Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Pet Peeve

I received an email with a prayer to Saint Teresa and a bunch of instructions to make a wish, copy and paste the email into a new email and send it to ten people including the original sender, etc....

There was heavy emphasis on making a wish and a promise that if the instructions were follwed exactly, I'd see results in four days!

Catholics run advertisements in secular newspapers with this crap as well!

That's right! I said this is crap. It's not only crap, but it borders on sin!

I know people are often hurting and desperate and sometimes God even grants the wishes of those who participate in this nonsense as a way of drawing them to himself.

I feel badly for the pain that leads people into this practice and I empathize with this pain. I am not trying to remove hope from anyone, nor saying we cannot pray in faith for specific things. We can and should.

Yet, this idea that prayer is a bizzare ritual that leads to certain fullfilment of a specific wish is wrong - and very wrong!

Here's the gist what I emailed in response to this pet peeve:

Prayer is truly a wonderful blessing that builds a relationship with God and the communion of saints.

Making wishes and following formulas is silly superstition and borders on idolatry.

In life, do you expect that performing some ritual will make your friends or family comply with your wishes?

Why do you treat God or his saints in a less reverent way than you treat your friends and family?

Building a relationship with God is not about finding the magic combination of words and deeds that make him do what we want him to do. A relationship with God is discovering what God wants for you and living into that mystery!

There is a difference between the Christian virtue of hope and the notion of making wishes.

We hope for things we do not yet see (see Hebrews 11:1). Hope is trusting the goodness of God even when we have absolutely no clue what is coming around the bend.

Wishes are for Santa Clause, and not for God.

Sure, we can bring all of our desires and needs before God in prayer, but our prayer is ALWAYS "let your will, and not my will be done."

This doesn't mean that God's will is always contrary to our own or that we commit spiritual suicide becoming free of all desire.

God invites us to pray in faith for that which we know is according to his will.

However, true prayer means that we acknowledge that our heavenly Father, who knows infinitely more than we do, can be trusted when he says "No" to a particular prayer, or "not right now", or "Yes, but not quite as you expected it".

More important than learning to bring our desires before God, our prayer needs to be directed at listening to God! It is his will and his love and his wisdom we seek.

We do not seek so much to convince God to do what we want, but instead seek to understand and live according to what God wants for us, trusting that in his goodness, he will provide us more than we can ever imagine even if a cross stands in our way of the finish line!

The saints knew all of this intimately, and they intercede for us that we will grow in the knowledge and love of Christ. They do not simply sit around like genies granting wishes to those who say the right words or email the right people or go to Mass on the right day, etc....

Praying regularly (several times per day) and receiving the sacraments regularly are good practices that help us grow in relationship with God and his saints. Even ritual prayer can feed our relationship the same way social rituals nourish friendships on earth. Don't we go through a sort of ritual each morning with our loved ones or co-workers?

I am not bashing ritual.

I am bashing the idea that ritual works like magic, which is complete and utter nonsense. Ritual should be a meaningful and purposeful act of building relationship with divine holy mystery.

Good ritual involves multi-layered meaningful symbol and purposeful repetition.

Good and saced ritual is not meaningless or vain repetition that somehow pleases the gods precisely because it is bizzare.

Faith goes beyond reason, but it is not irrational.

The Bible speaks repeatedly against superstition. Prayer does not work like magic, and we should not imply as Catholics that it does!


Monday, November 29, 2004

Supreme Court Will Not Hear Case Challenging Gay Marriages

The Supreme Court has refused to hear a case challenging the Massachusetts Court's imperative for gay marriages. In other Court news, the Court will hear a case challenging medicinal use of marijuana.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

Advent Longing

The Church begins a new liturgical year today.

The season of Advent reminds us that even as we look back in the past to the definitive coming of God and inbreaking of his reign among humanity in Jesus Christ, the fullness of the reign of God is not yet culminated.

Today's first reading reminds us that in the culmination of God's reign, "one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again"

Each day, we pray that God's will be done in us in us, and that his sovereignty will break in through us. These petitions are in the heart of the Lord's prayer.

Being a Christian means living as though heaven is breaking into this world here and now, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The war in Iraq must cease. It must cease now. War will not bring in God's reign. The war in Iraq is grave evil that has absolutely nothing to do with the reign of God or his righteousness.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Church Clearly Condemned War in Iraq

I wrote this article before the elections and posted it back on October 8, when a reader challenged me to prove the Church specifically condemned the war in Iraq.

There were asolutely no opposing comments to the original post.

I assume that even defenders of the war were a bit troubled by how overwhelming the case is that the Church opposed the war in very strong, certain and unambiguous terms.

With the election behind us, I want to invite Catholics who supported Bush to take a fresh look at the war in Iraq with the intensity of the election behind us.

I am re-posting the article with some post election questions:

1) Does any Catholic really believe this was a just war anymore?

2) Does anyone really believe that WMDs and pre-war ties to Al Qaeda will still be found in Iraq?

3) Does anyone honestly believe anymore that Iraq will be a stable, peaceful and free democracy by January of 2005, or anytime in the year 2005?

4) In light of recent indications of U.S. soldiers shooting unarmed wounded Iraqis and the intrinsic evil of torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib, should Catholics pressure G.W. to immediately withdraw U.S. troops before our troops are sucked deeper into complicity with more and more evil?

5) If President Bush refuses to withdraw, should soldiers be encouraged to lay down their weapons and stop fighting?

6) What should we do in election 2006?


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thank God!

I thank the Lord for my beautiful and healthy little girl.

I thank the Lord for the promise of salvation to those who trust.
I thank the Lord for the people he places in my life.
I thank the Lord for the gifts of faith, hope, and love.
I thank the Lord for the gift of mercy upon one who needs it so much.
I thank the Lord for the gift of prayer.
I thank the Lord for the gift of himself given in the Eucharist each day.
I thank the Lord for the Sacraments.
I thank the Lord for revealing himself in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
I thank the Lord for the support of the community of faith which is the Church.
I thank the Lord for revealing human dignity through his incarnation.
I thank the Lord for revealing the conquest of sin and death in his cross and resurrection.

I thank the Lord for the freedom we enjoy in America, where I can even publicly criticize the Commander and Chief of the military without retribution. May our President be blessed.

I thank the Lord for all of those with whom I disagree or find myself or my family and friends in enmity. They challenge me to further growth, and I pray God will help me learn from them what She wishes me to learn. May God bless all of them and bring all of us together to everlasting life.

I thank the Lord for all the material blessings of food, shelter, clothing, meaningful work, health care and all the blessings he has given me.

I thank the Lord for simply being God.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Just Stirring Up Controversy as We Head Into the Holidays

Long time readers won't see anything new here. I'm reiterating old ground that people generally seem to like discussing, though we never seem to reach universal agreement.

It is correctly held that many canonized saints, some of whom were Bishops, have held for close to 2,000 years that it is mortally sinful to separate the procreative purpose of human sexuality from the conjugal act within a marriage.

The first authoritive statement from the Vatican on the issue was Castii Connubbii issued in the early twentieth century. This letter reiterated the traditional teaching, but added that incidences where procreation does not occur are not sinful if not intentional.

For example, an infertile couple may engage in conjugal relations, and a couple does not sin if they engage in the conjugal act during a period of natural infertility in the woman's cycle. The letter introduced the notion that a second purpose of human sexuality is the expression of unitive love.

After Castii Connubbii, in 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, which seemed to affirm prior tradition on the surface, but which also introduced new concepts that call old thought patterns into question.

In Humanae Vitae, the Holy Father argued that there is a moral obligation upon some couples to exercise "responsible parenthood", and that this responsibility entailed limiting the number of children or spacing the timing of births.

Couples who felt obligated in conscience to exercise responsible parenthood were permitted to intentionally engage in conjugal acts with no intention of procreating.

This was a revolutionary departure from what any other Pope or Bishop had said and broke with the almost 2,000 year old tradition that all conjugal acts must have openness to procreation as their primary end.

Humanae Vitae explicitly condemned the use of artificial contraception as a means of expressing unitive love with no intention of procreating. The argument was that such means of preventing conception frustrated the individual conjugal act.

However, we should not lose sight of the fact that Humanae Vitae permitted - for the first time - the intentional expression of conjugal love with absolutely no intention to procreate. Indeed, it placed a moral obligation on some couples to engage in such acts!

The acceptable means for doing this was by taking deliberate advantage of the infertile periods of a women's menstrual cycle.

Humanae Vitae also reiterated what Castii Connubbii had already stated about unintentional infertility and the lack of sin involved in this expression of unitive love in these instances.

The questions opened up for theologians were as follows:

1) If the expression of unitive love within a permanent and monogamous commitment is permitted where infertility is not deliberate, can the same argument be made regarding a union between two people who are homosexually oriented through no fault or choice of their own?

2) Does the argument distinguishing between natural family planning and artificial contraceptive techniques make sense within the context of heterosexual marriage? In other words, why are the artificial means considered morally inferior to deliberately timing the conjugal act during a period of infertility?

Those who object to raising these questions will argue that the first question is answered adequately on other grounds of natural law and Biblical revelation.

Homosexual acts are considered intrinsically disordered.

In response, many Biblical scholars believe that the Bible does not address our modern understanding of homosexuality. In context, the relatively sparse references to homosexual acts are inconclusive.

Theologians are also asking what natural law means in the context of a possible genetic predisposition to homosexuality.

The doctrine of natural law is a belief that certain moral imperatives are written on the human heart and can be discerned through reason without the aid of revelation.

How is this the case if a person is born gay or predisposed to homosexuality?

The second question is resolved by defenders of tradition by affirming that the moral object, deliberately frustrating procreation during a conjugal act, is intrinsically evil, while the moral object, engaging in sexual activity during a natural period of infertility, is not intrinsically evil.

Put another way, defenders of the teaching say that the means of preventing conception in NFP is abstinece, which is morally licit.

The sense of the faithful seems to indicate that these argument is not persuasive.

While I do not personally practice artificial contraception, the confusing thing about NFP is not the use of abstinence to prevent conception, but the permitting of conjugal acts that deliberately and knowingly are closed to the possibility of procreation.

If it is morally licit to knowingly and deliberately engage in sex during infertile periods within a marriage, it is difficult to understand on what grounds the means of using a condom is immoral within a marriage.

The problem is that if one asks why the moral object of deliberately frustrating procreation is intrinsically evil, there is no answer that does not apply to the practice of NFP.

In both NFP and use of a condom, the sperm is spilt without an opportunity to meet an egg. In both cases, deliberate forethought and deliberate action on the part of the couple goes into ensuring that the meeting of sperm and egg does not take place.

Some supporters of the traditional teaching site the story of Onan in the Book of Genesis, but most Biblical scholars believe Onan's sin had more to do with tribal obligations to carry on the hereditary line of a brother leaving a widow than contraception.

Liberals are willing to support the best the tradition has to offer. Here's how I would put it:

Liberals are willing to say that sexuality is best expressed in the bond of committed monogamous partnership, and outside of this type of bond, sexuality becomes more and more narcissistic and exploitive to the point of mortal sin.

We seek not only to act rightly, but to be good people of character in our hearts. Even deliberate and willful lust in the heart for narcissistic and exploitive sexual activity can be sinful.

Permanently committed partnership between consenting adults who love one another is worthy of celebration, and it is in society's interest to support such unions, and to discourage the break-up of such unions.

Children are a blessing from the Lord and teach their guardians how to love. They also assist their elders and are the future shapers of the common good. Sexuality is generally ordered to this common good.

A couple sharing the bond of permanently committed monogamous love should be open to the possibility of child-rearing at some point in their partnership.

It is in society's interest to assist single parents, and the Church's mission includes demonstrating mercy in deed to single women who conceive and to orphans.

A child has a natural right to a healthy relationship with his or her biological parents. Where a healthy relationship with one or both biological parents is not possible, it is in society's interest to provide support for the child.

Couples who cannot conceive do not sin in sharing conjugal love, and may prayerfully consider whether they are called to adoptive parenthood.

The very idea of having a child should not generally be considered a disease to be prevented by pills or removed through surgery. Our hearts were created with an openness to the blessing of children.

Some couples will experience a moral imperative to exercise responsible parenthood by temporarily limiting the number of children.

In such instances, a couple should prayerfully consider how best to temporarily limit the number of children by preventing conception.

Terminating pregnancy after conception terminates a human life, and is immoral.

Liberals believe that to go beyond stating this much is to tread into uncertain territory where we may be invoking God's name in vain or making rash judgments on people by calling their choices sinful when they may not be sinful.


The Defecit Problem

In the November 8 issue of Newsweek, Allan Sloan raised concern that 43 percent of the U.S. federal deficit is money borrowed from foreigners.

Now, I'm not a xenophobe. Foreigners have done us a huge favor by keeping Uncle Sam's interest costs down. But someday, for reasons of their own, the foreign central banks that are major purchasers of Treasury debt may cut way back or stop entirely—for strategic, not malicious, reasons. They might want to protect their own currencies, for instance, or diversify into euros. We'll be vulnerable as long as we need so much foreign money so badly.
This is frightening to consider. Our economy can be negatively influenced by foreign powers, even for non-malicious reasons.

Imagine if they were malicious?

This is an issue of economic prudence, as well as national security!

In the November 22 issue of Newsweek, Sloan went on to predict what Bush's future tax policy will be:
My predictions, based on four years of watching Bush, assume that we're not dealing with a typical pol tinkering with the system. He's Chainsaw George, an economic radical who wants to raze the conventional order and impose his own. Look at his first four years. When budget rules seemed to limit the size of his 2001 tax cuts, he adopted the fiction that the cuts would be allowed to expire. This let him cram 10 pounds of cuts into a seven-pound bag—and he immediately started pushing to make the cuts permanent. Ditto for the 2003 cuts. There's never a reason not to cut taxes. The economy's good? Cut taxes, give people their money back. Economy's bad? Cut taxes to stimulate it. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, W's gotta cut. Deficits, shmeficits. Who cares? Just borrow some more from China and Japan.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Sex Abuse Scandals

Steve Bogner wrote a post a couple of days ago expressing his opinion that the Church has further to go in reforms to address the sex abuse scandals. He was prompted by a comment made by Elena that implied enough has been done.

In Steve's comments, Elena went on to say that the elephant in the living room is "1. Most of the abusive acts were homosexual ones and 2. orthodox diocese had the lowest rates of abuse."

On her first observation, the empirical evidence is that most known sex abuse with minors by Roman Catholic priests is homosexual in nature. Elena is right about this.

Her second point, however, is blatantly false and reveals a potential tacit flaw in her first presumption.

It simply is not true that "orthodox" or conservative dioceses are immune from the sex abuse scandals, or even have lower incidences of it, or lower rates of homosexual incidences of it.

Indeed, one who has been following all of this would come to the exact opposite conclusion.

Cardinal Law (who broke the law) was no liberal.

Cardinal Law was the conservative Archbishop in Boston and this is where the current scandal picked up steam with the cases of John Geoghen and Paul Shanley (both ordained before Vatican II).

Internal memos revealed that Shanley had blackmailed Law's predecessor by threatening to out another Cardinal!

Consider the case of the seminary in Austria under archconservative Kurt Krenn. The case forced Krenn to retire.

The founder of the very conservative religious order, The Legionaries of Christ, has sex abuse allegations with young boys against him.

Conservative or "orthodox" dioceses are up to their eyeballs in sex abuse scandals, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that they perform any better than diocese governed by more "liberal" bishops (and even so-called liberal bishops are very conservative by the standards of many theologians or laity).

Nor is this problem new. Saint Peter Damian's book Liber Gomorrhianus written in 1049 addresses widespread abuse of young boys by celibate clergy. This was the age of the beginning of the crusades, and no period of "liberalism" in the Church.

Indeed, whether sex abuse comes to the surface in liberal or conservative diocese, the one consitent factor to emerge so far has been that the vast majority of abusers were ordained before Vatican II.

Obviously, whatever the answer is to this problem, it does not lie in a return to pre-Vatican II formation!

If a "return to orthodoxy" means a return to what was done in the 1950's, we'd be recreating the problem all over again.

It seems plain to me that Elena's assumption that orthodox diocese don't have this problem is simply false - and very demonstrably so.

What about the first issue she raises regarding homosexuality?

If the tacit assumption is that homosexuals are more prone to abuse minors than heterosexuals, this is also probably false.

In wider society, most child abuse involves heterosexual married men with a close relative!

Yet, estimates are that eight or nine of ten cases of sex abuse of minors by Catholic priest is homosexual in nature. Doesn't this indicate that homosexual priests are more prone to abuse children? If not, how do we explain this?

I believe the elephant in the living room is that eight or nine out of ten cases of sex abuse of minors by priests are homosexual in nature because a very large number, perhaps even a majority, of priests overall are not heterosexually oriented.

Look at this way. Let's say 1 out of every ten homosexuals in the general population have sex with minors, and one out of ten heterosexuals also have sex with minors.

In the general population, maybe 1 out of ten men is typically gay.

This means that in the general population, a random sample size of 100 will have ten gay men, only one of whom has sex with minors. Meanwhile, there will be 9 counts of heterosexual sex with minors.

What happens, however, when the sample is changed from a group where 1 out of ten men is gay to a sample where 5 out of ten are gay. In this sample, we'd have 50 gay men, of which 5 had sex with minors. We'd also have 50 straight men, of which 5 had sex with minors.

What happens if our sample is 70 percent gay?

We'd have 7 counts of gay sex with minors compared to 3 counts of straight sex with minors.

In other words, orientation does not predict the likelihood of sex with minors, but the type of abuse of minors by a very select non-random group people indicates something about the likely orientation of the whole group!

I wrote about this and my theory why this is the case in my own article called The Elephant in the Living Room.

Simply put, an all male celibate clergy is not now, and never has been a lifestyle that is found attractive by the vast majority of heterosexual Catholics.

Yet, for the same sex attracted Catholic who fears that his inclinations could lead to eternal damnation, the discipline of religious life and priesthood presents an attractive life-style.

Mandatory celibacy does not cause homosexuality or child abuse. However, it does attract those who struggle with such inclinations.

Once a non-heterosexually oriented candidate finds himself in the institution, he discovers that there are many like himself. Thus, there is a lot of covering for each other that goes on, and has been going on for centuries.

The real "crises" from the point of view of Church governance is not that abuse occurred, but that leaders covered for it. Yet, the very culture of priesthood and religious life is built upon a foundation of cover-up for one another.

Even the possible minority of heterosexual candidates who cheat on their vows with adult women become complicit in a culture of cover-up.

Until the Church can deal honestly with the fact that a very large number of priests are not heterosexual, she can't deal honestly with the much smaller minority who are child abusers.

The conservatives or so-called "orthodox" are often the most resistant to such an honest discussion.

"Orthodoxy" is not the cure for the sex abuse crisis. "Orthodoxy" is the cause of the crises!


Monday, November 22, 2004

If God Sees Us As Infants....

I was holding my five week old daughter, looking in her eyes, and realizing she has me completely wrapped around her tiny little fingers. It struck me that she thinks the entire world revolves around her.

And you know what....?

She's right.

At this stage in her life, Mom and I do everything for her at the slightest wimper.

She may not always see it this way, but the reality is that the entire world as she knows it completely revolves around her every whim. If she has the slightest discomfort, such as a little gas, we rush to even help her burp!

God is our Father (or Mother). Even when we reach our late eighties, the age gap between us and our heavenly Father is greater than the age gap between my baby and me. The ability gap between God and one of us is even greater.

What parent doesn't rush to give his or her newborn baby something to eat when the baby is hungry?

Though we may not be aware of it all the time, maybe God the Father looks each of us in the eye and feels completely wrapped around our little fingers. In some moments, maybe God looks at us and says, in effect, "Yes. The world does revolve around you, even when you feel discomfort or feel like you're not getting your way."

So why do bad things happen to good people?

In faith, we believe that sin caused the condition where we suffer. Yet, when a baby suffers, does a parent love the baby any less?

Sometimes my daughter is crying and I simply can't do anything about it but hold her and maybe sing to her and hope that my presence sooths her.

God is all powerful, but maybe there are things that he cannot do for reasons we cannot yet understand.

I was the oldest of nine children, and I understand as an adult what it must have been like when we siblings fought with one another. A parent can't take sides, except where one child is clearly in the wrong. A good parent simply wants all the children to get along.

If Suzie hit Johnny first this time, she might be punished. If Johnny hits Suzie first the next time, he will be punished. Sometimes, it simply doesn't matter who started it, and a parent just wants both sides to stop fighting.

God can't always take sides.

Maybe God is tired of the fighting in the middle east, and is saying "Both of you kids (Arabs and Israelis) just stop your fighting or I'll send you both to your rooms."

Maybe God was angry at Saddam Hussein, but did God want him in prison, dead or in hell?

What kind of parent wants eternal punishment for something done in infancy?

Yet, every parent fears that our children will make wrong choices - choices that have lasting consequences or repeatedly bad choices that become so habitual that change is difficult.

What parent wouldn't worry if one sibling seemed to form a habit of torturing the other?

Yet, a parent would continue to love the mean child, especially while the child is still a baby.

We are babies to God - every last one of us - even the Pope.

God keeps loving us the way a parent loves a baby.

Sin is somehow part of the condition where gas in our tummies is unpleasant.

Natural evils such as drought, famine, disaster and disease are like gas. For reasons we don't yet understand, God can't make the pain completely go away this very instance, but he is with us trying to soothe us.

Moral laws are not arbitrary tests of obedience created by a cosmic kill-joy. Rather, moral law flow from love and a sense of harmony, equity, and fairness among siblings with one parent. The more serious pains than the passing pain of natural disaster is the lasting pain we can inflict on one another. The great fear of our loving Parent is that the entire family will be permanentaly ruptured.

God, as a parent who loves all his children equally, wants us to love one another the way he loves each one of us. If we loved each other as a parent loves a child, we'd never drop bombs on one another, or walk idely by while one of us were hungry, etc....

For those who have children - especially babies - hold your child tonight and say the Lord's prayer slowly and reflectively.


Conservative Christians Protest Movie on Kinsey's Life

I imagine this could help increase interest in the movie.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Switching Gears From Politics

Women's Ordination:

In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Holy Father exercised ordinary papal magisterium (non-infallible authority) to affirm what he and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith believe is already held definitively by the ordinary universal magisterium that the Church is not authorized to ordain women based on the example of Christ in selecting male Apostles.

The teachings of ordinary universal magisterium demand a religious submission of mind and will according to LG 25.2.

Canon 749.3 dictates that before a teaching is considered infallible, it must be "manifestly demonstrated" as such. canon 212.3 places an obligation upon the faithful to speak to their pastors and other faithful about issues of grave concern to the Church.

The ordinary universal magisterium is demonstrated when the college of Bishops in union with the Pope acting as teachers and judges collectively propose or define that a teaching is to be held definitively. LG 25.2 uses the example of an Ecumenical Council. Pope Pius IX actually performed a sort of poll of the Bishops before arguing that the ordinary universal magisterium held the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception definitively, then he affirmed this with extraordinary (infallible) papal magisterium.

The point is that the ordinary universal magisterium is not simply whatever the Bishops are doing. They must make a conscience collective decision that a doctrine is to be definitively held. Otherwise, the teaching can be considered a discipline.

Disciplines of the Church are almost always universaly held, but do not consitute infallible doctrine. For example, the Bishops held universally prior to Vatican II that eating red meat on a Friday was a mortal sin, but did not intend this discipline as an article of infallible doctrine to be definitively held for all time. Currently, celibacy is a mandatory discipline for ministerial priests in the Latin Rite.

On the question of women's ordination, there are three pertinent questions that need to be addressed:

1) Is it true that Christ never selected or intended women Apostles?

Doubt is cast on this proposition by the weight of evidence that suggests Junia in Romans 16:7 was a woman Apostle. Likewise, the ordination of women deacons, mentioned in the New Testament and numerous works from the patristic period including canon 15 of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon make it plausible that women have been sacramentally ordained in the past. Indeed, in light of the theology of lower orders presented at the Council of Trent, it seems that ordination to deaconate reveals a potency to ordination to ministerial priesthood.

2) Is it true that the ordinary magisterium has definitively held the opposit opinion?

Other than three non-infallible local synodal councils in the West and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis itself, it is difficult to find authoritative teaching at any level approaching definitive that indicates women cannot be ordained.

3) If women cannot be ordained, why baptize them?

Since baptism conforms one to Christ, and an argument is made against women's ordination that women cannot act in persona christi, it would seemt hat women should not be baptized if they cannot be ordained.

The objections to these three questions tend to take one of two tracks.

The first track relies heavily on trying to prove that teachings of the ordinary magisterium carry more authority than has historically been considered true.

The second track relies heavily on arguments of the bridal imagery between Christ and the Church to develop an ontology of male and female roles within the Church. However, this imagery has never been defined infallibly.


Friday, November 19, 2004

May Gerard Serafin Rest in Peace

Please pray for the repose of this stalwart member of St. Blog's parish, and the owner of the most complete list of Catholic blogs.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. 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.


A Frustration With Fellow Pro-Lifers

I support a Right to Life Amendment to the Constitution that would define the right to life as beginning at conception and ending at natural death.

Knowing that the consensus for such an Amendment does not exist today, I support incremental measures to reduce the incidences of abortion by focusing on both the supply side and the demand side.

On the supply side, I think we should pass every restriction on abortion that Roe permits, even if such a law would not significantly reduce the number of abortions.

We should start with blocking federal funding of abortion, which is not required by Roe at all. I always disagreed with Kerry on this issue, and stated so repeatedly.

Despite the potential ineffectiveness of some other restrictions Roe permits, I believe the symbolic victory is a worthwhile goal.

On the demand side, I'd like to see increased spending on social services that address the reasons women chose abortion. We should also address issues of equity for women and stronger rape prevention. We also need to have a consistent ethic of life.

I have stated repeatedly that I do not personally like or agree with the Roe decision. It was an immoral decision.

I would dance for joy if the decision were overturned.

Nevertheless, I understand that the decision made by the Court in Roe has an internal coherence and consistency that makes it legally valid, if not morally valid. There is nothing in the current wording of our Constitution that enables one to argue legally that an unborn child has a right to life.

Furthermore, while the Court's interpretation of privacy in Roe is overly broad and provides a weakness that could be exploited by presenting a valid legal case for overturning Roe or portions of Roe, I do not see this as a goal we pro-lifers should vigorously and actively pursue.

In other words, I am open to it, but see little reason to devote effort towards this strategy.

In stating this, I am being accused of being pro-choice or playing some sort of political game to have it both ways.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Abortion kills an innocent human being. To knowingly and deliberately kill an innocent human being is morally murder. All direct abortions should be illegal in an ideal society that enforces just laws. I want to live in a just society and a just society would not permit direct abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

It is not that I want Roe to be the law of the land. Nor do I want Roe to remain the law of the land. However, Roe is the law of the land whether I want it or not, and I don't see any easy way to change that.

In examining the options, I think an Amendment to the Constitution is the easiest and most effective means to change the law, and because I would say such a thing, I am accused of being pro-choice.

This accusation just makes no sense.

Look at the number of "ifs" that would go into overturning Roe:

1) If we get a pro-lifer in the White House to appoint pro-life judges....

2) If a current pro-choice judge resigns or dies during the exact same period we have a pro-lifer in the White House...

3) If none of the current judges who lean pro-life die or resign, or can also be replaced with a pro-life judge....

4) If the pro-life judicial appointment makes it through the Senate confirmation process when it is known ahead of time he does not respect the decisions the Courts have already made (this is a big "if" )....

5) If a case presents itself to the Court while all of this happening...

6) If the pro-life leaning judge doesn't overule only portions of Roe instead of the whole thing....

Six very big "ifs" all with the goal of a Court decision that does not make abortion illegal, but instead simply returns the decision to the states for a long extended battle.

What are all the "ifs" of the Amendment process?

1) If we had a wide enough consensus in society that 2/3 of Congress were pro-life

2) If we had a wide enough consensus in society that 3/4 of the states were to support the Amendment

There are only two big "ifs" in the path to an Amendment instead of six.

The path to the Amendment is shorter, produces better results, and longer lasting results. Building the consensus needed for an Amendment may sound daunting, but it has done before - twenty-seven times!

If we went the Amendment route, it will also be more accepted by even opponents of the pro-life movement than a Court decision, because few people want to question the legitimacy of a law that passes by such a large majority.

Only once has an Amendment ever been repealed by another Amendment!

I would say our order of priority to change the laws on abortion in this country should be as follows:

1) Build the consensus necessary for a Right to Life Amendment.
2) Work for incremental restrictions that the Courts will likely allow already.
3) Build a case that challenges Roe on the issue of privacy.
4) Appoint judges who will rule impartially on a good legal case challenging Roe.

It's not that I think challenging Roe is literally impossible and should never be considered. However, if you follow my reasoning, on the list of priorities, worrying about judges falls at number four.

I don't know how others live their lives, but I tend to set goals and objectives for myself three at a time.

Something that falls at a priority level four is not worth pursuing unless an opportunity of ease presents itself that makes the lower priority item "low lying fruit".

Stacking our Supreme Court, even with Bush in office, is not low lying fruit.

Recall that prior to Ashcroft's resignation, Alberto Gonzales was rumored to be Bush's top Court pick, and Gonzales has ruled in favor of Roe in the past.

I don't expect Bush to stack the courts any more effectively than his father, who put Souter on the Court.

Furthermore, even if Bush does select a pro-life judge in the spirit of a Scalia, I’m not sure such a judge would make it through the Senate confirmation hearings. Remember Borke?

Even if these conditions occurred, who would the judge be replacing? Rehnquist is likely to be among the first to retire, and he’s already pro-life. Though Stevens and O'Connor may also retire, we are leaving a great deal to chance.

Then, assuming Bush does manage to replace at least three judges with pro-lifers, there still needs to be a valid legal case that empowers the judges to overturn Roe, and I would consider building this case a higher priority than worrying about who is sitting on the Court.

The reason I place building the case above picking the judge is that I honestly believe that even if a judge personally leans pro-choice, if he or she is competent and fair, a good case may actually persuade such a judge to re-evaluate his or her stance.

Call me naïve, but I simply think that a legal case should be persuasive on its own merits, no matter who the judge is that is hearing the case. A judge who says he or she accepts Roe is not necessarily incapable of making an impartial and fair ruling if a good case presents itself.

I don't understand why we are so focused on what should be the fourth priority, which is so hard to accomplish, when what should be the top three priorities aren't getting any real attention at all.

Some doubt my sincerity only because I voted for Kerry, who adamantly supported Roe.

I continually tried to explain that I voted for Kerry because a vote for him is remote material cooperation with the evil of abortion. A vote for Bush or anyone else seemed to me to be immediate material cooperation with the evil of an unjust war. Both abortion and unjust wars kill innocent human beings.

When remote material cooperation with evil comes head to head with immediate cooperation with evil of equal gravity, we should choose the remote.

I disagreed with Kerry on abortion. I did try to explain his views on Roe to show why his own participation with evil may not be a personal sin, even if he mistaken on the overall issue.

This particular argument of whether he is in sin or not had to do with whether to deny him Communion or not, and nothing to do with whether to vote for him or not, and nothing to do with saying he is right. He's not right.

The bottom line is that I disagree with Kerry on abortion whether he is in sin or not. We don't always need to call those we

How do we build the consensus for a Right to Life Amendment?

Talk to people about the issue. We need to get the word out with gentleness and respect. We need to talk to people in a way that reaches rather than repelling.

For example, don't go around calling everyone who disagrees with us baby-killers and murderers.

Murder implies knowledge and intention to kill an innocent human being. Many pro-choicers are not knowingly and intentionally killing an innocent human being, and rushing to the charge of murder only alienates people who don't understand our position.

Don't be in a rush to pull out what I call the "religious hammer" to try to shame people into submission to your point of view. Don't resort to denying Communion or threatening people with excommunication, and don't encourage the Bishops to do so.

This is an ineffective strategy that only angers people instead of changing minds and hearts.

It is also a strategy that can ultimately be sinful itself, since you may fall into rash judgment of a person's soul. Many pro-choice people are simply ignorant or mistaken, and ignorance or a mistake is not a sin.

If the "religious hammer" of shame and sanctions are needed, it should be determined through a long process of private dialogue between a Bishop and the individual. In Protestant Churches, the same sort of principle should apply between pastor and congregant.

Listen to the opinion of the other before voicing your own. People won't listen to us if we do not show the same respect.

Tell a personal story that highlights why you value the life of the unborn - such as viewing your own baby's ultra-sound, or whatever is true for you. This is often more effective than many intellectual arguments.

Inform yourself on how to answer the commonly asked questions in a way that is rationally compelling, and learn what questions to ask others that leave them with something to ponder on a later date.

We also need to be able to offer alternate solutions to dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, and back our words with deeds.

Many Gabriel Project volunteers or adoptive parents are already doing this in their private lives, but we also need to back public assistance to ensure that no mother ever faces an unexpected pregnancy without help.

We need to write all of our legislators advising we are pro-life. We need to donate money to pro-life causes for advertising, and hire good marketers to help with this effort. We need to vote for the incremental changes in the law that Roe permits, without constantly criticizing these measures as ineffective.

We need to write articles for blogs, magazines, opinion columns in newspapers, journals and so forth.

It will be a long process. So is changing the courts.

Yet, the Amendment process is ultimately the more likely process to work effectively. It is also perceived as a more "fair" process within a democratic system. I'm even arguing that it will be the easier process, knowing that it won't be easy.

Why not adopt a both/and approach and push for both and Amendment and overturning Roe simultaneously?

I'm open to Roe being overturned, but the impression I get is that our resources are being divided, and changing the court is often placed way ahead of passing an Amendment.

I'm simply saying that if we must devote our energy to one or the other, an Amendment would make more sense.

Summing up, here are some reasons to put an Amendment ahead of changing the court:

1) Because even if there was a high probability of success for some modifications to Roe, which there isn't, it would not make abortion illegal. The goal is to make abortion illegal, and an Amendment does this more effectively than overturning Roe.

2) We simply don't have the time, money, people or other resources to do everything at once. We need to make decisions about how to use our resources well. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that we make a temporal either/or choice until a later date when we have more resources. We would have more resources if more people wanted the law changed. So we need to focus on increasing the number of pro-lifers.

3) Because even trying to change the court ticks off our opponents rather than reaching them to turn them into pro-lifers. We need to change hearts as well as laws, and playing with the courts doesn't change hearts!

4) Because the chance of success in the courts is actually low to almost non-existent, making it more a drain on resources than a help to the cause. An Amendment is not easy, but it is easier and more possible.

5) Because some of the underlying principles for changing the courts have other undesirable effects. A judge with an admitted bias against the guidelines established by prior Court decisions may also hold biases against principles we affirm. For example, we may not like the way such a court would rule on other issues (like torture). Likewise, a President who sees his job as manipulating the court may have a disregard for other matters of law. For example, he may reject international law regarding basic human rights. Those who think this unlikely need look no further than the Bush Administration, which has shown an utter contempt for legal precedence on the national and international scale. An Amendment avoids this potential.

I just don't understand the resistance to shifting our energy to building a consensus for a Right to Life Amendment from pro-lifers tied to the notion of changing the courts.

People who may think like I do are not pro-abortion or pro-choice, and I don't understand why pro-lifers making comments on this sight want to alienate us.

If nothing else, Bush already won, and if the answer truly does lie in the courts, you've done all you can do by getting him re-elected. There's nothing left to do but wait with this strategy.

While Bush does whatever he can to change the court, the rest of us can focus on shifting gears to an Amendment. We can work together on that no matter we voted for in 2004.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Was it Really Moral Values That Lead to Bush Victory?

I was talking to relatives who live in Ohio, and some of them supported Bush. While they are pro-life, and not comfortable with gay marriage, they readily admitted to me that neither of these issues really summed up why they voted for Bush over Kerry.

Instead, as one relative put it, there was just a feeling that Kerry represented "Hollywood values". He stated Kerry "panders to Hollywood".

I was floored by this, because I don't know what Kerry did or said that could possibly construed as pandering to Hollywood. If anything, Fox network and the major media outlets all seemed to support Bush, and the opposite seems true.

I asked him to flesh this out a bit.

By this, he meant more than (or less than) abortion and gay marriage specifically. It was more a zeitgeist sort of thing that is hard to put in words (though he would not use the word "zeitgeist" personally).

I was speaking with another person in my own blue state who was reading an article on how Republicans began tracking marketing patterns in rural America, especially in the swing states, and targeted advertisements to people based on their buying habits.

This is frightening.

It seems possible that many people voted for Bush on something completely apart from and separate from the issues.

Instead, there may have been just sort of a vague feeling that if you watch Blue Color TV, Bush is your man. Then, these same voters may have assumed that Kerry supporters watch Will and Grace.

In this zeitgeist, I'm guessing an impression was created that Budweiser drinkers back Bush, and wine sippers support Kerry. Fried steak and gravy consumers like Bush, while quiche eaters like Kerry. Sports watchers like Bush, while those who watch PBS vote for Kerry. Speaking of sports, if you played football or baseball in high school, Bush is your guy. If you played golf or tennis, you probably liked Kerry. If you shop at Wal-Mart, you like Bush. Kerry supporters probably shop at Sachs. If you wear jeans almost everywhere, Bush is your man. If you wear a suit to a party, Kerry is your guy. If you drive a pick-up truck, Bush is your man. Kerry voters drive BMWs or they drive SUVs in the city.

Sure, on top of this zeitgeist, it helps that Bush seems to support a few "moral issues" that you heard preached by your pastor. This allows one to assume a sense of righteous indignation toward those wine sipping, quiche eating, PBS watching, tennis playing, suit wearing, BMW driving "fruits" who shop at Sachs. Yet, the moral issues were not as decisive as the overall impression of what type guy votes for Kerry.

By the way, I drive a 1996 Nissan Sentra, played football in high school and don't play either tennis or golf, watch either Blue Color TV or Will and Grace depending on my mood, like to watch both PBS and sports, don't like quiche (but am a vegetarian), can't afford to shop at Sachs, and prefer jeans to a suit (though I wear either, depending on the occassion). I guess I do consitently prefer wine over Budweiser though, so that must be why I voted for Kerry.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Margaret Spellings on Abstinence Based Education

She is Bush's next Secretary of Education, succeeding Rod Paige. I know some liberals are going to disagree with me.

As one who went to Catholic schools through grade school and high school, I don't feel that abstinence based sex education is a bad idea.

It didn't seem to lead to high teen pregnancy or increased STDs for us. In fact, nobody I know of was pregnant the entire four years I was in high school, and if someone secretedly had an abortion, it was nowhere near an epidemic.


Democrats Pick Pro-Lifer as Senate Minority Leader

Harry Reid is the new Democrat Senate Minority Leader, and has a stronger pro-life record than many Republicans. Here is the record.


Laura Bush Doesn't Think Roe Should Be Overturned

The President's closest Adviser would not be in agreement with many of my readers.


Fr. Andrew Greeley on the Moral Consequence of This Election

Father Greeley, as usual, does not mince any words.

It was once his [Bush's] war. Now the election has made it our war....

It is an unnecessary, unjust, stupid, sinful war. The majority of Americans have assumed responsibility for the war. Therefore they share responsibility for all the Iraqi deaths....

I don't judge the conscience of anyone, leader or follower. I am merely saying that there is objective sin in the Iraq war, and our country as a country is guilty of sin. I'll leave it to God to judge the guilt, because that's God's job. I also leave it to God to judge whether there ought to be punishment for that sin. However, I think Americans -- so serenely confident that the Lord is on our side -- should live in fear and trembling about punishment.
These were my thoughts exactly.

The last parenthetical line is the most important for Catholics. He asks that before you send him any hate mail, you write the Pope, who has made his opposition to the war very clear.


Divorce Rates Lower in Blue States Than Red States

With all the talk of the "moral values" and "Pro-family" vote going to Bush, it is interesting to note that the highest divorce rates in the country are in red states.

The state with the lowest divorce rate in the union is liberal Massachusetts!

Pundits offer several different theories to explain this.

Blue states are statistically more Catholic and red states are more Protestant, and Catholics view divorce less favorably than Protestants as a matter of doctrine.

Others argue in a similar vain that Protestants are simply more individualistic in their general outlook, while Catholics are more communitarian.

While regular church goers voted for Bush in record numbers in all fifty states in 2004, the overal rate of regular church attendance is actually higher in blue states than red states. Some folks think the family that prays together stays together.

I think the most plausible theory presented in the article is that blue states have better economies than red states.

No matter which theory you buy, the more important lesson is that opposition to gay marriage, which is popular in red states and unpopular in blue states, has little to no impact on saving heterosexual marriages.


Commonweal on Bush Victory and Other Culture Divides

The lead editorial of this Catholic publication entitled Bush Redux starts out saying Bush did not deserve re-election.

Ohioan Catholic, Kevin Mattson, chimes in with From the Heartland: Could Kerry Have Won Ohio.

Mattson offers advice to Democrats on how to defeat the Republicans by clarifying the moral values that inform Democratic policies.

Departing from politics but related to the "culture divide", Cathleen Kaveny looks at Young Catholics: When Labels Don't Fit.

Kaveny argues that young Catholics do not easily fit into the conservative or liberal boxes of those raised prior to Vatican II.

She sees a divide among young people that is often described as liberal verses conservative, but is really a new phenomenon.

She suggest that almost all American Catholics born after 1961 (I was born in 1965) do not properly understand the role of reason in informing faith.

This gives rise to young liberals who see reason largely as a tool to use to achieve secular success. If they tie reason to faith at all, it is only done in a classroom and does not carry over into the numerous ways they express their faith.

Among young conservatives, it gives rise to Catholics who see reason merely as a tool to defend inherited truth propositions in a perceived fight with a perceived hostile world. Reason does not lead to truth, but is merely a way of defending the truth.

Kaveny argues that the proper role of reason is not instrumental. It is not merely a tool to formulate an argument toward a preconceived truth proposition as the young conservatives believe. Nor is an intellectual exercise to develop the skills for secular success as young liberals seem to believe.

Rather, reason leads to truth.

The role of reason is to lead to a more direct encounter with God and new understandings of God that can be communicated in a conversation with the world.

Reason does not simply answer questions, but raises them.

Faith informed by reason is strong enough to live into these questions. In raising questions, reason leads to an existential encounter with God that is more real than merely perceiving truths about God through propositions.


The Legacy of Bush's First Term

I attacked and took over 2 countries.

I am the first president in US history to order a US attack AND military
occupation of a sovereign nation, and I did so against the will of the
United Nations and the vast majority of the international community.

I spent the U.S. surplus and bankrupted the US Treasury.

I shattered the record for the biggest annual deficit in history (not

I set an economic record for the most personal bankruptcies filed in any
12 month period.

I set an all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the stock

I am the first president in decades to execute a federal prisoner.

On this note, prior to holding federal office, as a state Governor, I lead the entire world in executions by blocking the introduction of new DNA evidence and accelerating the execution process.

In my first year in office I set the all-time record for most days on
vacation by any president in US history (tough to beat my dad's, but I
did). After taking the entire month of August off for vacation, I presided
over the worst security failure in US history.

I set the record for most campaign fund raising trips by any president
in US history.

In my first two years in office over 2 million Americans lost their

I cut unemployment benefits for more out-of-work Americans than any
other president in US history.

I set the all-time record for most real estate foreclosures in a
12-month period.

I appointed more convicted criminals to administration positions than
any president in US history.

I set the record for the fewest press conferences of any president,
since the advent of TV

I signed more laws and executive orders amending the Constitution than
any other US president in history.

I presided over the biggest energy crises in US history and refused to
intervene when corruption was revealed.

I cut health care benefits for war veterans.

I set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously
take to the streets to protest me (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any person in the history of humankind.

I dissolved more international treaties than any president in US

I've made my presidency the most secretive and unaccountable of any in US history.

Members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in US
history. (The poorest multimillionaire, Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.)

I am the first president in US history to have all 50 states of the
Union simultaneously struggle against bankruptcy.

I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud in any market
in any country in the history of the world.

I have created the largest government department bureaucracy in the
history of the United States, called the "Bureau of Homeland Security"(only one letter away from BS).

I set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases,
more than any other president in US history (Ronnie was tough to beat,
but I did it!!).

I am the first president in US history to compel the United Nations to
remove the US from the Human Rights Commission.

I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove
the US from the Elections Monitoring Board.

I removed more checks and balances, and have the least amount of
congressional oversight than any presidential administration in US

I rendered the entire United Nations irrelevant. I withdrew from the
World Court of Law.

I refused to allow inspectors access to US prisoners of war and by
default, no longer abide by the Geneva Conventions.

I am the first president in US history to refuse United Nations election
inspectors access during the 2002 US elections.

I am the all-time US (and world) record holder for most corporate
campaign donations.

The biggest lifetime contributor to my campaign, who is also one of my
best friends, presided over one of the largest corporate bankruptcy frauds in world history (Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron Corporation).

I spent more money on polls and focus groups than any president in US

I am the first president to run and hide when the US came under attack
(and then lied, saying the enemy had the code to Air Force 1).

I am the first US president to establish a secret shadow government.

I took the world's sympathy for the the US after 9/11, and in less than a
year, made the US the most resented country in the world (possibly the biggest diplomatic failure in US and world history).

I am the first US president in history to have a majority of the people
of Europe (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.

I changed US policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded
government contracts.

I set the all-time record for the number of administration appointees
who violated US law by not selling their huge investments in corporations bidding for gov't contracts.

I have removed more freedoms and civil liberties for Americans than any other president in US history.

I entered office with the strongest economy in US history and in less
than two years turned every single economic category heading straight down.

I managed to gain re-election by very succesfully distorting my oppenent's positions and running what may be the most dirty and negative campaign in US history, demonstrating beyond doubt my unique leadership capabilities.

I am the first President since the civil rights days to figure out how to turn xenophobia into votes. I appealed to homophobia to do this.

I proved that you don't need to make any concrete commitments to pro-lifers to gain their vote. Even as abortions increased on my watch, I proved they'll vote for you if you simply pander to them once and awhile.

RECORDS AND REFERENCES: I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine (Texas driving record has been erased and is not available).

I was AWOL from the National Guard and deserted the military during time of war.

I refuse to take a drug test or even answer any questions about drug use.

All records of my tenure as governor of Texas have been spirited away to
my fathers library, sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records of any SEC investigations into my insider trading or
bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All minutes of meetings of any public corporation for which I served on
the board are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

Any records or minutes from meetings I (or my VP) attended regarding
public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

With Love,
The White House, Washington, DC


Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Monday, November 15, 2004

Love Is Learning to Agree to Disagree Agreeably

Noli Irritaris Leones posts statistics indicating that married couples, even happy couples, never resolve the central issues of disagreement identitified in the first two months of marriage.


Bishop William Skylstad to Head USCCB

Even after a controversial decision to declare his diocese bancrupt only a few days ago, Bishop Skylstad was elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops today.


Interesting Factoid

John Kerry lost election on both the popular vote and electoral college vote. Everybody knows this.

The interesting factoid is that nobody in U.S. history prior to 11/02/2004 had received as many popular votes as John Kerry!

John Kerry received 55,949,407 popular votes, which would have soundly defeated George W. Bush in 2000, George H. W. Bush in 1988, Ronald Reagan in 1984, Richard Nixon in 1972, etc...!


Colin Powell Announces Resignation as Secretary of State

The lone voice of military restraint and diplomacy in the first Bush Administration term announced Friday that he plans to retire once a successor is in place.

Also resigning are Education Secretary, Roderick R. Paige, who spear-headed the no child left behind program, as well as Agriculture Secretary, Ann M. Veneman and Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham.

Attorney General, John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary, Donald L. Evans, resigned last week. Ashcroft has been replaced by Alberto R. Gonzales.

Likewise, Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director of CIA operations, and his deputy, Michael Sulick have also announced their resignations from the CIA.


NCR on Death of Arafat (p.b.u.h.)

National Catholic Reporter takes a look at some different prespectives on Yassir Arafat (peace be upon him).


Friday, November 12, 2004

Progressive American

A new Catholic blog on the progressive side!


A Little Humor From Sister Christer

Good grammar for bloggers.....


John Allen on Vatican Reaction to Bush Reelection

Allen states that many in Vatican liked Kerry overall better, but are relieved and encouraged by a Bush victory, but not for all the reasons conservative Roman Catholics in America would guess.


Reach Out and Sneer: Dem Radicals Speak to the Red States

I endorse neither the entire content nor the vulgar language used in this article. I only post it as an indication how angry some of the anti-Bush camp remains.


This is How Bush Thanks the "Moral Values" Vote

President Bush on Wednesday nominated his White House legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to be the next U.S. attorney general, replacing John Ashcroft.

More conservative Republicans, however, have found some of Gonzales' relatively moderate votes on the Texas Supreme court troubling, including a majority vote not requiring some teenage girls to get parental permission for an abortion.

In his opinion on the ruling, Gonzales wrote, "While the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view on the decisions of the legislature."
Liberals are also upset with the Gonzalez choice of a man who defended the torture and the suspension of the Geneva Conventions - and now this is guy is in charge of defending your civil rights.

Way to go W!


A More Perfect Analogy on Cooperation With Evil

The elections are over, and my guy lost.

For months, I have been trying to explain to people who do not agree that one can be a passionately pro-life active and informed Catholic, and still have chosen John Kerry for President without being in sin, and that Church's teaching would seem to support this view.

Nevertheless, the debates have continued about whether an informed Catholic could ever have proportionate reason to remotely cooperate with evil through a vote for someone who seems so adamantly pro-choice as John Kerry.

A reader supplied some distinctions (see yesterday's post) that give me language that can express why I felt so "morally certain" that it would be a sin for me to vote for George Bush that I decided I had proportionate reason to vote for John Kerry.

Today, I want to extend the argument into a carefully crafted analogy that may help those who want to understand see what I am trying to say. I hope this argument reaches bishops like Burke, Sheridan, Myers, and Chaput.

Please follow the analogy below carefully, and refer to the definitions of various types of cooperation with evil.

Explicit formal cooperation with evil: I give a gun to a person knowing they intend to use it to kill an innocent human being, precisely because I share the gun receiver's desire to see the innocent human being killed. This is morally illicit. Even though I am not the person who will ultimately pull the trigger, I am guilty of murder if I do this knowingly and deliberately.

Implicit formal cooperation with evil: I give a gun to a person knowing they intend to use it to kill an innocent human being, but I do not share the gun receiver's desire to see the innocent human being killed. I gave it to them for another reason, such as an offer of a large sum of money. This is morally illicit. Even though I am not the person who will ultimately pull the trigger, I am guilty of murder if I do this knowingly and deliberately.

Immediate material cooperation with evil: I am a gun dealer who gives guns to people indiscriminately without taking all reasonable and legal precautions to ensure that the purchaser of my guns will not use the weapons with criminal intent. This is morally illicit, except under duress. Even though I am not the person who will ultimately pull the trigger, I share some responsibility for every crime committed with the weapons I sold. However, the situation of duress may reduce culpability for an individual incidence of distributing weapons to a criminal. For example, if an armed robber enters my gun store and takes my products at gun-point, I am not as responsible for what he did with those weapons afterwards as I would be if I gave him the weapons without coercion.

Proximate material cooperation with evil: I am a gun supplier to gun dealers. I knowingly and deliberately distribute my supplies to some unscrupulous gun dealers who may in turn distribute those guns to criminals ignoring reasonable and legal precautions. It is not my intent that my supplies be used for criminal purposes. This participation in evil is extremely risky, and can only be engaged in for the most serious proportionate reasons. It is hard to imagine what such reasons could be.

Remote material cooperation with evil: I own a small share of stock in the gun manufacturing plant that produces guns going to the gun supplier, who in turn distributes those guns indiscriminately to a variety of gun suppliers, including those who would provide guns to gun dealers who sell guns to criminals without taking reasonable precautions to ensure the gun will not be used for a crime. This type of cooperation with evil is only justified if there exists a proportionate reason to engage in it.

As a voter, I am a person who inherited stock in the gun manufacturing plant. It was not necessarily my choice to own stock in a gun manufacturing plant, but I do.

This represents the fact that most of us are born in America and inherited our system from our ancestors, rather than choosing to participate in this system.

As a stock holder in the gun manufacturing plant, I have a vote in the future direction of the company.

Due to rising crime rates, I personally support gun control, which is not a popular stance among many shareholders.

A momentous decision for the company is before the shareholders, and I must decide what to do. The entire company could go bankrupt depending on the outcome of this decision. Currently, the stock is in the tank, and the outcome of this decision could save the company.

Many shareholders simply do not share my moral convictions about guns and crime and so forth. Many of these shareholders will decide the future of the company based solely on the bottom line.

However, there is a good deal of discussion of ethics in our meetings, which is encouraging.

John Kerry represents a supplier to gun dealers. He is the largest private supplier in the world, and would bring a lot of business.

It is known that he distributes guns to unscrupulous gun dealers who in turn have either intentionally or unintentionally sold guns to criminals.

He justifies this with a glib reference to the right to bear arms in the Constitution and a statement that he is personally opposed to using guns for murder. Guns don't kill people, he argues. People kill people.

John Kerry wants an exclusive contract with our company.

It is clear that John Kerry participates in some way with evil, though it is unclear to me whether his participation is proximate material cooperation, immediate material cooperation, or even implicit formal cooperation.

I do doubt very much that he is in explicit formal cooperation with evil, and he has always said he is against crime. At times in the past, he waffled a bit on gun control indicating the possibility he may favor some form of it. Yet, he has opposed almost all gun control measures I would personally support with vigor. To add insult to injury, he wants poor people to recieve federal assistance in purchasing guns!

I'd have to know his intentions, knowledge, and the circumstances of each guna deal transaction to make a judgment of his degree of participation in evil, but I have no doubt that he is minimally in proximate material cooperation, and potentially in implicit formal cooperation.

Normally, I would not want to do business with a guy like Kerry.

George Bush is a General in the Army. I acknowledge the theoretical right of the Army to possess guns for just self defense. However, I also lean toward non-violence.

General Bush favors gun control among the general citizenry that would stop some of these unscrupulous gun dealers from selling guns to criminals. Yet, as a General, his influence on these laws would be indirect.

He looks like an attractive business partner, and initially I'm leaning towards him if I don't simply sell my stock.

He also wants an exclusive contract with our company.

However, General Bush also personally ordered the massacre of innocent people using military power and holds to a philosophical principle that justifies this action in the future.

What are my options?

I want to sell my stock, but in the current market, nobody will buy it. Selling my stock represents moving out of the country.

The fact that nobody will buy the tanked stock represents the hurdles the average American would experience in leaving the country, and the hatred of the global community towards Americans.

It's an option, but not an easy one.

I can opt to hold my stock and not vote.

This represents the ability of the average American to withdraw from the political process. It would seem to be an immoral cop-out to simply make no decision at all.

I can look for another person to do business with, but none of the other bidders are offering enough business to convince the majority of shareholders to take their business.

Looking for another business partner represents the possibility of a third party vote, and appears to be morally similar to not voting at all.

I can vote for doing business with John Kerry, however, to do so is to enter into remote material cooperation with evil that could result in increased crime. This should only be done with a strong proportionate reason.

I can vote for doing business with General Bush, which is the choice that does not contribute to rising crime rates. General Bush will fight for gun control, and I support gun control.

However, General Bush personally ordered a massacre in another country and thinks such a massacre was just!

General Bush is undoubtedly in formal cooperation with evil, and is actually the principle moral agent of the evil object!

It seems to me that doing exclusive business with General Bush that supplies him weapons changes my participation with evil from remote to proximate at best, and more likely immediate, and possibly even implicitly formal.

The manufacturing plant would no longer act as a producer to suppliers who deal with gun dealers who deal with criminals.

Instead, we would be directly supplying guns to a criminal.

To directly hand a weapon to a criminal is either immediate material cooperation with evil, or even implicit formal cooperation, either one of which is never justified.

Handing a weapon to a known killer who says he will kill again is minimally immediate material cooperation with the evil of murder.

This is what I felt about a vote for Bush.

Handing a weapon to a person who will give the weapon to someone else who might or might not use it to kill is remote material cooperation with evil, and may be licit if there is proportionate reason to be giving anyone a gun!

Immediate material participation with evil is never morally licit. Remote material cooperation is sometimes licit. When the two come head to head, chose the remote!

Even to argue that because I am merely a shareholder, rather than a company executive, removes giving Bush my vote from immediate material cooperation a step to proximate material cooperation does not make me comfortable.

There are those among the shareholders who share my conviction that we should not simply look at the bottom line, but instead make a moral or ethical choice.

Some of these shareholders maintain that General Bush is not a criminal, and that his philosophy on war makes sense to them. I accept that they have a right to their opinion, but I think they are gravely mistaken.

Those who hold this view seem to base their argument entirely on the notion that the military has a right to exist and the authority to wage just wars. Yet, these folks ignore the moral requirements placed on the military to avoid unjust wars and to use force judicially and prudently.

I acknowledge that if I did not perceive the massacre as a crime, I would likely choose to do business with general Bush. However, his massacre seems to have violated every principle of judicial and prudent use of military force.

There are others who agree with me that General Bush's massacre was a crime, but argue that the number of individual crimes in our country far outweigh the number of people killed in General Bush's massacre.

In response, I am arguing that we should not decide by this criteria. To do so is to argue that moral decisions should be weighed on the criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number. In turn, such an ethics leads to the ends justifying the means.

For example, we could argue that torturing ten people in order to save the lives of one hundred is just under this line of reasoning. Indeed, General Bush has suggested such a thing.

I believe torture is intrinsically evil, and never justified, even if done in order to save lives. The ends do not justify the means in my ethics.

For that reason, I reject the argument that the number of individual crimes outweigh the number of people killed in General Bush's massacre.

Besides, General Bush may massacre people again!

There are those who argue that we should do business with General Bush instead of John Kerry because the type of individual crimes that occur without proper gun control are more grave.

Often, defenseless people are killed by criminals who wind up with the guns John Kerry indiscriminately distributes to unscrupulous gun dealers. The people General Bush massacred were not entirely defenseless.

This argument is not compelling to me for two reasons.

First, the gravity of killing another human being is not determined by whether the victim is able to defend himself or not. Rather, the gravity of killing another human being is determined by whether the victim was innocent or not.

For example, if I intend to kill you unjustly with my bare hands while facing you, I am just as morally wrong as if I shot you in the back from a distance. In one case, you could defend yourself, and in the other, you can't. Yet, in both cases, I am equally a murderer.

What bothers me about General Bush's massacre, and what makes it a crime, is that the victims were innocent of any crime warranting military action.

Second, when General Bush ordered the massacre, it was foreseeable that defenseless people would be caught in the cross-fire, and this is what actually happened. Civilians died.

While I do not believe General Bush intended defenseless people to die, his actions had the foreseeable consequence that defenseless people will die along with innocent people who can defend themselves.

There are those who argue that this decision is too momentous to make ourselves. They argue that we need to appeal to a higher moral authority than we shareholders.

These folks decided to appeal to the Church, which in this analogy has taken a strong stance for gun control, representing the Church's opposition to abortion.

Furthermore, the Church acknowledges the right of generals and the army to own weapons. Thus, it is argued the case is closed.

However, the Church has also taken a strong stance against General Bush's massacre and the principles that underlie his justification for it, represented by just war doctrine and the explicit condemnation of the war in Iraq.

Furthermore, the Church questions the legitimacy of much of the entire gun industry itself, represented by the Church's teachings that call into question many fundamental principles of the American legal, political and economic system.

Taking account of the full range of Church teaching, rather than isolating statements on gun control would not lead to clarity based on authoritative statements alone.

I believe that some of those who are being so selective in their use of the Church's authority have political reasons for doing this, rather than moral reasons for doing this. Others are trying to find an easy answer to a complex question that has no easy answer.

Finally, the distinctions between various types of participation in evil that I am making are the teaching of the Church, and the Church has been clear that one can engage in remote participation with evil through a vote for someone like John Kerry if there exists proportionate reason.

I sometimes wonder if those who refuse to see the massacre as a crime are blinded by the dollar signs they see in an exclusive deal with the military. This represents a vote for tax cuts masked as pro-life convictions.

Yet, I hate to engage in judging people's motives. So I chose to stick to expressing my point of view.

For my part, I choose to do business with John Kerry.

Though his way of doing business makes me very uncomfortable, it seems that the proximity of my vote to the criminal act provided proportionate reason to remotely participate in the evil of a lack of effective gun control.

The proportionate reason was that the alternative was doing business with a criminal directly, which would have risked being immediate material or implicit formal cooperation with evil, neither of which is morally justified under any circumstances.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cooperation With Evil: Bush v. Kerry

A reader provided a link to an article on formal and material cooperation with evil that is concise and worth a read.

I want to point out that the reader who provided was arguing against me on a point!

I wrote a very lengthy explanation of what I am about to say, and had trouble posting it due to a busy server. I then lost the final draft. (Maybe it's divine providence). I still have a rough draft and can maybe do a reconstruction. But I decided shorter is sweeter.

According to the short article, there are various levels of participation with evil:

-explicit formal cooperation
-implicit formal cooperation
-immediate material cooperation
-mediate (proximate) material cooperation
-mediate (remote) material cooperation

According to the article, the first two types of cooperation with evil are never morally licit when done knowingly and deliberately.

In the third, it is never morally licit except under duress (a gun to the head).

The last two are actually lumped together and a proportion is calculated between the cause for participation and the proximity of your participation to the evil.

Sometimes, these forms of particpation are licit, and sometimes they are not.

Here's my more shocking statement without all the explanation I was going to originally post:

I believe that anyone who accepted the Church's teaching that the war in Iraq and the doctrine of pre-emptive war is unjust and chose to vote for George W. Bush anyway engaged in mediate proximate material cooperation at best, and more probably immediate material cooperation with evil, even if your intentions were to stop abortion.

Those who believe the war was just may be excused for ignorance of Church teaching to some degree. Invincible ignorance at the time of decision reduces culpability.

To vote for a man who believes it is just to kill people in another nation "before a threat materializes", and has proven his conviction on this principle through an actual invasion using deadly force, is like handing a known murderer who says he intends to kill again a gun.

On the other hand, Ratzinger, himself, says that anyone who opposses abortion, and choses to vote for someone like John Kerry for a different reason than his pro-choice stance, is remotely participating with evil, which can be licit for proportionate reason.

Handing a weapon to a known killer who says he will kill again is immediate material cooperation with the evil of murder. This is what I felt about a vote for Bush.

Handing a weapon to a person who will give the weapon to someone else who might or might not use it to kill is remote material cooperation with evil, and may be licit if there is proportionate reason to be giving anyone a gun!

Immediate material participation with evil is never morally licit. Remote material cooperation is sometimes licit. When the two come head to head, chose the remote!

The immediate material cooperation with evil involved in a vote for Bush provided the proportionate reason to remotely cooperate with evil by voting for John Kerry.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Is George Weigle in Dissent?

I read the following in NCR:

Weigel termed the collective efforts of the bishops this year — through the issuance of "Faithful Citizenship," their guide to Catholics on responsible citizenship in an election year — "a last gasp effort to hold onto the tattered seamless garment." Said Weigel: "We now know, because Kerry has demonstrated it, that the seamless garment metaphor, whatever truths it embodies within it, becomes in the hands of politicians an excuse [to oppose church teaching on life issues]. Why are we trying to stitch the thing together again?"
While I am not sure the Holy Father ever used the metaphor of the seamless garment explicitly, it is clear that Evangelium Vitae represents the best in a consistent ethic of life tradition within the Church. The seamless garment metaphor embodies this tradition.

Weigle is a member of the neoconservative think tank called The Project for a New American Century which planned the war in Iraq in the 1990's.

What is Weigle trying to say?

Is he suggesting that the only way to combat any error Kerry and Cuomo or other pro-choice Catholic politicians represent is for the Church to abandon the consistent ethic of life and cave into American neoconservative Republican ethics on such issues as war and the death penalty?

Weigle supported the war in Iraq, along with Michael Novak and Deal Hudson.

They supported this war despite numerous statements from the Holy Father and the Bishops that the notion of a unilateral preventative war does not meet the strict and rigorous criteria of a just war.

Indeed, Church teaching on this war was so clear that the Holy Father referred to it as "unequivocal". A strong argument could be made that deny the war in Iraq was unjust involves denying principles of just war taught authoritatively by the universal ordinary magisterium with as much authority as Humanae Vitae.

I don't question that a Catholic can reach conclusions in good conscience that cause one to withhold assent or dissent from an authoritative but non-infallible teaching of the Church.

When one finds him or herself in such a position, I would not recommend leaving the Church. You may change your mind on the issue in question, or you may even be right, since the teaching in question is not infallibly defined.

If a teaching is not yet defined infallibly, it may have some sort of error mixed with truth. God may be using you to prophetically raise the right questions to clarify and develop the teaching.

However, Weigle, Novak and Hudson seem to hold a position that dissent is inappropriate for Catholics – especially public dissent.

How can one withhold assent from something as important as all the seamless garment metaphor represents and support a war so unequivocally condemned and still deny one is in dissent?


Iraqi Civilian Death Toll at 100,000

Reuters reports that a study perfomed by Americans published in The Lancet Medical Journal Indicates 100,000 civilian deaths as a direct result of violence related to the war in Iraq.

Coalition air strikes in particular have increased the likelihood of premature death for the average Iraqi civilian, and women and children in particular.

"The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher than in the period before the war" states the report.

Regarding the number of Iraqi combatants that have died, current figures are hard to find. Suzanne Goldenberg reported in October of 2003 that over 10,000 Iraqi combatant casualties were reported in the first few days of war.

That number is certainly higher by a large magnitude by this time.

Non-Iraqi Coalition deaths are currently at 1,298, of which 1,152 were Americans.

According to Newsweek, the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority seems to have sustained roughly the same number of casualties as the combined coalition forces.

Nobody yet knows the casualty counts for "indirect deaths" due to the war. These are the deaths that result from the destruction of a nation's infrastructure.

For example, war can cause unsanitary water conditions leading to diseases that kill young people. Medical facilities can be so badly damaged that routine care is disrupted. There can be food and power shortages. Often, the destruction to infrastructure can have ripple effects that lead to deaths months and even years after conflict has ended.

Beth Osbourne DaPonte is considered a leading expert on calculating "indirect casualties" of war. In the First Gulf War, which was far less disruptive than the second, she estimated over 150,000 indirect casulaties. The current Gulf War should lead to far higher indirect casualties.