Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Taking a Few Days Off

I'm going to be traveling to visit family over Thanksgiving, and taking some days off from blogging.


Friday, November 17, 2006


Vatican Reaffirms Celibacy Discipline

I don't think anyone actually expected a three hour Curia meeting to lead to a drastic change.

Maybe it signals, however, that Pope Benedict is open to be given a reason if it is a good reason in his opinion.


Feuerherd Analyzes Catholic Votes in 2006

I believe it has been a pretty conistent trend, at least since the days of Reagans, that whoever wins the majority of the Catholic votes, wins in the wider popular vote.

Is this because Catholics vote just like everyone else, or do Catholics form and important swing vote?


GOP Chooses Boehner as Minority Lead

It seems Republicans are staying the course.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hoyer Wins Majority Lead

Well. The pundits seemed wrong in predicting Murtha's victory was a done deal.

This is not good for those who hoped to see a pro-life Democrat who would withdraw from Iraq take the lead.

On the other hand, for those concerend about ethics reform, this is probably a good thing.

This also reveals some real rivalries and disagreements among the new majority, which may not be a bad thing after six years of government where dissent and disloyalty was squashed by the old majority.


NCR Editorial on Last Week's Elections

NCR sees the election as a move away from extremism that is bound to uncover things about what our nation has become that will be uncomfortable to many.


McCain Making a Bid for 2008 Presidency

I'm neither for him or against him at this point: I'm just posting this because it is newsworthy.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist

I've already written below on the other documents to come out this week's bishops' conference, so this will be the last post on such documents.

Overall, this is very good document. Parts of it are simply a great meditation on the Eucharist, and a prayerful reading with that aim is encouraged.

I am pleasantly surprised by the communal dimension of Eucharist forming the Church into the body of Christ that is emphasized throughout the document.

The explanation of the Mass parts will be helpful to many.

I suppose that those heavily invested in ecumenism will be disappointed with some guidelines advising against distributing communion to non-Catholics, or against receive communion in non-Catholic churches.

To me, such guidelines can be seen as respectful of the beliefs of others.

For example, when evangelical Protestant friends have come to Mass with me on occasion and asked why they cannot come to communion, rather than emphasizing that we don't allow it, I explain to them what we believe Eucharist is.

Of course, they then say that our belief almost sounds idolatrous, and I point out that they should not receive communion with us lest they violate their own conscience by participating in what they feel borders on idolatry.

There are Christians who believe in real presence, the way we do. That's a more difficult situation, because we are united in so much, and it is painful that we are divided to the point our respective leaders do not permit intercommunion.

Yet, it is a sort of mutual or reciprocal rule and we are permitted to join together in prayer.

I thought it was very wise of the bishops to avoid addressing canon 915 on denying communion in grave circumstances in the document.

The footnotes indicate on page 2 that the reason for this omission is precisely because the document is directed to "the faithful in general".

I take this to mean that no lay person, including extraordinary Eucharistic ministers, under any circumstances, is to take it upon him or herself to deny another Catholic communion unless explicitly told to do so by a bishop's authority.

I've always read this canon that way, and the treatment here of the canon in the footnote number 3 seems to confirm my interpretation.

There is another important paragraph in this regard in the document:

We may find ourselves in situations, however, where an examination of our conscience before God reveals to us that we should refrain from partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ. Moreover, we should be cautious when making judgments about where or not someone else should receive Holy Communion.
Judging worthiness for Communion is not something we do of others as though Christ needs protected.

Rather, judging worthiness for Communion is something we do of ourselves, to protect ourselves, lest we place ourselves in the position of needing to answer for the body and blood of the Lord (i.e. - answer for the crucifixion, c.f. - p. 8 quoting 1 Cor 11:27).

In the section on examining conscience, there are no real surprises where the document uses the ten commandments.

The surprise comes with a turn to the question of "adherence to doctrine".

The good news is this statement:
Some Catholics may not fully understand the Church's doctrinal and moral teaching on certain issues. That may have certain questions and even uncertainties. In these situations of honest doubt and confusion, they are welcome to partake of Holy Communion, as long as they are prayerfully and honestly striving to understand the truth of what the Church professes and are taking appropriate steps to resolve their confusion and doubt. Individuals who experience serious difficulties with or doubts about Church teaching should carefully study those Church teachings from authentic sources and seek advice from a confessor or pastor.
So, if one withholds assent to particular teachings due to honest doubt or confusion, that alone is not a reason to deny yourself Communion.

So far, so good....

The document continues:
If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.
What I struggle with understanding is how one knows the difference between "honest doubt and confusion" and "knowingly and obstinately" rejecting or repudiating such a doctrine.

In case anyone is curious, I have taken this matter to confession - and spoke to various confessors about the fact that I do express my honest doubts and confusion on a blog or in Catholic chat rooms.

It may surprise folks to know that even some more conservative confessors do not object to the general principle of questioning Church teaching on the web - so long as I am clear I am a lay person and have no authority.

The bishops' document doesn't seem to imply this.

The bishops' document also makes no reference to such teaching as GS 62:
..., let it be recognized that all the faithful, whether clerics or laity, possess a lawful freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought and of expressing their mind with humility and fortitude in those matters on which they enjoy competence.
The document makes no reference to canon 212.3:
They [the laity] have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.
Footnote 18 of the document, on page 10, quotes LG 25.1 regarding the demands of authentic teaching when it is not solemnly defined.

Solemnly defined dogma, typically referred to as "infallible teaching" is due the assent of faith.

This includes such beliefs as the creeds, the seven sacraments, the infallibility of the pope when he speaks ex cathedra, some Marian dogmas and so forth.

This type of teaching is said to be "infallible", meaning free of error.

It is due what is called "the assent of faith".

Basically, this is the faith of the martyrs and saints, and means it is something so core to the faith and/or so certain to the Church that a Catholic might stake his or her life on the matter.

"Authentic doctrine" includes all that the Church teaches with Episcopal or papal authority, even when it is not solemnly defined as infallible dogma.

This is not due "the assent of faith".

Rather, it is due "religious submission of will and intellect."

Canon 749.3 states "No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident."

Religious [or, "loyal" as quoted in the bishops' document] submission of will and intellect is not quite as demanding as "the assent of faith".

It is important to note, as well, that the Roman Catholic does teach that faith and reason never conflict.

Some mysteries of faith are non-rational and go beyond the limits of reason, but anything irrational is to be rejected as error.

Thus, all considerations about how to deal with the subject of "authentic doctrine" and the authority of popes and bishops must be read in a context that does not imply blind obedience to irrational demands.

In this light, I take religious submission of will and intellect to mean that one must do three things:

1. Show proper respect for the office of the teaching authority. For example, if you disagree with the pope, do not say that the Church doesn't need a pope at all. Do not advocate forming a new church or advocate action that will lead certainly to formal schism. If warned that you are on verge of excommunication by a bishop, take that warning seriously. This does not mean that one cannot criticize a pope or bishop for sin, or ask questions when you disagree. It does mean that when you do such things, you show some sort of respect for the office, and try to treat the holder of office with the charity and justice due to all human persons.

2. Submission of the will indicates to me that in your personal life, you will obey the teaching as best you can without violating the morally certain dictates of your conscience. If there is conflict between your conscience and obedience, try to resolve the tension in a way that compromises neither. For example, if you disagree with the pope on an issue like woman's ordination, you may express your concern, but do not participate in Masses said by women unless and until the pope changes his position.

3. Submission of the intellect seems to me to mean that one must give all "authentic doctrine" some benefit of the doubt as containing a degree of truth, and one must be diligent to uncover and affirm all truth contained in the teaching. Spend the time, as the bishops suggest, to prayerfully and thoughtfully examine the primary source material of the teaching before casually dismissing it. If a teaching is "infallible", it is to be presumed to be wholly without error when understood properly, and any confusion is to be presumed to be due to personal misunderstanding. If a teaching is not manifestly demonstrated to be defined infallibly, the teaching may be mostly true, but it also may contain some material error or omission. The doubt or confusion may be a fault of your own understanding, or it may be a fault in the way the doctrine is formulated. There's no sure way to tell. Canon 212.3 and GS 62 would affirm your right, and even duty to ask the questions whether a teaching contains errors and omissions, even to other faithful. The primacy of conscience outlined in GS 28 would also affirm this right and obligation to voice grave concerns.

In general, if a question, confusion, or doubt can be framed by appealing to an internal inconsistency in the doctrine itself, or contradiction with a doctrine defined with higher authority, this would add some weight to why one withholds assent.

If the reason for withholding assent is due to conflict with beliefs foreign to Catholic faith, it may be thet the other belief system is contains error.

It should be added that it is very easy, even when one starts out humbly asking a sincere question, to be made to feel defensive, and then turn to argumentative pride, rash anger, and so forth when one tries to express honest doubt and confusion in the face of belittlment.

Sometimes, we may fall into sin. That should probably be confessed.

Any lack of charity in your search for truth may need confessed.

Yet, when the anger cools and the debate mode has died down, if your doubts remain, but you are still willing to search further, I think you probably can call it "honest doubt" rather than "obstinate rejection".

It is in this light that I think the next section of the bishops' document on worthiness for Communion makes sense when it speaks of public scandal on page 11.

Public scandal is more than doing or saying something that causes another to be shocked or upset.

It is more than even sinning in public.

It is actively encouraging another to commit sin they otherwise would not likely do without your intentional or knowing encouragement.

It is interesting that the bishops completely omitted any discussion in this document about how voting might impact our worthiness for Communion.

This is a stark omission given that some very vocal bishops have suggested our voting choices could make us unworthy for communion.

I take this glaring omission in light of the emphasis in footnote 3 and the warning about judging others on page 7 as implying that we should not attempt to judge anyone's worthiness for Communion based on their voting.

One may certainly examine oneself on this matter, but there is no objective rule of thumb that could be put in a consensus document of the bishops as standard practice across the board.


Married Love and the Gift of Life

The link above is to the bishops' statement on the meaning of marriage, and reiterates the Church's teaching on contraception and natural family planning.

Marriage is a union of persons, and the conjugal act is described as "body language" comparable to other forms of communication, where the etymological root of communion is literally "union with" - two becoming one.

This union of persons is ordered to union with God.

Part of God's gift to husband and wife is this ability in and through their love to cooperate with God's creative power. Therefore, the mutual gift of fertility is an integral part of the bonding power of marital intercourse.
Here is a the central thrust of the teaching against contraception:
When married couples deliberately act to suppress fertility,...,sexual intercourse is no longer fully marital intercourse. It is something less powerful and intimate, something more "casual". Suppressing fertility by using contraception denies part of the inherent meaning of married sexuality and does harm to the couple's unity. The total giving of oneself, body and soul, to one's beloved is not time to say: "I give you everything I am -- except..." The Church's teaching is not only about observing a rule, but about preserving that total, mutual gift of two person in its integrity.
A little further on, extending the theme of conjugal love or intercourse as a body language, the bishops compare contraception to lying:
Even if I see myself as a truthful person "on the whole," any occasional lie I tell is still a lie, and so is immoral. By such acts, I begin to make myself into the kind of person who lies. This is no less true when we falsify the "language of the body,"....
That's an interesting argument that I recall as an allusion to something Pope John Paul II wrote on the subject.

We all would more or less agree that knowingly, freely and deliberately stating what you know to be false is a lie.

I smoke, and my wife doesn't like it. I do not smoke in the house, and really do most of my smoking when away from home.

If my wife asks me if I was smoking again today, and knowing it causes her displeasure, I say "No. I haven't had any cigarettes today," even as I know I smoked earlier in the day while out of the house, I have lied.

That would be immoral, especially since there is no real proportionate reason not to tell the truth.

I mean, this isn't like the case of lying to Nazis about whether there are Jews in my attic. Even then, I'm not sure it is morally licit to deliberately lie, and I am even more certain I should not lie to my wife about my smoking.

The question I have about the Church's teaching really is not regarding the reasons presented against contraception, per se. My question has to do with natural family planning.

If my wife asks me if I were smoking today, and I deliberately refuse to answer the question, or attempt to change the subject, I may not have directly told a lie, but did I tell the truth?

Is my deliberate refusal to answer the question authentic dialogue - true communication?

Let's say my wife asks me if I smoked today, and I tell her to ask me later over and over. Is that authentic dialogue and true communication?

Let's say that I simply have a genuine dialogue with my wife where we mutually agree that she is not to ask me if I smoked except during the third week of each month.

I suppose this will prevent either lying or deliberate evasion for three weeks of the month, but if my wife really wants to know how I am doing at quitting, or simply has a need to get her feelings about the smell of smoke on my breath and clothing off her chest, we have severely curtailed her ability to communicate.

I'm trying to suggest that the intention to hide the truth may not be a technical lie, but it remains dishonest.

Maybe my analogy is making sense to few people other than myself. Let me clarify what I have already written a few times before. My main problem with the Church teaching on contraception is not so much that it prohibits contraception. It is that it allows natural family planning.

It seems to me that the main argument against contraception boils down to an attitude we should have in our hearts at all times of openness to procreation.

Paragraph 2373 of the CCC states: "Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity."

In the creed at Mass every Sunday, we say that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.

Why is it appropriate to do anything whatsoever to impede the Holy Spirit from creating a new human life?

When natural family planning is used to plan conjugal acts where fertility is impossible, I do not see how the couple practicing these techniques is open to procreation.

I do understand when the bishops or the popes and others defend NFP by stating that though the "end" of NFP and contraception is the same, the "means" differ.

By "end", they all seem to signify the end result or consequence of an action. I also understand that the ends never justify the means.

But here is the problem. What makes contraception morally illicit is that the end itself is immoral, where that end is sexual activity closed to procreation.

A morally upright person is one who chooses good and avoids evil. We are not to direct our will towards immoral ends.

If the end result of non-reproductive sex is immoral, the intention of deliberately having non-reproductive sex is immoral, regardless of the means.

Using the analogy of "body language", to deliberately lie is immoral, but so is deliberate evasion of telling the truth.

The bishops state the following:
On the surface, there may seem to be little difference [between artificial contraception and natural family planning]. But the end result is not the only thing that matters, and the way we get to that result may make an enormous difference....

....This is the difference between choosing to falsify the full marital language of the body and choosing at certain times not to speak that language
I can agree that the end result of any moral action is not the only thing that matters. But it does matter.

Choosing not to speak is a moral choice, and I am wondering what justifies that choice in communication as intimate as marriage?

To put this analogy of lying on a grander scale, it is just as immoral to deliberately withhold important information from those who have a right to know as it is to deliberately state a falsehood.

For example, if I sell products that are unsafe and could cause physical harm to the buyer, it is just as immoral to withhold information regarding the danger as it is to tell the buyer that the product is safe.

Procreation is the primary end of conjugal acts, according to Pope Pius XI.

Picking up that theme, the bishops echo Pope John Paul II's terminology that procreation is "integral" to conjugal acts.

It would seem to be immoral to deliberately (that is "intentionally") separate this integral relationship between procreation and conjugal acts by any means whatsoever - including natural family planning.

Of course, there are those in the Society of Saint Pius X, and even a handful of evangelical Protestants, who take exactly this position, and therefore reject natural family planning as a means of birth control.

If they were to use it all, they would only use it to maximize the chance of pregnancy during conjugal acts, rather than minimizing it.

That position makes a great deal of logical sense to me, and is consistent with over 1900 years of Catholic tradition and with the Biblical teaching on the blessings of marriage.

It would seem that any abstinence from conjugal acts would not be done in order to avoid conception, but only for the purpose of devoting oneself to prayer for a time, as Saint Paul advocated.

As soon as we admit that natural family planning practiced with the deliberate intention of having non-reproductive sex is permitted, it naturally raises the question of what is wrong with using other means to achieve the same end?

I'm not saying that there may not be good reasons to use natural family planning instead of contraception.

The bishops highlight some reasons that even non-believers chose to use natural family planning - such as a desire to avoid injesting potentially harmful chemicals.

However, this is hardly a moral consideration. This is more like deciding to lower my cholesterol by changing my diet rather than taking cholesterol lowering drugs.

Likewise, some of the practical benefits of NFP to assisting couples grow closer through more verbal communication may be true, but if intimate verbal communication can be achieved another way, why must someone use NFP?

Those who are ignorant of NFP and contracepting already may want to explore NFP for these reasons. But I can't see how these arguments are morally compelling.

The caution the document highlights about some forms of birth control acting as abortificients will make great moral sense to pro-life Catholics.

I buy that argument against certain artificial contraceptives. But not every form of artificial contraception has abortificient potential.

The real question it almost seems that the Church is avoiding is this: What renders it morally licit to deliberately, freely, and knowingly engage in conjugal acts during a period when the woman is known to be infertile?

The most obvious answer I can discern based on the doctrinal statements from the Vatican such as Humanae Vitae is that the expression of unitive love renders conjugal acts licit even when the procreative dimension is entirely absent.

If this is true, we can ask if there are situations where unitive love can be expressed even when the procreative end of sexuality is neither primary, or present.

There obviously are, such as when the woman in a married couple passes the age of menopause, or when infertile heterosexuals marry.

Can this same logic apply to contraception practiced within a marriage that is open to children overall? Can this same logic apply to gay unions?

If it cannot, how do we show that it cannot without calling into question how natural family planning is morally licit?

I am a heterosexual married man who does not practice contraception. I do not ask these questions based on any perceived inability to obey the Church's teaching, or any personal vested interest in seeing the position change.

I ask these questions because I honestly cannot make sense of what the Church is trying to say.

Despite having read the "authentic" material, in some cases many times, and discussing this with many people, something is not making sense to me, and doesn't seem to make sense to many people.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Bishops' Guidelines for Ministry to Homosexuals

I was surprised the bishops had this posted so quickly. It was just approved today, after several drafts. I've only managed a first pass through it.

My overall impression is this.

First, I applaud the bishops for very clearly and repeating denouncing any violence or hatred directed at homosexuals.

Second, this document is an accurate reflection of what the Vatican intends in its own various documents.

The conservatives can relax if they thought it would be too watered down.

Third, if you agree one hundred percent with the traditional Church teaching, the tone of this document is much better and much better adopted to an American audience than Vatican resources.

The substance is the same, but the tone is much, much better and some ambiguities in Vatican resources are clarified.

It is also simply an "easier read".

Fourth, there is some excellent advice, not only to homosexuals, but to anyone, on how to form virtuous habits with the help of God's grace.

While the focus is on the virtue of chastity, it really applies to all virtue.

Those who wish to support the Church's teaching in America would do very well to practically memorize this document (and its footnotes), and adopt to the precise language the bishops use.

There are, of course, a few unanswered questions I am left with after reading this.

The document describes my own experience of feeling a vocation to heterosexual marriage and the meaning of those desires to me very well.

It posits that this is not merely cultural conditioning or subjective preference, but is an "objective basis for moral judgments".

On page 14, in particular, we see the following:

Many do not admit an objective basis for moral judgments. They recognize no acts as intrinsically evil but maintain that that judgments of good and bad are entirely subjective. In this view, matters of sexual morality should be left for individuals to decide according to their own preferences and values, with the only restriction that they not cause manifest harm to another individual.
I have written frequently that I do accept the terminology of "intrinsic evil".

Torture, rape, deliberate murder, defrauding a worker her or his just wage, and so forth are examples of intrinsic evils - meaning they are immoral semper et pro semper - always and everywhere (VS 80).

I do believe in an objective basis for moral judgments. The objective basis for moral judgments is the one that Christ said is the basis of the entire law and prophets: The golden rule, which applies everywhere (CCC 1789, Mt 7:12, Lk 6:31, and Tob 4:15).

The question I have is not simply how homosexuality expressed between two consenting adults in a committed monogamous partnership causes "manifest harm" to anyone.

The question I have is how such sex causes any harm whatsoever to anyone at all?

If it causes no harm to anyone, it cannot be immoral, since the very definition of immorality is that the golden rule is violated in some way, according to Christ.

I do believe that promiscuity can cause harm (which includes heterosexual fornication and adultery).

I do believe that non-consensual sex always causes harm and is intrinsically evil (i.e. - rape or sexual abuse of minors).

I even believe that masturbation can be a sin in the heart, since it may be a movement of the will towards various forms of harmful sex.

But how does consensual sex between adults in committed monogamous partnership cause anyone harm in this life?

If the argument is that the harm is in the next life, it begs the question how we know such a thing with any certainty?

To appeal to the handful of scripture texts as divine revelation that this will lead to consequences in the next life is to appeal to a collection of writings that far more frequently supports polygamy, slavery, and wars of agression.

The scriptures very obviously are shaped by some cultural conditioning we have since rejected on the basis of Christ's teaching.

On gay marriage or civil unions, the document also states the following:
It is not unjust to oppose granting to homosexuals couples benefits that in justice should belong to marriage alone.
What exactly would these rights be?

Is hospital visitation by a domestic partner a human right, or a right exclusive to marriage? Inheritance? Power of attorny? Tax benefits that might be shared by siblings?

Cardinal Leveda is the current Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who replaced Cardinal Ratzinger when he became Pope Benedict XVI.

It is well known that Leveda struck a deal with civil legislators in his former diocese to allow people living in gay unions to receive benefits that were granted broadly to many forms of domestic arrangements and family life.

Is the idea here that we could wind up in practice granting gay couples every right and benefit married couples enjoy, so long as we make those same rights and benefits available to a host of other domestic arrangements - like two widowed sisters living together, or a child caring for an elderly parent?

Maybe we could. But then why bother saying anything about the issue.

The issue is not that it just to oppose granting benefits to gay couples belonging to heterosexual married couples.

The issue is that many benefits of married couples rightly belong to all sorts of other domestic arrangements.

Speak to that injustice, instead of implying gays are somehow demanding something that doesn't belong to them!

On page 21, it is stated that the Church cannot accept adoption by gay couples.

But single people adopt.

Indeed, Pope Pius IX kidnapped a six year old child, Edgardo Mortara, from his Jewish parents in order to raise him as Christian, since he was baptized as a sick child by a Christian woman from Bologna.

If a celibate Pope can adopt a child from living parents by means of kidnapping, certainly any single person may adopt an orphan child, as permitted under civil law.

Can one member of a gay couple adopt, so longer as the other doesn't legally participate?

How in the world is it better for a child to be raised with no parents at all, rather than loving gay parents?

I guess stating my opinionated questions here will disqualify me from ministering to homosexual persons.

Nevertheless, I do think the bishops, and eventually Rome, is going to need to answer these types of questions responsibly, or change.


Pope Calls Curia to Discuss Married Priests

Yeah. I was excited when I saw the headline flash on a news site too.

It turns out this is likely to be more damage control over Archbishop Milingo's consecrations of four married but validly ordained priests to the episcopate.

Who knows? Maybe a frank discussion and open review of the value of the celibacy discipline for priests will result anyway.

I believe that consecrated celibacy is a valuable vocation to the Roman Catholic Church. The question is not whether we should have celibates. We always will.

The question is whether all those called to priesthood also have the call to celibacy, and whether such a thing can effectively and morally be translated into an ecclesiastic law?

Proponents argue it already is the discipline of the Church and works good enough, gives a valuable coutercultural witness, frees the priest to devote himself more fully to ministry and prayer, has roots in ancient traditions, is modeled on Christ's own celibacy, keeps ministerial costs down and protects Church property, and there is nothing immoral about such a discipline.

Opponents argue it was not founded by Christ (who chose married men among the 12), has never been uniformly practiced, sometimes attracts unhealthy people to priesthood, has bred the conditions of secrecy contributing to clerical sexual abuse, contributes to declining vocations today, drags down wages for lay Church employees below a just wage, and it might even be sinful to make celibacy a condition for a valid vocation to priesthood if the person is not called to celibacy.


WaPo on Bishops' Conference

The Washington Post reports that the bishops have released a four page statement on Iraq seeking an alternative for responsible transition to either "cut and run" or "stay the course".

The statement also reiterates the bishops' grave moral concern with the notion of "preventive war", condemns torture, and reiterates other moral concerns about the conduct of the war.

Moral challenge is also delivered to the Iraqi people, Arab nations in the region, and international community to meet responsibilities that will make for a better Iraq.

The statement also thanks the troops for their generous sacrifice, and commends them for their efforts to help the Iraqi people against a brutal dictator.

The statement was not planned as part of the original agenda, but many bishops felt that ignoring the situation would be a failure to speak on the most important moral issue facing the nation.

The conference will also release a statement reaffirming Church doctrine regarding contraception, holy communion and homosexuality.

By a unanimous vote, the bishops alsoe approved spending $335,000 for another John Jay study on the "causes and context" of clergy abuse.


Andrew Greeley Asks 'Who is Pope Benedict?'

His conclusion seems to be that, basically, Benedict is an enigma, and that may not be a bad thing.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Elton John Would Ban Religion

Stating that religion turns hatred towards gay people, and that religious leaders are doing too little to end conflict around the world, Elton John stated that he would ban organized religion.

He also (rightly) criticized his own field for not doing enough to promote world peace, like John Lennon and mucisians of the 1960's tried to do.

I suspect that many Christians feel some sort of outrage at Elton John's comments.

My own reaction is not outrage.

For one thing, I doubt he meant to be taken absolutely seriously.

Even if he did, he's hitting on some degree of truth, but not the whole.

Christians should do some deep introspection that we have hurt our gay brothers and lesbian sisters to the degree that such statements are made.

First, on banning religion: The communists tried that. It didn't turn out so good. It's not really a good solution Elton. Think a little harder.

Second, on the failure of religious leaders to promote peace: Well, if you admit you aren't doing any better, why point the finger at others.

Remove the plank from your own eye, and then remove the speck from the eye of your sibling so that you both can see clearly and work together to promote peace.

Third, on religion turning people to hatred: We have a chicken and egg problem here. Does religion breed hatred, or does common hatred get expressed in religious language?

That is the real question, and both sides of the discussion need to do a bit of introspection.

Elton John isn't dealing with the fact that many gays belong to various organized religions.

To the extent Christians hate gays and lesbians, they are not following Christ's command to love everyone. Any Christian who hates anyone has some conversion to do.

Even where there is no feeling of hatred, Christians need to very honestly exmaine how our words and deeds might appear hateful, and change that behavior.

For example, a white southerner in the days of slavery may not have felt any personal animosity towards blacks, but if he or she supported slavery, it had the same effect.

There may have been a hosts of reasons to support slavery. Maybe he believed states rights trump federal imposition of morality. Maybe he thought the Bible allows slavery.

Maybe the southerner even believed that blacks were destined for slavery under the delusion that Africa is populated by the children of the biblical Cush who will serve his other brothers.

It's not hatred. It's just a belief about the nature of people.

Well, that is what Christians need to be asking about our beliefs about homosexuals.

Are some of our widespread or common beliefs about the nature of people - even if supported by the Bible - misguided, incorrect, and just plain delusional?

We need to open our minds to exploring what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

In fact, it ain't much. There are only about 5 passages that even implicitly deal with the subject, and at least three of these are vague when applied this way.

Far more passages support slavery, and far more clearly.

But the most common themes in the Bible aren't about slaves, or gays, or even chastity or family values, broadly considered.

The most common theme is God's love for us, and the response of love we make to God.

As far as virtue and vice, idolatry is the most frequently listed sin.

Disregard for the poor is a very close second - where blindness to economic and social justice is frequently seen as a form of idolatry.

Now, some white southerners did hate black people. Others deeply feared black people. Others looked down on black people in order to feel good about themselves. Still others felt little about black people, or for God, but saw a way to make a buck in the slave system.

All of those types of feelings, or lack thereof, were matters that authentic religion should have challenged - basic attitudes and states of the heart that needed to change.

But there were at least some white southerners who accepted the slave system and the staus quo even though they liked black people, cared about them, and even felt a genuine sort of love that translated into some sort of action.

For example, there were some slave owners who refused to rely on the whip. There were ministers who cared for slaves and built up the black church.

But it took a long time for those who loved blacks to start questioning the whole system.

On the flip side, gays and lesbians need to understand that many Christians do not really hate homosexuals as some sort of condition of the heart.

Even the cruel ways some Christians speak or act towards gays might be based on certain intellectual convictions and cultural conditioning that has little to do with a felt hatred.

That doesn't make the cruelty any easier to take - but it does open one's eyes to more constructive ways of changing minds than suggesting bans on religion.

One way to help nudge Christians along is to simply be involved in their lives so that we get to know you and come to love you.

This may even mean going to a religious service with them once and awhile.

Another way is through Elton John's forte - art.

And religion uses art, whether music, liturgy or what have you.

Another way is to be fully informed regarding the issues, and being willing to calmly discuss the issues with gentleness and respect with anyone who will listen.

A ban on religion will do nothing but antagonize, and even suggesting such things provokes those who truly are filled with hatred and fear to a backlash.

There is a saying among some Jews about Christians that the only people expected to follow the teachings of Jesus are the Jews.

It may sound like I am saying that gays and lesbians need to be more Christians than the Christian.

Ultimately, I am not. The Christian has a responsibility to God, self, and others to be a true Christian - which means loving everyone.

If the Christian isn't doing that, it isn't the fault of gays.

Yet, I am also saying that the best way - the most effective way - to help Christians follow Jesus' teaching about love for others is to out-do her or him in love.

And the same principle probably applies to other organized religions when it comes to homosexuality.


Might Pro-Choice Pols Reduce Abortions

In the post immediately below this one, I suggested that we who are pro-life Catholics adopt to a Democratically controlled Congress by writing in support of the 95/10 initiative.

This initiative aims at reducing abortions 95 percent over 10 years without using restrictions.

I ultimately favor restrictions on abortion, even to the point of a right to life amendment defending all human life from conception until natural death.

It seems to me that reducing demand for abortion is a critical success factor towards this goal.

I make no secret of the fact that I was jubilant the Republicans took a licking last week, after getting us into an immoral war.

However, my fear is that the pro-life movement could lose heart and wind up losing steam.

The 95/10 initiative strikes me as a good idea that could appeal to the most passionate pro-choicer.

It is also an effective way for pro-lifers to reduce abortions and keep momentum on the abortion issue.

One reader commented that he did not believe such legislation stood a chance of making it to the floor unless John Murtha somehow became majority leader.

Well, Pelosi is backing Murtha as majority leader.

For those who do not know, Murtha has a strong pro-life record, in addition to his opposition to the ongoing occupation of Iraq.

If he would just support gun control....

Alas. Nobody is perfect.

The reader commented that even if Murtha were majority leader, many Democrats, such as John Kerry, would not back such legislation as the 95/10 initiative.

The link in the post title above is to a speech John Kerry gave last September at Pepperdine University.

This speech reads like a homily, packed with Biblical quotes, some quotations from the bishops, and allusions to prominent evangelical Christian thinkers like Rick Warren.

It is a thought provoking speech on faith and politics.

I don't agree with everything he says on abortion.

Yet, I see reason to hope that Democrats might actually be open to doing something to reduce abortion rates in this speech.

A third area where we can find common ground is on one of the most emotional cultural issues of all: abortion. Obviously the issue of abortion has been enormously divisive, but there is also no denying there is common ground. There are 1.3 million abortions each year in America.

Everyone can agree that is too many and on a shared goal of reducing the need for abortion in the first place. And I believe our first step is to unite and accept the responsibility of making abortion rare by focusing on prevention and by supporting pregnant women and new parents....

What would progress look like?....

In addition to focusing on policies that will prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, I believe we should also embrace and expand a proven set of economic measures to again make significant progress on reducing the number of abortions in America.
In a similar veign, Hillary Clinton has been on record saying the abortion rate should be zero.

Barack Obama has stated he is "personally opposed to abortion, but...."

Granted, Obama's rhetoric doesn't sit well with Catholics who have been hearing that line from Catholic politicians for decades.

What is interesting here is that a Protestant is using the rhetoric to distance himself from being perceived as pro-abortion in the sense of promoting and expanding abortion.

The 95/10 plan is bread and butter economic justice that aims to help not only prevent the destruction of unborn life, but to help vulnerable women with a hands up.

I cannot see how any Democrat could be opposed to the initiative.

I am not suggesting for a moment that we blindly give allegiance to the Democratic party simply because they adjusted their rhetoric after a humiliating defeat in 2004.

Rather, I believe that a big part of the 2004 Democratic defeat was moral value issues like abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Let them know the pressure is still on for results. Hold them accountable to a measurable reduction in abortions.

I believe a big part of the recent trouncing the Republicans took is the debacle in Iraq.

Many people are questioning whether we truly had just cause for war. Others are questioning the moral conduct of the war and the Administration since war began.

There are still a fair number of Republicans in power.

Hold both parties accountable for results, and let both parties know the full range of issues important to Catholic Christians.

That means writing your legislators letting them know if you share the grave concerns of the popes and bishops regarding the war in Iraq, and demanding that they take some sort of action to reduce the destruction of unborn human life.

We could and should add poverty reduction and the protection of the environment to our lists. We could also add ethics reform.

We do not need to write one letter combining all issues. That would not be really effective.

Write a letter for each issue.

For the most important issues to you, send snail mail, email, a phone call and make a visit if you can.

But let them know the full range of issues, including that we seek abortion reduction!


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dealing With the Downside of Democrat Victory

I've been on the rampage against Bush and the neoconservatives for three years now.

Without letting up on the fact that America is in an unnecessary, illegal under international law, ineffective, impractical, losing and immoral war in Iraq, we need to look at where the right was right.

Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and euthanasia.

Let's be honest. the Democrats don't have a good track record on these issues for many Catholic voters.

The link above is to the Democrats for Life homepage. Here is their mission statement:

Democrats for Life of America exists to foster respect for life, from the beginning of life to natural death. This includes, but is not limited to, opposition to abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. Democrats for Life of America is one of over 200 member organizations of Consistent Life: an international network for peace, justice and life.
They are currently pushing the 95/10 initiative (see link).

This initiative seeks to employ economic justice initiatives to reduce abortions by 95 percent over ten years.

This plan does not rely on restrictions on abortion. Instead, it offers women alternatives.

I see this as a critical success factor for changing minds and hearts about abortion in this country.

Abolition picked up steam when the demand for slavery declined with new machines that could do what slaves did.

So too, if we can reduce the demand for abortion, people may listen to us when we talk about restrictions.

In my mind, reducing the demand for abortion will have a greater long range impact on eventually passing meaningful restrictions on abortion than any court pick could ever do.

The Pregnant Woman Support Act proposed by Tennessee Democrat Representative, Lincoln Davis, is supported by the USCCB and Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

For what it's worth, Catholic actor and social justice advocate, Martin Sheen, also supports this bill.

Newly elected Catholic Pennsylvania Democratic Senator, Bob Casey, already expressed support for the bill during his campaign.

Many pro-life Republican Catholics in St. Blog's were dismayed by the results of this week's mid-term elections.

In the words of the late great Pope John Paul II, what I am trying to say is "Be not afraid."

I invite every reader who voted Republican to write to your new legislators, even if you did not vote for them, and tell them to support this bill or similar legislation.

For an example of different legislation achieving the same end, Catholic News Service had reported that a similar bill was proposed less than a week prior by Ohio Democratic Representative, Tim Ryan, called the "Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act".

The bishops do not support Ryan's bill because it contains increased funding for contraception.

Without debating the merits or demerits of Ryan's bill, my point is that before this week's election, there were some Democrats trying to reach out to pro-lifers.

Indeed, in my mind, the real silver lining of the 2004 election for those who hold a consistent ethic of life was precisely that it forced innovative ideas like these out of the Democrats.

They are tackling abortion in ways that should gain wide support from even the most ardent pro-choice Democrats, and not a few Republicans.

This is more than a second place consolation prize IMHO.

Once I heard the idea, it immediately struck me that if this idea works, this is the surest and quickest path to a right to life amendment.

What is different between these proposals and the vague rhetoric of "safe, legal and rare" is the invitation to hold the party and the whole federal government accountable to a measurable result!

Even if you did not vote for them, let these pro-life Democrats know you support their efforts.

More importantly, no matter whether you live in what is now a Republican district or a Democrat district, if you are pro-life, let your own representatives know you support one or both of these measures.

On embryonic stem cell research, Nancy Pelosi stated today that this is part of the Democrat agenda.

As a Catholic, she should be ashamed of herself. I won't judge her worthiness for communion, but she deserves some criticism for letting this be part of the agenda.

Part of me suspects that she knows that Bush can veto it.

She also listed it last, indicating it may not be the highest priority.

It may be that the Democrats are paying lip service to the left the way Republicans have paid lip service to the right for some time.

Pro-lifers do favor stem cell research that has already proven effective and still has much more promise with additional research - adult stem cells.

We are gravely concerned about the ethics of deliberately destroying innocent human life at its embryonic stage in the name of an unproven science.

There are grave ethical dilemmas surrounding the potential of the sale of human embryos.

The good news is that just as there are pro-ESCR Republicans, there are also anti-ESCR Democrats.

The Democrats for Life web site allows you to see that there are Democrats opposed to ESCR, and names names for you.

These folks need to know you stand behind them, and whoever your own representative is needs to know that, at the very least, you do not want increased funding for ESCR.

My point here is to say that pro-lifers should not lose heart. Pick up your pens and write your new legislators about these issues giving them reason to listen by appealing to other Democrat activity.

Democrats for Life also provides the little known fact that there have been Democrats working with Republicans for some time on restrictions to abortion, such as veteran John (Get out of Iraq) Murtha and Senate Leader, Harry Reid.

Here is a scorecard on the 108th Congress published on the site.

You do not have to be a Democrat to make use of this information to write letters (snail mail is more effective than email), make phone calls, visit legislative offices and so forth.

Feminists for Life is another site that can help you articulate the sanctity of life to liberals.

Do not lose your passion for life issues if your guy lost the elections this week. Just adopt a different strategy to achieve the end.

Inform yourselves not only on what Republicans or conservatives for life are doing, but follow the other side so that you can pitch in to help edge positive legislation along no matter who is in power.


Vatican Official Says Executing Saddam Would be Wrong

The head of the Vatican's office for justice and peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, alluded to John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae in opposition to the death penalty for Saddam Hussein.

I agree. It is immoral to take his life at this point, and does nothing to witness to the value of human life.


Allen Concedes

The Democrats now control both houses. Burns also officially conceded to Democrat, Jon Tester, in Montana.


Gates a Controversial Pick for Defense Secretary

The man already has reputation for manipulating intelligence reports. Do we need more of this?


Wyoming Senator Diagnosed With Leukemia

Republican re-elected Senator, Craig Thomas, was diagnosed this week. Keep him in your prayers.


First Democrat to Formally Announce 2008 Presidential Bid

Iowa's Democratic Governor, Tom Vilsack, has announced he is running for President. I don't know much about him.

I did some googling on his stance on abortion.

He is somewhat conservative for a Democrat, an orphan and was raised Catholic, which might favor a pro-life stance.

Yet, he has been remarkably elusive over the years on his stance on abortion, despite many efforts to pin him down.

According to this, the most we know is that he did not agree with the "approach" presented in South Dakota, and when pressed further, replied "In a strong community you make life the best option."


Ed Bradley Dies at 65

The Sixty Minutes correspondent died of leukemia. I really liked him.

Eternal rest grant unto him O, Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. May God comfort his wife and loved ones in this time of grief.


Just War Tradition

I've written on the subject of just war in great detail before and sat down to put it all down in order without quoting texts.

This is simply a collection of my understanding of just war doctrine off the top of my head vis-a-vis pacifism and active non-violence.

I will site no text and provide very few examples or applications for the sake of brevity.

This essay is aimed at an abstract understanding of the general principles in Catholic tradition. Feel free to figure out how they apply to Iraq on your own.

PACIFISM: A model is the Amish or some monastic and hermetic life-styles within Catholicism.

A person or community of persons withdraws from society to focus on living the Gospel as a constant state of mind and way of life, while ignoring pressures from the world around that may lead to compromise in core values.

The pacifist basically holds the position that one cannot be held morally responsible for the evil done by others, and one should focus on one's own actions and state of mind and heart.

The pacifist basically will avoid conflict and if confronted with evil, will act with generous charity and/or turn the other cheek and be willing to lay down his or her life, rather than resort to violence.

If an unjust aggressor attacks another person, the pacifist will not intervene except by prayer and admonission offered with gentleness and respect, or acts of charity towards the aggressor.

While the Catholic tradition allows one to chose a pacifist lifestyle as an individual, it has been clear that the entire Church is not called to pacifism, and that strict pacifism is not to be widely encouraged.

The Church warns that there is a danger of heretical extreme individualism and quietism inherent to the pacifist position that should be avoided, even if some individuals are legitimately called to the life-style.

There is also a danger that generosity towards an unjust aggressor can become a form of cooperation with evil if prudence is not exercised.

Even with these cautions and caveats, the Church does not condemn pacifism as a way of life, knowing that some people are called to it as a vocation from God. The Church passively supports pacifism, but does not promote it.

ACTIVE NON-VIOLENCE: This view is similar to the pacifist except that the practicioner of active non-violence does not withdraw from the wider society and world.

Further, the practitioner of active non-violence does believe that when one is confronted with evil done to another, one must intervene in some way, even if physical violence is rejected as the means of intervention.

This view avoids the extreme individualism and dangers of quietism inherent to pacifism.

Examples of active non-violent life-styles and movements are Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Berrigans, Solidarity in Poland, the movement leading to the downfall of Pinochet, movements that caused the collapse of the fall of the Soviet Empire, movements against apartheid in South Africa such as Bishop Tutu's activity, and the lone man who stood in front of a tank at Tiananmen Square.

The Catholic Church has been quite open to developments in active non-violence, especially as the techniques have been proven successful, and modern warfare has grown more dangerous to civilian populations.

Modern popes and bishops promote this vision, rather than passively accepting its moral possibility.

All Catholics are called to live lives of active non-violence to the best of their ability before even considering resorting to war.

There are three related and often overlapping schools of active non-violence. (These categories are my own way of thinking through what it is):

1. Active non-violent conflict prevention: This technique focuses on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy performed in an ecumenical spirit and grassroots non-violent political action to prevent social inequities and injustices that lead to violent conflict.

It is based on the Pauline admonission to conquer evil by doing good. It differs only slightly from pacifism in that rather than withdrawal from areas of potential conflict, the practitioner enters potentially troubled areas seeking to transform the conditions that may eventually lead to violence before violence actually breaks out. It is a preemptive action.

An prime example is the United States Peace Corps, and many Catholic lay missionary groups and NGO's engage in similar activities. The Popes have been adamant for the last hundred years that nations must spend as much or more time, talent and treasure on this form of active non-violence as they spend on deterrent military force.

2. Active non-violent conflict resolution: Similar to the first, and actually an outgrowth of it, non-violent conflict resolution seeks to employ diplomacy, reason and meta-language techniques proven to assist parties already in conflict to come to meaningful "win-win" solutions. In the carrot and stick model of diplomacy, this technique focuses on carrots.

The Church is adament that this form of non-violence must be practiced by all Christians at all times before we even begin to consider military options. It is a personal moral obligation upon every single baptized person to practice it to the best of our ability and training.

Rather than avoiding conflict escalation, this school in its most developed forms seeks to surface the underlying grievances that often are expressed in highly charged religious or political language. This can be practiced in conjunction with the first method of active non-violence.

The idea is to break down "us verses them" mentalities while conflict is beginning to occur or mounting, and assist both sides to empathically understand the basic human needs at stake for "the other" that lead to conflict.

Once empathy is achieved, both sides can work together to find mutually satisfying solutions to conflict.

3. Active non-violent resistance to evil: Given our fallen nature, even when non-violent conflict prevention and non-violent resolution have been employed, there will be cases where one party simply chooses to do evil.

Active non-violent resistance seeks to confront evil by naming it, exposing it and obstructing it through physically non-violent means such as protest, strikes, boycott, human blockades, economic embargos, political activity, and so forth. This is sort of the stick side of carrot and stick diplomacy.

The techniques also include the use of culture - art, literature, music, liturgy, symbols, and so forth - to subversively undermine the assumptions that lead to rationalizing evil and supporting "structures of evil".

The model for this form of non-violence is Jesus' cleansing of the temple. It is important to note that none of the Gospel texts record in this highly symbolic and prophetic gesture that Jesus struck a human person.

Yet, it is clear that this is an "angry" form of non-violence that is often referred to even by its practitioners as a means of just warfare.

Like military warfare, this form of non-violence requires courage and must be waged with prudence.

Rash judgment is to be avoided. Other forms of non-violence must precede it such that this becomes the last resort prior to physical violence. Basic human rights must be respected when this form of non-violence is exercised.

While there is a dimension of anger in this form of non-violence, the anger must be rooted in compassion and love for victims of injustice, and balanced with a love for the evil-doer that prohibits acts of physical violence towards the evil-doer. It aims at changing behavior by changing hearts rather than physical force.

It is generally accepted that this form of non-violence can be "aggressively" employed and used "preemptively" against mounting evil that has not yet fully materialized in the form of physical violence. Yet, prudence must be honored in the preemptive use of this technique, lest resistance turn into deliberate provocation to violence.

The two other forms of non-violence continue to be used in conjunction with the preemptive action of resistance.

The Church cautiously supports and promotes active non-violent resistance, emphasizing that while the technique is well attested to by the prophets and by Jesus, its techniques and practice must be prudent, respect human rights, avoid rash judgment and provocation to violence, and stay clear of the traps of ideological rigidity such as Marxism.


Just war is not a morally obligatory war, as some neoconservatives in America have argued, even claiming to have Church support after papal rebuke.

The terminology is intended to mean that when certain conditions are not met, a war is unjust and participation in an unjust war is participation in murder.

There is a "built in" presumption against war in the doctrine. A war is presumed unjust unless and until certain conditions are met to prove the war is just.

War is never a positive good and does nothing to promote virtue. The Christian should always be concerned to cultivate virtue and discourage vice. A just war discourages vice, but does nothing to cultivate virtue.

Just war is a legitimate use of military force employed after strict and rigorous conditions seem to be met and weigh against a strong presumption against war. The fundamental criteria of a just war, by its very definition, is that it is a defensive use of military force.

Military force should be as limited as possible, and it is possible to see law enforcement and police powers as the first stage of legitimate defense by means of deadly force.

The Church passively supports the notion that just wars exist, but does not promote warfare. War is always to be considered a loss for humanity, and we would do well to cultivate the virtues that prevent war from erupting.

It is intrinsically evil to deliberately destroy an innocent human life. This means more than intentional killing. It means acting with foreknowledge that the direct result of your action will be the destruction of an innocent human life.

The issue of collateral damage that seems so inherent in modern warfare does raise the question whether any modern war is morally licit.

If collateral damage can reasonably be avoided, a just war can exist, though prudence demands that the conditions be weighed with a presumption against war.

There are three high level broad considerations that each have sub-categories for consideration: Jus ad bellum, jus en bello, and jus post bellum.

Traditional or classic just war doctrine as expressed by the Vatican and bishops focuses on the first two categories, and the third category is the work of contemporary theologians that is still under development and not yet affirmed by the Vatican.

These three broad considerations must be applied to all three types of war commonly considered: national defense, a humanitarian intervention, and revolution against a despotic regime. All three types of war are held to similar conditional criteria.

Jus ad bellum: (Consideration of whether there exists just cause to employ legitimate military defense):

1. Just cause: A just war, by definition, must be a defense against aggression underway where the aggression is lasting, grave and certain. The threat must be tangible and imminent or have already begun.
2. Right intention: That intention is to disable the aggressor's capacity to continue unjust aggression must be the primary end in every just war. While there may be other morally good intentions present along-side of this one as secondary ends, if this intention is absent, you do not have just cause for war. There are also immoral intentions for war, such as vengeance, or the expansion of economic prosperity, promotion of an ideology, or increased power. None of these immoral intentions can be present in a just war.
3. Last resort: All means of reasonably avoiding war must be exhausted, and active non-violence has failed to protect innocent people (including soldiers) from harm.
4. Declared by competent and publicly recognized authority: A humanitarian intervention must be authorized by an internationally recognized body vested by the global community with responsibility for the international common good. National defense may be declared by leaders of nation vested by that nation for responsibility for the national common good. The authority to declare a just revolution is unclear at this date, but should be some sort of popular leader recognized by those with just cause for revolution.
5. Reasonable chance of success: There must be a very clear and limited mission where it is reasonably certain that the defense can achieve its desired result. Suicide missions or foreseeably undefined prolonged conflict are precluded by this condition.
6. Proportion: The harm intrinsic to all war must not outweigh the benefits of employing defense.

If, and only if, all conditions are simultaneously met in prudential judgment, the appropriate authority referred to in condition 4 may make war obligatory for those who do not renounce violence as a way of life.

Consciencious objectors are to be provided by such authorities another means of serving the common good.

Jus en bello: (Considerations of justice in time of war):

1. War must be waged in a manner that will limit harm as much as possible, even to enemy combatants, but especially to non-combatants. Deliberate targeting of civilians (i.e. - terrorism) and the use of weapons that destroy indiscriminately in civilian populated areas (i.e. - carpet bombing and the use of weapons of mass destruction) is intrinsically evil.
2. Killing of aggressors must be limited to what is necessary to stop aggression. Vengeance is to be avoided. Prisoners of war must be treated humanely. Torture is intrinsically evil. The natural law remains in force even during war. Even deliberate deception can be unjust. The ends do not justify the means.

Even if a war had met all jus ad bellum condition, the war can become an immoral war when jus en bello considerations are discarded.

Jus post bellum:

(These consideration should actually be considered before, during and after war breaks out, but focus on the post war situation. These principles are under development and not yet affirmed by the Vatican except by vague implications. I give Father Ken Himes, OFM credit for elucidating these conditions succinctly, and he bases his work on others):

1. There must be a sense of remorse and repentance by the victors for having resorted to violence expressed by mourning the loss of life of the vanquished.
2. Honorable surrender must be respected, and the terms of surrender must be adhered to by the victor. Punitive action against the losing side must be avoided.
3. The victor must work to restore the vanquished nation by such actions as removing land mines, or helping to rebuild destroyed infrastructure such as hospitals or schools damaged in war.
4. The victor must assist the vanquished in promoting stability and human rights. Right intention in jus ad bellum and restoration in jus post bellum does not mean that the vanquished aggressor is restored to the status quo ante bellum (the state of affairs prior to war). Using just means, the victor must assist the vanquished in addressing the underlying issues that led to war, such as poverty or the violation of human rights by an oppressive regime.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

AP Reports Dems Take the Senate!

CNN is not declaring a winner yet, but the AP gives the Virginia race to Democrat, James Webb.

In other news, Nancy Pelosi, who voted against the war in Iraq, hit the theme of change in Iraq policy hard today.

Hours before Rumsfeld announced his resignation, Pelosi called on Bush to oust him.

When Ruumie's resignation announcement was made, CNN reports the following:

"The president got the message, thank heavens," Pelosi said. "I think it signals a new change, I hope for the better, in Iraq."
The President said he is willing to work with Democrats on immigration and the minimum wage - two very important issues.


Virginia Still in Play

Democrat Senatorial candidate James Webb claims victory by 7,146 votes, but Republican incumbent, George Allen, has not conceded.

A recount is probable.

Democrats will control 50 Senatorial seats after yesterday's election, and Virginia would give them the 51st seat to form a Senate majority.


Fareed Zakaria's "Rethinking Iraq"

The link above is to the cover story of the November 6 issue of Newsweek.

Generally, I have found Zakaria to be too optimistic over the last three years regarding the possibility of success in Iraq. This article is no exception.

That said, reality is sinking in for Zakaria.

He is suggesting that we draw down our forces from 144,000 at a cost of $90 billion per year, to a more sustainable 60,000 troops at a cost of $30 billion per year for a Korean style stalemate:

Something like the close of the Korean War is, frankly, the best we can hope for in Iraq now. One could easily imagine worse outcomes—a bloodbath, political fragmentation, a tumultuous flood of refugees and a surge in global terrorist attacks. But with planning, intelligence, execution and luck, it is possible that the American intervention in Iraq could have a gray ending—one that is unsatisfying to all, but that prevents the worst scenarios from unfolding, secures some real achievements and allows the United States to regain its energies and strategic compass for its broader leadership role in the world.

But in order for that to happen, we have to see Iraq as it is now. Not as it once was. Not as it could have been. Not as we hope it will become, but as it is today. There will be ample time to assign blame and debate "what if"s. The urgent task now is ahead of us.
The idea would be that instead of creating a stable and prosperous democracy, we limit our mission to battling Al Queda, securing Kurdistan, and preventing a massive bloodbath.
The United States will not be able to stop all sectarian fighting in Iraq. It cannot do so even today. Our goal must be to ensure that any such violence remains localized and limited, and that national institutions like the Army and police work to stop it rather than participate.
Zakaria's plan means keeping a U.S. presence in Iraq indefinitely, which I do not support.

I believe that as long as we are in Iraq, we are fueling the fire of terrorism.

However, there is something Zakaria mentions almost in passing that was thought provoking for me.

After outlining his belief that the elected Iraqi leaders need to make the case to their own people that the American occupation he envisions is necessary for stability, he states the following:
There is one shift that the United States itself needs to make: we must talk to Iraq's neighbors about their common interest in security and stability in Iraq. None of these countries—not even Syria and Iran—would benefit from the breakup of Iraq, which could produce a flood of refugees and stir up their own restive minority populations. Our regional gambit might well lead to nothing. But not trying it, in the face of so few options, reflects a bizarrely insular and ideological obstinacy.
My own thinking on this comment is that we do not need to wait until the elected Iraqi leaders do something before we do this.

It is in the interest of Iran and Syria and others in the region to have a stable Iraq!

Syria is predominantly Sunni, and Iran is predominantly Shi'ite.

What would it look like if America simply admitted defeat and humbly asked Iran and Syria for help?

I can't imagine the neocons in America ever asking for help from either country.

Maybe yesterday's election results and Rumsfeld's resignation today are a signal that the neocon "ideological obstinancy" is exactly what we need to overcome to fix Iraq.

Whatever the solution is, it's going to require some humility and creativity.


Republicans Trounced!

The dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. For his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

I have been holding off posting my reaction to yesterday's elections in the hope that Montana and Virginia will have finalized the outcome in favor of the Democrats.

The first counts do seem to go Democrat, but the Republicans have not conceded yet in these two very close races.

CNN projects Tester the victor in Montana.

The six year reign of terror in America is coming to an end.

Rumsfeld has even just announced that he is resigning!

The wicked witch is dead!

Global reaction is pure giddiness!

Thanks and praise be to the Most High God that this nation has come to finally question the effectiveness of wars of aggression based on lies and half truths.

Democrats definitely seized the House of Representatives, and seem to have a shot at capturing the Senate if recounts support the current projections in Montana and Virginia.

Democrats also captured a majority of the Governorships and won several local victories.

George Will and many conservatives have suggested that this sort of referendum on a President's performance is normal in a sixth year.

What this fails to explain is the record turn out for a mid-term election, and the fact that this trouncing is so massive, and the polls indicating this is clearly about Iraq.

The Democrats have been given a mandate.

Let's be clear what this mandate is not. It is not a mandate to expand abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, euthanasia or attacks on the traditional family.

Indeed, in addition to possible local issues, a large part of the success Democrats enjoyed yesterday was due to running moderates and even pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey against their Republican opponents, and backing initiatives like the 95/10 plan aimed at reducing abortion rates 95 percent over the next ten years.

Further, many votes that went Republican did so on these core life issues more than any agreement with the war in Iraq or Republican economic policy.

Much of the country is rightly still very concerned about core life issues and the sanctity of family at some level.

This victory is also not a mandate for more deficit spending.

Remember that there were two wicked witches in the Wizard of Oz, and two beasts of the apocolypse in the Book of Revelation - the first one wounded.

Democrats must take care not to blow what they have accomplished between now and 2008.

As the moderately pro-life Mormon Senate Minority (soon to be majority?) Leader, Harry Reid, put it:

We have learned from watching the Republicans -- they would not allow moderates a voice in their party,....We must work from the middle.
The Catholic liberal Democrat who will be the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, stated that she will avoid leading by becoming the ideological mirror image of Newt Gingrich.

The mandate given to Democrats is plain and simple: fix Iraq!

There are some bread and butter issues that will help poise Democrats for 2008, such as raising the minimum wage and tackling health care and the economy, and addressing ethics in Congress. These are definitely important, and Democrats should seize the opportunity to build up the common good.

Yet, the mandate handed to the Democrats is the awesome and seemingly overwhelming task of fixing Iraq.

I think Pelosi understands the mandate. She stated the following last night:
We cannot continue down this catastrophic path. And so we say to the president, 'Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq. Let us work together to find a solution to the war in Iraq.'
Vice President Cheney is not backing down on Iraq:
"it doesn't matter" if the war is unpopular and vowing to continue "full speed ahead."
If there is a secondary issue to the war in Iraq, it is the corruption of Congress that lead to the Jack Abramhoff scandal and the later fall of Mark Foley.

Democrats must strive to meet the highest standards of ethics and morality. Related to this is the issue of campaign finance reform.

Speaking of campaign finance reform and corruption, John McCain's strategist, John Weaver, put the results in perspective this way:
"It's not an affirmation of a Democratic agenda; I think that's clear, because they didn't offer one,....It's about how we as Republicans set aside our principles to try to stay in power. We decided to try to spend money like Democrats, we decided not to reform or tackle big issues. And at the end of the day, the American voters said, 'Enough is enough.' "
There is a good deal of truth to this observation, especially among fiscal conservatives who voted Democrat yesterday.

But issues like the deficit or corruption alone did not drive the results. In my opinion, the war in Iraq drove the final outcome, as most pundits seem to say.

What does fixing Iraq mean? Is immediate withdrawal the solution? Do we cut and run?

I don't think the Democrats are united in answers.

The mandate given to them is to eventually come up with a solution, but the beginning of the process of implementing a solution is to ask the right questions.

What is needed are Congressional hearings and bipartisan commissions and studies and an honest debate about how and when to use American military force, how to rebuild our alliances, and what to do to mitigate the damage of an already lost war in Iraq.

In the meantime, Christians, whether left, right, center, Democrat, Republican, Green, Independent or other can do something very important and necessary in light of the election results.

The first letter to Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1 to 4 provide the perfect advice:
I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Can Pro-Life Catholics Vote Pro-Choice?

Tomorrow is election day in the United States, and many American Catholic voters are wondering whether abortion really trumps all other issues.

Let me be perfectly clear that I am pro-life and would support a right to life amendment protecting all human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

I would have no heartburn at all with Roe v. Wade being overturned.

I hope that whoever is elected will propose initiatives through either economic justice or restrictions to reduce abortion rates.

Prior to the year 2000, I never voted for anyone who was pro-choice.

I also oppose the grave and intrinsic evils opposed to the sanctity of human life of embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia.

During the American 2004 presidential election, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI, wrote a letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick regarding whether a Catholic could vote pro-choice and still present him or herself for Communion.

The letter contains the following statement:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.
Formal cooperation with evil means that one is acting as a sort of accomplice to an immoral deed, much like driving the get-away car during an armed bank robbery, even if you do not actually enter the bank with a gun.

To vote in favor of permissive laws on abortion and euthanasia with the intention of promoting these evils is considered a form of formal cooperation with evil, and Catholics are advised that this could constitute a mortal sin.

Many Catholics consider the right to life to be a "foundational" right that provides the ethical basis for all civil law.

It is argued that abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and euthanasia amount to forms of legalized murder.

It must be pointed out that some theologians believe that the term "murder" can be considered technically inaccurate when applied to very early human life in development.

In Donum Vitae, the Vatican clarifies that the Church has never definitively settled the exact moment after conception that ensoulment and personhood begin:
The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable.
At the same time, Donum Vitae is clear that there is no philosophical or theological basis for denying that ensoulment or personhood may begin at the moment of conception.

When in doubt in regard to something as sacred as human life, we are to act with a presumption of personhood and the rights of personhood.

For this reason, the Church has been an outspoken critic of legalized direct abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cryopreservation of embryos during in vitro fertilization, and human cloning research.

Even in American civil law, the courts, including the Roe v. Wade decision, said that the state does have an interest in the potential for human life before birth.

Some restrictions on abortion have always been permitted by the courts.

However, Roe held that since the rights of personhood begin at birth according to the American constitution, the implied right to privacy between a patient and a doctor superseded the state's interest in the potential for life.

Restrictions cannot be applied in a manner that denies a right to abortion when the health of the mother is at stake under American law.

The health of the mother has been considered by the courts to include considerations such as psychological well being.

The end result is that few restrictions have any "teeth".

Many people have been trying for the last thirty three years to overturn Roe or pass legislation that would nullify its effect.

I support those efforts, as does the teaching of the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It is true that I have argued in the past that focusing on the courts is not the best long range strategy.

I believe that our primary focus should be on reducing abortion rates and eventually gaining a consensus for a right to life amendment.

At the same time, I have no love for Roe if it can be overturned without a "shock to the system", as Catholic Justice, John Roberts, put it when asked during his confirmation about stare decisis.

We saw above that Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to the bishops on the issue of Catholics presenting themselves for communion forbids formal cooperation with the evil of abortion by intentionally supporting pro-choice legislators.

Yet, the very next sentence of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter states the following:
When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
Remote material cooperation with evil is not the same as acting as an accomplice to an armed bank robbery.

This might be analogous to being in a parked car outside of the bank waiting for your spouse when armed robbers run out and force you to give them your car.

On the one hand, giving them your car assists the robbers in a dangerous and immoral felony.

Yet, proportionate reason exists to cooperate.

You may urgently want to run into the bank to ensure your spouse is unharmed, and refusing the robbers your car might lead to your own death.

Because you did not plan for your car to be used as a get-away car, and your intention is not to assist in an armed robbery, but to save your life and the life of your spouse, the principle of double effect legitimately applies.

What could provide proportionate reason to cast a vote that might have the effect of supporting legalized murder?

Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to be very clear that abortion and euthanasia have a unique clarity as "intrinsic evils" that is not true of war or the death penalty considered generally in the abstract:
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
I do not believe that the issue is that war or the death penalty are not important life issues that could never compare to abortion or euthanasia under any circumstances.

What gives abortion and euthanasia greater "weight" is not that one form of destroying innocent human life is somehow more grave than another.

Unjust destruction of human life is always grave, and one form of murder is not somehow weightier than another.

Rather, because the Church teaches that some wars are just wars, and there could be hypothetical instances where the death penalty is morally licit, Catholics can legitimately disagree over whether any particular war or use of the death penalty is just or unjust.

The greater "weight" afforded abortion and euthanasia has to do with clarity, rather than gravity of the moral issues at stake.

What this means is that a Catholic who believes the invasion of Iraq is a just war and that this war is being waged better by President Bush and the Republicans than it would be by Democrats should probably consider abortion the more dominant issue.

I do not judge those American Catholics who support the status quo in sin.

On the other hand, Catholics who believe that the invasion of Iraq is an unjust war, or that the war is being poorly waged, can legitimately ask if this provides proportionate reason to vote for a candidate who supports permissive laws on abortion he or she would not otherwise support.

In asking such a question, there is a clarity about the abortion issue that seems to give it greater "weight", and nobody should vote pro-choice casually and without careful reflection.

Yet, if conscience dictates that the destruction of innocent lives in Iraq is unjust, this could present proportionate reason to vote pro-choice.

A clue in how an unjust war might "outweigh" abortion lies in the terminology Cardinal Ratzinger used by describing a pro-choice vote as "remote material cooperation with evil".

While the analogy of bank robbers stealing your car from you while waiting in the bank parking lot is valid, remote material cooperation with evil also has a connotation that our actions are typically removed several steps from the acting moral agent - the decision maker.

For example, the worker in a gun manufacturing plant that produced the weapons used by the bank robbers provided material support to the bank robbery in a very indirect way.

Every worker in the gun manufacture industry knows the potential that weapons will wind up in the hands of criminals who would use these weapons for immoral purposes.

Yet, such a worker does not intend to put weapons in the hands of criminals.

The worker in the gun plant may engage in this remote material cooperation with evil if there is proportionate reason to do so, such as the care of his or her family and the desire to provide guns to those who use them lawfully, responsibly, morally and with good intentions.

In the case of voting pro-choice, our action is removed several steps from the woman who will procure an abortion or the doctor who will perform the abortion.

In America, the state does not mandate that anyone has an abortion.

In the case of voting for politicians who support what you believe to be an unjust war, the sate is mandating the use of deadly force. Your act of voting for such a person is more "proximate" to the moral agent - the decision maker.

Such a vote is like handing a gun to a person who has told you that he or she intends to use the gun for a robbery. T

here must be very grave reason to engage in this level of cooperation with evil.

We could posit a similar point if we believe that the United States is using the death penalty immorally.

When the state mandates death, our cooperation with evil is more "proximate" than when the state fails to protect all innocent human life.

It is well known that Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and the U.S. bishops have been against the death penalty in societies with prison systems like America's.

Does Cardinal Ratzinger provide us any specific insight into how to think about the invasion of Iraq?

President Bush first spoke of invading Iraq as a "preventive war" in June 2002.

In September of 2002, Cardinal Ratzinger stated "The concept of a 'preventive war' does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church".

Cardinal Ratzinger also echoed Pope John Paul II in that interview saying that the decision on whether to go to war belonged to the United Nations.

The USCCB issued a statement in February of 2003 stating the following:
Our bishops' conference continues to question the moral legitimacy of any preemptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq.
In May of 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger stated the following:
There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war."
Modern war predictably causes collateral damage taking the life of non-combatants.

This amounts to the deliberate destruction of innocent human lives if a war is unjust, or even if seemingly just, was avoidable.

The estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq currently range from a very conservative estimate of 45,000 to as high as 650,000.

War is a life issue - dealing with vulnerable and innocent human lives.

While this number is far lower than the number of abortions in the United States, a single human life has infinite value as the image of God.

Moral decisions cannot rely solely and entirely on body counts. We must ask deeper questions.

What are the questions we can ask ourselves as we head into elections booths tomorrow?

I'd say it is a fair question to ask whether any politician in any party will significantly curtail the number of abortions?

It is not sufficient for politicians to pay mere lip service to pro-lifers with vague promises to reduce abortions.

We should be asking which politicians have concrete and workable plans to reduce abortion rates.

In some cases, this may be a conservative willing to issue a strong challenge to the culture in the form of meaningful restrictions.

In other cases, this may be a liberal with strong economic justice initiatives that reduce the demand for abortion.

These economic justice initiatives may have a greater impact than a conservative merely blocking federal funding of abortion to defend tax cuts to the rich.

Another fair question is to ask which politicians have a vision for our foreign policy that will truly limit war to cases where just war doctrine is unquestionable - where war is a last resort against aggression in progress.

While the body count on abortion may seem higher than the body count for war today, we have a moral right to ask where our foreign policy is headed.

Terrorism is on the rise since the invasion of Iraq. America has lost the respect of its allies. Rogue states like North Korea threaten global security with nuclear weapons.

The Administration promises that the war on terror may take decades.

The doctrine of preemption, far from making us more secure, seems to be headed towards a global nihilism that may take far more lives than will ever be taken by means of abortion.

It is fair for serious Catholics to ask which candidates have a plan to fix Iraq or get out.

Whether the initial invasion was just or not, staying the course is getting people killed unnecessarily.

At a deeper level still, we can ask if more than three hundred billion dollars spent on destroying life in Iraq could have been better spent on saving lives through economic justice programs at home and abroad.

We can also ask if the war on terror could be waged more effectively by means of achieving economic justice at home and abroad.

It was Pope Paul VI who stated that if we want peace, we must work for justice.

We can even ask if poverty relief is a life issue. Do people have a right to eat? Do we have a right to basic medical care that is not met for 46 million uninsured working Americans?

Of course, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is also an issue that looms large tomorrow.

Pro-life Catholics do support stem cell research.

Adult stem cell research has provided all known cures from stem cells, and still provides greater promise than embryonic stem cells according to leading scientist.

To increase federal funding in embryonic stem cell research will lead to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of existing embryos, and sets a precedent for a trade in human embryos for profit.

This is certainly an important life issue very much in play, and we are receiving mixed signals from the politicians on the issue from both sides of the aisle.

Many of the staunchest abortion opponents grasp the central issues of concern to pro-life Catholics.

Ironically, many of these same people back the intrinsic evil of torture and the erosion of legitimate civil liberties.

Aside from life issues, including war and the death penalty, some Catholics are gravely concerned about the issue of gay marriage.

Opponents of gay unions do have some non-infallible but authoritive Church teaching on their side against even civil gay unions that would not be blessed in a church.

Many Catholics, however, feel that opposition to gay civil unions is no more necessary than opposition to marriages by a justice of the peace between unbaptized or divorced heterosexuals.

Cardinal McCarrick stated that the Church could live with gay civil unions, even as he personally tries to promote the sanctity of traditional marriage.

The issues pull us in every direction, left and right.

The bishops encourage us to look at a full range of issues that could be summarized in the following seven themes:

1. Respect for life and the dignity of the human person.
2. The call to family, community and participation.
3. The respect for rights and responsibilities.
4. A fundamental option (commitment or love) for the poor and vulnerable.
5. The dignity of work and the rights of workers.
6. Solidarity.
7. Care for God's creation.

The bishops have also spent a great deal of time and energy lately addressing the issue of immigration.

No one major party embraces the fullness of what is meant by these seven themes.

Indeed, I am unaware of a minority party that represents the fullness of Catholic social justice teaching.

Aside from the issues highlighted by the Church, most voters are also making assessments of character regarding politicians.

From the Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinsky to Tom Delay's involvement with Jack Abramhoff and the scandal of Mark Foley, many voters simply want honest people who live uprightly and will create a climate of accountability.

Can a pro-life Catholic vote pro-choice?

I think that the answer is obvious that there are situations where we could.

I think it is also obvious that those situations must be grave and well considered.

There are other options to consider as well, such as deliberately abstaining or voting third party.

In the sort term, with a morally questionable war that many feel was illegal under international law, unnecessary, and poorly conducted by an unaccountable administration, I believe that many Catholics will feel in conscience that voting pro-choice is acceptable.

I feel that way, despite strong pro-life convictions.

No matter who wins tomorrow, I somehow want it to be known to the victors that a vote against the status quo is not a vote for abortion or embryonic stem cell research or human cloning or euthanasia.

Victory for the pro-choice camp tomorrow could wind up as defeat in 2008 if there is not some sensitivity to pro-life concerns.

What I want Democrats to hear is that even if you will not restrict abortions, please reduce the abortion rate in measurable ways.

I believe in the depths of my own conscience that the worse thing that could happen for America is that a pro-war, pro-torture, pro-rich faction paying mere lip service on abortion wins two more years and is poised for more victory in 2008.

Yet, the second worse thing that could happen is for the Democrats to win and to take victory as a mandate to act aggressively against moral values while ignoring the mess in Iraq and ignoring the lack of accountability in Washington.