Wednesday, March 31, 2004

It's Interesting What Tone People Will Take on Other People's Blogs and How Bush Compares to Hitler

We all like a good argument, and I've left some rather pointed arguments on other people's blogs. However, I found the last comment on my own blog interesting:

jcecil, this discussion is over. You've showed just how extreme and dopey are your views, so there's really nothing further to discuss.
I don't want to censor any of my readers, so the comment is still where it stands, and the reader will not banned. I simply find it interesting that the reader would say "this discussion is over" on my own blog. Perhaps he or she meant to say, "I'm through with this discussion."

Who knows what the reader intended?

If anyone is interested, the reaction of this reader was provoked by the fact that I compared G.W. Bush to Hitler.

I know this is more an "intuitive" thing, and I don't usually argue against Bush by comparing him to Hilter because there will be no convincing some people, especially through such an emotional argument.

The context of the specific comparison is that the reader seems to believe the Bishops should clearly label support for Kerry an immoral option. In effect, this reader wants to define being a Roman Catholic in America as being against Kerry or for Bush.

In response, I was trying to express honestly just how strongly I, personally, in my conscience, oppose Bush for re-election on moral grounds. I'm not so much trying to convince others to believe the same, as trying to make clear what a Catholic who wants to define Catholicsm as a vote for Bush is doing to other Catholics.

I don't really like Kerry either, but I don't see him as a Hitler. I am particularly conflicted on his stance on abortion, which is murder. Kerry is wrong. Yet, I would compare Kerry to Clinton rather than Hitler.

I honestly see a vote for Bush almost as being the moral equivalent of a vote for Hitler - at least for me personally.

I'm not saying this reader is a Nazi, nor is any other Bush supporter necessarily a Nazi. I am trying to convey what a moral quagmire his definition of Catholicism creates for those of us who feel strongly opposed to Bush on moral grounds.

Even if a Bishop thinks I am mistaken, a Bishop, of all people, should respect the right of conscience and not ask a person to do what he or she perceives as equivalent to voting for Hitler.

My own comparison of Bush and Hitler was as follows:

Both Hitler and Bush support some right to abortion. Even if Bush would limit the right more than his current political opponents, I am not at all impressed with his views on abortion. I will not permit this issue alone to disuade me from looking at the rest of his record and actions.

Both Hitler and Bush used wars of aggression to expand their empire. This is significant, because wars kill, and the enitire notion of pre-emptive war has been condemned consistently in Christianity for 2,000 years.

Both Hitler and Bush presented trumped up evidence of immanent threat by those they sought to attack. This is significant as well, because it shows a willingness to act deceptively to justify the unthinkable.

Both Hitler and Bush support the use of death penalty by the state. This is significant because it shows how much power each believes belongs to the state.

Both Hitler and Bush used anti-gay rhetoric and passed legislation against minority entitlements. This is significant because it shows how they each try to foster "us v. them" thinking by appealing to the masses.

Both Hitler and Bush used rhetoric and propoganda that those who are not with them are terrorists against the state.

This more than anything scares me to death when it comes from a President of the United States - a land that is supposed to value diversity and freedom of dissent.

Both Hitler and Bush expanded the powers of the police state to crush dissent and target minorities. Bush has done this with the Patriot Act and the misuse of executive orders, which has interred Arabs without legal representation. The Patriot Act has already been expanded into other very gray areas.

I do believe we are just baby steps away from forming Hitler style concentration camps. Some people argue that Guantanamo Bay already is a concentration camp!

There's also the fact that the School of the Americas is still open with a different name, and still training international terrorists!

After my reader reacted as she or he did, I did a quick google on "Bush compared to Hitler". The first several hits were articles about conservative groups outraged at a photo ad making this comparison. Several articles have been published about making this comparison.

I ran across a piece by an english professor that makes 27 comparisons of Bush to Hitler. This professor was inspired to this by a German Minister of Justice who made the same comparison.

Here's a guy with a different set of 24 comparisons between Bush and Hitler.

Here is another voice comparing Bush to Hitler, and this person's father was a Nazi!

These comparisons may not be fully convincing to many, but there is a definite pattern many of us see.

Here we have an article linking the Bush family directly to Nazis thorugh a person named Prescott Bush (I'm not sure I believe this one).

In posting all these links, I am trying to show that the comparisons are not the idiosyncratic perception of a single person (me).

As I combed through the google pages, there are several articles that defend Bush against this charge. Some Jewish writers are even offended by the comparison because Bush has obviously not (yet) committed some sort of genocide or ethnic cleansing.

I don't want to offend the Jews who hold this opinion, but Hitler did not begin killing Jews right away in 1933. The Nazi's "final solution" was implemented as Germany was beginning to lose the war.

What Bush' most ardent supporters seem to have a hard time grasping is that some of us see patterns of behavior in Bush that very much do evoke a comparison to Hitler in our minds and hearts.

Are there differences between Bush and Hitler?

Of course!

But what we fear most in Hitler seems glaringly apparent to many of us in Bush and his style of leadership and the types of decisions he makes.

Even if you don't agree with us, if you are Catholic, you should have some respect for our conscience when we say we are this strongly opposed to him. This doesn't mean you have to agree with us, nor even vote like us - just respect the fact that we truly feel this way when trying to define what it means to be a good Catholic.

I'm not telling Catholic Bush lovers how to vote. We can hash out arguments pro and con for each candidate and try to persuade another, but that's not my point here. I'm asking Catholic Bush supporters (and the Bishops) not to tell me how to vote by mere appeal to positional authority and/or threatening me with near excommunication.

Use a different strategy that addresses my very real fears about Bush. Rather than threatening me with hell-fire and brimstone, or separation from the Church, give me some alternatives - and crack down on Bush just as hard when he departs from Church teaching as you crack down on Kerry.

Understand that I honestly belive that if I vote for Bush this November, and accidently step in front of a bus while exiting the voting booth, I'm going to have to answer to God Almighty for that vote against my conscience!

Again, I know none of this will be convincing to everyone....and I'm not trying to convince people to vote for or against Bush specifically in this post.

What I am trying to say is stop defining Catholicism as a vote for Bush or a vote against Kerry!

There are many of us who not only disagree with Bush's politics. We dread and fear his style of leadership and his being in office. We consider it immoral to give him our personal support in any way whatsoever!

If the Bishops were to declare it contrary to the Church to support a specific opponent of Bush who stands a chance of winning, they leave us no option but to throw our votes away.

I cannot possibly vote for Bush in good conscience, and if the Church firmly and clearly forbids voting for Kerry, I must chose not to vote or to make a "write in" choice. Either of these options hand Bush the election.

If Bush wins because Catholics don't vote after being warned by the Bishops that a vote for Kerry is sin, and Bush does turn out to be the Hitler many of us believe him already to be, how will the USCCB be remembered in history?

My advise to the Bishops is to stick with giving the broad general principles that should inform Catholic voters, and not get too embroiled in a personal conflict with Kerry specifically. Keep saying abortion is immoral, and leave Kerry's name out of it (and Ono Ekeh or any Kerry supporter).

I invite the Bishops to consider a sort of Pascal's wager.

If people like me are proven right in our perception of Bush, a crack-down on Kerry will be disasterous for the Roman Catholic Church in America when viewed through the lens of history. If we are wrong, the Bishops will have done their duty to hold firmly to the truth about abortion in general terms. Kerry will cause the nation no more permanent harm than Clinton, while the idea of a Hitler running America could be the worst thing that ever happened in America (and abortion will still be legal with this Hitler!).


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Questions on a Right to Life Amendment

In my run for President, I've been trying to think through how to craft a Right to Life Amendment to protect the unborn.

I am stuck on a couple of critical issues.

Most importantly, Roe v. Wade seemed to interpret the right to privacy for a woman broadly regarding decisions she makes with her doctor, while appealing to Amendment XIV's definition of citizenship narrowly to specify that only those who are born have the rights of a citizen.

The part about being born could easily be changed through a new Amendment to redfine citizenship starting at conception. However, I'm not really sure we want to interpret privacy too narrowly, especially regarding doctor and patient medical records.

I'm not sure I like the idea of the state having access to people's medical records without the patient's consent. What if such information were used adversly to identify those with H.I.V.? What if such information were used to create employment discrimination in federal jobs? What if some future evolution of the Bush style of governance lead to the near unimaginable, such as ethnic cleansing of all people with Arab blood.

So, the issue I am trying to think through is how this Amendment would be enforced without accessing medical records. It scares me to give the government this type of access, but without it, laws against abortion may be nearly unenforceable. How would a case ever be made against a doctor, unless a woman who had an abortion suffered some adverse consequence and brought suit, or repented and brought suit against the doctor?

I just do not see either of these happening frequently. therefore, criminalization of abortion would simply be a formality....a law less enforceable than our legal efforts to stop marijuana use among high school students.

Generally, I think it is unwise for a society to pass laws it has neither the means nor the will to enforce. Of course, this opens up a whole discussion about whether we should make things legal just because people do it. I don't think we should make everything widely practiced legal (lots of people speed). Yet, I grow uncomfortable with every new law that we pass that cannot be enforced.

The second issue I am trying to think through is the principle of double effect. The Church teaches that a good action can be performed with good intent that also has an unintended evil consequence if the circumstances are such that no other option exist.

The classic example provided priesthood candidates of the principle of double effect is the removal of a deadly uterine tumor from a pregnant woman, where failure to remove the tumor would kill both mother and child. If there is no means to remove the tumor without killing the child, and doing nothing would almost certainly kill both, it is morally permissible to remove the tumor and unintentionally kill the child in the process.

But how do we right such a principle into law that is clear?

The third issue I am thinking about is the resistance we all know such an Amendment would get from those who are "in the middle". There are a huge number of people who lean pro-life, and are personally opposed to abortion as a form of birth control. yet, abortion remains legal because many people want the option for very limited cases, such as rape, incest, and physical danger to the life of the mother. Even George Bush has promised that he would only sign a Right to Life Amendment if it were overwhelmingly popular and he still would never sign a Right to Life Amendment that did not contain these exceptions.

Personally, I struggle with the issue of choosing the life of the mother over the life of the child where the principle of double effect does not apply. I honestly believe most people do not see the distinction I am making, which is either a fault in my explanation, or a fault in my reasoning.

When a mother's life is threatened, and the baby's is not, I am not sure why the law should chose the mother over the baby, or vice-a-versa. Making such a choice would be a terrible decision to have to make, and I can understand the emotions of a couple chosing either way.

Nevertheless, as someone who wants a Right to Life Amendment, I really do not think we should ever make such a choice as a matter of law. When a mother's life is threatened and the child's life is not, the doctor must do her or his best to save both lives. What the doctor should not do, nor the couple, is try to choose which life is more valuable.

Yet, I suspect my opinion would be a very hard sell to the American public.

In the cases of rape and incest, I am opposed to the death penalty. If I will not kill the perpetrators of this violence, I certainly don't want to kill the children of the criminals!

Again, this is probably a tough sell to the American public.

So, we have tough sells on rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother. Yet, we do need some way of incoroprating the principle effect. Then we have the difficulty we would have on enforcing a Right to Life Amendment without infringing on legitimate privacy. I am wondering what a the Amendment would really look like?


Update on Ultra-Sound

Well, the doctor cancelled on us today, so we scheduled later in the week. I was anxious to see how the baby is progressing. I guess a few days longer shouldn't be too bad.


Monday, March 29, 2004

Week Eight of Pregnancy Down

Eight weeks and a day down. Things seem to progressing well. We've told most of our family, co-workers, and friends. This photo is someone else's ultra-sound, but we go for another tomorrow. I hope we get some good pictures.

There a few friends from a former parish who are struggling with infertility, and we are conflicted how to approach telling them. We know their struggle, and we hope they will be happy for us.

My wife is still feeling nausea and fatigue almost constantly, and she can't stand the smell of my normal cooking. Everything needs to be so bland.

My wife wants a bigger house now all of the sudden. I don't think a baby will know that our space is small, and I like the simplicity of our current abode. But if we are able to have more than this one child, a two bedroom condo probably won't hold all of us for very long. It may be wiser to buy now than to wait until the property values are twice as high.

For a long time, I wanted to do lay missionary work abroad, and my wife shared this vision. With a child on the way, she seems to be re-thinking these visions. Of course, since the war in Iraq, I am more afraid to leave the country than I used to be. Keep praying for the health of our baby, and for discernment for us...


It's Not Just Me...

A few weeks ago, in a discussion about gay marriage, I suggested that I thought that as high as about 70 percent of priests and religious might be more homosexual than heterosexual, and I based this on personal experience in the seminary....number of people who told me they were gay, compared to those who told me they were straight.

I admitted that my perception is based solely on subjective experience, and that Fr. Andrew Greeley claims to have empirical evidence that the number is closer to 16 percent (probably based on a poll he sent to priests, though I don't know his methodology for certain).

Well, over the weekend, I ran into an old friend from seminary days who left formation about the same time I did. The last time I had seen him, a few years after we left formation, he was in a serious relationship with another man.

We spent some time catching up, and he told me his relationship had lasted five years, but now it was over, and over the last year or two, he has discerned that he is really called back to religious life.

I asked him what he thought of the current climate, and said I think there is a shift to the right among new candidates, and a lot of pressure against homosexuals these days.

His response was....and I quote...."They can't seriously kick us all out. They'd lose 75 percent of the priests right off the bat!"

Maybe both of us have distorted perceptions, or maybe our first time through formation was during a fluke period in history where gay candidates reached unprecedented levels (I was in formation 1989 through 1995). I don't know. All I know is that I am not the only one who had this perception.

I do not write this to shock people or to say gay men should not be priests. I think gay men often make the very best of priests because of their unique struggles and experiences. However, I also think many of the problems int he Church arise because of the great elephant sitting in the recotory living room that nobody wants to discuss.


Top Ten Pick-Up Lines for "Orthodox Catholics"

They almost make wish I were single again....Thanks to Catholic Sensibilities for this moment of humor.


Completely Unverified Rumor From a Military Friend

A friend of mine in the military states that he is privy to knowledge that Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration plan to push to reinstitute the draft after the elections this November. I have no idea how my buddy would know such a thing, and no particular reason to believe this can even be verified. I only post this rumor in the hopes that some reporter or other person savvy in the art of investigations might consider finding out if there is any truth to the rumor. If there is, it would be nice to know prior to the elections.


Condoleeza Rice Defends Refusal to Testify

Rice says the Administration did all it "knew how to do" to prevent the events of September 11, 2001. Her statements are meant to counter charges by Republican appointee, Richard Clarke, that the Administration used the attack to justify long planned military action again Iraq for other motives. Personally, whether she is being fully forthcoming or not, if I were Bushwhacked into supporting this Adminstration, I think the selection of Condi Rice is the only thing this adminstration has done "right". She makes the Bush Administration look good when the boys mess up. Polls show that despite the credibility of Clarke, his allegations have done little to change public perception yet.


French President, Jascques Chirac, Suffers Mid-term Political Blow

Before American Bush supporters get too excited, bear in mind that Chirac is losing to the Socialist Party and their Green and Communist allies.


Partial Birth Abortion Ban to be Tested in Federal Courts

The ban that was overwehlmingly popular among voters and had widespread bi-partisan support is being challenged by Planned Parenethood Federation and the National Abortion Federation. These are big money PACs. Let us pray the judges rule wisely and that a greater respect for human life pervades this nation as we enter an election season.


Sunday, March 28, 2004

Bishop Kenneth Untener Died From Leukemia Yesterday

He was a good man who died much too young. He was 66 years old.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Information Defecit: Why the Church Hierarchy Isn't Working by Fr. Andrew Greeley

With his unique qualifications as both a priest and a sociologist, Andrew Greely examines how the Vatican could benefit today from following its teachings and past history on subsidiarity and collaboration.


Friday, March 26, 2004

Frankly, My Darling, I Don't Give a Damn...

Thanks to Steven Riddle and Noli Irritare Leones for this little quiz....

Darling, it seems that you belong in Gone with the
Wind; the proper place for a romantic. You
belong in a tumultous world of changes and
opportunities, where your independence paves
the road for your survival. It is trying being
both a cynic and a dreamer, no?

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla

I like the description, whether it is accurate or not...and I never actually read the book...


Steve Bogner Reminds Us to Take Time Out for Joy

This is an interesting meditation on joy, creativity, and ritual,...,there relationship to one another,...,and brining back more of each in a hurried and jaded world. Nice thoughts Steve.


After hearing Elizabeth Johnson Speak, Rebecca Nappi Invites us to Reconsider Our Images of Mary

I love Mary, the prophetess who cried out that the mighty will be cast down from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. Sister Elizabeth and Rebecca certainly are not inviting us to lose devotion to the greatest saint. Rather, they invite us to a deeper relationship with the Mary of history and the real person.


Todd of Catholic Sensibilities Points to Odd Attitudes and Behaviors in Church Politics

Is Bernard Cardinal Law treated with more respect in the Vatican and by some quarters of Catholic conservativism than Rembert Cardinal Weakland?

Todd thinks so, and maybe he's correct.

Don't get us wrong, what Cardinal Weakland did was immoral, and he has lost credibility because of it. However, Cardinal Law did was also immoral, and perhaps even illegal. While he has lost some credibility, he still seems welcomed in Rome and among some Catholic conservatives.


Fr. Jim Tucker On Jacques Maritain and Democracy

Maritain was a brilliant Thomist, and is respected and popular with many conservative theologians. Liberals also respect his intellect, but may have a preference for Rahner's brand of Thomism.

In light of the post below about Ono Ekeh being fired from his Church job for his political views, and some discussion with one of my own readers who seems to believe democracy is anti-thetical to Catholicism, I found Fr. Jim's select quotations interesting. Here's a small taste:

[Maritain's] reflection and testimony have made Catholics understand that democracy is not only a method of political coexistence but that it has ethical value in itself, because it is based on the dignity of the human person and his freedom of conscience,....,For Maritain, democracy, as a social regime of justice and equality, is the temporal fruition of the Gospel,...


NCR Reports That Ono Ekeh Loses His Job For John Kerry Support

Most of us Catholic bloggers know Ono from Ono's Thoughts. He worked for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for African-American Catholics. The 33 year old father of two is now looking for work because he founded and moderated the Catholics for Kerry email discussion group. Ono has even dropped by here from time to time.

The NCR article points out that Ono was singled out after Hudson Deal of Crisis Magazine wrote an article criticizing both Ono and the Bishops who kept him in employ. This excerpt from NCR captures both sides of the issue:

"My opinion is that everyone agrees that abortion is a bad and evil thing -- the question is how we go about [limiting] it," said Ekeh. "Conservatives approach it from the 'supply side' and want to criminalize the providers; I come at from the demand side: Why do women consider having abortions and what can we do to remove it from the matrix of choices?"
That is not a "pro-life" position, Hudson told NCR.
"That's a rather narrow view of what being pro-life is and certainly doesn't match what … either [the] bishops in the United States or the pope" say about the issue, said Hudson. "Pro-life is to protect unborn life and to protect it directly and not just alleviating conditions," said Hudson....
...,"I applaud the bishops for taking this stand -- they've sent a clear message regarding their commitment to life and the responsibility of lay Catholics to do the same," Hudson said in his March 19 "e-letter."
Well, I disagree with Ono on the specifics of abortion, and I disagree with Kerry's position even if I hope it would reduce abortions. I would like to cut both the supply and demand for abortion by promoting social justice and care for the poor and passing a Constitional Amendment for Life protecting the unborn.

If I vote for Kerry, it is only because Bush has never claimed to be against all abortions either, and on other life issues, he gets a dismal score in comparison to Kerry. While I strongly disagree with Kerry's past support for federal funding of abortion, which forces me to pay for something immoral, at least the state is not dictating that the abortion must occur. On the other, when Bush spends my tax dollars for unjust wars and the death penalty, which are also immoral, the state actually dictates who lives and dies!

This said, I think it was wrong to fire Ono if this was the sole cause of termination. He was obvioulsy not saying that abortion should be promoted, and the Church acknowledges as doctrine in an Ecumenical Council that there can be legitimate pluralism in the specific legislative strategies to solve political problems where Church teaching is clear:
Often enough the Christian view of things will itself suggest some specific solution [to political issues] in certain circumstances. Yet it happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that with equal sincerity some of the faithful will disagree with others on a given matter. Even against the intentions of their proponents, however, solutions proposed on one side or another may be easily confused by many people with the Gospel message. Hence it is necessary for people to remember that no one is allowed in the aforementioned situations to appropriate the Church's authority for his opinion. They should always try to enlighten one another through honest discussion, preserving mutual charity and caring above all for the common good. (GS 43)
It seems to me that Hudson Deal is guilty of appropriating the Church's authority for his own opinion of how to solve the problem of abortion. Since Ono's direct manager was not likely a Bishop, and neither Kerry nor Ono are formally excomunicated, the manager likely acted wrongly too if this was the sole cause of separation.

If Hudson Deal is correct, he should consider his own right to call his magazine Catholic. Crisis has largely stood in direct opposition to the Holy Father and the Vatican and the USCCB on the merits of the war in Iraq, as well as occassionally defending the death penalty. Occassionally, they lash out at social justice advocates and the liberal desire to eradicate poverty through political solutions. When Catholic conservatives wish to dissent with Rome on political issues, they are quick to point out the right of Catholics to disagree on the specifics of political issues. I believe the conseravtives do have their right to legitimate dissent, but so do liberals.

Ed Deluzain says he is P.O.'d, and so am I. Give Ono back his job!

Let us pray that Ono is vinidicated or finds another meaningful job soon.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Ariel Sharon Admits Israeli Deliberately Assassinated Hamas Leader

Steve Bogner suggested a glance at The Economist on his site. I had meaning to take a look at this magazine since seeing a advertisement in some junk mail I received.

Anyway, the link above is to an article in the current online issue. Personally, I think Hamas is a terrorist organization that doesn't have a moral leg on which to stand. At the same time, I do not think much more highly of Ariel Sharon and his heavy handed tactics to prevent terrorism. I actually believe Sharon's tactics will increase terrorism in his land, and ours. The one who lives by the sword will die by the sword!


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

G.W. Bush's I.Q. Assessed at 91 by Psychologists

The Lovenstein institute assesses the I.Q.'s of presidents based on their writings and publications, speeches and command of language, and various other factors. To demonstrate a lack of political bias, they assess Nixon as a genius at 155, and Reagan is even a normal 105.

An I.Q. of 91 would make Bush a bit of a dunce for such a high office. I don't intent for this to be mean, because an I.Q. of 91 is certainly bright enough to function in society, and Bush did manage to even get through college and an MBA program (with fairly low grades - but he did graduate). Nevertheless, the score, if accurate, is pretty low for a President of the United States. This confirms a suspicicion many hold that he is either acting very deceptively, or he is too simple-minded for the office President.

His father's scores a 98. Bill Clinton was a 182.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

NCR's John Allen Provides Notes From Conversation with Jesus

Actually, the conversation was with Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. I've been very busy today, so not much time to blog....I'll be pretty busy tomorrow too....


Monday, March 22, 2004

The Seventh Week of Pregancy

We have completed seven weeks of pregnancy now and are entering the eighth week. The hands are starting to form, and the uterus will get about the sixe of a grapefruit this week. I don't think my wife is showing yet, but her stomach is already feeling different to my touch.

She's been feeling naseaus and fatiqued with mild headaches and an extreme sensitivity to smell. I am not eating well because she won't let me cook anything since the smells make her naseaus. I can't really tell her this all the time, but I am glad she feels this way, because it seems to be exactly what she should be feeling. If she weren't feeling sick, I'd wonder if everything is OK, and if the symptoms wer eother than these common symptoms, I'd worry too. Naseau and fatigue are perfect. Keep praying for us....


White House Trying to Deal With Clarke Criticism

Former anti-terrorist czar, Richard Clarke, alleges that the White House ignored his office's warnings prior to 9-11 of a potential al Queda attack. He also states that within days of 9-11, Bush had made it clear that he wanted Clarke's office to implicate Iraq because those in the administration wanted war with Iraq before Bush was ever in office. the White House has countered that Clarke is politically motivated to make such allegations.


Questions for Conservative Readers?

If separating the sex act from procreation is always and everywhere sinful, are the following acts sinful?

- Can a married couple use natural family planning to determine exact times of infertility so that the unitive dimension of sexuality may be expressed without procreation during those times?

- Can a couple with infertility problems engage in sexual intercourse to express the unitive dimension of sexuality, even if they know there is no chance of procreation at this time?

- Can a single post menopausal woman chose to marry? If so, is she permitted to consecrate the marriage?

- If a married woman has a hysterectomy for medical reasons, can the couple continue to have sex to express unitive love?

- Can hermaphprodites enter a valid marriage? If so, which gender is it appropriate for them to marry?


Sunday, March 21, 2004

My Thoughts on Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

I finally saw the movie - and I thought it was a darn fine flick!

I know this will dissapoint some of my readers who are hoping for some sharp criticism of a film so popular among the religious right, and so controversial to many of the left. Let me break it down to the questions people seem to ask:

Was the film anti-semitic?

I simply couldn't see it if it was. I am not Jewish, and I respect the opinions of others if they have seen the film. Yet, after having seen the film, I wonder if anyone raising the charge really watched the film. It seems to me you'd have to have an extreme bias to find an anti-semetic message in this film.

It's true the the character of Ciaphas is not a fully devloped character. I walked out a bit hungry to undertsand his motives for his hatred of Jesus. I feel this way reading the Gospels too.

However, the image of Jesus in the movie was as Jewish as I have ever seen in film. Nearly ever line in his mouth, from the opening scene to the closing scenes, is a psalm. He even prays in the opening scene of the garden standing up - in rabbinic style, rather than the Christian holy card image of kneeling in Christian style.

Then there are the other Jewish heros in the movie: John, Mary, Veronica, Magdalene, and especially Simon. Peter is heroic to a lesser extent. There are also high priests and pharisees who stand in opposition to Ciaphas and an argument is made at Jesus trial that the proceedings are invalid because the whole sanhedrin is not present.

I've read of critics who seem to find Pontius Pilate to be an unhistorical character who is treated sympathetically. It is true his character and motives are more developed than those of Ciaphas, but he does not come out at as some sort of hero. He comes accross as a nazi following orders, and avoiding crucifying Jesus for purely political motives - including the fear that after suprressing several rebellions violently, he was warned by Rome that his own head would be on the line if another outbreak occurs. The only reason he washes his hands of Jesus' death and tries to avoid it is his fear that Jesus' disciples would rebel, and he'd get in trouble with his Roman superiors.

The most villainous characters in the film are the Roman soldiers, who are purely sadistic. Personally, I ask every conservative who thinks we're too soft on crime, or supports the death penalty, or supports pre-emptive wars, consider whether there is a bit of the Roman soldier in you?

I know there is me in every act of rash anger, and it is meditation on the crucifixion that moved me to passivism. Which side will you take when the rubber hits the road - that of the Roman soldier, or that of Simon, John, Veronica and the Magdalene?

Was the movie excessively violent?

I read one review that said Jesus was scourged 150 times in this movie. The charge is that the movie is more violent than Jesus' actual crucifixion.

The charges are not true. I counted, and I know my count was right, because there was a soldier counting in Latin the back-ground, and I matched his count. Gibson's Jesus was struck with thin wooden rods 32 times, and with the whips that had shells in the ends 28 times. I do question how it is humanly possible to live through such a beating, but anyone who has been vaguley interested in the shroud of Turin controversy or various aspects of historical crucifixion knows this is exaclt how it likely occurred.

The film was no more violent than I imagine these scenes praying the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.

Was the film historically accurate?

This is a tougher question. There were a few places where Mel Gibson is obviously departing from Scripture or any historical reference: such as the figure of Satan wondering through the background. The scene of Judas fleeing with near demonic children is also not from any source I know. This is artitistic license, and I have no problem with that.

Perhaps the most problematic issue for me was the last supper and the garden. I believe the textual evidence of the New Testament makes it clear that the Last Supper was huge feast with many more people than the Twelve present. Some of these people were in the garden along with Peter, James, and John. This is why Judas had to help identify the Lord with a kiss.

There were some places where the acting or positioning of people was more holywood than I think would happen in real life.

Overall, however, I think Gibson may have made the best depiction of the crucifixion I have ever seen on film - and the most historically accurate, despite its deficiencies.

Did the focus on Jesus' death lack context?

If you had never heard the Gospel, this movie will not help you understand it. So, yes, it lacked context. However, given Gibson's intent and scope, I don't think it could have been done differently. This movie should be considered more a passion play than a life of Jesus. In this sense, the film accomplishes what it sets out to do. If you want the whole Gospel message and context, Jesus of Nazareth might remain the best so far.

What did I, personally, find moving?

Three things at a high level:

1) I cried when Jesus said to the repentant theif on the cross, "This day, you will be with me in paradise."

2) Jesus' absolute trust until the very end that his Father would vindicate him.

3) The image of Mary was extremely moving, as was the devotion of the Twelve to her.


I Believe This is Spiritual Malpractice

My wife is a nurse in a Catholic hospital and was scheduled to work today. Therefore, we went to Mass last night in a parish we do not usually attend. I don't think I ever felt so angry during the liturgy.

First, the priest preached his homily on the prodigal son reading. Somehow, he took the Gospel to say primarily that since the son said to himself that he was not worthy to be called a son, we are to be just as repentant and we need to get to confession. I just don't see this implication in the text, even though I go to confession pretty regularly.

The text actually says that the father saw the son coming at a great distance, and ran to meet the son. Furthermore, as the son started to go through his repentant speech, the father cuts him off! The father cuts the son off and commands the servants to get the finest robes, a ring, and to kill the fatted calf. The father has forgiven the son before the son even gets to the house, much less before the son even asks forgiveness!

Jesus is saying that our God runs to meet us before we even ask his forgiveness!

Furthermore, those of us who have worked hard to do what is right are not to be like the older brother who feels slighted when the younger brother is forgiven so easily. Rather, we are to rejoice that our siblings who were dead are now alive again!

But this is not what really bugged me. What really bugged me was the prayers of the faithful or the petitions after the recitation of the creed. The first petition went something like this: "Let us pray that the evil of same sex civil unions will be defeated by our legislators". I refused to pray along, and violently shook my head so that others could see I was not participating in this.

After Mass, I went to the priest who was presiding and asked if I might make a suggestion. I said, "Father, might I suggest that instead of praying for a defeat of same sex marriage laws, we should pray that God's will be done in this important legislative issue."

This priests asked why we should neuter the prayer in such a way. I explained that I am heterosexual and married, and I found the prayer offensive, and I do not believe such a prayer is appropriate in the context of a Mass because it alienates our gay sisters and brothers sitting among us. He just stared at me and said, "I don't get your point."

I tried to explain it again another way, and asked, "What is wrong with simply praying that God's will be done. Isn't that what we all want?"

He still seemed baffled, though he knew that such logic was flawless. He tried to argue back, "Well, I am praying for God's will. God does not will homosexual unions." I persisted, and eventually, he mumbled something like, "Well, I suppose we don't single out adulterers and drug addicts in the prayers of the faithful, so maybe you have a point. But you certainly aren't saying I should advocate sin are you?"

I responded, "No father. I am only asking that we submit to God's will. Just think about and pray over it." He agreed to give it some thought and prayer, and I walked away.

In my mind, his initial resistance to such a suggestion displays sheer spiritual malpractice. I can only pray that I planted a seed in his heart and mind to consider a better alternative. In effect, this priest was initially saying that it is ultimately more important to express his own will to God in public than to submit to God's will!


Lesbian Methodist Minister "Aquitted" By Church Jury

A lesbian minister in the Methodist communion was permitted to continue ministry after admitting to a nine year relationship with another woman that still continues. The Methodist communion officially condemns homosexual relationships in its book of discipline, while the church's social teachings affirm gay rights and civil liberties for gays and lesbians.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Reality of Parenthood Beginning to Set In...

My wife and I have been trying to conceive for a long time, and I am so grateful to God that our prayers have been answered. I am not having any second thoughts, but for some reason, it strikes me that if I were having second thoughts, there's no turning back now!

It's sort of a frightening thought, even though I want a child. It's simply the reality that I can't return money warranty...,etc...

I suppose this is normal. Continue to pray for us.


Who Really Benefits From G.W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Program"??

After Neil Bush was banned from banking activities for his role in the Savings and Loan scandal in the late 1980s, he decided to bank on education and founded Ignite Incorporated. Ignite sells software to help students prepare to take comprehensive tests required under the No Child Left Behind act that was pushed through by Neil's older brother - President Bush.


Another Article From Sister Joan Chittister: Religions Have Some Repenting to Do!

In this article, Sister Joan speaks of the struggle of women globally in two major areas. First, stopping violence against women needs ot be a global priority.

However, part of the solution to global violence against women is to stop the institional violence of patriarchal religion against women. She shares the stories of a woman who has been ordained a Buddhist monk, and most Buddhist monks of her tradition will not accept her ordination based on gender.

Sister Joan then tells the stories of other women struggling for equality in other religions, highlighting the spiritual heroines of the past.

She quotes a male Buddhist who relaized how wrong patriarchy int he name of God can be in the following statement:

"What really made me understand what was really going on for women," he said, "is that I noticed that though women were forbidden in the temple, dogs and cats were not."
This says it all.


Sister Joan Chittister Asks: Is Femimism a Mob or a Movement?

Sister Joan distinguishes a mob from a movement by stating the former is like a riot of protestors, while the latter is more like a revolution. One is a flash that burns out quickly, while the other has lasting effects and changes institutions.

This insightful article raises many other questions. For example, Sister Joan asks what many conservatives want to know: "Is feminism anti-motherhood?"

I think her conclusion is brilliant, and I have held the position for quite some time:

Feminism is not about turning women into men or men into women. It is about turning both women and men into full human beings. Then, every institution in the world will change, and both men and women will be whole.
Ponder her artcile to see what she means by this and how she reaches this conclusion.


Friday, March 19, 2004

Women Priests:More Important Than Married Priests

My latest article posted to my homepage addresses why I think I think the issue of women's ordination is more important than married priests, and maybe any other issue facing the Church today.


Cost of Iraqi Recontruction Drastically Underestimated

We probably all remember when President Bush announced that the cost of the war, itself, had been underestimated, and he requested $87 billion to finance military operations to keep peace in the region. That raised quite a stir.

The Washington Post points out other costs associated with the war in Iraq were drastically underestimated. A year ago, the administration told us it would cost tax-payers a little more than a billion dollars to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq. The price tag so far is up to $75 billion, and climbing!

The article in The Post also contains some interesting statistics on Iraqi opinion of the war so far. 41 percent of Iraqi's feel that the U.S. victory and occupation was humiliating to Iraq. 51 percent want the U.S. troops out of the country immediately. Only 46 percent feel that the removal of Saddam Hussein was liberating. 56 percent do perceive an improvement in thier lives from a year ago, and that's good. 71 percent remain optimistic that things will improve a year from now. However, if the U.S. makes any mistakes and things get worse, one can only imagine that the optimism and feeling of improvement will dwindle.

The article also points out that civilians continue to die in Iraq today, and that the U.S. backed Iraqi army is taking far more casualties than the coalition forces.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

Antonin Scalia Sees No Conflict of Interest in Hearing Cheney Case

Why should a Republican appointed Justice who decided that Bush/Cheney beat the popularly elected Gore/Lieberman in the a state where a Bush is Govenor now begin to believe that his hunting exploits with his friend, Dick Cheney, will somehow color his view of Cheney's financial profits in the war in Iraq?

Why should any of us see any connections or need for recusal. Do you?


Elena Asked Me to Create an "Atom"

As instructed, I went to my Settings Tab, selected "yes" in "Site Feed", then selected "short" for the description.

I'm still not sure what this is or what it does. I put the Blogger "Site Feed" code down at the bottom of this page, and the code is in the link above.

I don't know just how y'all can use that, but Elena thought it would help her keep up with new posts on my wife's pregancy. I'm certainly not sure how I can use it. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out what this "trackback" thing I put out there a few weeks ago does. If anyone has a clue, feel free to leave me a comment. I'm humble enough to admit PC illiteracy on some of this stuff.


This is My Body

This is a powerful article on Godspy by a woman describing the spiritual aspect of being pregnant. This is no sugar coated pious dribble, but a reflection on fear, misery, sickness, and pain and loss of control over her own body.

I can't say my wife has expressed any feelings like this, but I printed a copy of the article for her. I don't want her to feel depressed or sick or miserable. If she should start to feel this way, I hope this woman's experience can help my wife get through it. I thank Elizabeth Wirth for her honest reflection on her experience.


First Hand Account From Iraq

I ran into someone I know in the military who served in the war in Iraq. Because I support the troops, even if I question Bush, I was keeping my anti-war sentiments to myself, and I don't think this guy and I ever talked politics before.

Well, to my surprise, he seemed to want to talk.

According to this fellow, there is a bunch of stuff happening in Iraq that we never see or saw on the news. Let me summarize his experiences as he reported them to me:

1) We were bombing Iraq all of the year 2001, even before 9/11. This fellow told he personally launched some of the missiles, and he claimed he did so prior to 09/11/2001.

2) Almost all the soldiers in his unit think the war was about oil, and question the Bush adminstration. They follow their orders, but do not believe their cause is just in the grand scheme of things. They believe the goal was to to control the flow of oil to Russia and Europe. They also believe Kosovo was an oil interest, because Iraqi oil went to France and Germany through the Balkans.

3) Most of the bombing of U.S. troops by the opposition is not being done by suicide bombers. The Iraqi's use remote control devices or a simple brick on the accelerator to ram cars and trucks loaded with explosives into U.S. targets.

4) Far more Americans are dead or wounded than the press releases indicate.

5) Some of the effects of traumatic stress in the region have lead to U.S. soldiers doing things that would shame the average citizen. He was not very specific about this. Another military person told me a similar story and said he had web-cam images of atrocities committed by Americans.

6) The soldiers stationed in Kuwait prior to the war wanted U.N. support and believe that Colin Powell made an absolute fool of himself with the evidence presented to the U.N. Security Council prior to war. The soldiers knew the so-called evidence was bogus.

7) The soldiers stationed in Kuwait prior to 9/11 did not believe that Saddam Hussein had WMDs.

8) The Iranians have asked the United States to send weapons inspectors into their country so that they can show us there are no WMDs. They are very afraid of us, and want to avoid a war. The Bush administration apparently does not want this known.

9) The United States now has a military presence in every Middle Eastern country except Iran and Syria. The rumor mill in the military is that we are preparing to send troops into these two nations, and that Rumsfled is even planning to push for a reinstitution of the draft if Bush wins in '04.

10) The Saudi Arabians seem to treat their own people as bad or worse then Saddam Hussein. I heard this from my high school classmates who served in the first Gulf War as well.

11) The feeling of the soldiers is that if they withdraw, the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis will kill each other. If they stay, Americans will always be viewed as evil occupiers who will continue to be targets of bombers for years. The feeling is that going to war in the first place was a collosal mistake.

This is an "unofficial report" from one person's perspective, so I make no claim to know how much is really true. All I can say is that I have no reason to doubt my source.


Salvation is by Grace Alone!

A few days back, I received an email from a man claiming to be a former Roman Catholic who is now an Evangelical Protestant who believes all Catholics are headed straight to hell. The center of his argument was the key issue of the Protestant reformation, salvation by grace alone.

I am a believer in ecumenism, and I respect the Protestant tradition, but when anyone says all Catholics are going to hell, I'll push back.

I tried to reason with this person that I agree many Catholics rely too much on thier works and fall into scrupulosity, legalism, and prideful "works righteousness" or "self-righteousness". I explained that this is not because of the official Church teaching, but may be a fault of the way official teaching is filtered down to the pew, or may be simply a fault that any Christian can fall into.

I asserted that the Roman Catholic Church does teach explicitly that salvation is by grace alone, and I admitted that many Catholic priests could do a better job of making it clear that faith is trusting the one who died for you to bring the work he started to completion.

I went on to say that I find the Protestant articulation of "salvation by grace alone through faith alone, apart from works" a bit confusing to me. The complete and absolute separation of works from faith as many Protestants popularly preach it does not seem to me to be what Paul meant in verses like Galatians 2:16. Note that I was not saying Protestants are going to hell, or that they are all wrong. I simply said I find this particular expression a bit confusing to me personally, and raised the question of whether the popular preaching of this statement is in accord with what Paul intended.

I pointed out that Galatians was written in reaction to certain Judaizing tendencies in historical context. It wasn't directed at Catholics, and we need to be careful not to pour meaning in the phrase that Paul did not intend.

I pointed out that Paul explicitly says we should "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" in Phill 2:12. He also speaks of salvation as a growth process rather than a single event in 3:12 of the same letter. Furthermore, every one of Paul's letters contain moral exhortations, and in Romans chapters 5 through 8, where he begins to seem to say the law causes sin, he reverses himself and says the law is holy, and explains that the Spirit empowers us to follow the law. I threw in James 2 and Matt 25 for good measure to show that the Bible clearly seems to imply that works play a role in the salvation process.

I also explained that the Evangelical Protestant popular teaching of "bessed assurance", or "knowing that you know" you are saved strikes me as coming dangerously close to the sin of presumption if misunderstood. If Catholics are tempted to scrupulosity and legalism, Protestants are tempted to this opposite extreme. I am not saying one theological system is better than the other. Rather, I am saying that both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Our position is that grace empowers one to faith, which is the necessary foundation for righteousness. In turn, grace and faith empower one to works, and through those works, grace and faith is nourished and brought to fullfilment. The all sufficient merits of the cross are applied to a person by the person's participation with this empowering grace in such a way that Paul refered to his own sufferings and works as "filling what is lacking" in the affliction of Christ (Col 1:24).

Rather than addressing my argument, concerns or questions, this Protestant simply asserted that the Roman Catholic Church does not teach that salvation is by grace alone.

He then quoted Gal 2:16 right back at me, even after I brought it up and explained how I interpret it. He went on to insult the Catholic religion by calling the Eucharist a "cookie god" and poked fun at every Catholic doctrine that Protestants do not share.

To remove all doubt about the fact that the Church teaches that salvation is by grace alone, I now quote the infallible Ecumenical Council of Trent from the Sixth Session on Justification:

CANON I: If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
CANON II: If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.
CANON III.: If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.
As an aside to conservative Catholics, it is the notion of "prevenient grace" or "prevenient inspiration" in the Council of Trent that lead Vatican II to say saving grace exists among people who have never heard the Gospel. Without prevenient grace, baptism would be our own work, rather than God's free gift, and we would be Pelegians (who were heretics). Since grace is present prior to baptism, salvation can occur outside of the Church, though it is certainly naturally directed toward the Church in a general sense.

Returning to the issue at hand with this Protestant reader, Trent does teach that salvation is by grace alone. In the more theological and Scriptural explanations of the canons in the same session, the Council of Trent produced the following statements:
The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God. (Chapter V)
And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification - whether faith or works - merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace. (Chapter VIII)
These selected quotations are directly from The Council of Trent, and anyone who denies them fully understanding what they are denying is considered a heretic by the Vatican. The Church clearly and unambiguously teaches that salvation is by God's grace alone.

While I agree with our Protestant siblings that we could do a better job talking about God's role in the salvation process, and the importance of trusting God in this process, I think that some Protestants go overboard into what sounds like the sin of presumption. Both religious bodies can be guilty of a lack of clarity in our reactions to each other. I am not saying all Protestants go to hell, nor am I saying all Catholics have it right. I am saying their are strengths and weaknesses in each approach.

There are strengths and weaknesses in each system of thought, and the two ways of expressing soteriology are clearly different. However, when any Protestant starts saying all Catholics are going to straight to hell, I will defend the Church!


New Blog: The Soulful Blogger

This new blog is created by a person defining himself as a gay former Catholic who writes on issues of faith, politics and spirituality. Check it out.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

I recall that during my undergraduate studies at a secular university, I posted an article about Saint Patrick on a dormitory bulletin board on Saint Patrick's Day. Several non-Cathotholic students expressed delight and surprise to learn that Saint Patrick was a real person in history. They had never really thought about what the day meant.

Take advantage of days like Saint Patrick's Day, Saint Valentine's Day, and even Halloween (all hallowed eve before all saints day) to share your Catholic faith.

Above is a link to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Saint Patrick. I wish I could post Thomas Cahill's entire How the Irish Saved Civilization. Being Irish myself, I loved this book. Cahill makes the point that Saint Patrick, who was once a slave, may be the first person in recorded to history to condemn the institution of slavery entirely. Even Moses did not condemn the entire institution!

I have no plans to celbrate tonight, since I gave up most of the good stuff for Lent. Those who haven't given up alcoholic beverages, take a Guiness on my behalf.

Happy St. Pat's!


Betrayal of Innocence: The Tablet Puts the Sex Abuse Crisis in Historical Perspective

This article makes clear that nothing is new under the sun. The current crisis in the American Catholic Church was dealt with from two different perpectives by two different saints in the year 1050 AD. Just to pique your curiousity, check out the opening lines:

"PIU difettoso, il migliore," as they say in Rome: "The worse, the better." The very awfulness of the report made it, at first, welcome reading within the Curia. If so many parish priests were really violating their vow of celibacy with boys, then a stern reinforcement of clerical discipline from above was all the more necessary. Soon, however, as public outrage became strident, the Holy See backed off, in its usual stately fashion. The Pope suggested that after all only those guilty "as a long-standing practice or with many males" needed be unfrocked; other priests, who had subsequently "curbed their desires" and "atoned for their infamous deeds with proper repentance", might continue in parish ministry. The author of the report responded furiously, for he maintained that the rot ran deep. Not only lecherous clergy but the "do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests" were "partners in the guilt of others" by permitting "the destructive plague" to continue: the Church must be reformed! Rome turned frosty,...
The year was 1050, the report was racily entitled Liber Gomorrhianus, its author was Peter Damian, the Pope was Leo IX.
Which of them was right? Peter and Leo are both saints now, yet Peter and Leo were at loggerheads about what to do with pederastic priests, because they were at loggerheads about what the scandal meant: whether it was merely slackness in discipline, or whether it was the sign of a crisis deep in the soul of the Church.
The article goes on to compare current reaction, and points out how both liberals and conservatives in the Church have blamed Vatican II in various ways.

My own perspective is different. I never blamed any part of the crisis on Vatican II, excpet perhaps the failure to fully implement the Council. If we are going to blame Counciliar reforms, our focus should be on the Second Lateran Council, which forced the already failing disciplines of mandatory celibacy on the entire Latin Rite.

Don't misunderstand me. I do not believe for a second that living a celibate life-style changes a normal and healthy heterosexual man into a gay pedarist. Nor does celibacy turn a healthy gay man into a pedarist.

Rather, I believe that celibate groups attract a high number of men who already unhealthy prior to their entrance in the community. I am not saying that healthy men are not also attracted to celibate priesthood. There are good priests - both gay and straight.

However, until we face the undeniable historically documented reality that an all male celibate priesthood also attracts and promotes men who chose not marry for wholly un-holy reasons, there will be no true resolution to this crisis. When we begin to understand this, the follow-up question is only partially how we weed these people out. This is only a partial solution for three reasons:

1) It isn't really possible to do with 100 percent effectiveness. We don't have the tools and resources yet to know who is a pedarist and who is not with 100 percent accuracy at this point in history.

2) The weeding process would inevitably reduce the number of ministerial priests, which is already too small for a growing Catholic population.

3) There is a danger of responsible screening turning into irresponsible witch hunts and inquisistions.

Rather than exclusive focus on how to weed out the problem, I would suggest that the follow-up question we should be asking is how we attract more healthy people to the priesthood.

There are thousands of healthy and holy women who feel called to ministerial priesthood. There are thousands of healthy and holy married men who feel called to ministerial priesthood. There are thousands of healthy and holy gay men who feel attracted to ministerial priesthoood, but also feel unwelcome in a Church that implies their very nature is disordered. If we could tap these three groups even as we improve the screening process, the crisis would go further in resolving itself.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Sixth Week of Pregnancy

My wife is in week six of pregnancy. We went for our first ultra-sound yesterday, and it wasn't anywhere near as clear as the baby in the link above. However, I was thrilled to see the hearbeat. The moving picture was what was exciting, but the still picture doesn't look like much yet.

The doctor says things are progressing very nicely, despite our risks. The Baby is implanted in what appears an absolutely ideal spot in the top center of the uterus. The fetus is a good size for week six, and my wife's hormone levels are perfect. There is no more worry about ectopic pregnancy. The only worry right now is that she may have had some scar tissue from prior surgery, and we are not certain if any of the scarring occurred that high in the uterus. Keep up the prayers!


Anonymous Article I Found Hilarious


The discovery that affiliation with the Republican Party is genetically determined was announced by scientists in the current issue of the journal NURTURE, causing uproar among traditionalists who believe it is a chosen lifestyle.

Reports of the gene coding for political conservatism, discovered after a decades-long study of quintuplets in Orange County, CA, has sent shock waves through the medical, political, and golfing communities.

Psychologists and psychoanalysts have long believed that Republicans' unnatural disregard for the poor and frequently unconstitutional tendencies resulted from dysfunctional family dynamics -- a remarkably high percentage of Republicans do have authoritarian domineering fathers and emotionally distant mothers who didn't teach them how to be kind and gentle.

Biologists have long suspected that conservatism is inherited. "After all," said one author of the NURTURE article, "It's quite common for a Republican to have a brother or sister who is a Republican."

The finding has been greeted with relief by Parents and Friends of Republicans (PFREP), who sometimes blame themselves for the political views of otherwise lovable children, family, and unindicted co-conspirators.

One mother, a longtime Democrat, wept and clapped her hands in ecstasy on hearing of the findings. "I just knew it was genetic," she said, seated with her two sons, both avowed Republicans. "My boys would never freely choose that lifestyle!"

When asked what the Republican lifestyle was, she said, "You can just tell watching their conventions in Houston and San Diego on TV: the flaming xenophobia, flamboyant demagogy, disdain for anyone not rich, you know."

Both sons had suspected their Republicanism from an early age but did not confirm it until they were in college, when they became convinced it wasn't just a phase they were going through.

The NURTURE article offered no response to the suggestion that the high incidence of Republicanism among siblings could result from their sharing not only genes but also psychological and emotional attitude as products of the same parents and family dynamics.

A remaining mystery is why many Democrats admit to having voted Republican at least once -- or often dream or fantasize about doing so. Polls show that three out of five adult Democrats have had a Republican experience, although most outgrow teenage experimentation with Republicanism.

Some Republicans hail the findings as a step toward eliminating conservophobia. They argue that since Republicans didn't "choose" their lifestyle any more than someone "chooses" to have a ski-jump nose, they shouldn't be denied civil rights which other minorities enjoy.

If conservatism is not the result of stinginess or orneriness (typical stereotypes attributed to Republicans) but is something Republicans can't help, there's no reason why society shouldn't tolerate Republicans in the military or even high elected office -- provided they don't flaunt their political beliefs.

For many Americans, the discovery opens a window on a different future. In a few years, gene therapy might eradicate Republicanism altogether.

But why should they be allowed to marry?


Monday, March 15, 2004

Is This A Place for the Mentally Handicapped?

Center for the Retarded
A School for the Mentally Challenged?


A Brief Thought For Republican IT Professionals

I was ruminating over the weekend about unemployment and a light-bulb went off in my head.

In 1999 or 2000, the IT industry passed up auto manufacturing as the number one employer of Americans. As the bubble burst and we enetered a recession, discretionary spending on IT budgets were cut in many industries. In response, the IT coporations began moving jobs "offshore" in order to cut their own expenses.

In the past, when America relied on the auto industry and oil to drive the economy, the Republican party promised America that lower taxes and de-regulation would lead to greater profits that would "trickle down" to the average worker. Bush is following the same philosophy, but we aren't seeing the promised job creation, and wages are not growing fast enough to keep up with inflation anymore.

It struck me over the weekend that the biggest clients of most IT companies are government agencies. Thus, while the Republican philosophy of small government and low taxes with little regulation was good for auto manufacturing, it is bad for the IT industry.

Big government with complex rules and regulations and high taxes are good for the IT industry, because it takes complex computer systems and applications to sustain such things. A vote for big government is a vote to expand the IT industry client base. A vote against big government is a vote to shrink the client base of the IT industry.

Every person involved in the IT industry ought to be voting for big government!

Am I saying that we ought to grow government waste in order to create jobs?

Not exactly.

Rather, I am saying that if government were do something like wage a war on poverty (i.e. - spend $87 billion to eliminate poverty in the U.S., instead of spending $87 billion in Iraq), it would take a huge and complex IT system to wage such a war effectively. The IT industry has a values proposition that things can be done more efficiently and effectively with computers. The idea is not to create waste, but to use our technology to tackle issues that were too big in prior generations. Let's design a system that would make homelessness a thing of the past, cure AIDs, ensure that senior citizens have access to every drug they need, ensure all Americans can eat a healthy diet, etc...Think big, knowing that size also means jobs!

Furthermore, because the system would be federally regulated, certain sectors of the system could not be done "offshore". This means jobs for Americans, meaning the system itself is part of the solution, as well as the outputs of the system!

This is simply a quick brainstorm, and I haven't thought it through completely. But I think it's worth thinking about....


Spain Likely to Withdraw Troops From Iraq

The newly elected Prime Minister of Spain states that the war in Iraq has been a disaster and has made the country unsafe from terrorism. Unless the United Nations becomes more involved, Spain will likely withdraw from Iraq.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Death Toll In Madrid Climbs

I have been incredibly busy at work the past couple of days. Yesterday, I went non-stop all day at work, skipping lunch and working right up to 6 pm. I quickly posted the article below in haste, and ran to choir practice. I only found out about the terrorist attack in Madrid when the choir began to offer prayers for the people in Spain. Today has been a similarly busy day, though I've had this short lunch break.

Let us all pray for the souls of those who have died, for their families, for the people of Madrid, and for the perpetrators of this terrible act.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Some Thoughts on Gay Unions as a Threat to Marriage

Regardless of whether we consider all homosexual acts to be a sin or not, I have been trying to understand the argument of social conservatives that homosexual unions or gay civil marriage is the threat to the institution of marriage.

The Kinsey Report surmised that a total of about 10 percent of the population is homosexually oriented. Many social conservatives rightly point out that the Kinsey methodology was flawed. Later reports would place the percentage much lower. Yet, even if we stuck by the 10 percent number, what is it exactly that social conservatives fear if this ten percent were permitted to marry one another?

Does anyone really believe that there is some chance that significantly more than ten percent will engage in gay unions or gay civil marriages?

Is there some sort of concern that as soon as gay marriage is legal, some straight guy currently living in a heterosexual marriage is going to say, "Wow? I could have had a man! I'm getting divorced today so I can marry a man!"

Is there some concern that young people will somehow be more prone to be gay?

Think back to your earliest crush. For me, I was about four or five years old and I knew I wanted a girl in the neigborhood named Tammy. In first through sixth grade, there was a girl named Sally. Then, when puberty kicked in, it was different girl every week sometimes, and the feelings were stronger, and I don't recall ever feeling that way about a man. Even if I were prone to explore homosexual sex out of curiosity, I simply cannot imagine that I would have fallen in love with a man the way I love my wife. For that matter, while I know this is an un-Christian thought, I simply don't think I could love an ugly woman the exact same way I love my beautiful wife. Grace builds on nature, and by nature, most people seem to be heterosexual - overwhelmingly so!

I received an email from a gay reader pointing out how good the conservative Republicans have done at promoting the institution of marriage:

Ronald Reagan divorced the mother of two of his children to marry Nancy Reagan, who bore him a daughter after only 7 months into the marriage.

Bob Dole divorced the mother of his child, who had nursed him through the long recovery from his war wounds.

Newt Gingrich divorced his wife who was dying of cancer.

House Majority Leader, Dick Armey, is also divorced.

Senator John McCain of Arizona is divorced. Republican Senator Phil Gramm of texas is divorced. So is Republican Senator John Engler of Michigan. Senator Lauch Faircloth is also divorced. Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York is divorced.

Former Govenor Pete Wilson of California was divorced. Govenor John Warner of Virginia is divorced (he was once married to Liz Taylor). Former Virginia Govenor, George Allen was also divorced.

George Will is divorced.

Rush Limbach and his current wife, Marta, have six marriages and four divorces between them.

Henry Kissinger is divorced.

Representative Bob Barr has been married three times before turning fifty, and is the author of the "Defense of Marriage Act". Bob, which marriage are you defending?

Representative Helen Chenoweth of Idaho is divorced. So are Representaives John Kasich of Ohio, and Susan Molinari of New york.

I keep hearing that half of marriages will end in divorce. Of course, I think some double counting goes on in this statistic - All three of Rush Limbach's marriages get counted, so that 2/3 of those ended in divorce. Less than half of the first time married folks will actually divorce.

Nevertheless, we all know that divorce is a far greater threat to the institution of marriage than the existence of gays and lesbians - who aren't going to go away even if we don't let them marry.

Divorce is far more harmful in most cases to children than allowing a loving and responsible gay couple to adopt a needy orphan. Any time two people stay together for up to 51 years, like the first lesbian couple married in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, the institution of marriage is affirmed.

I'm not arguing theology here. I'm not arguing for church weddings here. For that, go to this article. But aside from theology, why are people so afraid of civil unions for gays and lesbians? What difference will it make in your own life unless you, yourself, are tempted to homosexual marriage and feel you need the force of civil law to keep your urges in check?


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Teach Yourself Swahili

A co-worker from Kenya who speaks Swahili emailed me this link because I want to learn my wife's language. Ideally, with our first child on the way, we will speak all Swahili in our home, and our child will learn English at school and from the media. I am simply not sure I can ever learn it as fluently as my wife. I do look forward to the day when her sisters and her are talking about me thinking I can't understand, and I pipe up in Swahili with "I heard that!"

If anyone else is interested in learning some basic Swahili, here ya go....


NCR's John Allen Makes Papal Predicitions

As His Holiness, John Paul II ages, it is inevitable that people have begun speculating who will be next in line for the papacy. John Allen describes two camps among the Cardinals - those who seek an Italian Pope as Bishop of Rome, and those who seek someone from the developing world.

Mr. Allen also offers the top five most papible Cardinals in each of these two categories and offers photos and a brief description of each.

Of course, papal elections are always full of surprises. The one thing nobody is mentioning is that it seems that we swing back and forth between conservative and liberal pretty often in Church history.

If Allen's top ten are truly the candidates who are most likely to be selected, I'd place my money on Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is the most liberal. And being more liberal myself, I can only pray he is the one if the next Pope comes from this list.


Rehnquist Considering Retirement From the Supreme Court

Most people speculate he will not retire until after the elections to avoid the conflict of a senate confirmation. I think it would spice up the elecation campaigns.


Monday, March 08, 2004

Eastern Religions

The latest article I wrote to add to my homepage is a very introductory piece on exploring the beauty of Eastern religions.


Poli-Sci Professor, Jeffrey Jenkins, Says Bush and Kerry Both Closer to the Middle Than Media Images Portray

Using methods of political science studies, which anyone may or may not accept, Jenkins shows that Bush is more conservative than Eisenhower and Ford, but less conservative than Reagan. He "is positioned near the dividing line between the center-right and right quartiles of the party". He is only slightly more conservative than Nixon and his father, and far more liberal than Phil Graham or Jesse Helms.

In turn, Kerry is more conservative than every Democrat President but Lyndon Johnson. He is more conservative than Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton.

This is a point I have been trying to make for months about these two. I have criticized Kerry for being Bush-lite, and suggested Democrats ought to look at someone else, like Kucinich. Of course, Kerry seems to have locked up the nomination now, so there's not much left to say.

I have also argued that the love affair the right has with Bush is misplaced by thier own criteria. Bush is running up a huge and irresponsible deficit that ought to make Republican fiscal conservatives nervous. He is not the pro-life candidate that his image has come to portray, and he never claimed to be. This should have social conservatives questioning him. The behavior of Ashcroft and Bush's Patriot Act should also cause concern to social conservatives.

Catholic Democrats ought to be uncomfortable with Kerry because of his support for the war and his stance on abortion and the lack of bold ideas to promote social justice.

Catholic Republicans ought to be uncomfortable with Bush because of the war, the death penalty and reckless spending. Nor should they excuse him because of abortion, since he does not claim to be against all abortions.

Jenkins feels that the differences between the candidates are great enough to offer voters a real choice in the upcoming election. I'm not so sure this is the case. At this point, the only thing I am very sure of is that Bush is wrecking the country, but I can't be sure that Kerry is the right solution. It may be better to go with the unknown than to live another 4 years under a known failure.


The Center of Concern: A Catholic Global Social Justice Group

I was exposed to this organization by a guest choir member who sang with us at an ecumenical global justice summit last weekend. Our guest works with this group. Their interest are far more global and far reaching than many of the topics I cover, and I highly recommend checking them out - maybe even making a donation. I added a link to my homepage.


Saturday, March 06, 2004

Yesterday's Post on Bush, the Courts and Federal Funding of Abortion Converted to Single Hyperlink

I thought the piece was really long enough to make it an article to add to the homepage. I may need to start a separate section on abortion politics.


Friday, March 05, 2004

Facts on Bush, the Supreme Court, and Abortion

This article is intended as a follow up to questions I have received from my article Is George Bush Really Pro-Life?

I am pro-life and wholeheartedly support the effort to create a Constitutional Amendment to protect the right to life of the unborn.

Bush has never promised to back such an amendment, and Bush has never proclaimed himself solidly pro-life. He was criticized by his own party in the 2000 race for his wishy-washiness and inconsistencies on this issue. Bush is not a pro-life candidate in the way most pro-life Christians want. Because Kerry takes such an adamantly pro-choice position publicly, many pro-life voters are uncritically turning to Bush.

Every time I bring up that Bush has never said he was against all abortions, and he's no better than Kerry, two issues are raised by fellow pro-lifers:

1) Supreme Court appointments.
2) Federal funding of abortion.

On the Court issue, Bush made the following comments during his run for Presidency:

Q: Should a voter assume that all judicial appointments you make to the Supreme Court will be pro-life?
BUSH: Voters should assume that I have no litmus test on that issue or any other issue. The voters will know I'll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy. I believe in strict constructionists.
There we have it. Bush will not use the abortion issue as a litmus test for appointing judges to the Supreme Court. We are just as likely to get judges who support Roe with Bush as we are with Kerry. Let me delve into this a bit further, because many Bush supporters do not quite believe the obvious.

I'm not sure exactly what a strict constructionist is, but I tend to think it means one who interprets the texts in a conservative, nearly literal manner in the sense most likely intended by the author. If anyone disagrees this is what Bush means, please feel free to leave a comment.

The literal words of the Constitution are as follows:
Amendment XIV: Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
This was partially the section the Court referred to in Roe v. Wade to come to the decision that the unborn cannot be considered persons with legal rights. One must be born to have the rights of a citizen.

The court also appealed to rights of born citizens in Amendment IX and XIV - particularly interpreting the right to medical privacy broadly. However, the Court interpreted the actual Constitution quite literally in stating the rights of the born supersede those of the unborn. Indeed, the fact that the Constitution did not define the unborn as having rights is clear in the fact that abortion laws were left as states rights prior to Roe.

So, the question that went before the Court could have been re-phrased as a question whether the rights of a non-citizen supersede the rights of a citizen. Stated in this manner, many social conservatives would always side with the citizen.

Am I arguing the Court was right?

Morally, abortion is murder. However, legally, the Court may have been right, as much as that frustrates those of us who are pro-life - which is why we need an amendment for life.

Some people indicate to me that they believe that Bush will appoint judges who believe in natural law and are steeped in the philosophy of Aquinas. They believe this will somehow change the ruling made by the Court in 1973. It will not. It is interesting to note that the majority opinion did consider the opinion of Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Church in its arguments. For example, justice Blackmun stated the following:
Although Christian theology and the canon law came to fix the point of animation at 40 days for a male and 80 days for a female, a view that persisted until the l9th century, there was otherwise little agreement about the precise time of formation or animation. There was agreement, however, that prior to this point the fetus was to be regarded as part of the mother, and its destruction, therefore, was not homicide. Due to continued uncertainty about the precise time when animation occurred, to the lack of any empirical basis for the 40- 80-day view, and perhaps to Aquinas' definition of movement as one of the two first principles of life, Bracton focused upon quickening as the critical point. The significance of quickening was echoed by later common-law scholars and found its way into the received common law in this country.
In a later part of his decision, he went on to state:
The Aristotelian theory of "mediate animation," that held sway throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic dogma until the l9th century, despite opposition to this "ensoulment" theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from the moment of conception. The latter is now, of course, the official belief of the Catholic Church. As one brief amicus discloses, this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well, and by many physicians. Substantial problems for precise definition of this view are posed, however, by new embryological data that purport to indicate that conception is a "process" over time, rather than an event, and by new medical techniques such as menstrual extraction, the "morning- after" pill, implantation of embryos, artificial insemination, and even artificial wombs.
I completely disagree with Blackmun's final conclusion that conception is a process and that the beginning of life cannot be defined accurately. However, Blackmun would be correct that the Constitution does not provide a clear definition regarding the personhood and rights of the unborn.

I also think Blackmun may have misinterpreted the application of Aquinas to this issue, though this is open to debate. I am sure some Catholic theologians would take Blackmun's side on the proper interpretation of Aquinas, though I am not one of them. The bottom line, however, is that we cannot pretend that he completely ignored the Church or Aquinas. Rather, he simply interpreted the application of Catholic tradition in this instance wrongly from our point of view.

Which brings me to the point that Bush can appoint all the "natural law" judges and "strict constructionists" he wants, and it does not mean Roe v. Wade will be overturned. The only way to overturn Roe is with a Right to Life Amendment that defines the beginning of human life and human rights at conception!

Indeed, even if Roe were overturned, all this would do is put the issue back in the hands of the states. There is nothing in our current Constitution that would require states to protect the unborn, and it is unlikely most states would criminalize abortion these days.

Consider this as well, Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion and is quoted above, was a Republican appointee!

At the time of Roe, 4 of the 7 Supreme Court Justices were Republican appointees. And the Democrats were more moderate in those days by today's conservative standards. Today, 7 of 9 justices are Republican appointees, and Roe is not being overturned.

So what difference do conservative judges make?

The answer is none. The judges ruled the way they did in Roe because the Constitution is written the way it is. Even a true strict constructionist knows this, which is why such Republican appointees as Sandra Day O'Conner or David Souter have disappointed pro-lifers. Bush's promise of strict constructionists is meaningless in the abortion debate - and Bush knows this - as does Kerry!

If we don't like Roe, we need to change the Constitution more than we need to change the Court.

Kerry's stance is remarkably similar in tone to the conservative rhetoric. Kerry states the following:
I don't want to get into an argument about litmus tests. The focus is on the constitutional right that Roe established in America. I want jurists to agree, who swear to uphold the Constitution. I want jurists who understand the Constitution that way...,The test is basic -- any person who thinks it's his or her job to push an extreme political agenda rather than to interpret the law should not be a Supreme Court justice.
Kerry is basically saying the same thing as Bush and the Republicans - that the Court must interpret the Constitution strictly and not push their own agenda!

Kerry states that while he personally opposes abortion, the Constitution clearly does not give rights to the unborn, and he will not appoint a judge who makes her or his own rules of interpretation to get around this. Kerry is basically saying that it is not a judges job to create law. The judge should interpret law, and any judge who reads rights of unborn into the current Constitution is reading something that isn't there.

What about federal funding of abortion?

To my knowledge, Kerry has never directly promised that he would enact federal funding of abortion as President. However, he has voted for some funding of abortion in the past, and there's no reason to assume he might not do it again.

This is a more serious issue. It is a deeply troubling issue for me personally, and I strongly urge the Democrats and Kerry to reconsider this position. If Kerry were running against anyone but Bush, I would likely vote against Kerry because of this issue - and who knows, I still might decide to simply not vote at all!

Take heed Mr. Kerry - you could lose votes to the "stay at homes".

Basically, I oppose federal funding of abortion because this forces me to pay for something I deem deeply immoral. I have written elsewhere that Democrats ought to move to the middle on issues such as this. I believe that most Americans can understand the argument that pro-lifers do not want to pay for what they deem immoral. Even many pro-choicers will support the idea of cutting federal funding to abortion on these grounds. While the pro-choice camp will not want laws limiting abortion, many of them are probably ambivalent on the issue of federal funding.

There may be other areas for compromise as well, such as the overwhelmingly popular late term abortion ban that Kerry resisted. Parental notification may be another issue where compromise can be considered. I would strongly urge Kerry and the entire Democratic party to consider a move to the middle on abortion if for no other reason than to gain "swing votes" among pro-life Democrats, which includes many Catholics.

This raises another issue I have with Kerry. I do share a particular concern about Kerry with many more conservative Catholic voters, and the concern is that it is not clear how his own Catholic faith gives any shape to his positions.

Kerry claims to be personally opposed to abortion, but as a legislator, he will fight to uphold Roe under an argument of separation of Church and state. Catholic teaching does not permit such a sharp separation of Church and state, though it does permit a distinction between the secular and sacred, and a certain legitimate pluralism in the application of Church teaching to the political realm. Other religions teach a similar principle, and people of faith throughout America hold a more nuanced view than Kerry is articulating.

Kerry argues his position of separation of Church and state too sharply. In doing so, he goes to the point of painting Bush as a pro-life extremist, which Bush is not. Kerry also supported the war in Iraq, though he seems to have wanted U.N. support. This is similar to the Pope's position, but in the specific case, he departed from the advice of the USCCB. He is also a remaried divorcee. What I am pointing out is that it is unclear how his faith is apparent in the choices Kerry makes.

Does Kerry ever really allow Catholic teaching to challenge him? Does he ever allow Catholic teaching to spur him to a vision as a leader that would take the Democratic party in a new direction? Is a vote for the Catholic Kerry any different than a vote for any non-Catholic Democrat?

Kerry seems to think it shouldn't be. While I agree that Catholics need to be careful not to impose their views on others when the overwhelming consensus is against Church teaching, I would like to see all Catholic politicians gently urging a Catholic vision of the common good. The Church and other faith groups have something valuable to contribute to the public discourse of politics on social justice, peace, and the promotion of a culture of life.

I have no problem with Catholic politicians making compromises with the Church's teachings in particular instances where people of good will can disagree. I do have a problem with them completely ignoring the teaching of the Church and other religions - shutting out the voice of the churches and mosques and synagogues.

Kerry's philosophy of a sharp separation of Church and state leads to denying any possibility of any vision comensurate with people of faith. In a nation where the vast majority of people are people of faith, Kerry is disconnected from the belief of the common person. Even Lieberman has articulated concern about the Democrats alienating people of faith by making such a sharp separation between Church and state.

But let's return our attention to Bush for the moment.

On the specific issue of federal funding of abortion, I also oppose the war in Iraq on moral grounds. Bush got us into an unjust war. I also oppose the death penalty on moral grounds. Bush reinstituted the federal death penalty after decades of non-use. So, I'm in a bit of a conundrum here. Both Bush and Kerry are forcing me to pay for things I deem deeply immoral.

Some people decide that the unborn are more deserving of protection than convicted criminals and Arab nations because they are clearly innocent of any crime or sin. I do not accept this argument. I believe it to be playing God to even try to decide which life is more valuable. All human life is precious in the eyes of God, and "vengeance", or justice, belongs to God alone.

Which brings me to the bigger problem I have with Bush on his use of federal funds to kill people.

If the government funds an abortion, the government does not decide who will be aborted. This is still the woman's choice - a wrong choice - but not my choice or the government's choice. True, she's using my money and yours to implement this immoral choice. However, nobody in the government is playing God and saying that this specific child should die. If the women chooses not to abort, the state will defend the baby when the baby is born. Rather than determining who will die, the government is simply failing to protect this particular person.

On the other hand, when the government executes a criminal or wages a war, the government - acting in my name - is deliberatly deciding that this particular person should die!

The government is not simply using my money to allow another person to do something I don't like. They are also using the authority I invest in them to determine who will live and who will die!

Thus, while abortion is a gravely immoral act that I would love to see made illegal, and while federal funding of abortion makes me queasy, it is morally worse to allow the government to wage war or execute others in our names!