Wednesday, June 30, 2004
EPA Says Millions Are Inhaling Too-Sooty Air
The article seems to be addressing a problem largely in the DC metropolitan area.
Kerry Reaches Out to Blacks and Hispanics
Based on the postings below, please don't read this as though I mean to imply that one is sinning if you vote against Kerry. On the other hand, if Kerry's detailed plans to better the lot of Blacks and Hispanics gives you a reason to support him over Bush, I have no problem with that either. Most of Bush's own efforts on racial equity have been less than productive, in my opinion.
Finally - Some Republicans Exercise Common Sense
Instead of just going along with every idiotic thing Bush proposes, the moderates in the party have caused an impasse in passing the federal budget.
The key issue is the reckless defecit created by Bush' tax cuts. Moderates in the party are demanding that we either raise taxes to the level of the Clinton years (the preferred solution), or come forth and admit that the Administration is going to need to cut social services further than has been done already. They are using Alan Greenspan's "paygo" terminology to justify the common sense notion that we can't keep spending more than we take in forever.
An Apparently Necessary Point of Clarification About Kerry
Based on some comments Catholic Bush supporters have emailed me or left in my comments boxes, I apparently need to make my position on Kerry a little more clear.
I do not like John Kerry. I do not endorse John Kerry. I have moral reservations about voting for John Kerry.
I passionately disagree with John Kerry on the issue of abortion on demand. Furthermore, I am uncomfortable with his vote to go to war in Iraq. Moreover, I simply find him to be aloof, and therefore question his leadership ability.
I have said all of this before, and multiple times.
When I have defended Kerry from those who would deny him communion, I am not saying that giving him communion translates to a vote for Kerry. Rather, I am arguing an issue of pastoral theology, and saying that there are theological reasons that he should not be denied communion. This does not mean that he is right on abortion.
When I point to something positive about his platform, or suggest that he may have a legally correct point about Roe v. Wade, I am not saying that this means anyone should vote for Kerry.
In my mind, as I have shifted left through reflection on the Church's teaching on economic justice, the ideal candidate would have been Dennis Kucinich in his pro-life (anti-abortion) days prior to the Democratic primaries. This guy had almost nailed Catholic teaching about 100 percent, and I am still puzzled as to what pressures forced him to change his views on abortion.
In no way should my criticism of the Bush Administration be seen as an endorsement of John Kerry, and in no way should criticism of Kerry be viewed as an endorsement for Bush!
All of this said, I have repeatedly said that I cannot vote for George W. Bush in good conscience. It would violate my conscience to vote for G.W., or in any way allow my voting decision to become de facto support for the evil actions of this Administration. I am not judging George Bush as a person, but the actions of this Administration are clearly grave moral wrongs.
It is always and everywhere wrong to wage a war of aggression.
This is an inherently evil act that admits absolutely no exceptions. The Church has taught this consistently since the time she moved from a totally pacifist stance to development of a doctrine of just war. It is a doctrine that makes rational sense, as well as being consistent with revelation. It has been affirmed by the magisterium. Wars of aggression belong to terrorist regimes, and by waging a war of aggression, George Bush has made the United States morally equivalent to those he claims to be fighting.
It is always and everywhere wrong to wage a war without proper authority.
The United States had absolutely no right to wage a unilateral war in order to enforce United Nations resolutions, when the United Nations, itself, did not authorize this use of force. Again, it is an act of terrorism to wage a war without proper authority. The Pope has been quite adamant and clear on the issue that U.S. unilateraleralism is wrong.
It is always and everywhere wrong to use torture against prisoners of war, and should not even considered anymore than one would consider using rape to demoralize the enemy. Yet, the Bush Administration considered torture all the way to the level of the White House, and torture was authorized as high up as Rumsfeld for Guatanomo Bay.
It is at least questionable whether the United States should be using the death penalty in this day and age. While the death penalty is not considered inherently evil by the Church, its use in modern industrialized societies has been declared unnecessary and morally wrong by the Pope and the Bishops.
Yet, Bush has presided over the first use of the federal death penalty in 38 years, and as Governor of Texas, he lead the nation in executions. He even denied appeals to allow the presentment of new DNA evidence to prove the innocence of a convicted felon. While the death penalty may not be inherently evil in all cases, the Bush Administration's application of it is clearly wrong.
Destruction of embryonic stem cells is inherently wrong.
While Bush has cut federal funding for research that would do this, he has done nothing to make it illegal to do such research with private funds. In making his decision public on this matter, he further revealed that he does not believe that human life begins at conception. He referred to the embryos as "potential human life". His stance on abortion is similarly inconsistent with Church teaching in that he would allow exceptions for rape and incest - killing an unborn child for the crime of its father.
The Church supports progressive taxes in order to provide basic human rights to minimum standard living conditions to the poor. The Bush Administration has done everything it can to reduce taxes to the rich, even cutting vital and successful social programs. Poverty has increased every year during the Bush Administration.
In no way, shape or form can Bush Administration policies be considered consistent with the whole of Catholic teaching. While he has won some praiseworthy symbolic victories on the issue of abortion, and has publicly backed the Church's controversial and non-infallible teaching on homosexuality, his overall policies depart from Catholic teaching in several critical ways.
So, if I am not endorsing Kerry, yet I am critical of Bush, why am I not pushing for everyone to stay home or vote for a third party candidate.
I do not think Church teaching permits the "stay at home" attitude as a general principle. Perhaps a case could be made that in a specific election, one may abstain from voting. However, in general, Church teaching in numerous places encourages active participation in the political process and the formation of culture to achieve the common good. We have a moral obligation to vote if there is no outside pressure preventing us from doing so.
This means we must either have a third party candidate in mind, or we must support Bush or Kerry. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, no third party candidate is any more consistent with Church teaching than Bush or Kerry.
Furthermore, in this particular election, we need to consider carefully whether a vote for a third party candidate (or abstaining) is really a de facto vote for Bush or Kerry. It seems obvious to most people that the Bush vote is solid, while the third party or undecided vote would draw votes away from Kerry.
There are numerous Catholics who read my site or other Catholic blogs who seem to think it is just fine to vote for Bush or a third party candidate, but a sin to vote for Kerry. If your conscience tells you this, you must follow your conscience, but you cannot presume your conscience is perfectly formed anymore than those who reach a different conclusion.
These Catholics seem to want to use ecclessial sanctions to try to force all Catholic votes away from Kerry, even if that means that Bush becomes the certain winner. Yet, few, if any of these Catholics are seriously considering a third party candidate nor abstaining.
What this amounts to is that Catholics who support Bush are trying to selectively use Church teaching to force the outcome of the election.
They are not backing Bush because they have carefully examined Church teaching and come to the conclusion that he is a good candidate. He's not, and this should be obvious to anyone who knows what the Church teaches.
Rather than examining Church teaching and deciding Bush is consistent with it, they decided to back Bush regardless of what the Church teaches, and then went combing through Church documents after the decision to find ways to rationalize their decision. Now they want the Bishops to say they are right.
The Bishops have refused to play along, and these Bush supporters are now accusing the Bishops of wekness, sin, or error.
If these Catholics were truly serious about a moral obligation to abstain or vote for a third party, it would apply to Bush votes as well. If these Catholics were correct that nobody can vote for Kerry without committing a sin, the same principles would make a vote for Bush a sin. If these Catholics were serious, every single Catholic in America must vote for someone other than Kerry or Bush.
If these folks were truly serious and consistent about their reasoning, they would so strongly back a third party or abstaining that they'd hold to it if it meant certainly giving Kerry the election!
We cannot have it both ways. If voting for Kerry is morally wrong because his view on abortion, it is also wrong to vote for Bush for his numerous violations of Church teaching, including his own inconsistency on the issue of abortion!
There are those who seem to see some sort of moral distinction in the fact that Bush is not Catholic, while Kerry professes to share our faith. Somehow, they seem to feel we are less obligated to vote according to Catholic principles if the candidate in question does not call himself Catholic.
This is a red herring to the issue of how we should vote, and it is not the teaching of the Church. It may be pertinent to the issue of whether the Church can issue an ecclesiastical sanction or not, but it is not pertinent to the issue of how we Catholics should vote. We should always vote according to Catholic principles, whether none, some, or all of the candidates are Catholic or not!
So, how should Catholics vote?
In my opinion, the bottom line is that it is probably fair to say that this is the most morally ambiguous election Catholics have faced in a long time, and we need to stop judging one another.
In my heart of hearts, I wish their was a candidate consistent with the church's teaching - especially on life issues and care for the poor. To my knowledge, there's not even a third party candidate who meets this criteria.
If you read everything I have written on Bush, Kerry or this election over the past several months, I have never once said that it would be a sin for anyone but me, personally, to vote for Bush. I have never once said that Bush Catholics absolutely must vote for a third party candidate or consider themselves unworthy of communion. I have never once advocated that Bush supporters should be denied communion. I never argued that Catholic public officials supporting Bush deserve excommunication.
Each person must prayerfully consider the issues and the people running for office and follow your conscience, knowing that conscience will lead to different conclusions in different people. These differences of opinion do not make one person more or less Catholic than another in this election.
I certainly invite all Catholics to carefully consider the reasons I believe that the Bush Administration is acting immorally. I know you can find plenty of Catholics who invite you to do the same with Kerry, so I don't emphasize his faults as much. Kerry does have faults.
Nevertheless, both candidates fall very far short of what Catholics would consider ideal, and since few in Catholic blogdom are calling Bush to task for his Administration's immoral actions, I have taken it upon myself to prophetically point these out.
How you vote, however, should be dictated by your conscience as you prayerfully consider these things.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Ono Ekeh's Latest Effort: Kerry Catholics
Ono is back at it again. Here's some advice, one "liberal" to another.
There is a contradiction on the page discussing Catholic teaching on abortion and politics. On one question trying to clarify how a person in political office can be morally innocent for the choices of others, Ekeh uses an analogy of President Bush being innocent for the torture. Later, on the same page, he says Bush' pro-life credentials are questionable in part because of the Administration's policy of torture.
I would also fault Ekeh on two other points. One is a minor ommission on his part, the other is simply an erroneous understanding of Catholic doctrine on abortion.
The ommission is on his explanation of the separation of Church and state. He lines up the argument almost entirely as though it is an American secular concept that makes sense, even if the Church never explicitly taught it. The Church explicitly teaches the autonomy between Church and state in GS 76. I would advise him to lead into his existing argument with that quote.
Now the blatant error. He argues that Catholics can be pro-choice for the same reasons that they can agree not to pass legislation banning contraception. This is wrong because issues regarding the dignity of human life are considered of higher importance. Hudson Deal is correct when he says that some issues "dominate" on a "hierarchy". The Bishops and the Pope have been unanimously consistent on this, and even those Bishops who would not deny Kerry communion insist that this relationship be understood properly.
I would go so far as to say that getting it right on abortion is almost of infinite significance greater than getting it right on contraception. To be cliche, comparing abortion to contraception is like comparing apples and oranges. If Ekeh wishes to draw comparisons on like issues, he must compare abortion directly to another life issue: such as stem cell research, unjust war, misapplication of the death penalty, and so forth.
There is grounds for making just such arguments in this election to come to a possibly just pro-Kerry stance. The Pope and the Bishops have been abundantly clear in their opposition to the war in Iraq and the use of the federal death penalty in the United States, or the use of deadly torture.
The rest of Ekeh's argument makes sense if we use these examples. Conversly, he could simply state that he is in opposition to Church teaching, which he does not do. If he wants to say he is accurately representing Church teaching, Ekeh is seriously mistaken on his understanding of what the Church teaches if he insist on using non-life issues as examples for this argument.
A Scathing Liberal Critic of Fahrenheit 9/11
I came across this article on Fr. Jim Tucker's Site. This liberal author, Christopher Hitchens, is considered far left by the good Father, and has absolutely nothing good to say about Michael Moore's movie, which he sees riddled with contradictions.
It seems that when gets past Hitchen's emotionally charged language, he has a very basic disagreement with Michael Moore that has been ongoing for some time. He believes that Moore is a pacifist, though Moore has never publicly confirmed this.
Well, I'm not a pacifist, per se, but I am a believer in active non-violent resistance to evil. I am a believer that, while some wars may be just, not all wars are just, and if a non-violent solution hasn't been tried, a war cannot called just.
Thus, while I wouldn't presume to answer for Michael Moore, I am in a position to clear up some of what Hitchen sees as contradictions among those he labels "pacifists".
Hitchen sees a contradiction in the fact that Moore criticizes the President for waging war with Afghanistan and Iraq, but then criticizes the president for not sending enough troops into either place. He also sees a contradiction in the fact that Moore criticizes the Administration for recruiting among the poor and Blacks, but would be equally critical of a draft.
This is not really a contradiction to one like myself. The bottom line is that we shouldn't be in this war. Period.
But if we have a just war, and we decide to wage such a war, we darn well better send enough troops to minimize the casualties on both sides, which would mean instituting a draft. This would even be part of the requirements for just wars (there must be reasonable chance of success, and civilian casualties must be minimized).
Indeed, I wrote President Bush and my legislators exactly this point before we went to war. My letter stated all the reasons I thought we should not go to war (I had about twenty reasons in bullet format - it all fit on a page so Bush could understand it), and was followed by the statement that if we do go to war, three conditions must be met to succeeed:
1) we need international support
2) we need a long range plan to rebuild Iraq (10-20 years)
3) we need to reinstitute the draft
My letter concluded with some alternate solutions to the problem of Iraq.
In return, Bush never responded. My Senator mailed me a speech he had delivered against the war, and he echoed ninety percent of what I had written - and his speech was delivered before he could have received my letter, but after I had mailed it. He had stated the same three points on the Senate floor, as well running through the whole list of Catholic criteria for just war (though he never mentioned the word "Catholic", and he is not a Catholic himself). Several generals also made these points prior to war!
If a military draft had been on the table, we'd have been reminding everyone that we shouldn't be in this war in the first place, and more people would listened. Since there is no draft (yet), we'll remind everyone that our current troops and the supposed mission is in jeopardy because there aren't enough troops there to do the job if this was a just war (which it isn't). Until these three criteria are met, I am convinced that Iraq will remain in turmoil.
I also believe that Bush must know this by now. So, in not saying anything about a draft in public, he is either being deceptive to get through the election, or if he truly deems a draft unnecessary, he's an idiot who won't be able to solve the problems in Iraq.
Hitchen will not accept this argument because he absolutely rejects any position that maintains we shouldn't be at war with Iraq in the first place. To him, the whole mention of a draft seems to be political ploy of Bush opponents who really pacifists. He asserts the "pacifist" position is isolationist, tolerant of totalitarian communism, and would have left Slobodon Milosovich or Saddam Hussein in power, and the evils of these men were too downplayed in Moore's film.
Moore's film makes the point that the Bush Administration's policies mirror what we say we hate in these despots. Hitchens is angered by Moore's use of a quotation of Orwell's 1984. The quote asserted that war was about nothing but preserving the status of three world superpowers in Orwell's novel - and Moore seems to be using this an analogy for current events. Moore is saying that in Bush' world view, a constant state of war (the 10 to 20 years to rebuild Iraq) is necessary to preserving Republican power. In Hichen's view, there is no moral equivalence between Bush' wars and Hussein or Bin Laden.
Here, I would disagree strongly with Hitchen, even as I say that there could be such a thing as a just war. In my mind, just as surely as deliberately entertaining lustful thoughts is equivalent to adultery, though adultery is not equivalent to married love, waging an unjust war is the moral equivalent of anything and everything Saddam Hussein has done, even if it hasn't yet gone as far in act. A war of agression fought with unjust means is a terrorist action. It doesn't matter if the act of sin has a small effect or a big effect: if the act is wrong, it is wrong!
So, the real question is whether the war in Iraq was just or not.
Let me clarify the position of a believer in active non-violent resistance further. Pacifism basically says we do nothing in the face of evil. Active non-violent resistance means we use every non-violent means at our disposal to resist evil. The weapons inspections in Iraq should have been given more time, since all indications are that the inspections were working to contain the threat to other nations.
As far as the human rights violations in Iraq or Kosovo, the churches, the U.S. Peace Corp and/or the United Nations could have organized humanitarian aid to the poor of Iraq. Major U.S. funding could have supported the effort. While working in the nation, they could pushed for human rights reforms, using modern media as a power for change in the style of Martin Luther King or Gandhi. Only when and if this option were tried and failed should we begin to discuss war as an option. And the principle that all war of aggression are always wrong should have still prevailed unless and until Iraq could be proven to be an immanent threat.
Sure, those who are inclined to non-violent solutions will more readily see that the minimum requirements for a just war were not met in Iraq, but the bottom line is that no rational person can argue from within the Christian tradition that a war of aggression is a just war - and the leadership of almost every branch of Christianity was in agreement on that, including the Pope and the whole USCCB. As Cardinal Ratzinger poitedly reminded American Catholics, "pre-emptive war is not in the Catechism".
I don't know whether Hitchen is a Christian or not, but there are many believers in active non-violence who are not Christians. His utter disregard for this opinion is the reason or similar opinions lead him to strongly dislike Moore's film.
Holy Father Calls us to ecumenism
After commemorating a "World Day Against Torture", the Holy Father began a week of prayer for ecumenism. He will be meeting today with His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople.
Dignity Calls it Love
Dignity has been running ads displaying gay parents and their children with the banner reading, "The Vatican calls it violence. We call it love."
El Salvador Looses Troops in Iraq
The poor of El Salvador, a nation decimated by graduates of the School of the Americas in the 1980's, are now being used as fodder for the U.S. cause in Iraq.
Continuing News on the Sudan
This article from The National Catholic Reporter continues to cover human rights violations in the Sudan.
John Allan on Many Things
John Allan states that American Cardinals may rise in prominence in the next papal elections as Europe loses touch with its Christian roots. I doubt it though. Even Allan is hesisitant to say this is certain.
He also raises the issue of Bush seeking the Pope's support, and seems to think those who were amazed by this are simply pushing their own political agenda. He points out that Roosevelt, Reagan and Clinton all sought Vatican support for various initiatives. However, in each of Allan's examples, the Presidents worked through proxies, and sought more indirect support (or lack of opposition) for various policy initiatives.
What was amazing to me is not that Bush wants the Vatican endorsment, but that he would directly ask the Vatican to discipline Bishops who disagree with a specific portion of his platform. It seems to me that it takes some cojones for a Protestant secular leader ignorant of much of Catholic theology to make such a request. In saying this, I am not saying that Bush acted wrongly. I am merely saying it was an unusually bold move that could be interpreted as either strong leadership or arrogance, depending on our political point of view.
John Allan also writes about a Vatican conference on the so-called "New Age", and Allan, refering to devotion he has seen at Marian shrines in Europe recently, suggests that "Perhaps rather than trying to reason its way out of the challenge posed by New Age movements, the church would do better to promote its alternatives." I think Allan is right about this. Part of the greatest strength of the Catholic tradition lies in such popular piety.
A Liberal Disses Fahrenheit 9/11
A reader sent me the link to the above article because this particular reader thinks that discourse between liberals and conservatives has become too divisive and counter-productive. Michael Moore's movie is seen as a symptom of this, as well as a contributing factor by my reader. The article is by Stephanie Zacharek, who is not to be identified with my reader.
The critique of the film basically says that Moore is preaching to the choir, and doesn't present anything that will actually change minds or make people think. The author agrees with about 95 percent of Moore's point of view, and seems to write under the impression that this 95 percent agreement is subject of "common knowledge". He writes:
If you boiled "Fahrenheit 9/11" down to a few basic assertions, you'd have to say Moore is on the right track: He states that Bush was never elected in the first place and that, at least partly because of Bush family ties with Saudi oil interests (connections that have been explored by Craig Unger and a few others, but not by most of the press), Saudi Arabia has gotten a free ride in terms of post-9/11 scrutiny. Before the attacks, Bush and his cabinet ignored warnings about the terrorist threat to this country; afterward, he attempted to squelch any independent investigation of the attacks. Furthermore, the Bush administration has exploited the tragedy of Sept. 11 to foster a culture of fear in the United States; our so-called president then roused us fearful Americans into support for, or at least a numb acceptance of, a war that he has justified only with false allegations.The author of the critique then states Moore doesn't spend enough time and energy defending these assertions, even though the author believes them true herself.
This is where I think we miss the point of what Moore is doing. Some of the points Moore makes, I did not know, and I think Moore gives his audience credit for having enough intelligence to go out and check out his allegations.
His movie is not meant to be the last word in a national discussion. Rather, I think his intent is to popularize a point of view that doesn't get attention in mainstream media outlets. His film is not meant to answer questions, but to raise them. In this sense, I think the film accomplishes exactly what Moore set out to do.
But could he have been more "polite" and less "incendiary" in his method of raising these questions?
I don't know how you raise the question of whether the President of the United States deliberately lied to the American people about the motive for a war of aggression without being incendiary. Jesus could be pretty incendiary at times (read chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew). Moore is not Jesus Christ, and he's not perfect, and I think portions of the film were "cheap shots". I don;t like it when Mark Shea, or Rush Limbach take cheap shots at political liberals, and so maybe we need to admit that Moore takes too many cheap shots.
Yet, even if the cheap shots were taken out, the film would be incendiary, because the very subject matter is incendiary - but if Moore's world view is even mostly right (i.e. - 95 percent right) it isn't Moore who created an incendiary political environment. It's an unaccountable Administration abusing power that has made an incendiary political environment!
Sister Joan Chittister Admits She is Confused
Conservative Catholics may relish this admission. Take a look at why she is confused and see if you can help clear things up.
Something for Democrats to Consider
I received a flyer from a Kerry street campaigner stating that under federal law, each major party nominee will receive a check for $75 M to finance that general election campaign. Receipt of the funds is triggered by a formal acceptance of the nomination, and after that date, no money raised for primaries can be used for the nominee's campaign.
Because of the timing of the two conventions, Kerry would have to start spending his $75 M at the end of July, while Bush could wait five additional weeks to begin spending his. Between the two conventions, Kerry would be spending public money while Bush could continue to tap his record-breaking campaign treasury that he has amassed this year.
I have consistently expressed that I cannot vote for Bush in good conscience, believing I would be committing a mortal sin in doing so, and I feel compelled to speak out against Bush.
Yet, believe it or not, I have not absolutely made up my mind that I can give full support to Kerry yet either (because of his stance on abortion). Whether I vote for him or a third party candidate is something I will likely be praying over until the election day. I am not likely to contribute directly to the Kerry campaign because of my moral reservations, even if I wind up voting for him. I would encourage fellow Catholics to prayerfully consider whether either Bush or Kerry deserves your financial donations.
At the same time, while I may have personal moral reservations about making a donation to either candidate, I believe that conscience could lead to some different conclusions on this issue. Thus, for those Catholics who may feel obligated by conscience to throw the full weight of their support behind Kerry, including financial support, it is imperative that you give within the next few weeks if that is what conscience is telling you to do.
You can make donations to Kerry's campaign at this site.
You must be 18 years or older, and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If you contribute more than $200, you must include your occupation and address. Federal employees can contribute or volunteer, but not both. Individuals who have contracts with the federal government may not cannot contribute, but those who work for a company with contracts with the federal government may contribute.
Whether you choose to give or not (and I chose not to give at this time due to moral reservations - and invite others to seriously and prayerfully consider doing the same), bear in mind after the conventions that Kerry will have less money than Bush - meaning that we need to be critical of the advertisements we see. Don't be fooled by publicity that was bought by corporate sponsors!
Over a Thousand Celebrate Life and Mourn Death of Young Peace Poet
Catholic poet, Mattie J.T. Stepaneck died at the age of 13. He was made famous by Oprah Winfrey, who attended his funeral with former President, Jimmy Carter, and over 1,300 others at Saint Catherine Laboure Catholic Church.
The boy died of muscular dystrophy and wrote poems and inspirational books that topped the bestseller charts. Jimmy Carter quoted Mattie as follows:
"I feel like President Bush made a decision long ago about the war," Mattie wrote. "Imagine if he had spent as much time and energy . . . planning peace."May Mattie rest in peace, may perpetual light shine upon him, and may he intercede for us from heaven.
Bush Financial Connections to Bin Laden
I mentioned yesterday that after seeing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, I wanted to check out whether it was true that the Bush family, and particularly G.W., had financial ties to the Bin Laden family.
In the link above, I have provided a google search on "Bush Bin Laden Financial Connections". Several articles popped up, all saying basically the same thing Michael Moore asserts.
Note that the implication of this is not meant to imply that Bush is behind 9/11, nor that he is in league with Osama Bin Laden. Rather, the point Moore and others seem to be making is that Bush has not been aggressive in bringing Bin Laden to justice, and has intentionally avoided pursuing the clear implication of all evidence that the Saudis were responsible for 9/11.
Moore and others are saying that because of personal financial ties to Saudi wealth and the Bin Laden family, Bush has been hesitant to let the evidence lead to its natural conclusion, and he appears to have used 9/11 to pursue other agendas than combating terrorism.
As much as I believe the actions of this Administration are evil, I'm not wholly convinced that Bush could be this malevolent. Nevertheless, I don't think this evidence should be ignored. I would be curious how Bush supporters respond to these types of allegations.
Supreme Court Reigns in Bush
In a near unanimous decision (only Clarence Thomas - appointed by G.H.W. Bush - withheld assent), the Supreme Court ruled that the Executive Branch does not have the powers to hold detainees for security reasons without due process, as asserted by the Bush Administration.
I know it has not been very effective polemics to compare Bush to Hitler, but it was precisely assertions like those the Court just ruled against that lead to the comparison.
Not only does Bush believe he has power to trample the Constitution in regards to due process, but his Administration has displayed a callous disregard for each and every principle of just war doctrine. There never has been a just war of aggression, there is not such a thing, and there never will be. This should be plain as day to any Christian.
Bush is responsible for the creation of the Patriot Act, which violates many of the very principles upon which this country was founded. There is emerging evidence of high level Administration approval of torture. Bush' Administration has permitted use of the federal death penalty for the first time in 38 years. The Bush Administration has a callous disregard for international law, international institutions and international opinion.
How far does this Administration have to go before conservatives stop defending Bush' abuses of human rights? How does one avoid making a comparison to the Nazis?
When one considers that Bush also indicates a disbelief that the unborn are truly persons (rather than what Bush, himself, calls, "potential human life" ), I just do not understand how anyone can come to the conclusion that Bush is a great pro-life President. Bush likely cuts federal spending on abortion and stem cell research so he can give tax breaks to his rich friends - rather than because he deeply believes in the sanctity of life.
This Administration has more clearly violated the sanctity of human life, and the principles of freedom and liberty than any Administration in the history of the country. Meanwhile, social services to the poor are cut while jobs are shipped overseas and the deficit climbs so Bush' cronies can grow richer on his tax cuts.
Kerry is right. This is the most probably the most secretive and dishonest Administration we have ever experienced. I can't judge Bush' heart or soul, but the actions of this Administration are evil!
I don't say this out of hatred for Republicans. I am a registered Republican, though some readers have refused to believe because I saw how evil this Administration's actions are the moment we invaded Iraq.
Now it's not just "cooks" like jcecil3 or Michael Moore saying it. Now we have ultra-right wing conservatives like Antonin Scalia admitting that Bush has overstepped his bounds! This was the same Court that put him power after an election he may not have won on the popular vote!
We need regime change in the United States!
TIME Magazine Article Profiles Women in the Pulpit
Though all of these women pastor Protestant churches, these are examples of the ability of women to successfully provide pastoral leadership and outstanding ministry to Christian flocks.
Monday, June 28, 2004
Married Priests Website
I don't raise this issue as often as women priests or blessing gay unions, because I consider the other two issues more important from a justice perspective. Nevertheless, the Church needs to eventually revisit the mandatory celibacy requirement for priesthood. Historically, for the first 1139 years of Church history, celibates were monks and ascetics, while those who performed the pastoral ministry of sacramental priesthood were married.
Stewardship or Dominion? A Look at Catholic Environmentalism
This article draws inspiration from Scripture and the Catechism to form a proper reverence for the natural order and to see all of creation as belonging to God.
Catholics Rally Against Racism
This very short article is just over a month old, and I found it surfing for Catholic news on racism. A month ago is still fairly recent. I thought the topic important enough to go ahead and post something, even if short and somewhat dated reminder that racism is a problem we need to all work together to overcome.
"Earlier this year, the Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts spent more than a million dollars in an attempt to prevent same-gender marriage in their state, continued [Matthew] Gallagher. "This raises the question of why they did not direct those resources to protecting children from abuse."
Week Twenty-One of Pregnancy
My wife is in week twenty-one of pregancy, and we are scheduled for a big ultra-sound this week. Our relatives and fellow parishoners are advising that we refrain from discovering the gender. One woman says that after the pain of delivery, it is a nice surprise for the mother to discover the gender, and anti-climatic if she already knows.
My wife wants to preserve the surprise, but I am anxious to know the gender. I feel that there is a person in there, and I am dying to know whether to call the baby him or her, he or she. Of course, my wife argues that we shouldn't be so anxious to socialize gender into the baby before she or he is born.
The picture in the link shows a baby's ear at this tage. Our baby can supposedly hear now. We are playing lots of music for the baby - especially classical music, but also some church music, salsa, jazz, raggae, and other favorites of ours. I also try to talk to the baby, though I know she or he can't understand.
I find myself a little jealous of my wife at times. I want to hold the baby, but I have to wait another four or five months for that. I wonder if other father's have felt this.
NCR Eulogizes David Dellinger
Dellinger, a graduate of Yale, worked in Germany in the 1930's in the anti-Nazi movement, and then was arrested when he returned to the United States and refused to fight in the war against the Nazis because of his belief in active non-violent resistance to evil.
Later, he was part of the Chicago Seven (originally eight) arrested in 1968 in anti-war protest at the Democratic National Convention.
Throughout his life, Dellinger has stood for non-violence and working to break down the barriers that separate people.
Has Pro-Choice Politics Killed the Deciding Votes in 2004????
I find it hard to take an analysis like this too seriously, but the very concept is intriguing, even if far-fetched.
The author of this study tries to demonstrate statistically that the aborted children since Roe v. Wade would have given the Democrats a four percent greater margin today if they were allowed to be born, rather than being aborted.
Andrew Sullivan Offers Negative Critique of Farenheit 9/11
Would it surprise anyone that Andrew didn't like the film. The frequent Bush apologist to gays even starts his critique with the words, "Well, I broke down and went to see the Michael Moore movie. I was expecting to be outraged, offended, maddened, etc etc."
Instead of being outraged, he claims he was bored and found the analysis too incredible and ubstantiated to believe. The cinematic technique struck him as childish propoganda.
I enjoyed the movie (see my critique below), but never let it be said that I won't give the other side an equal chance to express their opinion. Apparently, Sullivan falls in the 9 percent or so that was less than enthralled with the film.
Brief Thoughts on Yesterday's Liturgical Readings
Yesterday's readings at Mass focused our attention on discipleship. In the first reading, we see the call of Elisha to follow Elijah in the school of prophecy. In the Gospel, Christ chastises the Apostles for wishing destruction on Samaritans who would not receive them, and then Christ provides several sayings on the urgency of abandoning everything to follow him.
In the second reading, the line that jumped out at me due to prior discussions came from Saint Paul's letter to the Galatians. Addressing dissention over the question of circumcision and other Jewish practices in the Galatian community, Paul states:
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."If we follow the golden rule, we will find ourselves challenged to all of the self-sacrifice entailed in authentic discipleship. The moral law of Christ is no less, and no more than this.
Commonweal Editorial on Sudan
Violence in the Sudan is reaching unprecedented levels, and the only nation speaking out forcefully has been the United States. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has weakened the voice of the U.S. in the international community.
Fahrenheit 9/11 Tops Box Office Charts
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has become the largest grossing documentary in film history and ranks number three for 2004 in box office opening sales - just behind Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and the animated feature, Shrek 2.
Ninety one percent of those who have seen the film rate it "excellent", and many moderate and undecided voters have said the film changed their minds.
I saw the film this weekend with my wife and some friends in a crowded theater that seats 400 people. On artistic merits alone, this is Moore's best work to date. Roger and Me, which many people found to be funny in a dark sort of way, depressed me. I fell asleep during Bowling for Columbine. But Fahrenheit is gripping from the first frame to the last, and reaches the right balance between serious critique of the Bush Administration and humor.
On a note of negative critique of the film, one of the people I viewed the film was concerned that the opening scenes showing Bush and other Republicans acting silly in front of cameras would turn off the voter who supports Bush before Moore makes his hard hitting points.
I learned some things in the film that I did not know, though I want to do some research to check out the allegations. Moore presents documentary evidence that the Bush family has had financial ties to the Bin Laden family for decades!
This point is important in Moore's view because he asserts that the war in Iraq was a deliberate attempt to distract the American people from the atrocities committed by the Saudi royal family against their own people, and the fact that the Saudis are clearly responsible for terrorism, rather than Iraq.
Why would the Bush family seek to divert attention from the Saudi's?
Bush is not portrayed as being directly involved in the 9-11 plot in any way, and Moore's assumption is that we can all agree that Osama Bin Laden is a lunatic. However, Moore believes that Bush is not being aggressive in stopping Al Queda or Osama Bin Laden because he views tolerance of Osama as the cost of staying in business with the Saudis.
Moore presents the case that the Saudi's own between 6 and 7 percent of all American business interest (in the tune of close to a third of a trillion dollars), as well as being the major oil supplier to this nation. Moore portrays the Bush Administration as a proxy government for Saudi interests in America. Moore makes much of the fact that 24 members of the Bin Laden family were permitted to return to Saudi Arabia on 09/13/2001.
Another damning piece of footage is taken from a black tie fund raising dinner for Bush. The President stands up and welcomes everyone saying something like, "This gathering is comprised of the haves [pause], and the have mores. Or, as I like to call you, my base."
The clear implication throughout the movie is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer under Bush, who is keenly interested consciously or unconsciously in preserving a social hierarchy.
The image of the President portrayed by Moore is a spoiled rich kid, barely competent, who was elected to ensure low taxes for corporations and the protection of Saudi interests. The motive for war in Afghanistan and Iraq was to generate profits for companies like Halliburton, control oil fields outside of Saudi control, and establish a pipeline for oil from the Caspian Sea region to through Afghanistan to the Indian sea.
The footage of what is occurring in Iraq is gripping and disturbing. The scenes open with Iraqi children playing in the streets, and diners enjoying a casual meal in an out-door cafe. Then the scene cuts to shock and awe footage, followed by images of burned women and children. United States soldiers are interviewed describing the invasion as a "rush" that is more fun than a video game. This is followed by interviews of soldiers saying that the war has changed them for the worse - one soldier saying that every person he has killed has killed a piece of his soul.
The film turns back to the United States and the efforts of military recruiters to enlist poor people. Moore highlights a family with several members who have proudly served in the military. As the film winds down, a letter from the youngest son in Baghdad is read saying that he doesn't what he is fighting for and he wants Bush voted out of office. A week later, the boy is dead, and his mother's grief becomes the center of attention for several minutes of the film.
What is especially powerful throughout the film is the juxtaposition of actual footage of Bush saying various asinine things about the war and its justification - especially while he is out on the golf course.
The most humorous portion of the film in my mind was Moore enlisting the help of a soldier to recruit the children of congressional representatives to join the military and go to Iraq. The soldier who helped him expressed that he has become conscientious objector to the war after a stint in Iraq. Several soldiers interviewed in the film seemed to lean this way.
This film is well done and powerful. Even Bush supporters should see the film if for no other reason than understanding the point of view of the opposition. For anyone in the small minority who remain undecided in this election - or who thinks their vote simply doesn't matter - this film is an absolute must see.
U.S. Hands Over Iraqi Sovereignty Two Days Early
Of course, 130,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq indefinitely. Critics call this a symbolic gesture, while proponents see it as a significant step toward the liberation of Iraq.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Abortion Politics Spreading to Africa
Let us pray for a greater respect for the sanctity of human life around the globe.
A Passage of Gaudium et Spes
From the Second Vatican Council::
Human beings should also be judiciously informed of scientific advances in the exploration of methods by which spouses can be helped in arranging the number of their children. The reliability of these methods should be adequately proven and their harmony with the moral order should be clear. (GS 87)I mentioned in my comments to a frequent reader opposing my views that I have been prayerfully reflecting lately on a Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Council entitled Gaudium et Spes, or "Joy and Hope". This was the last Pastoral Constitution issued by the Council, and it is commonly known as "The Church in the Modern World".
I have been quoting Gaudium et Spes frequently for months now in the debate about the whether John Kerry should be denied Communion because of his pro-choice politics. The document contains a powerful section on the primacy of conscience, even as it exhorts us to a constant effort to form conscience well with the aid of the Church.
I believe that the document lays out guidelines for the relations between Church and state that force Catholic politicians into compromising positions where they are simultaneously exhorted by the Church to uphold Church teaching in the way they legislate, while also being exhorted by the Church not to force their views on others and to respect what appears to be a democratic process.
Thus, I argue that the document forces us to refrain from judgment about whether Kerry or any other politician is violating conscience or denying Church teaching or sinning through a particular voting pattern that may represent the consensus view of her or his constituents and a desire to uphold secular law.
I wish to depart momentarily from that specific debate to highlight a passage that has leapt off the page for me as I reflect on this document. Before citing the passage, I want to explain something about how Vatican II documents were issued, and what they mean theologically.
The Second Vatican Council was the most well attended Ecumenical Council in the history of the post Apostolic era Church. As Catholics, we believe that the Holy Spirit guides and works through Ecumenical Councils and that they can have the charism of infallibility.
There were about 2,300 Bishops present at Vatican II, as well as Eastern Orthodox and Protestant observers, Catholic theologians, and lay consults. Each and every document was debated vigorously and every line carefully and prayerfully considered. In order to pass, the document needed to have a minimum two thirds consensus from the Bishops, and the Pope's approval.
The intent of the Council was pastoral in mature, and there was no intent to make new infallible definitions. Thus, when the Council stated something that surprised people, this is not because the Council invented a new doctrine, but because the Tradition prior to the Council was widely misunderstood, or an old teaching was presented in a fresh light or given a more prominent emphasis than it received in the past.
The assurance that the Council was reflecting the constant Tradition of the Church is precisely in the fact that so many Bishops came to near unanimous consensus on the documents issued by the Council, and the entire Council had the approval of the Pope. Furthermore, nearly every paragraph of the Council documents references Scripture and prior Councils or prior papal teaching.
When we speak of the possibility of the ordinary magisterium possessing infallibility in certain conditions, I can think of no clearer example than the Second Vatican Council.
Thus, I invite those who call themselves "conservative" or "orthodox" to explain to me how you each interpret the practical meaning of the following passage:
Human beings should also be judiciously informed of scientific advances in the exploration of methods by which spouses can be helped in arranging the number of their children. The reliability of these methods should be adequately proven and their harmony with the moral order should be clear. (GS 87)I anticipate that many more conservative Catholics will lock on the phrase "there harmony with the moral order should be clear". I think most Catholics would agree that there are some methods of arranging the number of children that are not in harmony with the moral order.
For example, the very paragraph from which this passage is taken speaks of state regulation of births, and the Council states that parents should have the right to decide the number of children they will have themselves.
Likewise, I understand perfectly that abortion is murder, and that this is an immoral method of birth control. The vast majority of Catholics worldwide would agree with this teaching that is held almost unanimously by the Bishops to this day, and that remains clearly the teaching of the Pope to this day. I also understand that abortificient drugs are the moral equivalent of surgical abortion.
I am likewise troubled by any technique of birth control involving permanent sterilization, since I believe married couples should be open to procreation over the course of the their life and their relationship.
Certainly, scientific advances can even help make natural family planning techniques more effective by providing means for better measuring and predicting fertile and infertile periods. Perhaps there are conservative Catholics who would see this as the only possible rendering of the passage, since they would hold that all other methods are immoral.
However, in such a contentious Council, it would seem to me that if the Bishops meant to say this, they would have certainly stated that all artificial contraceptive techniques are not in accord with the moral order. Instead, they forbid only abortion, permanent sterilization and state regulations of birth.
My question is more pointed to the fact that the passage - especially in context - seems to imply that using science to regulate birth (artificial contraception) is in accord with Church teaching.
Again, remember that this document was actually signed by Pope Paul VI and the Bishops who formed the consensus after vigorous debate and careful and prayerful consideration allowed it to pass!
Some will argue that Pope Paul VI made a special commission to study the issue, and removed the issue of artificial contraception from consideration by the Council. This is true. However, we need ask why the Holy Spirit let events unfold as they did?
Why did an Ecumenical Council - an act of infallibility expressing the sense of the faithful through a collegial decision of the Bishops approved by the Pope - imply that scientific methods of regulating birth would and could be in accord with the moral order if this is not the case?
And does Humanae Vitae, which was not an act of papal infallibility, and is internally inconsistent, have enough weight on its own to indicate that the Holy Spirit was not saying something more clearly through GS 87?
Illinois Republican Senator, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race for re-election when it became known that he took his former wife, actress, Jeri Ryan, to sex clubs and tried to pressure her to perform lewd acts in public.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Critique of Ron Belgau
I turned the article I wrote yesterday on Ron Belgau's Courage into an email-able link and posted it to my homepage as well. It seemed to generate an unusual amount of traffic today, so I thought this made sense. Enjoy!
Twenty Suggestions for Church Reform
This was posted to this page a couple of weeks ago, and now I have made it an article for my homepage.
Pentagon Preparing for Draft?
A few months ago, I posted a rumor that I had heard from a military friend that Rumsfeld planned to reinstate the draft as soon as the elections were over. It appears that the rumor is proving true.
If this is the case, I would encourage all my readers to prayerfully and carefully consider the reasons the Church says war in Iraq is not just and the case for conscientious objection and non-violence.
I would also like to recall the words of the Second Vatican Council:
Motivated by this same spirit, we cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties too, provided this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself. (GS 78)Iraq had no WMDs. Iraq had no ties to Al Queda. Iraq was successfully contained. Saddam Hussein was an aging drug addict. Democracy cannot be imposed by force from the outside. We have ticked off the international community and created a situation that will breed further terrorism. All wars of aggression are unjust by definition.
Massachusetts Republicans Divided Over Gay Marriage
Former Republican Governor, William F. Weld delivered the homily at a Beacon Hill same-sex wedding ceremony, while current Governor, Mitt Romney calls for a federal ban on gay marriages.
These folks linked to my article yesterday on Ron Belgau. The site is called "Ex-Gay watch" and is devoted to debunking the myth that sexual orientation can be changed through various reparative therapy techniques popular especially among conservative Christians.
Some Say Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is Actually Reaching Swing Voters
I honestly did not expect Moore's movie to change any minds, but apparently, in its strong opening night, some voters considering themselves moderates were swayed by the movie. One woman cried as she saw footage of what is really happening in Iraq.
And Moore loves it when conservatives criticize the movie, making him out to be a David against Goliath. Critics are praising the artistic merits of the film as well. Of course, liberals already consider the movie a "must see".
Cheney Dismisses Critic with obscenity
The man who could be President told Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) to "F**k yourself" during an exchange on the Senate floor concerning Cheney's ties to Halliburton.
Speaking of Church Conspiracy Novels...
I mentioned in a post below that I picked up a novel at an airport that I haven't been able to finish because of its absurd theories about Opus Dei.
The link above is to a similar style of novel that I also picked up an airport and was able to finish - in one sitting. It was a fun read, and based on a similar premise of a secret society within the Church that attempts to assasinate Pope John Paul II's liberal successor, Paul VII.
This novel was much better done, and the guy who wrote it, Daniel Silva, seems to understand the hot button issues in the Church and how to create a more believable narrative.
By the way, I also commented below on Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code below and may have given the impression that I don't like Dan Brown. As far as writing novels that are fun to read, I think Brown is just fine. What I object to is the idea that his novels contain incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was married. They contain speculation based on meager evidence - real evidence, but meager. They should be read as semi-plausible fiction - not well researched historical certainty.
Brief Statement on Opus Dei
A few days back, a reader of my essay entitled Jesus, Mary and DaVinci objected to my arguments that I think Brown's book is a largely a crock - a bunch of speculation with little to no evidence.
To his credit, the reader left behind some evidences that maybe Jesus was married that may be worth examination. If his evidences turned out factual, I would have no problem with the idea of a married Christ.
I haven't really had time to explore his evidences, and I was hoping he'd come back and give me some direct references for his assertions to make my research a bit easier.
But I don't really want to write about a married Jesus or his evidences for such a hypothesis. What has been nagging me is something else he said.
Opus Dei exists they even have a website....Why is Opus Dei considered some sort of demonic secret by some people?
Of course Opus Dei exists.
I personally know about five people who belong to Opus Dei. They have never kept it a secret from me. Indeed, it was one of the first things I learned about them when I met them - and I was invited to join, even by one member who knows my views on women's ordination.
Russell Shaw, a prominent conservative lay Catholic, proudly admits that he is a member of Opus Dei. John Allan of NCR wrote this week of Opus Dei Bishops in Spain.
Whether I agree or disagree with members of Opus Dei on theological concerns, or whether I find their group to be a bit secretive or not, I don't think anyone very active in the Church denies their existence. Even the Holy Father has spoken publicly (and positively) about Opus Dei.
The existence of Opus Dei is no big secret.
As the reader points out: they even have a website.
I have a novel sitting on my shelf that I picked up in an airport. It's called Death of an Irish Sinner by Bartholomew Gill. I have tried about six times to read through this novel, but I can't get past the first few chapters because of the premise that Opus Dei is this secret society of murderers.
I may disagree with the general conservativism of many Opus Dei members, but I have found the members I know to be decent human beings. As much as I might disagree with him, I find it unfathomable that Russell Shaw is involved in conspiracies to assasinate people.
Why are some people fascinated with Opus Dei and insistent on seeing the group as a some sort of CIA for the Church?
The Tablet Interviews Gerge Weigle
Weigle continues to support the war in Iraq as a just war, despite Vatican pronouncements and all rational evidence to the contrary. He also justifies dissent with the Holy Father on the death penalty. He affirms his disdain for John Kerry, and his belief that Kerry maybe should be denied Communion, even as he admits that Catholic politicians can sometimes vote against Church teaching on life issues in good conscience. Despite his own admitted disagreements with the Pope on some issues, he apparently thinks John Paul II is the only theologian published after 1968 worth reading.
Weigle is a riddle of contradictions.
Why do conservative Catholics take this guy so seriously?
First Quarter Economic Growth Slower Than Originally Reported
And the number of jobs remain over a million less than when Bush first assumed office in January 2001.
Kerry Outlines Plan to Create Jobs, Wins Iacocca Endorsement
In a speech given at San Jose State University, Kerry delivered what is called a detailed plan to revitalize the technology sector and create 1.2 million jobs. Democrats see a huge victory in former Chrystler Chairman, Lee Iacocca's, endorsement of Kerry. Iacocca was a Bush supporter in 2000, and is well respected in the business community.
New Blog by a Seminarian in Austin
So far, this one seems less reactionary than some of the others joining seminaries these days,....a little more introspective and more focus on mercy and compassion. Let's pray there are more like this receiving the call and that they persevere.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
The Opposing View to Old Catholic Post Below
I decided to give equal space by linking to Ron Belgau, whom Bishop Salvato, opposed in the post directly below this one. The link to Belgau was in the Bishop's post. Belgau is a Catholic member of Courage - same sex attracted Catholics trying to live according to Church teaching.
Belgau actually describes the vocation to marriage very well, and offers personal stories that would rival the Bishop for honesty.
He peppers his speech with lots of references to Scripture, the Catechism, the Pope and some Bishops, Mother Teresa, the saints, lay Catholic writers, C.S. Lewis, Gandhi, Naomi Wolf, and Bonhoeffer's notion of "the cost of discipleship" and Bonhoeffer's rejection of "cheap grace". David Morrison once quoted Bonhoeffer's notion at me as well.
On this last reference, I consider Bonhoeffer a bit of a hero to the extent I know about him and his willingness to go to prison in opposition to the Nazis. Thus, it kind of stings when Belgau claims that theological dissidents are offering "cheap grace".
What I struggle with is that when Bonhoeffer speaks of the cost of discipleship, it seems he is calling us to take up our cross by loving Christ through others until it hurts - by being willing to risk life and limb to stand up to injustices that occur in this life. Bonhoeffer's cost is concrete, here and now, for an immediate benefit to another for the sake of Christ, and can get you thrown in prison.
When Belgau speaks of the cost of discipleship, it seems to be obedience to an abstraction - a self inflicted pain based on a belief that doesn't correlate with your own experience of life.
I sometimes think that people reason religiously in a distorted way towards masochism.
For example, the Church once taught that it was a mortal sin to eat meat on Fridays, one must fast during Lent, and it is a good thing to fast at other times. Thus, Saint Francis was said to eat nothing 150 of 365 days per year, and to sprinkle ashes on his vegetarian diet when he did eat! At the end of his life, Francis apologized to his own body.
I admire saint Francis, but is that really what made him holy? Or was it his care for lepers and the friars who came to follow him that made him holy? Is it better to fast like this, or to go to jail defending human life like Bonhoeffer? Is it better to make self sacrifice for an abstraction, or for a concrete person?
Belgau recognizes the problem, and draws an extended analogy on this exact point. He states that he knows there will be some in his audience who perceive him as offering an abstraction as motivation to do what seems impossible. He likens this to offering a recipe to people who lack the ingredients to make the dish.
Belgau argues that human sexuality is obviously "ordered" (in the theological sense) to three things: complementarity, procreation, and unity.
1) Complementarity: God created us male and female, and our gender identity is completed in the male and female relationship of persons.
2) Procreation: Children and child rearing are a blessing from the Lord who allows us to share in his creative power through procreation.
3) Unity: In married love, the two become one flesh, imaging our union with God in Christ.
Belgau points out that homosexual acts fail the first two criteria. Then, to address unitive love, he tries to tie chastity for same sex attracted Christians to the notion of risks. Since it might be a mortal sin to engage in homosexual acts, it is loving to the other person to refrain from homosexual relations.
He draws an analogy for this concept of risks to abortion. Since the unborn might be human persons, it is better not to have an abortion than to risk killing another human person.
Belgau tells a very moving story of an relationship he had in high school that started to develop in a romantic direction, but stopped before there was any sexual expression.
And herein lies the problem with Belgau's reasoning in my mind. Belgau seems to be arguing that a same sex attracted person should go through their entire life viewing committed love - the love known by married people - as a threat. It is a risk he would rather avoid.
This is very different than a healthy celibate vocation. The celibate avoids monogamous commitment with others because she or he is intentionally trying to remain open to God in a special way, and open to other people in a special way. The celibate is not avoiding the risks of violating an abstract principle, but embracing a different mode of loving than a married person.
Love is precisely about taking risks, and that is what Bonhoeffer is describing as the cost of discipleship. The cost of discipleship is that when you love others as Christ loves, you will be hurt in this life.
Then, there are the theological problems I have with Belgau's reasoning.
First, the three principles of married love do not always apply within heterosexual marriage even according to the most orthodox or conservative interpretation of Church teaching.
When a married couple practices natural family planning, they are not expressing the procreative dimension of human sexuality. Infertile couples are also permitted marriage:
Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking. (GS 50)These two instances indicate to me that the Holy Spirit is saying through the Church that the unitive dimension of sexuality actually takes a sort of precedence over the procreative dimension of sexuality when we consider sexual acts.
This is also clear if we consider why rape is a sin even if it leads to procreation, and even if a husband is the one who rapes his wife! Rape lacks consensual self donation - and is therefore not an expression of unitive love.
What about complementarity?
As far as I know, no such concept exists in any document of the Church written prior to Vatican II, and including Vatican II. As far as I know, this concept is not found in the infallible definitions of the Church. It seems probable to me that the concept was wholly introduced as a theological concept by Pope John Paul II. I may be incorrect on this, but I simply am not aware of anyone else before this pontificate raising this type of argument. That doesn't make it wrong, but it does make it a progressive development of doctrine that needs to be explored carefully.
His Holiness uses the concept not only in his teaching incorporated in the Catechism regarding homosexuality, but it is part of his theology for why women should not be ordained. In John Paul's world view, the entire universe (or at least humanity) seems to be divided into masculine and feminine polarities that complete one another when brought together in a unity that respects distinction.
It is fair to ask if John Paul II is right about this concept. On the positive side, applied to homosexuality, the concept does make sense to most heterosexual people, and even quite a few gay people. A number of people seem to grasp the concept as it applies to women's ordination as well. It even seems pretty Scriptural in hindsight as we reflect on Genesis (in the divine image God made them, male and female). So, it passes the tests of Scripture, reason, and magisterial authority doesn't it?
My question is how do hermaphrodites and heterosexual male celibates fit into this scheme?
On the first question, I am not sure what gender a hermaphrodite actually is. Every "conservative" theologian I have read who addresses the issue brushes the question aside with a wave of the hand by stating hermaphrodites are a rare anomaly and/or a mutation not intended by God.
To say that hermaphrodism is a mutation not intended by God seems to go beyond what we can know from any source of knowledge, whether revealed or natural. The only thing I can know about hermaphrodites is that they exist, and that God permits their being in the here and now.
Calling them mutants seems off base as I consider a theology of the body that looks forward to the resurrection of the dead. I can believe in the possibility that the blind may see, since blindness is the lack of sight. What does the hermaphrpodite lack - maleness or femaleness? What will they be at the resurrection of the dead?
On the issue of numbers of hermaphrodites, I don't see that it matters if there were only one hermaphrodite in all of history, or ten million. The issue remains that if there are any hermaphrodites, we cannot really say with certainty that God intends the entire world (or all of humanity) be split into gender polarities - at least not in an absolute sense.
On the second question of heterosexual male celibates, if a man is not complete without his female counterpart, would it not be a sin to remain celibate (i.e. - less than perfect, less than whole, less than complete, less than the purpose for which we are made)?
I ask about a male celibate in particular because one might argue that female celibate is completed by God the Father or Jesus Christ.
Of course, since Christ is presumed celibate, it is absurd to argue that celibacy is a sin. Yet, making the notion of complementarity a dogmatic theological axiom implies celibacy is a sin. Thus, I would say we should be very cautious about dogmatizing this concept without further reflection.
I am somewhat of an empiricist when it comes to theology. I believe that we need to examine the world, and infer general principles from it, rather than trying to create general concepts, and then force the world into those categories.
When I say we look at the world and infer general principles, I mean all that lies within our experience. This "world" includes the Bible, Vatican documents, the writing of saints, the reflections of theologians, and our pastor's homilies, etc....and it also includes the things outside of religion, such as natural sciences, art, politics, philosophy and whatever we learn from our day to day experiences. Then we take all of this and form a synthesis looking for God's will in the whole.
In forming this synthesis, I am not saying all of our experiences have equal weight. Certainly, an infallible definition by the magisterium will outweigh the opinion of a theologian (or my own opinion).
Yet, when a teaching that is not infallibly defined invites us to absolutize an abstract general principle that does not correlate perfectly with the physical world and the rest of our religious experience, we need to be cautious with that principle. Rather than trying to fit the world into the concept, it may be better to try to develop the concept to more accurately reflect the world.
I actually do believe that the Holy Father is on to something with the principle of complementarity between the sexes. However, he is treading new theological ground with this concept, and he tends to want to absolutize it in a fashion that I believe is hasty and does not correlate with reality. I believe he is trying to fit the world into his concept, rather than letting the world guide him to a better understanding of his own innovative theological speculation.
There are hermaphrodites, male heterosexual celibates, infertile heterosexual married couples, and married heterosexuals who practice natural family planning. All of these instances demonstrate that complementarity and procreation do not always apply in all loving relationships. The important thing seems to be the unitive dimension of love - the ability to commit to a partnership with another to form a communion of persons.
So, I'm just throwing this out there, but it seems to me that if God is active in the world, and the natural order leads to inferences about the divine order, the existence of homosexual persons seems to tell me that maybe God intended homosexuality for a reason. Maybe God's ways are not our ways, as the prophet Isaiah said. Maybe instead of trying to fit people into an abstract category in our minds, we should let our abstractions be inferred from reality. Maybe God is trying to tell us something through persons with same sex attractions.
Maybe God allows people to be irrevocably gay and lesbian to remind all of us that our gender complementarity does not preclude real love with those of the same sex. Perhaps my gay brothers are not only allowed to be gay by God, but were made gay by God to remind me and my heterosexual brothers that we can and should be tender with one another, and sensitive to one another, and loving to one another. Perhaps lesbian women call out the energies in women that is more strong willed and independent like the stereotypical male.
It's not that androgeny is our goal, nor is it that gender complementarity doesn't exist. Rather, perhaps God has placed variation in the species that calls us to avoid complete polarization where distinction becomes separation.
Is the gay man or lesbian women called to celibacy?
Perhaps some are - but nobody is called to celibacy for the reasons Beglau indicates. If fear of risk is your motive, you're remaining chaste for reasons that could prevent you from loving - and love is the crown virtue. It would be better to risk sexual experience and fall head over heels in love than to cut yourself off from all possibility of loving. This is probably why God made sexual desire so powerful, and grace builds on nature.
I think that adult homosexual people seeking to live in consensual, monogamous, committed partnership are morally akin to infertile heterosexual couples. Their relations are no more selfish lust than infertile heterosexual couples. Their relationships are no less loving, and I would even venture to say that gender complementarity finds its way into homosexual relationships in the sense that there are "butch" and "femmes" among lesbians and gays.
But how do we square all of this Scripture and Tradition? The short answer is that the Bible says very little about homosexual acts and the historical context of the very few passages that are there are not clear. The longer answer can be found here.
Old Catholic Bishop Speaks Out on Being a Gay Christian
I actually found the link to this article on Mark Shea's 06/23/04 10:22 am post. One can imagine that Mark was quite critical of this celebration of gay sex - by a man with valid Apostolic succession, nonetheless, even if he is not in union with Rome.
The article is written publicly, but also as one gay man to another: Bishop Salvato to Ron Belgau. The latter is a member of Courage - a group of gay Catholics who try to live chastely according to Vatican teaching. The Bishops links to Beglau's speech so you can see the opposing view.
Bishop Salvato argues that heterosexual marriage should be mutually exclusive, and it is good and holy and a vocation given by God. No Catholic would argue with that.
Salvato also argues that sexuality can be degrading and dehumanizing when lust prevails over love. Again, no Catholic would argue with that.
Then Salvato argues that gay erotic love finding sexual expression in the context of a relationship is not lust, and is not sinful, and would not be excluded by Christ. This is where he would lose some Roman Catholics.
His reasoning on this is interesting, and he has the gift of a great preacher in his ability to draw analogies and appeal to everyday experiences that all of us share - gay or straight. He also has the preacher's gift (or the prophet's gift) for saying exactly what he means without ambiguity - calling something he deems false "bullshit" - a rarity among Bishops. He is also remarkably honest about his own experiences as a gay man.
The article is well worth reflection. Enjoy.
Wal-Mart Suit May Force Companies to Close Wage Gap Based on Gender
Wal-Mart is trying to argue that women and men have different career goals, and this explains wage discrepancies. For example, a woman may be more likely place child rearing ahead of her career than a man. This argument has held up in the past.
However, the plaintiffs have produced new evidence that this excuse is not true in general society, nor specifically with Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart looses, all companies will need to examine wage discrepancies based on gender more carefully.
Clinton's My Life Breaks Sales Records
I saw the Clinton interview last Sunday on Sixty Minutes and was a bit disgusted by his statement that he would repeat his actions following the Lewinsky affair if he had to do it all over again.
To clarify, he did say he did a very wrong thing with Monica Lewinsky, and he claims he would not do that again. However, assuming he did, he would lie about it all over again because he says he was involved in power struggle with the right that made it impossible for him to act honestly.
Honesty is always the best policy, and I think he did more damage to the left by lying than would have occurred if he came clean in the beginning.
Editorial in America Lauds Former Govenor Casey on Prolife Record
As inspiration to Democrat politicians who may be pro-life at heart, but hesitant to stand up to the party leadership, I am posting this link that holds up the example of the late Robert P. Casey, Democratic Govenor of Pennsylvania.
Casey was liberal on economic and social policy, and also firmly pro-life. He worked to restrict abortions in PA, and three of the provisions he passed have held up in the Courts. Because of his pro-life convictions, the party refused to allow him to speak at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
In this heated and polarized election that could very well lead to another four years under Bush based almost entirely on Bush' anti-abortion stance, Democrats have got to get it through their heads that a militant pro-choice stand is politically dangerous.
Catholic Democrats have got to get it through their heads that Catholic voters are the real swing vote that will decide this election. This has probably been true since at least the days of Reagan, and should be more painfully obvious in this election than any other.
The Evangelicals will stand by Bush through hell and high water for other reasons than abortion - but most Catholics would choose a Casey over Bush in a heartbeat if given the option.
The secularists and non-Christians will stand by anyone but Bush for all the reasons that Democrats aren't Republican - but the Catholics stand in the middle, mostly liking the ideals of the Democrats, but gravely uncomfortable with making a pro-choice vote.
I am utterly convinced that Catholic voters are really and truly seeking a candidate with a consistent ethic of life and a real concern for social justice. A pro-life Democrat fits the bill perfectly.
While Roe v. Wade and the pro-choice constituency present serious hurdles and obstacles that may not be easily or quickly resolved, I firmly believe the vast majority of Catholic voters in either party are seeking the same thing. Everyone of us is distressed in this election that neither party is really giving us the type of candidate we seek.
I don't think I'd be off the mark in hypothesizing that Casey represents the type of Catholic candidate the Bishops and the people in the pews want to see. Had he been younger and lived longer, I would not be surprised if there would have been a write-in campaign started months ago. What would be powerfully effective in swaying Catholic voters away from being Bushwhacked is for all Catholic politicians (democrat or Republican) to move in the direction of Casey at once!
Sidney Callahan Presents A Prolife Case Against Bush
For those who know who Sidney Callahan is, perhaps the most intriguing piece of this article is the opening line: "I voted for George W. Bush and I’m heartily sorry now."
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Bishops Agree to Continue Audits
This is positive step in the resolution of the sex abuse crisis which continues to trouble the Catholic Church in America, and will continue to trouble all of us for quite some time.
John Allan is Interesting as Always
Conservatives are expressing dissent with Vatican over its view of the U.N., and the Holy Father apologizes for injustices of the Inquisitions - and down at the bottom, a very good summary of the issues surrounding stem cell research.
There's some other stuff scattered in there too, but these were tidbits I found most intriguing.
Lutheran Woman Pastor Renounces Woman's Ordination and Becomes a Roman Catholic
Former Lutheran pastor, Jennifer Ferrara, explains her conversion to Catholicism and her renunciation of her ministerial role on the EWTN website.
She argues that Catholicism has a unique exaltation of the role of women not shared in Protestantism. She states that this is expressed in the roles of women religious. She describes Protestantism as historically "starkly masculine". On this point, I would agree with her that women actually have had a higher status in Catholicism than historical Protestantism.
She then argues that those who seek women's ordination in the Catholic Church "..., are determined to embrace the principle of androgyny are not open to hearing about the Pope's teachings." and she elaborates that men and women are obviously different: "John Paul II's teachings explain reality. That is where I begin. If you can get people to acknowledge the simple premise that men and women -- though equal in dignity and importance -- are different, you can begin to talk about what this means for the roles they play."
The problem I have with Ferrara's argument is precisely that I agree with her and the Pope that men and women are different. I even agree with the Pope that men and women "complement" one another - or complete one another.
This is precisely why I think we need women priests. Without women priests, the priesthood itself is incomplete. The common priesthood of the faithful (LG 10) sharing in the same priesthood of Christ that ministerial priests partake does not find its full expression without female priests.
I believe that women ministerial priests would be able to minister to women in some unique ways that men are simply not capable of doing. I also believe that male laity would benefit from experiencing some women priests.
As just one rather pointed and admittedly controversial hypothesis that illustrates my point, I do not believe that women priests would have stood idly by and covered for sexual predators of children in their ranks. Their motherly instincts would have kicked in and cried out for rectification of the situation.
Bush Administration on Use of Torture
According to recently released internal memos, Donald Rumsfeld approved of certain interrogation techniques used at Guatanamo Bay that were copied in Abu Ghraib.
While no evidence has been presented thus far that President Bush specifically authorized these techniques at this time, internal memos signed by Bush indicate that he believes the President has the authority to deny international law and human rights to terrorists suspects.
EPA Says Environmental Toxins Are on the Rise
The director of the EPA blames a single copper smelting factory, now closed, in Arizona. Critics state that the EPA is too easily explaining away the rise in toxins and under-reporting the rise as well. Environmentalists call on the EPA to resist Bush proposals to weaken industry regulation.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
How Roe v. Wade Was Legally Right Even if it Was Morally Wrong
I know some readers are probably a bit tired of this topic, but others seem to be engaged. To pique some curiosity, let me say that I plan to demonstrate that Kerry may be more likely to sign a Right to Life Amendment than Bush as I show why Roe v. Wade was legally right.
I have posted on other sites and on this site an argument that I believe that the reasoning used in Roe v. Wade is theologically and morally incorrect, but legally sound and legally unassailable without an Amendment to the Constitution.
I take a lot of heat for this position from fellow pro-lifers for making such a statement, so I wish to attempt to clarify exactly why I say this.
Let me begin my clarification with a few very important caveats.
First, admitting that Roe is a correct interpretation of the current Constitution or that I understand the reasoning of the Court does not mean that I believe that abortion should be legal or that we can do nothing to change the law.
Second, I am not a lawyer by trade. The opinion I am expressing is my own research on the issue, but if a lawyer comes along and presents a good legal counter-argument, I would certainly listen to what is being said.
Third, to drive home the first point I made, I am pro-life. By saying this, I mean that I would wholeheartedly support an Amendment to the Constitution that extended the right to life to the unborn. I would seek that every abortion that does not meet the strictest interpretation of the principle of double effect should be criminalized. (I would seek to punish doctors performing abortions, rather than the women procuring abortions). I want it to be perfectly clear that I am not arguing from a pro-choice bias, because I am not pro-choice.
The principle of double effect applied to abortion means that a surgical procedure intended to address a threat to the life of both mother and unborn child can be performed if an unintentional consequence of this procedure is the termination of the life of the unborn child alone. An example would be the removal of a uterine tumor threatening the life of both mother and unborn child where the tumor cannot removed without also terminating the pregnancy.
In my mind, a Right to Life Amendment would clearly define as persons under the law any living organism that possesses the double helix DNA structure common to the species homo sapien, and the right to life of such an organism would extend from conception until natural death. Defining personhood is essential because until we come up with a good definition, many people could be at risk of exclusion from the basic right to life.
I would consider this issue a "dominant issue" in voting, and would gladly support a candidate who would propose or support such an Amendment, or something similar.
I would also see such legislation as naturally prohibitive of certain IVF procedures that destroy human embryos as well as stem cell research or human cloning projects that do the same. Such legislation would protect the elderly or terminally ill, as well, from euthanasia and so-called mercy killing or assisted suicide. Furthermore, such legislation would make the use of capital punishment unconstitutional. I support a consistent ethic of life!
I fault both Bush and Kerry because neither has offered public support for such an Amendment, and I am convinced that such an Amendment is the only vehicle that would truly stop abortion in the United States. Until such an Amendment is passed, I believe that even many incremental measures, such as cutting federal spending on abortion, are at constant risk of being overturned by even the most conservative Court.
With my own bias clear, let me clarify further that I am arguing against a prevalent opinion of many fellow pro-lifers that Roe v. Wade was an abuse of power by the Supreme Court and that the decision was legally wrong, rather than simply morally wrong.
There exists in the pro-life movement a widespread misconception that the Court forced a misinterpretation of the Constitution on the American people by "inventing" its own definitions of "personhood".
What the Court did was actually the exact opposite. The Court refused to define what personhood means beyond the definition of personhood offered in the actual literal text of the Constitution!
This is why we are in a situation that even with a Supreme Court today that is heavily stacked with Republican appointees who were specifically chosen in most cases because they may be "pro-life", the Court continues to disappoint pro-lifers.
Why do Sandra Day O'Connor or David Souter and other Justices disappoint us?
It's not because they waffle on the issue. It's because they understand the law and the current law simply does not permit protection to the unborn.
This is why I continually argue that the pro-life movement is wasting effort by trying to reconfigure the Court.
Though abortion is immoral in my mind, we must confront the fact that the Constitution alone simply cannot be interpreted in such a way that the unborn deserve protection under the law. Our convictions come from sources outside of the Constitution, and until we change the Constitution, we are fighting a losing battle on the abortion front.
Here is the actual text of the Roe v. Wade decision. The decision heavily references Amendment XIV. The Amendment follows:
Amendment XIV: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.In deciding the case before them, the Court Justices recognized that the rights of citizens clearly begin at birth or naturalization according to the Constitution. The question was whether the portion of the Amendment referring to the rights of "persons" referred to the unborn. The Court turned to the internal references to the word "person" itself for clarification (exuse some of the formatting of Court references, and go to the original if you want) :
The Constitution does not define "person" in so many words. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains three references to "person." The first, in defining "citizens," speaks of "persons born or naturalized in the United States." The word also appears both in the Due Process Clause and in the Equal Protection Clause. "Person" is used in other places in the Constitution: in the listing of qualifications for Representatives and Senators, Art. I, Ã?Â§ 2, cl. 2, and Ã?Â§ 3, cl. 3; in the Apportionment Clause, Art. I, Ã?Â§ 2, cl. 3; (We are not aware that in the taking of any census under this clause, a fetus has ever been counted.) in the Migration and Importation provision, Art. I, Ã?Â§ 9, cl. 1; in the Emolument Clause, Art. I, Ã?Â§ 9, cl. 8; in the Electors provisions, Art. II, Ã?Â§ 1, cl. 2, and the superseded cl. 3; in the provision outlining qualifications for the office of President, Art. II, Ã?Â§ 1, cl. 5; in the Extradition provisions, Art. IV, Ã?Â§ 2, cl. 2, and the superseded Fugitive Slave Clause 3; and in the Fifth, Twelfth, and Twenty-second Amendments, as well as in Ã?Â§Ã?Â§ 2 and 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. But in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only postnatally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application.In my mind, this is a damning argument to anyone who believes that the Constitution can extend the rights of personhood to the unborn. The Constitution itself does not seem to use the word "person" this way.
As further evidence, the majority opinion cited several examples where the federal government at the time the Amendment was written did not protect the unborn (in the year 1868), and the Court demonstrated that state laws against abortion were written after the Fourteenth Amendment with the usual justification being that abortion was an unsafe procedure to the mother.
Only in the twentieth century did some state laws begin to pass that defined human life beginning at conception based on newly available medical evidence. Even in these cases, the Court pointed out that the penalty for murder was seldom if ever applied. The Texas law in question in Roe v. Wade was based in part on the assumption that life begins at conception. The Court responded:
Texas urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception. We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.As much as it pains me to admit it, the Court's decision makes perfect sense. In fact, as much as it distresses me that the unborn are not protected by the Constitution, I do not want the Court defining personhood beyond what the Constitution says.
The reason for not wanting this should be obvious to pro-lifers who believe, under false pretenses, that the Courts are too powerful. If the Court begins defining personhood without reference to the Constitution, what is to stop them from going in one of two dangerous extremes?
The extremes are excluding persons that we can all agree by consensus should be protected, or including as persons those whom we can probably agree by consensus should not be included.
For example, what would stop the Courts from arbitrarily deciding that personhood excludes immigrants who have not yet been naturalized in the United States?
To liberals and conservatives alike who may consider this far fetched, would anyone put this past the reasoning of Donald Rumsfeld in his use of torture at Guatanamo Bay? What if the state deems all Arab immigrants are a threat, and therefore do not have rights under the Constitution if they have not been naturalized?
Or, in the other direction, what would stop the Court from deciding that PETA is right when it says that animals are people too?
If there was a widespread consensus that Americans want to protect animals, I'd support it. However, I wish to place the protection of human life ahead of animal life.
In any case, I'd rather the Courts were interpreting what is in the Constitution by a wide-spread consensus rather than making up their own rules of interpretation!
Wide-spread consensus is demonstrated through the Amendment process.
What are pro-lifers to do?
Roe did not make the right to privacy against the unborn absolute. The Court explicilty upheld that some regulation of abortion could be permitted. Perhaps this gives some pro-lifers hope that Roe could simply be overturned. I think this is a false hope - a red herring - a legal impossibility.
The Court may agree to some restrictions on abortion, and Roe laid the groundwork for this with some specific guidelines. However, given the actual language in the Constitution, it would be nearly impossible for the Court to simply overturn Roe without merely inventing a definition of personhood that is not clearly used or stated in the Constitution itself.
Neither liberals nor conservatives should want the Court doing this. To allow the Court to do such a thing would be to give the Court far too much power!
So, we must work within the guidelines Roe outlines for incremental change until we can garner a consensus support for a Right to Life Amendment. These victories will be very small, and Roe outlines where we can go. I wish more Democrats were willing to push abortion restrictions to these limits, but I can understand the hesistancy to go beyond these limits. What is the point in passing legislation you know the Courts will overturn?
Republicans have come dangerously close to violating some of those Court guidelines, while Kerry has consistently argued according to the strictest interpretation of these guidelines. For example, the Courts held that third trimester abortions could be regulated unless the physical health of the mother were at stake. (see the full text of Roe ).
On the partial birth abortion ban, the Republicans tried to push through a bill that had no exclusion for the health of mothers, and Kerry opposed it on the grounds that it violated Roe. The simple fact is that he was legally right. The Court specifically addressed this in Roe!
This case is an example demonstrating that Kerry is not truly swayed by the polls, because a huge number of people, even Democrats, were willing to go along with the partial birth abortion ban. Kerry has taken it on the chin for this, especially from Catholics.
However, a cynic might say that the Republicans were trying to pass a bill they knew would be struck down so that they could appear pro-life without actually stopping a single abortion. Kerry was simply arguing that there is no point in passing legislation that the Courts will immediately overturn.
A second version of the ban is currently being tested in the Courts as I write, and Kerry neither opposed nor supported the second pass at this legislation. The clause protecting the health of the mother is still vague.
The procedure was rare and can be done through other means anyway - and this isssue is more symbolic than real pro-life legislation. The bottom line is that Kerry did nothing more than reiterate the law of the land, and in this sense, he is doing the legally (as opposed to morally) right thing to do as a Senator sworn to uphold the Constitution.
The more critical incremental change is federal funding of abortions under various government entitlement programs. Opponents of abortion (including myself) do not want our tax dollars spent on something we deem immoral - murder.
The pro-choice camp holds that Roe has made abortion a Constitutional right, and therefore it would violate the Constitution to withhold federal taxes from this right in entitlements.
The original Roe decision does not specifically address this issue, so it is untested waters. I would disagree with Kerry on this issue and say we should test the limits of the law here in Court.
Ultimately, however, the Courts are not going to overturn Roe based on anything to come out of a decision on federal funding of abortion.
Some Catholic critics of Kerry state that he waffled on the abortion issue because in 1972 he stated that he personally opposed abortion and believed that the issue belonged in to the states. Now he upholds the decision of the federal courts even as he says that he continues to personally oppose abortion.
Kerry has consistently always upheld the most recent decisions of federal courts over state courts, and the Supreme Court over lower courts. That's what he is sworn to do. Again, Kerry is simply following the law here, and should not be criticized for that. If we're going to criticize him, do it for the right reasons - not working to change the law he is sworn to uphold!
Kerry claims to believe in separation of Church and state, and on this principle, he is clearly affirming Guadium et Spes no. 76: "The Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other."
Bush has said that he will not use abortion as a litmus test for appointing Supreme Court Justices. He seems to know this won't do any good. Kerry has said the same. Indeed, both have maintained that they seek competent judges who interpret the Constitution strictly. We see above that there is no way to interpret the current Constitution strictly in such a way that the unborn are protected without appealing to definitions outside of the Constitution itself. Bush knows this as well as Kerry.
Bush supported the partial birth abortion ban, even though it will likely fail in the Courts. Kerry simply said that he supported the Constitution and wanted a clause to protect the health of the mother to ensure an enforceable and meaningful law was passed.
Bush has cut federal spending on abortion, but Republicans typically make cuts to social services and do not believe in entitlements in general. There may be less moral high ground in Bush' stance than there is cheapness as he awards his corporate cronies tax breaks.
Kerry has said that as long as abortion is a Constitutional right, he sees no reason to cut federal spending on it in entitlements, even though he personally opposes abortion.
How should pro-lifers vote?
As I stated in the beginning, we must work to amend the Constitution with a definition of personhood that we know is morally right. An Amendment to the Constitution requires a two thirds majority vote in the House. Therefore, we must build the wide-spread consensus that the Court itself referenced that human life begins at conception.
There is no short-cut.
Bush has said he would sign a Right to Life Amendment if it were "overwhelmingly popular" and contained exceptions for a woman's health and for rape and incest.
Apparently, Bush doesn't really believe the unborn are human persons, because there would be no reason to make exclusions for rape and incest or to put a mother's life over the child. John McCain took Bush to task for this in 2000. Bush re-affirmed his belief that the unborn are not really persons when he made his stem cell decision referring to embryos as "potential life" rather than actual life.
Whatever we think of Kerry, Bush is clearly not truly a pro-life candidate. Neither was his father, so why should we be surprised.
Kerry has consistently said that he personally opposes abortion but will uphold the Constitution as he is sworn to do.
I'm willing to go out on a limb and state that even though Kerry has not explictly said it, if we pro-lifers were actually able to create an overwhelming consensus that human life begins at conception, Kerry would be more likely to sign a consistent and unqualified Right to Life Amendment than Bush!
Kerry's not in a position where he can openly say this, because no such consensus exists in America. Yet, for over thirty years, he has repeated the theme that he is personally opposed to abortion. Even his most cynical critics accuse him of being swayed by polls. Whether by moral conviction or because of the polls, if we gave him a legal way to outlaw abortion that was popular, he'd take it, and he'd be less likely to insist on unacceptable exceptions.
As a politician, Kerry knows he must represent his constituents, and his constituents are largely pro-choice. Indeed, I think the Church recognizes that he has a moral obligation to represent his constituents along-side of an obligation to work to correct defects in the law.
I believe the Church's acknowledgement of this is demonstrated in the fact that so many Bishops recently refused to come down hard and clear on him.
Kerry is also a lawyer, and he can see plainly that much of the Republican party's abortion agenda over the past decade or so is smoke and mirrors that has not and will not stop a single abortion.
If I'm interpreting the law and the situration correctly, and Bush doesn't know that Kerry is legally right, than Bush doesn't belong int he White House due to incompetence. If he knows this is right, and is playing a political gamble to garner the Christian vote, he's a liar who doesn't belong the White House because he lacks moral integrity.
Even if I am wrong about Kerry and what he might do about abortion if we could create a consensus, I feel fairly certain I am right about Bush and abortion, because I am basing my opinons on his words and demonstrated deeds!