Fulton J. Sheen declared Venerable by the Pope

Thursday, June 28, AD 2012

Although news and discussion about the Supreme Court’s decision is the main news topic of the day, there’s another news item that deserves mention: Fulton J. Sheen has been declared venerable by the Pope. With a miracle having already been submitted to the Vatican for review, it is not unlikely that Sheen will soon (soon in Vatican time, mind you) be beatified. 

This is an occasion of great rejoicing for me personally. Although far too young to have watched his Emmy-winning television show, It was Sheen’s Life of Christ that challenged me to become more than a cultural Catholic and and exposed me to some of the depths of Catholic theology. Sheen’s gift for distilling complicated Catholic teachings and presenting them to a broad audience was impressive; managing to keep those messages challenging to his audience & keeping that audience tuning was amazing. Moreover, Sheen was an unapologetic American, though always a Catholic first (he condemned the use of the atomic bomb). He was known for wearing full clerics, including his garb as bishop, into heavily Protestant areas.

The timing of his being declared venerable is impeccable. With the news today that the Church will have to fight the HHS mandate in the courts Fulton J. Sheen’s intercession is particularly important. Sheen provides us an example of an American who brought the Catholic faith unapologetically to the American people, showing that Catholicism could not only be tolerated by the American project but also that Catholicism had the potential to provide important and unique contributions to American society.

That is precisely the argument the Church needs to win in our time. It is not enough to win legal decisions striking down the mandate; we need to do more than convince the American people that Catholicism should be left alone to do whatever wacky things. Rather, we need to demonstrate that Catholicism brings something to our troubled times; that the teachings of the Church are not antiquated but rather provide a vibrant thriving message for happiness in the 21st century.

Whatever battles lie ahead for the Church in America, the intercession of Ven. Fulton J. Sheen will be invaluable. Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, ora pro nobis.


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13 Responses to Fulton J. Sheen declared Venerable by the Pope

  • Although far too young to have watched his Emmy-winning television show, It was Sheen’s Life of Christ that challenged me to become more than a cultural Catholic and and exposed me to some of the depths of Catholic theology. Sheen’s gift for distilling complicated Catholic teachings and presenting them to a broad audience was impressive; managing to keep those messages challenging to his audience & keeping that audience tuning was amazing.

    You forgot that he had an amazing voice. I’ve played his stuff on youtube, and had my formerly-agnostic husband come over and listen in silence.

  • This is awesome news. One thing my parents agreed on was their admiration of Fulton Sheen.

  • “Whatever battles lie ahead for the Church in America, the intercession of Ven. Fulton J. Sheen will be invaluable. Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, ora pro nobis.”


  • Good luck on the bar Michael. Thirty years ago I was studying for the Bar. I think I learned more from the Barbri course than I did in three years of law school!

  • One evening in the mid-1950’s I met Venerable Fulton J. Sheen in St. Patrick’s.

    Mother (RIP) and Grandmother (RIP) were thrilled: unforgettable. My young brother, John, was running amok and they were calling for him.

    Bishop Sheen told us, “My mother called me John.”

    I was also able (privileged) to visit and pray with his mortal remains in St. Patrick’s when he was born into eternal life.

  • I’m happy to hear this. If there is one person, besides Jesus Himself, it is Bishop Sheen who has kept my from going off the reservation totally. I still watch his sermons on EWTN and they are as relevant today as ever. I’ve read his autobiography, “Treasure in Clay,” every couple of years and find it is the best antidote to Hitchens’ “god is not great” and Mencken’s “Treatise on the Gods.”

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  • I was a little girl and would watch Bishop Sheen on TV with my mom. My mom always made time for his program. I catch replays of his sermons on Relevant Radio here in MN. I too think praying for his intercession would be a good thing. Also, I’m going to read his autobiography.

  • When we, the people, are free again as a nation, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen may be credited with another miracle, the big one for canonization.

  • Venerable Fulton Sheen was a truly holy man. For those who would like to learn about their faith in a deeper sense, I would reccomend two works. The first is a book, “Those Mysterious Priest” and the second is a retreat that he gave to priests in the 1970’s, “Cor Ad Cor Loquitor”(Heart Speaks to Heart). These two works will clarify the depth and beauty of our Church. Also always remember that Bishop Sheen always downplayed his importance and claimed all he did and said were possible through the Daily Holy Hour, he never missed. Try and get a Day of Adoration started in your parishes and pray for Sheen’s intercession, it will be successful and most rewarding.

  • Archbishop Sheen was a brilliant communicator, and, when listening to his talks, I never cease to be impressed and the power of his words and logic.

    I have been working my way through a 50 CD collection of his talks that is published by St. Joseph communications.

    Information on the the CD collection can be found here for those that are interested:

  • In the fall of 1962 a group of seminarian types including me met briefly with Uncle Fultie after mass outside the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in D. C. We expected another round–he had just delivered a rip roaring homily–of Sheen eloquence. The good bishop didn’t disappoint: Squinting at the circle of aspiring priests that eyed him with baited breaths, he said simply: “Fight the Devil.” And with a swoosh of his cape he turned and walked into the sunset. OK, ok, but there should have been a sunset.

  • And with a swoosh of his cape he turned and walked into the sunset. OK, ok, but there should have been a sunset.


Sen. Landrieu’s Justification of the vote against the Blunt amendment

Thursday, March 8, AD 2012

I sent an email urging Sen. Mary Landrieu (who says she is Catholic) to support the Blunt Amendment. Today, I got an email in response (which apparently was sent to others)

Thank you for your letter in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. The recent decision by the administration to require contraception coverage as a health insurance benefit has raised a number of questions and brought some difficult issues to the surface. I value your input on this important issue.
I strongly support the values and teachings of the Catholic Church, and I was one of the voices who expressed concerns about the Obama administration’s initial, ill-advised policy on this issue. On February 10th the administration modified the policy, and the revised rule, in my view, protects religious freedom and respects the rights of churches and Catholic hospitals and institutions. The compromise requires health insurance companies to provide free preventive contraceptive services if a religiously-based employer chooses not to. This compromise is supported by the Catholic Health Association, and has no effect on the conscience clause protections that currently exist for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception.
However, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (also known as the “Blunt amendment” after its sponsor, Senator Blunt) goes too far. It would allow any employer or insurance provider to block any service, preventive or otherwise, that is “contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer or other entity offering the plan.” This not only includes preventive birth control medication, which millions of American women rely on, but could also include transfusions, organ transplants or hospice care, which some “sponsors” may find objectionable.
I understand how sensitive this issue is, and I am very grateful for your input. There are no easy answers to these difficult questions and I appreciate you taking the time to write to me.

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26 Responses to Sen. Landrieu’s Justification of the vote against the Blunt amendment

  • Her actual argument in opposition to the Blunt Amendment is that she does not have to face the good citizens of the Pelican state until 2014.

  • and since the employer is paying for the health insurance doesn’t he get to choose what he is buying? I really feel like property of the state in this matter.

  • Sooo, let those other entities challenge their restrictions in court. Voting for the Blunt legislation would have given the Catholic Church the right to retain its rights under the Constitution. Her explanations for voting against it is BS.

  • “You do nothing with all your profusion of words but fight a fire with dry straw.” – ML
    From three posts down the line… for the Justification here.

  • I know this ain’t gonna happen, but wouldn’t it be nice if Notre Dame took its honorary degree away from Obama and gave it to Sen. Blunt instead, even though he’s not Catholic? This isn’t the first time, by the way, I’ve seen a Baptist legislator turn out to be a better Catholic than many of the Catholics!

  • True Elaine, and isn’t that fact a sad commentary on the state of catechesis in the Church today?

  • “This isn’t the first time, by the way, I’ve seen a Baptist legislator turn out to be a better Catholic than many of the Catholics!”

    “…do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Matthew 3:9

  • I completely agree that the RCC should not be forced to provide contraceptive coverage, and that the HHS mandate and “accomodation” ar total BS. Her buying in to the “accomodation” in my view shows she is full of BS. But, there is some legitimacy it would seem to the argument that the Blunt amendment goes little too far. What about things like blood transfusions or other true treatments that some particular sect may object to? Where do you draw the line, or do you not draw one at all? Personally, I would have simply offered a counter amendment, or requested Blunt to be modified, to simply drop contraceptives, sterilization, etc. from mandatory coverage unless medically indicated to treat a disease, the state of pregnancy not counting as such.

  • Is that so terrible? We had a far greater mish-mash of coverages before; I think this lesser degree of variancy won’t destroy the system.

    The answer to the question was yes. That is why we had health insurance reform. While your opinion of social policy alternatives is valuable, you chose not to be a party to the reform. You instead chose to oppose chimerical abortion coverage. We all have to live with the consequences of our choices. You and people like yourself were given the opportunity to offer proposals and marshal support for those proposals as part of the comprehensive reform.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:
    “Her actual argument in opposition to the Blunt Amendment is that she does not have to face the good citizens of the Pelican state until 2014.” What you write is the truth. My concern is that if Obama wins this battle, there might not be any elections in 2014.

  • c matt –

    “But, there is some legitimacy it would seem to the argument that the Blunt amendment goes little too far. What about things like blood transfusions or other true treatments that some particular sect may object to?”

    “Blood transfusions” is settle law via court cases. It is legitimate and correct medical care to protect a patient’s life. The fact that she doesn’t know that is troublesome. I’m sick ‘n tired of being played by these liberal Democrats who lie without hesitation. And if they are not lying, then they are too stupid to be in the position they’re in. Thanks, Catholics, for putting so many of them in power to RULE over our us

  • MZ:

    The answer to the question was yes. That is why we had health insurance reform.

    Healthcare reform was not justified due to too much variance; it was justified under the guise of expanding coverage to the poor & those with pre-existing conditions in order to counter perceived abuses & greed by the insurance companies. I never heard anything to the sound of: we need a uniform national policy in order to streamline things.

    While your opinion of social policy alternatives is valuable, you chose not to be a party to the reform. You instead chose to oppose chimerical abortion coverage. We all have to live with the consequences of our choices. You and people like yourself were given the opportunity to offer proposals and marshal support for those proposals as part of the comprehensive reform.

    This is laughable, A) b/c at the time I supported Obamacare as long as it had the Stupak amendment (a decision I now regret; it’s simply too much power to be in anyone’s hand as the Obama’s administrations actions have made perfectly clear) and B) the reason the USCCB and others opposed the final version was that it lacked proper conscience provisions. So b/c we ended up opposing a particular version of healthcare reform due to its inadequate conscience protections we shouldn’t complain about the egregious violations of religious liberty? The USCCB with its storied history of support for healthcare reform no longer even gets a seat at the table b/c it didn’t endorse the final product? Are you joking or are you that much more of a Democrat than a Catholic?

  • As a proud Louisiana native I am continually embarassed by our esteemed senior senator and more embarassed that we have continued to re-elect her to office. Maybe my fellow citizens will have awoke by 2014 and remember what this CINO has done to us and to our state. She is a typical politician, she does not understand the concept of being a public servant.

  • Let me re-write MZ’s entire comment in one sentence.

    “You are a bad catholic if you oppose Obamacare because social justice justifies sin.”

    I’m MZ’s bad Catholic. I would reform health care by providing poor people with needs-based vouchers (e.g., “food stamps) not by seizing people’s health care and warring on the Roman Catholic Church.

    That was not considered because the people would retain discretion and freedom.

  • “You and people like yourself were given the opportunity to offer proposals and marshal support for those proposals as part of the comprehensive reform.”

    Here’s God’s proposal:

    “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2nd Chronicles 7:14

    No righteousness and no holiness means no healthcare and no prosperity. Conversion and repentance must precede every other thing. Liberals refuse to comprehend this because they think that they can by their own efforts create a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Such pride, such arrogance, such hubris God hates. They have learned not one thing from the account of the Tower of Babel.

    Liberal. Progressive. Democrat. The three dirtiest words in the English language.

  • The ‘care’ word has to go. On November 6th, a lot of politicians, too.
    This HHS opus, that some exempt-from-it brain said had to be passed to be read, will offer coverage that will later be eliminated. Preventive, such as teeth cleaning, will stay. Problems to be fixed by anything but extraction will not be covered.
    Health and Human Servants care about the citizens they serve to the extent that the citizens take HHS medicine and shut up about after effects.

  • You and people like yourself were given the opportunity to offer proposals and marshal support for those proposals as part of the comprehensive reform.

    I have to call you on that falsehood MZ. As I recall, the debate went something along the lines of

    Obama: “I won. LIve with it”. Not much opportunity there. Or did you conveniently forget that the Dems forged the monstrosity of Obamacare on their own behind closed doors?

  • Or did you conveniently forget that the Dems forged the monstrosity of Obamacare on their own behind closed doors?

    You can’t cure stupid.

  • Indeed M.Z., but if you keep reading TAC perhaps we can put you into remission.

  • Her actual argument in opposition to the Blunt Amendment is that she does not have to face the good citizens of the Pelican state until 2014.

    Donald, I’m not sure that she will run again in 2014.

    In any event, I’ve already sent her an email telling her that I’ve never gotten involved in politicking for an election before, but I will walk the streets of my town to campaign against her if she runs for office again. And, I meant it.

    So, if she doesn’t run for re-election, I can always say I get the credit. 🙂

  • If Ms. Louisiana Purchase does not enter the lists in 2014 Nicholas, I know it will be because she is quailing in fear from you and a lot of your fellow voters!

  • I see MZ had the opportunity to empty his spleen *and* up his smug quotient for the week.

    Good for him.

  • “You can’t cure stupid.”

    Ah, our intellectual superiors from VN.

  • I suppose I could have just linked to a timeline of the health care reform bill. I could have linked to the numerous hearings with insurers, providers, and beneficiaries. I could have pointed to the numerous efforts to get Republican cosponsors that started in the House and ended with overtures to Susan Collins in the Senate. But I figured anyone who made the statement, “Or did you conveniently forget that the Dems forged the monstrosity of Obamacare on their own behind closed doors?” wasn’t particularly interested in an argument and was just being stupid. Much to my chagrin, other people in this combox decided to place their tribe before a trivial and easily verifiable truth. Please go back to feigning to offer intelligent commentary and throw a few more rips at me for my offenses.

  • But I figured anyone who made the statement, “Or did you conveniently forget that the Dems forged the monstrosity of Obamacare on their own behind closed doors?” wasn’t particularly interested in an argument and was just being stupid.

    Yes, I think everyone was impressed by how you showed that you, on the contrary, were interested in argument.

  • But, there is some legitimacy it would seem to the argument that the Blunt amendment goes little too far. What about things like blood transfusions or other true treatments that some particular sect may object to?
    c matt

    My responses to that are threefold: “so what?”, “what is it about the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment you don’t like?” and “when has an employer ever hidden their religion as it affects their business’s practices from a job prospect?”

    To amplify the latter, if I had a health plan at a job provided by a practicing Jehovah’s Witness I’d be grateful to have a job. And if I had an acute life-threatening injury and the only reachable-in-time medical help was the Jehovah’s Witness clinic (they operate no hospitals to my knowledge), I’d be grateful for whatever help they offer.

    Also, none of this should matter anyway because the federal government is not permitted the power to meddle in our lives and livelihoods this way by the U.S. Constitution.

10 Most Cited Arguments in Favor of the HHS Mandate

Monday, March 5, AD 2012

[ed note: This is a helpful write-up of some brief arguments against the HHS mandate that a friend of mine wrote up. She allowed me to share it with you, so enjoy!]

I am a Catholic, unmarried, left-leaning centrist, female, 20-something, law student. Not only does this mean that I enjoy those oft-avoided subjects of religion and politics, it also means that no matter what the topic is, I am sure to be able to point you to an entire circle of my friends that will argue with me to the death. Very enthusiastically, in fact.

The Obama/HHS Mandate is the perfect example. Within my various circles, and across the nation, this mandate has simultaneously sparked debate about religious beliefs, Constitutional freedom, political party divides, and the issue of women’s rights, to name a few. These discussions result in recurring arguments made in support of the mandate which have a tendency to surface regardless of which issue was the catalyst of that particular debate. And so, in light of that fact, I present to you the un-official list of the ten most cited arguments made in support of the mandate, and why every one of them fails.

10.   “The Church is just opposed to universal healthcare!”

I’ve got news for you: the Catholic Church actively advocates for universal health care. In fact, the Church teaches that health care is a right, not merely a privilege, as articulated by Pope John XXIII in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) in 1963. At an international Papal conference on health care in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI stated that it is the “moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.” Want more evidence? Look no further than the Catholic Catechism (n. 2288), or the U. S. Bishops’ pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All” (1986) (nn. 86, 90, 103, 191, 212, 230, 247, and 286.) The examples are countless, and the Church’s official teaching is clear. The issue is not that the Obama administration seeks to provide access to healthcare, the issue is that it wants to compel religiously-affiliated employers to provide health care coverage that runs counter to core doctrinal beliefs.

9.     “Contraception is used for purposes other than avoiding pregnancy, and sterilizing procedure are sometimes necessary to treat medical illness; therefore the Church has no reason to refuse to provide health care that includes contraception and sterilization for those purposes!”

It is true that the birth control pill can serve the secondary purpose of treating the symptoms of poly cystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and even moderate to severe acne.  However, there are many medical alternatives to the pill. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction specializes in such alternative treatments. The Church is happy to provide health care coverage for these.  As for sterilization, suppose a woman had a hysterectomy to remove a cancerous uterus. The intention of the operation was to remove the cancer, not to sterilize her. The sterilization was an unfortunate but intended consequence. As Pope Paul VI said in Humanae Vitae, “The Church… does not at all consider illicit the use of those therapeutic means truly necessary to cure diseases of the organism, even if an impediment to procreation, which may be foreseen, should result therefrom, provided such impediment is not, for whatever motive, directly willed.”

Unfortunately, the HHS Mandate does not allow religiously affiliated businesses and organizations to provide these procedures only in these limited circumstances of medical necessity. If it did, this conversation might be different. In fact, Catholic universities that exist in states where coverage is mandatory, such as the Franciscan University of Steubenville, University of Dallas, and University of Notre Dame, provide that coverage only when medically necessary. The HHS mandate makes no exception to allow for the Church to freely exercise its religious beliefs by making this distinction.


8. This is more of a category of arguments that all basically say the same thing: the Church is trying to trump the Constitution. Most often phrased:

“You Catholics are trying to tear down the wall between church and state again! THAT is the Constitutional violation we should be concerned about.”


“The Church is trying to force its belief system on everyone in the US and effectively establish Catholicism as the religion of the nation. So much for ‘Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion…’”

First of all, let’s clarify something. The phrase “separation of church and state” does not exist in the Constitution or in any of the nation’s founding documents. Rather it originated in a letter from Thomas Jefferson in response to the Danbury Baptist Association, which was concerned about the implications of the 1st Amendment on religious freedom. Reassuring the Baptist Association, Jefferson explained that the 1st Amendment effectuated a separation between church and state in order to protect religious groups from interference by the government. This foundational purpose of the Religion Clauses of the Constitution continues to be reaffirmed by the courts. In fact, the Supreme Court unanimously echoed this respect for religious autonomy less than a month ago in Hosanna-Tabor v. E.E.O.C..  In their concurring opinion, Justices Alito and Kagan noted that “[t]o safeguard this crucial autonomy, we have long recognized that the Religion Clauses protect a private sphere within which religious bodies are free to govern themselves in accordance with their own beliefs. The Constitution guarantees religious bodies ‘independence from secular control or manipulation—in short, power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.’”

With that said, the Church is not seeking to abolish this “separation of church and state.” In fact, in an essay written in First Things in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, he recognized the importance of this dual autonomy. He notes that the United States, “formed on the basis of free churches, adopts a separation between church and state” and hails this as being what the early church had in mind. The Church is not seeking to eliminate the rights granted by the 1st Amendment or somehow attempting to override the Constitution and establish Catholicism as some sort of national religion. Far from it. The Church simply opposes the government’s attempt to cross that line by forcing the Church to chose between obeying the law and violating her conscious. The 1st Amendment prevents the government from forcing citizens to make this choice. Plain and simple.

7.     “Universal, free access to birth control will mean fewer unwanted pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions. The Church should be happy!”

First, birth control pills are potentially abortive in-and-of themselves because one function of several varieties of “the Pill” is to thin and shrivel the lining of the uterus so that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg. Because life begins at conception, pills that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall in effect cause the abortion of that life.

But, secondly, even if we discount the unknowable number of lives lost in that manner, there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that an increase in the use of birth control decreases the frequency of abortions. In fact, studies show just the opposite.

58% of all abortion patients were using contraception during the month when they became pregnant. Only 11% of abortion patients have never used a method of contraception. Moreover, studies have shown that once contraception is more widely available, abortion rates may actually rise. In Maryland, for example, the first state to enact a contraceptive mandate, the number of abortions rose by 1,226 the year after the mandate took effect. This holds true in several other countries as well.  A study in Spain analyzed data from 1997-2007. During the study period the overall use of contraceptive methods increased from 49.1% to 79.9%. The elective abortion rate increased from 5.52 to 11.49 per 1000 women.

By the way, this isn’t some kind of secret. Several professionals who promote and administer abortion freely acknowledge this link.  As merely one example, take these statements made by Malcom Potts, former director of Planned Parenthood of England:

  1. “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate…”  Cambridge Evening News, 7 February 1973
  2. “…those who use contraception are more likely than those who do not to resort to induced abortion…” Abortion p. 491.
  3. “No society has controlled its fertility…without recourse to a significant number of abortions.” “Fertility Rights,” The Guardian, 25 April 1979

So in reality, there is a link between the use of contraception and the abortion rate. When the first increases, so does the latter.

6.     “The government regulates religion all the time, such as when it outlaws religious practices such as ___________. (polygamy, ceremonial human sacrifice, ‘honor killings,’ etc.) This is the same thing!”

Actually, the government does not “regulate religion all the time.” It actually continuously upholds religious autonomy. In order for the federal government to step in, there is an extremely high standard that must be met: the infringement on the religion must serve a “compelling government interest” and must implement a means that is least restrictive to religious freedom in order to achieve that interest. So looking at the examples in the argument, the Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to life itself. That easily explains how the government can prohibit human sacrifice and honor killings. As for polygamous communities, the courts have recognized indisputable links between polygamous communities and substantial, repeated harms to women and children such as incest, statutory rape and sexual assault. These harms are so egregious that the government is permitted to step in to prevent these physical harms to human life.

5.     “If Obama amends the mandate to provide a religious exemption, that will mean that an employer who is a Jehovah’s Witness could refuse to provide health care coverage for life-saving blood transfusions because doing so would run counter to his religious beliefs. That is absurd.”

Two points. First, blood-transfusions and contraception are not interchangeable. The difference here is that a blood-transfusion is a life-saving procedure, while contraception is not. The Supreme Court has continually upheld the right of the government to step in when it is necessary to preserve life (see #2 below). Obviously, contraception does not fall within this category.  Not only does contraception fail to qualify as “life-saving”, it is an elective intervention that interferes with the functioning of healthy women’s reproductive systems. Additionally, contraceptives have numerous side-effects and risks of serious complications. The side-effects of the pill include headaches, depression, decreased libido and weight gain, and serious documented complications such as heart attacks, cervical cancer and blood clots. An ongoing a class-action lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies alleges that a form of the pill has caused death, strokes and life-threatening blood clots.

Second, even if the courts were to say blood-transfusions and contraception were equitable, no one is talking about prohibiting/outlawing these things. The Church advocates for a religious exemption from the mandate for religiously-affiliated employers. When applying for jobs, we weigh several factors to determine which job we want. What are the hours? What is the salary? Where is the job located? What does the benefits package look like?  No one is being forced to work for a religiously-affiliated employer. We, as American citizens, have every right to either (1) work for a religiously-affiliated business, and supplement our insurance if we so choose, or (2) chose to work for an employer that provides as comprehensive of a health care plan as we desire.

4.   “The controversy over the HHS Mandate is about contraception, not religious freedom.”

The Bishops have gathered in very vocal resistance to this mandate, and in doing so brought to light the Church’s opposition to contraception, sterilization and abortifaceints in order to explain how this mandate would violate the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.  So while the issue of contraception itself remains at center of the headlines, the issue really is religious freedom. “This is not a matter of whether contraception may be prohibited… [or] supported by the government…It is not a matter of ‘repackaging’ or ‘framing’ this as a religious freedom dispute. It is a matter of acknowledging the basic fact that government is forcing religious people and groups to do something that violates their consciences,” (Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, CT).

In fact, that this truly is an issue of religious freedom is evidenced by the fact that many many non-catholic, pro-contraception groups and individuals have spoken out against this mandate because of the risk it poses to religious freedom across the board. This list includes, among others, Democratsa self-defined conservative with libertarian leanings,orthodox JewsLutheransBaptistsevangelical ProtestantsAnglicans, andnondenominational organizations.

3.     “Religiously-affiliated businesses receive millions of dollars in Federal funding, therefore the government has every right to impose regulations on those businesses.  If the Church doesn’t want to be regulated, it should stay out of the business-sector altogether.”

Bishop Lori responded to this argument best in saying: “We don’t get a handout. We have a contract for services, and we deliver them. … We bring the generosity of the Catholic people, and we bring volunteers. When you contract with the Church, you get a bang for your buck.” If religious organizations, particularly Catholic organizations, were forced to shut down due to regulations such as the HHS mandate, this country would be astounded by the results. The Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at a cost of $10 billion a year to parents and parishes. If there were no Catholic schools, these same students would have to be educated in public schools, which would cost $18 billion to American taxpayers. In secondary education alone, the Church has more than 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. with an enrollment of 700,000 students. In terms of health care, the Church has a non-profit hospital system comprising of 637 hospitals which treat one in five patients in the United States every day. Every city and town benefits from Catholic organizations. In Chicago alone, there are hundreds of Catholic organizations that serve the needs of that city. One of those is Catholic Charities which provides 2.2 million free meals to the hungry and needy each year. That is 6,027 meals a day, in one city.  Does anyone really have any desire to see what our nation (and our taxes) would look like without these businesses and the services they provide?

2.     “The church is trying to interfere with women’s rights!”

As Cardinal Dolan has noted, “the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women.  Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country…. [I]n New York State, Fidelis, the Medicare/Medicaid insurance provider, owned by the Church, consistently receives top ratings for its quality of service to women and children.”

When right are granted to you by your governing nation, you expect them to provide it. Your children have a right to an education, and thus the right to attend public school at no additional cost. You do not march up to the main office at a private school and demand that they let your child in, free of charge, because they have a right to an education. Similarly, if you cannot afford to put food on your table, you have a right to ask the government to provide for you through welfare, but you don’t have the right to walk into a restaurant and demand that they feed you.  The government can and should provide access to health care for all citizens, but that requires actually providing it, not shifting the responsibility to private employers. The Obama Administration has decided that women employees have the right to health care coverage that provides contraception. The problem with the government forcing business-owners to provide that “right” to society is that the scope of governmental authority is limited by the rights and freedoms that protect individual business owners. If the administration really wants to provide comprehensive, universal health care, it needs to do so itself without involving private entities.

1.      “98% of Catholics don’t abide by this core doctrine of the Catholic faith; therefore, it should not be entitled to First Amendment protection.”

First and foremost, that statistic is absurd. Seriously, 98%?  I am with Glenn Back on this one, “I mean, when your poll looks like the results from a Saddam Hussein election, you know you have problems.” Among other issues, the study that touts this statistic doesn’t include: anyone who isn’t a Catholic woman between the ages of 14-44, anyone who is pregnant, anyone who gave birth recently, anyone who hadn’t had sex in the past three months, anyone trying to get pregnant or was indifferent to getting pregnant, anyone having sex and trying to avoid pregnancy without implementing a specific contraception method. It did, however, include self-identified Catholics who listed their church attendance rate as less than once a month, or never. Actually, 2 in every 5 of those polled fell into this category. But I digress.

Even if 98% of Catholics used contraception, that fact would have no bearing whatsoever on the fact that the doctrinal beliefs and teachings of the Catholic faith have never wavered on this issue, a fact that illustrates the strength and conviction of the Church. As one Evangelical Lutheran put it, “That a Roman Pontiff would lead the opposition – often painfully alone – to contraception at the end of the twentieth century is no small irony. Perhaps the Catholic hierarchy model, reserving final decisions on matters of faith and morals to a bishop whom Catholics believe is the successor of Peter, has proved more resilient in the face of modernity than the Protestant reliance on individual conscious and democratic church governance.”

The Church’s beliefs are clear. Whether or not individuals choose to disobey the Church’s directives does not change the fact that “the First Amendment stands tightly closed against any governmental regulation of religious beliefs.” (Stated in the Supreme Court’s 8-1 Johnson v. Robisondecision.)

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58 Responses to 10 Most Cited Arguments in Favor of the HHS Mandate

  • Denton,

    Do you write for “vox nova’?

    The short answer to every one of the 10 false comparisons and outright lies is, “There you go again.” One of the little machines that plays hysterical laughter would be effective, too.

    2. The Church’s reaction to this government diktat merely interferes with who pays for various mortal sins, not women’s rights.

    However, I think Church is interfering with the regime’s tyrannical power grab.

    If you write for VN, you are the problem not the solution.

  • Good post, Michael. I do not understand, however, the argument that the Church has always believed universal health care is a human right. Yes, I realize that various Popes have said something along those lines, but that never has settled right by me. I suppose that I have to give assent even if I don’t like it, but my questions on that are beyond the scope of this blog entry, being better reserved for a different discussion.

  • Great post Michael!

    T.Shaw, dial it back. Michael has never written for Vox Nova, and this is a first rate post.

  • T. Shaw:

    The idea of me writing for VN would make a certain Minion more than a little queasy. 😉


    As you said, the Church’s teaching here is beyond the scope of this post, but I do think it’s worth noting that the USCCB in particular has advocated strongly in favor of a national health care system. We can discuss whether that goes beyond what is required by Church teaching, but regardless it makes the Obama administration’s position so bizarre. You see, after years of using the USCCB as a moral justification for passing healthcare reform, now the opinions of the USCCB are irrelevant and inconvenient; the true voice of the Church for the Obama administration is Sister Keehan and the CHA. How quickly the USCCB went from Democrat faves to the outhouse needs to be noted and questioned.

  • Valid point, Michael. Thanks! I do want to have a discussion on whether or not health care is a human right. Life certainly is a human right, but health care is a different matter which I don’t want to use to derail the main point that after years of promoting national health care, the USCCB is the Administration’s whipping boy because it won’t countenance financing abortifacients nor contraceptives. Nevertheless, it’s not govt’s job to care for the sick; that’s our job as members of the Body of Christ. Giving govt that kind of power has resulted in the current situation. 🙁 On the other hand, for an individual community to make health care provisions for its inhabitants consistent with the principle of subsidiarity is something I would fully support. Keep it at the city or even State level, and maybe it’s OK. But a Federal govt that has this kind of power over the entire nation is a govt to be feared, not respected – hence the HHS mandate and that promiscuous girl testifying before the Senate.

  • Paul:

    We should note that one can say “healthcare is a human right” but not have to agree that that right ought to be provided by the federal government (or provided in particular forms, such as universal healthcare). The latter is based on considerations of prudence & subsidiarity.

  • This is an excellent rebuttal to the common arguments.

    My view is more in line with Paul’s. Access to healthcare is a right. Healthcare is not a right.

    From what I understand, rights are not “provided.” They are innate and inalienable. Principle of subsidiarity also does not apply because rights must be honored at all levels of government.

  • “We should note that one can say “healthcare is a human right” but not have to agree that that right ought to be provided by the federal government (or provided in particular forms, such as universal healthcare). The latter is based on considerations of prudence & subsidiarity.”

    Not to mention Catholic Social Teaching requires that persons and institutions not be made dependent on the govt. As is seen now, nationalized health care has the potential to eliminate Catholic healthcare either by requiring hospitals to compromise Church teaching or to close or be sold. This is clearly a case of institutions’ existence being made dependent on govt. fiat and control of healthcare dollars.

  • Kyle:

    Principle of subsidiarity also does not apply because rights must be honored at all levels of government.

    Yes, but subsidiarity would dictate how those governments must honor those rights. For example, right to life means all levels must not kill, but may have different levels of responsibility for securing that right to life. Local governments would handle police protection & murder investigations; feds handle military & intelligence work. So subsidiarity still has a role to play with rights.

  • I like Michael Denton’s analogy. In the case of health care, Federal Agencies such as the EPA and the NRC may set regulatory limits on harmful emissions to the environment as a preventative measure, and the FDA may set guidelines for the safe manufacture of pharmaceuticals. But the local or State govt may set up provisions to actually care for the sick who don’t have medical insurance coverage. That’s subsidiarity in action. Things that can affect the health of all of us – fossil fuel emissions and radiological emissions from nuclear power plants – are regulated at the top where the regulation can have the most benefit. But things that need to be directed at the ground level – providing hospitalization for a sick or injured homeless person – is done at the ground level.

  • I would apologize except it’s a sign of weakness.

    Anyhow, I apologize.

  • Enjoyed the article, and agree with most of your points. However I wonder why on #5 you, as well as so many who weigh in on the matter of the government’s coercive contraception policies, don’t stress more strongly the adverse health consequences of oral contraceptives, and therefore how bogus the ” it’s all about women’s health” argument is. How many know that oral contraceptives are a class 1 carcinogen? Right along with asbestos, tobacco and numerous other proven cancer causing products. DDT which has been banned for 40 years is only a class 2 carcinogen, suspected but not proven to cause cancer. The freedom of religion argument is important and must be made. But telling Americans that providing contraceptives is necessitated by health concerns is a flat out lie. The proven connection with cancer, as well cardiovascular complications, about which I suspect few truly understand should be enough to blow a huge hole through the Obamacare supporters arguments regarding “health care needs trump religious freedom” .

  • In the words of Donald R. McClarey: “Great post Michael!… this is a first rate post.”

  • T. Shaw:
    “I would apologize except it’s a sign of weakness.

    Anyhow, I apologize.”
    I apologize is a sign of the cross.

  • Phillip says:
    “We should note that one can say “healthcare is a human right” but not have to agree that that right ought to be provided by the federal government (or provided in particular forms, such as universal healthcare).
    Healthcare is an act of charity and as such is an act of religion. Charity is the giving and the receiving of Divine Providence. What does the HHS mandate (not at all explicit, nor explained as healthcare) return to the giver in the way of Divine Providence through an act of charity or as an act of religion? And for that matter, what does the HHS mandate return to the giver in the way of citizenship, patriotism and freedom?…that is, besides the government imposing its will on us without the consent of the governed? A people whose conscience has been silenced does not have consent to give. Pelosi’s “Pass it, so we can learn what is in it” is coercion, not consent.

  • Can anyone point to a solid and reputable explanation on the Church’s position on nationalized healthcare. My read on this is the Church advocates the govt. stepping in when local or private sector has not afforded access to care ( subsidiarity) and then only if the provisions are true cost saving and not immoral ( HHS mandate ). Obamacare fails on all 3 counts!
    The USCCB mistakenly conceded to this or consists of too many who have Socialistic views

  • I’m a convert of less than a year and while I hate to derail the post, I actually do need someone to explain to me what we mean by universal access to health care. Because access, in plain language, means that you are able to get care when you *need* it- in other words, it is accessible. In the US we currently have laws that make it illegal for someone to be turned away if they are truly in need (sick or hurt). Doctors must treat these patients regardless of ability to pay. So while you may not be able to get care for things that aren’t necessary or are purely elective, if you truly need care you will get it. How does that not classify as access? Does the Church really mean we need free healthcare or universal insurance coverage? Because it seems to me like that’s the underlying intent of the language of the bishops, etc, but it’s not what they’re actually *saying* when they advocate for ‘access.’

  • “That these are paid for with the loss of individual initiative and personal freedom is not at all a worry. . .Big Government has our best interest at heart.” Fr. Powell 12/22/2009

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  • Fact: The policy problem of the health uninsured was not as large as 2008 election-year opportunists made it. Census reported that 254,000,000 (85% of all Americans) Americans had health insurance coverage. The number without insurance improved to 45.7 million people, or 15% of the population, from 47 million in 2006. About 54% of uninsured are aged 18 to 34, and many of them voluntarily chose to forgo health coverage.

    So, the crisis was that one-in-eight had lousy health care.

    The big government solution: seven-in-eight gets lousy health care. The one-eighth is the Congress and select Obama-supportrs who won’t get caught up in the mess.

  • I just stole-and-pasted part of the response to #7. This article is a good resource. Thanks for posting it.

  • For #9, I think it would be helpful to emphasize that the Church does not oppose theraputic use of contraceptive hormones, and that existing plans from Catholic organizations have exceptions for them, rather than starting with alternative treatments.

    The current phrasing can to easily be bent to Catholics inserting themselves into medical decisions regarding women’s health.

    I say this because I think #9 is the one most likely to resonate with people on the fence on this issue — they may not like the government telling the Church what to do, but they certainly don’t like the bishops telling their doctors what they can prescribe to treat PCOS. Underscoring that this is not what we want, nor what we in fact do under the current rules, is helpful.

  • He missed one:
    “The Catholic Church is full of perverts, so anything they say should be discounted.”
    That one always seems to crop up as soon as I try to have a serious discussion on the subject. As though the Church having screwed up in one area decades ago means they have to be wrong on an unrelated matter today. But it’s most often used as a way of shutting down the debate and making sure the Catholic can’t make the cogent points.

  • I think it’s a question of absolute rights (which is the American way of thinking) versus feasibility. As human beings, we’re entitled to speak our minds. As a practical matter, however, there are reasonable restrictions on that right, such as the laws against slander or disturbing the peace. Similarly, as human beings we have a right to our natural lifespans (ie health care), but we must recognize that there are limited resources and that right cannot be fully actualized. Ooh, I like that: fully actualizing a right. We have a right to the free exercise of religion, but we recognize that that right can’t be fully actualized for polygamists or cannibals.

    There are a lot of problems that arise when we throw around words like “right” and “health care”.

    You know, one thing we never, ever talk about is the notion of responsibility in health care. If you’re overeating in front of a starving person, it’s a sin. Is it similarly sinful for a 78-year-old to spend money on knee reconstruction instead of donating that money to a third-world hospital? I think it has to be considered a sin. I’m not recommending any sort of governmental rationing at all, but it does seem like something that an individual should consider. Or am I wrong on this?

  • “. . . it’s a sin. Is it similarly sinful for a 78-year-old to spend money on knee reconstruction instead of donating that money to a third-world hospital? I think it has to be considered a sin.”

    I sort of agree.

    The money Obama wants to spend to faciltate fornication could be sent to third world hospitals. The money the health system COULD save if the democrats allowed reform of the trial lawyers situation (minimum $120,000 a year malpractice insurance, plus huge judgments every day) could lower health care costs here and some sent to poor people around the world.

    But, here you have the rationale for Obama’s Death Panels and euthanasia. The pagan Eskimos would abandon sick and elderly on the ice.

    I was 57 years-old when I had both knees replaced in 2007. Pinky would have sent the money to someone else. Hey, at 57 Shaw don’t need to be able to walk without excruciating pain.

    PS: I think voting democrat is a mortal sin. And, there are not enough bullets.

  • Obama wants all of you to have your knickers in a bunch over condoms!

    Old news for April 2010: And, Grandma dies.
    The rgime “covered up the HHS report until after the vote on health care reform. Not one of its major programs has gotten started, and already the wheels are starting to come off of Obamacare. The administration’s own actuary reported on Thursday that millions of people could lose their health insurance that health-care costs will rise faster than they would have if the law hadn’t passed, and that the overhaul will mean that people will have a harder and harder time finding physicians to see them. . . . This is an objective report by administration actuaries that shows this sweeping legislation has serious, serious problems.”

    All that money could be sent to poor people somewhere else.

  • Pinky:

    I think the Church’s teachings with regards to gospel poverty and avoiding waste would apply in the healthcare setting, but I think it would be difficult to come up with many uniform rules. Even in your example, while it may be heroic to give up such a surgery, I don’t think the Church would say that walking is a luxury that you are expected to give up. So I think that while on an individual level one should consider whether x surgery is really necessary or worth the money it will cost both to the individual & the insurance company, once we try to apply the rules on a general level it gets extremely problematic.

  • I don’t think I’m calling for anyone to forgo knee surgery, and certainly not at age 57. And Michael’s right that this line of thought gets problematic. But there’s got to be a point where spending $100k on your own comfort, or even the continuation of your life, becomes morally wrong. It sure is a lot easier to ask such questions when you’re in your 40’s, though.

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  • Transgenderism, cloning, IVF, sterilization, abortion, face lifting, cosmetic surgery, hair transplant and contraception eliminated, there would certainly be enough money to send to the poor, third world. I have been told that the $99.00 paid monthly for Medcare will rise to $247.00 monthly by 2014. The line is drawn between vice and virtue. And then there is transhumanism, I want a new mechanical arm. “Pass it so we can learn what is in it” Pelosi. The HHS mandate will cover everything but sick people.

  • “Universal, free access to birth control will mean fewer unwanted pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions. The Church should be happy!”

    Right…there are about 1 million abortions per year in the US, so by forcing Catholic institutions to offer birth control, this figure will decline to what? 100K per year? 500k abortions per year?

    I think the answer is obvious.

  • Pinky,

    Sorry if I came across harshly.

    My (I hope never to see him again) surgeon travels to Africa each year to do knees and hips replacements pro bono.

    I have seen both my parents in hospital for several months each before they went to Heaven. Every night we left my Mom (on a ventilator) with her Rosary and she prayed them every night. We thought she would recover until the rapid decline right before her death.

    My wife is an ICU RN for 40 years. Don’t tell her I told you. She’s a professional caring for dying people. I’m not sure you or I understand end of life “issues.”

    I would give everything I own to have five more minutes with my Mom.

    Regarding Gospel “love of neighbor”: We need to do what we can do. We need to meditate on the parable (maybe it’s not a parable) of the widow’s mite. We need to do the corporal works of mercy from what we have and from our hearts. Doing it with other people’s money doesn’t count.

    And, we can walk (or drive) down the street or ride the bus/RR and pray from those around us. We can sit in meetings and pray for those around us even if we are competing against them for the deal. We can say a quick prayer asking for the Divine Assistance for those in need when we see or hear an ambulance or fire truck running to an emergency.

    And, we need to do what we can to ensure Obama does not get four more years to wreck the Church, the country, nor ruin any more souls.

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  • Jesus’ Mother is the Patron of our country and at Fatima, where there was witnessed a miracle with the sun. Prayer through her Son is what she urged. So, yes T. Shaw, you have to be right about what they call spiritual works of mercy. Also, we can’t give away the US to this admin for another term. There’s an insidious word campaign going on for everything from ‘health’ to Iran to put responsibilty for trouble on any other party. All the rhetoric is probably designed to sicken and weaken people to the point of easy ruin. Like pulling the rug out slowly from under basic rights and freedoms. Not an easy Lent for me anyway. Everyday is another some thing to force a reaction to then attack.

    Prayer, fasting, almsgiving and staying close to God and keeping an eye on good and bad.

    Pinky, my mother was almost nonstop crying in pain when she needed a knee replacement in her 70’s – she’s 87 now and gets around with cane or walker with a not quite right new knee. I would have sold my house so she could move again rather than donate its value elsewhere. Your example of spending money on medical things would have been stronger with other cosmetic or gender electives coupled with eating in front of the hungry. But, yes, some form of almsgiving is what God says He sees and rewards.
    Anyway, I hope and pray the whole issue gets repealed as a result of November election results. It will take a lot of patience, good digestion, sanity, and a good prayer. Maybe helping other people recognize words v. words could be almsgiving? Like what happens here at the American Catholic.

  • “Does anyone really have any desire to see what our nation (and our taxes) would look like without these businesses and the services they provide?”

    The government, especially with Mr. Obama at the helm, would—if they could, they’d eliminate everyone but themselves as the provider of services so that the public would be entirely and exclusively dependent on them, it’s a socialist dream.

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  • Great points. One additional point to iterate is that this isn’t just a religious freedom issue for religiously affiliated employers like Catholic schools and hospitals. EVERY INDIVIDUAL has the Constitutional protections of the first amendment. So the Catholic owner of a newspaper empire has the the same right to not offer these things, the Catholic employer of an auto dealership has these very same rights.

    Just want to make sure that it is clear that all Catholics whether they own business that are “Catholic” or not have the same first amendment privilege to not offer contraception.

  • Is there a one stop shop someone can go to to monitor the status of all initiatives to rectify this situation? A list of all legislative bills, court filings, petitions, etc.

    Enough hand wringing from the laity and bishops, as great as it is, what pragmatic efforts are taking place? Waiting on Congress? Good luck with that.

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  • Universal Health Care should be utilized only for the basic necessities, doctor and hospital visits, surgeries, medications needed to sustain life and treat illnesses. Once astronomical medical bills are paid for under UHC there is no reason why a person couldn’t take the costs they use to pay out and put it into paying for optional care (like birth control) or obtain it at any one of the numerous clinics that dole it out for free like it’s candy. It’s not like employees didn’t know the churches stance BEFORE taking a job with them and if they are that against them not paying for these things maybe they should have looked for a job elsewhere and left those positions open for true believers who have no issues with following the churches teachings? The whole argument that the church is trying to break down the division of church and state is BS, if they want to go at it like that it’s more like the government is trying to tear down the wall, supposedly church and state is supposed to be separated so if that is the case why is the government stepping inside the church to tell them what they can and cannot do? If the church is supposed to stay out of government affairs the government also has to stay out of the churches which means they can not demand they go against their beliefs and provide these services. A “wall” separates two side, not one, so you can either have it that they both stay out of each others business or neither, they can take their pick, but if they choose that the government has the right to dictate what the church can and cannot do the church should be able to jump into their house and do the same.

  • Michael- Thanks for the honor of posting this on my behalf, and for doing the majority of the heavy lifting responding to comments. And congratulations, again, on the birth of your beautiful little girl 🙂

    Mark Frederick and Kyle Miller-
    Bishop William Murphy, chair of the U. S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, gave the essence of the Church’s position in a letter to members of Congress: “Reform efforts must begin with the principle that decent health care is not a privilege, but a right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person. … The bishops’ conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable” (italics in original).

    “He missed one:
    ‘The Catholic Church is full of perverts, so anything they say should be discounted.'”
    Unfortunately, the people who resort to that argument are clearly not open to an open-minded, rational discussion on the merits (or rather lack thereof) of this mandate. But you are right, it does come up. I added it to the list of additional arguments that I’ve addressed below. Thanks!

    Linda C- “The government, especially with Mr. Obama at the helm, would”
    an unfortunate truth

    DN: Point well taken. Yes, absolutely the 1st Amendment protects the rights of all Catholic business owners and employers, and you are absolutely right that this should be made crystal clear. And it goes back to the second paragraph under #2. There is an inherent problem with government entities trying to compel employers to provide a “benefit” to society: its ability to do so is limited by the rights afforded to those business owners and employers.

    Kyle Miller-
    “Is there a one stop shop someone can go to to monitor the status of all initiatives to rectify this situation? “
    Unfortunately, I have yet to find one. If you happen to stumble across one, please let us know, and I will do the same.

    Chris C- Great point. Believe it or not, I remember thinking about that while I was writing up the post, but I suppose it got lost in my head while discussing the other, less egregious risks it poses to health. Forgive the unfortunate oversight. I’ve included it additional arguments below. Thanks!

  • Thanks to everyone who has been suggesting additional arguments in this combox (and on threads that link back to this post). So here is my addendum with 5 more arguments for you.

    11. “The Church should be ashamed to come forward on any issue of morality after the recent scandals. No one should listen to anything they say”

    There is no denying that people who abuse children and those that cover it up should be brought to justice. There is absolutely nothing that justifies such horrible harms to children, particularly from men in a position of trust. As Pope John Paul II stated, “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.” However, to imply that a major function of the Church is to facilitate pedophilia, that Catholicism is intrinsically evil, or that everything the Church does or says is without value is ridiculous.

    As an analogy, the United States has established guiding principles by which its citizens must operate. When an individual citizen chooses to violate those laws and murder someone, you do not attribute the choices of the person to the President, Congress or Justices. Even if a police officer (or judge, or congressman, or even president) aids and abets the murderer, we as citizens would demand justice to be done because U.S. laws were violated, and there was corruption in an office that we trust. We would not attempt to claim that because someone in the country did a terrible thing, the laws of the United States had lost any credibility.

    The same is true with the Church. The priests that chose to violate not only United States law but also core teachings of the Catholic faith must be brought to justice. Any officials who knew of a particular abuse and covered it up must similarly be brought to justice. But their choices do not nullify the teachings of the Church itself. Frankly, to claim otherwise is intellectually lazy, and merely an attempt to silence the Church on any hot-button topic without regard for the merits of the Church’s stance on the subject.

    12. “The Church is being partisan and picking a fight just in time to try and sway the vote for the November election.”

    President Obama has been in frequent communication with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops throughout the process of creating health care reform. During a Health Reform Summit, the Bishops expressed concern that freedom of conscious would be violated. Cardinal Dolan states that “[President Obama] assured[ the Bishops] that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church in health care, education, and charity, and that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty.” Obama knew exactly what would happen when he introduced that Mandate. The Bishops had been clear with him from the start.
    Cardinal Dolan explains: “This has not been a fight of our choosing. We’d rather not be in it. We’d prefer to concentrate on the noble tasks of healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor, all now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church. And we were doing all of those noble works rather well, I dare say, without these radical new mandates from the government. The Catholic Church in America has a long tradition of partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad. We’d sure rather be partnering than punching.”

    The bishops did not pick this fight in an election year—others did. Furthermore, the Bishops form their positions based on the principles of the Church, not on polls, personalities, or political parties. Bishops are duty bound to proclaim these principles, in and out of season. You can find these in a publication called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

    13. “Catholics aren’t forced to use contraception just because it is provided in their health care plan. If you are Catholic and don’t agree with contraception, don’t use it; and if you think abortions are murder, then don’t have one.”

    If the Obama administration was seeking to provide access to health care by using the same model as say, Canada or almost anywhere in Europe, you may have a better argument. In those models, every individual is able to make their own choice about these issues. The problem with the Mandate is that by forcing Catholic employers to provide the health care plan, the Catholic employer is actually forced to subsidize things that he or she cannot in good conscious support.

    14. “I pay for stuff I don’t agree with all the time such as war. I don’t get an exemption, neither should the church.”

    If the health care plan were provided by the government (and generally funded by taxes), I agree that the Church would have a much more difficult time making its case in light of the current position of the Supreme Court on that very issue. The courts have held that the government has a right to levy taxes on all persons, regardless of religion, in order to serve the governments compelling interest in the proper functioning of the government generally, and that the tax system is not set up in a way that would facilitate fragmenting federal taxes for religious exemptions. (It should be noted, of course, that simply because something is legal does not mean that it is moral.)

    But we need not reach that discussion on this topic because the Obama Administration, for whatever reason, chose not to provide health care itself through taxation, but rather chose to force employers to provide it. By doing so, it subjected itself to the restrictions created by First Amendment protections.

    15. “Studies have proven that birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian cancer! The health care needs of women trump religious freedom!”

    Yes, studies suggest that people who regularly take birth control pills have decreased risk for ovarian cancer. You know what else they show? That those same women now have an *increased* risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer.
    And speaking of that reduced risk of ovarian cancer, know what else reduces that risk, and by a greater percentage than birth control pills? Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Don’t you just love the irony? Something else that decreases the risk is a healthy, low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Shocking, I know, that we should take care of our bodies and allow them to function properly in exchange for healthy, properly-functioning bodies.

    And while we are discussing health risks, not only have oral contraceptives been listed as Class 1 carcinogens (along with tobacco, asbestos, and radiation), I’ll just go ahead and mention again that studies show clear links between the pill and all kinds of other health problems such as stroke, blood clots, and cardiovascular disease, So even if you wanted to say that health care needs trump religious freedom, no woman’s health is being served by ingesting these pills.

    Ok, now it is my turn: I’ve addressed 15 arguments that are regularly made (and countless variations of the same arguments). What I want to know is why no proponent of the mandate has made and supported the only argument that matters: “The HHS Mandate doesn’t infringe on religious freedom.”
    The reason no one has been able to make this argument is because it is patently false. And everything else fails because of this truth: the mandate does violate religious freedom, and all of the arguments in response that fail to address that fundamental truth are just distracting noise.

  • One slight correction. In #9, didn’t you mean “unfortunate but UNintended consequence?”

  • Yes, sorry for the typo!

  • I don’t think you’ve refuted this one:

    “Catholics aren’t forced to use contraception just because it is provided in their health care plan. If you are Catholic and don’t agree with contraception, don’t use it; and if you think abortions are murder, then don’t have one.”

    The exemption works, as I understand it, to allow the Church to opt out where it is performing primarily religious functions to primarily Catholic employees. When freedom on conscience is at the center of the mission, and the employees are futhering the Church’s teachings, they are exempt.

    When the Church is not functioning as a Church, but rather as a general employer with a secular function, it is not exempt. If the Church, for example, operates a grocery store, it does not perform a religious function, or express its religious conscience. That would be true even if the grocery store had a charitable function as well. A Catholic bookstore, in contrast, is an expression of the Church’s religious mission.

    In other words, the exemption isn’t based just on owning the building or running a business. It is based on being a Catholic institution, expressing Catholic teachings, not just chartible values.

    This makes sense to me. People who apply for work at a Catholic hospital frequently have no connection to the Church. They are not applying to the hospital because it is Catholic. The same applies, with a little less force, at universities. The government is mandating a uniform benefit. A non-Catholic nurse should be able to apply at any hospital, and receive the same mandated benefit.

    To rephrase:

    “The Church should only have an exemption for conscience when it is furthering its teachings, not when it is operating as a secular employer and providing benefits to non-Cathoic employees.”

  • Carrying out the Works of Mercy aren’t furthering Christ’s teachings?

    We may need to amend the apocryphal St. Francis quote — “Preach the Gospel always, and you can only use words.”

  • —Carrying out the Works of Mercy aren’t furthering Christ’s teachings?

    Living the teachings isn’t the same as teaching. Buddhists and atheists can carry out works of mercy. To reiterate, the question is not only the employer, but the employee. The employee of a hospital does not necessarily seek out a Catholic hospital. There isn’t any difference between most services at Catholic hospitals and other hospitals. Since the employees see the mission as secular, and the environment is no different than a similar secular instituton, the employee’s expectation is to receive all federally mandated benefits.

  • What do you call a government that “Federally mandates”?

    PS: The government can’t do coproral works of mercy for you.

    News: Obamacare will result in reduced access to medical care: unintended consequence, maybe.

    Anyhow, none of the is about corporal works of mercy, health care access, or birth control. It’s about government CONTROL.

  • Kelly or Michael: could you cite where the stats about the Catholic schools and number of persons helped came from and the cost to tax payers if they were to disappear came from? That seems to be the biggest argument I hear, “the church takes federal money so it has to follow fed rules.” i know that thinking is flawed, thinking of the bailouts as GM (no loan to repay) and AIG (loan to repay) were both given federal monies but are not treated as gov’t entities like HUD or the EPA. Thanks!

  • I think the perception that there is no difference between services performed at Catholic institutions and those performed at secular institutions is part of the reason many feel so strongly that this mandate must be opposed. If the Catholic organizations must provide services exactly as secular organizations would, then we may as well not bother. The salt cannot lose its flavor.

  • @Kelly Ferguson, This is a pretty good one stop shop for all things we can do to stop the Chairman’s order. http://www.phatmass.com/action/

    @Karianna, The Church enters into contract for services with the federal government. As Cardinal Dolan put it, “Our Church has a long tradition of effective partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad, and we sure hope to continue it.” The feds get a very good bang for the buck. Of course, enemies of the Church will portray these contracts as federal give aways, i.e. the feds pouring free money on the Church. The Church is not profiting from these acts of charity.

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  • —I think the perception that there is no difference between services performed at Catholic institutions and those performed at secular institutions is part of the reason many feel so strongly that this mandate must be opposed.

    But it isn’t a perception. It’s a fact. There’s only one flavor of heart surgery.

    And, again, most importantly from the standpoint of the non-Catholic employee, the flavor is the same.

  • As a Canadian, I am utterly amazed at this debate. Universal/Accessible Government funded Health Care is the right answer. Those who need health care, including preventitive care and regular medical evaluations get those services, without any fees. Services are provided to those who need immediate care because of a sudden illness or injury AND as part of regular care. Sometimes we have to wait, but no one has to mortgage their house to pay for medical expenses. Private insurance companies provide for the “extras” such as prescription medications, vision care, dental, orthotics, hearing aids, etc. and plans are negotiated by the employees with the employer. There are not laws which regulate which services must be included in employee benefits – many employers do not even have private insurance plans. As a Catholic employee of a “non denominational” employer, that has medication coverage, I decide which prescriptions to have filled – my premiums do not change if I accept or reject certain prescriptions. I can also choose to have prenatal/maternity health care provided by a physician or midwife who do not perform abortions. Not sure why Americans are opposed to this kind of system – it baffles me completely. This upholds the principle of separation of church and state – and provides for religious freedom by making access to HEALTH services independent of private insurance companies – which, incidentally, seem to be making a huge profit south of the border.

  • Since when, Vickie, are we told in Sacred Scripture to sacrifice our God-given duty to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, etc., to nanny government? If every truly Christian person would do what Sacred Scripture says, then we would not need to abdicate our responsibility and evade our accountability to Caesar Augustus. Yet some want Caesar as Godhead instead of the God-man Jesus Christ.

    Universal health care provided by a universal government sacrifices on the altar of political expediency the freedom we have as children of God. (BTW, the Greek word for universal is Katholikos – get it?) A government that can give you anything you want can take away everything you have. Indeed, I tremble at the thought of entrusting my health care and that of my family to a government that legalizes abortion and mandates contraception coverage as health care (as Canadian health likewise does). But I understand that you Canadians are much further down the road of socialism – dependency on nanny government and worship of Caesar Augustus – than we Americans, though with Obama we aren’t far behind.

  • Paul W. Primavera: Ha That’s Caesar Augustus. Glad I got that cleared up. Now, I do not have to worry about you.
    Vickie: Sin separates man from his sovereignty. Man cannot consent to sin without losing his sovereignty. The ancient dragon is chained by America’s founding principles and he rails against his shackles, roaring hideous shrieks about “political points of view”, imposing the immorality of the damned upon the elect. There is no “good will” in hell, where one person is climbing out on the corpses of others only to fall back again when he reaches the top. The wait in Canada for heart surgery is two years. Canadians come to America where they at least can buy their own surgery. A two year wait is not exactly “accessible health care” and why are they coming to America, if it is so good?

College Roundup

Friday, September 30, AD 2011

I’ve been swamped the past two weeks, hence the delay in the rankings. I did have a huge realignment post lined up, but then Texas tried to play chicken with the Pac-12 and lost. As of now everyone is back to a holding pattern. The SEC and Big East have to move (the SEC to get to 14 and the Big East at least to return to the BCS-minimum 8). Who knows what will happen?

Thankfully, there is real football. Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU have already established themselves as national title contenders. Wisconsin with a win over Nebraska could put themselves into that category this week. We’ll see how Clemson & Va Tech pan out but the winner will likely win the ACC and be the conference’s best hope for a national title. In the PAC-12, we’re still waiting on stanford v. Oregon to see who will be the top dog, but Arizona St. is making a good case to win the South and play the spoiler role come December. With S. Florida’s loss last night, it looks like the Big East is just going to be grateful to get its last (or second to last; no one’s said when Pitt & Syracuse are leaving) BCS invite this year.

The Heisman is still a mess, though I note that despite the love LSU’s defense has gotten its star Tyrann Mathieu gets no Heisman love. I understand QBs are shiny, but at some point doesn’t a D guy deserve some real consideration even if he’s not return KOs and INTs like Woodson? If not, let’s have a defensive Heisman and acknowledge that the Heisman is really an offense-only award.

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One Response to College Roundup

  • The Big East is doomed as a football conference, as it should be. I am a longtime Pitt fan and anyone could see that the Big East administration saw football as a poor redheaded stepchild to basketball. Well, despite the numerous problems that college sports has, football drives the bus, not basketball. For several years, the administration at Pitt urged the Big East to strengthen its football lineup, but, being based in Providence, they dragged their feet. Central Florida, East Carolina and most notably the University of Houston wanted in the Big East.

    The Catholic basketball only schools didn’t like the football schools and as a result, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami fled back in 2003, and Pitt & Syracuse are now following them.

    There is no great BE football team, and there usually hasn’t been.

TAC College Rankings Week 2

Tuesday, September 13, AD 2011

Straight to the rankings this week!

1. LSU (2) – Plastering a cupcake isn’t too big a deal-but LSU has had issues with cupcakes a lot in the Les Miles era. A short week sets them up with a Thursday night bout against the violators of the SEC noise policy.

2. Alabama – Crushing Jo Pa isn’t that big of a deal right now, but early in the season it’s a good indicator of Bama’s strength

3.  Oklahoma (1) – A trip to Tallahassee will tell us a lot about the Big 12 & ACC this year

3. Boise St. – they better not take Rockets offense lightly on the road in Toledo or they will find themselves facing more indigestion than a slew of Tony Packo’s chili dogs

5.  Stanford-they haven’t done anything to hurt their cause and they won’t face a major challenge for some time

6. Oklahoma St. -eagerly awaiting a showdown in a couple of weeks with the Aggies

7.  Texas A&M – Is it really a good idea to take a bye week on week 2?

8. Florida St.- The Sooners coming is in town a big deal not only for FSU but also for the ACC. It’s the best shot at a marquee out of conference win not to mention something to brag about if the ACC really is interesting in scooping up the Longhorns in the latest realignment rumors.

9.  Wisconsin – The Badgers probably can’t wait the few weeks until they introduce the Corn Huskers to the Big 10

10. Nebraska – acing the Washington Huskies in Seattle will reveal a lot about the Corn Huskers and the Huskies

11. S. Carolina – the bad news for the Gamecocks is that the win against Georgia only gave them the SEC East crown according to preseason thought. With Tennessee and Florida looking decent against weak competition, it’s too early to book a return trip to Atlanta.

12. Arkansas -Eagerly awaiting their Sept 24th showdown with the Crimson Tide

13. Oregon – It’s all about the Stanford game now.

14. Virginia Tech- ECU gave them a scare, but they scare everybody and the Hokies get scared at least once a year. In this ACC, they’ll still go to the title game,

15. Auburn (1) – Their goal line stand against the Bulldogs was inspired by the glass’s performance against their mascot.

16. Michigan St. – should be a great game against the Fighting Irish who have their backs against the wall all the while the Spartans have a lot to prove

17. Ohio St. – the Buckeys offense needs a jolt and the Hurricans are probably licking their chops, but the Hurricanes offense isn’t much better

18. Florida – The game against the Vols will set expectations in the SEC East. With Georgia imploding, the Gators are primed to reclaim their status.

19. Arizona St. – The upset of Mizzou stands as a lone bright spot in the Pac-12’s OOC play.

20. Baylor – From the sounds of it, the lawyers aren’t succeeding in freezing the collapse of the Big 12, in which case Baylor needs to perform extremely well on the field to try to salvage a good invite.

21. South Florida – With Notre Dame defeated, the schedule it entirely dull (save maybe a trip to Pitt and Miami) until the last week when they play WVU likely for the Big East crown

22. West Virginia – If the Mountaineers wear their all yellow when they travel to Maryland to see the Maryland Pride uniforms ie BIG FLAG I HAZ BIG FLAG EVERYWHEREZ! I’m going to tear my eyeballs out

23. Texas – Leave it to the Longhorns to find a conference with weaker competition than the Big 12 to beat up on-and that’s before the SEC digs in

24. Washington – They upset Nebraska in the bowl game, but upsetting Big Red in the Cornhusker state is a difficult proposition.

25. Houston – Medical redshirts are awesome!

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5 Responses to TAC College Rankings Week 2

What are their issues?

Monday, September 12, AD 2011

I went online to start doing research into the Republican presidential candidates, hopefully for a post (or series) examining the positions. I started with the “Issues” pages and was struck by how similar Romney and Perry’s were. Consider Romney’s

You’ll note the Issues listed are Jobs, Fiscal Responsibility, Health Care, and Foreign Policy. No abortion, no marriage, really no social issues of any kind. But that’s Romney’s weak point. Presumably Perry is going to be carrying the Christian banner.

Or actually, the exact same issues (except National Security rather than Foreign Policy).

I understand issue #1 is the economy and how to spend (or not spend) in order to realign the economy and our budget. Abortion isn’t going to win anyone the nomination, much less the presidency. I get that.

But this is a website. It takes so little effort to put something saying like “Romney is pro-life and believes Roe v. Wade ought to be overturned.”  Neither candidate even bothered to put that little on their website. That’s a small gesture to expect.

So my question is this: if I’m a pro-lifer, if they don’t care enough about my issue to put it on their website, why should I care about their candidacies? And more important, if they don’t want me to consider abortion, should I consider it in their favor? Or should I take their invitation to be indifferent to the issue of abortion and judge them solely on economic and foreign policy issues? After all, if they’re not going to put abortion on their website how much effort do you think they’ll expend trying to help eliminate abortion?

And just to stir the pot a little more…

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13 Responses to What are their issues?

  • Ron Paul isn’t going to be elected dogcatcher so he can say any darn fool thing he wants to, and he does. Perry has always been a reliable pro-life vote in Texas, and I feel completely comfortable with him as the Republican standard bearer. Romney has been all over the mat on abortion and I do not trust him as far as he could throw me, which wouldn’t be far.

    Here is Perry addressing Texas Right to Life on January 22, 2011. This is a man pro-lifers can trust:

  • Ron Paul and John Huntsman are the most reliably pro-life candidates but I have no reason to believe any of them would govern pro-choice. They would have nothing to gain.

  • Looking from the outside in, the candidates are going to focus on the least number of hot topic issues necessary to concentrate support fot their candidacy.
    Abortion is a controversial and polarising subject, and the divide in the USA is pretty well already defined.
    Get the nomination and get into office – then chip away at the entrenched attitudes that allow the holocaust to continue.
    My 02.c. worth.

  • True – they do not press their pro-life positions. To what extent that is tactical vs. apathy is difficult to tell. Perry is probably the safer bet that it’s tactical.

    Of course, that brings us to the age old GOP pro-lifer dilemma – is it better to vote for someone neutral/apathetic on abrotion vs. letting a full throttled pro-choicer win, or is it better to send a “message” that pro-lifers won’t be taken for granted anymore? It is a sticky wicket, as they say.

    Doesn’t matter too much anyway. The only candidates who could turn this train wreck around won’t get elected.

  • c matt,
    I do agree that Romney is not reliably pro-life in the way Bush was, and I fear that may be true of Perry too. That said, either would probably issue helpful executive orders similar to those issued by Bush, and either would probably nominate judges, including Supreme Court justices, who are likely to be unsympathetic to Roe. A Dem, any Dem, would do neither, and would almost certainly make support of pro-abortion rights a key requirement for judicial nominees. These differences are quite important — too important in my view to cast aside in favor of sending a feckless message, no matter how satisfying that might “feel.”

  • But that’s the catch:

    If you keep voting for the lukewarms, they won’t have any incentive to go beyond lukewarm (if even that). Is lukewarm good enough?

  • Considering the number of conservatives who stayed home in 2008 rather than vote for McCain I rather think that message has been sent, although the reign of Obama shows the drawbacks of that particular stratagem. The truth of course is that politics is the art of comparison. Compared to Obama I would vote for any in the Republican field except for Ron Paul, although I would do so for Romney only with the gravest of misgivings.

  • I held my nose to vote for McCain, who had at least built up some conservative cred over the length of his career. I won’t do the same for Romney who has not done so and, in fact, continues to undermine his own fraudulent claims to being a conservative.

    Not under ANY circumstances will I EVER vote for him.

  • It is a close call for me Jay, and me even considering sitting out the Presidential election of 2012 if Romney is the nominee is one reason why I do not think he will be the nominee. He simply alienates too much of the base.

  • Given Romney’s postitions on health care and the falsity of global warming, I don’t see how he can win the nomination.

  • Unfortunately, the guys on my dream ticket (Rubio/Jindal or Ryan) aren’t running and so I have to deal with the world as it is rather than how I would like it to be. I am no Romney fan and much prefer Perry – however, I’ll vote for Romney, Perry, or Bozo the Clown rather than sit back and watch as the pro-abort incompetent in the WH ruins my country a bit more with each passing day. But, wait, I just remembered, Bozo is already on the ticket – he’s Obama’s VP.

  • “But, wait, I just remembered, Bozo is already on the ticket – he’s Obama’s VP.”

    Sad but true Donna!

  • Change the hearts and minds of the public, Michael Denton, and the politicians will follow.

    Elected officeholders who try to lead the public where the public doesn’t want to go don’t stay officeholders for long.

“Christian” Music

Friday, September 9, AD 2011

Marc Barnes on VirtuousPla.net has a few posts  discussing the problem with Christian music on the radio. In the end, his biggest problem is that it lacks authenticity as many bands produce music in imitation of a pop form that is more designed for mass consumption (and thus profits) than it is for serious reflection on the awe of God, which would produce beauty.

Selling out is a problem for every art form, but I’m not sure it alone explains the current dreadful state of Christian music. While reading these posts, it occurred to me that there was a problem with Marc’s analysis. When we discuss Christian music on the radio, perhaps we need to start out by a critique not of the music aspect of it (which Marc does exceptionally well and far better than I could) but with a critique of the “Christian” part. It seems to me that when I listen to powerful. encouraging. KLOVE! I’m not getting a Catholic perspective. I’m not sure a Catholic perspective is even allowed. What I’m getting is at best “mere Christianity” but at times general evangelical Protestantism.

This seems to present a few problems for an achievement of real beauty. In regards to the absence of Catholicism, Catholics who wish to make it on radio suddenly find themselves stripped of a lot of their material. Mary, the Eucharist, the Saints, the Mass, the Sacraments etc. are all topics that can’t be used. While that still leaves plenty of material, there’s stilla problem: it’s natural for a Catholic to talk of Mary are the Eucharist when talking of the love of Jesus; by getting rid of that stuff it becomes more difficult for Catholics to talk about Christ’s love. The act of making something “merely Christian” always avoids the truth by avoiding those areas of the truth where there is disagreement among Christians. To diminish the truth is to diminish beauty and this is all the more true from the Catholic perspective.

But more troubling is that mere Christianity or evangelicalism has a tendency towards a trite emotionalism anyway. The focus of the evangelical is the act of salvation in which theologically a heap of dung is covered by the snow of grace. After this covering, the person is forever saved. While Protestants obvious think that grace is awesome (or amazing), that’s kind of underwhelming compared to the Catholic teaching whereby through the sacraments a heap of dung is converted not covered into real pure snow. That is, the transformation is considered greater in Catholicism, the power of God all the more awesome.

Think of Catholic literature here. The Mestizo & priest of Graham Green’s Power and the Glory, Gollum & Frodo of Lord of the Rings, the various characters of Flannery O’Conner and Walker Percy. There’s a lot of struggle there yet even despite that tremendous struggle we get heroes: the bad priest dies a matryr, Frodo destroys Sauron, etc. (though I would probably have a harder time finding heroes in O’Conner’s and Percy’s work). That transformation & victory over struggle is possible (or perhaps natural) only from a Catholic point of view.

Also worth noting is the Protestant tendency towards fideism. If you don’t see the world with both faith & reason you tend not to look in the universe with the same awe. Think of the difference between “wow, there’s a theology of the body such that my body works best when I act in accordance with the natural law and God’s teaching” and “I shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage b/c the Bible says so.” The first one can produce a good song; the second one not so much.

In short, the limitations of Protestantism (and “mere christianity”) are going to affect the ability of its musicians to express beauty in an authentic way. To be sure, there is beautiful Protestant art & music but it’s a lot harder to get there.

And this is BEFORE we decided that all Christian music has to be powerful and encouraging, defined as “the messaege is Jesus loves you.” This is probably more a critique of KLOVE than anything, but it seems like the songs I hear on the radio have two purposes: (1) to be played to hurt teenagers at retreats to try to inspire them to convert and/or (2) to be played as feel-good Jesus-loves-you booty-free music for moms and parents in the car. These are not bad objectives; helping kids know Jesus loves them or allowing people radio music that isn’t antithetical towards truth are good things. But this is hardly the full scope of Christian music.

I noticed in Marc’s piece there was discussion about how there is a tension between rock with started out as rebellion and Christian which emphasizes obedience. While that tension is there, how on earth is Christianity not rebellious, especially in this day and age? Almost every politician, every program, every piece of art, seems to be enticing us away from holiness and into prideful individualism and materialism. To be Christian today entails rebellion and non-conformity with the status quo. While I like Flyleaf and Firelight’s  work as Christian rockers (generally not played on KLOVE), I’m also thinking of Danielle Rose’s “Crucify Him” where she identifies many of the areas of society where we continue to sin and crucify our Lord.

A lot of people need to know that Jesus loves them. But a lot of people also need to know that Jesus because he loves us is calling us to conversion, which is a nice way of saying you are a sinner, and you need to repent. As I mentioned earlier, this is something Catholic literature does especially well (namely, critiquing the absurdities of our secular society and the areas of needed conversion) but maybe for one or two songs it’s not a topic worthy of Christian radio.

I could probably go on, but the point is that the failure of Christian music is often tied with failures in Christianity. Pursuit of mainstream success is a part of that, but it’s our modern fear of saying anything really Christian lest we offend as well as the theological presumptions behind a merely Christian radio station that have prevented Christian musicians from producing the kind of beauty that their subject deserves.

P.S. I should state that simply because one is Catholic that does not mean that their music is better than a Protestant’s. Catholics have shown themselves quite capable of producing material that is trite and flat.

P.P.S. I leave unanswered the question of “If Protestantism is such a hinderance towards real beauty, then how can a Catholic musician find the success necessary to maintain a livelihood?” I’ve noted that a lot of bigger Catholic artists try not to advertise their Catholicism too much, presumably for fear of alienating the folks who buy Christian music and organize music festivals. I’m not quite sure Catholics are ready to have their own radio station but perhaps separation from KLOVE would not be an inadvisable goal.


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18 Responses to “Christian” Music

  • I know plenty of people who will only listen to Christian rock. I live near a Christian rock station. These folks look at it, not so much as an art form, but as part of life — they listen to the radio and to CDs — and they want an alternative to the secular. And, yes, they are often looking for a positive and “worshipful” emotional experience. That’s how they worship (with no, or only a few, sacraments) and they want that feeling to extend to their whole lives. Yes, it often produces trite or derivative music, and (to me, anyway) cloying messages. And yes, most of it is profoundly un-Catholic. But I don’t think that criticizing it is the way to go. It’s here to stay! It’s important to help Catholics see that Protestant messages are DIFFERENT from Catholic ones. I have heard many Catholics say, “it’s all the same.” But it’s not.

    Several years ago I tried to get our parish to host a series of Catholic concerts — I was going to go for a contemporary Catholic rock band, an 80s-sounding Catholic rock band, and a Catholic alternative band. Local Protestant churches host these things all the time and people from other churches come. My parish was not interested (sigh). But in talking to the bands, I found that they had a very difficult time getting any Catholic churches to hire them! Even for festivals. The parishes want familiar local secular bands or big-name “Christian” bands. Most of these Catholic bands, as you mentioned, market themselves as Christian bands and tone down their Catholicism for other Christian communities — who ACTUALLY HIRE THEM. If people want Catholic music, they have to hire Catholic bands.

  • I am far from a connoisuer of Christian contemporary music, but the little of it I have come across seems to suffer from being too obviously or overtly Christian. Much of the same problem exists with other forms of performance art. What makes works such as LOTR so appealing is that you are not being hammered over the head with Christianity, rather Christian themes are subtley woven in.

  • Back when I was at China Lake, I donated to Air1 right up until they changed their statement to include sola scriptura. Sure, there’s a lot of drek “Christian music” out there– Sturgeons law. There’s also some gems out there– even if it does tend to be pretty dang protestant, or even go into Buddy Christ territory.

    The really good stuff I can think of is pretty disparate… There’s Dolly Parton’s “He’s Alive,” Stuart Hamblen’s “This Old House,” Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Dive” and DC Talk’s “Supernatural“.

    C Matt’s quite right– it takes a heck of a song to make sledge-hammer-Christianity into a good song, same way that CS Lewis’ books would’ve been horrible from a lesser writer. (Yes, I would instantly put Dolly Parton in the same class of artist as CS Lewis. The lady has my respect.)

  • I gravitate toward classical hymnody. Give me Amazing Grace, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, or Come Christians Join to Sing anyday. I’ll always prefer them over contemporary church music, though I do love I am the Bread of Life. I felt lifted into an “upper room” experience each time I sang it after Communion in my old Episcopal church. Like the last Passover. Truly incredible. It conveys the most wondrous miracle since creation!

  • You know, I’m reminded of a real classic called O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go….I think of how we must die a thousand deaths to be born anew. That song says it so well. In four lines this Scottish preacher, George Mattheson, blind as he was, told it. He said it was the fruit of much bitterness and sorrow. That he wrote it quickly and that it came to him easily, like no other. It reiterates how the glorious hope trumps all tragic dissapointment. You’ve just got to read all four lines and hear the melody, St. Margaret’s tune with it. Fabulous.

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  • I’ve been following these recent posts about Christian music. Being a Catholic musician I am naturally drawn to this subject. I’ve been a professional musician for over 40 years. The comments I’ve read recently seem to confirm my own personal observation that most Christians listening to Christian music seek the traditional (loosely speaking) “praise-and-worship” content that they’ve become accustomed to. This in contrast to a declarative use of music, with a view to evangelization. Music is also powerful in ways that parallel lectio divina in the contemplation and meditation of Sacred Scripture. The fact that music that makes it into the main stream, be it a Christian radio station or crosses over into secular main stream should not lead one to presume the musician sold out, in spite of the obvious monetary gain that would accompany this shift. “…”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven….” (Matthew (RSV) 5)

    If you read between the lines, the sentiment in most recent comments here and elsewhere is “I want”. A musician can also read this as “I thirst”. When a musician assumes the role of servant and responds to this thirst through the promptings of The Holy Spirit, music transcends ‘entertainment’ and becomes food. “…”For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it….” (Isaiah (RSV) 55)

    The book of psalms is generally understood to be prayers – that were set to music. This book was traditionally divided into 5 books, for most an allusion to the 5 books of the Pentateuch. It’s good to have “praise-and-worship” music. But it is incumbent on musicians that are led by The Holy Spirit to not ignore the other aspects or dimensions we have received in Sacred Scripture. Perhaps many readers and commenter’s here intuited this.

    For any Catholic musicians here that have recorded original music, I invite you to sign up here: http://www.indiemusicworks.com It’s free, and for now at least, it can offer you an opportunity to be featured and interviewed on one of my Saturday night internet radio shows.

    My own music can be found here: http://www1.indiemusicworks.com/Kephas/ and here: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Kephas

    Peace be with you…


  • I note that Catholic musicians can write and play Catholic songs if they refuse to compromise. Perhaps they will and do find it very difficult to find a market for their music; however, if their music is filled with beauty and truth and they preserve, their music will be heard.

  • Christian music must be biblically informed. It must also flow from the Christian life experience. To have music that merely teaches doctrine or to have music that only reflects our experience is insufficient. We must have both kinds.

    Hymns and preaching—they together contribute toward worship. Can’t have one without the other. I must sing, and I must be preached to. I can do without liturgy, though missed. I can never make it without singing and a sermon, however. I have to hear a message spoken. And I have to sing loudly alongside others who sing loudly. Christianity is a singing religion. And it’s a preaching religion. This is because we’ve been given a story and a song. Let’s tell the story and sing the song!

  • Ok. since this music will never be played in Church – it doesn’t meet the criteria of the liturgy..why are we bashing the music??? I look at Christian music as this – an ALTERNATIVE to what is being played on the radio. And unless you have XM/Sirius to listen to a Catholic station or your AM station doesn’t sound like aliens trying to take over the world..you are limited to what you can listen to. And although Catholic performers are few, most of the music is not bad. Most of them have a good message whether it is limited. And the message that God loves you no matter what is not exactly a horrible message!!! I for one while driving would like to listen to something up-beat and praiseful. I have my ipod and listed to true catholic classics in church to drown out the noise of rude people making noise in church and to enter conteplative prayer. Compared to the nasty word rap garbage out there and sex filled music – what would YOU rather listen to?? The music is not meant to please us old folks – and if the kids like it and get something good out of it – what is the harm???? Hmmm kids singing “Praise Jesus” or “kill cops”????

  • Laurie:

    I don’t think my post ought to be construed as a “Christian music is bad” but rather “Christian music needs to be improved.” I would much rather listen to KLOVE than the latest Lady Gaga, but I think KLOVE & Christian music in general is capable of producing better music.

  • Laurie Schultz: Because much of the message of Christian pop is opposed to Catholic theology. As I said in my post above, it is not all the same! But again, if people won’t listen to Catholic bands, or hire them for their events, they will never survive. Catholic music is just getting to be where generic Christian music was 10-15 years ago — but it won’t get any better without people to listen to it. Christian music, 25 years ago when I was in high school, was pretty bad. There was little reason to listen except the dogged determination to have CHRISTIAN pop music, dang it! Now a lot of the bands are really good, or at least on par with mainstream pop, rock, alternative, country, and every other genre out there.

  • Laurie, i think much of Christian pop is generic. And bland. That’s why i don’t like it. Much of it is repetitive. Emotive words and phrases are used again and again. Yet many people like it. I don’t think it conflicts with Catholic or any other kind of theology. I don’t think it could.

  • Another one I totally love is Will the Circle be Unbroken. THis bittersweet hymn reflects how we feel. That this world though tragic, finds redemption. Johnny Cash did an excellent rendition of it, and the tempo is nice and fast.

  • So I am a die-hard Catholic who has really found grace and peace listening to Christian music. Christian music has become so varied in the past decade that I don’t think it’s been done justice here. Michael, while I see where you’re coming from as regards Christian Pop or P&W music as played on K-Love (that’s positive, not powerful) and others like it, there is much more out there that would be worth your while to listen to and perhaps change your idea of where Christian music has come.

    Let’s look at where Christian Rock has brought us. I love your take on the rebellion of rock music and how Christian rock artists have really brought that to the forefront as the rebellion of the Gospel. But while Flyleaf and Fireflight have some great stuff, bands like Disciple, RED, TFK, and Pillar, although more hard rock musically, really bring forth Christian messages that I think really speak to people where they are at. They are certainly not trite and often point to finding Christ within yourself and allowing Him to transform you, which is the ultimate goal of the Christian life, no matter whether you’re Catholic or not.

    Although not Catholic in the traditional theological sense, so many of the messages they give are Catholic at heart. Sometimes it takes some interpretation and the ability to look at things from a Catholic viewpoint, to really see the beauty that these artists bring with their music. I don’t think whacking people over the head with theology, like Danielle Rose does every now and again, is the way to go either. Simple is not always trite. Instead, if we allow the deep theology that the Church gives us to inform our listening, what may seem trite can lead us to appreciate the glory of God and pray to Him with a thankful and open heart.

    And these bands in rock are just a part of it, check out what’s happening in Christian Rap, with Lecrae or Group 1 Crew, or Christian Metal, with August Burns Red or As I Lay Dying, to find more great Christian music; you’ve just got to open up your horizons. Even Toby and the Newsboys are rooted in faith and bring great messages along with some great music, regardless of their Evangelical interpretation of the Gospel or their more mainstream success. So don’t disregard the leaps and bounds that Christian music has taken in other musical genres, even if you’d rather not listen to the screaming of the metalheads. (Just think of it as the cry of the soul for what it cannot find in the world, what it thirsts for in Christ.)

    Much of what you hear on K-Love is blatantly evangelical, but just because the beauty and truth is found amidst error doesn’t mean that it is less beautiful or less true. So instead of being negative about the errors, look for the grace of God in everything, praise Him for the grace that He has given us to sing to Him even when we don’t always get it right, and let us pray and sing with our brothers and sisters in Christ, always affirmed and rooted in the truth of the Catholic Faith.

  • I find contemporary Christian music banal. Its words are sincere and emotive, but lacking in any depth. It fails to convey anything beyond our feelings. And Christianity is not really about feelings. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about faith and conviction. Knowing the God you serve. I feel hymns should speak of our experiences and of God’s nature, and of our interactions. That’s what I see classical hymnody as conveying. I just don’t find that in contemporary praise music.

  • Yes, modern Protestant music strikes one as extremely emotional at times. Very unthoughtful, even. Classical hymnody–those hymns one finds in Protestant hymnals–represents the experiences of Christians and the attributes of God. All one has to do is turn to a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Episcopal hymnal to see that.

    The issue among Protestants is that the last generation has mostly grown up in a different context. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, they neither relate to those hymns nor to the style of worship of which they were a part. The whole approach to worship in some of these churches has changed. People no longer look down at a hymnal and sing lyrics with notation. Often, their eyes are shut and their hands are in the air. Sometimes they seem to be transported, though fewer words are expressed verbally. I’m really convinced something drastic has occurred within the past ten or twenty years. They’re thinking and feeling something different from what people thought and felt as they sang a generation ago. I just can’t identify it. I only know from watching it. Some would claim it’s more spiritual. I just think it’s different. I know too well that Christians of great stature sang the old way for the longest time. No one will convince me that this new approach is more spiritual. Just different.

  • Another hymn I dearly love is For All the Saints. Each time I sing it I feel a part of that universal church which transcends time and space. Each line develops further until the last line speaks of the countless host entering the gates hailing the Trinity. I’ve always heard it on the organ, and the tempo is pretty quick. Beautiful. Especially when a loved one has passed. I also think of Palestrina’s The Strife is O’er. Perfect for a funeral.

A Closer Look at College Realignment

Thursday, September 8, AD 2011

We’ve heard about super conferences. A lot of people hate the idea, and their concerns are worth noting. They fear the destruction of traditional rivalries and geographic continuity that has made college football great. Most of my catholic college football fan friends note that subsidiarity ought to be considered in light of this.

I don’t see anything wrong with the current alignment, but since the Big 12 is imploding due to Texas’s greed, I wondered whether super-conferences would destroy what I loved about college football. When I started looking through the scenarios, the answer I got was “well, not necessarily.”

To start, let’s see what these 4 16-team conferences would/could look like. To make this, I based it off of what appear to be the likely realignment scenarios from the rumors. I also decided that Texas & Notre Dame would not be independents. I also presumed that conferences would not vote schools off the island to make room for better candidates. New additions are in italics.

Now this is based off the idea that the ACC consumes the Big East, which becomes a basketball-only conference. Under that thinking, Kansas St. and Cincinnati would join/continue with the Big East in basketball and play somewhere else like C-USA for football (there’s been rumors that Iowa St. may get invited to the Big East too, but I consider that unlikely).

Now, let’s look at the conferences one at a time.

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3 Responses to A Closer Look at College Realignment

  • Kansas in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Good Lord!

    The whole thing defies sound judgment, but that outcome, alone, makes this super-conference fiasco a crock of $h!+.

  • At least TCU is in a state that borders the Atlantic Coast (Gulf of Mexico).

  • Well, isn’t Kansas closer to the Atlantic Ocean than Oklahoma is to the Pacific Ocean?

    Actually I don’t see Missouri as that much of an oddball geographically in the SEC. The state has somewhat of a Southern feel to it (as well as Plains and Midwest). The state borders three current SEC states (Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas). Yes, it would be on the edge of the area but especially if you are adding Texas A&M, it does not feel really out of place.

TAC College Rankings 2011: Week 1

Thursday, September 8, AD 2011

College Football has returned! There’s a lot going on off the field, before we get to the happenings on.

First, the alternate uniforms trend is getting despicable. I don’t mind a slight change every now and then that has a purpose or harkens back to tradition. LSU’s been lucky in this regard, but most have not. Oregon, Boise St., and Maryland had uniforms that looked like they were designed by an eight year old in that they have a creative idea but lack restraint or tact. Boise St. Broncos? Let’s have a HUGE BRONCO covering THE ENTIRE HELMET! Georgia? POWER RANGER! Maryland’s flag. Let’s have the FLAG EVERYWHERE! HELMET GETS A FLAG! SLEEVES GET A FLAG! SHOULDERS GET A FLAG! SHOES GET A FLAG! To me, the best uniforms are not these loud monstrosities but the ones that are classic and understated. I’m not saying you can never have alternate uniforms, but there’s a way to play with tradition (think Georgia’s black unis) rather than blow it up entirely.

Speaking of blowing up entirely, how about the Big 12? Because Texas wanted to be independent with a scheduling arrangement, we seem destined towards the super-conferences of 16. I don’t like the trend, although I will enjoy playing the Aggies in the SEC. Still, one of college football’s greatest strength was its regional locality, and the bigger the conferences get the less strong it becomes. I do wonder whether if we get the 4 16-team conferences people are discussing whether that will pave the way for a playoff. It’d be feasible, as you’d only need an extra game somewhere.

Now to football. We had a surprising number of upsets and losses in the top 25 for week one, as #3 Oregon, #16 Notre Dame, #19 Georgia, and #14 TCU lost and Auburn and USC barely escaping. Part of that was a few teams being willing to schedule opponents with a pulse in Week 1, with the drawback being a loss. However, everyone on that list lost to a BCS opponent or a ranked team. A few more teams play real teams next week with the marquee matchup being South Carolina v. Georgia for the lead in the SEC East race. To the rankings!

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10 Responses to TAC College Rankings 2011: Week 1

  • I think the Aggies will fit in nicely with the SEC. Baylor needs to accept its fate and stop throwing a tantrum. Ready for the drama to end.

  • Sic ‘Em Bears!!!

    I’m really busy the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, by week 3 I’ll have an opportunity to submit my votes.

    Or, alternatively, I could just wait until the first BCS poll comes out to submit my poll preferences – my votes have just as much validity.

  • Don’t intent to thread-jack, but talking about football, today, Friday 9th. September 2011, the Rugby World Cup kicks off in NZ, with the NA All Blacks playing Tonga tonight at 7.30 pm.

    I know rugby isn’t big in the USA, with only a few states promoting it, but their team has been improving each tournament (held every four years) in recent years, and has the potential to make the quarter finals this year (18 national teams from around the world are here)
    Now, on with your NFL 🙂

  • Grrr. That should be ” the NZ All Blacks”

    (stupid, stupid fat fingers…….)

  • Don the Kiwi,

    My two younger sons play rugby. Both played at club level in university and the lelder played for the All-Army team, plus for the NYPD team, last Fall and will try out again this year. The bigger guy is a prop. The youngest was a full(?)back and co-captain this year.

    Great sport. Give blood. Play rugger.

    Many Americans are too insensible to understand the rules, after eight or ten beers.

  • Thanks to Don the Kiwi, I didn’t comment with uncharitable garbage about ND.

  • I wish hurling would catch on over here. The fastest game on grass.

  • Jay,


    You mean after a night of drinking?

  • Touche, Tito. 😆

  • The “hurling” I’m talking about is the fastest sport on grass. But now that you mention it, drinking and hurling do generally go hand in hand.

A Hurricane Guide from Louisiana to the East Coast

Friday, August 26, AD 2011

Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it. I figured a guide written by someone who’s lived in hurricanes might be useful .

What are the Dangers?

For all dangers, it’s worse on the east side of the “eye” because hurricanes move in a counter-clockwise direction. By the time the wind and rain hit the western side, much of the punch is gone having been used up.

Wind: This is the danger that measures the strength of hurricanes. How much damage it can do depends on what it has to work with. For homeowners, the threats are numerous. There is debris flying around, such as patio furniture, plant pots, etc. This stuff has the potential to break windows, which can lead to serious damage inside the house (b/c the rain and wind will get in).

However, the more likely damage is to roofs and trees. My guess is that roofs in your area aren’t built up to the codes they are in LA, so you’ll lose plenty of shingles (these shingles and the tacks & nails they contain will litter the roadway, so be careful driving afterwards. Likely you’ll get a flat so be prepared for that). You could have more serious damage: That would be the roof of my apartment after Hurricane Gustav. The jerk making the thumbs-up sign would be me.

The other danger wind causes is falling trees. Yes, trees provide nice shade which keep down energy bills in the summer, but trees in these storms are nothing but logs waiting to be pushed over. Branches over houses can get knocked off and crash into the house, if not the tree itself. If you haven’t been making sure your tree is still alive and healthy…well, now if probably too late. If you know a tree is dead and have the time to cut it down, that’s probably a good idea.

Storm Surge: This only applies to those living on the coast. How far from the coast depends on the hurricane’s strength at landfall, but this is the most powerful part of the storm. It’ll wipe out floors or entire houses depending on its size. Essentially, storm surge is the wind pushing the waters, so that it’s frequently described as a wall of water coming at you.

Flood: Although this is a bigger fear for New Orleans, you’ll still have to deal with. Chances are you just lose your carpet, but if the water sits you may have to replace the drywall in your house. That is not fun, especially if you don’t have flood insurance, which most people don’t have.

Other concerns:

When things flood, animals get displaced, so you have to watch yourself for snakes and other creatures, especially in the flood water.

Chances are you will lose power. How long depends on the damage to the area, your type of power grid, and where you are on that grid. You’ll find out that if you’re close to businesses, you’ll get power back faster. If your area has underground power, you have a good chance of keeping it but overhead wires are likely going to be blown over or knocked down by falling tree branches.

Looting: likely not an issue, but if the damage disrupts the police department (specifically by making roads impassable due to water or debris) it will happen. This is more of a concern for business owners. Fire protection is also hindered due to low water pressure and again roads.

FEMA & Insurance co. They suck. No two ways about. Judging by the handling of BP, the Obama administration is even worse than the Bush in this area. The only thing that it’s in their good hands is your money. While some insurance companies are reasonable, sometimes they’re not.

How to prepare:

Evacuate: if the government is telling you to get out, it’s probably because of the storm surge. If power could be out a while and you have small children, you might want to take a trip to grandma’s house. Bring about a week’s worth of clothes because you don’t know how long it will be before they start allowing people back into the area.

Canned food, water, batteries, flashlights, other necessaries: remember, power is likely out and cooking is not an option (gas may still be there, but gas lines could be broken so you can’t count on that). BBQ is a possibility, but not during the storm (this should be obvious. it’s not apparently).

Entertainment. You’re going to be sitting in the dark without A/C with no TV, Internet, phones, etc. You may have to talk to your family. Board & card games are the best options; books won’t work too much. If you have a laptop with a good battery, charge that up (charge up all your stuff to be honest) and use it as a DVD player. If this sounds terrible to you, you can buy a generator but they can be expensive and dangerous (every storm someone puts a generator inside and it either it catches fire or the people die from carbon monoxide poisoning).

Gas up the cars: some pumps don’t work without power, so you need to do this before the storm.

Hurricane Party: You may think I’m joking, but there’s a reason New Orleans has made this famous. You can’t do anything at this point to stop it (other than pray). Alcohol is a must, such as the hurricane drink. If you’re adventerous, you can go outside during the beginning stages of the storm and play frisbee or football. You can go instead when moving becomes difficult.

The important thing is to have a good attitude. Everyone’s in the same boat, and chances are you’ll get to meet and deal with people you don’t usually get to. New Orleans ended up a stronger city after the storm because everybody went through the pains together. Complaining does no one any good.

So those are some quicks tips from Louisiana. Glad to help y’all out. But if the next time a hurricane is pointed as us, you Yanks could refrain from questioning why New Orleans ought to be rebuilt, we’d much appreciate it. Enjoy your hurricane party!

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16 Responses to A Hurricane Guide from Louisiana to the East Coast

  • Another excuse to raise gas and food prices, fed by media frenzy. In the Midwest, we call this an afternoon shower.

  • Prayer always helps, at least it does for me and my family when we are in our basement in Central Illinois after the twister sirens sound!

  • Sadly, Don, prayer didn’t do much for the 1,800 who died from Katrina or thousands of others in previous storms. I’ve often wondered why these natural disasters are called “Acts of God.” I guess because He’s easy to blame.

  • Some other tips I’ve picked up around the net:

    — If there are people you want to contact to let them know where you are, or that you are OK, WRITE the list down on paper. Don’t leave those numbers stored on devices that are dependent upon electricity. You may be able to use a landline phone or borrow a phone from a friend or neighbor if yours doesn’t work.

    — Do ALL your laundry now, before the storm hits.

    — If you have an ice maker, use it now and store up as much ice as possible.

    — Take pictures of your house and all your stuff NOW and store them in a secure place (could be a computer hard drive or other device). If you suffer damage, you will now have “before” and “after” pictures to show your insurance company, which will greatly ease your claims process.

    — If you have a “safe place” designated for hunkering down in case the winds get too high — like a closet or bathroom (similar to what Tornado Alley residents do during tornado warnings) — make sure it’s not cluttered. You don’t want to be moving stuff out of the way when you’re in a hurry to take cover.

  • “Act of God” is merely a poetic expression of the Law Joe in regard to natural catastrophes, and indicates that no human agency is at fault. As for the dead from Katrina, I would assume that they would have considered their prayers answered if they arrive in eternity in purgatory or heaven. Believers do not pray simply for a good life, but also for a good death.

  • Practical as always Elaine. A few hand crank rechargeable radios aren’t a bad idea. If you have a sump pump in your basement as I do, a backup battery generator for it is an excellent idea. If you have small kids bring some books and games to keep them distracted. Praying the rosary with them can be very calming for all concerned.

  • A good death? Almost an oxymoron. Also, wouldn’t eternal purgatory be an oxymoron since it’s supposed to have a finite ending? I’ve often wondered what would be worst than death and then I saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a true story about a man who had “locked-in syndrome” and had full mental capabilities but could only blink with his left eye. When asked at first what he wanted, he managed to convey “death” as being preferable, but he went on to write a book by blinking the words — once for yes, twice for no when he was shown letters. I thought it was an amazing triumph of the human spirit, but on reflection I would have rather died than go through what he did. I would have blinked, “pull the plug.”

  • Not an oxymoron at all Joe. The most important part of our existence begins after our death. Eternity Joe consists of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. No one will be in Purgatory for all of eternity, although on my worst days I think that I might set some records if I attain Purgatory.

  • So purgatory and hell are different places? Or is just “time served”? I’m thinking a Motel 6 in heaven would be fine rather than a Radisson in hell. Who was it who said, “everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”?

  • Yes Joe, Purgatory is a distinct place from Hell. The soul is purged there of the sins that make it unfit for Heaven. Dante in his Purgatorio captures the essence of Catholic teaching on the subject. Purgatorio was the first part of Dante’s Comedia that I read in a cheap Pelican paperback edition in Junior High, and it has a warm place in my heart.

    “Who was it who said, “everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”?

    Someone unfamiliar with Saint Paul’s cry “Death where is thy sting?” no doubt.

  • It’s important to remember that you have to be saved to get into Purgatory in the first place, so it’s really a part of, or a first stage, of Heaven.. Some would call it the vestibule or mud room of Heaven — the place where you get cleaned up, take off your muddy (sin-stained) boots and other stuff, before you walk into the main rooms of Heaven. Or you could compare it to a field hospital where souls wounded or sick, but still alive, after slogging through the battles of life are restored to spiritual health so they can enjoy Heaven to the fullest. How long it takes for them to recover depends on how badly they were “wounded” in life. Prayer, the sacraments and works of charity done on earth help keep you spiritually healthy, so that when you die, you don’t need as much “treatment.”

  • I’ve often wondered why these natural disasters are called “Acts of God.” I guess because He’s easy to blame.

    With the advent of Katrina, they are called Acts of Bush. I guess because it’s more politically expedient to blame him.

  • RL, touche!

  • Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.

    For your edification – one of the many versions :


    Enjoy 🙂

  • Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it.
    Thank you for the post. Katrina was horrifying to watch on cable news. And, yes, I heard things said about the idea of living below sea level. See what happens when charity doesn’t rule words! We are going to see. Oh, the Hurricane drink (huge glass) – I had one once in the 70’s on a visit to my brother and his wife – don’t remember much after except music and the Lake Pontchartrain bridge. We saw the Camille effects on the MS coast and the oily sand sticks in my mind as it did to my feet. I wonder now about that after BP.

    If you have a sump pump in your basement as I do, a backup battery generator for it is – excellent idea.
    Battery powered (!?) – Just went to the top of my list, but probably too late. No floor drain in this old cellar, on ledge with very high water table, BUT – two electric portable sump pumps hoses attached ready and waiting for, eek, electricity – then water. Thank you. I avoid gas powered things with pull cords.

    ALL your laundry now – At least, that is covered.
    As well, empty spaces in freezer and refridgerator have containers of water.

    Most of all thanks for the reminder of essential contemplation – Psalm 23 can begin 100 miles inland from me in the Connecticut River valley probably this time tomorrow.

  • Elaine mentioned it, but I want to be a little more specific: Be sure you have a landline phone, but specifically have one that is not cordless.

    As a Louisiana resident, I learned the hard way that even a landline is no good is the phone is a cordless model that needs electricity to recharge the handset. I bought a cheap ($10) model and a long phone line. It works just fine with or without electricity.

What Voris Ought to Learn

Sunday, August 21, AD 2011

The Catholic News Agency reported a few days that Michael Voris and his RealCatholicTV operation were facing some issues. First, it appears that the organization has failed to maintain its nonprofit status despite possibly promising such status to potential donors. Second, it appears that his right hand man Simon Rafe has written some questionable sexual-themed fiction, which Rafe has since taken down and apologized for.

Several bloggers, most notably Mark Shea and the Anchoress, have stated that this is a non-issue. To some extent they’re right. I don’t blame Voris for being confused by the myriad regulations surrounding the maintenance of non-profit status and having a friend who sins simply you have a friend.

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34 Responses to What Voris Ought to Learn

  • Easy mr Lib careful what you call po dunk. Are you mirror gazing?

  • Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll change. After all, his virulent polemics are the main selling point for his show.

  • Voris is a small man with no instincts toward the high road. He does not deserve the attention or defenses he has rec’d.

  • Spoken like true Libs. Chris change is inevitable but suffering is optional. Milla I think you should be more concerned of the road you are on.

  • Mr Denton, Voris’s criticism of our Bishops is just. These men allowed known sodomites and child molesters to run riot for years. Michael didn’t know what Rafe was doing, but when it was brought to light, appropiate action was taken right away by RCTV and St Michael’s Media. Our Bishops never did anything like this. They covered up, paid off, and continued on the road to damnation for years until the secular media laid bare their sins and hypocrisies. Yep, St Michael’s had their problems, bt they took care of them. Too many of our Bishops and their profesional Catholic toadies still refuse to do anything about the queers, heretics, social justice nuts, feminists and other wackos embedded in the Church structure. ntil then , God bless Michael Voris and his bad hair cut or bad wig! His head is on straight, even if his hair isn’t!

  • What you ought to learn, Mr. Denton, is a sense of humility yourself.

    There is no excuse for a bishop like Hubbard in Albany, NY dispensing heroin needles, eulogizing Cuomo and giving him Holy Communion while KNOWING Cuomo is living in sin with his concubine and Cuomo openly supports the sanctification of homosexual filth and the infanticide of the unborn.

    These bishops whom Voris puts on the carpet NEED to be put on the carpet. So what’s their reaction? Did Timothy Dolan throw out Hubbard as USCCB social justice prelate? NO. Did Hubbard and Dolan excommunicate Cuomo? NO. What happened is WYD having given Voris a warning that his organization was not approved for WYD. His was the ONLY organization so cited in all the YEARS WYD has gone on. Then when he shows up in Madrid anyways, CNA breaks with this news announcement about a lapse in 501(C) tax exempt status and an employee who wrote things he should not have. In the meantime CNA’s own tax exempt status was FOUR YEARS lapsed. And I am sure CNA (and TAC) likely have people with their own sex problems.

    The issue isn’t Simon Rafe or tax exempt status. The issue is that the bishops got caught with their pants down and they set this whole thing up to discredit Voris. I am not talking about a chancery that screws up its paperwork. I work in the nuclear power industry where the paperwork never ends and it’s real easy to screw up. Rather, I am talking about bishops who will NOT deal with Pelosi, Leahy, Biden, Kucinich, Kerry and all the rest, and who then cover up pedophilia while supporting that godlessly wicked man of sin and deparvity in the Oval Office. Look at their web site – filled with crap about that DREAM act. Salvation of souls means NOTHING to them. So they went to punish Voris for pointing that out.

    Yeah, sure, that’s speculation on my part. But dollars to donuts that’s exactly what happened.

    PS, if you are so self-assuredly sanctimonious about this, then maybe TAC should stop being a sponsor for RCTV’s regular daily Vortexes that many watch

    I love it when Voris calls those effeminate liberal Democrat clerics. This time – thank God – their smear campaign blew up in their faces.

  • One other thing: here is Michael Voris’s video response where he took full responsibility, doing exactly the opposite of what most of our liberal Democrat clerics do (as Stephen correctly pointed out):


    And here is the transcript:


    When I see something similar from Bishop Hubbard of Albany and the rest of the liberal clerics, then I’ll have some respect for them.

  • about a lapse in 501(C) tax exempt status

    Unless something else has emerged, I did not see a lapse in 501(c)3 tax exempt status.

    501 status is under the federal tax code. What I read regarded his failure to file an annual STATE report which results in an administrative dissolution. That kind of sounds bad, but it is something that is ratehr easily corrected and happens quite often. It is closer to forgetting to renew your driver’s license on time, so your driving privileges are “suspended” until you get it cleared up – most likely, simply filing the report and paying a late penalty.

    That is hardly anything like the lapses Voris points out about his targets. Not even a difference in scale – it is a difference in kind. Would we have had the Great Catholic Enema of the past ten years if the problem was that several bishoprics around the US forgot to file their annual state information reports for the non-profit entities they headed up rather than the abuse scandal? Please, it would sound like something from the Onion. Voris may be abrasive, and perhaps could use some humility (as all of us), but to even try to paint this as some sort of “he screws up too” is a bit much.

    Of course he screws up, we all do. But his screw up is nothing compared to what he criticizes, and he at least man’s up about it and fixes it.

  • Look at their web site – filled with crap about that DREAM act. Salvation of souls means NOTHING to them.

    “Lord, when did we see thee a stranger, and did not minister to thee?”

  • ED: We’re not going to get into the DREAM Act on this thread.

  • A few points:

    I have no idea whether the Bishop of Albany has committed serious wrongs. I would note however that Mr. Voris appears to have had no success in changing his ways from what you write. I am sure that some of Voris’s targets deserve it. Often they do not because Voris jumps to conclusions in similar ways as could be done in this situation in order to attack their faith.

    This is not a set-up. The bishops didn’t forget to file paperwork nor did they write scandalous stories. While Voris’s arrogance and dissent (not only from the bishops but most importantly the Holy Father) was clearly manifest in Madrid, I doubt that affected anything more than causing someone to wonder “hmmm lemme look into this guy.”

    This is a not a DREAM Act thread. However, the bishops are obligated to inform the faithful on a number of issues, including immigration and abortion. The extent to which they do so and not focus on spiritual issues is a matter of prudence in light of the needs of the diocese. Perhaps bishops focus too much on certain issues but that’s a harder determination to make.

    TAC is a group blog, therefore decisions about the blog are made as a group, including decisions regarding what content to promote. However, the decisions of TAC don’t bind me as writer. Thus, I am free to criticize any of the bloggers or blogs to my right in my own posts.

  • Mr Denton, the only thing that Voris “dissents” from is the corruption and apathy in the Catholic hierarchy.

  • What’s fascinating about Vorisees is that they *talk* as though Voris is bravely facing (and being attacked by) them damn libruls, while in fact, nobody at places like the National Catholic Reporter, or America, or Commonweal cares a jot about Simon Rafe’s RPGs–only the Vorisees care about such things and only CNA (not particularly a rabid dissenting left wing rag) broke the story or cared about it. What Vorisees excel at is not facing off with dissenting Lefties, but encouraging inquisitors to go attack as fifth columnists those conservatives who are not, in their view, pure enough. Exhibit A: His recent demagogic attempt to passive-aggressively associate those who receive communion in the hand with Priscillianist heretics (and his McCarthyesesque smear of same as “self-communicating”. Exhibit B: Voris’ graceless, classless, Nixonian, passive-aggressive response to CNA (and the predictable pitchfork waving of Mr. Primavera and Mr. Dalton and other Vorisees in Pavlovian response to his act of passive incitement, as well as his ongoing aggression against “the bishops”) is poison. When will self-appointed orthodox cops stop making litmus tests out of matters which the Church herself treats with liberty?

    Thank you, Mr. Denton, for calling this man on his merciless “gospel”.

  • Ed: You will not insult people in my thread, especially fellow commenters. This is your final warning.

  • Such sheA comedian. Use bigger words and think a little deeper. On the wrong side again I see. The torture you so vehemently oppose qualifies your attacks on orthodoxy.

  • Mr Shea, the reason Voris and some of us cared about Simon Rafe’s RPG thing is that it was sexually explict and featured a sodomite character that someone could play in the game. Since you are always whining about gay bullies, I’m surprised you’re not concerned.
    Voris’s response to the CNA statement wasn’t “passive-agressive”. He simply pointed out that CNA did a hit piece that strangely came out just as He was in Madrid. What was He supposed to do, cover-up like some of the bishops have done in the past when confronted by a scandal? No, Mike Voris was totally transparent about what happened at RCTV. He admitted the problems and started to correct them. Simon Rafe admitted his wrongdoing and submitted to discipline. Yet, for some strange reason, that upset you. Why? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that that the angels in heaven rejoice more in heaven over one repentant sinner than 100 rightous men?
    As for MV’s agressive “poison” against the Bishops, people who cover for child molesting queers and heretics deserve to be publically shamed for their lack of zeal in protecting the flock from ravenous wolves. As a former member of a religious cult who’s whole ministery was nothing but a wolf pack, I’m grateful that Michael Voris cares enough about his fellow Catholics to expose these wolves and warn us about them. BTW Mark, I don’t own a pitchfork. A shotgun works better anyway.

  • Mr. Denton, I just won’t bother to comment in the future on your posts. I got a real job to do.

  • Mr. Primavera:

    By “insult” do you mean I should not use terms like “fat egotist”? You know, like you like to use? FWIW, my language was directed to Mr. Voris’ tactics. Your is directed to my person. Your defense is “Mark Shea is fat. So he is is wrong.” Sound logic, if you are in the third grade.

    Mr. Dalton: Classy threat of violence.

    I repeat: Thanks Mr. Denton for standing up to these bullies.

  • Oh Mark, nobody was being threatened with violence by my shotgun remark. I was just ridiculing your over the top remark about pitchforks. If you make remarks like this, expect people to laugh at how foolish they are.

  • Micheal,

    You make a good point in your analysis.

    Though, IMHO, Mr. Voris does fill a gap left by the leaderless direction of many, if not most bishops, in their divine commission to lead and protect the flock.

    Since the bishops have abdicated their roles as defender of the faith, Mr. Voris is a natural reaction as such.

    Nonetheless, Mr. Voris is human after all, but he is not a bishop with a divine mandate through apostolic succession. That squarely belongs on the bishops themselves (to lead).

    The bishops want to be liked and go-along to get-along, then they will certainly face their judgement by God.

    But it doesn’t mean they will face (correct in many respects) criticism for their lackluster leadership.

    Administration is part of the job, if they are more concerned in raising money than saving souls, they will and should called out for it in the most charitable manner.

  • Tito,

    I want to caution you on your use of “the bishops.” There are several bishops in this country who are inspiring defenders of the faith (Dolan, Chaput among them). I would venture to say that most of the bishops in this country are in this group, suggested not only for the election of Dolan at the USCCB but by their willingness to sacrifice healthcare when it became clear Obamacare would attack life.

    To be sure, there is a role for the laity in helping wayward bishops. I’m just not sure Voris is living out this role in a prudent or charitable manner.

  • Michael,

    When I mean “the bishops”, I mean a large amount, if not a slight majority of them (I am being charitable).

    There are rarely any inspiring leaders. Abp. Chaput is one (I refuse to not use their proper titles, because I do respect them even though you imply that I don’t).

    Abp. Dolan is questionable. He wants a strong central government to control our lives, so I doubt he understands the basics of subsidiarity.

    As far as their willingness, they were played by the Democratic Party-controlled-USCCB to believe that Obamacare would not attack life, which it did. Even if it didn’t, their liberal impulses overcame their Catholic mission in order to bring Big Government into evermore tighter control of our every day lives.

    There is a role to put bishops in line, and Voris is the product of the bishops dereliction of their duty. Because the bishops refused to stand up to the Spirit of Vatican II crowd and speak up for the eternal Truths of our faith, Michael Voris is the natural product of frustrated Catholics who are constantly marginalized for practicing their faith–by their very own bishops because they embarrass the bishops for being Catholic!

    If you feel offended by the term “the bishops”, you shouldn’t because they brought this upon themselves when they created the USCCB, which is solely used as a cover for their malfeasance in leading their flock(s), ie, us.

  • Tito,

    In your first comment, you criticized bishops for raising money over saving souls. I can’t help but think your second comment falls into a similar error. Politics is important, but ultimately the bishops need to evaluated on their saving of souls. While there are teaching from Catholic Social Justice about subsidiarity, I don’t think when Abp. Dolan goes to the pearly gates the first question will be “Now, how central of a government did you like?” A difference in politics on a question like subsidiarity that is relatively minor (if it was abortion or something like that, you’d have a better point) shouldn’t prevent us from saying “this bishop has helped saved souls.” Otherwise, I wonder what you think of the last two popes.

    The USCCB condemned Obamacare in the end. I think they deserve a lot of credit for that as they more than any other group pushed for healthcare reform. You may disagree with the reforms they desired, but you have to admire them for abandoning those desires in favor of life.

  • Michael,

    You’re correct, I don’t agree with their decision to take away our free will in governing our own lives by letting the government become our Big Brother.

    I’d like to point out that Michael Voris apologized and is rectifying the situation that has occured.

    How many bishops have apologized for their (gross) dereliction of duty?

    Not that they don’t have to because they have free will, but the contrast is stark.

    That said, you are quick to attack those that actually believe and practice the faith, yet you won’t wait a New York second to defend the indefensible.

    Just sayin’.

  • Tito,

    What indefensible thing I am defending? If the princes of the Church are “indefensible” then where does that leave our faith?

    Moreover, I think it’s rich to attack me for “attacking those who actually believe and practice” while defending Voris, who attacks every Catholic in sight.

  • Michael,

    You know exactly what I meant.

    You defend their actions, not the bishops themselves

    So you (by your lack of calling these bishops out) defend the bishops silence on pedophilia, pro-abortion Catholics, pro-life issues, and more. (just to cite examples)

    Your descending into hysterics. If Michael Voris is attacking every Catholic in sight, then I can’t continue debating with someone who believes his own hyperbole.

  • You defend their actions, not the bishops themselves

    Tito. Where did I defend the actions you name? I’ve said nothing whatsoever about the silence of pedophilia. I think the bishops clearly made mistakes; due to naivety in some cases and pure indifference to the safety of children in the quest for sexual liberation in others. Most of those bishops are no longer with us, I imagine.

    I think the bishops deserve some praise on pro-life issues but with almost every issue in the Church today there is much work still to be done to get to the proper level. I also think bishops have the power to excommunicate or deny Communion to Catholic public figures who publicly deny Church teachings and refuse to engage Church teachings. However, I think that decision is one of prudence and spiritual direction which I defer to the bishops; nevertheless, I think that the silence of the bishops on this point as a whole is disappointing.

    I think the bishops are wrong quite frequently. But that doesn’t mean they’re poor Catholics. It means they need prayers and in some cases public discussion. Voris is not a discussion; it’s a rant which contains no mercy and no love. I don’t thin Voris has managed to do anything other than give himself a career; I don’t see how realcatholictv has changed anything for the better.

    Hyperbole is not hysterics, and the point remains. Voris has styled himself as one who attacks impure Catholics. Voris frequently attacks or undermines those he ought to help, with his counter-event in Madrid a prime example. If Voris is going to undermine the pope’s World Youth Day, does he have respect for any of the Church’s leaders? And if Pope Benedict XVI isn’t Catholic enough, who is?

  • Michael,

    I didn’t say the bishops are poor Catholics.

    My whole point is that because of the vacuum of leadership, Michael Voris is the result of their frequent inaction.

    As for WYD, I find it difficult to believe he went there to undermine the Pope. I truly believe he went there to educate. But that’s another point not worth pursuing in this Combox.

    I can’t wait to get into College Football ranking discussion.


  • Denton you’re lost. Tito nice!

  • Mr. Primavera:

    I don’t want to distract you from your “real job” so I deleted your juvenile comment.

  • I think the devil loves this thread. Good Catholics all taking roundhouse swings at each other. You can almost see him slinking away with a small smile.

  • Voris has plenty for which to be criticized – perhaps it is true his style is not conducive to reform and lacks charity. But the particular criticism that surfaced that I found rather embarassingly weak was the one about the non-profit status. And at least at this point it seems he has done the best he can and what is within his power to correct the wayward employee. On those two counts, at least, I can’t find much to criticize.

    As for undermining the Pope, it is possible Voris’s WYD side show may have had that effect, but I would find it difficult to believe that would have been his intent, particularly based upon the few clips I have seen where he mentions the Pope. I haven’t seen anythnig disparaging (perhaps the closest would be comments that bring to mind the Pope as a beleagured general trying to do the right thing but undermined by many of his troops – which, frankly, I can not say is completely unreasonable and doesn’t sound disparaging to the Pope at all).

    On the whole, like most, MV is a mixed bag.

O’Brien on Potter & Entertainment

Thursday, July 28, AD 2011

LifesiteNews has posted an extensive interview with Michael O’Brien about his views on Harry Potter. Michael O’Brien is himself a Catholic author, most known for his novel “Father Elijah.”

Much of the interview is about the particularities of Harry Potter. I agree and disagree with him. While I would concede that there are several instances where the Potter books don’t live up to Christian values, I think he misinterprets many of his examples to skew the books, particular in his discussions about the final scenes. However, I’m more interested in how his views would apply to a subject I rarely see discuss but which is very important: how Catholics ought to approach art and make the decision of whether or not to read/view a particular work. O’brien indirectly touches on this issue through the Potter debate, and it’s those areas I’d like to focus on.

Most important, she has taken the paganization of children’s culture to the next step, in which sorcery and witchcraft—traditionally allied with supernatural evil—is now presented as morally neutral. In the hands of “nice” people it’s an instrument for good. In the hands of not-nice people it’s an instrument for evil. She has shifted the battle lines between good and evil, which can have a disorienting effect, especially on the young who are in the stage of formation.

This is the crux of O’Brien’s argument against Potter: witchcraft is a traditional symbol of evil, and by presenting it as possibly morally neutral Rowling’s world ought to be rejected. His attempts to simultaneously defend Tolkien’s fantasy and the inconsistencies of this are well argued by many others. Howver, I think this claim is wrong even if he did condemn Tolkien.

What an author should do if they wish to use a traditional evil in a different way is to contemplate why that symbol was evil. Wizardry was a symbol of a desire for power and control; vampires for lust and immortality; werewolves for an animalistic view of humans, etc. O’Brien’s argument would corner us into using these motifs always as evil. But I think an author could genuinely write a story about a werewolf fighting his own tendencies in an effort to overcome his weakness. Indeed, Tolkien’s portrayal of dwarves fits into the tendency. The dwarves are tempted by greed and close-mindedness but throughout LOTR Gimli’s experiences change him so that he becomes a veritable hero. So while I think that authors would be wise to deal with the weaknesses inherent in their symbols rather than gloss over them, I don’t think authors are cornered the way O’Brien suggests. While O’Brien is right to suggest that authors need to pay careful attention to the traditional uses, I don’t think they are bound by them. Indeed, O’Brien’s book involves an attempt to convert the Anti-Christ; if that’s not using an evil symbol in an unorthodox way I don’t know what is.

That argument again points to the deeper problem. Without really knowing how we arrived at this position, we have made an artificial split between entertainment and faith—between culture and faith, in other words. We say, “I am a doctrinally correct Catholic (or Christian), I question nothing of the Church’s teaching. So if I want to watch videos, DVDs, television programs that violate those principles, I’m capable of focusing on the good and overlooking the evil.” It goes without saying that we should try to find the good in everything and shouldn’t always be looking for the evil around us. But when our consumption becomes an insatiable appetite, in which the evil components, the falsehoods and glamorization of evil activities are grave matters—and certainly sorcery and witchcraft is of the utmost gravity in terms of violating divine order—we should pause and say, “Is this worth it? Can I really ingest this amount of evil without being affected by it?

Part of this argument is contingent on his claims that Potter contains more evil than good. Now read this quote with it:

Potterworld is a scrambled moral universe. There are Christian symbols in the series, but the author misappropriates them, mutates them, and integrates them into a supposedly larger and broader system where evil symbols are dominant. Why are our antennae not quivering when that happens? I believe it’s because we have been overwhelmed by habitual dependence on the pleasure. I should add that we have also been overwhelmed by many opinion-shapers who tell us that there’s no problem here—even Christian commentators.

I would agree with O’Brien that commentators who say the Potter series presents NO problems are mistaken. But O’Brien’s problem with potter’s “scrambled moral universe” could apply to almost anything. The fundamental problem Christians have with approaching art is that the authors are sinful human beings. Even the best of authors are going to allow their sinfulness to creep undetected into their works so that their work contains mixed moral messages. While some works are clearly better than others at containing far more positive messages then evil (LOTR for example), no work is perfect. There is no work in the world in which the reader ought to be sitting and fully accepting.

The question for the Christian reader is how to deal with this. Part of this relies on literary interpretation. If you read Potter as offering an example of sacrificial love, you are more likely to believe it to ultimately be a useful work of art. If you read Potter as endorsing the end justifies the means, then you’re not. There are times when you can clearly say “x is unacceptable for Christians” but oftentimes this is difficult. Art speaks to different people in different ways so that some people make take more from the good parts than others. This is particularly true in the modern entertainment context, in which everything is very mixed and Christians who wish to stay engaged with the culture find themselves facing very difficult choices.

Even though there are works of art that label themselves as Christian, either they are Protestant, contain mixed moral messages anyway, or are just plain terrible works of art (think “Fireproof,” if you managed to get past the first five minutes of the dialogue). Many of the Catholic writers of the last century wrote stories with very flawed characters who seek truth in a postmodern world (Greene’s Power and the Glory, Percy’s the Moviegoer, Flannery O’Conner).

There’s no easy out, nor should their be. Good art is reflective of the world, and as that world is fallen and the author is fallen Catholics are going to have to balance the good and the bad. Good art ought to point more towards God than point away.

I have no problem if O’Brien or anyone else thinks Harry Potter does more ill than good. I disagree with them, but they are entitled to their opinion. But pretending that it is all evil avoids the difficult decisions that a consumer needs to make; and Catholics who trying to live out the New Evangelization and meet the culture need to be more aware of that decision.

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17 Responses to O’Brien on Potter & Entertainment

  • Pingback: O'Brien on Potter & Entertainment | The American Catholic – Carlton Enoch "On the Streets" FaceBook Blog
  • Nicely put. Come to think of it, don’ t the legends of King Arthur (and Merlin), come from medieval, Catholic Europe? This whole “magic makes the book evil” position is ludicrously unsupportable. Should we avoid huge swathes of English literature? What are we going to do about Macbeth? Or Dr Faustus? Or, heaven help us, Procopius’ Secret History?

    I could go on. The list of great works with “immoral” content is endless. But we don’t – or shouldn’t – go to art for moral guidance, and we could do nothing worse than trying to hive ourselves off and read only blandly orthodox things. We cannot retreat from the culture around us, and we certainly shouldn’t try to stop children from discovering that – shock, horror – there are bad things out there, and – perhaps more terrible! – people who believe differently.

    We are called to be in the world but not of it. What Fr O’Brien seems to be arguing is that we shouldn’t be in the world in the first place.

    Finally, I’m reminded of something Chesterton said. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the gist is: fairy-tales don’t tell children that monsters exist: they already know that. Fairy-tales tell children that monsters can be killed.

  • It sure sounds like you are saying we need to give a little so that the world does not say that we are reactionists and freaks.

    I would like to meet the world halfway to heaven, but not halfway to hell.

  • Perhaps I ought to have finished by asking:

    Which one of us claims to be knowledgeable enough about the motives and subtleties of such writers and artists or spiritually wealthy enough to not be affected by what the world sells to us as art and creativity?

    We all claim to have a moral compass, but we forget (as men especially) even the slightest hint at some evil masquerading as good is enough to implant imagery in our heads and minds that last a lifetime.

    To be honest, I am not capable of judging for myself what is mere entertainment and what is pushing the envelope. It is for this very reason that I think to the Moral Doctor of the Church, St Alphonsus. It is from there that my conscience is formed. I am certainly at peace, knowing that as Cardinal, Ratzinger was able to point to the dangers of such fantasy books (or evil, masquerading as childish fantasy)

    To swamp in writings like Macbeth, and Frankenstein or any other books containing imagery of evil is not the point of Mr O’Brien. It is the triumph of evil over good and the presentation and characterization of evil as good and harmless is what the essence of his arguments are.

    If all of this is completely ignorant of me, then I do apologize for wasting your time.

  • There is a difference between what an adult reads – and what a parent would (should) select for his child or allow him or her to read. Where evil is presented as good, and the ends justify the means, children can become confused. Actually, the parents, without a good prayer life, might be as well. Subtle innuendos and nuances can create a false sense of right and wrong for children.

    Recently, I was in a library where they had a cabinet full of books recommended for middle school students. In looking over the books, it hit me that the overwhelmingly vast majority of them were “dark” – from the covers to the content to the way they ended. A trip to the book store confirmed what I had just seen at the library – shelves upon shelves of books for children about witchcraft, vampires, etc. And they did not seem to be offset by the kind of books that showed the other side.

    Children (and parents) have a limited amount of reading time. I would like to think that their selections would be those books that will help them toward a healthy intellectual and spiritual life. Entertainment can be an uplifting experience.

    It cannot be easy for Michael O’Brien to go against the grain as he is doing. I think that his is a “sacrificial love” for God and his people in that he is trying to alert people to the possible negative effects of certain books. He is both an artist and an author who has dedicated his life to his faith. His message, I believe, is that it’s better to err on the side of caution than to leave ourselves open to potential dangers in our spiritual lives. He “proposes”, not “imposes”.

  • First of all, I’ve got to say that I don’t respect an author who uses the cheap rhetorical tricks that O’Brien does in that interview. He paints himself as a victim, using the nastiest of his critics’ comments. He builds what appear to be strawmen Catholics whose acceptance of Potter is really driven by relativism. When his critics sound rational, well, don’t addicts sound rational when they defend themselves?

    Moving past that, I admit I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. But as I understand it, pure Harry takes sin upon himself and dies for all mankind, destroying death, then rising so that man may live. Can O’Brien really not detect a Christian theme in the story?

    Tolkien does treat corrupted magic as corrupting, but he also treats uncorrupted magic as holy. Gandalf wields good magic; the elven rings do only good; magic swords and an arrow play important parts in the stories, as well. Likewise, Aslan represents an odd mashup of Christian symbology, but it doesn’t diminish the story or its morality. The granddaddy of Catholic religious fiction has pagan gods in his Inferno. There may be good Catholic arguments against the Harry Potter series, but O’Brien is sure using a lot of bad ones.

  • Sherry – A godchild of mine used to watch Star Wars all the time because she loved Darth Vader. I assume that as she got older, her parents showed her that Darth isn’t a good guy.

    Parents can read all kinds of stories to their children and get them to talk about them, and sort out the moral implications of the stories. It’s not hard to get a kid to start talking about Harry Potter. A parent should explain that even Shrek makes mistakes, that even though Hansel and Gretel were saved they shouldn’t have wandered off by themselves.

  • Philip & Sherry It sure sounds like you are saying we need to give a little so that the world does not say that we are reactionists and freaks.

    I would like to meet the world halfway to heaven, but not halfway to hell.

    I don’t think we should read less than perfect works to seem hip or to avoid being uncool. If a work does more ill than good, then regardless of the flack then put it down and don’t go down that path.

    However, I do think there are benefits to be gained by engaging less than perfect works which still do more good than ill. Not only does one become more aware of the language and the culture around you (which can be used to evangelize and convert the culture, but you gain skills. Entertainment is not the only source of conflicting messages. Our family, friends, coworkers, politicians and almost everyone else bombard us with mixed messages. Being able to recognize that something is not all good or all bad can help Catholics weed out that which leads away from Christ. To do that, like all virtues, require practice and entertainment can be a venue to gain that experience.

    Children (and parents) have a limited amount of reading time. I would like to think that their selections would be those books that will help them toward a healthy intellectual and spiritual life. Entertainment can be an uplifting experience.

    I definitely think you should pursue uplifting books more than others. For example, if you can read either Potter or Lord of the Rings, read LOTR. However, LOTRs are few and far between in either faithfulness and/or quality.

  • Well, Darth does end up being the “good guy” in the end, doesn’t he? Classic redemption scenario.

    But we don’t – or shouldn’t – go to art for moral guidance

    But the vast majority of humanity does, and has throughout history, from Aesop’s fables to HP. So it is encumbent upon artists (and critics, and others in position of influence) to help sort the wheat from the chaff. Art and morality have a very strong connection and interplay between them. It is unrealistic to say we don’t or shouldn’t go to art for moral guidance.

    Having said that, even flawed works can be useful for moral guidance if nothing else than to show what not to do. IMHO, HP, on balance, is probably positive, and if aware of its pitfalls is essentially harmless. But that is the stickler – how many are aware of its pitfalls and separate themselves from same?

  • She liked Darth in Episode 4.

  • It’s not O’Brien that corners anyone into considering witchcraft evil; that part comes from the Bible.
    It seems (and I admit I only read the first HP book) that in Tolkien, the logic of the argument is set from the beginning and becomes clearer as things go along; in HP it is arbitrary and not obvious. HP apologists spend a lot of time clearing things up for us sceptics.

  • I read O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons a while back, in which he lays out his theory of how fantasy and childrens books should be written, and frankly it was such utter rubbish that it turned me off ever reading any of his fiction.

    Much of his problem (with the Harry Potter books as with other things) is that he thinks that various fictional things must always carry some established meaning, and that any use of them in any other way is a subtle attempt to teach people that good is evil and evil is good.

    For instance, he thinks that dragons are a symbol of evil. Thus, any story which involves a good dragon is a story in which we are being taught to think that evil is good. This, I think, is deeply silly. Dragons are mythical beasts, they don’t exist. There is no particular reason why reptilian creatures that breath fire and have wings must always be evil in a fictional story. They could be good, or they could (like real people) be creatures with free will who behave badly sometimes and well others. However, O’Brien wants to see these entirely fictional creatures as somehow being objectively evil, so that having a “good dragon” in a story is like having a “good murder” or a “good rape”.

    The hang up with Harry Potter (one of his several, at any rate) is similar. Sorcery (trying to make a compact with the devil in order to get certain supernatural powers in return) is something which is certainly evil in the real world. However, in fantasy stories an author may imagine worlds in which magic is simply how things work — in which mixing eye of newt and toe of bat creates energy the way that burning coal or pushing together two lumps of reactible uranium does in the real world. This kind of “chemistry set fantasy” is pretty much what goes on in Harry Potter — magic is simply a “way things work” which certain people have the ability to do, it’s not achieved through compacts with the devil. However, O’Brien basically wants to insist that there is only one imaginable form of magic, and that this form is evil, and thus if someone with more imagination than he write a story set in a world in which “magic” is something else (something non evil) then in fact what the story is doing is suggesting that it’s okay to do evil for good reasons.


  • Thanks, Darwin. I was really scratching my head over some of the things written about HP. I can’t recall a single instance in the books where a character did something evil that wasn’t called out as such. HP is one of the more clearly good v.s. evil series in the contemporary children’s fantasy world. If you really want to see some moral ambiguity try the Rick Riordan series. (Not to mention the downwright immoral Phillip Pullman books.) I take it as a good sign that HP is as popular as it is compared with some of its contemporaries. LOTR is on another level and is written for a more sophisticated reader. It also doesn’t deal with the travails of growing up. HP has a lot of great lessons for children. But to each his own.

  • I was concerned about Harry Potter back way back when–about the mixing up of so-called black and white magic–and some of our Catholic homeschooling friends either didn’t want their children reading it at all, or were required to do extensive in-depth book reports. Then the movie came out, and I ran across an article somewhere that reported the Vatican Exorcist saying something to the effect that the movie wasn’t quite as bad as the book and if one just had to wade into HP land, the movie was the less destructive bet. We watched the first movie, and I was pleasantly charmed by the usage of Latin.

    Then I came across the following article on http://catholicexchange.com/2007/07/11/96743/ It’s about contraception and abortion and the words used by the Church to describe and/or understand it: Witchcraft. For me, that changed the map a bit. I gather there is not much contraception and abortion mentioned in Harry Potter.

    Eventually, I “let” my oldest read the first book, the word let in scare quotes because my oldest has dyslexia and reading is not a favored activity. He made his way through the book, and I made my way through the first chapter. I couldn’t get any further because the book seemed very poorly written to me. My son never did ask for the second book, and we have yet to see the last two movies.

    If we are going to be concerned about Witchcraft, should we not be concerned about the real stuff under our noses? It would appear that we have forgotten that Hocus Pocus is at least partially about attempting to destroy God’s creative genius in the marriage bed, but people don’t see that. There may have been a time where an Eye of Newt and a Horn of a Toad were used to kill a child (perhaps at the embryonic stage). Now we call it The Pill and we say it is medicine.

  • Thanks, Darwin/s. I have enjoyed some of O’Brien’s books but just the overview I saw of “Landscape with Dragons” when it first came out made me decide not to read it. I’m glad to hear I was correct in what I understood him to be saying.

    The Harry Potter books are very well written and are great stories. There are so many terrible things out there for kids that this obsession about one of the best kids (and anyone’s) series of fantasy books ever written really puzzles me. I think that many of the people who are so self-righteous about how they don’t read them probably don’t read or watch much of anything, and are just glomming onto these because they are so famous and popular that you can’t miss them. Other book series that are very influential with kids but not quite as ubiquitous are FAR worse for your soul, but they aren’t aware of them.

    I apologize if I offend anyone here but, of the people I know who will not read them, most seem to fit that description. Others, however, just take the whole “magic” thing too literally. I know one family who will not let their kids read the books or see the movies, but whose children practically have all the Star Wars movies memorized. And if you ask me, they are MUCH more problematic! My favorite scene (not) is when Padme decides she really loves Anakin — right after he tells her that he went into the Sand People village and killed every one in it, including the women and children. Now THERE’S an attractive guy! Why don’t you marry him? And for Christians, the whole dualism of “the force” and the quasi-Eastern philosophy thing is out and out wrong, theologically speaking. But where is the Christian outrage against all the little kids running around playing Jedi? NOWHERE. And rightly so. I don’t think the Star Wars mythology, wrong-headed though it is, is a danger to kids. They know it is not real, same as the “magic” in Harry Potter.

  • I read O’Brien’s Landscape With Dragons a while back, in which he lays out his theory of how fantasy and childrens books should be written, and frankly it was such utter rubbish that it turned me off ever reading any of his fiction.

    My reaction exactly. Well put.

  • I simply adore how LifesiteNews says O’Brien is “regarded around the world as an expert on children’s fantasy literature.” Regarded by whom?

Obamacare to Require Coverage of Contraception

Tuesday, July 19, AD 2011

In a move likely to surprise only those on the Catholic Left, the government received a recommendation (which it is almost sure to implement) to require all insurance companies to cover contraception as it is a preventive service. This will not allow for insurance companies to require a co-pay for these services. This includes not only all FDA-approved contraception procedures, but also all sterilization procedures as well as education and counseling for “all women with reproductive capacity.” I’m not certain, but I assume “all FDA-approved contraceptive procedures” would include some abortifacients, specifically the “emergency contraceptives” that prevent implantation (considered by some to not be abortive because they define pregnancy at implantation not fertilization).

There do not yet appear to be any provisions providing for entities to opt out of this kind of coverage, which likely means that Catholic employers are now mandated to provide insurance will have to pay for contraception and abortion.

Thanks for your hard work, Mr. Stupak.


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12 Responses to Obamacare to Require Coverage of Contraception

  • I….am….stunned.

    And if you believe that, I also have a wonderful bridge in New York with a view of Brooklyn for sale, cheap.

  • If you were the least bit informed on where federal, state, and corporate policy were presently, you wouldn’t find this shocking.

  • MZ:

    I’m not shocked. I’m just curious how the people who swore up and down that Obamacare would not promote abortion or spread contraception are going to cover their tracks.

  • Well I *am* shocked. I guess our government now wants us to emulate Europe’s national suicide.

  • End of life coverage – no.
    Preventing of life coverage – yes.


  • MZ:

    I’m not shocked. I’m just curious how the people who swore up and down that Obamacare would not promote abortion or spread contraception are going to cover their tracks.

    With displays of arrogance.

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  • They needed to pass the bill so we could find out what was in it.

    Plus, there are no jobs, Blind Man the Bernank and Tax Cheat Geithner are feverishly devaluing the Federal Reserve Note, people can’t afford home heating oil (thank God for AGW), food prices soaring, millions lose homes, there is no economic growth, Gitmo is still open, three wars still flagrant, they didn’t read Osama his Miranda righs, US drones assassinating hundreds, gays may serve in military with federal endorsement, sodomy is becoming a legal “sacrament”, and name three muslim hell holes at which the US is not at war.

    Oh yeah, Obama is soooo good for the “common good” and social justice.

  • And of course Obama’s views on marriage continue to “evolve.” He now supports the repeal of DOMA. Obama, the most anti-life, anti-social justice President in history.

  • The Catholic left is so invested in Obama now that there’s absolutely NOTHING he could do that they wouldn’t defend or try to minimize.

  • Daledog and Mr. Anderson,

    You both hit the target 10-X.

    In 2014, if we haven’t succeeded in rpealing Obamascare, it’ll be “Obama lied and Grandma died.”

5 Responses to Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

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  • I’m heading out with MrsD to see the final installment tonight, so I don’t have my own review thoughts yet, but I did want to raise a “huh?” to this:

    But the movies are much better having read the books (I’d be confused otherwise), and unlike Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, I expect that another adaptation of Potter will be in done in twenty years or so as there was much lost from page to screen.

    Though I enjoy the Potter books a lot, I find it hard to imagine someone adapting them again at any point in the foreseeable future. And I certainly hope that someone does LotR again, though I’ll admit that it will clearly be at least 20-30 years, in that the Peter Jackson adaptations, while they look great, are pretty seriously flawed as adaptations. While the HP adaptations often pare out a lot, I think overall they’re much better adaptions of the books than Jackson’s LotR is of Tolkien’s.

  • I would say in general, the movie downplayed the themes of sacrificial love and redemption that are more evident in the books.

  • I definitely picked up on the first two ‘cut’ scenes, but hadn’t really thought about the last until I read this post.

    I liked that Harry & Riddle are discussing the ownership of the Elder Wand alone, rather than in front of ~100 people. That never made sense to me, that Harry is shouting out in front of everyone, “Hey, I’m the owner of the most powerful wand in the world!” Even if it’s all the ‘good’ guys there, it seems to me that anyone greedy enough for power would be willing to go after Harry for it.

    I didn’t like the nearly complete ignorance of Lupin & Tonks pregnancy. If you’re not paying that much attention you can miss Tonks attempt in 7.1 and it never again comes out until you see Lupin’s ghost that there indeed was a son. And since you never actually see little Teddy, it almost makes no sense to even mention the son or his death.

    I also didn’t like missing Fred’s death, I thought that was a rather important moment in the book. But seeing Ron’s reaction to his deceased brother was probably equally as touching.

    Another thing that’s been downplayed over the course of the movies was Percy’s allegiance to the Ministry and away from his family. His return in Book 7 is quite the Prodigal son. Since he wasn’t really mentioned much in the movies, it makes sense that they just ignore this sequence in the film.

    Overall, I loved the whole series, both the book & the film versions. There are things that I wished were covered from the book that weren’t in the films, but we can’t be taking ~600 page books and turning it into a ~70 page script for a ~3 hour movie. I do wonder about a ‘revised’ series in the future, but I think it’s too monumental of a task to do it (a) period and (b) better than the versions out now.

  • I was *loving* the adaptation, *until* the point at which Neville pulls the sword out of the Sorting Hat, and then I thought it went off the rails in some serious ways.

    I much preferred how the book portrayed Neville breaking free of the spell and killing Nagini right then… it gave him a feel of heroism and bravery, while in the movie he looked foolish brandishing the sword… the bad guys actually laugh at him!

    I much preferred how the book had Harry hiding his “aliveness” until the final duel with V… the big reveal was much more dramatic than the movie’s version.

    And I much preferred the book’s version of their duel to the movie’s… a circling of foes, exchanging words, with just one spell cast by each, rather than the CGI-heavy fight in and around Hogwarts that we got in the movie.

    I don’t understand why they made these changes, either… it’s not like they saved time or money.

    The movie was headed for a solid 9.5 until then… those changes to crucial scenes dropped it to an 8.0 for me.

The Conclusion of Harry Potter

Monday, July 11, AD 2011

*There may be a spoiler or two. Proceed with caution

This week marks the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” which marks the end of the movie franchise and, for intents and purposes, the cultural phenomenon as well (barring a sequel, of course). For members of my generation, especially among those who enjoy reading, this will probably be a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, the last movie looks like it will be an exciting conclusion; on the other hand, we have to say goodbye to the series that has been a large part of our growing up. Many of us waited at midnight in bookstores for the release, and then spent most of the the next morning reading it.

It’s undeniable that for many Harry Potter was important. The question is why it became so important and what inspired so many. There are other books that are far better written, and fantasy is a genre that usually lives on the periphery of popular culture.

I think Potter managed to grab attention because behind all the spells and magic was a little boy who never knew his parents. The opening book’s depiction of Harry returning night after night just for one glimpse of him with his parents struck many people, especially me. My own father died when I was four, so I understood why Harry went to the Mirror of Erised every night, and how throughout the series Harry would stop everything just to get a tiny scrap of what his parents were like, just he could get to know them a little better.

But this is enough to get people reading; but what kept them reading was a plot that contains many Christian themes. Although many Christians objected to the magic, Harry won not through finding the special spell or the magic weapon, but purely through selfless, sacrificial love. Although there are several instances where Christian ethics are not applied, on the whole Christians can find this work agreeable.

It’s not often that Christian themes are given such a showcase which enjoys such popularity. As the series concludes this week, let’s be thinking about how we can use Potter the way many already use Lord of the Rings: as a vehicle to introduce and inspire people to the Christian life.

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21 Responses to The Conclusion of Harry Potter

  • I think what really motivated the love for Harry Potter was the fact that Good and Evil were clearly defined. The villains of the series were always blood-thirsty savages (Voldemort, Belatrix, Fenrir, etc) while the heroes were always kind, gentle people (aside from the 3 central figures, Ginny, Neville, Remus, etc). There were very few blurred lines in this separation (Snape & Quirrell, for example).

    Plus, it’s kids beating up on adults, and what kid hasn’t dreamed of ‘winning’ a battle against their parents or teachers? Where else can we find a 17 year old boy who can defeat a seemingly invincible 60 year old.

  • Well said, Michael, and I agree with you on the Christian elements of the book. I would say that though the movies have been okay and I tend to watch them when they’re on (which is seemingly all the time on ABC Family), they never quite matched up to the books. So for me, the bittersweet moment was the day the final book was released. Still excited to watch the finale this weekend.

  • Kylekanos: I would agree with you, save for two examples. One is Snape, as you mentioned, but the other is Dumbledore. The picture of Dumbledore revealed in the last book is not a terribly flattering one; we see his manipulation. I think those two figures and the important role they play (as shown by Harry naming his children after them at the end) does add a significant element of murkiness.

    You may also make an argument about where the Malfoys fall at the end.

    However, on the whole the series had good guys and bad guys, and I think this lack of an anti-hero probably appealed to many.

  • While I’m a little too old to have grown up with the Harry Potter books, they came along at an interesting point for me. I started reading them right before my senior year of college in 2000. As an English major I’d just spent the previous three years reading some great literature and a lot of really messed up critical theory, absurdist theatre, and overly sexualized crappola that make up the modern academic “canon.” Harry Potter was a blessed break from all that. It was/is entertaining, easy to read, creative, and intellectually interesting.

  • Yeah, thanks Denton. Add a spoiler alert next time. Wanker.


  • I agree that the Harry Potter is an enjoyable read, mostly because it follows the classic “Hero’s Quest” but would not claim it is any way Christian even if it does contain Christian-like themes.

    Point of fact: the Pope thinks it distorts Christianity and may be dangerous because of the “subtle seductions”.

    “Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had even condemned the books, writing that their “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed … deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”

    “Remember, satan and his demons are very subtle. He’s not going to come to you as he truly is, but in a very appealing disguise. The person or persons he will acquaint you with will mix lies with the truth to confuse you and to lead you away from the Church and the Eucharist. And it will all seem so right and pleasant to the earthly side of you. He will slowly but surely lead you into deeper and deeper sin, just like the frog that gets boiled one degree at a time.”

    Pax vobiscum

  • Note first quote comes from different source than second quote. Sorry for any confusion.

  • I’ve heard that quote, but it’s in response to a letter, and doesn’t evenly remotely indicate that the Pope has ever read Harry Potter or is very familiar with it or even what exactly is objectionable about the books.

  • Would anyone agree with me that Dobby the House Elf was the most annoying fictional film character since Jar Jar Binks?


  • Ok, but you get smaller doses of Dobby than Jar Jar not to mention Dobby is supposed to a little weird. I would contend that Padme or really any character played by Natalie Portman is more annoying than Dobby.

  • Ah, if I were counting humans Michael I would agree with you regarding Portman. Hmmm, now that I think about it I didn’t hate her in Thor, which is her first performance I didn’t hate, although she was pretty annoying in Thor also. Of course her Natalie Portman Rap for Saturday Night Live gives her a special annoying status all by itself.

  • I didn’t find Dobby all that annoying in the books, and indeed, his part in the last book leads to one of the more affecting scenes in the series. The movie version was pretty annoying, though. It’s the voice.

    Though I will say, the whole Elf Liberation Front plot line in one of the middle books one was of the most stupid and annoying wastes of time in the entire series. Yeeesh. (Though overall, those middle books were the weaker ones, with the first being pretty good and the last ones being very much so.)

  • I agree with Darwin on Dobby, but not on the books. Azkaban and Goblet of Fire are the most enjoyable in the series, and to me the next two kind of tread water until Rowling gets to the end.

    Another problem with the movies is not just how much they leave out – it’s kind of understandable considering the length of the middle books – but that they really turned Hermione into nothing more than a worry wort. Well, she’s kind of that way in the books, but the movies really dim Ron and Hermione as characters.

  • I thought Hermione was ok in the movies; Ron was a waste thought. I found myself in 7.1 listening to the Horcrux Hermione bash Ron and thinking “you know, the Horcrux has a point here. Who would look at Ron in this?”

    I think the ELF plot line was supposed to be kinda silly as the characters go through that “I’m going to change everything” stage of life, but it did take up a bit too much space.

    As for annoying non-humans, I think an argument could be made for Mater in Cars 2 (way, way too much of Larry the Cable Guy). I agree with Darwin; Dobby is only annoying because of the voice. /

  • I read books 1-6, but not #7. I watched all the movies, including 7.1.

    I want to agree with Mrs. Zummo: the Potter series was an easy-to-read break from some other stuff I was reading.

    I also want to agree with Mr. Zummo about the entertainment of the books: I thought the books got better (even though longer) leading up to the fourth installment. Goblet of Fire was my favorite.

    At that point, it seems that Rowling decided that she had to get down to concluding the series, but was committed to wrapping it up in seven books. Consequently, for me, books 5 & 6 tended to be too complex and less fun.

    I was so put off by book 6 that I didn’t even read Deathly Hallows. I figured I’d just watch the movie to see how it concluded. Then, it was decided to make the book into two (!) movie.

    After bringing my daughter and friends to see 7.1, I was disappointed. But I kept hearing how it distorted the book. So – as I try to wrap up a much too long post – I have decided NOT to watch 7.2 until I’ve read the book.

    I don’t find anything anti-Christian in the books, and I didn’t have a problem with my young daughter (she’s now 15-yrs-old) reading them.

    As for Dobby: annoying in the movies; not so much in the books.

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  • As much as I have enjoyed this series, two elements keep me from fully embracing it as consistent with Christianity:
    1) The portrayal of a world parallel to our own that has special, superior knowledge of the world but is completely secular with no mention of any sort of faith.
    2) The fact that Voldemort’s puppet is named “Pius.”
    Having said all this, there are much worse stories to which one can be exposed and negatively influenced by.

  • The distinction between good and evil is mostly on an emotional level. Ontologically, there is almost no distinction at all. Practically everything that characterizes the ‘dark side’ is done by the good guys. All the things that seem to be intrinsically evil are done by the good guys. Unforgivable curses, killing, hatred, etc. What is left?

  • You may also make an argument about where the Malfoys fall at the end.

    The besetting sin of the Malfoys is envy, a desire for status-climbing above all else, cozying up to the powerful, regardless of who the powerful happen to be. By “Half Blood Prince,” they are being carried off by the malevolence more than participating in it. I thought the repentance of Draco and Narcissa was convincing, but Lucius’ somewhat less so.

    As to the other topics–Order of the Phoenix is easily the toughest slog of the bunch. “Oh, great–another Quidditch match…” I thought she pulled herself together rather nicely after that.

    Dobby is nowhere near as obnoxious on the page as he is the screen. He’s rather likeable in the books. I remember the funny, but deeply scatological sketch Peter Jackson did for the MTV Movie Awards involving Smeagol arguing with Gollum. Smeagol protests that “Dobby the Elf likes me!” Gollum’s riposte is…funnier than a rubber crutch, but unprintable. But, yeah, it works given how irritating Dobby the Film Elf is.

  • The end of the Harry Potter movies….and high time.

    I will probably go to my grave wondering what anyone saw in these poorly-written books and the infantile movies made from them. It will take someone with a greater intellect than mine to figure out the success of such things. Hype certainly played a part but there is more to it than that I’m afraid. These films/books are the Cabbage Patch dolls of our time, and with all the silliness and ugliness.

    As for me, I’ll stick with both fine literature and fine films, neither of which one can commonly find after the 1960s.

  • As for me, I’ll stick with both fine literature and fine films, neither of which one can commonly find after the 1960s.

    Get off my lawn!!!!!!!!

Supreme Court Term in Brief Review

Saturday, July 2, AD 2011

This wasn’t the most fascinating of terms. Much of the speculation around the Court centers around cases it hasn’t received yet: namely, Obamacare and gay marriage. The most controversial case, I think, was decided much earlier in the term (Synder v. Phelps, 8-1 that the First Amendment protects the Westboro Baptist Church from being sued in tort for infliction of emotional distress when their speech involves matters of the public interest). But there are a few worthy of note. But there are a few cases of note, even though they may not be the headline grabbers.

(I’ll also apologize to all legal scholars for this not being close to Bluebook format. I tried to water it down for a general audience and so I may be guilty of gross oversimplification)

ATT v. Concepcion-the Court by a 5-4 margin enforced the agreement to arbitrate found in the AT&T customer contract and therefore a class action had to be dismissed. This decision could significantly curtail class actions, as customer agreements can now include arbitration agreements in order to protect companies. However, the ATT agreement was one that was very favorable in the sense that ATT would pay costs and some attorneys fees in many situations. Thus, one can speculate about whether an agreement which provides much less incentive for lawyers to prosecute in arbitration would also be upheld (Scalia’s opinion suggests it would).

Wal-Mart v. Dukes: another class suit was brought down, this time because its theory was based on a “culture of discrimination” against women. The class alleged that Wal-Mart discriminated against women, but the Court found that without a policy and without more evidence that the decentralized business culture demanded discrimination that the claims were too individualized to make up a class.

Expect both Wal-Mart & ATT to have a slight impact on politics. These cases together could curtail class actions, which are the bread and butter of many plaintiffs attorneys. As plaintiffs attorneys make up a significant funding wing for the Democrats, I would expect Obama to have to formulate some kind of policy response in order to please them, though I doubt he has the political will to fight the GOP on it. More likely he will use Wal-mart (which grabbed more headlines) and Citizens United to paint a picture of the Supreme Court as conservative judicial activists (as the NYT has done already) and thus appease his base.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett-the Court continued to signal a strong distaste for campaign financing laws, striking down a scheme whereby public funds are given to match private funds given to candidates. Although more money is theoretically more speech, the Court held the opinion that this law in essence punished people who exercised their first amendment right to engage in political speech through political donations. It becomes harder and harder to imagine a scheme which the current Court would uphold.

Finally, Brown v. Enterntainment Merchants Ass’n saw the Court strike down a California law which restricted the sale and rental of violent video games to minor. This case saw an odd alignment with Scalia, Kennedy, Kagan, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor as the majority, with concurrences by Alito & Roberts with dissents from Breyer and Thomas. In brief, video games were found to be protected speech, and for purposes of the First Amendment no different from say violent literature (and Scalia analogizes to Dante’s Inferno). Alito & Roberts concur, but only because the statute was vague. Altio’s concurrence notes that video games may be fundamentally different b/c the act of simulating violent acts is different from say merely viewing or imagining them. Alito is quickly becoming a strong dissenter in many First Amendment cases, suggesting a unwillingness to embrace the vast First Amendment protection the other justices promote (See, e.g., US v. Stevens, Synder v. Phelps). Also of note is that Archbishop Chaput weighed in against the decision based on his personal experience in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy.

I know I said finally, but I should add one of the cases earlier in the term that has upset many: Connick v. Thompson. In this case, the court held the Orleans Parish District Attorney office was not liable for the offense of one of its prosecutors who withheld evidence in a murder trial (which had a death penalty conviction). It makes for a sensational headline, but in reality all the Court said was that one example of a Brady violation is not sufficient to make a case for systematic indifference to constitutional rights, which is the theory the plaintiff proceeded under. One imagines that a plaintiff could easily meet this burden if other examples were shown (which in Olreans parish would only present a difficulty in deciding which examples to use). Also of note is footnote 21 and the accompanying text of Ginsburg’s dissent, in which she bashes Tulane Law school for its poor curriculum, something well known to all those who attend LSU Law. 😉

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5 Responses to Supreme Court Term in Brief Review

  • In fairness to Tulane, Criminal Procedure (unlike Criminal Law a/k/a Criminal Justice) is an elective at most law schools, including LSU. I took Criminal Procedure at Duke back in the day, but do not recall it being required. Not sure I find Justice Ginsburg’s footnote very convincing on the merits though.

  • And what happened to the prosecutor in the case — censured, disbarred, what?
    If his actions weren’t due to DA Office policy then they were due to incompetence or malice on his part. Too bad no lawyer take Thompson’s case to sue him personally.

  • Oh yeah, I’m being mean to Tulane. I don’t know why it would have to be required; if you don’t do criminal law you don’t need the procedure.

    The prosecutor in the case confessed on his death bed that he withheld the evidence, so nothing happened to him (and presumably there was nothing for a lawyer to go after).

  • I took Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure from Wayne LaFave at the U of I, probably the two most useful classes I took at the University of Illinois for my future legal career, not only for the numerous criminal defense cases I have undertaken over the years, but because of the introduction to the manner in which appellate courts can radically reshape an area of the law fairly rapidly.

  • In fairness to Tulane, Criminal Procedure (unlike Criminal Law a/k/a Criminal Justice) is an elective at most law schools,

    What’s non-elective? Here in New York, the Criminal Procedure Law is the fattest and most extensively annotated component of the Consolidated Laws, bar the Civil Practice Law and Rules. Upstate, about 50% of the manpower of the Unified Court System was devoted to processing criminal cases. I think it was higher Downstate.

Eliminating Marriage

Wednesday, June 29, AD 2011

By now, everyone knows that gay marriage is coming to the Empire State. Obviously, there’s very little good to be drawn from this. To me, there is very little hope of reclaiming the tide. The ideology that accepts gay marriage is so tied into acceptance of divorce and contraception that it would take a much more radical shift to turn the tide. While this could happen (and I have faith in the new priests coming that they can effect this at least within the Church), rebuilding culture takes time and seems likely that the pendulum will have to swing all the way before it will swing back.

So other than rebuilding our culture from the ground up, what political strategies are there to pursue? Trying to fight state by state is one option, but this presumes that states under DOMA can be allowed to not recognize gay marriages from other states. This means we have to put our faith in the court system, and that seems dubious to me. The population size of New York, as well as its mobility, means the issue of full faith and credit will come to a head sooner rather than later. There’s the federal option, but I see no desire from the GOP to fight this fight, particularly from the libertarian wing of the party.

The only other option I see is eliminating the secular institution of marriage altogether. This makes a lot of sense. What exactly is the government’s interest in marriage anymore? Currently, government and society is exerting a lot of resources on this institution: the number of laws and divorce courts, not to mention divorce lawyers is tremendous. But what is government getting back? Love & commitment might be nice values, but you can have a ceremony and make your commitment without a government seal of approval for the commitment (& the break-up). When it was only hetereosexuals allowed to marry, the argument could be made for children (ie we want to provide a good environment for the creation & raising of children), but with gay marriage that’s no longer viable. Perhaps you could still argue family (as gay couples can do IVF & surrogacy) but what effect marriage has in this is dubious, particularly with the liberalization of divorce laws. Another argument for marriage was to protect women from being left penniless in a divorce, but as stay at home moms dwindle and as economic opportunities for women continue to grow, this justification is weaker, especially with the popularity of pre-nups that create separate property regimes anyway. So why is government still in this business? What goods are secured through marriage that cannot be secured without secular marriage?

The main goal for pushing this from a Catholic perspective is simple: protecting our priests from persecution. Although the New York Republicans supported gay marriage because they felt the protections for religious were strong enough, it’s only a matter of time before a priest is sued, have their license to perform marriages, or even arrested for denying marriage to a gay couple. There’s no room in the ideology of the gay rights movement for religions to continue to grant marriage only according to their “hetereosexist” traditions. If government gets out of the business, then priests and other religious will be protected.

There’s also the added benefit of giving marriage back over to religion. If government continues to stay in the marriage business government will continue to be a vehicle for forcing social changes, changes that are often for the worse. Government will no longer be able to impose new visions on the country. Instead, people can have whatever ceremonies and whatever commitments they want (this probably would include bigamy, but you have to figure government will permit this next anyway). In this scenario, the Church will be better able to discuss its version of marriage if it doesn’t have to fight against a government-imposed narrative.

Still, it seems a sad day when government’s marriage is so diluted that we have to give it up entirely, so I’d like to see what people here think. Are there still reasons for government to provide the institution of marriage in a world of gay marriage? Or would it be better for the government to get out of it entirely?

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34 Responses to Eliminating Marriage

  • “So why is government still in this business? What goods are secured through marriage that cannot be secured without secular marriage?”

    It can’t get out of it. The same issues facing couples in divorce face couples who are not married but have kids and/or have property in common. Then we have tax issues involving kids, rights of inheritance, what religion the kids will be raised in, who should be qualified to receive benefits under pensions, health insurance plans, who determines where kids will go to school, and the hits keep on coming. When couples split up and there are kids the government is involved every step of the way. This is akin to saying that govenment should get out of the business of resolving contractual disputes, except the legal issues surrounding marriage make most contractual disputes seem tame by comparison.

    Christians surrendering this field will simply cause the government to transform marriage further in a way directly contrary to Christian beliefs. The government will always mandate the legal rules in this area and an Amish like withdrawal by Christians from this area is neither feasible nor desirable. A better idea is for Christians to get off their duffs and to wade into the political fight and win it. The idea that believing Christians allow themselves to be pushed around by gay activists in this fight is pathetic. Christians can and will win this fight if they have the stomach for it and do not unilaterally surrender. The gay rights movement I think is a hot house plant of a fairly bizarre moment in Western culture, and if strongly resisted I believe it can be defeated in its attempt to equate gay relationships as the equal of relationships in marriage between men and women. I would also note that where gay marriage has been legalized, after an initial flurry of marriages, very few homosexuals are chomping at the bit to tie the knot. Christians need to man up and to defeat our political adversaries at the ballot box.

  • It certainly would make me happy to see the gateway to annulments, civil divorce, eliminated. Their inclusion simply destroys the life of the few faithful Catholics who try to stand up for their valid sacrament but face the double whammy of no fault, uncivil divorce and then face recriminations for having the unmitigated audacity to face off against an “annulment complex” in America that is primed to find or fabricate the necessary justification to reach a conclusion in favor of nullity.

  • “It certainly would make me happy to see the gateway to annulments, civil divorce, eliminated.”

    Except that isn’t what is being proposed Karl. Whenever one party decides to leave a marriage, the state is always going to decide where the kids go, what is the amount of child support, who pays for health insurance and a host of other issues. Doing away with civil marriage would not change this one iota.

  • It can’t get out of it. The same issues facing couples in divorce face couples who are not married but have kids and/or have property in common. Then we have tax issues involving kids, rights of inheritance, what religion the kids will be raised in, who should be qualified to receive benefits under pensions, health insurance plans, who determines where kids will go to school, and the hits keep on coming. When couples split up and there are kids the government is involved every step of the way. This is akin to saying that govenment should get out of the business of resolving contractual disputes, except the legal issues surrounding marriage make most contractual disputes seem tame by comparison.

    I’m not sure this refutes my position. Most of what you list are already being decided outside of a regime of marriage. The only issue is common property, but that can be decided based on separate property principles (ie if you buy it, its yours. If you both put in money, you get that % of it back). You’ve listed nothing that needs a secular institution to be adjudicated.

    The gay rights movement I think is a hot house plant of a fairly bizarre moment in Western culture, and if strongly resisted I believe it can be defeated in its attempt to equate gay relationships as the equal of relationships in marriage between men and women.

    I think you have a rosy picture of where we are. Even so, why must we fight this in the political arena and not in the cultural arena?

  • “Most of what you list are already being decided outside of a regime of marriage. The only issue is common property, but that can be decided based on separate property principles (ie if you buy it, its yours. If you both put in money, you get that % of it back). You’ve listed nothing that needs a secular institution to be adjudicated.”

    In regard to property Michael I can guarantee you that it is not that simple. You have a couple who have been together for 30 years and have acquired property. The woman stays home to raise the kids while the man works. All the property is in his name. He decides to trade the mother of his kids in for a 22 year old hottie. Does he walk away with all the property? Who decides? How do they decide? You wouldn’t be getting the state out of marriage except in name.

    Other factors to consider. Under Illinois law a father has no rights regarding his child if he is unmarried unless he goes to court to establish those rights. Prior to that he is guilty of a Class 4 felony if he decides that the child is better off living with him than Mom. When he goes to court, the court will be intimately involved with him, the mother and their offspring until the children are no longer minors. Nothing in what you propose would get the state out of any of this. When couples are not married and they have kids, in effect the state creates a failed marriage relationship for them and enforces the terms of divorce as it does in the case of a marriage that goes South. The State cannot and will not get out of this area.

    “I think you have a rosy picture of where we are. Even so, why must we fight this in the political arena and not in the cultural arena?”

    Not at all. Most states will not enact gay marriage and even in New York the vote was quite close in the Senate. If gay marriage passes by a hair in New York, that is a symbol of political weakness not strength. As for fighting it in the cultural arena also, I think Christians can manage to do both, but not if they approach it with a defeatist mentality and if they give way to the bullying tactics employed by the other side.

  • Most states will not enact gay marriage and even in New York the vote was quite close in the Senate.

    And all you need is 5 votes from the Supremes to make it universal under the full faith & credit clause.

    You wouldn’t be getting the state out of marriage except in name.

    Assuming that’s true, and the state has to retain much of its rules, that’s quite a victory in and of itself. As long as the state no longer pretends that what it does is marriage, that’s quite a victory.

    But there’s no reason to think that marriage is essential to answer your questions about property. This can be determined via contract, or just on separate property principles the same way disputes between roommates over property is settled. Why does a community property regime have to be used?

    When couples are not married and they have kids, in effect the state creates a failed marriage relationship for them and enforces the terms of divorce as it does in the case of a marriage that goes South.

    Well, you would lose the traditional presumptions, but DNA tests are not so burdensome as to make this unbearable for the court systems. But once you establish the father, child support and custody don’t need the institution of marriage to function.

  • The battle is lost, and the writing was on the wall with the Anglicans in the 1920s and the Griswald decision. Contraception, philosophically, is exactly the same as gay “marriage.”

  • You’re a realist when it comes to acceptance of gay marriage, but not when it comes to eliminating civil marriage. I’d love for it to happen and it’s theoretically possible but the US (and most developed countries) are too legally inflexible to adopt optimal solutions. I’ve said this before: Bureaucracy will be America’s downfall.

  • “And all you need is 5 votes from the Supremes to make it universal under the full faith & credit clause.”

    An excellent reason to make certain that next year is Obama’s last full year as President.

    “As long as the state no longer pretends that what it does is marriage, that’s quite a victory.”

    With victories like that Michael give me defeats any day. To satisfy the demands of a handful of gay activists the State turns its back on an institution as old as Man.

    “This can be determined via contract, or just on separate property principles the same way disputes between roommates over property is settled.”

    Get back to me Michael after you have been out for a few years from law school and actually have done this type of work. Most married couples don’t have wills, let alone contracts between them. (Prenups are quite rare and are almost always a blueprint for divorce.) People who are shacked up usually have no sort of paperwork at all. The people involved are usually shocked, shocked, to find out there are legal consequences to them when they split up and kids or property are at issue.

    “Well, you would lose the traditional presumptions, but DNA tests are not so burdensome as to make this unbearable for the court systems. But once you establish the father, child support and custody don’t need the institution of marriage to function.”

    Your whole argument Michael is to get the state out of marriage. My contention is that your proposal would not do that. All it would do is be a flag of surrender to the homosexual lobby and put marriages on the same legal footing as their “unions”. The state of course would still have precisely the same involvement with heterosexual families as it ever did, but it would instruct these families, through not even dignifying them with the term marriage, that these are merely ad hoc relationships of no special importance.

  • It’s fairly well established that marriages are not subject to the full faith and credit clause.

    However, states will generally recognize marriages performed in other states, even if they would be invalid if performed in the home jurisdiction, so long as this does not violate public policy.

    The upshot of this is that while the federal DOMA doesn’t really offer much protection against states having to recognize same-sex marriages performed in New York, etc., a state DOMA would do so.

  • People who are shacked up usually have no sort of paperwork at all

    You bring up an interesting point: Cohabitation. Cohabitation as we all know is on the rise, with many never marrying before they split up. If government can handle these situations, why does it need marriage? Quite frankly, government is going to have to learn to settle extramarital disputes anyway.

    Get back to me Michael after you have been out for a few years from law school and actually have done this type of work.

    Surprised it took you that long to pull that card. Why is every time someone disagrees with me on this blog I get “you’re too young to make an argument” response?

    Your whole argument Michael is to get the state out of marriage. My contention is that your proposal would not do that.

    I think you’re making two arguments. The first is that secular marriage can be saved and the second is that government would still need to settle these disputes between close relations. A lot of your argument seems to be predicated on the first, so I’ll ask you a question. Which would you prefer: gay marriage in all 50 states or an elimination of marriage?

    B/c I’m operating under the premise that the battle against gay marriage is a lost cause, and that we need to be prepared to look at other options. I’d much prefer for marriage to be restored in our laws and our culture but absent that I’m interested in ways that we can preserve what little we have left.

  • “If government can handle these situations, why does it need marriage? Quite frankly, government is going to have to learn to settle extramarital disputes anyway.”

    Oh, I don’t know maybe because marriage has been an exellent means overall of making certain that kids are cared for properly and brought up as something other than utter savages. The courts do settle shack up disputes by treating them as failed marriages.

    “Surprised it took you that long to pull that card. Why is every time someone disagrees with me on this blog I get “you’re too young to make an argument” response?”

    Please. I would love for you to point to another example. Your youth has nothing to do with it, but your obvious unfamiliarity of the actual practice of law does. Time will take care of both your youth and your inexperience with how the law operates outside of the classroom.

    “Which would you prefer: gay marriage in all 50 states or an elimination of marriage?”

    I choose option c: No gay marriage and a strengthening of marriage under the law. For example, a restriction of the deduction for kids for tax purposes to married couples; a mandatory one year waiting period before a judgment of divorce can be entered in a marriage with kids; ending no fault divorce; ending divorce for mental cruelty or irreconcilable differences; mandatory marriage counseling in all divorces not involving physical violence; increasing the court filing fees for divorce; attorney fees in divorce cases not paid until the end of the case and set by the court, with both parties responsible for the fees of both attorneys. I could go on at great length. Marriage and its relationship to the State needs much reform, but attempting to separate marriage and State is simply impossible.

  • How close are we to popular support for any of those reforms? It seems to me more are pushing for easier divorce, not harder. While I like your ideas, I just don’t see much of them getting into law (except the one year waiting period for kids which is already law in LA and I suspect elsewhere). And if they don’t succeed and gay marriage does, what do we do then? I like fighting for lost causes, as they’re the only ones worth fighting for (as Jefferson Smith would say), but I think the cause would be easier to fight without the government imposing a view.

    As for my “obvious unfamiliarity of the actual practice of law,” (which I do concede) I think if marriage were eliminated the alternatives would enter the common consciousness such as Miranda and pre-nups have. To be sure, I don’t need out of classroom experience to know most people won’t understand this or do the right things. We will have to have default rules. I’m not disputing that; I’m questioning whether those default rules have to be those of marriage, or whether there are other alternatives such that whatever the state does is not confused with true marriage.

  • “The only other option I see is eliminating the secular institution of marriage altogether.”

    Isn’t this just another version of that dorm room bull session where somebody says we shouldn’t use money, but some other means of exchange? All the problems will creep back in.

    Privatizing marriage is a red herring that many libertarian pundits use to avoid defending marriage or offending their gay friends (or to avoid revealing to conservatives their utter indifference to social morality).

    The real long-term threat is anti-discrimination laws which destroy almost all institutional opponents of GLBT activists, a process which SSM will accelerate. While these are also unlikely to be reformed, their abolition is more likely than the abolition of civil marriage.

  • “Privatizing” marriage is an idea that I have thought MIGHT have some merit as a last ditch effort to prevent the concept or meaning of marriage from being diluted by efforts to redefine civil marriage. Another possibility might be simply to institute civil unions for everyone and no longer give the name “marriage” to the secular institution.

    A third possibility might be for the Church to voluntarily — before it gets taken away by force of law — surrender legal recognition of marriages performed by priests and deacons. Priests would no longer sign off on marriage licenses, and Catholic couples who wanted to marry in the Church would have to have two ceremonies, one secular and one religious. This already happens in instances where a couple that has married civilly outside the Church later has their marriage “blessed” or validated. It also happens in other countries where religious marriage ceremonies are not legally recognized. The secular ceremony could be done in 5 minutes or less at the courthouse when the couple gets their marriage license, or it could be a little more elaborate if the couple wishes.

    A Catholic couple could do this before or after their church wedding. If they got married in the Church BEFORE getting civilly married or “unionized” or whatever, they would be married in the eyes of God, but simply cohabiting in the eyes of the state.

    We don’t ask the State to legally recognize baptisms, First Communions, or other sacraments, nor do we ask the State to recognize annulments granted by Church tribunals, so why insist any longer that it recognize the SACRAMENT of Matrimony, especially if it opens up the Church to persecution, harassment, or charges of “discrimination” as a result? If the Church stops being involved in the legal process of marriage in any way that opening, at least, will be closed.

  • “The battle is lost, and the writing was on the wall with the Anglicans in the 1920s and the Griswald decision. Contraception, philosophically, is exactly the same as gay ‘marriage.’”

    Actually the battle already has been won through Christ’s life, sacrificial death, and Resurrection. Now we Christians have to apply the grace of that victory in the real world. Every day in prayer, mortification and actual struggle.

    Now that may take a long time and, as Michael points out, will require a change in the culture. But I have to disagree in ceding the field on this. Culture does influence the laws but if we let the laws slide that will influence the culture.

    And so what if there is a significant loss of the sense of marriage through contraception and easy divorce. Does it make it better to throw in the towel and say take the last bit now. No.

  • All it would do is be a flag of surrender to the homosexual lobby and put marriages on the same legal footing as their “unions”.

    Yes, but waving a flag of surrender is the whole point (for some people).

  • Neat post, Michael. I have actually had this basic intuition since I first became aware of the issue. Since the Church doesn’t recognize civil marriages, it seemed like the discussion was never about marriage in the first place.



  • Though I might say there is a difference between the Church recognizing civil marriages and the Church seeing the state as having a role in protecting marriage.

  • I do like Elaine’s idea as another alternative. We don’t have opting out now (at least not that I know of), so we would have to build that into the law. That would at least protect priests, though you would still have the state pushing a different version of marriage.

    I don’t look at this as a surrender. The better analogy is a tactical retreat with a scorched earth policy.

    Looking over the comments, I get two things: marriage may still be needed to settle property disputes and this isn’t necessary because the battle over secular marriage can still be won. So I guess my question now is: are there other needs for the government to keep marriage or is it just around as a helpful tool for lawyers? and if the battle can still be won, how are we to do it? More importantly, is there ever a time when we say that (for now) the battle is lost and we look to preserve what little is left?

  • “But I have to disagree in ceding the field on this.

    No, no ceding and no retreat. Our personal conduct should move out into the public sphere. Politically, however, the Catholic position is toast. What strategy now?

  • “So I guess my question now is: are there other needs for the government to keep marriage or is it just around as a helpful tool for lawyers? and if the battle can still be won, how are we to do it? More importantly, is there ever a time when we say that (for now) the battle is lost and we look to preserve what little is left?”

    Marriage is not “a helpful tool for lawyers” but the basic building block of all human societies. The State can no more abolish the reality of marriage than it could decree that men will bear children and women father them. It can do much however to either help marriages succeed or fail.

    The State has an interest in promoting sound and lasting marriages. That the policies implemented by the State, liberal divorce is the prime example, have been destructive of marriage on the whole in the past fifty years does not negate this reality, and underlines the need to change the policies rather than abolish marriage, a concept that I think accomplishes nothing other than to treat all marriages as if they were shack up relationships and thereby attempt to satisfy the cry for equality of gay activists, although I suspect that the abolition of marriage would not satisfy them. Marriage is merely a part of their fight to have the State compel people to accept homosexuality as normal and a positive good in and of itself. That fight would go on no matter if what you suggest regarding marriage would be implemented.

    The battle will be won at the ballot box by defeating advocates of gay marriage and electing opponents. Due to the number of state legislatures that the Republicans control much useful legislation opposing gay marriage can be passed in many states within the very near future, and would make an ideal election issue in most states for opponents in 2012, along with the horrible mismangagement of the economy by Obama and his party.

    Your proposal Michael would preserve nothing but would, unintentionally I am sure, merely give the death blow to the legal status of marriage in this country. Some fights, the fight against abortion is another example, you do not stop waging until you win. Considering the political strength of opposition to gay marriage in most parts of this country, I am curious as to why you insist upon contending that the battle is already irrevocably lost when the fight is still in the very early stages.

  • Donald and Michael, except for a little testiness, that was a model for internet debate. Nice job both of you expressing your points.

  • “Donald and Michael, except for a little testiness, that was a model for internet debate. Nice job both of you expressing your points.”

    An element of testiness is often needed in court to keep people awake during boring hearings Pinky, and to maintain the interest of the judge or the jury. It is not a myth that attorneys can go at each other hammer and tongs and then be the best of friends out of court, although not usually while our clients are around! 🙂

  • Michael,

    with all do respect, it sounds to me like you are simply fighting over semantics. Whether what the state does is called marriage, or simply “settling disputes among parties in a relationship” seems no different. Either way, the state is still getting involved in the relationship between men and women and deciding the rights and responsibilities thereof. How is that any different from what it does now? It’s like trying to tell the substantive difference between recognizing SS civil unions and SS marriages. But for the name, they are identical. Same thing for “getting the state out of marriage”. But for the statement that the state is “out of marriage”, it seems it would still be doing the same things, in particular, it would be enforcing anti-discrimination laws for those who would not allow a SS couple to rent their house, etc. If the state doesn’t recognize marriage anyway, on what bases could you legitimately refuse to rent to a SS couple?

  • “No, no ceding and no retreat. Our personal conduct should move out into the public sphere. Politically, however, the Catholic position is toast. What strategy now?”

    Doubtful that the Catholic position is toast. In almost every (every?) state that it has been left up to a popular vote, the gay marriage position has lost – even in California. Need to keep it in the public and out of legislatures and courts. To that end we have to, at least at this point, keep Republicans in office. Not that that overly helped in NY but what are you going to do in an overwhelmingly blue state where there is no chance of winning. Such is not the case in the vast majority of states and if ten states have g.m. but 40 don’t then we clearly have the momentum going into any other fight.

    This is where we need to keep the pressure on local parties. That is, get state legislators and candidates for Federal offices nominated who support marriage. Also nominate those who will only vote for judicial apptointees those who will uphold marriage. Not so hard to do in smaller states though not impossible in larger ones.

    Also need to encourage those who are solid. Plenty of good people out there who would oppose g.m. if there wasn’t the attitude of “its already lost so might as well give up.”

  • Thought I’d throw my hat into the ring on this one…

    I confess that this an issue which I’ve thought about quite a bit, and I tend to agree with Michael. While there are obviously many things which could said about the points he has raised in his post, I think I’ll focus on pertaining to the theological and pastoral side of things.

    I personally know quite a few gays and lesbians, almost all of them in their 20s, some very vocal in favor of gay marriage, a few not so much. One thing I can say for sure is that the issue will not go away (or even die down) any time soon, and it is very highly improbable that even with the slim possibility that gay marriage will not be legalized in any other states, it is nearly impossible to fathom the states currently allowing gay marriage to somehow rescind their position.

    In the same vein, I can say that having talked with some on the other side of the debate, it is much more difficult to make the argument for marriage as being between one man and one woman from a secular standpoint (or from pure reason). It’s an easy argument to make theologically, but in most cases theology is off the table when debating the issue.

    One of the main things that I think the majority of gay rights activists seek does not have to do with “equal rights”, but rather a validation of what they see as being something good and true. Stauch opposition to gay marriage, therefore, is usually interpreted (or framed) as ignorance, discriminate, or hate-driven. While that might not bother many orthodox Catholics, the reality may be that Priests and Catholics will not only be protected with the issue off the table (at least from a legal point of view), but it may enable Catholics to reach out and help GBLTs in ways they actually need it.

  • So I guess my question now is: are there other needs for the government to keep marriage or is it just around as a helpful tool for lawyers? and if the battle can still be won, how are we to do it? More importantly, is there ever a time when we say that (for now) the battle is lost and we look to preserve what little is left?

    Responding to this would take a post, but if I can get away with massive short hand: It seems to me that the reason it’s impossible to get the state “out of the marriage business” in any sense other than fooling around with vocabulary is that although we talk about “civil marriage” marriage is not in fact something that the state creates — it’s something that exists on its own and recognizes when it finds it.

  • To put it succintly, the state has to deal with marriage because marriage is part of human society, and the state has to deal with (indeed, its focus is) human society.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger on gay marriage:


    “Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.

    Where the government’s policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

    In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”

  • The way I see it the options in decreasing order of desirability are:

    1. No civil marriage. Not gonna happen for legal reason.

    2. No gay civil marriage/unions. Not happening.

    3. Segregating gay civil marriage/unions from the rest. Might’ve been possible in the past. Not anymore.

    4. Devaluing civil marriage and promoting traditional marriage though non-legal means. Make civil marriage as socially significant as a driver’s license and make a Catholic marriage the thing that everyone wants. Elaine Krewer’s idea to stop Church recognition of civil marriage completely can be one important part of this.

  • Christians are too intimidated by the left and the pink swastika lobby to make a coherent stand against the agenda of the homosexuals. The way I prefer is a combination of Kathy Shadie and VFR, an equal measure of ridicule, scorn and moral outrage. If all that the homosexuals want if some measure of protection for themselves as they age, there are already many options available. The homosexuals wish to subvert the remaining underpinings of Christian society, hence the energy they put into this effort that most homosexuals would not avail of anyway.

  • “One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws (recognizing same sex unions) and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”

    I assume the kind of “conscientious objection” to which the (then-future) pope referred covers things like public officials refusing to officiate same sex marriages, vendors refusing to service or sell goods for same-sex weddings, adoption agencies refusing to place children with same sex couples, etc.

    Could such conscientious objection concievably include couples deciding to forgo the legal benefits of civil marriage and get married ONLY in the Church and not in the eyes of the law, so as not to engage in any “material cooperation” with a corrupted system?

    This isn’t possible now because Catholic clergy are (as far as I know) forbidden both by church law and civil law from performing unregistered or non-legal marriages. However, if the Church did what I am suggesting and withdrew from any “entanglement” with civil marriage, it would be possible.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that many, if not most, couples who would request a “church only”, non-legal wedding would do so not as a sacrificial gesture of non-cooperation with evil (comparable to, say, a pacifist refusing to be drafted into the military even in a non-combat role), but as a means of selfishly escaping the legal consequences of civil marriage — for example, preserving Social Security or pension benefits from a deceased spouse that would be lost upon remarriage.

    For this reason, I would recommend that under “my” system, the Church require couples seeking sacramental marriage to marry civilly BEFORE the Church wedding (maybe set a deadline of 30 to 60 days before, analogous to the current duration of civil marriage licenses) unless the couple has a serious reason for having the civil wedding later or not at all. Church tribunals already require persons applying for annulments to have finalized civil divorce proceedings first, in order to avoid any overlap or confusion. If the policy at the end of a marriage is to get the legal stuff out of the way first, why not follow that procedure at the beginning of the marriage also?

    Finally, one minor advantage under this system would be that couples would no longer be obligated to obtain a civil marriage license in the same jurisdiction where their Church wedding is taking place. If the couple lives in County A but is having their Nuptial Mass at her original home parish in County Z, they wouldn’t have to worry about making an extra trip to the County Z Courthouse for a marriage license — they could just get legally married in County A ahead of time. Nor would they have to remember to hand off the marriage license to the priest before or after the wedding.

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