Saturday, February 28, 2004

Just 'Cause I'm Still Excited...

And 'cause I want it at the top of my blog....

Remember to pray for my wife, our baby and me over the next nine months or so. We just got the word from the doctor yesterday that we are officially pregnant. Keep scrollong for more details....and more to come.


New Psalm Discovered!

Jimmy Mac sent this to me in an email....

Psalm 2004

Bush is my shepherd, I shall be in want.
He leadeth me beside the still factories,
He maketh me to lie down on park benches,
He restoreth my doubts about the Republican party.
He guideth me onto the paths of unemployment for the party's sake.
I do fear the evildoers, for thou talkest about them constantly.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy deficit spending,
They do discomfort me.
Thou anointeth me with never-ending debt,
And my savings and assets shall soon be gone.
Surely poverty and hard living shall follow me,
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.


I just found this reference to me in Catholic World News

The author of the article wants to know why my banner reads as it does....why does it express a sense of frustration that "conservatives take up so much space on the web"?

The author's argument is that the web is limitless, and nobody is stopping me from writing.

It's true that the web is limitless, and nobody is stopping me from writing. I am referring to three facts.

First, if you simply typed "catholic" in a google search without qualification, you would likely have to check out links on 1000 pages before you found Ed Deluzain, Todd Flowers, Rebecca Nappi, Tim Hugetim, Ono Ekeh or me or any other liberal Catholic blogger. Yet, you would hit a fairly conservative sight on page one. Indeed, Catholic World News will appear on page one!

Second, if a Catholic participates in threaded web forum discussions and hold his or her ground on "liberal" or "progressive" issues, they will most likely be kicked off the sight by the moderators. I speak from experience. I have been kicked off many such forums - though one asked me to join the conservative modertors because they recognized that I was at least courteous and reasonably knowledgeable in my responses.

Third, among Catholic bloggers specifically, as opposed to other types of Catholic sites, those who would write such things as calling gays "brownshirts" and so fourth probably outnumber the liberals or progressives 10 to one.

Of course, all bloggers have been respectful to me, personally, and I mean no ill will in saying this.

Furthermore, there are plenty of bloggers like Steven Riddle, Father Jim Tucker, Tom of Disputations, Amy Wellborn, or Steve Bogner who would never use such inflamatory language even where they do not fully share liberal views (and occassionally, each might even join us).

Nevertheless, the number of conservatives or traditionalists who use inflamatory language to verbally beat up their opponents is staggering compared to the number of liberal bloggers who find such language offensive and even occassionally in ways that we find contrary to Catholic teachings on charity.

There also seems to be some frustration at times that I use my email handle instead of my full real name. This author, ironically writing under the handle of "Diogenes" implies this frustration by stating his or her uncertainty of my gender.

I'm not sure why this is made an issue by some people and my name can be found within this site in several places. It's Joe Cecil for all who care.

As far as I can tell, many Catholic bloggers use pseudonymns or keep their full names buried within their site. What is Rerum Novarum's full name? We all know Tom of Disputations, but who knows his last name off the top of their head? It seems people only worry about this when they don't agree with me.

I have explained before that I prefer not to have my full name splashed all over the web because I occassionally mention something personal about someone else (ie - my wife and our pregnancy most recently, but I've also written of seminary experiences, homosexual men who have "come out" to me, my family, etc...).

Even if I don't care about my own privacy, these others deserve some privacy since they are not choosing to blog. Other bloggers make a different choice, and that's fine. But why does it bother people more that I use a handle than it bothers them when others with whom they agree use handles?


This is so cool!!!!!

If this web site is accurate, our baby is already visible to the naked eye at the fourth week of pregnancy.

If you look carefully at the ultra-sound (someone else's), you can see that this little person is already forming a head. My wife's nursing books seem to confirm this as well, as do some other sites. This just amazes me, since conception takes place later than when the pregnancy cycle begis. If we're reading everything correctly, the little person is about the size of 1/4 of a penny, maybe slightly less, and weighs a bit less. The eyes, brain and heart are in the process of taking initial shape and will be visible next week some time!

We tested positive on both early pregnancy tests, but waited till a doctor confirmed it for us before telling anyone. We told a priest first, then immediate family, and then some co-workers, and now y'all.

We had a very hard time conceiving, and needed two surgical procedures on my wife. We used natural family planning sort of with the reverse intent of those who use it to limit the number of chidren.

Our history places us in a very high risk for ectopic pregnancy and/or miscarriage. Some couples choose not to share the news this early even when there are not such high risk factors, because all pregnancies have a higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester.

We opted to share this news early because we need prayers!

I confess that with the known risks and this pregnancy being so early, I am a bit mixed up on my feelings.

When I saw what the baby should look like at this stage, I was and am overwhelmed with ecstatic joy. I can't help but think that God put such a strong desire for me to be a parent in my heart that six years of seminary formation could not wipe it out. There has to be a reason for this. The miracle of new life is just so awesome I can hardly put it into words!

Yet, the risks are so real that part of me wants of contain my excitement and prepare myself for the possibility of the worst case scenario. No matter what happens, a new eternal soul has entered creation and already exists in my wife's womb! What a tremendously wonderful thing!

I suppose I have all the same fears as other men as well. We are not wealthy by any definition of the term, and I am concerned about my job security and ability to provide well for this family. How will save for this person's college? Do we have adequate benefits? I'm pretty good with corporate finances, but less adept with my own finances. God help us!

Also, I've been interviewing with some non-profits, but maybe I should hang on to my corporate job with it's higher wage potential? Yet, a man cannot serve both God and mammon. I need to trust God through all doubts and fears and pray for guidence and discernment!

Please pray with me in this journey. Please pray for Joe and Monica and our baby!


Friday, February 27, 2004


Forgive the use of the "A" word during Lent, but God is just too good not to use it today!

My wife and I are pregnant!

Praise to the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life!!!!

We are in high a risk category and it's still early. So, please, please, please pray for us!

Blessed Mother of God and our Mother, intercede for us with Joseph, your husband and all the saints!

Glory be to Jesus, who reveals the incomparable dignity of each human person in his incarnation! Father, hear our prayer for one of your newest children! Glory be to the Trinity!


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Sacrosanctum Concilium on Lent

With today being Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I thought a good place to begin a Lenten reflection is the Church's teaching on the meaning of the season:

109. The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent -- the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and penance -- should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepared the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God's word more frequently and devote more time to prayer. (a) More use is to be made of the baptismal features which are proper to the Lenten liturgy. Some of them which were part of an earlier tradition are to be restored where opportune. (b) The same may be said of the penitential elements. But catechesis, as well as pointing out the social consequences of sin, must impress on the minds of the faithful the distinctive character of penance as a detestation of sin because it is an offense against God. The role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over and the need to pray for sinners should be emphasized.
110. During Lent, penance should be not only internal and individual but also external and social. The practice of penance should be encouraged in ways suited to the present day, to different regions, and to individual circumstances. It should also be recommended by the authorities mentioned in Article 22. But the paschal fast must be kept sacred. It should be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday, and where possible should be prolonged throughout Holy Saturday so that the faithful may attain the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection with uplifted and responsive minds.
A point should be made about the term "penance", since it is often misunderstood. Where the word "penitentia" appears in the Latin Vulgate New Testament, the Greek word is "metanoia". As a command, such as in Mark 1:15, we often see "Repent".

Penance is not solely, or even primarily, doing acts of mortification. Metonoia is rooted etymologically in the notion of turning a stiff neck. In the New Testament context, it refers to changing the course of your life. It is conversion, which is why the Lenten season is so closely tied to Baptism. Furthermore, the conversion we seek is social in nature, as well as individual.

New adult converts to Catholicism (called the catechumenate) will receive Baptism at the Easter Vigil, and the Church enters into the Lenten season as an invitation for all of us to recommit to our own conversion in Christ!

Jesuit theologian, Bernard Lonergan, wrote of four levels of spiritual conversion that overlap.

The first level is intellectual conversion. This is a change of mind, and it is a process in itself. For example, an atheist begins to open the mind to the possibility of a God and examines the evidence - which is a huge step in itself. After examining evidences, he or she comes to the conclusion that maybe there is a God. Then slowly, through this study and other life experiences, the atheist becomes convinced that there is, indeed, a God.

The second level of conversion is moral conversion. The changes here are behavioral. This is when we slowly stop doing those things that make us feel guilty or that violate our conscience, and start doing those things that feel good and right more often. Again, it is a process, but we see this level of conversion in every alcoholic who stops drinking, or every adulterer who breaks off the affair and tries to reconcile with her or his spouse. Sometimes, we make behavioral changes for reasons we do not fully understand, and there may be intellectual and moral conversion occurring simultaneously.

The third level of conversion is attidudinal, and this runs deeper than the intellectual and moral conversion. The person who undergoes a change in attitude is not simply changing their mind and actions, but they very way they feel about things and react to external stimuli. The change is one of heart as well as mind.

The fourth level of conversion is a change at the level of fundamental option of the will deep in the soul. This is a change in the course of one's entire life. This level of conversion may be the fruit of a long process of the other three levels of conversion, but it often hits a person as sudden as being hit with a brick.

This is Saint Paul falling off his horse, being blinded and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior! This is Saint Francis stripping his father's clothes and embracing lady poverty. This is Saint Ignatius founding a religious order after he had turned 40 years old. This is the "aha moment(s)" many Catholics can describe, and the "born again" experience that many Protestants describe. This is the stuff of stories, and we should all live our life so that we have a story to tell in heaven!

Lent is traditionally thought of as a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. This model of "repentance" is taken partially form the account of the conversion of the Ninevites after the preaching of Jonah. They threw ashes on their heads and fasted to avoid destruction, and god heard their prayer.

Ashes remind us of the fleeting nature of life on earth. One day, we will go to the grave and our bodies will trun to dust. Yet, in a Christian context, the ultimate transformation or conversion that will take place in each one of us is the conversion from death to new life. Our bodies will rise from the ashes to share in the glorified nature of Christ in his resurrection!

The notion of devoting 40 days to fasting and prayer is also affirmed Scripturally by the example of Jesus in the desert, Moses on Mount Tabor, and Elijah - all of whom fasted and prayed for 40 days if the texts are taken literally.

However, for the Hebrew, fasting was not associated necessarily with mortification. Rather, the idea was empty oneself in order to be filled with God. Physical hunger served as a way of becoming mindful of our hunger for God and righteousness.

Only after the crucifixion and resurrection did Christians begin to associate the pain caused by fasting with a participation in Christ's sufferring. Unfortunately, too many Catholics fall into a self-righteous exercise of will-power and a mistaken notion that penance is supposed to be masochism.

Saint Paul taught that his own suffering is united to that of Christ and even has redemptive value (Col 1:24), but he was referring to being imprisoned against his own will. He was not referring acts of self mortification. Being Catholic is not being a masochist.

Fasting is a good spiritual discipline, and I am not discouraging it. However, the focus of Lent is not supposed to be on inflicting pain on the self. Rather, the focus should be on conversion. In this sense, charitable works and prayer are just as important or more imprtant than fasting or other "penances" you may wish to assume. If "penances" serve the purpose of drawing close to God or strengthening the will to do right, or calling to mind Christ's passion, they may not be bad. But conversion is the goal!

While the Church encourages a thourough examination of conscience and a turning away from sin, we must remember that we are turning toward the reign of God and emptying ourselves to be filled with his joyous life and his glorious righteousness. Picking up a cross is not an exercise in suicide. Rather, we lay down our old life for the sake of others and for the higher good. Death to sin will bring us new life and deeper meaning in life here on earth and the life to come. Again, it is charity and prayer that take precedence over mortification, though moderate asceticism done in the right spirit can be beneficial.

The real good - the goal of Lent - is to become a more loving and better person who has a deeper relationship with God after Easter than you had yesterday!


Tuesday, February 24, 2004


Monday, February 23, 2004

Bush Calls 5.6% Unemployment a "Good Number"

A few months ago, a Dean supporter, Mike Hersh, compiled the statistics to show the Eight Great Years Under Clinton. Clinton entered office with unemployment hovering around 7%, and it plunged to below 4% in his first year in office and stayed there.

I anticipated a recession in Y2K, regardless of who took office. I do not blame Bush for starting the recession.

However, I do blame him for four things related to the recession:

1) He caters to coporate interests, and has not lead real SEC reform even after the scandals of Enron and World-Com.

2) He has not taken the right course of action to pull us out of the recession quicker. His tax cuts during a war he started spooked the market.

3) Speaking of tax cuts, his spending priorities have done nothing to mitigate against the effects of a recession. The poor get poorer while the rich get richer, and nothing is trickling down.

4) His defecit spending for his war is leaving a legacy to our children that is irresponsible, and the defecit is also spooking the market.

Of course, the Administration sits back and blames "offshore initiatives" for everything - but these initiatives are made by the very executives and wealthy people who benefit from Bush's economics most and the very people he caters to the most. Yet, he never quite mentions that part of the equation.


Sunday, February 22, 2004

Ralph Nader Decides to Run For President

Personally, I hope he does not divide the Democrats as he did in 2000. Frankly, he's too old to be elected President these days, as politically incorrect as that might sound. It's too bad Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot legally run for President yet, though the link shows he's interested. It would be fascinating to see what would happen in a Republican primary pitting him against Bush. I wouldn't vote for Arnold, but the race would be fun to watch.


Who Were the Apostles?

(he appointed the twelve:) Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. (Mk 3:16-19)
The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. (Mt 10:2-4)
When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:13-16)
Note that Luke excludes Thaddeus and replaces him with Judas son of James. He also indicates Levi is a member fo the Twelve in the rest of his Gospel, though this may be a substitution for Matthew. Many scholars such as Fr. John Meier suggest that Levi and Matthew are different people, as are Judas, son of James, and Thaddeus.

In John's Gospel, Nathaniel seems counted among the Twelve in both chapter 1 and the concluding chapter 21. Nathaniel is not in the lists of the other Gospels.
The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,...(Acts 14:14)
Paul and Barnabas had authority over priests as Apostles:
This they did, sending it to the presbyters in care of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11: 30)
What about other Apostles?
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles,...(1 Cor 15:3-9a)
It seems that there were other Apostles than the Twleve based on 1 Cor 15:3-9!
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me. (Rom 16:7)
Junia is a woman's name, and no source earlier than the tenth century indicates otherwise. Even Saint John Chrysostam acknowledges the shocking implication that a woman is called an apostle.

Bishops are successors not solely of the Twelve, but of the Apostles. For example, the lists of Apostolic succession trace the Church in Alexandria to Saint Mark, who is not a member of the Twelve, but was considered an Apostle. Mary Magdalene was also thought to be an Apostle in most second century literature, as was a woman named Thecla. As late as the third century, the Church in Georgia (in modern day Turkey) was founded by a woman named Nina, who bore the title "The Apostle like".

What does this all mean to the issue of women's ordination?


Interesting Quote on Gibson's Passion

The Passion will not create a single bigot or anti-Semite. It may, however, reveal them. So much the better.
This quotation comes from the Jewish screenwriter of the film, Alan Sereboff.


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Andrew Sullivan Asks the Religious Right a Simple Question

If anyone sends a response to Andrew, would you mind copying me, because I'd really like to know the answer to this one....


The Atlantic Asks What We Would Put in the Bible if We Were Compiling it Today?

The question is more interesting than the article itself, thogh the article is a good introduction to some aspects of modern Bible scholarship. Take a look...


Scott Has a Progressive Blog

In his own words, "Mine's not a doctrinal rant but it is a progressive's theological reflection"...I took a quick look, and it seems the environment and sustainable development are key issues, as well as issues important to those with differing physical abilities than those considered normative by the general population.


Slow Blogging Due to Business

The choir in which I sing will be ministering the music at the liturgies for the Bishops Conference for Social Justice Ministers starting tomorrow night, so I've been practicing much of my free time over the past week. I also have two clients coming to town to review our operations next week, so my blogging is pretty slow with all this happening. I have so much I'd like to write, and just not enough time in the day...


Thursday, February 19, 2004

Tim, of "Catholics for Dean" Makes a Post on Kucinich's Web Site

With his candidate out of the race, Tim has made a post on the Kucinich for President web forum asking Dennis Kucinich to return to his original pro-life stance. There is a voting button there, and so far, 67% of voters are opposing Tim's post (I'm part of the 33% in favor).

I also made my own post on the forum entitled The Real Swing Vote

I'm still busy slow blogging.....


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Mark Shea Rightly Says Gays Should Not Be Disqualified From Priesthood

I don't often myself agreeing with Mark, but he's right on this.

P.S. - I've been very busy today and will be it will be slow blogging....


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Andrew Sullivan Writes Movingly on Why Gay Marriage is Important to Him

How anyone can read this and say that Andrew does not value family or have family values is beyond me.


Brief Thoughts On Gibson Interview With Diane Sawyer

I watched the interview last night and it was the talk around the water cooler this morning. Gibson sometimes laughed in a nervous way over a serious topic. This has me concerned for him as a person - I just wonder if he is fully comfortable with himself and happy. Only he can know the answer to such a question, but the nervous laughter is something I would pursue if he sat in front of me and I was his spiritual director.

On the theological level, I thought Gibson presented himself in an exemplary way for a conservative (traditionalist) Catholic layman who has never been to seminary. Indeed, I suspect many people will investigate the Gospels for the first time after hearing Gibson speak of its power in his life! That's a good thing!

Other than saying that his religious beliefs make salvation easier than other ways, he said nothing that should really raise eyebrows for liberal Catholics. Liberals like Crossin (who appeared on the program) need to cut the guy some slack. If we mistake an artist for a historian or a sophisticated theologian, we'll never be able to appreciate the beauty of art.

On the charge of anti-semiticism, I found Mel very articulate, and right on target with Church teaching. It is noteworthy that even his critics were saying they believe him when he says he's not an anti-semite.

Furthermore, even non-traditionalists, whether liberal or conservative, should appreciate that Gibson was careful not to contradict current Church teaching on such issues as salvation outside of the Church or the validlty of other Christian worship. If all trads were as careful, we wouldn't argue so much. I loved it when he said that what he believes was already the teaching of the Church before the 1960's. He's right, and those trads who think he was too soft on salvation outside of the Church should pay attention to this guy, who is one of their own!


Bishops' Survey Doubles Perecent of Priests Involved in Sex Abuse Scandal

Of course, the press nor the church is reporting it the way I just put it. After years of hearing that only less than 1 percent, or maybe even 2 percent of priests were involved in sex abuse scandals, it is sobberring to see the latest figures indicate 4 percent of priests were involved in sex abuse cases!

Of course, even a single case of such abuse is one too many.

I was speaking to a Friar last weekend about the scandals and he proudly spoke of his Order's zero tolerance policy that removes a man from ministry, but does not kick him out of the Order.

I pointed out that many people I talk to are not interested in zero tolerance policies. Indeed, I've read of many parishes who have welcomed known abusers back to ministry with open arms.

Other readers can chime in with your own opinions, but my thinking is that what we all want to know is happening is the following:

1) We want to know the Bishops are being honest, forthcoming, responsible, transparent and accountable to others - including appropriate law enforcement and the laity when allegations are made. This doesn't mean that privacy of the parties is not protected. However, it means that Bishops never cover up events or their costs from those who need to know.

2) We want to know that all victims are given an apology from the Church and compensation and counseling that is just and fair and effective to bring healing.

3) We want to know that all appropriate steps are being taken in the prevention of sex abuse, from the screening of candidates to ongoing formation.

4) We want to know that all accused priests are given due process and that processes exists to protect the falsely or mistakenly accused.

5) If it is deemed possible for a priest to return to ministry who does not deny having abused, the people he serves should be made aware of the circumstances so that they can help hold the man accountable. I know some readers will be shocked at such a suggestion. Consider that there may be a difference between a newly ordained 25 year old priests who has a single inappropriate encounter with a seventeen year old young woman, compared to a fifty year old priests who rapes a pre-adolescent boy. Zero tolerance does not regognize such distinctions. What we really want to know is that the Bishop is consulting victims, mental health officials, law enforcment, other priests and so forth to make the right decision - and then communicating any potential risks to the People of God.

6) In some cases, it will be quite obvious that a priest should not return to ministry. John Geoghen was a prime example. So was Paul Shanley. We want to know that the Bishops ensure that these type of abusers are identified as quickly as possible and removed from any and all access to children. Law enforcement should be notified, not in a spirit of punishing the offender, but in a sense of ensuring that people are protected from harmful criminal conduct, even when the crime is committed by a priest.

7) We want a more free and honest discussion about underlying causes of sex abuse and mechanisms to change the institutional structures that either cause, support, or cover up abuse.

I'm sure others will have things to add to this list, or critique of points I have made. I welcome comments.


Woman Denies Affair With John Kerry

It seems Drudge got it wrong.


Phoenix Bishop Convicted of Hit and Run

Bishop Thomas O'Brien is believed to be the first Roman Catholic bishop in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony. At least it wasn't for child abuse.


Republicans Questioning Whether Cheney is a Liability for '04

Dick Cheney is being considered a liability by many Republicans. His protiteering from the war in Iraq and mistaken views about Iraq's possession of WMD's are sited as reasons. However, the main reason seems to be his health.

Personally, as a Christian, I love Mr. Cheney, but I also despise his actions as Vice President and as a business man and politician prior to 2000. Dick Cheney had a voting record in Congress that are criticized as racist and destructive to the environement, even by some Republicans.

As a business leader, he had direct dealings with Enron and indirect dealings with World-Com (he sat on the executive boards of companies that formed startegic alliances with World-Com). He worked with the companies that are currently laying people off left and right and sending jobs offshore. His Halliburton oil company profited in Iraq, and also does business in Iran that borders on illegal.

I cannot possibly judge a man's heart, but Dick Cheney is a man whose actions indicate that he cannot see people as people. All of us are compensation packages to him - a cost to be cut so that he and his cronies can increase profit by any means necessary.


Monday, February 16, 2004

Is George Bush a Pro-Life President?

Many Catholic voters in blogdom, other web forums, and print media have indicated that they would support G.W. Bush for re-election because they believe he is a pro-life candidate.

I went to Bush-Cheney '04's Blog and typed "abortion" in the keyword search feature and received no hits to any position that Bush is against all abortions. It seems that other than a ban on partial birth abortion, Bush had no other pro-life agenda plans.

I then went to a site that explores the candidates on the issues and found Bush's stance on this issue. Once again, I don't see that Bush really has any other plans than signing the partial birth abortion ban, which is a done deal.

Indeed, in the race against Gore, the following observations were made about Bush on abortion:

- In a discussion with John McCain on exceptions to a pro-life amendment if it ever came before him, Bush states he would not sign it without expceptions for rape and incest. McCain accuses the President, then a candidate, of waffling on a key issue in the Republican party platform.

- Bush flip flops on whether the Surgeon General was right to approve RU-486. Basically, Bush says the President has not authority here, and his main regret is that there is not more regulation of the drug, but he had no plans to try to prevent the drug's use.

- Bush clearly states that he will not use abortion as a litmus test in the selection of Supreme Court Justices.

- Bush clearly admits that if the American people did not support a pro-life amendment, he would not support it. This is exactly the position of pro-choice Catholic Democrats of yesteryear, such as Mario Cuomo.

A couple of days ago, in my post ciriticizing Kerry, I also made the following observation about Bush and abortion:

President Bush has never once said that he believes human life begins at conception, nor even that he wants abortion illegal. Indeed, in his address to the nation on federally funded stem cell research, Bush explictly called embryos "potential" human beings, which is not the pro-life position:

Research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its potential for life.
Like a snowflake, each of these embryos is unique, with the unique genetic potential of an individual human being.
Bush pays lip service to pro-lifers, and supports the late term abortion ban only because it is popular.

I am glad the ban is popular, and elected officials should honor such an overwhelmingly popular piece of legislation. However, make no mistake, Bush has indicated no plans whatsoever of trying to overturn Roe or introduce any amendments that would protect the unborn from the moment of conception. He is no better than Kucinich on this issue, and may even be worse. At least Kucinich may be simply calling himself "pro-choice" simply to stay in the race. His voting record has always been pro-life, and he opposed the war and is liberal on social justice issues!

I tried to do some more searching on google to see if Bush is really more pro-life than these sites indicate. I was honestly seeking to find out if I am mistaken on Bush and abortion. Interestingly, I ran across an article claiming that Bush may have helped a former girlfriend get an abortion in Texas prior to legalization of abortion in that state.

I challenge pro-life Catholics (which includes myself) to demonstrate that Bush is truly a pro-life candidate for the next Presidential term!


More Thoughts on Kerry....

A couple of days ago, I wrote some strong negative opinions about John Kerry even as I was saying that Bush will never get my vote. You can read these comments below.

However, I just read some articles that describe an upcoming Bush strategy to paint Kerry as a far left wing radical in an attempt to make Bush seem middle of the road.

This is wrong, and part of the reason I feel so strongly that Kerry is the wrong man for the Democrats is precisely that he represents "Bush lite". Therefore, I do want to point to a couple of positive things about Kerry from a more conservative Catholic perspective....

The Death Penalty: Kerry is against the death penalty, as is the Holy Father. Bush holds a record as Texas Govenor for executions, despite all evidence that has come forth in recent years showing the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent to crime and is applied unequally across racial lines. Bush reinstituted the federal death penalty in his first year in office as president. Catholic conservatives who praise Evangelium Vitae should consider this issue along with abortion. Remember that when the state executes someone, we are all complicit in the act. This is unlike abortion, which is a personal choice. Bush will paint a picture that Kerry is soft on crime, but Church teaching challenges us to look at different options than the death penalty in the war on crime. Kerry's own voting on initiatives to stop crime through other means, such as putting more cops on the street, is in line with Republicans. Kerry is not soft on crime, but he is consistent with the Church on this issue.

Fiscal Conservatism: Kerry is more fiscally conservative than Bush even as he is more liberal toward spending on social programs. Kerry has been critized by his Democratic peers in the past for not spending enough. Meanwhile, Bush spends money like there is no tomorrow, especially on the military. I am quite flabbergasted by Republican support for Bush's defecit spending, which flies in the face of everything I thought Republicans actually believed about economic theory and policy. Kerry would balance the budget primarily by repealing the Bush tax cuts and cutting military spending. Kerry's voting record clearly demonstrates a greater fiscal responsibility than Bush, and a more compassionate application of spending than the current Adminstration. Catholic social justice teaching reminds us of the need for such compassion, and common business sense reminds us Bush is taking us on a dangerous course through treacherous waters.

Family and Marriage: Bush has never opposed gay civil unions. The President will try to paint Kerry as an extreme gay activist, and point to the fact that Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act back in the 1990's. Kerry does support gay civil unions, but opposes actual gay marriages. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act because even though he opposes gay marriage per se, he also thinks the states should be left the right to define marriage. As a liberal, I don't agree with this position, precisely because I would support actual gay marriage. Kerry is too far to the right (Bush lite). Conservative Catholics need to remember that Kerry's position is much more nuanced and more conservative than Bush will paint over the coming months. There is almost no practical difference between Bush and Kerry on this issue, and the rhetoric Bush uses is meant to solidify his Evangelical base by paying lip service to an issue he will do nothing about in practice.

The war in Iraq: Kerry did support the use of force in Iraq, and I did not. Those who think the world is safer after the war can rest assured that Kerry is not a complete dove. Kerry's position does have a nuance that puts him within the pale of what the Church was actually saying, while Bush was criticized by the Church. Kerry states that his vote supporting the use of force was intended to support the United Nations if the Security Council deemed that war was necessary. He never intended that the United States wage unilateral pre-emptive war. This is exactly what the Holy Father has stated in his criticism of U.S. policy under Bush! Presumably, Kerry may have avoided actual war because the U.N. had demanded more evidence of WMD's in Iraq, and we all know now that Iraq did not have them. Saddam was being contained by the U.N., and Kerry was willing to work with the U.N. to keep it that way, even using force if necessary. He was not willing to act unilaterally, which we all know now was a mistake, even if some good comes out of it. The fact that Kerry was a decorated soldier in Vietnam who later protested the Vietnam war lends credence to his words on Iraq. He is neither a dove, nor an extreme hawk like Bush.

Abortion: Bush is not truly pro-life. I strongly oppose Kerry's views on abortion, and have repeatedly written here that the Democrats need to soften on this issue. I honestly wish there was a pro-life Democrat in the race. Bush has never promised to overturn Roe or make abortion illegal. The most offensive vote Kerry made on this issue is that he voted against a ban on late term abortions, which over eighty percent of Americans seem to support. Thus, even the argument that he must represent his constituents did not seem to make sense. Kerry's defense of this vote is that he would have voted for the ban if there were a clause allowing for protection of the life of the mother - which may fall under the Church's understanding of the principle of double effect. Republicans will exploit Kerry's unpopular vote on this issue and the issue of parental notification. I consider myself pro-life. I am critical of Kerry's vote on this issue. At the same time, Bush is not anywhere near as pro-life as the perception he has created by juxtaposing his positions against the likes of Kerry. We need to consider that if Kerry is being truthful, he may not be quite as extreme as Bush will paint him. I would encourage the entire Democratic party, and particluarly Kerry to move toward the center on this issue, and stay away from or ignore the extreme pro-choice voices. At the same times, I remind Republicans that the differences between Kerry and Bush on this issue are minor, and not anywhere near as significant as Bush will make them sound.

Moral Character: The Bush team may try to exploit that Kerry is a divorced man with rumors of an extra-marital affair. Let's not forget that Bush is a former alcoholic who admits he used cocaine in the past, and who has daughters that are not angels. Kerry served his term in the military with honor, while Bush seemed to avoid the fray of action. Nobody wins on the issue of moral character here, and we need to stay focused on the issues.

On the issues, I think Kucinich is actually the closest candidate to Catholic teaching, and even on the abortion issue, he has a pro-life record historically despite recent contradictory statements. However, the race will likely NOT be between Bush and Kucinich. In this event, we need to learn to see through Bush rhetoric aimed at decieving us about how close he and Kerry actually are, and where their real differences lie. Kerry is a more fiscally responsible and compassionately conservative and militarily cautious version of Bush with views that are more moderate than Bush will paint.

I'm not endorsing Kerry here in this post. Frankly, I don't like him. I write this post more to warn against the distortion that will come from the Bush team. Be on guard against propoganda that makes Bush sound like something he isn't by making Kerry into a straw man that he isn't either.


Gay Catholics Protest Outside Cardinal Francis George's Gold Coast home

Believing that political opposition to civil unions between gays and lesbians is deeply rooted in authoritative statements from the Bishops, about 200 Catholic gay activists decided to protest outside of the Cardinal's home, rather than at legislative buildings. From all appearences in the story, there was actual courteous dialogue between protestors and counter-protestors.


Rogers Williams Univ. Student Republicans Create a White Only Scholaraship Parody

Though I understand that these students probably think this is all in good humor, I find it as humorous as blatantly racists and sexists jokes, bathroom humor and so forth. Grow up people.


India and Pakistan Continue to March Towards Peace

May Our Lady, Queen of Peace, interceed so that these two nuclear powers may come to a just and permanent peace and model the peace process to the rest of the world.


Australian Aboriginees Riot Against Police Brutality

Many Americans are unaware that racism is a global phenomenon. In almost every naton on earth, lighter skinned people's tend to mistreat darker skinned people. In India, the lowest caste tends to look negroid in appearence. In South Africa, the White minority imposed apartheid. In Ethiopia, lighter skinned people look down on darker Africans. In Europe, Black immigrants face many of the same challenges they would face in the United States. In the United States, unemployment and imprisonment rates of Black citizens has always been higher than Whites, even during the Clinton administration - which many Black American's consider an idyllic period.

The article above caught my eye precisely because it shows that racial tension exists in Australia, where the original Black inhabitants percieve injustice by White civil authority.

For White American readers to perhaps begin to grasp the truth of racism and what it is and what it does, consider yourself a member of a jury where a 19 year old college freshman is on trial for drug possession. Consider how likely you are to listen sympathetically to a defense attorney saying "Sure. My client is guilty, but this was a one time mistake. He's a student at college and deserves another chance."

If the attorney's client is Black, comes form the inner city, and speaks with an Eubonic accent, are you likely to show the same leniency as a White defendant from the suburbs?

Consider the same scenario where the defense attorny tries to argue her or his client is innocent! How likely are you to believe the lawer?

White readers (especially males) should think back as well to their own days in high school or college, and consider how likely it would be that you would not have been arrested if racial profiling by policie were directed at your own race and group rather than some other group.

Too often, we think to ourselves that we are not racist if we merely oppose inequity in the written law. However, racism often takes the form of unwritten application of the law. In this sense, racist inequity is sometimes even committed by members of the oppressed group. Black cops are sometimes just as likely to engage in racial profiling as White cops in the United States.

Though I've never been to Australia, I suspect that the same sort of stereotyping and inequity that occurs in the United States also occurs there. Often, it takes a riot to raise consciousness that law and order is being enforced and applied in an unjust way.


Friday, February 13, 2004

Drudge Report Makes Unconfirmed Allegation of Marital Infedelity by John Kerry

I wish the Democrats were giving us a better option against Bush than John Kerry. On the surface, the guy strikes me as an elitist snob. Now we have to question his moral integrity if these rumors pan out to be even vaguely true.

Of course, Drudge is not an unbiased source, admits the story is unconfirmed, and in court, a man is innocent until proven guilty.

Nevertheless, Kerry seems to me to be the worst possible choice for Democrats that could have been put forth against Bush. I really wish the earlier primary voters would have seen this. I've been thinking it all aloong and remained silent hoping someone else would pull to the front. I also remained silent in case I wind up in the odd position of needing to endorse this guy, though he repulses me almost as much as Bush.

Kerry supported the war in Iraq, which is my strongest objection to Bush.

My "anybody but Bush" feelings were solidified on the very day that Bush declared war on Iraq. Catholics need to consider that the very idea of a pre-emptive war violates the Church's just war teaching - and no matter what we think of Hussein, or the posssibility of Iraq's possession of WMD's, pre-emptive war is a gravely immoral act.

Even atheists and agnostics have questioned the notion of pre-emptive war on purely rational grounds. Many of our own military leaders warned that war in Iraq was a bad idea. The whole world was critical of the war, and we now have a huge mess to clean up, with our troops dying every day, and no end in sight. I am also personally of the opinion that all war, even a just war, is a lesser good than active non-violent resistance to evil. But even those who who are not passivists should not vote for Bush - nor Kerry or Edwards - all for the exact same reasons!

Kerry is also adamently pro-choice, even supporting late term partial birth abortions. The argument that a Catholic official can vote against Church teaching when his or her constituents overwhelmingly oppose Church teaching is null and void on late term abortions. Over eighty percent of Americans oppose partial birth abortion of a third trimester baby!

I have never voted for a pro-choice candidate for President, and if Bush weren't doing such a maliciously lousy job, I might not be considering any of the Democrats right now because they all claim to be so pro-abortion. Kerry isn't scoring any points with me and many Catholic voters in his passion to kill babies. With several Supreme Court Justices up for retirement, this is an important issue for Catholics to consider.

Am I saying we should vote for Bush?


There are other reasons not to vote for Bush than the war. Let's start with the very issue of abortion that bothers me about John Kerry. Many Catholics believe Bush is the only viable candidate because they view him as pro-life and anti-abortion.

President Bush has never once said that he believes human life begins at conception, nor even that he wants abortion illegal. Indeed, in his address to the nation on federally funded stem cell research, Bush explictly called embryos "potential" human beings, which is not the pro-life position:

Research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its potential for life.
Like a snowflake, each of these embryos is unique, with the unique genetic potential of an individual human being.
Bush pays lip service to pro-lifers, and supports the late term abortion ban only because it is popular.

I am glad the ban is popular, and elected officials should honor such an overwhelmingly popular piece of legislation. However, make no mistake, Bush has indicated no plans whatsoever of trying to overturn Roe or introduce any amendments that would protect the unborn from the moment of conception. He is no better than Kucinich on this issue, and may even be worse. At least Kucinich may be simply calling himself "pro-choice" simply to stay in the race. His voting record has always been pro-life, and he opposed the war and is liberal on social justice issues!

Furthemore, Bush loves the death penalty. He just can't seem to get enough killing to satiate his appetite for death. He had an all time record of executions as Govenor in Texas, and reinstituted the federal death penalty after more than 30 years in his first year in office as President!

Bush is wrecking our economy with his defecit spending. His so-called "compassionate conservatism" lacks any semblence to compassion. The Patriot Act is stripping our civil liberties. Bush caters to corporate interests and the wealthy types who ran Enron and World-Com. I could go on and on. The Bush administration may be the most wicked and evil adminstration that the United States has ever produced.

I'd say "Anybody but Bush" if Kerry weren't around, but with Kerry in the picture, I'm almost pushed to saying I can't vote for either of these guys and I'm ashamed to be an American if these two are the best we can put up as our leaders.

If there is any truth to the Drudge report, Democrats need to carefully consider Kerry's true electability. I suspect that he has won past primary elections because he was seen as the most electable, and this presumption may be completely false. Consider, too, that many of us may choose not to vote rather than vote for Bush or Kerry, and that may hand the election back to Bush.

If I do vote for Kerry, it would only be because to abstain from voting is to vote for Bush - but Kerry seems to be just such a bad option that I am really afraid for this country and confused how to vote in good conscience.

Those readers who really like Kerry - people like Ono - consider that your man is offensive even to many people who are liberal on social justice, want the tax cuts repealed, and are open to liberal ideas such as gay marriages and so forth. I'm sure I am not alone in feeling that ,any Catholics are sick and tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. I see this everywhere I go on the web and in Catholic print media. Bush has alienated so many of us that an opportunity exists. We want to like Kerry, or some other Democrat, but we aren't really hearing what we want. Work harder to convince us that not only is Bush bad, but your guy is good.

Kerry is not doing a good job of building a positive image. He is riding almost entirely on our anger at Bush and the vague notion of his "electibility" over the other candidates. On the issues, I hear more and more people saying Kucinich expresses Democratic ideals better, and I have already pointed out that Catholics should consider his pro-life record against Bush.

Kerry has some serious obstacles to overcome to convince many of us that he is the right man to be President, and he can't seal the vote based soley on our anger at Bush. There are too many of us who may be tempted not to vote at all if he takes all the primaries - and if that happens, Bush wins!

To the Democrats who still have an opportunity to vote in primaries, please consider your alternatives carefully.


Strife Continues in Uganda

I have many personal friends from Uganda, and some are so close that their children call me "uncle". I have heard first hand stories of human skulls sold on road-sides.

Catholics should be particularly concerned because close to 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. These are our brothers and sisters in faith!

I know it easy for Americans to dismiss these issues as "way over there" and "hopeless". I also suspect that there is sometimes some conscious or unconscious racism in American apathy toward the region.

Please pray for the people of Uganda, support organizations like Catholic Relief Services that do work in Africa, and pay attention to U.S. policy in Sub-Sahara Africa.


Polls Show That Majority of Americans Think Bush Exaggerated or Lied About Iraq Threat!

Bush either lied, exaggerated, or is a complete idiot. Personally, I would not be surprised if the last option is the truth, which may exonerate him morally, but is still good reason to get him out of office.


Thursday, February 12, 2004

San Francisco City Officials Defy State Law and Officiate a Gay Marriage

After a 51 year courtship, Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, were issued and were married by City Assessor Mabel Teng.

Congratulations Phyllis and Del! May God bless your love for one another!


Wesley Clark Considering Endorsing John Kerry

After kerry proved he can gain votes in the south earlier this week, Wesley Clark dropped out of the race. Rumor has it that he will jump behind Senator John Kerry.


Bush Acknowledges Worry About Jobs

G.W. acknowledged to PA voters that he knows people are worried about job security, unemployment and jobs moving overseas. He says increased taxes are no the answer. Instead, he will ask Congress to spend more money on math education to solve the problem.

I'm not kidding. He really said this all together at once.

Maybe Congress needs to spend a few million dollars to get Bush some undertsanding of basic math. You can't simultaneously decrease revenue and increase spending and expect it to create positive results.


WaPo Reports Greenspan Opposes Current Bush Budget

Alan Greenspan, who has been considered by many to be the most influencial man in U.S. economics for over a decade, has stated that in order to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, serious cuts in spending must be made to cover the cost. Greenspan suggest Social Security.

Of course, Greenspan is not opposed to raising taxes either. His point is merely that the government is one trillion off from making Bush's cuts permanent, and under his "pay-go" philosophy, spending cuts are the only way to preserve the taxt cuts.

A vote for Bush is a vote against Social Security.


Conservatives Dissaprove and Dissent with Pope More Than Progressives!

NCR's John Allen writes in his Word From Rome:

If Gallup and John Zogby determined approval ratings for popes as they do for presidents, it might surprise people that John Paul's lowest numbers would probably not be among liberals who support women's ordination or same-sex marriage, but among conservatives who believe "outside the church there is no salvation."


NCR Editorial on Catholic Legislators Banned From Communion

The author of this article doesn't seem to really grapple with the issue of whether a politician can legitimately vote for a position that is contrary to Church teaching if his or her constituents overwhelmingly want it. Rather, this author seems to be saying that disciplinary action by Church officials is simply ineffective.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Interesting Contraception Debate

Dave Armstrong's site has quite a debate going on about contraception that has kept me busy most of the day.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Newsweek on Mel Gibson's The Passion

I intellectually understand some of the criticism of Mel Gibson's The Passion, and frankly don't care. I saw The Greatest Story Ever Told many times, and I loved it, despite the fact that it is not historically accurate, nor accurate to the literal text of the Gospels. I saw Jesus of Nazareth many times, and I loved it. I saw The Last Temptation of Christ and it may be my favorite so far. Scorsese says he is devoted to the Christ he portrayed, and I understand what he means! I liked Jesus Christ Superstar and I liked Godspell. These films also sprung from devotion and inspired it in many.

The truth is that nobody will ever make a movie about Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, that is 100 percent historically accurate, or 100 percent free of theological bias, or 100 percent free of political bias, or 100 percent faithful to the Biblical texts.

Look at all the different images of Christ in painting, iconography and sculpture through the centuries. Look at all the passion plays that have been put on. Have any two been exactly alike? They are all inspired by one common story about one common man, and hopefully one common spirit (the Holy Spirit), but none of our images of Christ are 100 percent accurate.

The Biblical texts contain apparent contradictions, if not outright blatant contradicitions. The Lord's prayer is not presented the same way twice in the Gospels. The words of institution of the Eucharist differ in each Gospel. Even the Gospels are personal interpretations of the life of Christ and its meaning to each author!

A film producer will need to make choices to either leave one Gospel interpretation out, synthesize them, or repeat some of the incidences multiple times to make a very long movie.

And how do we make a film free of all theolgical and political bias?

If I picked a Black man - say maybe a Bob Marley look alike - to play Jesus, some will get upset (I'd love to see it). What if we picked a blond? Something as simple as the color of Jesus' hair or eyes in a film can make a political or theological statement.

There will be those who say, "Well, pick a middle eastern Jew to play the part", but it's not that simple. Based on the Biblical text alone, how do we know that Jesus wasn't short, or slightly portly (afterall, he liked to eat and drink a lot)? What of the other characters?

Many liberals and progressives are upset that Gibson's film may be interpreted in an anti-semitic way. It is true that the film could be interpreted that way, and this is true of the Gospel as well. Gibson has said that's not his intent, and it wasn't the intent of the author of Scripture either. The author of Scripture was Jew, as was Jesus. The Church has officially condemned anti-semiticism. The concern is noted, but what else is there to say. Art is sometimes offensive.

There are those who seem concerned about Gibson's ultra-conservative brand of Catholic spirituality. If anyone mistakes Gibson for a sophisticated theologican and historian, I might worry. The guy's an artist!

The film is a work of art. It seems to be an act of devotion for Gibson, and I'm sure many Catholics will be deeply spiritually moved by the film. Many non-Catholics will also enjoy the artistic merits of the film. Some will not like the film. So what? That's the nature of art. I plan to see the film, and anticipate I will enjoy it quite a bit.

Ten years from now, someone else will produce and direct a new interpretation of the life Christ, and we'll be having the same discussion. As long as the films are made with a desire to express some form of truth, and some form of personal devotion, who cares whether it is entirely accurate or politically correct?


Steve Bogner Reminds Us That There Are More Important Issues Than We Typically Discuss in Catholic Blogdom

Steve reminds us that ethnic cleansing and war, starvation and disease, and so forth is happenning everywhere in the world, and Catholic Charities is often powerless to help, while we sit around criticizing our local bishops and political officials on things that matter far less.

Good point Steve!


A Protestant Progressive Blog....

This link was emailed to me last night, and I thought it is a very interesting site. I recall a conversation I had with a Methodist minister about a decade ago where he stated that in the twenty-first century, denominational lines will mean less than the division between progressive Christians and conservative Christians. He stated this as a conservative.

I tend to disagree somewhat with this Protestant minister, because the Catholic belief in the in necessity of a visible institution is shared by progressive Catholic and conservative Catholic alike. Likewise, the belief in an invisible Church not bound to institution is chared by progressive Protestant and conservative Protestant alike.

At the same time, since ecumenism is often a progressive cause, I think progressives Catholics and progressive Protestants do share much in common, and can often work together better than conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants. The conservative Catholic and the conservative Protestant may be comfortable working together on specific cause issues such as abortion, but they are ultimately trying to convert one another. The progressive Catholic and the progressive Protestant have no desire to convert one another, since we each believe the other is already being saved.

The progressive Catholic accepts that there is an invisible Church susbsisting in a necessary institution, and extending beyond it. The progressive Catholic shares more in common with both the progressive and conservative Protestant, without denying the essentials as defined by the conservative Catholic.

Lest we progressive Catholics grow discouraged at the slow nature of cultural change, let us recall that the power of the commonality we share with all sides is our strength.


Monday, February 09, 2004

Bush Admits Error About Justification for War

President Bush acknowledged that he was apparently wrong in stating on the eve of war with Iraq that there was "no doubt" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Unemployment Claims Rate Declines to 5.6% and Has Most Economist Worried

While the unemployment claim rate has dropped to 5.6%, economists continue to worry that new job growth is nowhere near their projections. Also, the statistics do not capture those whose benefits have run out and still have not found work:

Many economists, including some Fed officials, say the unemployment rate understates the slack in the job market because it doesn't count people who have stopped looking for work but say they still want a job. When these people are added, plus those who say they are working part time because they can't find full-time work, the rate of underused labor was 9.9 percent last month, unchanged from December.
Bush gave a big fat tax cut to the "investor class" over two years ago so that they would have money to hire those of you among the 9.9% who are not working. He also made sure social service spending (such as unemployment) remained limited, and he never went after those guys at Enron or World-Com.

A vote for Bush is a vote for the corporate executives who laid you off, and now won't pay anymore unemployment benefits!

Let's not forget the fact that he is spending $87 billion on a war the Pope and bishops and natural reason have clearly said is unjust. There were no WMDs in Iraq, no ties to Al Queda, no U.N. support, and no imminent threat. The war was about oil for Dick Cheney and his cronies to make a profit.

Pre-emptive war under such conditions is wrong, and your unemployment benefits or job salary paid for the war!

And don't be fooled by Bush's mere lip service to the Right on abortion. He explicitly called the unborn "potential" human lives when he spoke of stem cell research. Bush doesn't care about abortion anymore than the Democrats.

If you are jobless or close to someone who is, a vote for Bush is a vote against common sense!


Catholic Anti-War Protestors Called to Court Unjustly!!!!!

From the article itself:

"Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002"
"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."
What is happening to this country? Is this the "freedom" our founders died to establish? Is this the liberation our sons and daughters thought they went to Iraq to defend?

This "Patroit Act" mentality must stop!

I better be careful what I wrote, before I get myself arrested under big brother Bush's watchful gaze....


Friday, February 06, 2004

Praise be to God....a Pro-Life Victory!

I know pride is a sin, and God forgive me if I am falling into it here.

For those who fall to the right of me theologically and may think I come across wishy-washy on abortion (you know who you are), I just received an email from a reader describing herself as a Catholic Democrat who was pro-life, but thought abortion should be legal.

After reading my Abortion? she reconsidered her position, saying that my article really reached her mind and heart. It seems she would consider a Constitutional amendment to protect the unborn in the context of other life issues.


2440 Direct aid is an appropriate response to immediate, extraordinary needs caused by natural catastrophes, epidemics, and the like. But it does not suffice to repair the grave damage resulting from destitution or to provide a lasting solution to a country's needs. It is also necessary to reform international economic and financial institutions so that they will better promote equitable relationships with less advanced countries. The efforts of poor countries working for growth and liberation must be supported. This doctrine must be applied especially in the area of agricultural labor. Peasants, especially in the Third World, form the overwhelming majority of the poor. [The Catechism of the Catholic Church, emphasis mine]
What does this mean for the United States of America?


Prayer Request

I cannot be too specific on the web, but if anyone is inclined to say a little prayer for me, I could sure use one. I'm not dying or anything like that. Indeed, it's nothing negative at all. Rather, it's more the fullfilment of a long time desire becoming a real possibility in my life that I am praying about. Just ask that God's will be done. He'll know what it's about.


Thursday, February 05, 2004

This Article is Fantastic

In Healing the Wound by Eugene Kennedy, writing for NCR, the author explores the very meaning of sacramentality, and suggests that the sacraments are sexual in nature (something I have long believed).

Kennedy then goes on to explain how a failure to grasp the true sexual nature of sacramentality has lead to the sex abuse crisis, legalism, a decline in Mass attendance, and the substitution of Mass with word and worship services.

The article is long, so give yourself plenty of time. It is a fantastic extended meditation on sacramentality. It is so passionate and well written that you will want to savor it like a good meal or a fine wine.


When Scripture Jumps Out at You...

I was at Mass last night and while I was listening to the first reading, I found myself utterly confused, and even angry at what was being proclaimed.

The reading was from 2 Samuel 24: 2, 9-17. The story line is that King David decieds to take a census of his military troops, which God specifically told Israel not to do. The idea was that Israel should trust in God rather than its own strength, so counting troops was a sign of a lack of faith. I really had no problem with this part of the reading.

However, as the story line unfolds, David repents immediately after taking the census. After his repentance, God sends the prophet, Gad, who offers David three alternate punishments for his sin. Even at this point, I am following along without qualm. Sin has temporal consequences, even when we are forgiven the eternal consequences.

However, it is the three options that caused me heartburn. The three options were three years of famine across the land, or three months of flight from the enemy, or three days of pestilence.

Of course, given these three options, the three days of pestilence seems like a no-brainer, and that's the option David chooses. It's what happens next that made me mad.

God sends an angel forth into Israel to implement the three days of pestulence, and 70,000 people die. I just find it unbelievable that God would kill 70,000 people because of David's sin.

Of course, the sceptical liberal Biblical scholar in me says that if there is any history behind the text, what is happening here is that the Biblical author is interpreting history after the fact within a theological context. Seventy thousand people died, and Israel needed an explanation for this that would help people keep faith. So, they blame it all on David's census.

This would not be unlike the immediate aftermath of September 11, where Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blame the destruction of the WTC buildings on the gays and abortionists instead of simply saying that suffering is a mystery, we are all vulnerable to it, and there is nobody to blame but the hijackers.

I simply cannot believe that the God I know wanted seventy thousand Israelites to die. Nor can I believe that God wanted the destruction of the WTC buildings. Luke's Jesus points out the absurdity of such thinking when speaking of 18 people who died when a tower collapsed in Lk 13:4. A God who wants people to die tragically is not worthy of praise!

Certainly, God allows such things, which we know because they happen. But allowing something is quite different than wanting something. A good father allows his child to fall down while learning to walk. A good father does not want his child to fall down, much less knock the child down for the heck of it.

On the cross, I see that God suffers with us in the face of death and human suffering. It pains God to see that people suffer and die.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Outline and Hand-Out Material From an Introductory Parish Bible Study

I found an old outline from a parish Bible study I taught. The content is largely borrowed from the late Fr. Raymond Brown and Fr. John Meier, re-worded for a very introductory class of adults. I thought others may find some points interesting.


Can We Abolish Taxes?

An Evangelical Protestant who disagrees with me on the need to increase taxes asked if I wouldn't rather have money in my own pocket so that I could support the charity of my choice.

Of course, I do believe in practicing charity with our income, and practice tithing on my net income. However, my response to my Evangelical Protestant friend is that when a church or non-profit manages to build a road, I'll consider repealing taxes.

In my more recent discussions with some conservative Catholics on taxes, I sense sometimes that we forget what tax revenue actually buys us. We forget that without these services, people could not accumulate the wealth that Americans are able to accumulate.

Taxes pay for or subsidize roads, public transportation, electric power grids, water, gas lines, planning and zoning officials, hazard mitigation, building inspectors, health inspectors, police, judges, district attorneys, public defenders, public education, university research, military, fire departments, etc...,etc....

Note that all these things are services that directly benefit the millionaire, and make it possible for a millionaire to do business and become a millionaire. Why shouldn't the millionaire pay higher taxes to keep this infrastructure in place.

The only alternative is that we all live like the Amish. The Amish manage to keep a high degree of equity in their life-style: every one is equally fed, but poor by the rest of America's standards.

If the wealthy want the right to accumlate large sums of wealth, it comes at a cost - higher taxes on greater wealth.

Then there's social security, medicare, medicaid, welfare, unemployment benefits and so forth that may only be a tiny direct benefit if any direct benefit at all to the wealthy.

Yet, I would argue that these entitlement programs indirectly benefit the wealthy in a number of large ways. These programs invest in people, and the wealthy need people to staff their organizations. Furthermore, if the poor are made destitute, they cannot buy products and services, which also damages business. Furthermore, poverty has a tendency to breed crime at some critical mass, and crime is bad for business.

Aside from the fact that care for the poor is the right moral thing to do, it is simply good for business to ensure a societal saftey net. An investment in people pays dividends.

Why not hand all this over to the churches? Because there is no way 3000 separate denominations can accomplish what a single government agency can do in building up the common good. No matter how inneficient the government may seem, 3000 different orgainizations with different organizational structures will be more inefficient.

All of us love to complain about taxes from time to time. What I am trying to point out is that taxes do pay dividends. Don't take these dividends for granted.


Kerry Wins Five States, Edwards Takes Home State, and Clark Gains One

You've probably heard or seen this news already, but just in case.

Kerry remains the front runner by leaps and bounds. Tim, of Catholics for Dean, claims that Kerry is a boring candidate controled by special interests. I tend to agree, but it seems the majority of voters think otherwise. I'm still looking for a Democrat who will be anti-war, soften on abortion, have a fiscally responsible plan to address poverty, and oppose the death penalty.

No matter what though, Bush will not get my vote with his unjust wars, record defecits and fiscal irresponsibility, support for the death penalty, cuts to vital social programs, disregard for the environment, catering to corporate interests, and lack of substance on abortion. Despite his lip service to his faith, his is the most un-christian administration we have had in a long time based on social justice.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

What Makes More Sense: Flat Taxes or Redistribution of Wealth?

Disputations asked about the fairness of my distributive or progressive tax schemes in terms of social justice. The idea is to tax the rich higher percentages than the poor.

In an unrelated blog posting, Steve Bogner even went so far as to threw a bunch of figures together to show in graphic terms that the Bush tax cuts are a larger percent for the poor than they are for the rich.

I did some google searches to dicover what current tax percentages for each class are today, and found a helpful chart on the bottom of this article: Moving Toward a Flat Tax. I then went to the CIA figures on U.S. population, which is listed at 290,342,554. Combining the data, I present below three tables combined into one using frontpage editor. I hope this works (never tried this type of coding before). I also hope it is clear enough. If it's not clear, I hope you can get enough of the idea to try using the table in the article link to create an Excel sheet yourself, and see if your don't get similar results.

The top table indicates Bush's 2001 tax in each income bracket according to the article. I then project the amount of revenue generated in each class based on the population size and average income for each group, displaying each groups average tax per person as part of the calculation. The final number below each set of quintiles represents a total.

In the middle portion of the table, I calculate what a flat tax would look like to generate as close to the same revenue as Bush without going under Bush's budgeted revenue. The closest I could come was a 33.09% tax, which really socks it to the poor if we are to keep current services. I show just how much each group changes per person and as a group. Again, I total the sum and compare it to what Bush would bring in.

We can see this is grossly unfair to the poor, and may actually cause people to go without basic necessities. If I did this right (I'm no economist), it should decisively shut down any notion of a "flat tax".

Then, in the lower portion, I show what it would like if I were aiming for Bush's estimated revenue by increasing the top quintile 2 points each over the surrent Bush numbers, and decreasing the bottom four quintiles by the same 2 points from Bush's current plan (I'm giving more back to the middle class than Bush, and if I did my math correctly, it does work, and even brings in a little more revenue than Bush).

Since the wealthy become wealthy on the backs of the poor, I would argue this is the general direction we should be headed. I presented Disputations arguments for the ethics of this that can be summarized in paragraphs 1938 and 1947 of the CCC.

I hope all this makes sense. Try plugging the numbers in Excel or Lotus, and play with them yourself (maybe I made a mistake - I'm not an economist, and don't claim to be a math wiz):

Total Population290,342,554Average income2001 Tax with Bush cutsPer person avg Taxnumber of people in groupaverage revenue
Quintile 1Top 1 Percent$1,028,00041.70%$428,6762,903,426$1,244,628,846,785
Quintile 1Next 4 Percent$204,00035.80%$73,03211,613,702$848,171,896,149
Quintile 1Next 15 Percent$96,20034.70%$33,381
Quintile 2$56,10031.90%$17,89658,068,511$1,039,188,262,426
Quintile 3$34,30028.50%$9,77658,068,511$567,648,727,325
Quintile 4$20,70024.20%$5,00958,068,511$290,888,398,002
Bottom Quintile$9,40019.40%$1,82458,068,511$105,893,736,295
Total Population290,342,554Average incomeFlat TaxPer person avgnumber of peopleaverage revenue
Quintile 1Top 1 Percent$1,028,00033.56%$344,9972,903,426$1,001,672,520,338
Quintile 1Next 4 Percent$204,00033.56%$68,46211,613,702$795,101,922,759
Quintile 1Next 15 Percent$96,20033.56%$32,28543,551,383$1,406,044,208,996
Quintile 2$56,10033.56%$18,82758,068,511$1,093,265,143,793
Quintile 3$34,30033.56%$11,51158,068,511$668,431,273,300
Quintile 4$20,70033.56%$6,94758,068,511$403,397,299,047
Bottom Quintile$9,40033.56%$3,15558,068,511$183,185,246,910
Tax differenceTop 1 Percentdecrease-20%-$83,679 -$242,956,326,447
Next 4 Percentdecrease-6%-$4,570 -$53,069,973,390
Next 15 Percentdecrease-3%-$1,097 -$47,761,930,818
Quintile 2increase5%$931 $54,076,881,368
Quintile 3increase18%$1,736 $100,782,545,974
Quintile 4increase39%$1,938 $112,508,901,045
Bottom Quintileincrease73%$1,331 $77,291,510,615
Total Population290,342,554Average incomeJcecil3 TaxPer person avgnumber of peopleaverage revenue
Quintile 1Top 1 Percent$1,028,00043.70%$449,2362,903,426$1,304,323,275,887
Quintile 1Next 4 Percent$204,00037.80%$77,11211,613,702$895,555,800,962
Quintile 1Next 15 Percent$96,20036.70%$35,30543,551,383$1,537,599,000,899
Quintile 2$56,10029.90%$16,77458,068,511$974,035,393,308
Quintile 3$34,30026.50%$9,09058,068,511$527,813,728,917
Quintile 4$20,70022.20%$4,59558,068,511$266,848,034,530
Bottom Quintile$9,40017.40%$1,63658,068,511$94,976,856,264
Tax differenceTop 1 Percentincrease5%$20,560 $59,694,429,102
Next 4 Percentincrease6%$4,080 $47,383,904,813
Next 15 Percentincrease6%$1,924 $83,792,861,084
Quintile 2decrease-6%-$1,122 -$65,152,869,118
Quintile 3decrease-7%-$686 -$39,834,998,409
Quintile 4decrease-8%-$414 -$24,040,363,471
Bottom Quintiledecrease-10%-$188 -$10,916,880,030