe throughout World War I, saving tens of millions of lives.  His administration was dominated by the Great Depression.  To combat the Depression Hoover initiated policies that set the precedent for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Like the New Deal, Hoover’s policies were largely unsuccessful in combating the Depression.  Out of office, Hoover became an outspoken critic of the New Deal which he regarded as socialism by another name.  Hoover lived on until 1964, staying active in various causes, and being called upon by all his successors as president for advice and to conduct special missions for them.  The only exception was Roosevelt, who shared with Hoover a cordial enmity.

28.  Gerald Ford-Our only president never to be elected either president or vice president, Ford was left to pick up the pieces after Nixon resigned in disgrace.  Pardoning Nixon was probably the right thing to do to avoid the nation having to go through several more years of the Watergate melodrama, and Ford took immense grief for doing so.  In foreign affairs his hands were tied by a Democrat leftist dominated Congress that came to power in the election of 1974, and 1975 witnessed the fall of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the Communists, and set the stage for Soviet adventurism in Africa and Afghanistan.  Domestically, the country went through a short but sharp recession in 1974 largely caused by the Arab oil embargo.  Inflation was still a great problem, but the economy had vastly improved by 1976 and Ford probably would have beaten Carter but for Ford making a verbal mistep in one of their debates, claiming that Poland was not under Soviet domination, and stubbornly refusing to correct himself for several days.  He died in 2006 at 93, making him the longest lived president, beating Reagan for that distinction by 45 days.

29. Millard Fillmore-Fillmore took over as the last Whig president following the death of Zachary Taylor.  He helped push through the Compromise of 1850 which delayed the Civil War for decade, and after you have mentioned that you have largely accounted for any historical importance of the Fillmore administration, other than the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry which occurred under President Pierce but which Fillmore initiated.  In retirement Fillmore turned down an honorary degree from Oxford, saying that he was unworthy of it, and noting that it was written in Latin and that a man should never accept a degree that he was unable to read. Continue Reading

11

There Is No Right to Privacy in the Constitution

In other words, Santorum is right and his hardcore libertarian opponents are wrong.

Rick Santorum has stated that he believes that there is no right to privacy in the Constitution.  Therefore, Supreme Court decisions such as Griswold v. Connecticut (striking down Connecticut’s anti-contraception statutes) and Lawrence v. Texas (striking down Texas’s anti-homosexual sodomy laws) were wrong.

Mitt Romney artfully dodged this question at a recent debate, so Santorum’s coming under fire for stating what should be taken as a given among so-called conservative constitutionalists.  As indicated in prior posts, Santorum does not suggest that he would personally favor such laws; in fact he has expressly stated that he would not vote for laws that banned contraception or sodomy.

Santorum’s main fault, evidently, is that he is expressing an originalist understanding of the constitution.  Both of the decisions referenced above were gross miscarriages of constitutional justice.  No matter what you think of the laws in questions, Supreme Court Justices are supposed to decide cases based on the constitution, not their personal policy preferences.   In both cases, the majority opinion was based on policy, though justified with a thin veneer of constitutional justification.

In the case of Griswold, Justice William O. Douglas wrote the famous majority opinion in which he stated that though there is no right to privacy expressly stated in the constitution, it is found in “penumbras” and “emanations” found in other constitutional rights.  Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence, relying heavily on the concept of substantive due process, a legal concept that has enabled the Court to completely trample on states’ rights.  In other words, the Court struck down state laws that ran afoul of no direct constitutional prohibition.  The writers of these majority decisions had to contort the plain meaning of the document in order to justify a decision they had already reached without reference to the constitutional text.

Both of these cases sparked notable dissenting opinions.  Potter Stewart in Griswold and Clarence Thomas in Lawrence said much the same thing: the law under consideration is uncommonly silly, and if i were a legislator in this particular state I would vote against such a law.  But my job as a jurist is to determine whether the law is constitutional or not, and neither Stewart or Thomas considered the law in either case to run afoul of the constitution.  The sentiment expressed by both Stewart and Thomas should inform any intellectually honest jurist.

Justice Arthur Goldberg offered a concurring opinion in Griswold that some conservatives have found to be more compelling, citing the Ninth Amendment as justification for striking down the Connecticut statute.  The problem with this rationale is that the ninth amendment ought to be read in conjunction with the tenth.  The Bill of Rights in general were meant to be restrictions placed upon the federal government.  The ninth and tenth amendments exists because the framers of the Bill of Rights fretted that the Bill of Rights would be read to imply that only the rights contained therein were protected.  in fact many of the opponents of the Bill of Rights opposed creating such a list precisely because they believed that a specific enumeration of rights would imply that rights not listed were not protected. So the ninth amendment assures us that the first eight amendments are not an exhaustive list of protections.  But again, this has to be read in light of the purpose of restricting the power of the federal government.  It is not a broad grant of individual rights, but an assurance that the federal government could not augment its reach beyond certain delineated fields. If anything, the ninth amendment should be used as a cudgel against the Court and the federal government in general in their attempts to restrict states rights.

Therefore I find it odd that those who claim to be averse to a centralized, big brother government are content with said government being able to strike down state laws for no other than the laws in question are of questionable value.  It suggests to me that those who cry “Nanny Statist!” with regards to Rick Santorum ought to look in the mirror.

5

Goerge Weigel: The Betrayal of Religious Freedom by Liberal Catholics

 

George Weigel has a post on National Review Online regarding the betrayal by some liberal Catholics of religious freedom in regard to the HHS Mandate:

Thus “liberal Catholics” who refuse to grasp the threats to religious freedom posed by the Obama administration on so many fronts — the HHS mandate, the EEOC’s recently rejected attempt to strip the “ministerial exemption” from employment law, the State Department’s dumbing-down of religious freedom to a mere “freedom of worship” — are betraying the best of their own heritage. And some are doing it in a particularly nasty way, trying to recruit the memory of John Courtney Murray as an ally in their attempts to cover for the Obama administration’s turning its de facto secularist bias into de jure policy, regulations, and mandates. More than 50 years ago, Murray warned of the dangers deracinated secularism posed to the American democratic experiment: a warning that seems quite prescient in the light of the Leviathan-like politics of this administration, aided and abetted by baptized secularists who insist that they are “liberal Catholics.” I daresay Murray, who did not suffer fools gladly, would not be amused by those who now try to use his work to shore up their own hollow arguments on behalf of the establishment of secularism.

The HHS-mandate battle is bringing to the surface of our public life many problems that were long hidden: the real and present danger to civil society of certain forms of Enlightenment thinking; the determination of the promoters of the sexual revolution to use state coercion to impose their agenda on society; the failure of the Catholic Church to educate the faithful in its own social doctrine; the reluctance of the U.S. bishops’ conference to forcefully apply that social doctrine — especially its principle of subsidiarity — during the Obamacare debate. To that list can now be added one more sad reality, long suspected but now unmistakably clear: the utter incoherence of 21st-century liberal Catholicism, revealed by its failure to defend its own intellectual patrimony: the truth of religious freedom as the first of human rights. That liberal Catholics have done so in order to play court chaplain to overweening and harshly secularist state power compounds that tragedy, with deep historical irony. Continue Reading

9

Father Barron Explains What the Obama Administration Means by “Freedom of Worship”

 

Ashley Samelson McGuire of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty noted the use of the term “Freedom of Worship” rather than the usual “Freedom of Religion” by Obama back in 2010 in several speeches:

Freedom of worship” first appeared in a high profile speech in Obama’s remarks at the memorial for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting last November, a few months after his Cairo speech. Speaking to the crowd gathered to commemorate the victims, President Obama said, “We’re a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses.” Given the religious tension that marked the tragic incident, it was not an insignificant event at which to unveil a new way of referring to our First Freedom.

 
Shortly after his remarks at Ft. Hood, President Obama left for his trip to Asia, where he repeatedly referred to “freedom of worship,” and not once to “freedom of religion.”

 
Not long after his return, “freedom of worship” appeared in two prominent speeches delivered by Secretary Clinton. In her address to Georgetown University outlining the Obama Administration’s human rights agenda she used “freedom of worship” three times, “freedom of religion,” not once. About a month later, in an address to Senators on internet freedom at the Newseum, the phrase popped up in her lingo once again.

 
To anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling.
The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship. It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves—yet “freedom of worship” would protect none of these acts of faith.

 

 
Those who would limit religious practice to the cathedral and the home are the very same people who would strip the public square of any religious presence. They are working to tear down roadside memorial crosses built to commemorate fallen state troopers in Utah, to strip “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, and they recently stopped a protester from entering an art gallery because she wore a pro-life pin.

 
The effort to squash religion into the private sphere is on the rise around the world. And it’s not just confined to totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia. In France, students at public schools cannot wear headscarves, yarmulkes, or large crucifixes. The European Court of Human Rights has banned crucifixes from the walls of Italian schools. In Indonesia, the Constitutional Court is reviewing a law that criminalizes speech considered “blasphemous” to other faiths. Efforts to trim religion into something that fits neatly in one’s pocket is the work of dictators, not democratic leaders. So why then have our leaders taken a rhetorical scalpel to the concept of religious freedom? Continue Reading

35

A “leaven at work” in the world of politics?

The Associated Press has published a list identifying several of the ways Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s absolutist principles render him completely unacceptable to the majority of American voters as a potential President of the United States.

 

According to the Associated Press report, just how unacceptable is Santorum?

Birth control: Santorum says he wouldn’t take away the pill or condoms, but believes the 50 states should be free to ban them if they want.  He also argues that the Supreme Court erred when it ruled in 1965 that married Americans have a right to privacy that includes the use of contraceptives. If that’s not bad enough, Santorum told the Christian blog “Caffeinated Thoughts” that as President he would warn the nation about “the dangers of contraception” and the permissive culture it encourages.

Thought it couldn’t get worse?

Santorum told “CBS This Morning” that he wants to promote abstinence “as a healthier alternative” to birth control.

Working women: Santorum believes that parents in two-income families aren’t doing what’s best for the kids.  He has written:

For some parents, the purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home.

Santorum believes the ideal of a family where both parents work in order to accrue greater material benefits was created by “radical feminists” who are “convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.”

Women in combat: Santorum is against women in combat, especially closer to the front.  Santorum also says the differences in physical abilities between men and women aren’t being taken into account.  And, get this: Fighting men will be distracted by their “natural instinct” to protect women, Santorum believes.

Homosexuals in the military:  As President, Santorum will reinstate the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy.  Lifting the ban was social engineering, he believes, and “sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.” He added:  “Keep it to yourself whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual.”

Abortion: Santorum favors amending the Constitution to ban abortion.  Believing that human life begins at conception, he also believes that doctors who perform abortions should be charged as criminals.  Santorum likens women who have abortions to 19th-century slaveholders and has written that “unlike abortion today, in most states even the slaveholder did not have the unlimited right to kill his slave.”  Previously, Santorum supported allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest, but now says “no” to those exceptions.

 

Obviously, Rick Santorum’s stands on these social issues are so far out of the mainstream, the Associated Press suggests, that he’s absolutely and completely unacceptable as a candidate for President.  The Associated Press writes:

Most Americans don’t share Rick Santorum’s absolutist take on abortion. He’s out of step on women in combat. He questions the values of the two-thirds of mothers who work. He’s even troubled by something as commonplace as birth control — for married couples.

The problem with this particular analysis is that Rick Santorum is generating serious interest on the part of Republican primary voters.  Polls indicate that he may beat Mitt Romney in his home state of Michigan.

In light of these facts, it may be that the Associated Press’ editors thought that it’s time to run some articles scrutinizing Santorum’s “negative” record on social issues.  And, why not use polls to “prove” that the candidate is way outside even the Republican mainstream!

Think The Motley Monk crazy?

Read the Associated Press comment:

And if he becomes the GOP nominee, some of his ideas would probably be surprising, even puzzling, to general election voters.

Suprising?  Puzzling?

 

How about “countercultural,” “principled,” and rooted in the faith of the Catholic Church?

Might it be that Rick Santorum’s candidacy is one envisioned by Vatican II in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity and is just the tonic needed for a culture many of whose members have been charmed by the false promises of  secularism, materialism, and consumerism?

The Council wrote:

In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.

They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ. (#2c-d)

 

 

To read the Associated Press report, click on the following link:
http://cnsnews.com/news/article/being-pill-about-pill-santorum-vs-us-views

To read the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, click on the following link:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651118_apostolicam-actuositatem_en.html

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

 

24

Rate That President! : Part I

Time for my annual rant about Presidents’ Day.  I see no reason why great Presidents like Washington and Lincoln should share a date with miserable failures like James Buchanan and Jimmy Carter.  Technically the federal holiday is still George Washington’s birthday, although that makes absolutely no sense as the holiday has to fall between February 15-21, and thus can never occur on February 22, Washington’s birthday.  A popular sport for Americans has always been rating their Presidents.  All such ratings are of course subjective and mine is no exception.  I weigh the good and the ill that a particular president did and that determines his place in my ranking.  Feel free to note your disagreements in the comboxes.  Here is Part I of my list from best to worst:

1.  George Washington-The Father of our Country is the standard by which all presidents should measure themselves.  Victory in the American Revolution would have been impossible without his leadership.  At the Constitutional Convention, his quiet leadership was a steadying force for the often quarrelsome and contentious drafters.  His presence ensured that the constitution drafted would be taken seriously by the States.  As President he established endless precedents for his successors to follow, dealt successfully with the huge national debt left from the Revolution, and knit the Union together.  None of his successors come close to him except for Lincoln.

2.  Abraham Lincoln-In just a little over four years he fought and won our Civil War, ended slavery and preserved our Union.  His speeches are masterpieces of the English language.  The great tragedy for our nation is that he was slain before he could attempt to guide the nation through Reconstruction.  Washington and Lincoln are in a class by themselves.

3.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt-I believe that his policies during the New Deal were truly voodoo economics and that much of what he did was wrongheaded and retarded recovery and economic growth.  However, only a fool could deny that his raising of American morale through the New Deal was anything less than brilliant.  As a war president he was wise enough to let the generals and admirals fight the war, and, in general, he chose them wisely.  He is largely responsible for the creation of modern America, a fact that will earn him both boos and plaudits.

4.  Theodore Roosevelt-With the first Roosevelt to occupy the oval office, America strode onto the world stage.  From building the Panama Canal, resolving the Russo-Japanese War to the sailing of the Great White Fleet around the globe, Roosevelt set the framework for the American Century.

5.  James K. Polk-He settled the Oregon dispute with Great Britain and successfully waged the Mexican War which added vast territories to our country.  Few presidents have accomplished as much in two terms as Polk did in one.  He also had the good grace to die shortly after he left office, a policy some other former presidents would have been wise to emulate.

6.  Ronald Reagan-The successor to one of our worst presidents, Ronald Wilson Reagan restored American prosperity and morale.  His policies initiated an economic boom which, with minor lapses, endured for almost a quarter of a century.  He masterfully brought the Cold War to a successful conclusion with an American victory.  The best president of my lifetime. Continue Reading

3

In The Birth Control Controversy; The Mocking of Conservative Religious Women By Militant Secularists Will Soon Backfire

We have all seen the supposed polls indicating that 99% of Catholic women use birth control. However, has anyone ever bothered to look at who conducted the poll? It was the Guttmacher Institute; the driving force behind abortion and other leftist social movements.  Finally someone in the Mainstream Media (The Washington Post) has weeks after the fact realized the untruthful nature behind this canard. This is just one of many red herrings thrown at religious conservatives to discredit and mock them. It seems some in mainstream media are making it their mission to ask former Pennsylvania Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum every question imaginable with regard to birth control. Whatever happens to Santorum in the primary race, it does seem as if the Hand of Providence is helping bring up the topic of birth control and the faithful alternative of Natural Family Planning.

While there is some dispute between Catholics and some Evangelicals on birth control; there are signs that many Evangelicals are seeing what Catholics and some Orthodox Jews have long believed about birth control. In my previous book and forthcoming book; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism, I cite quotes from Chuck Colson and R Albert Mohler, two towering figures in the Evangelical world. They have genuine affection for Pope Paul VI’s 1968 prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which cemented the Catholic view on birth control in the modern birth control pill era. If you want to really rile up a militant secularist you might mention that it wasn’t until 1930 that the first religious group (the Anglican Church) even approved of birth control. The Progressive Teddy Roosevelt said the idea of birth control was “ridiculous” and even liberal hero Dr Sigmund Freud said the whole concept was “narcissistic.”

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) the late women’s rights activist, who used birth control back before any religious group approved of it, spoke out forcefully against abortion and birth control once she converted to Catholicism later in life. She told men and women that in using birth control they were becoming engaged in a culture that was disconnecting them from God’s plans, along with not using their bodies in accordance with the Holy Spirit. Though her women’s rights and libertarian economic views remained, she became a social conservative, who lashed out at Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, something you aren’t likely to hear or read in the mainstream media.

Families that adhere to the clinically proven facts of Natural Family Planning are treated as if they are some sort of religious nuts. Militant secularists in the corridors of power (Legislative and Fourth Estate) have even thrown out their favorite term “sexually repressed.” Now this term is so widely repeated in our popular culture, perhaps we should examine where it came from. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) of the infamous Marxist “Frankfurt School” came up with the term. Marcuse left pre-World War II Germany and taught at Columbia. Marcuse believed in free love and surmised that the more narcissistic society was with regard to sexual relations, the better the world would become. Before his death, he claimed his prized student was 1960s militant radical Angela Davis. Marcuse was way out in left field in his day and yet the militant secularists in our pop culture have made him seem as mainstream as Dr. Phil. When societies turn away from religion they embrace the crazies like Marcuse; sadly something has to fill the vacuum and it is usually the ideas which come from the half baked among us that do so. Continue Reading

16

The Inconsistency of the Left and Required Virginia Ultrasounds

Okay, to be fair, I think this goes both way in American politics.  I’ve always said that everyone is a fiscal conservative until it is “their cause” that gets defunded, and everyone is a fiscal liberal until it is “their tax rate” that gets increased.

Nevertheless, some things ooze such inconsistency that it is almost laughable.  As many are aware, the Virginia state legislature recent passed a bill that requires a woman to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion.  As you can imagine, the pro-abortion constituency is out in full force over such a perceived “injustice.”  Now, call me crazy, but it seems that such a requirement should at least implicitly be considered under “informed consent.”  And besides, if those on the pro-abortion side are so sure that the fetus growing inside the womb is really just a mass of tissue, then there should be nothing to worry about, right?  Let us not be fooled here – the objection to the ultrasound has nothing to do with the requirement itself – it has much more to do with the fear that this just may actually convince more women that the baby growing inside them actually is a life.

At any rate, an article appeared on Slate.com by Dahlia Lithwick last Thursday that would have had me falling off the couch in hysterics had it not been meant to be actually taken seriously.  It was a great example of how the line between laughter and tears is often fine indeed when reading liberal commentaries.

The first laughable/cry-able moment came when the author implied … no wait, she flat out said it … that such a requirement constitutes an act of rape:

[This] means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure … the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

Okay, now let’s first note that no-one is forcing any woman to have such an ultra sound; the law merely provides such an action as a pre-requisite for the abortion procedure.  Any woman could alway opt not to have the abortion, and consequently be spare the “violation” of the ultrasound.  The logic here is intellectually dishonest at best, and manipulative at worst.  Under the same logic, we could object to any medical pre-requisite.  Besides, and I am happy to be correct on this, in the event that the individual decides to proceed with the abortion, is not penetration inevitable?  In fact, one could argue that the ultrasound is not a separate procedure but rather the first step in the abortion.

The argument continued,

Evidently the right of conscience for doctors who oppose abortion are a matter of grave national concern. The ethical and professional obligations of physicians who would merely like to perform their jobs without physically violating their own patients are, however, immaterial.

So here we have it … the left refuses to admit that the recent HHS mandate is a violation of conscience for individual business owners and religious organizations, they often even want to eliminate a Catholic hospital’s right to refuse abortion services based on conscientious objections, but now all of a sudden conscience should be a part of the conversation.

Lithwick goes on,

Next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument about the obscene government overreach that is the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care law. Yet physical intrusion by government into the [body] of a pregnant woman is so urgently needed that the woman herself should be forced to pay for the privilege.

Another inconsistency: the Virginia law is a clear overreach of government by requiring an individual to pay to a procedure to which they conscientiously object, yet the ability of the Catholic Church to opt out of paying for practices that they find morally incompatible with its faith is just plain silly.  Am I understanding this right?

Finally,

You can shame and violate women, while couching it in the language of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s gift that keeps on giving—his opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart. That opinion upheld Congress’ partial-birth abortion ban on the grounds that (although there was no real evidence to support this assumption) some women who have abortions will suffer “severe depression” and “regrets” if they aren’t made to understand the implications of what they have done.

And at the end of the article,

Abortion is still legal in America. Physically invading a woman’s body against her will still isn’t. Let’s not casually pass laws that upend both principles in the name of helping women make better choices.

So, as is commonly stated, nationally legalized abortion is the “law of the land,” so while it is okay for you to personally object to the practice, please don’t try to push that belief on others.  However, even thought the same Court has made the ability of the States to prevent partial-birth abortion the “law of the land” … well, in that case they were just plain wrong.

So which is it, my dear leftist friends?  Is conscientious objection important or isn’t it?  Should individuals be required to pay for procedures they find objectionable or shouldn’t they?  Does the “law of the land” matter or doesn’t it?  It seems to me that the answer depends greatly on the ideology at hand, which in this case is the perceived “right” to abortion on demand.  In other words, we must accept a priori the right to abortion, and then we use any and all arguments available to defend that decision, even if it means speaking out of both side of the mouth at times.

Now, in fairness, it could be asked whether the political right is being just as inconsistent in all three arguments.  Whether this is true or not I leave up to political commentators.  For my own part, I submit that the Catholic position has no such inconsistencies, and here is why.  First, we don’t ground our positions in the law of the land or conscience seen as an unfettered freedom to relieve one’s self from any and all acts.  Rather, we ground our positions in natural law and conscience seen as the freedom to pursue truth and goodness.  Forcing a doctor to perform an abortion is a clear violation of his or her right to act in a way consistent with a belief system.  The act itself is the violation – the Catholic finds the act objectively immoral.  It is not that a Catholic doctor wants to perform abortions in some cases and not in others, it is that he or she never wants to perform them. In requiring an ultrasound for a woman seeking abortions, what act is being found objectively immoral?  Correct me if I am wrong, but an ultrasound, whether external or internal, is a perfectly acceptable medical procedure by both the left and the right.

Second, from a Catholic position, the natural law it the governing principle, not the “law of the land.”  Natural law, inscribed on everyone’s heart, deeply suggests that the taking of a life is intrinsically immoral.  Science has shown over and over again that the “mass of tissue” in the womb of a mother is a life.  Even rudimentary philosophy says that it is a human life.  But returning to the matter of conscience, if we understand that freedom of conscience does not give an individual the right to abstain from any and all acts (for instance, it does not give and individual the ability to refrain from stopping a violent crime taking place before him), then we can see that freedom of conscience does have limits.  The question for the left is: in what do you ground the limits of freedom of conscience?  For Catholics, the answer is clear: natural law.  Therefore, it is a violation of conscience to require the taking of this life.  Yet in supporting the required ultrasound, rather than seeing it as violating conscience, we understand in the greater context of the right to life.

Third, if freedom of conscience is at the service of pursuing truth, then how does giving the doctor and patient more information violate this process?  In other words, if a doctor has the “right” to eliminate the ultrasound from this procedure, the same logic could be used to dismiss all informed consent laws form the books.

Finally, it is always amusing to hear the left decry government regulation in cases such as this.  Somehow the government not only has the right, but the duty, to regulate Wall Street and the Health Care industry in a way that destroys any rational notion of subsidiarity and was never envisioned by the founding fathers, yet when it comes to a required ultrasound before an abortion … well, clearly that is a government overreach.

3

Massacio: Holy Trinity

A stunningly good meditation on Massacio’s Holy Trinity (1425) in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, by  art historian Jack Flam:

 

 

The perspective in this painting is sufficiently accurate to be convincing, but purposely inexact enough to make space for the supernatural. This is strikingly evident in the representation of God the Father, who stands on the narrow ledge attached to the back wall of the barrel-vaulted space, which would appear to be about nine feet deep. Yet at the same time, He is also present at the front of this same vaulted space, supporting the body of his Son on the cross. This discrepancy in perspective allows God to be in more than one place at a time—a supernatural phenomenon made all the more remarkable by the painting’s apparent realism.

 

Among other things, this great fresco, painted on the wall of a Dominican church, is a stunning affirmation of the great Dominican theologian St. Thomas Aquinas’s assertion that to be “everywhere primarily and absolutely is proper to God.” What better place could there be to state this with such subtlety than in a representation of the Holy Trinity, whose paradoxical consubstantiality—distinct, yet of one being—is a central mystery of Christian faith. Continue Reading

23

Demography, Contraception and Fiscal Melt Down

 

 It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.

George Washington

 

Mark Steyn at National Review Online, notes that the fiscal lunacy of the Obama administration and the HHS Mandate are linked:

 

As for us doom-mongers, at the House Budget Committee on Thursday, Chairman Paul Ryan produced another chart, this time from the Congressional Budget Office, with an even steeper straight line showing debt rising to 900 percent of GDP and rocketing off the graph circa 2075. America’s treasury secretary, Timmy Geithner the TurboTax Kid, thought the chart would have been even more hilarious if they’d run the numbers into the next millennium: “You could have taken it out to 3000 or to 4000” he chortled, to supportive titters from his aides. Has total societal collapse ever been such a non-stop laugh riot?

Yeah, right.” replied Ryan. “We cut it off at the end of the century because the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 on this path.”

The U.S. economy shuts down in 2027? Had you heard about that? It’s like the ultimate Presidents’ Day sale: Everything must go — literally! At such a moment, it may seem odd to find the political class embroiled in a bitter argument about the Obama administration’s determination to force Catholic institutions (and, indeed, my company and your company, if you’re foolish enough still to be in business in the United States) to provide free prophylactics to their employees. The received wisdom among media cynics is that Obama has engaged in an ingenious bit of misdirection by seizing on a pop-culture caricature of Republicans and inviting them to live up to it: Those uptight squares with the hang-ups about fornication have decided to force you to lead the same cheerless sex lives as them. I notice that in their coverage NPR and the evening news shows generally refer to the controversy as being about “contraception,” discreetly avoiding mention of sterilization and pharmacological abortion, as if the GOP have finally jumped the shark in order to prevent you jumping anything at all.

It may well be that the Democrats succeed in establishing this narrative. But anyone who falls for it is a sap. In fact, these two issues — the Obama condoms-for-clunkers giveaway and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 900 percent by 2075 — are not unconnected. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren — i.e., an upside-down family tree. As I wrote in this space a few weeks ago, “If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars’ worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off?” Most analysts know the answer to that question: Greece is demographically insolvent. So it’s looking to Germany to continue bankrolling its First World lifestyle.

But the Germans are also demographically exhausted: They have the highest proportion of childless women in Europe. One in three fräulein have checked out of the motherhood business entirely. A nation that did without having kids of its own is in no mood to maintain Greece as the ingrate slacker who never moves out of the house. As the European debt crisis staggers on, these two countries loathe each other ever more nakedly: The Greek president brings up his war record against the German bullies, and Athenian commentators warn of the new Fourth Reich. The Germans, for their part, would rather cut the Greeks loose. In a post-prosperity West, social solidarity — i.e., socioeconomic fictions such as “Europe” — are the first to disappear.

The United States faces a mildly less daunting arithmetic. Nevertheless, the Baby Boomers did not have enough children to maintain mid-20th-century social programs. As a result, the children they did have will end their lives in a poorer, uglier, sicker, more divided, and more violent society. How to avert this fate? In 2009 Nancy Pelosi called for free contraceptives as a form of economic stimulus. Ten thousand Americans retire every day, and leave insufficient progeny to pick up the slack. In effect, Nancy has rolled a giant condom over the entire American economy. Continue Reading

3

Henry and Lucretia Clay and Their Eleven Children

When studying history it is easy to forget just how different the past is from our own times.  The people we encounter in history are children of their times, just as we are children of ours, and the impact of that fact should never be forgotten by anyone seeking to understand a period of history.

Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, one of the towering figures of the first half of the nineteenth century, and his wife Lucretia provide a simple example.  They had eleven children.  In a time when families with more than three children are a rarity, that alone is a fact that separates them from most of us, but it is the fate of those children that points out another major difference.  At the time of his death, Henry Clay had outlived all of his six daughters and one of his five sons. Of the six girls, two died in infancy, two as children and two as young women.  One son, Henry Clay, Jr, predeceased his father, dying at the battle of Buena Vista in 1847.  By the time that Lucretia Clay died, she had outlived another son, who died a few months before her in 1864. Continue Reading

23

Religious Liberty: A Council Ahead of Its Time?

So much of the discussion in the public square of late concerns religious liberty.  Not to obscure the other issues involved in the recent HHS rule and its subsequent “accommodation”, for assuredly there is also the issues of natural law, the right to life, and others.  However, it is curious that the issue on the front line for Catholics and non-Catholics alike has been religious liberty.  I say “curious” not to express disapproval; quite the opposite, for I myself think this is the crux of the issue.  I say “curious” because it has caused me to reflect on the Church’s teaching on religious liberty, particularly those of the Second Vatican Council.

In discussions with various groups that are not in full communion with the Church (okay, let’s not beat around the bush – we mean SSPX here), no issue has caused more angst than that of religious liberty and Vatican II (except perhaps the validity of the Novus Ordo).  Now, there is a certain amount of irony to this, because the “conservative” apologists are now clinging (rightfully) to religious liberty in order to combat the rhetoric and actions of the Obama administration, but the “really conservative conservative Catholics” (e.g., SSPX) find themselves in a bit of a pickle.  For it is this teaching of Vatican II that they have rejected publicly.  (See my footnote below for an apology and explanation of my meaningless labels.*)  Yet we have seen in the last month just what happens when religious liberty is not protected.

With that, let’s have a look at what Vatican II said.  The document in question is Dignitatis humanae (“The Dignity of the Human Person”), and paragraph 1 begins,

A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. The demand is likewise made that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations. This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society … On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it … Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society.

It seems to me that the USSCB could use this paragraph as it mantra for the battle against the HHS mandate.  But let’s continue … from the next paragraph:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.  This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

Now this is where SSPX starts to get nervous.  They would claim that no-one has the “right” to adhere to falsehood, and the Second Vatican Council implies otherwise.  As for the first part of the claim, I agree.  I made the point in a previous post that nobody has the “right” to contraception, not just from a constitutional standpoint but also from the perspective of natural law.  However, with regards to “what Vatican II really said,” I read over this section at least three times, as well as the rest of Dignitatis humanae, and I simply cannot see how it implies that people have the right to adhere to falsehood, theological or otherwise.  It does say that religious freedom is essential for man’s search for truth, and that political coercion flies in the face of this necessary freedom, and that “the right to this immunity [from coercion] continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded.”  Yet nowhere do I see that people have the “right” to adhere to falsehood.

At any rate, I meant not for this post to become an occasion for dialog about the SSPX-Vatican disagreements.  I meant only to point out that the Vatican II “Declaration on Religious Freedom” may turn out to be a very useful document for those of the conservative political persuasion in the current climate, and that there is a certain amount of irony, because it was one of the documents of the Council that was most hailed by the “progressives” in the Church.

Certainly the declaration was written within the context of 1965, the year in which Paul VI promulgated it: a time when the world was still very concerned about the oppressive regimes of Communism and Nazism.  Yet I can’t help but think that (surprise, surprise) the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing, for we may well find in our own era the need for Dignitatis humanae.  The battle currently is in the medical field: the fundamental right to religious liberty being trumped by a fabricated “right” to obtain contraception and abortion services free of charge.  However, the battle lying just around the corner will inevitably involve the issue of homosexuality – here we will see a parallel conflict, but it will be the fundamental right to freedom of speech, either in religious or secular circles, being trumped by a fabricated “right” to live one’s life without criticism.  Consider all that is in front of us together with that which is to come, it warrants asking: was Vatican II a council ahead of its time?

 

*  I am at loss for labels here (as if this weren’t obvious in my use of “really conservative conservative Catholics.”  I inherently reject using the word “traditionalist” because all Catholic should be traditionalist – our faith is a faith of tradition, built on an original deposit that unfolds slowly overtime.  Yet “conservative” is a political term more than a religious term.  At the same time, politics and religious, while distinguished in concept, are not entirely separate.  (There is a reason why politically conservative people also tend to prefer more “traditional” liturgies.)  I hope that the point is not lost here … it seems obvious to me that the SSPC is a sort of “ultra conservative” group, clinging to a tradition that does not allow for any sort of unfolding, organic or otherwise, but rather is frozen in time (arbitrarily chosen as the middle of the 1900’s).  Then again, I write with a certain amount of trust that I am among friends who will understand the irony which I attempt to disclose, that, despite a lack of appropriate labels, the most “conservative” Catholics (so “conservative” that they have left the Church), are now in need of the one of the very doctrines they reject from Vatican II (the teaching on religious liberty) in order to be “conservative” in our current political battle.

35

The Goldilocks Conservative

Rick Santorum has come under fire from right-wing critics for being not conservative enough on fiscal and economic issues, while simultaneously being too conservative on social issues.  In my mind, he’s just right.

On the matter of fiscal policy Santorum has been portrayed as some kind of big government statist.  As a Senator he did cast votes for raising the debt ceiling, for Medicare Part 2, No Child Left Behind, and other big spending programs.  He’s admitted erring on a couple of these votes.  Overall, though, Santorum’s record as judged by free market policy institutes is fairly solid.  The Weekly Standard ran a piece on the National Taxpayer Union’s grading of Santorum, and he compares very favorably to most of his colleagues.   Continue Reading

7

Gerry Connolly: Former Seminarian-Democrat Congressman-Anti-Catholic Bigot

Hattip to Chris Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.  Johnson is a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith. 

Gerry Connolly, (D.VA.), graduated from Maryknoll Preparatory Seminary in Illinois in 1971.  Rather than becoming a priest, he, fortunately for the Church, became involved in politics.  In 2008 he was elected to the House.  In 2010 he was re-elected by fewer than a thousand votes.  (Better luck to the unfortunate constituents of Mr. Connolly this year.)  Although he purportedly is a Catholic, he has routinely engaged in Catholic bashing as a political tool.  In his race for the House in 2008 he played the anti-Catholic card against his Republican opponent:

House minority leader John Boehner is urging Democratic leaders to stop a vicious anti-Catholic smear campaign against Republican congressional candidate Keith Fimian, who is challenging Democrat Gerry Connolly for a rare open seat in Virginia’s 11th District. All 157 Catholics currently serving in the House, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, should join their 25 Catholic colleagues in the Senate to denounce this vile attempt to denigrate their fitness for office.

Postcards mailed to voters on behalf of Connolly by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) portray the Fairfax County businessman as anti-women because he sits on the board of Legatus, a group of traditional Catholic CEOs founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan and endorsed by the late Pope John Paul II. Catholic League president Bill Donohue condemned the scurrilous ads as blatant “Catholic bashing” and demanded that Connolly publicly denounce them. Instead, the Democrat repeated the smears on TV.

It goes without saying of course that the CINO (Catholic in Name Only) Connolly is a complete pro-abort and a big supporter of Planned Parenthood.  Connolly can always be relied upon as a tame Catholic to defend the Obama administration from critics pointing out obvious anti-Catholic bias.

Thus it was no surprise that Connolly, at yesterday’s hearing on the HHS Mandate, belittled the witnesses who appeared to protest the infringement of the Mandate on religious liberty: Continue Reading

5

Yeah, I Feel So Much Safer Now

Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  The United States Army has a long and proud history of defending this country, often engaged in combat in the most deadly situations imaginable against very tough adversaries.   I was proud in my misspent youth to wear Army green for a few years.  Today the Army finds itself facing severe financial cuts from the Obama administration, troop strength is at its lowest ebb since the Fifties, and it is entirely possible that a war with Iran might occur anytime this year.  Not to worry!  The Army has time for this:

The Army is ordering its hardened combat veterans to wear fake breasts and empathy bellies so they can better understand how pregnant soldiers feel during physical training.

This week, 14 noncommissioned officers at Camp Zama took turns wearing the “pregnancy simulators” as they stretched, twisted and exercised during a three-day class that teaches them to serve as fitness instructors for pregnant soldiers and new mothers.

Army enlisted leaders all over the world are being ordered to take the Pregnancy Postpartum Physical Training Exercise Leaders Course, or PPPT, according to U.S. Army Medical Activity Japan health promotion educator Jana York.

Nothing I could possibly say is half so apropos as what was said by Hilaire Belloc long ago: Continue Reading

9

HHS Mandate: Good Politics for Those Who Oppose It

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  Sarah Steelman is running in the Missouri primary to get the Senate nomination against the incumbent Senator, Claire McCaskill (D.Mo).  I believe this is the first campaign commercial that attacks a Democrat on the HHS Mandate.  I trust that it is the first of many.  There is a political price to pay for anti-religious in general, and anti-Catholic in particular, bigotry, and any Democrat who stands behind Obama and the HHS Mandate must be made to pay that price.

8

Chart Of The Day: Whose Wages Are Stagnating?

I’d been fooling around with Census data a bit over the last week. Here’s an interesting chart using Census Table P-36. Full-Time, Year-Round All Workers by Median Income and Sex: 1955 to 2010

Median income for full-time working men first hit 50,000 (in inflation adjusted 2010 dollars) in 1973, and it has been essentially flat ever since (breaking 50k for the second time in 2010.) However, the median income of full-time working women has gone up 35% since 1973. The percentage of full time workers who are women has also increased gradually throughout that time, from 30% in 1973 to 43% in 2010. (In absolute numbers, obviously both the number of male and female full time workers has increased significantly during the same period.)

65

Time to be Tested!

Go here to take an online civics test put out by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and please report your results in the comboxes.  I missed one question and got a score of 96.7%  ( I missed the last question because I got in a hurry to complete it and didn’t read the possible answers carefully.)  My wife took the test and also got a 96.7%.  The average score of 2508 Americans taking the tests was 49% and for college educators 55%.  I found these numbers shocking as I thought the test was fairly simple.  I am sure you will all do much better than the averages!

20

98% of Catholic Women Use Birth Control

– or so they say. “They” being random folks online, who seem to have picked it up from Huffington Post, or maybe Daily Kos.

To be fair, the original claim was that 98% of women (footnote in small type: at risk for unintended pregnancy) contracept, and came from the  Guttmacher Institute; if you don’t know who they are, they’re probably the source for 90% of the crazy-on-the-face-of-it sex related claims you’ve seen online, usually after a couple of rounds of rephrasing and from-memory citation.

Here’s the short form of how they got it:

So the study tells us only that 98% of women of child-bearing age who want to have sex without having babies use some form of birth control. That qualifies as a sort of “d’uh” moment.

He’s got the long form, with details, at the link; it’s VERY long form, and I don’t want to copy all of it–  TheOFloinn opens with an introductory course on statistics.

That said, honors for pointing it out first, digging into the statistics and being a reporter who actually did reporting goes to Mollie at Ricochet:

“So I guess we could say that among women aged 15-44 who had sex in the last three months but aren’t pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant, 87% of women who identify as Catholic used contraception. It’s worth pondering just who is left out of this 87%, other than, you know, everyone who doesn’t use contraception. Great stat, team journalist! I mean, the study was designed to find only women who would be most likely to use contraception. And it did.

Notable in the comments is someone making the argument that the Church’s current stance against the birth control, sterilization and abortion causing drug mandate is the same as arguing for laws preventing business on Sunday.  Seems to me that a better comparison would be fighting a law that requires all businesses to be open on Sunday.

4

Rombo: He Gets to Win This Time?

Santorum has some savvy ad people in his campaign if this ad is any indication.   Having the buttoned down Romney in a Rambo spoof is hilarious and will stick in the minds of viewers.  It also hits on Romney’s one trick pony campaign:  ceaselessly go negative because his flip-flops over the years make it impossible to portray himself, with a straight face, as a candidate with convictions about anything except that he should be president.  Bravo Santorum campaign! Continue Reading

22

Not Everyone Has To Get Married (Or Go Into The Religious Life)

Mary at the blog Young and Catholic has a good post up responding to a reader question about Church teaching on contraception versus NFP. Her handling of the NFP issue is great, but I was struck by the framing of her reader’s question, because it struck me as getting at a common impression one can get from being around conservative Catholic circles. Her reader writes:

I’m an 18 year old female college student, and I have just gotten back in touch with Catholicism…

…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into my faith, but there is something that REALLY continues to rub me wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed about it, but I am not getting any answer. I’ve researched it, but just hear the same things over and over and it just doesn’t sit right with me, and that is the issue of contraception. I’ve read humanae vitae, I’ve researched “natural family planning”, and it all still leaves me completely unsatisfied still. I see where the Church is coming from on this issue, however, I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children.

This just honestly does not sit right with me…Some women love being mothers, and being a mother is certainly an honorable duty, but I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I’m very ambitious and have goals of working for the Department of Defense, not sacrificing all my happiness because the Church says I should.

She goes on to ask about why the Church teaches against artificial birth control, and as I say, Mary’s answer is great. However, I think the other thing worth touching on is the impression people sometimes get that from a Catholic point of view you should either be in the religious life or else you should be married and having lots of kids. Continue Reading

Ross Douthat Explains the Weathervane’s Santorum Quandary

 

 

A brilliant piece by Ross Douthat in the New York Times explaining why Romney a/k/a the Weathervane, is running into so many problems in dealing with the challenged posed by Santorum:

But Santorum’s advantage is that he can get to Romney’s right and to his left at once. On the one hand, Santorum isn’t responsible for a health care bill that looks an awful lot like “Obamacare” and he doesn’t have a long list of social-issue flip-flops in his past. This makes his candidacy a plausible rallying point for the voters who previously turned Bachmann and Cain and the pre-debate Rick Perry into conservative flavors of the month.

At the same time, though, Santorum’s persona, his record and his platform all have a populist tinge that plays well in states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where swing voters tend to be socially conservative but economically middle-of-the-road. (Hence the Michigan poll that showed him leading among independents and Democrats who plan to vote in that state’s open primary.)

This means that Santorum can play the same anti-Bain, anti-rich-guy, blue-collar card that Gingrich tried to play in New Hampshire and South Carolina – but subtly, implicitly, in ways that don’t make him sound like he belongs in Occupy Wall Street instead of the Republican primary.

So what script should Romney choose as a response? Many conservatives have urged him to rebrand himself with primary voters by embracing a more rigorously right-wing policy agenda – endorsing Paul Ryan’s budget more explicitly, outlining a more aggressively supply-side approach to tax policy or even a pure flat tax, echoing furious attacks on the Federal Reserve by Ron Paul and Gingrich, and so on. Continue Reading

23

The Catholic Left Falls Into Line

It was inevitable that most of the Catholic Left, in any confrontation between the Church and Obama Caesar, would side with the Messiah from Chicago.  A petition making the rounds indicates how quickly this process has played out. 

 

Today the Obama administration announced an important regulation that will protect the conscience rights of religious organizations and ensure that all women have access to contraception without a co-payment. We applaud the White House for listening carefully to the concerns raised by religious leaders on an issue that has provoked heated and often misinformed debate. This ruling is a major victory for religious liberty and women’s health. President Obama has demonstrated that these core values do not have to be in conflict.

 

Specifically, this new regulation guarantees that no religiously affiliated institution will have to pay for services that violate its moral beliefs or even refer employees for this coverage. Instead, if a woman’s employer is an objecting university, hospital or other religious institution, her insurer will be required to offer her coverage at no cost. This is a sensible, common-ground solution.

 

In recent days, sound bites and divisive rhetoric have too often pitted the faith community against sound science and public health.The previous regulations caused an unnecessary conflict between the administration, the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. We are encouraged that the Obama administration has developed a substantive solution that addresses the concerns of the many constituencies involved. We look forward to bringing the same level of passion displayed in this debate to other pressing moral issues that face our nation. Continue Reading