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.
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.
[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:
- “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate…” Cambridge Evening News, 7 February 1973
- “…those who use contraception are more likely than those who do not to resort to induced abortion…” Abortion p. 491.
- “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, Democrats, a self-defined conservative with libertarian leanings,orthodox Jews, Lutherans, Baptists, evangelical Protestants, Anglicans, 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.)
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.
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!
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… Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
If you care about spoilers, don’t make the jump. And I will spoil both book and movie, so beware!
*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.