Thursday, September 30, 2004

Initial Thoughts on the Debate

I really tried to watch these debates with an open mind, and really tried to give President Bush as much benefit of the doubt as I could muster.

All I can say is what I have said what seems like a million times. If he honestly believes what he says, he is the most idiotic man to ever hold the office of President. If he knows how incredibly and utterly stupid, and even immoral what he says really is, than he is a sinister genius at coming across as a good 'ol boy sticking to his convictions.

Stylistically, Bush stuttered quite a bit, and Kerry spoke too fast under the time limits. Kerry looked a little more "Presidential" but Bush has his Texas charm. Bush seemed on the defensive more than I anticipated, but Bush tried to mount his offensive several times.

Bush continually repeated his theme that Kerry sends mixed signals and changes his mind too much to lead. I cannot see how anyone who was paying at least half attention to the news before 9/11 and before the war in Iraq would not see that Kerry more than adequately addressed this charge.

At the hart of the debate is the issue of Bush's judgment to go to war in Iraq. Bush reiterated that we must attack our enemies before the threat materializes!

I can't wait to see the transcripts, because I think that was his exact words. At any rate, this is precisely what I so passionately and adamantly disagree with Bush about on moral grounds and 2,000 years of Christian tradition. It is absolutely always and everywhere morally evil to wage war against a nation that does not pose a threat that is "certain, grave and lasting" (par 2309 of the CCC) This is a huge moral issue.

Kerry was asked what he thought of the doctrine of pre-emption. Interestingly, Kerry responded that the President has always had the right to make a "pre-emptive strike" to defend America, and he would not hesitate to do the same. He used the word "strike" more than once, and again I can't wait to look at the transcript to see how many times.

There is a difference between a pre-emptive strike and a preventative war!

Before this question was even asked, Kerry reiterated forcefully that war must be justified by an "imminent threat", and he is right about that. He also stated repeatedly that war must always be a "last resort" and he clearly showed that Bush went to war before all other options had been exhausted - a charge Bush never outright denied.

Kerry said justification for a pre-emptive strike should pass a "global test". It wasn't as strong as saying the war was waged immorally or unethically, as I wanted him to say. Yet, it was clear that he was implying the war did not meet a common standard most people hold.

Bush made the most dumbfounded look and responded he simply didn't understand what Kerry meant by a "global test".

If he means that, he's an idiot or a psychopath. If he doesn't, he's a liar and a psychopath.

Asked about Putin, Bush was critical and turned around and praised him in the same two minutes. Who is the flip-flopper?

Kerry was very strong on the issue of North Korea and Iran - advocating a clear plan to contain the threat with military force only being used as absolute last resort in conjunction with our allies against an imminent threat after all efforts at diplomacy had failed.

Bush's answer is that diplomatic effort such as bilateral talks are just what the evildoers want. That's the problem with Bush. He can't seem to think in terms of a win-win, and he can't seem to see the need to reach out for help and cooperation from the world.

By the way, Kerry caught Bush in a number of contradictions that were more valid factually than Bush's assertions about Kerry.

Kerry also promised to get the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible after victory, while implying the President has already set up permanent bases in Iraq. The neocons have long argued for a permanent Gulf presence - since the early 1990's.

Bush offered nothing new. He repeated themes he had stated before. Kerry fleshed out and gave specifics to prior promises and stated Bush's position can be summed up in four words: "more of the same".

Kerry wasn't perfect, but no matter how hard I tried to give Bush some benefit of the doubt, he just kept making me madder and madder and coming across as more and more nonsensical and outright wrong.

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Very Interesting Analysis

This analysis demostrates that the so-called "red states" (those most likely to go Republican) receive more federal tax dollars for services than are collected from the tax-payers in those states.

Meanwhile, the "blue states" that lean Democrat receive less federal asssitance to the dollar than they pay in taxes.

No wonder the red states don't tend to feel as anxious about tax cuts and deficits!

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Experimental Evidence of the Humanity of the Unborn

This post is not about voting pro-life or pro-choice. Nor is this post about biological or scientific evidence that human life begins at conception.

Rather, I want to answer the question of those who find it difficult to believe a soul exists in the unborn child at the moment of conception. This is a religious and spiritual question, rather than a political question. For the purposes of this exercise, do not even try to think about whether you are pro-life or pro-choice.

Those who either deny that a fetus has a soul, or simply claim uncertainty of the soul may be misunderstanding what pro-lifers generally mean by a soul. This fundamental misunderstanding, in turn, may be rooted in a difference in life experience and the experience of self.

I believe most people who are ultimately pro-choice have difficulty accepting that a soul exists at the very moment of conception. This is because they experience the soul as the mind, with its verbal thoughts and conscious self awareness.

The earliest name assigned to God in the Bible is YHWH, a mysterious and unpronounceable word conveying the meaning "I AM, WHO AM". Throughout the Scripture, the ultimate reality of God is conveyed in the notion of "I AM" and the clearest references in Scripture to the divinity of Christ are moments when he is recorded as saying that he is "I AM" (i.e. - "Before Abraham was, I AM" (Jn 8:58)).

Saint Thomas Aquinas used the term "Absolute BE-ing" to describe the ultimate reality of what God is in his pure essence. Christians believe that God is the pure act of existence - the answer to the question "Why is there is there something, rather than nothing in the here and now?" Everything that exists participates in pure and unbounded BE-ing. God is the hidden or tacit ground of all that exists.

Trying to rationally comprehend pure existence or Absolute BE-ing without thinking about contingent things that participate in the act of existence is impossible. However, people of faith - and not just Christians, but all people of faith - can come to experience a glimmer of absolute BE-ing through the act of prayer.

Prayer is more than a superstitious act of making a wish list and hoping that an invisible person hears those wishes. Prayer is a communion with God where we sink or rise into a state of consciousness where we catch glimmers of the divine holy mystery of Absolute BE-ing. Prayer is an encounter with the source of all that exists. In its deepest personal level, prayer goes beyond the words we say. Indeed, some prayer is intentionally wordless.

There are moments in prayer when we go beyond words, beyond feelings, beyond visual images, beyond auditory imaginings, and even beyond thought itself to encounter the One - if only for a second.

In the depths of this type of prayer, we rest in pure and unbounded infinite and eternal BE-ing or LIFE.

Thomas Aquinas, and the Catholic Church, do not define the soul as the psyche. The soul is not consciousness in the psychological sense. The soul is the life-force of the body!

The deepest levels of prayer lead us not only to an encounter with the mystery of God, but to an encounter with the deepest meaning of existence as a human person fully alive!

While it is true that a human soul is a rational soul with free will embodied in a human nature, the rational power and free will possessed by the soul are not the soul itself. Rather, these are potencies of a soul embodied in a human nature.

The human person who has had this encounter with pure and Absolute BE-ing has a sense of identification with and empathy for the unborn child, who is alive without thought, without well formed emotion, without verbal self-awareness, without visual or auditory imagination. The unborn child is formed in and out of the depth of Absolute BE-ing, and experiences reality in much the same way as an adult at the art of prayer!

What I am attempting to describe is an experiential identification with the unborn, rather than a rational syllogism that leads one to a logical conclusion that the unborn have a soul. The difference between experiential knowledge and rational knowledge is like the difference between reading about love without having experienced it, and actually falling in love.

I believe that those who cannot identify experientially with the unborn child are missing out on a valuable experience in the human condition.

So, here is my experimental method for those who doubt the unborn has a soul from the moment of conception. The experiment is simple. I invite any doubters to simply try to pray without words and without images for ten minutes a day for three months.

You may find that after three months, you cannot give the practice up. Deep prayer has an addictive quality where one feels drawn to it by a power greater than oneself (because that is exactly what is happening when you pray).

This is a difficult experiment to carry out if you are completely unaccustomed to prayer, and it may take some practice to get to the point where you can quiet the mind for ten minutes at a time. The Catholic tradition, and almost all religious traditions, have aids to help one achieve this state of consciousness.

If necessary, seek a spiritual guide or seek books on contemplative prayer or meditation. But don't expect everything to make sense by reading and talking about it. You have to do it to have the experience.

This experiment leading to a particular experience of the human condition will not only help you understand pro-lifers, but it will shed light on the meaning of your whole existence. You will be a happier person, even as you continue to experience difficulties and confusion in life. Those who grasp what I am saying through their own experience of prayer are simply nodding in agreement as they read this. Come share our experience.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Family Ties

The link above is to a recent article in The Guardian indicating that George W. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush had illegal financial ties to the Nazis.

Meanwhile, John F. Kerry discovered through a reporter hired to dig information on him that his own grandfather Fritz Kohn was Jewish.

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The Onion Has the Latest Breaking News on Bush's Service Record

This is hilarious, and like all good humor, contains truth.

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A (Politically) Conservative Case for Kerry

Andrew Sullivan posts an email from a political conservative stating why he will vote for Kerry.

The gist of the argument is that if conservative Americans do not believe that Utopian social programs and social engineering work when it comes from within a stable and prosperous country surrounded by friendly neighbors, why in the world did G.W. believe that the most wild social experiment ever would work in a region that is hostile to our culture.

The argument concludes that such horrendous judgment combined with failed domestic economic policy driving up record deficits demonstrates that G.W. is simply unfit for office.

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Cheney Flip-Flopped on Use of Military for Iraqi Regime Change

And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq...,

All of a sudden you've got a battle you're fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and technique....,

Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq....,

Now what kind of government are you going to establish? Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shi'ia government, or a Sunni government, or maybe a government based on the old Baathist Party, or some mixture thereof? You will have, I think by that time, lost the support of the Arab coalition that was so crucial to our operations over there,...,

I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today, we'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home,....
These Dick Cheney's words in 1992. He changed his mind by 1997, when he was member of the Project for the New American Century advocating preventative war in Iraq - before 9/11!

What changed his mind? Could it have something to do with Halliburton???

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A Great Email

I received a great email from a frequent reader and wanted to share it:

Subject: a day in the life of Joe Conservative

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joes employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal (FDR) stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, quiche-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to do so.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

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Is Counter-Terrorism Gone Too Far?

My wife was surfing through radio stations in the car last night on the way to Lamaze class. She settled on a talk radio program, and we don't know who the pundit was. He was discussing an issue in Washington, DC and taking a bunch of heat for his stance, but I think he was right.

The issue was that there have been at least two incidents of what appears to be police brutality this summer of a special unit of the Washington, DC Metro police (a new unit guarding the subways and bus-lines specifically as a counter-terrorist measure).

The first incident escalated from an incident where an unarmed subway passenger was eating a candy bar, which is not permitted on the DC metro.

The second incident involved an unarmed pregnant woman using a cell phone at a bus stop, which is also prohibited, though few people know this. In this second and most recent incident, the woman was thrown to the ground, hand-cuffed, taken to jail, and released later that night with a $10 ticket for illegal use of a cell phone at a bus stop.

The pundit running the show argued (correctly in my mind) that these incidents involved minor infractions and that police should be trained how to avoid allowing such an incident to escalate into such a show of force.

Callers argued that the law is the law, and that the individuals must have said or did something to provoke these police to use this type of force. They argued that in a post 9/11 world, we all need to show more respect to the police and do whatever they tell us without question.

I tried to do a google to see if I could get the full story. I can't find the original source material. My gut reaction is that the pundit running the call-in program is correct. We can't have police thinking it is OK to throw a pregnant woman to the ground over a minor infraction like using a cell phone at a bus stop!

Police need to be trained not to use force just because they feel disrespected, even if they are being disrespected. And we as a society should not have the attitude that we are to do whatever the police say without question.

In this same geographic region, women have been raped by men posing as police officers. Even if this were not the case, America is a democracy - not a police state. We pay the salaries of our police, and they owe us some prudence in return. Throwing pregnant women to the ground over the use of a cell phone is just not prudent.

First it was federal agencies detaining suspected terrorists without charges or due process. Next, it was the Patriot Act. Then we had torture at Guatanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Now we have officers on the street beating up pregnant women.

If we cannot preserve our liberties and civil rights in order to win the war on terror, than the terrorists have ultimately won.

How far do our civil liberties need to be stripped before people realize that enough is enough already?

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Today is the Feast of the Angels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

The link above is to the New Advent article on angels.

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Kerry Admits "Inarticulate Moment"

Responding to the charge that he flip-flopped on Iraq, Kerry admits that he had an "inarticulate moment" trying to explain a position that has not changed.

"We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today," Kerry told ABC. "Knowing there was no imminent threat to America, knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, knowing there was no connection of Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, I would not have gone to war. That's plain and simple."
When Kerry has stated that he might have gone to war, even pre-emptively, he means that one or more of the three conditions outlined here would have needed to be present: 1) imminent threat to the U.S.; 2) illegal possession of WMDs by Iraq and refusal to disarm; 3) a connection to Al Qaeda.

Kerry also clarifies that he did support the $87 B for the troops all along, but only on the condition that Bush repeal his tax cuts to pay the bill. This is just good fiscally conservative judgment, and I don't disagree with Kerry on that.

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Kenneth Woodward Takes on Mario Cuomo

About twenty years ago, former pro-choice Catholic New York Governor, Mario Cuomo, gave a speech at Notre Dame entitled Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor's Perspective.

Kenneth Woodward, a religion contributor to Newsweek for thirty-eight years, decided to write a scathing critique of the speech in Commonweal, entitled Catholics, Politics, and Abortion: My Argument with Mario Cuomo.

Cuomo then wrote a response for Commonweal entitled Persuade or Coerce: My Response to Kenneth Woodward.

If you're sick of the debate or not interested in looking at both sides of the issue, these articles are not for you. On the other hand, those who want to get beyond the slogans and shibboleths might enjoy taking the time to look at this thoughtful debate between two serious Catholics.

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Trouble Simmering in Saharawi

Unrest in the region could break out in violence in an area with oil and natural gas reserves.

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NCR Editorial Weighs in on Proportionate Reason Debates

The argument is very similar to my own, but more concisely stated.

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Sister Joan Chittister on the Gifts of Other Cultures

It's nice to see her offer a meditation that is less political. All of us can enjoy this one.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Liberal Oasis Proposes Kerry Debate Answers

Liberal Oasis does some speculation how the debates can help Kerry pull ahead.

Interestingly, he proposes how Kerry should answer the inevitable question "Everyone knows he'll be asked to state his position on Iraq, most likely very early on in the debate."

I like the proposed answer, but would add a couple of lines to it (my additions are in bold):

In October 2002, the President said that approving the congressional resolution "does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means "America speaks with one voice."

Soon after he said that, I announced my support of the resolution and said on the Senate floor the following:

"...In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days--

"To work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.

"If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out."

That is my position. It is my position that there was a right way to deal with Iraq, and a wrong way, and I mean this both strategically, and morally.

The President did it the wrong way, and we're now seeing the terrible consequences of that. Unilateral pre-emption has not been the American way of conducting war, and we have set the wrong precedent strategically and ethically.

Now, perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that I didn't jump all over the President repeatedly and in public as soon as he made his decision.

Because that's not me. I'm not knee-jerk. I'm not rash. I'm not stubborn.

Once we were in a time of war, I sought to show respect to the office and help keep the country unified, while keeping true to my views.

But now we have an election coming up, and democracy demands we make our differences clear, so you can make an informed decision.

And the difference is, I would have given the weapons inspectors the chance to complete their jobs, and taken the time build a proper coalition.

And going forward, I will get the international community to share the burden, something which this President is either unwilling to do, or incapable of doing.
I'm not sure that the issues of abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, the death penalty, or faith will come up.

If abortion comes up, my advise to Kerry would be that he should simply be honest and straightforward on exactly what he feels and thinks about the issue and how he came to his conclusions. The difficulty is for him to say this briefly in a way all of us can follow.

The pro-choice side has nowhere else to go if he comes out and says he struggled with the issue. It is the pro-life side that he needs to convince that he is not simply a monster.

A personal story that crystalizes the moment he came to his basic position is his best strategy on this issue. He needs to tell a true story that was meaningful for him persoanlly, that can fit into a format that goes something like this:
"I am personally opposed to abortion, and I have stated that I believe that human life begins at conception.

I struggled with this issue, but let me tell you a story....,[insert true personal story here]..., after this, I knew in my conscience that I had to support a woman's right to choose, and find other ways to reduce abortions.

I think it is the right choice given our current Constitional laws, the consensus of the American people, and the principle of separation of Church and state which even the Vatican upholds in Guadium et Spes number 67.

And I do seek to reduce the number of abortions by,....[insert strategy to reduce abortions here]...."
I think his best chance of winning over any pro-life Catholic willing to give him a hearing is to explain how he can hold his position in what he feels is good conscience. He needs to do this without appealing to the usual slogans and shiboliths.

A true and personal story is the best way to do it. The story may or may not be emotional. Perhaps his conscience formed from reading a book. If that's the case, he needs to narrate in story format the experience of forming an opinion from engaging an idea. If the story is an emotional incident, it may have more power, but the most important thing for the purposes of a debate is that he needs to be honest.

He needs to help us understand how one can be personally opposed to abortion and believe that life begins at conception, and yet vote the way he has. There are even atheists who are struggling to understand this.

If he cannot do this, maybe he really should consider a closer examination of conscience on the issue.

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Tuscon is Second Diocese to Declare Bankruptcy

Portland was first, and now Tuscon. In both cases, the diocese was driven to bankruptcy by sex abuse cases or subsequent cover ups.

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A Fellow Worshipper With Kerry Speaks Out

James Carroll worships in the same Boston Church where Kerry has gone to Mass for years. Carroll is critical of those who question Kerry's faith, and also critical of the way Bush uses religious language.

Beliefnet has a "spiritual biography" of Kerry that portrays him as a devout man. I can't remember where I saw it, but somewhere in the past few days I even read that Kerry attended daily Mass at some point in his adult life.

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Bishop Charged With Rape

Bishop Thomas L. Dupre became the first U.S. Roman Catholic Bishop to face criminal charges for sexual misconduct involving penetration with underage boys. He was indicted by a grand jury yesterday on two counts of child rape.

The county district attorney stated that Dupre will not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations on the case had expired, and there was no evidence of cover-up. Dupre was known for his hard-ball tactics against victims in the Springfield, Massachusetts diocese.

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Status of Pregnancy

We made it through week 33 and are now at 34 weeks and 3 days. As described in the links, the contractions are getting strong, and I'm still wondering how we will know when the baby is really coming.

We are praying that we make it at least to week 36, when a baby is considered "full term" by the medical profession. That would be the Saturday after this coming Saturday!

The excitement is mounting, and we still don't have the baby's room completely ready.

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John Allen's Word From Rome

Among other interesting tidbits, Allen highlights the story of Julian Hunte, a pro-choice Catholic politician in the West Indies who was awarded papal knighthood by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, on September 19.

Hunte cast the deciding vote in the St. Lucian parliment for a law legalizing abortion for the first time in the Carribean nation.

Allen explains that the actual Vatican position on dealing with Catholic politicians who do not tow the Vatican line is position called "constructive engagement", where the Vatican acts with great pastoral sensisitivity and highlights the positive contributions of those with him it disagrees in public, and privately works behind closed doors to effect change.

As an example, Allen highlights how Pope John Paul II dealt with Pinochet in the late eighties, and how the Vatican dealt with communism through the years.

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Father Richard McBrien on the Threat of Fundamentalism

Last Sunday, on Sixty Minutes, there was an interview with a Muslim cleric who stated that Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush share the exact same world view.

Both see the world in black and white with very little, if any gray. Both tend to believe that those who are not with them are against them. Both tend to force others into false dichotomies. This cleric said most people - regardless of faith - accept that life involves living in gray area.

Father Richard McBrien is making a similar case, stating that Catholic fundamentalism exist and is identical to Islamic extremism. I think McBrien is right on target.

Indeed, I see the false dichotomies and appeals to fear in my comments boxes all the time. Just yesterday, one reader stated that if I do not support U.S. unilateral military action in the Sudan, I must support genocide - as though there is no other solution and no other way to deal with the Sudan.

The most necessary lesson for our times is that we need to understand is that there is always and everywhere more than one right way to achieve good ends, and those who propose an alternate solution are not the enemy. Related to this, there are wrong ways to achieve a good end, and those who criticize the means on the basis of moral principles are not de facto opposed to the good end you might seek.

In order to sort all of this out, we need to avoid oversimplification and false dichotomies. We need to stop reacting immediately to anyone who thinks differently than us as though they are an enemy to be defeated, and instead try ot understand whether and how they might be pursuing the same good ends to which we ourselves strive.

We need to accept that nuanced thinking with careful distinction that can see multiple good alternative. We can and should critique unjust means, but not lose sight that we are often seeking the same ends.

The ability to see multiple solutions to the same problem is our best hope to win the war on terror and achieve peace. The same type of complex thinking is our best hope to promote a culture of life and preserve the sanctity of the family. Fundamentalism in any religion is dangerous to world peace, dangerous to promoting the value of life, dangerous to the family, and can even be dangerous to the individual eternal soul by leading one to stubbornly cling to an error and resist truth.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Links to Christian Leaders Statements Against the War in Iraq

I found this page of links to various statements made by the denominational leaders of several large Christian bodies, including the American, British, and middle Eastern Catholic Bishops and the Pope.

Some use the Bible, and others use tradition, while others argue from rational principles. All major Christian denominations were officially opposed to the war.

Going back to August of 2002, there appears to be no large Christian body that supported the war in Iraq, and Christian leadership continues to criticize the way the war has been fought as well as its initial justification.

I will repeat what I have been saying since June of 2002. Unilateral war of aggression is always and everywhere unjust and unethical.

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Trying to Clarify the Abortion Issue

This is a risky venture, because feelings run so strong on this issue. I am a pro-life Catholic, and support a Constitutional Amendment protecting the right to life from womb to tomb.

Yet, because I am pro-life, I find myself leaning toward Kerry in the 2004 American presidential elections. I have given this a great deal of thought and prayer, and I am trying to clarify how I have come to see the issue over the last year or so - not to convince others to vote for Kerry - but to encourage Catholics to stop judging one another if we reach different conclusions.

Can a Catholic ever vote for a pro-choice candidate without committing a mortal sin?

There are at least five potential answers to this question:

Answer A: Some Catholics argue that never, under any circumstances, can a Catholic vote for a pro-choice candidate. Catholics who feel this way in the 2004 election could not support either Bush or Kerry, since Bush would permit abortions in cases of rape and incest. Bush has also referred to the unborn as merely "potential human life", supports non-government funded embryonic stem cell research, and has stated that he will not use abortion as a litmus test to appoint Supreme Court Justices. Very few Catholics hold this position, and the Vatican does not insist on this position as the only right answer, though it is certainly a valid choice.

Answer B: Candidate X is pro-choice with no restrictions, and candidate Y is pro-choice with restrictions. Some Catholics argue that if there is no other viable option, a Catholic may vote for candidate Y in good conscience in order to limit the harm done by abortion. Indeed, Catholic supporters of Bush over Kerry are making this argument, and the Holy Father had indicated this is a valid election choice in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae.

Answer C: Candidate X is personally opposed to abortion, but votes pro-choice. This candidate also offers social service proposals that can be empirically demonstrated to reduce the number of abortions more than candidate Y. Yet, candidate Y, is pro-choice with restrictions but opposed to social service spending.

Some Catholics argue that in this circumstance, a Catholic may vote for candidate X instead of Y. Indeed, some Catholic supporters of John Kerry over George W. Bush feel this way since the number of abortions under the Bush Administration have increased compared to the number of abortions under the Clinton Administration.

Mario Cuomo indicated that in a pluralistic democracy where no wide-spread consensus exist regarding the beginning of human life, this is the only valid solution that respects the democratic process while reducing abortions. Cuomo has had the tacit approval of some members of the hierarchy with the caveat that we do not lose sight of the goal of eventually outlawing abortion in time.

Answer D: Candidate X is pro-choice, and candidate Y supports restrictions on abortion. Yet, candidate Y supports policies that violate the dignity of human life in other matters, such as a potentially unjust war, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.

Some Catholics, including myself, argue that any one of these other life issues could potentially outweigh a specific stance on abortion depending on the exact stances taken on each life issue.

For example, an unjust war might outweigh a permissive stance on abortion, since an unjust war uses state authority to mandate death, and involves the entire society in the commission of the act. Permissive abortion laws do not make killing mandatory, and leave the guilt of commission of the act of killing with the individual committing the sin. This position maintains that proportionate reason referred to by Cardinal Ratzinger can exist to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

While the Vatican has not given clear guidance in support of this position, it has also not clearly condemned this position either.

Answer E: Candidate X is pro-choice without restrictions and candidate Y is against all abortions that do not meet the principle of double effect. Clearly, on the abortion issue alone, candidate Y is the superior candidate. On all other life issues, both candidates hold the exact same position so that candidate Y still seems to come out ahead. Yet, candidate Y is widely acknowledged as a lunatic who advocates absurd social, economic and foreign policy positions.

For example, candidate Y may be a member of the Nazi or Communist party, and believes that races and ethnic groups should be separated. In such a case, I do not believe any Catholic bishop or theologian would seriously argue that we are morally obligated to support candidate Y based on the single issue of abortion. It is appropriate - at least sometimes - to simply look at the full range of issues excluding abortion.

I may be overlooking some other options. Let's move on to look at a second question.

Can a Catholic politician ever vote pro-choice?

The technical answer would be no. No Catholic politician in the world can vote to make abortion legal where it is currently illegal.

However, this is not really the situation in the United States of America. Catholic politicians in America are not faced with a decision to make abortion legal. Rather, they are faced with the issue that abortion is already considered a Constitutional right, and they must discern how to best limit the harm done by this law.

There are at least three solutions that present themselves to the Catholic politician:

Solution A:A Catholic politician could support an Amendment to the Constitution protecting the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death. This is a solution I, personally, favor.

The difficulties with this solution are two-fold. First, the Amendment process requires a wide-spread consensus in the general society in order to gain passage, and no such consensus currently exist. Second, even if such an Amendment passed, there remain difficulties with how such a law would be enforced without infringing on just and proper rights of individuals, such as a right to medical privacy.

I am not saying these difficulties are insurmountable (I support this solution). Yet, it would be foolhardy to pretend the difficulties do not exist.

A Catholic politician adhering to this strategy would appear to vote pro-choice if voting against a particular proposed piece of legislation that might be deemed ineffective or unenforceable. For this reason, we cannot always assume a politician who opposes a particular piece of legislation is pro-choice. The Church has clearly stood behind politicians who have taken this approach, and occasionally tried to correct those who falsely accuse these politicians of being pro-choice when they opposed a specific piece of legislation that was deemed ineffective.

Solution B: A Catholic politician holding an office that appoints judges could try to "stack the court" with pro-life judges so that the decision of Roe v. Wade making abortion a Constitutional right might be overturned.

A Catholic politician holding this point of view may believe that a Constitutional Amendment is impractical and that complete criminalization of abortion is impossible to enforce, at least at this time. Yet, such a Catholic politician may believe that if Roe were overturned, enforceable laws requiring less of a consensus than a Constitutional Amendment could be passed that might restrict and prohibit most abortions.

The right to life movement in America has pursued this strategy for decades with little effect. It is important to realize that this approach is incremental over a very long period of time, and no single presidential election will effect the criminalization of abortion by this strategy.

Also, politicians holding this strategy often appear to be inconsistent on the issue - at once claiming human life begins at conception, and simultaneously allowing exceptions to abortion restrictions on occasion in order to get a piece of legislation passed.

Under this strategy, a Catholic politician could appear to be moderately pro-choice, when, in fact, the politician has simply made a practical compromise to do the best he or she can under the circumstances. The Church has been tolerant of this position, and even supportive of politicians who opt for this strategy.

Solution C: A Catholic politician may decide that both solutions A and B are simply impractical at this time. By "impractical", I mean that the politician may be convinced that no matter how worthwhile the goal of making abortion illegal, there simply are not enough pro-life constituents to keep such a law on the books.

Furthermore, this Catholic politician feels that the moral responsibility to represent his or her constituents, who are largely pro-choice, makes it even immoral to waste legislative effort on such impractical solutions.

Such a Catholic politician may decide that the best strategy for reducing abortions in the United States is to address the root cause reasons women choose abortions. This type of Catholic candidate may choose to oppose some or all legislation restricting abortion as a trade-off or compromise with non-Catholics in order to gain support for social service and economic justice issues that might reduce abortions by removing the underlying demand for abortion.

The Church has not been very supportive of Catholic politicians opting for this third strategy. However, I believe it it is not a sin for a Catholic politician to take this position if she or he truly believes that solutions A and B are practically impossible.

The Church teaching outlined in paragraph 2273 of the CCC and repeated in Evangelium Vitae makes it clear that we are to work towards laws that will eventually prohibit abortion. The Church teaching is that natural law, itself, which is accessible to every human being, dictates that if the civil law fails to protect all human life, all human life is in jeopardy. The doctrinal problem with solution C is the abandonment of this ideal.

However, when it comes to the issue of denying a person Communion or excluding a person the person from the Church through an excommunication, I am not sure that the politician or any of this person's Catholic supporters opting for solution C are guilty of formal cooperation with evil in the American context.

It is important to remember that the politician opting for solution C is not voting to make illegal abortions legal. Such a person is not de facto pro-abortion simply because they vote against a restriction on abortion. Indeed, in intent, such a politician may be very much pro-life in the sense of believing that solution C is the only practical way to reduce the number of abortions.

It is not even clear that such a politician is denying the doctrinal principle that all abortion should be ideally made illegal. The politician may hold the ideal, and yet believe that practically, we are decades or centuries away from ever realizing such an ideal given the current social situation.

Like their counterparts who occasionally vote against a particular restriction, this politician may be trying to say that he or she merely believes that laws against abortion will be ineffective, unenforceable, and too subject to change. Such a politician may fear any restrictions on abortion not permitted by Roe will be overtunred in court, and such a politician believes it naive to think the courts will overturn Roe.

Indeed, the politician may even feel that the very desire to have the court overturn a prior decision is itself an undemocratic means of achieving the goal of reducing abortions. In other words, the politician would support solution A over solution B if a pro-life consensus existed. Knowing that no such consensus exists, she or he argues we shouldn't rely on solution B on principle, and therefore are forced into solution C whether we like it or not.

Rather than focusing on restrictions, these politicians have simply decided to focus their effort to reduce abortions practically on eliminating the causes of abortions.

Such a politician is not denying the doctrine that human life begins at conception, nor the doctrine that abortion is ultimately a sin of murder, nor even the doctrine that in an ideal world, abortion would be both undesirable and illegal.

Though I am pro-life myself in the sense of wanting a Constitutional Amendment protecting the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death, I am not at all positive that God frowns on Catholic politicians choosing solution C. Given the current reality, God may see in their hearts that they are truly pro-life, and they are simply being practical. The Gospel, itself, tells us to be gentle as lambs and clever as wolves, and these politicians may be doing just that.

Nor am I at all convinced that the individual Catholic vote is bound only to "Answer A" and "Answer B" outlined above in the section on which candidate the individual Catholic voter can support. The entire issue of how we should vote as Catholics can not be summed up on the single issue of abortion taken by itself.

Am I saying it is impossible to sin by voting pro-choice?

I am not saying this at all. Any Roman Catholic anywhere on earth who believes that human life does not begin at conception is holding an opinion that denies essential infallibly defined doctrines of the Church.

Furthermore, I believe that the Holy Father and the ordinary magisterium are absolutely correct in the doctrinal position that it is intrinsically evil to directly and voluntarily kill an innocent human being. Direct abortion is objectively a grave moral evil, and anyone who knowingly and voluntarily procures a direct abortion is guilty of the mortal sin of murder.

Our laws should ideally protect all human beings, and our voting decisions should be guided by a dominant desire to foster and promote the sanctity of human life. Anyone who intentionally votes specifically to make illegal abortions legal with the sole intention of increasing the availability of abortion is acting in a way that is clearly contrary to Church teaching.

Anyone who supports a politician who would make illegal abortions legal precisely because the candidate holds this position also acts contrary to Church teaching. Anyone who knowingly and deliberately is voting in such a way as to increase the availability or number of abortions is acting contrary to Church teaching and natural law. No Catholic can be pro-abortion.

However, given that in America, abortion is already legal during all of pregnancy, there can be legitimate debate among Catholics about how to best reduce the number or availability of abortions. Laws restricting abortion are not necessarily the only answer or the best answer.

Furthermore, if a Catholic votes for a candidate who is pro-choice for other reasons than the abortion issue, such an electoral decision can be a legitimate moral choice if propotionate reason exists. The only way to know for sure if someone is in sin is to know the person's intentions, as well as the person's vote.

The heading of this post indicates that I am trying to "clarify" the abortion issue, and there will be some readers who feel I have muddied the water and made it impossible for Catholics to make an easy choice. Let me propose that this is exactly what needs to be clarified most in this discussion. There is no easy answer to how we should vote!

While I am passionately pro-life, I am in no rush to deny the orthodoxy or "Catholicity" of those who may be personally opposed to abortion, and simply vote differently than I do. The doctrine of the Church is non-partisan, and this, more than anything, needs to be clarified in this particular election cycle.

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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Corporate Welfare Proven

This article examines how corporations have benefitted from Bush's tax plans to the point that some large companies have paid no taxes at least one year under Bush!

The tax burden has shifted to the middle class individual.

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Good Article on Catholics and Abortion

This article includes perspectives from a wide range of pro-life Catholic theologians across the spectrum of more liberal to very conservative. One of them was a teacher of mine in seminary. There are also perspectives from laity and Catholic politicians, as well statistics on where Catholics really stand on the issue. It's well worth a read.

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Younger Priests Cover for Older Priests Who Abused Them

This article is not shocking to me in the least. I know three people for whom this is true, and they still won't reveal the name of their abusers, though they have finally opened up about the abuse itself.

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Kerry Blasts Bush on War in Iraq and Security

Kerry called the war in Iraq a diversion, and stated the President's foreign policy and homeland security measures demonstrate "misjudgment, miscalculation, and mismanagement".

Kerry outlined a detailed list of proposals of what he will do as President to make us safer, and he subtly shifted the debate to a question of morals by stating that Bush's failures to build alliances, meet commitments on AIDs in Africa, and failure to follow through in Afghanistan has made America morally untrustworthy to the world.

I would still like to hear Kerry come right and say that unilateral aggression is not only bad strategy, but unethical.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Local Justice Advocacy

Last night, I met with about fifty people in a Catholic church basement in our county. Under our Bishop's direction, we have decided to form a Catholic legislative network.

The Bishops of our state already have a network for the entire state that deals with state and federal issues. The goal here was to create a county network that dealt with local issues decided by our county commissioners.

We still have much work to do, but we spent some time brainstorming and trying to come up with a list of issues we care about as Catholics. I think we came up with a pretty good list for starters. I am writing it here to spark ideas for other dioceses and parishes:

- Affordable housing
- Jobs, minimum wages, and day care vouchers
- Immigrant issues
- Healthcare
- Americans with disability access
- Public transportation
- The environment
- Reintegration for incarcerated persons
- Education
- Emergency assistance
- Food banks
- Family Issues
- Life Issues

The next step is to group these issues into higher level goals, and then compare our tentative agenda to the agenda of our county commissioners. We will then decide which of the current county agenda we want to support or "watchdog", and determine how to add our own agenda items to the county's.

We placed family and life issues last on the list not because they aren't important. Rather, our general consensus was that the county government can do very little about these issues directly.

One person raised the issue that in some areas, our parishes and diocese already do a good job providing some social services apart from what the county does. Nevertheless, as justice advocates, our goal is to gain a wider acceptance and cooperation from the general public on those issues where a Catholic perspective can shed light on real solutions.

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The Memorial of Saint Padre Pio

Today is the Memorial of saint Padre Pio. Padre Pio was a twentieth century mystic who was granted the stigmata - the mysterious appearence of the wounds of Christ on the cross. He was a Capuchin Franciscan who died on September 23, 1968. Read more about him at the link above.

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Proportionate Reason: Repeating a Theme for Any Newcomers

I am pro-life.

I was Vice president of my college Right to Life Society. I have counseled people out of having an abortion. I have participated in Operation Rescue. I have written all my legislators opposing abortion. I have volunteered with the Gabriel Project. I have marched on DC against abortion. I have debated representatives of Planned Parenthood publicly. I have contributed money to the pro-life cause. I support a Constitutional Amendment for the Right to Life that includes the unborn. When I was only about nine years old, I went door-to-door handing out pamphlets against abortion. I pray daily for the end of abortion.

I have always considered abortion a dominant issue in my vote, and I have never voted for a pro-choice candidate for President. I even voted for Bush in 2000.

However, I will likely vote for Kerry.

Why?

Because when the state is the direct agent of murder, I consider this a graver evil than the state allowing murder to occur. I honestly believe that this constitutes what Ratzinger called "proportionate reason" to "materially cooperate in evil" by voting pro-choice.

The Church teaches that abortion considered in general is graver than war considered in general. This is because abortion is always wrong (intrinsically evil), while not all wars are wrong.

Yet, some wars are wrong.

I admit that I can't find any explicit statement of the Church that says permitting abortion specifically is a lesser evil compared to an unjust war specifically. Nevertheless, I think sound and orthodox principles of Catholic theology lead naturally to this conclusion.

An unjust war is not the moral equivalent of permitting abortion. It is the moral equivalent of the state mandating abortions.

It doesn't matter how many people die in each scenario when comparing war and abortion. This line of reasoning should apply when comparing the exact same issue (two pro-choice candidates, but one supports some restrictions, while the other doesn't).

What matters is whether an individual is doing the killing, or whether the entire nation is doing the killing.

In a democracy, when the government kills, we all participate to some degree. Compare the number of people involved in the act of committing murder rather than the number of people murdered.

I believe that is the right way to judge which is the graver evil.

When the state kills, this is a more serious threat to building a culture of life than when the state allows killing. There is a difference in the culture that is created between the state allowing something and the state mandating something.

Even if Cardinal Ratzinger were to explicitly say to me that he did not intend his statement on "proportionate reason" to be interpreted the way I am using it, I would respond to him, "But now that I have made the argument, are you absolutely sure I am wrong from a God's eye view?"

The state allows pornography, but we can tolerate this more than if the state forced people into pornography and forced the broadcast of pornographic material during prime time. When the state acts as a direct agent of any sort of evil, it is always worse for society than when the state allows an evil to occur.

Even God permits evil, and we do not sin my omission everytime we allow something evil to occur. We know that evil is occurring in many parts of the globe, and we do not sin if we oppose the evil but are currently powerless to stop all evil everywhere it occurs on the planet.

Federal funding of abortion makes many pro-lifers more upset than simply allowing abortion. Some get upset merely because they believe federal funding increases the number of abortions.

Yet, many pro-lifers get upset about federal funding of abortion because they do not want their own tax dollars spent on what they deem murder. This is the exact principle I am getting at about the war in Iraq. Regarding this war, I must say to Bush, "Not in my name. Not with my authority. Not with my tax dollars."

If I oppose abortion and still vote for Kerry for other reasons, it does not make me pro-choice or pro-abortion. Even Bush is pro-choice compared to me and most Catholic pro-lifers.

Also, even if Kerry wins, I can try to stop individual abortions from occurring, and some of Kerry's own programs might help reduce abortions better than Bush's programs. If Bush wins, I cannot stop a single death in Iraq.

Both candidates support embryonic stem cell research, and Bush is for the death penalty. Bush is not pro-life at all. Keery's social policy is more in line with the Church's teaching.

An unjust war involves murder in my mind.

Bush and anyone who knowingly and willingly supports the policy of unilateral preventative war is acting in a way that I believe is gravely immoral - more immoral than permitting abortion.

The Vatican does agree with me that unilateral preventative war is evil!

I can't judge whether Bush or anyone supporting Bush are in sin, since I can't know your hearts to know who much you are acting with full knowledge of what is at stake. I am not judging hearts, but examining an action. The act of unjust war involves the direct and voluntary killing of innocent people, which is always and everywhere wrong.

Even knowing that he was mistaken on WMDs in Iraq (which he should have known from the UN weapons inspections), Bush says he would do it all over again. Even knowing there was no tie between Iraq and Al Queda (and there never was any evidence a tie existed), he says he would do it all over again. He even hints he might do it again to another country. This is a man who makes immoral judgments whether he is personally in sin or not!

Indeed, by acting as an aggressor, the United States has made the insurgents in Iraq defenders of an attacked nation, and therefore, even the combatants in Iraq are innocent of any crime. I hope the Iraqi's do experience liberty and democracy, and maybe their resistance to us will unite the nation of Iraq in a way it never was united historically.

I would support any U.S. service person who refused to fight in Iraq. Indeed, any soldier who knows this war is unjust has a moral obligation to lay down his or her arms and refuse to fight.

I cannot judge the heart of another. I also do not condemn those troops who believe they are fighting a just war.

I may think the troops honorably carrying out their orders are morally mistaken on objective grounds, but this does not mean they are in subjective sin. I support the troops, pray for them, and want them to come home safely as quickly as possible.

When they return, I have no condemnation for them, and will rejoice that they made it home alive. I can even admire the heroic courage they display in their willingness to lay down their lives for what they believe - even if their belief might be mistaken.

While I cannot judge others, I am saying that I would consider it a mortal sin for me, personally, to vote for G.W. Bush. It is something I absolutely cannot do in good conscience.

In fact, given the gravity of the matter, it is not even sufficient in my mind to merely refrain from voting for him. I sense God saying in my conscience that I must do absolutely everything I can that is moral, ethical and legal to get Bush out of office as quickly as possible - even if that means voting for Kerry.

Some say that a vote for Kerry is not a moral means to remove G.W. from office.

It wouldn't be moral to vote for Kerry if I supported his view on abortion. I don't. I am not voting for Kerry. I am voting against Bush, using "proportionate reason" to "materially cooperate with evil" in order to limit the harm done to the sanctity of human life by Bush's policies.

Some say that Kerry was for the war as well.

Based on everything Kerry has ever said, it seems clear to me that Kerry is saying he would never have gone to war in the fashion of unilateral prevention, which is precisely what is unjust. Kerry would have met the minimum requirements of a just war.

There are those who may think that even voicing such an opinion in such strong language places American troops in jeopardy. This is mistaken thinking.

As Commander and Chief, George W. Bush is currently the sole person responsible for unnecessarily putting the lives of American troops at risk by sending them into harm's way without just cause. Those who speak out to try to correct the President are not the cause of harm to American troops.

Failed U.S. policy by an incompetent or immoral President is the cause of harm to American troops. Anyone who supports this failed policy and this failed Presidency by their vote in November shares some of the burden of guilt with the President for every person (Iraqi and American) who dies in Iraq afterwards.

Unilateral preventative war is immoral because it is the direct and voluntary killing of innocent human beings. Because the state is commissioning the act, it is a graver evil than permitting abortion.

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Another Quiz

Similar to the quiz below, this one places a person in one of four quadrants by measuring on both a vertical and horizontal axis. From left to right, a person is measured as fiscal liberal to fiscal conservative. Up and down, a person is measured as a non-fiscal conservative to non-fiscal liberal. I wound up in the fiscal liberal and non-fiscal liberal quadrant.

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Cool Political Quiz

Unfortunately, this quiz does not allow one to post the results like many other web quizes. Yet, it's a worthwhile and fun little quiz.

The idea behind it is simple. Recognizing that there are pro-business fiscal conservatives who are social liberals, or social conservatives who lean to the left on ecomomic issues, this test maps people into four quadrants.

On a horizontal line, you are mapped to the left or right of center on economic issues. Then, on a vertical line, you are mapped up or down to authoritarian verses libertarian perspectives.

Thus, the four quadrants are left-authoritarian (such as Stalin), right-authoritarian (such as Hitler), right-libertarian (Ayn Rand or Friedman), and left-liberatarian (Gandhi).

I was mapped to left-libertarian.

I am in the company of many of my heros. Other left-libertarians include Gandhi, Nelson Mendela, and the Dalai Lama. Though I disagree with him on abortion, Ralph Nader is a left-libertarian. We like to read people like Thomas Paine, Naom Chomsky, George Orwell, and on the lighter side, Al Franken and Michael Moore. There are no dictators in my quadrant.

The Holy Father leans to the left, like myself. However, he is supposedly in the left-athoritarian quadrant with Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Yassir Arafat. While he is closer to the center on the vertical axis than these dictators, his placing is likely to feel insulting to most Catholics.

Gorge W. Bush is in the right-authoritarain quadrant with Hitler. I've been saying this for months - that his words and deeds (not his intent, which I can't judge - but his actual actions) are more similar to Hitler than people seem to want to realize.

However, before Bush supporters take this too personally, he is joined by John Kerry (who is closer to the center). Mararet Thatcher, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, and Ariel Sharon are also in this quadrant.

Bush is more extreme both to the right and towards authoritarian than Thatcher, Blair, Chirac and Kerry. He is also more to the right than Hitler and Sharon, but less authoritarian than either.

People in the right-authoritarian quadrant may enjoy reading Pat Buchanan, William F. Buckley, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Mararet Thatcher among others.

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9/11 Widows Support Kerry: He Can Make Us Safe

Kristen Breitweiser supported George W. Bush in 2000. This year, she's endorsing his opponent. She is certainly not the only woman in America to change her mind about whom she plans to vote for this election, but Breitweiser is no ordinary voter. The New Jersey lawyer-turned-stay-at-home-mom has taken on an increasingly prominent role since September 11.
Brietweiser is a Republican who organized the widows of victims of the WTC attack to push for the 9/11 Commission. Because of the inaction and continued failures of the Bush Administration to address the real security issues uncovered by the group and the 9/11 Commission, she and the other widows have decided to back Kerry for President.

Breitweiser also opposses the war in Iraq, believeing that Iraq was a distraction from the real threats of terror that has now become a breeding ground for further terror.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Flip-Floppers Choose Kerry

This was funny, even if I think Kerry is not really a flip-flopper.

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┬┐Latino or Hispanic?

I received an email a couple of days ago from a reader who generally seemed to like my site, but thought that my article in the sidebar in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, written a year ago, might be offensive to Latinos or Hispanics.

Since it is once again Hispanic Heritage Month, I thought I'd briefly try to address this issue.

Generally, I try to call any group of people I do not belong to by whatever name the majority of the group seems to like, and I tend to judge this locally - by what people tell me in my day-to-day life.

Probably around half of the Black people I know (including my wife and in-laws) were born in Africa or the islands, and do not like the term "African-American". Even many Black people born in America tell me they don't like the term "African-American".

So, I don't use the term unless I pick up from the person I am speaking with that he or she prefers it. I haven't met a Black person yet who wants a white guy like me calling him or her "colored" or a "nigger", so I don't ever use those terms.

Occasionally, I meet someone of African-American origin who wants to be called "Brown" instead of "Black". I'll honor the request on an individual basis, though I've encountered a few Latino's who prefer this term for their group.

Those of Asian origin seem to dislike being referred to as "oriental", which they claim is only appropriate for rugs.

Some people don't like any labels at all, and that's fine with me too, but this disdain for any possible label tends to be an individual preference.

Most people identify with some sort of group. I wear all sorts of labels. I identify myself as a German-Irish Catholic American, and a Republican who is "liberal" or "progressive".

Sometimes group affiliation is something we are more or less born into, and other times, it reflects a conscious choice. Sometimes, it is sort of in-between, as is the case with many Catholics.

In general, I try to call people whatever they want to be called. I use this rule of thumb whether I agree with the group or not. I call people who do not want abortion made illegal "pro-choice" even though I passionately disagree with them and occasionally feel tempted to call the group "pro-death".

There is some controversy among Spanish speaking immigrants and their descendants about whether to call themselves "Latinos" or "Hispanics". I responded to my reader that I believe the issue is probably best settled regionally, because it seems the origin of the debate has to do with your country of origin.

As we see in the link above, those from Central America and those countries associated with "Latin America" seem to prefer the term "Latino", because "Hispania" is the word for Spain, and they are not from Spain. This group feels that "Hispanic" was the gringo term foisted upon them, rather than their own self-designation.

On the other hand, those who speak Spanish and who are not from the geographic region associated with Latin America are often offended by the term "Latino". They prefer "Hispanic" as the designation for their language, and if they happen to be from Spain, itself, the term is the most fitting.

Of course, when I post an article on the web, I can't please everyone. I tend to use the term "Latino" because I volunteer every week as an ESOL instructor at a diocesan program that caters mostly to immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico. Most of my students prefer "Latino" to "Hispanic", and my Mexican students can be especially sensitive to anything sounding like "spic" if it comes from a "gringo" like myself.

Nevertheless, I do get at least two or three students every semester from other countries of Spanish speaking origin, and I am aware that even within a single country of origin, not everyone thinks exactly alike.

So, if any Spanish speaking readers are offended by "Latino", I apologize. Please understand that I do not mean any offense, and I have to chose something, and I chose the term I find most preferred among the people I know locally.

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John Allen on Church in Africa

Allen states that Africa gets in the bones of anyone who visits there. I visited in the year 2000, and I can't wait to go back.

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Sister Joan Chittister on Empty Campaign Promises

This not one of her strongest essays, but she is right to be critical of the way Bush has failed to make good on his promise to provide AIDs relief to Africa.

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NCR's Joe Feuerherd on Kerry's Challenge as a Catholic

Where John F. Kennedy needed to convince a Protestant America that a Catholic President would not take orders from the Vatican, John F. Kerry must convince Catholic voters that he is closer to Vatican teaching than his opponent. Despite the fact that Bush is inconsistent on abortion, Kerry's challenge is greater than Kennedy's given his pro-choice stance.

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NCR Editorial on Reducing Abortions

This is an interesting perspective on how to reduce abortions while we work to change hearts and minds among the American people over a long period of time.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bush's Speech Today to the U.N.

Aside from his misrepresentation of the facts on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush did state one thing that is absolutely true:

We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace.
A leader who initiates war against another nation when there is no imminent threat is acting like a dictator.

If the same leader detains prisoners without due process, he is acting as a dictator. If this leader contemplates the use of torture against enemies, and his immdiate underlings then approve it, this leader is acting as a dictator.

Though G.W. Bush has not assumed full dictatorial power yet, he is well on his way. His actions are identical in kind to any dictator, if not yet in scale.

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Kofi Annan Calls U.S. War in Iraq "Illegal"

He's absolutely right. Just as Bush argued falsely that Saddam illegally possessed WMDs according to U.N. resolution 1441, the United States violated a fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter. The Bush Administration claims the UN is irrelevant, and they made it so by violating the Charter.

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
See the Charter here.

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John Kerry Sharpens Criticism of the War in Iraq

The link above is to the text of a recent Kerry speech on the war in Iraq. It is likely Kerry's sharpest criticism of Bush's war policy yet. I believe the speech is entirely on target.

There two observations I would make.

First, the speech demonstrates decisively that Kerry has never flip-flopped on the issue of Iraq. He has consistently held from before the war began until now that there is a right way to go to war with Iraq if it were necessary, and then there is the Bush way, which is a dismal failure. This is a strength of the speech.

Second, I see a minor weakness in the speech. While Kerry is extremely critical of Bush's way of going to war in Iraq, and accuses the President of dishonesty, he does not come right and say uniquivocally that there would never, under any circumstances, be an ethical justification for unilateral preventative war against a nation that does not pose an imminent threat to the United States. Kerry implies it, but I really want him to come right out and say it in clear and certain terms.

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May be Slow Blogging This Week

I work for an IT form that services companies providing disaster relief to victims of floods. The recent Atlantic storm activities will be keeping me busier than I've ever been. I may not have much time to blog.

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Thought About Today's Readings

I don't really have a meditation or "homily" type of reflection on today's reading. Instead, I just wanted to think through the puzzling nature of the Gospel parable.

Today's Gospel reading has a confusing title. It is known as the parable fo the dishonest stewart. In context, it seems that Jesus is almost encouraging us to be swindlers in order to gain God's favor.

The way I read it, the guy may not have been so dishonest. Consider if the story were re-told as follows:

A CEO had a Vice President
who was running his dividion at a loss.
The CEO summoned the VP and said,
'What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full report of your division finances,
because your job is on the line.'
The VP said to himself, 'What shall I do,
now that my leader is taking the position of VP away from me?
I am not going to wind up in the mailroom, nor will I be homeless.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from my position,
our clients may welcome me into their companies.'
He called in each client with an outstanding bill, one by one.
To the first he said,
'How much do you owe us?'
He replied, 'Half a million dollars.'
He said to him, 'Here is your revised bill.
Because you've been such a long time customer, we're giving you a one time fifty percent discount.'
Then to another client the VP said, 'And you, how much do you owe?'
He replied, 'One million dollars.'
The steward said to him, 'Here is your revised bill;
Because of the volume you bring us, we are giving you a twenty percent discount.'
In doing this, the VP reduced the days bills are outstanding
and built relationships with the clients as a safety net.
The CEO commended that risk-taking VP for acting with enterprise.


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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Kerry Goes on Attack

Kerry accused the White House of secrecy regarding plans to call up reservists after the election. Military officials responded there is no secret that the Administration plans to call up reservists. Kerry also called Cheney's ties to Halliburton into question.

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Cheney's Ties to Halliburton Under Scrutiny

Democrats are beginning to wonder how the number 19 vendor with the military became the number one vendor when its former CEO became Vice President.

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Friday, September 17, 2004

Am I The Only One Who Finds This Odd?

Ok. I don't eat meat anyway. And this completely off the subject of theology or politics.

But why would anyone rush out to buy a cheeseburger advertised by Mary Kate Olson?

Please don't take this question the wrong way, because I know the poor girl is suffering and needs our prayers. I'm not making fun of her or anything. I'm just finding it strange that McDonald's would choose her as one of its spokespersons.

It's a little scary too. Will millions of teenage girls decide that if Mary Kate eats big macs and fries, and stays so thin, they can eat it too without consequence?

Just to set the record straight for any teenage readers (or anyone, for that matter): while my wife was in nursing school, she learned that heart disease is forming in people at ages that are decades younger than the past. Though still rare, some people are now having heart attacks as young as in their twenties. Fast food seems to be deadly, and may be worse for people than smoking. Heart disease kills more people than cancer!

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Did John Kerry Vote For The War In Iraq?

The short answer is no.

The link above is to Kerry's speech as he was casting his so-called vote for war.

Kerry did vote for H.J. Res. 114, which I would not have personally supported.

Yet, the joint resolution does not state that the President will wage war on Iraq unnecessarily and apart from the United Nations beginning on March 19, 2003.

Bush supporters seem to think Kerry "flip-flopped" on the war because he voted for this resolution, and then turned around criticized the President for going to war. His position has actually been quite consistent once a person stops to realize that H.J. Res. 114 was not a vote on the war, itself, but on the authority of the Presidency.

Kerry, and all of our legislators, did not vote for or against the war at all. Rather, they voted to authorize the President to go to war if he deemed it necessary for the country's defense (which he already can do), or in the enforcement of U.N. resolutions.

Bush supporters will say that the justification for the beginning of war without the United Nations meets the strict letter of H.J. Res. 114 so long as the President deemed war with Iraq necessary. The language of the resolution was sufficiently broad to give the president a wide range of latitude.

However, simply because this language gives the President latitude does not mean that Kerry or any other supporter of the resolution believed that the President should exercise that latitude the way he did.

In other words, there is a distinction between saying "I give the President the authority to wage war if necessary" and saying, "War is necessary, and I want the president to go to war right now in these circumstances and this way"

Here are Kerry's exact words ont he day he cast his vote:

Regime change has been an American policy under the Clinton administration, and it is the current policy. I support the policy. But regime change in and of itself is not sufficient justification for going to war -- particularly unilaterally -- unless regime change is the only way to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction pursuant to the United Nations resolution.

As bad as he is, Saddam Hussein, the dictator, is not the cause of war. Saddam Hussein sitting in Baghdad with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is a different matter.
John Kerry was abundantly clear that he opposed unilateral intervention in the affairs of another nation for the purpose of regime change. The United Nations' Charter forbids unilateral use of force against any nation by all members of the United Nations:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
While Kerry may have hoped that U.N. sanctions would eventually effect regime change in Iraq, he did not support an act of aggression to remove Saddam, and he should not support aggression for this reason.

The Catholic Church also forbids the preventative or aggressive use of military force by one state against another:
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
If the United States were to go to war, Kerry felt that there were only two reasons: a grave and imminent threat of attack from Iraq, or working with the United Nations to disarm an Iraq that possessed WMDs.

Recall that this vote was made prior to the United Nations weapons inspections by Hans Blix in November of 2002. The vote that Kerry made could be claimed to be the right vote by Kerry because that vote giving the President broad authority helped make the weapons inspections happen.

This does not mean that Kerry intended the President to go to war unilaterally when the inspections failed to find any WMDs!

Here are more of Kerry's words as he cast his vote for H.J. Res. 114:
Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.

In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days -- to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.

If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize "imminent"--threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.
Kerry has not "flip-flopped" on the war as Bush continually tries to say.

Rather, he has consistently held that the President needed the authority to go to war to make U.N. resolution 1441 pass and get the inspectors into Iraq.

Had those inspections revealed WMDs, Kerry may have backed preventative or pre-emptive action by the United States working with the United Nations to disarm Iraq once all other options had been exhausted.

Alternately, if Iraq directly attacked the United States, Kerry believes we could defend ourselves. Even if it were known that Iraq was in the immediate process of preparing an imminent attack against the United States, Kerry might have considered pre-emptive attack as an option to disable Iraq's attack capabilities.

Kerry might have gone to war with Iraq, which he has never denied. However, he would only go to war on three conditions:

1) The U.N. and the United States together deemed that Iraq possessed WMDs with intent to use them or distribute them to terrorists, and all non-military efforts at disarmament had failed. In this case, the U.S. could work with the U.N. to disarm Iraq, even preventatively, but only with the U.N.

2) If Iraq attacked the United States directly, war could be waged unilaterally.

3) If Iraq posed an "imminent threat" to the United States, meaning an attack were in progress, the U.S. could pre-emptively attack Iraq in order to disable the threat.

To my knowledge, Kerry has not ever supported the notion of unilateral preventative war, which is an entirely different thing from a pre-emptive attack against an imminent threat, or a multi-lateral effort to disarm an international criminal. The differences are strategic, but also legal, ethical and moral.

Kerry has consistently said that Bush went to war at the wrong time in the wrong way. Many people hear in this a mere criticism of Bush's strategy, but not his overarching vision.

I see Kerry implying something else. I wish he'd say it more boldly and clearly. Kerry is saying that unilateral preventative war is an ineffective and poor strategy, especially with no plan to win the peace when the war ends. Yet, I think he is saying more than that.

He also continually repeats the theme of Bush's dishonesty and repeats the word "wrong" in reference to Bush's doctrine of unilateral preventative war.

I think Kerry is saying that there is an ethically or morally right way to wage war, and all else is wrong. If that is what he means, I wish he'd come right out and say so. He'd have the support of 2,000 years of Judeo-Christian thought on just war to back up such a statement, and his way of going to war would more likely have met the minimum requirements for a just war.

Personally, I believe it is so difficult to say we have exhausted all non-violent means of conflict resolutions, that even Kerry's criteria for a just war might have been less strict than we should really follow.

Yet, from the viewpoint of Catholic teaching, Kerry's criteria are in line with Church teaching, and Bush's criteria are way outside of the bounds of tradtional just war doctrine. Unilateral preventative war is nothing but a euphemism for an act of aggression, and all acts of aggression are wrong!

It is immoral to invade a sovereign nation the way the United States invaded Iraq!

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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Dick Cheney Supported Terrorists

While he claimed during the 2000 campaign that, as CEO of Halliburton, he had "imposed a 'firm policy' against trading with Iraq," confidential UN records show that, from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000, Halliburton held stakes in two firms that sold more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq while Cheney was in charge. Halliburton acquired its interest in both firms while Cheney was at the helm, and continued doing business through them until just months before Cheney was named George W. Bush's running mate.

Perhaps even more troubling, at the same time Cheney was doing business with Iraq, he launched a public broadside against sanctions laws designed to cut off funds to regimes like Iran, which the State Department listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. In 1998, Cheney traveled to Kuala Lumpur to attack his own country's terrorism policies for being too strict. Under the headline, "Former US Defence Secretary Says Iran-Libya Sanctions Act 'Wrong,'" the Malaysian News Agency reported that Cheney "hit out at his government" and said sanctions on terrorist countries were "ineffective, did not provide the desired results and [were] a bad policy."


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Analysis of Polling Data Suggests Bush Defeat

Using a trend analysis that compares approval levels of the Presidency to his support in the polls, James Galbraith of salon suggests that Bush's bounce was only 2.8 points after the RNC, and as trends continue, his only hope of winning the election is a big surprise in October.

Invester's Business Daily agrees that Bush is losing ground despite the bounce after the RNC, but sees the race as too close to call. They believe that Bush was hurt by allegations regarding his service during Vietnam and the milestone of over 1,000 U.S. troops dead in Iraq, but he can recover.

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Something to Ponder

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National Guard Families Speak Out

This quote says it all:

Dante Zappala said, "My brother died trying to make an honest man of George Bush, hoping to find those illusive weapons of mass destruction,..."
Or, as another soldier once said, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

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Week 32 of Pregancy Almost Ending

I get a bit confused about what week we are actually in at the moment. My fie has pregnant for 32 weeks and five days. I keep wanting to say we are in week 33. My wife says that it is still week 32, just as I am 39 years old, even though I am older than that.

I'm becoming very excited, and a little nervous.

My biggest worry is that we're not going to know when labor is starting on time. My wife has been feeling some pretty strong and lasting contractions for over a week now, and I'm wondering how real labor will be different.

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Steve Bogner Offers Seven Tips to Stop Child Abuse

In a world where even priests abuse children and bishops have covered for them, we all need to be aware how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child abuse.

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Another Point Where Shea Disagrees With Bush and Sides With Kerry

The issue is nulcear non-proliferation. Why does the United States need more nukes?

The original article can be read here.

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