Below is an analysis of ObamaCare and abortion that I have written for the summer newsletter of the crisis pregnancy center of which I am Chairman of the Board. Regular readers will detect a more restrained and “just the facts” presentation than I normally use in my blog posts. I thought that the change of pace style might be of interest to our faithful readers so I did not modify the analysis for this post. (Fear not, I will not inflict on the readers of this blog any of my professional scribblings in the law mines, which would be of utility only for readers suffering the pangs of insomnia!)
Now that the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote, courtesy of Chief Justice Roberts switching his vote, has upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, universally better known as ObamaCare, pro-lifers should understand what ObamaCare means in regard to abortion.
1. Abortion surcharge-The Act provides that if an individual is enrolled in an insurance policy that covers elective abortions, each participant in that insurance plan must pay a separate surcharge for the elective abortion coverage. There is no opt out provision for individuals. So if a pro-lifer works for a business that provides such an insurance policy, the pro-life employee would have no choice but to pay the abortion surcharge. The Act forbids insurance companies from advertising that an abortion surcharge is required under the Plan.
2. Federal Subsidies to Insurance Plans That Provide Abortion–The Act provides for federal subsidies to health insurance plans, including plans that provide coverage for elective abortions, set up health insurance exchanges created by the states. The policies provided under the health insurance exchanges may include elective abortion coverage unless a state bans such coverage. Thus far the following states have banned such coverage: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
3. ObamaCare and Abortifacients The HHS mandate requiring “free” coverage for all contraceptive devices, see number 5 below, in virtually all health insurance plans, includes those devices and drugs thought to act as abortifacients. Continue Reading →
Are we to believe the New Atheist free-thinkers see themselves as reasonable as rocks?
I was hesitant to write this because I don’t like picking battles with atheists. At first I didn’t see how anyone would take this idea about free will and our judicial system seriously, but it seems some people are. So I offer the following with the hope that if more people know about this discussion, more people can see it for the nonsense that it is.
Victor Stenger, Ph.D. particle physicist and best-selling author of God and the Folly of Faith has written an essay at Huffington Post “Free Will is an Illusion” and it took an unexpected turn. Certainly, the atheistic consideration of free will is nothing new, but Dr. Stenger also makes a connection between free will, or the lack thereof, and our judicial system in the United States. This position has disturbing societal implications.
Keep in mind, this is the man who popularized the phrase: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” He has also published such titles as God: The Failed Hypothesis and The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason. Victor Stenger has made it known that he thinks science can prove there is no god, and that he considers religion dangerous to society.
In this Huffington Post essay he references a book by another physicist, Leonard Mlodinow, who says that the unconscious plays a dominant role in human behavior. As Dr. Stenger puts it, “before we become aware of making a decision, our brains have already laid the groundwork for it.” He goes on to say (read carefully), “This recognition challenges fundamental assumptions about free will and the associated religious teachings about sin and redemption, as well as our judicial concepts of responsibility and punishment. If our brains are making our decisions for us subconsciously, how can we be responsible for our actions? How can our legal system punish criminals or God punish sinners who aren’t in full control of their decision-making processes?”
He also references the book Free Will by neuroscientist Sam Harris and title-quotes him in stating that “free will is an illusion.” Dr. Stenger writes, “We don’t exist as immaterial conscious controllers, but are instead entirely physical beings whose decisions and behaviors are the fully caused products of the brain and body.”
So, essentially having established that humans are determinant blobs of matter with no free will, he then makes the case to the Huffington Post readers that “our largely retributive moral and justice systems need to be re-evaluated, and maybe even drastically revamped” if the people in society are going to be able to protect themselves from “people who are dangerous to others because of whatever it is inside their brains and nervous systems that makes them dangerous.”
That is, he is calling for a new system of morality and justice based on the the presumption that no one is ultimately responsible for his actions, and remember, he’s made it clear who he thinks the “dangerous” people are. This is eerily like the argument used to justify abortion, only we’re all blobs of tissue now.
Sadly, I think this election may be one of the more violent in recent memory, judging from this truly reprehensible tactic being adopted by some Democrat operatives:
While most serious campaigns on both sides use campaign trackers — staffers whose job is to record on video every public appearance and statement by an opponent — House Democrats are taking it to another level. They’re now recording video of the homes of GOP congressmen and candidates and posting the raw footage on the Internet for all to see.
That ratcheting up of the video surveillance game is unnerving Republicans who insist that even by political standards, it’s a gross invasion of privacy. Worse, they say, it creates a safety risk for members of Congress and their families at a time when they are already on edge after a deranged gunman shot former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords 18 months ago.
Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble who said he’s also been followed by a cameraman when shopping for groceries, said the home videos cross a line.
“I feel it’s totally inappropriate,” said Ribble, a freshman facing a competitive race for reelection. “It was disturbing to me that they would put that online. I don’t understand any political benefit that can be achieved with that.” Continue Reading →
Those who have been reading me for some time know my feelings on secession. So you will be surprised to learn that I have had a change of heart. No I am not now of the opinion that states should be able to secede for light and transient causes. Rather, it is time we should forcibly make states secede. And we should start with California.
Despite deepening doubts about the cost and feasibility of a $70 billion high-speed rail proposed to cross California, the State Senate on Friday narrowly approved legislation to spend $8 billion in federal and state money to begin construction, starting with a 130-mile stretch through the rural Central Valley.
The vote came as the federal government threatened to withdraw $3.3 billion in financing for the 520-mile project if the Legislature did not approve the release of state bond money to begin construction. Democrats and Republicans expressed fear that the project could be remembered as a boondoggle passed when the state is struggling through a fiscal crisis.
So the state’s almost bankrupt – what’s a another $70 billion for a project that the citizens desperately want. They do want it, right?
Polls suggests that voters have turned against the project after voting for it in 2008. Several Democrats, in arguing against the expenditure, warned that voters would be less likely to approve a tax package on the ballot this fall that Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, said was necessary to avoid more cuts in spending on education and other programs.
But at least high speed rail is itself a necessary public works project that will reduce traffic congestion and provide millions with a low-cost means of travel.
While these criticisms all have merit, we can’t lose sight of the fact the biggest reason high-speed rail won’t work in the U.S. is that it doesn’t make sense as a project funded from general tax revenues. High-speed rail is not a public good and it’s not mass transit. It is corridor transit. At best, it’s a niche market serving a highly specialized, relatively wealthy, and narrow customer base (high-income business travelers with expense accounts and tourists). It won’t relieve urban traffic congestion and its contribution to improving air quality (or reducing carbon dioxide emissions) will be negligible because it won’t carry enough riders to make a big difference. These factors undermine high-speed rail justificatons based on public good arguments.
That said, a more important factor may be more straightforward and direct: Certain preconditions are necessary for corridor transit to work, and they don’t exist in the U.S. Most fundamentally, intercity rail needs to connect major urbandowntowns or large employment centers that are close together–withing a couple hundred miles of each other. (In this respect, the emphasis on density per se is misplaced; the key is the density of the destinations.)
We simply don’t have that many large downtowns in the U.S. We have several midsize metro areas, but the downtowns are mere shadows of their former selves and contain a very small minority of the region’s job base. High-speed rail is doomed to failure under the best of circumstances because it simply can’t generate ridership. Spain and Europe is an interesting case in point: high-speed rail connects very large urban centers with populations in the millions that are closely connected as the “bird flies”: London-Paris, Paris-Brussels, Paris-Lyon, Hamburg-Berlin, Florence-Rome, Madrid-Barcelona. Many of these cities are also very large: London and Paris both boast populations greater than 10 million. Rome, Berlin, Madrid, and Barcelona have populations between 2 million and 5 million.
To recap: the state is bankrupt, the voters don’t want to fund the high speed rail project, and the project would very likely have nowhere near the benefit its proponents suggest it will have.
When July 9 rolls around each year I am always reminded of my personal belief that before our end, perhaps especially for those of us sunk deep in sin, God gives us an opportunity to atone and turn aside from the downward path.
In Sixteenth Century Holland one of the longest wars in history began between Spain and Dutch rebels. The war was waged on both sides with sickening atrocities. Among the most violent were the Sea Beggars, Dutch patriots or pirates depending upon one’s point of view. In June of 1572 the Sea Beggars took the Dutch town of Gorkum, and captured nine Franciscan priests, Nicholas Pieck, Hieronymus of Weert, Theodorus van der Eem, Nicasius Janssen, Willehad of Denmark, Godefried of Mervel, Antonius of Weert, Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye, of Brussels. Two Franciscan lay brothers were also captured: Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wyk.
The Sea Beggars also captured the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of Boi-le-Duc, and his assistant, Nicolaas Janssen. Also imprisoned were Father Godefried van Duynsen and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, director of the convent of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum. Later imprisoned was a Domincan priest Joannes van Hoornaer who bravely came to Gorkum to minister to his imprisoned colleagues and joined them in their captivity, Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a priest of Monster, Holland, Adrianus Janssen of Brielle, and last, and no doubt he would say least, the subject of this post, Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.
To be blunt, Andreas Wouters had been a lousy priest. A drunkard and notorious womanizer, he had fathered several children. Suspended from his duties he was living in disgrace when the Sea Beggars captured Gorkum. This was his cue to run as far away as possible, based on his past history. Instead, perhaps understanding that God was giving him maybe his last chance to redeem himself, he volunteered to join the captive priests and brothers. Continue Reading →
We all have books that imprint a lasting memory on us, not simply for the entertainment value, but rather for the way in which they communicate the truth of the human person. I just spent the better part of two hours and three cups of coffee with a good friend who described manner of influence that Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisted had upon him. It seems to me that the profundity of such texts is carried by their characters rather than their plot lines. True, the development of the characters is always serviced by the plot; but equally true is the direction of such service. In fact, this is more than likely the primary means by which many modern novels go astray: the characters are at the service of the plot rather than the other way around. Much of modern writing reads like a movie script rather than a work of literature.
For me, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is an exemplar in character development and as such presents an unparalleled disclosure of the human condition and the effects of both sin and virtue in the life of man. I read the book five years ago, and I can still quote the opening line: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” There are two ways to read this. The first is that “happy” is uniform, and in some sense boring, whereas sin is interesting, unique even. Disfunction is worth writing about, because we, as readers, find it intriguing. I don’t think this is Tolstoy’s final word on these words, at least in terms of the novel seen as a whole, but I do think he intends the reader to understand something along these lines at the start of the novel.
The story follows four individuals arranged as couple. The first, for whom the novel is named, is Anna. When she comes on the scene, she is nothing short of captivating: beautiful and mysterious in every way. Anna is married, albeit unhappily. As the story progresses, she falls into an illicit affair with the young Count Vronsky, who pursues her with both intensity and persistence. The third is a young woman named Kitty. At the start of the novel, Kitty is simple, even a bit superficial. In short, I found her utterly uninteresting. By the end of the story, Kitty is married to a man named Levin. While their path towards this marriage was complicated, and each did their fair share of soul searching, they are to be the couple who stands apart in virtue from that of Anna and Vronsky, whose sin takes center stage throughout much of the book.
The curious thing is not the evolution of Kitty and Levin, nor the devolution of Anna and Vronsky. Rather, the curious thing is the interest in which the reader has for each couple. While Anna begins the story as mysterious and captivating, by the end of her plot line, her path of self-destruction comes to fulfillment, and at her final moment in which she throws herself in front of a train, she has lost all identity due to her sin. The effect of sin and vice on the human person is reminiscent of Tolkien’s Gollum, for whom the ring (symbolizing evil) has replaced his own sense of self, even to the point where he speaks of himself in the plural. Something of this sort is present in the New Testament encounters with demons, who also speak in the plural: “We are legion.” In contrast, Kitty and Levin become much more complex and intriguing by the end. Their fulfillment in virtue makes them interesting. The message is clear: vice leads to self-destruction and lack of identity, and virtue leads to self fulfillment.
As I reflected back on the book, I felt, as a reader, towards each character exactly how one should feel in light of Tolstoy’s theme. At the outset, I was captivated by the Anna and Vronksy plot and bored by that of Kitty and Levin. I almost found myself (especially in light of the book’s overall length) nearly skimming past the chapters devoted to Kitty. She was superficial and boring, and I had little patience for her. Yet by the end, the tables had turned. I was so tired of the sinful affair and the pathetic nothing of which Anna had become, that I was almost relieved when she finalized her own destruction. For right or wrong, “It is about time,” was my reaction. I was much more interested in seeing what would become of Kitty and Levin.
Towards the end of the book, I prematurely felt that I “got it.” I thought I understood what Tolstoy was trying to do. Yet, in spite of my Catholic upbringing, I failed to predict the true climax of the book. It ins’t simply that virtue leads to happiness. The perfection of the human person is not found only in natural virtue.
Levin, devoted fully to Kitty, senses the same, that something missing.
“When Levin thought about what he was and what he lived for, he found no answer and fell into despair, but when he stopped asking himself about it, he seemed to know what he was and what he lived for, because he acted and lived firmly and definitely; recently he had even lived much more firmly and definitely than before… He felt something new in his soul and delightedly probed this new thing, not yet knowing what it was. ‘To live not for one’s own needs but for God.’ For what God? For God. And could anything more meaningless be said than what he said?”
Up until this point, Levin is an atheist; he struggles with Kitty’s religion. Yet he searches, looking for proof, for that “miracle” that will convince the heart.
“‘I and millions of people who lived ages ago and are living now, muzhiks, the poor in spirit, and the wise men who have thought and written about it, saying the same thing in their vague language – we’re all agreed on this one thing: what we should live for and what is good.’”
He is reasoning that man has an inherent sense of both purpose and morality, and the the two are connected. Why should a sense of “the good” pervade all of human history? This is the miracle for which he has searched.
“‘I looked for miracles, I was sorry that I’d never seen a miracle that would convince me. And here it is, the only possible miracle, ever existing, surrounding my on all sides, and I never noticed it! Can this be faith?’ he wondered, afraid to believe his happiness. ‘My God, thank you!’ he said, choking back the rising sobs and with both hands wiping away the tears that filled his eyes.”
Even in his natural state of happiness, the result of virtuous decisions, Levin was not complete. The human condition finds its perfection in conversion, and it is thus with which the novel ends. (I have picked and assembled pieces of Levin’s vast monologue – will leave it to the readers to go through the rest of it. It is a brilliant philosophical argument in its own right.)
The novel is a perfect exhibition of the three states in which the human can find himself: vice, natural virtue, and supernatural perfection. Granted, we are never, this side of heaven, purely in one state, but the three states are real nonetheless. The message of Tolstoy couldn’t be more obsious: vice destroys, virtue perfects, but there is something else even beyond natural perfection, and that can only be brought about by self-abandonment, conversion, and grace. That being said, the message of grace is utterly Orthodox/Catholic: grace perfects nature – it does not destroy it.
When we understand this, we return full circle with a renewed understanding to the opening words: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It is not that sin is more interesting than virtue, for by the end of the book the reader is much more drawn into the plot of Kitty and Levin and has decidedly left the sinful affair in its own demise. However, it remains true that there is only one path to happiness, authentic happiness that is: conversion. Yet sin is as varied as the sinner. Variety, however, does not make for interest anymore than simplicity makes for boredom. God, after all, is perfectly simple, as is he one.
This brings me to the question of why, after five years, I found myself motivated to write about Anna Karenina. The other day, when perusing upcoming films, I came across a trailer for a new adaption of Tolstoy’s novel, staring Keira Knightley as Anna. Initially I was excited, but after watching the trailer, something seemed lacking.
First, the entire trailer focusses on the Anna and Vronsky affair. There seems to be little mention of Kitty and Levin, though they are among the cast list and appear very briefly in the trailer. Granted, the film, as well as the book, it titled after this character, so the focus on Anna is at the very least understandable. It is, in fact, something about which I have often wondered. With the destruction of Anna some fifty pages from the end, the climax of both the book and Tolstoy’s message is found not in her, but rather in Levin and Kitty, who share quite a bit in word count with the Anna/Vronksy sections. Yet titling the book something other than Anna Karenina seems to detract from the story itself. It is almost as it Tolstoy wanted to strike up an interest in Anna even before the first page.
What is more distressing about the trailer is that the affair itself is romanticized, something that is the result of a “true love” but finds its difficulties in the unfortunate situation in which the heroine (though in the book that she is not) finds herself. Think even of the words Anna speaks at the start of the trailer: “I was eighteen when I got married, but it was not love.” Love, being something about which one “cannot ask why?” is a passive and mysterious emotion rather than an act about which one has authentic freedom. The problem is that this is utterly inconsistent with the book itself. The affair, while initially intriguing, becomes tiresome and shallow. It is wrong, and the reader knows it is wrong, and the destructive path to which it leads is not only inevitable, but also just. I have a sneaky suspicion, in a day and age that readily dismisses the permanence of marriage, the film will present Anna and Vronksy with more sympathy than they deserve, missing the first point of the novel. Her husband will be an antagonist, as will her family in trying to keep her tragically locked in an unhappy marriage. On this note, the main antagonist will be the Church (in this case the Russian Orthodox Church), which seeks to do the same through her antiquated rules and prudish definitions of marraige. In this regard, the film will directly depart from Tolstoy. Consider the following monologue from the conversion of Levin:
“‘Yes, what I know, I do not know by reason, it is given to me, it is revealed to me, and I know it by my heart, by faith in that main thing that the Church confesses. The Church? The Church! … But can I believe in everything the Church confesses?’ He began purposely to recall all the teachings of the Church that had always seemed to him the most strange and full of temptation … And it now seemed to him that there was not a single belief of the Church that violated the main thing – faith in God, in the good as the sole purpose of man. In place of the Church’s beliefs there could be put the belief in serving the good instead of one’s needs.”
I doubt they will change the end of Anna – it is far to famous a scene to alter or delete. Yet the tragic end will be more of a horrific shock than a predictable result of her sinful actions. The tragedy will be that Anna was not allowed to love freely the one whom she so deeply desired rather than the natural self-destruction that results from vice.
I will be completely surprised if the film brings out the second, and more important lesson of Tolstoy, that natural virtue finds it perfection in conversion. The religious themes will be stripped from the story – Hollywood has little patience for Christianity. The last fifty pages of Anna Karenina will be seen much as the Scourging of the Shire was seen by the filmmakers of Lord of the Rings: an unnecessary appendix. And like Lord of the Rings, in choosing to eliminate the ending, the filmmakers of Anna Karenina will have completely misunderstood a major theme woven into the fabric of the story.
Perhaps it is premature for me to render such criticism. I certainly hope I am wrong – the lessons in Anna Karenina are indispensable for a culture that has all but abandoned the notion of vice and virtue, so I will be among the first to rejoice if the film recognizes and communicates this. Thus, in fairness, I will withhold final judgement until the film comes out, yet the tenor of trailer leaves me in doubt.
Ever feel like the extreme heat & humidity this past week (across most of the USA) was driving you nuts – not to mention being cooped up (in air-conditioned splendor, but still . . .) that whole time? Apparently this was also a problem for the intrepid-but-becalmed ship’s crew in Muppet Treasure Island! Thankfully, by the time you see this, the temperatures will have dropped to more reasonable levels (approx. 85 degrees Fahrenheit/30 degrees Celsius) in our part of the country – although readers of this blog on the US East Coast will still have to suffer for a day or two. Continue Reading →
Something for the weekend. Freedom Train by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters. In 1947 President Harry S. Truman commissioned a special train, staffed with United States Marines, to tour the country and display precious documents of American history to remind all Americans of their heritage. The train’s cargo included: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, one of the 13 original copies of the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, one of Lincoln’s handwritten drafts of the Gettysburg Address, the large flag raised on Mount Suribachi by the US Marines on Iwo Jima, the German and Japanese surrender documents that ended World War II, and much more, including one of the originals of the Magna Carta.
The train toured the US for two years and was surrounded by throngs of visitors wherever it stopped. It traveled 37,160 miles, stopping in 326 cities and towns. Over three million Americans went on board the train, many waiting up to six hours to do so. A second Freedom Train toured the country during the Bicentennial in 1975-1976. Continue Reading →
Chief Justice John Roberts’ recent decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, as well as his vote to overturn much of Arizona’s illegal immigration law, has made conservatives think that yet again a Republican president was bamboozled. Personally I think it’s a bit early to completely write off the Chief Justice. For most of his tenure he’s been a fairly reliable conservative vote, and there is still much time (presumably) before he retires. Then we will be better able to assess his legacy.
It did get me thinking, though. What are the worst Supreme Court selections in history? I’m looking at this question in terms of the president doing the selecting. Someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a doctrinaire liberal, wouldn’t make the cut because no doubt she has voted in much the way Bill Clinton would have wished when he picked her. Similarly, I do not include someone like John Paul Stevens. Though over time he veered much further to the left than Gerald Ford or his Attorney General , Edward Levi (who basically made the selection) could have anticipated, Stevens’ jurisprudence was not that radically removed from Ford’s own preferences. In fact, Ford wrote of Stevens:
For I am prepared to allow history’s judgment of my term in office to rest (if necessary, exclusively) on my nomination thrity years ago of Justice John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court. I endorse his constitutional views on the secular character of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, on securing procedural safeguards in criminal case and on the constitution’s broad grant of regulatory authority to Congress. I include as well my special admiration for his charming wit and sense of humor; as evidence in his dissent in the 1986 commerce clause case of Maine v. Taylorand United States, involving the constitutionality of a Maine statute that broadly restricted any interstate trade of Maine’s minnows. In words perhaps somewhat less memorable then, “Shouting fire in a crowded theater,” Justice Stevens wrote, “There is something fishy about this case.”
He has served his nation well, at all times carrying out his judicial duties with dignity, intellect and without partisan political concerns. Justice Stevens has made me, and our fellow citizens, proud of my three decade old decision to appoint him to the Supreme Court. I wish him long life, good health and many more years on the bench.
Well, if Ford was willing to base his legacy on his choice of John Paul Stevens, then I’m happy to call Gerald Ford a miserable failure.
This, then, is a list of the biggest mistakes in Supreme Court selection. Continue Reading →
At the closing mass for the Fortnight of Freedom on July 4, 2012 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Charles Chaput delivered this homily on freedom:
Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written. For more than two centuries, these documents have inspired people around the globe. So as we begin our reflection on today’s readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today — and every person watching or listening from a distance — in the name of the Church of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country’s liberty and the city of our nation’s founding. May God bless and guide all of us as we settle our hearts on the word of God.
Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids. … He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”
Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.
We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon. Continue Reading →
The Mark Antony speech with a host of voices by impressionist Jim Meskimen. I find it immensely enjoyable to listen to, although perhaps not as uncanny as his Clarence dream speech from Richard III: Continue Reading →
It’s typical of me to be a day late in a 4th of July related post, but given that I’ve been reading through a fair amount of non-US 20th century history lately, I wanted to write about three aspects of my country that are (fairly) exceptional, and for which I am distinctly grateful.
The US has a real history of separation of church and state. Yes, many of the individual colonies had established churches, but the US never did, and even the established churches within the colonies were comparatively small and did not control major portions of the wealth in those colonies. Yes, this means that we Christians in the US have never had the kind of totally integrated experience of religious and secular life that existed in some of the societies of the old world, but it also means that we have been spared the ills that seem necessarily to follow eventually when the church functions as a quasi (or official) government or when it is one of the largest and richest landlords in an area. The more I read of European (and to a great extent Latin American) history, the more it strikes me that we in the US simply have no frame of reference for the levels of anti-clericalism and government hostility to religion which resulted from the breakdowns of these old church-state partnerships.
The US is not defined by cultural or ethnic nationality. When intellectuals warn about “nationalism” in the US, they seem to think that nationalism is a matter of holding parades and thinking your country is a nice place. It’s hard to see how this could be a bad thing, mainly because they aren’t bad things. The nationalism which has been at the root of most 20th (and many 19th) century conflicts is another and wholly darker animal: the belief that a cultural/ethnic group by virtue of its existence deserves to have a country that is distinctively its own. It sounds all very idealistic to say that a people deserves to have its own country, but if a country is defined as belonging particularly to one ethnic or cultural group, the necessary follow-on is that it does not belong to any other. This is why, to cite the most famously intractable conflict, the situation in the Holy Land is so poisonous: because Israel is intended to be a country of and for the Jews, while the Palestinian Arabs desire a country occupying the same space that is of and for the Arabs. Neither group can have what they want so long as the other group exists in the same area. The United States, by contrast, while it is vaguely a member of the Anglosphere, is as Chesterton put it “the only nation in the world founded on a creed.” Because is the American idea which is considered central to America, despite all too much prejudice directed against whatever is the most recent wave of immigrants, not to mention the even more shameful history of slavery in the US, the country has remained notably free of the kind of nationalism which has made ethnic cleansing a nation building tool through much of the world.
The US has a noble history of a non-political military. For this we simply cannot give enough thanks to General Washington, a man so universally revered for his service in the Revolutionary War that he could very easily have made himself President For Life, and set the US on the road which is standard for virtually all countries which have their origins in revolutionary wars. Washington truly followed in the ideal of the Roman hero Cincinnatus, fighting for and ruling his country, and then stepping aside. 236 years into the American experiment, the idea of generals seizing control of the country and replacing the government is virtually unimaginable, and yet for many countries this has happened multiple times just in the last 100 years.
The reviews of the film had been dismal, but I felt duty bound to watch it, and give the film a review. On July 3, having closed my law office for the afternoon, my family and I went to the movies. While the rest of my family, not sharing my duty to report on the film, joined the folks seeing Spider-man III, I strolled over to see the Great Emancipator dispatch vampires. The viewing was rather like a private showing. The audience in the vast theater consisted of me and one individual in the back. I found this aspect of the film quite pleasant. Alas that is the first and last positive aspect of this film that I can report. Intrepid souls who wish to can follow me into the bowels of ALVH below, the usual spoiler caveat being in force. Continue Reading →
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen Post-Colonial, Multi-Racial Societes of North America
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to strengthen the political bands which have connected them with the Global Community, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the cooperative and deferential station which a careful review of the relevant peer reviewed literature suggests is most appropriate for long term win-win outcomes, a decent and rigorously equal respect to the opinions of woman- and man- and transkind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the ever deeper union. Continue Reading →
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. Continue Reading →
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the final of these blog posts and is written by commenter Greg Mockeridge.
John Adams foresaw the all pomp with which we celebrate the 4th of July, but the date he gave for that was not the 4th but the 2nd. The reason he gave the 2nd was that independence was voted on and decided by the Continental Congress on the 2nd. What took place on the 4th was that final draft of the Declaration of Independence, after about a hundred revisions to Thomas Jefferson’s original draft, was approved.
It is actually more fitting that we celebrate independence on 4th as opposed to the 2nd because it isn’t merely independence we celebrate, but the ideas, principles, and truths this country was founded on. Fidelity to these very ideas really enable Americans to be Patriots as opposed to merely Nationalists. Just as one cannot be a good Catholic without a concerted effort to know and understand what it is he gives his assent of faith to, one cannot be a true American Patriot unless he likewise makes an effort to understand our heritage as Americans. No other U.S. founding document expresses these truths better than the Declaration of Independence. If more Americans became better acquainted with the Declaration, there would not be so much confusion regarding the Constitution.
Our Catholic faith not only does not relieve us of this patriotic duty, it actually reinforces it. An 1884 statement of the American bishops said it this way:
Teach your children to take a special interest in the history of our country. We consider the and laws as a work of special Providence, its framers “building wiser than they knew,” the Almighty’s hand guiding them….As we establishment of our country’s independence, the shaping of its liberties desire therefore that the history of the United States should be carefully taught in all our Catholic schools, and have directed that it should be specially dwelt upon in the education of the young ecclesiastical students in our preparatory seminaries; so also we desire that it form a favorite part of the home library and home reading.
A document from the Second Vatican Council “Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” better known by its Latin title Gaudium et Spes says: “Citizens should cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism… “(#75) Continue Reading →
As you know, I am a Chief Editor along with Tito Edwards at Ignitum Today, the social network of the JP2 and B16 generations. One of our contributors, Bonnie Engstrom, wrote back in September 2011 about the riveting survival of her infant son, an alleged miracle that the family believes was through the intercession of the now Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Bonnie informed us last week that this alleged miracle has been chosen as the one to be submitted for review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and if it is declared a true miracle then Archbishop Fulton Sheen will be beatified. It has been so exciting to share in this remarkable journey through Bonnie’s writing. When the pastor at our parish in New York announced this good news from the pulpit last Sunday, I smiled at my husband and thought, “I know the family involved!” It’s an amazing and glorious story.
You can read more at Catholic News Service and at Bonnie’s website, Learning to Be a Newlywed, but before you read anything else, you need to read her original story when she told us about the day her son, James Fulton, was born. It is reprinted today at Catholic Sistas with her permission. Thank you Bonnie.
This video is a lot of fun, especially when one considers the strong regional accents in which the Declaration was read up and down America in July of 1776. However it sounds when being read, the meaning of the Declaration was clear then and today.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the twelfth of these blog posts.
The fight over the HHS Mandate essentially boils down to a fight to uphold religious liberty. Such struggles for liberty in our nation’s history are very important because they go to the very core of our nation. Abraham Lincoln understood this, and in a speech he gave in Edwardsville, Illinois on September 11, 1858, got to the heart of the matter:
For those conservatives tenaciously clinging to the idea that Chief Justice John Roberts is playing some masterful game of chess that will end only with the liberals on the Court, in Congress, and in the White House brought to their knees in humiliating defeat, well, I’m not even sure the Chief is up for a rousing game of checkers. According to Jan Crawford’s piece, Roberts’ change of heart was motivated in large part to concerns over media pressure. So, the Chief Justice of the United States, according to this report, was cowed into upholding Obamacare because he was afraid of how the Court – and especially he – would look.
It has been rightly pointed out that Crawford relied on two anonymous sources, and therefore this story should be taken with some fine grains of salt. It’s certainly a plausible story, but an unconfirmable one.
Fine. It is possible that the Chief Justice wasn’t cowed by media or executive pressure. But even if the Chief Justice was not particularly pressured to decide in favor of Obamacare, it’s not beyond reason to suggest that he was still concerned about the institutional prestige of the Court, as well as a respect for the other two branches of government. Thus he concocted a rather far-fetched legal argument in order to justify declaring as constitutional a statute he knew at heart was not constitutional. So the more charitable interpretation of Roberts’ behavior is not that he’s a coward, but rather an activist who decided to rewrite a statute from the bench in order to avoid embroiling the Court in a partisan political battle.
There is a third option: John Roberts legitimately believed in the argument he made about the statute’s constitutionality.
Which is the option in which the Chief Justice looks like a chess playing genius again?
The title of the post, by the way, comes from my wife’s suggestion that President Bush nominated a Ravenclaw when he should have nominated a Gryffindor. It’s certainly more logical than anything I heard the Chief Justice say last week.
Update: It occurs to me that there is a fourth avenue of “defense,” and that is Roberts made a brilliant political calculation by forcing Obama to defend the health care law as a tax. Put aside the question of whether or not that would be an astute political maneuver. If that were indeed Roberts’ intention, than that hardly speaks well as to his character as Chief Justice. If he decided to uphold the law only to enable its use as a partisan club against the president, then the Chief Justice would have engaged in behavior that would justify his removal from the bench. So his defenders might want to think twice about that line of attack, at least insofar as they posit that he willfully engaged in such politicking.
By the way, if you’re still unsure of what to think of John Roberts’ thought process, look who was helping him along and now has his back.
Kmiec, a rare conservative supporter of Obama in 2008 who served as his ambassador to Malta, said he thinks Roberts sought out Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote but didn’t spend much time trying to sway Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Alito. Roberts, he said, probably didn’t worry about being punished by the conservatives.
“Roberts is a bigger man than that,” Kmiec said. “He might smile and recognize that was what they were doing, but he’d also just appreciate that was their way of making a statement. But he’d not chase the tail of the dog to try to turn it around.”
Kmiec, who served a resource to Roberts as he lined up his current two-week teaching trip to Malta, said he thinks Roberts would prefer that the story of the court’s internal deliberations get out “rather than keeping it so secret that it’d have caused some hard feelings among the chambers.”
“I think he knows in his heart that he’s reached a good decision for the well-being of the court and I don’t think he’s earned any long-term enmity of the conservatives,” Kmiec said. “If anything, this will give him more bargaining ability for years to come on both sides.”
Well if he’s got Doug Kmiec on his side, what more can a man ask for than that?
The Motley Monk evaluates the study as “good social science,” the findings of which are going to fuel a lot of acrimony on the part of those advocating so-called “homosexual marriage.”
The key finding?
According to Regnerus:
While it is certainly accurate to affirm that sexual orientation or parental sexual behavior need have nothing to do with the ability to be a good, effective parent, the data evaluated herein using population-based estimates drawn from a large, nationally-representative sample of young Americans suggest that it may affect the reality of family experiences among a significant number.
It appears anecdotally that children don’t need a married mother and father to turn out well as adults. Furthermore, the data gathered in the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) indicates there are many children who “have proven resilient and prevailed as adults in spite of numerous transitions, be they death, divorce, additional or diverse romantic partners, or remarriage.” That said:
[The] NFSS also clearly reveals that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults—on multiple counts and across a variety of domains—when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day. Insofar as the share of intact, biological mother/father families continues to shrink in the United States, as it has, this portends growing challenges within families, but also heightened dependence on public health organizations, federal and state public assistance, psychotherapeutic resources, substance use programs, and the criminal justice system.
Whoa! The best home environment in which to raise children is one with a married mother and father who remain married?
There are “statistically significant” differences in 25 of 40 outcomes between adult children who grew up with married, heterosexual parents and those who grew up with a mother who had a homosexual relationship.
Households led by parents of either sex who are engaged in homosexual relationships demonstrate greater household instability.
Children from lesbian households demonstrate more physical and mental health problems, more instability in romantic relationships, and lower average income as adults. In addition, children from these households also demonstrate higher levels of unemployment, smoking, need for public assistance, and involvement in crime.
The critics haven’t allowed these findings to go unchallenged…so much so that a group of 18 eminent social scientists have criticized the “sustained and sensational criticism” voiced by the mainstream media concerning the study’s findings. Asserting that the study is “not without limitations,” the scholars claim that much of the criticism is “unwarranted.”
According to Catholic News Service, the study’s findings are consistent with other studies of homosexual couples in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden and are “parallel” to those of the American Institutes for Research sociologist Daniel Potter. Potter studied homosexual parenting and children’s academic achievement, finding that children in homosexual parent families scored lower than their peers in married households with both biological parents.
Interestingly, much of the criticism has nothing to do with the study’s methodology but with the how study is being used to promote an anti-homosexual “marriage” agenda.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the twelfth of these blog posts.
Prior to the American Revolution an English aristocrat related an incident in a letter. He asked a servant who his master was, and the man responded unhesitatingly: My Lord Jesus Christ! The aristocrat found this hilarious, but the servant was reflecting a very old Christian view.
Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all. This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution. At the battle of Lexington the phrase “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”, was flung back at Major Pitcairn after he had ordered the militia to disperse.
Christ the King and We have no King but Jesus remind Christians that the nations of the world and the manner in which they are ruled, and mis-ruled, while very important to us during our mortal lives, are of little importance in the next. They also instruct us that the State can never be an ultimate end in itself, can never override the first allegiance of Christians and that the rulers of the Earth will be judged as we all will be. Although my Irish Catholic ancestors will shudder, and my Protestant Irish and Scot ancestors may smile, there is much truth in the inscription supposedly written on the sarcophagus, destroyed or lost after the Restoration, of that “bold, bad man”, Oliver Cromwell, “Christ, not Man, is King.” Continue Reading →
Evidence is beginning to come in to support my contention that the ObamaCare decision of last week was a disaster for the Obama reelection effort. From Scott Rasmussen the best of the presidential horserace pollsters:
To obtain religious, as well as civil, liberty I entered zealously into the Revolution, and observing the Christian religion divided into many sects, I founded the hope that no one would be so predominant as to become the religion of the State. That hope was thus early entertained, because all of them joined in the same cause, with few exceptions of individuals. God grant that this religious liberty may be preserved in these States, to the end of time, and that all believing in the religion of Christ may practice the leading principle of charity, the basis of every virtue.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence
Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the eleventh of these blog posts.
American Catholics, a very small percentage of the population of the 13 colonies, 1.6 percent, were overwhelmingly patriots and played a role in the American Revolution out of all proportion to the small fragment of the American people they represented. Among the Catholics who assumed leadership roles in the fight for our liberty were:
General Stephen Moylan a noted cavalry commander and the first Muster Master-General of the Continental Army.
Colonel John Fitzgerald was a trusted aide and private secretary to General George Washington.
Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of Illinois, whose aid was instrumental in the conquest of the Northwest for America by George Rogers Clark.
Thomas Fitzsimons served as a Pennsylvania militia company commander during the Trenton campaign. Later in the War he helped found the Pennsylvania state navy. After the War he was one of the two Catholic signers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787
Colonel Thomas Moore led a Philadelphia regiment in the War.
Major John Doyle led a group of elite riflemen during the War.
The list could go on at considerable length. Figures on how many Catholics served in the Continental Army or the American militias is speculative as records of religious affiliations were not normally kept. From anecdotal evidence my guess would be at least five percent of the American troops were Catholic, far in excess of the Catholic percentage of the population. Continue Reading →