Friday, July 29, 2005

Senate Majority Leader Backs Embryonic Stem Cell Research

I'm not sure how to adequately express my opinion on embryonic stem cell research other than the bottom line answer that it should not be done.

Unlike most pro-lifers, I am not sure it is technically "murder", since some form of human life continues in the stem cell line after the embryo is destroyed.

This said, it certainly stops the natural process of human development. If we think of the embryo as a person, it is like forcing a person into a coma even if it is not considered murder.

While I lean towards the theological position that ensoulment occurs at conception, the Church does not teach this definitively, as we see in Donum Vitae no. 26.

She refuses to make a claim as to when a human being becomes a human person with a soul, and instead argues that the right to life extends to all human beings whether personhood can be established or not.

But even if the embryo can not be certainly known to be a person, and even if some form of human life continues after the destruction of an embryo, it just seems to me that even the "potential for human life" in an embryo that is destroyed is compelling enough to consider the alternatives if there are any.

There is enough uncertainty about the ethics of embryonic stem cell research and the effectiveness of it to hold the position that if there are alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, those alternatives must be exhausted before even considering the possibility of embryonic stem cell research.

Adult stem cell research or research on stem cells derived from the umbilical cord still hold tremendous promise - even more promise than embryonic stem cell reasearch - and there are other promising alternative treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, diabetes and other ailments.

This is what proponents of embryonic stem cell research seem to never consider.

There is nobody engaged in the debate on either side who does not desparetely want to find the cure for these diseases.

That said, the notion that embryonic stem cell research is the most promising solution is simply not true. The pre-clinical research in animals indicates a higher risk of tumors from embryonic stem cells than other types of stem cells.

Thus, there is a triple wammy here. Embryonic stem cell research is at least problematic from an ethical perspective, even if not seen as technical murder. It is not likely to be effective. There are alternatives that hold more promise.

We should be writing our representatives to encourage them to consider the alternatives.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Question Prompted by a Reader's Comment

Everytime I raise the issue that I think the American work-week is too long, I inevitably receive comments from people that if one just chose to live simply, one would not spend so much time at work.

I think this belief is wide-spread, but simply not true.

It is my contention that without assistance from parents (i.e. - an inheritance or a student) or assistance from the government (i.e. - the lottery, welfare or social security), it is almost impossible for the average person living in America to not wind up homeless in America working less than 40 hours.

And I know many people who work more than 40 hours, not so much for the money, but almost feeling that they need to demonstrate commitment to the job in order to keep the job.

It is survival that motivates many people to work long and hard, not materialism.

We compete with others in the corporation not so much to be able to buy an SUV, but to keep the job. Then we buy an SUV as compensation for all the hard work we had to do just to survive.

It isn't individual materialism that leads Americans to work such long hours that it winds up interfering with our family life.

Rather, it is our blind belief that we must work long and hard hours just to survive that leads us to become materialistic because there is little else to make us feel good about being at the office so much.

I suppose an artist (music, writer, actor, etc...) could earn a huge lump sum from a single work product and then retire.

An athlete could earn a huge amount in a short period of time in a similar way.

But such jobs are high risk, require unique talent, and require one to put in a huge amount "up-front" hard work and time.

You don't become a professional athlete without ever having spent a forty hour week training and honing your skill.

You don't become a top grossing movie star by telling the director that he isn't going to get the final cut because you need to get home for dinner.

In Europe, though things are changing, people can live pretty much as well as a middle class American but only work 30 hours per week and only 48 weeks a year.

It is possible for an advanced technological/industrial society to maintain itself without the 40 hour work week.

Things are changing as the EU tries to compete with the US or US companies try to hire in the EU.

But I think the change is a bad thing for Europe, and if anyone should change, it should be the United States.

The change has to be forced too - because as long as one worker can work more than me, the employer will prefer that worker, and I'm back in the survival mode.

Workaholism is not an individual choice. It is a symptom of a structural problem.

I cannot emphasize this enough: materialism is not the motivation for many people to work long hours. Survival is the motivation, and materialism is a symptom.

I see this as a moral issue as well. People need more time for prayer and family and charitable activity and just rest and relaxation for health.

The late Pope John Paul II spoke on these themes in his writings on work.

I think it is simply false to think that the average American works so many hours because he or she is a simply greedy and selfish materialistic individual.

Some people are greedy, selfish and materialistic by nature, but most are not.

A person who is not materialistic will still need to work a 40 hour job (and probably more than 40 hours) to provide the bare minimum support to his or her family.

If you do not accept this premise while living in America, you will not be able to survive. The competition will take you out.

Even an American non-profit organization hiring at a low wage is going to want the employee to put in a 40 hour week and not likely to give a full month of vacation.

Indeed, even where there is no idealism, and a great deal of despair, I know far too many people where both Ma and Pa work, and Pa might even hold two jobs, to keep the family together in a trailer park with the bare minimum necessities.

Maybe families like this have the wrong kind of job to advance, but they are not lazy, nor are they materialistic.

Such a couple is not going to get out of their situation by deciding to give up a few material goods so Pa can quit his second job.

They don't have anything of value to give up but the trailer itself!

If anything, they may have to work harder than the rest so that one of them can get through college or get a business up and running.

But even if you consider this a somewhat extreme example, I just do not know a single person who isn't homeless or on welfare who doesn't work 40 or more hours per week, or have a spouse who does.

In fact, though rich people don't necessarily have to work, I don't know any rich people who work less than 40 hours. I don't know that many rich people, but the few I do know work a lot.

Every part time worker I know is married to someone working at least 40 hours, or is relying on assistance from others, like a parent.

But it doesn't have to be this way. That's the big myth I am trying to expose.

And I'm not comparing America to the third world when I say we could survive if everyone worked less than 40 hours. I am comparing us to places like Germany.

And if the Germans wind up working 40 hour weeks soon, it will only be because we made them do it by the force of competition.

But this competition is not a good thing.

There ought to be a limit on how much time an employer can keep an employee away from family, prayer and all those things outside of work that are just as important as our work.

It isn't an individual's fault or choice that he or she works so many hours - it is our entire society's fault and choice.

And our entire society is wrong about it's belief that the 40 hour work week with only two weeks vacation is necessary or good for people.

Work is good, and everyone who can work should work hard. All honest and ethical work contributes to the common good.

But the common good does not require 40 hours from anyone, much less everyone.

And back to the issue of people's choices...., to those American who keep insisting that one could work less by just living simply, consider the following question:

Do you know anyone at all living in America who pays their own bills and works only 30 hours per week and only 48 weeks per year without some sort of assistance from someone?


Info on Preventing Child Abuse

I have been reading a book called Protecting Your Children From Sexual Predators by Leigh Baker.

The book outlines the ten most common characteristics of a sexual predators, the five stages of abuse, four types of predators, and how to identify female and juvenile predators.

She also offers serveral practical steps to protect your children from various predators.

The important points made in the book are a bit too much to easily compile into a single post.

Maybe the most important point is that only around 5 percent of sexual abuse of children is done by a stranger. Most abuse occurs by someone the child knows.

It is also sexual abuse by a family member or an authority figure known to the child that has the most devastating effects on children.

I haven't finished reading the book, but I spent a little bit of time trying to find some internet resources that summarize some of the same key points.

15 Bullet Point Tips For What to Tell Kids to Keep Them Safe

What to Tell Your Kids About Predators

List of Sex Offenders by State (With addresses)

An Ebony Article on Prevention

Bullet Points: What is Abuse? How Does it Effect Kids? What Are Signs it Occurred? What to do if a Child Tells You S/he Was Abused

7 Tips on Internet Safety for Children

I haven't found anything on the web as comprehensive and well written as this book.

Why bother reading such material?

I don't want to create a sense of panic in people, but consider this quotation I found by a different expert, Dr. Kenneth Woodson:

Small groups of militant and highly organized child molesters operate worldwide through pedophile organizations, whose members claim genuine concern for the welfare of children. Their belief is that sex with children is harmless; some even claim that sexual relations are healthy for children. These groups' goals include decriminalizing child molestation and lowering the age of consent. The actual number of members in these organizations is unknown, though one, the Rene Guyon Society, is listed in the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations as having 5,000 members. Other major pedophile organizations include NAMBLA (The North American Man-Boy Love Association) and PAN (Pedophile Alert Network) in the Netherlands.

Members receive monthly magazines and newsletters that include seduction techniques and advice on avoiding detection and prosecution. One group's "Lure of the Month" column gives advice on approaching and seducing children.
While both experts agree that most abusers of children act alone, bear in mind that some pedophiles are taking the time, effort, money and energy to inform themselves on how to seduce your child without detection!

If you are not spending any time trying to figure out how to detect who these people might be, you could lose the battle for your child's safety.

Switching gears....

I want to mention as well that the vast majority of offenders against children are not homosexual, and I raise this issue only because of past debates about homosexuality.

Along those lines, I also want to point out that the argumentation I have made supporting the idea of gay unions or gay marriages could not possibly apply to justifying pedophilia even if there is a genetic predisposition in some people to this type of behavior.

Why not?

Because a gay union or gay marriage is a permanent commitment that may express what the Church calls "unitive love".

Homosexual acts can be consensual acts between adults who may love one another, are comitted to one another monogamously and may even be open to procreating together if they could.

They are more like infertile heterosexuals in marriage.

A child is simply not capable of making a permanent commitment of "unitive love" with an adult.

The adult who tries to engage in sexual activity with a child has no desire to enter into a permanent commitment with the child.

Pedophiles lose interest in their victims as the victim ages, and find new targets.

Pedophiles have no interest in procreating with their prey.

Sex with children offends against the unitive and procreative ends of human sexuality in a way that adult homosexuality does not.

A child is also not capable of "consent" since a child does not have the knowledge, experience, or emotional maturity of an adult.

Non-consensual sex is rape, which is an act of violence even if a physical beating did not take place.

In this sense, "date rape" using drugs that knock a girl out is also rape - and is also violent.

Violence against a human person is worse than sexual sin. Peophilia is not simply a sexual sin, but a sin of violence. Often, deceit is added to the sins.

Even if a child seems to derive pleasure from the attentions of a pedophile, the child is not giving full consent because a child cannot give consent to what the child does not understand.

Therefore the actions of the adult are more akin to rape than to consensual sex between two homosexual adults.

Am I demonizing the pedophile in a rashly judgmental way by pointing out these differences?

I don't think so, and even if there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to pedophilia, I am not saying such people should not be treated with some compassion as we try to figure out how to best help them live a graced life.

But compassion does not mean that they should be allowed to harm a child.

All morality is rooted in the golden rule, and sex abuse of children causes grave harm to children.

It is not clear to me how consensual homosexual sex between adults who love one another violates the golden rule.

All the evidence indicates that the notion that sex between a child and adult is harmless is simply false.

Sex with a child can lead the child to a higher probability of suicide, and to deliberately do this to a child is almost, if not actually, murder.

But enough theological wrangling. I really did not mean to go there in this detail. I meant to simply supply some information to concerned parents to help them know how to protect their children.


A Culture of Peace

A priest compiles the teaching of John Paul II on "the culture of peace" to outline the late pope's concrete teachings on how to foster social peace based on justice.


Reminder that not All Terrorist Are Muslims

More violence has erupted in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. The most recent instances were initiated by the Protestants, and the Catholic IRA has long been a known terrorist organization.

Hopefully, Pope Benedict's ecumenical thrust will help to quell this long standing emnity, and being of Irish descent myself, I pray for the mother land.

At the same time, I post the article merely to remind the West that it is absurdly and demonstrably false to claim all terrorists are Muslims as so many Westerners say today.


Some Recent Papal Musing

Pope Benedict chose to speak sort of "off the record", making it clear he was not invoking infallibly, on some issues faced by the Church today.

A key question he dealt with was the vocation crisis, but he also offered an interesting thought on divorced and remarried Catholics:

On the subject of divorced Catholics who have remarried, Benedict XVI described as "particularly painful" the "situation of those who married in Church out of tradition, without being true believers; then, finding themselves in a new and non-valid marriage, they convert, find faith, and feel excluded from the Sacrament (of the Eucharist)."
I'm not sure I would go so far as to say the people lacked faith entirely in the first marriage, as Benedict implies by universally calling such people "unbelievers".

Yet, certainly it is true that many people marry with a very immature faith, divorce, remarry another person, undergo a conversion that leads to more mature faith, and now feel excluded from the Sacrament and unable to repair the situation.

Is Benedict hinting that maybe the Church needs to consider a means of reconciliation other than severing the second marriage?


Mother Abandons 4-Year Old Child on Capitol Beltway

I don't have much to say about this news other than that it is bewildering what goes on in the minds of some people. Pray for this woman and her child.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

An Indian Woman Writes Pope Benedict

NCR has been running a series of letters from around the world to Pope Benedict ever since he was made Pope. The most recent letter comes from Mumbai, India, by Virginia Saldanha.

She writes on the need for dialogue between the Vatican and women. Here's a key quote that summarizes a point I have tried to express myself:

The latest census of the Indian population highlights the bias against the girl child very clearly. Parents make the choice to abort the unwanted girl child. A bishop in India once remarked, "The girl-child will have value only when females can become bishops."
I have written before that I consider women's ordination to be the most important issue of our times.

When many people hear this, I think the assumption is that I am saying that radical seventies style feminism is more important than anything the Church has to offer.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The point I am trying to make is that it seems to me that the Church cannot accomplish its mission without women priests.

Opponents of women's ordination and I would agree that at least part of the Church's mission is defending the dignity of human life, where that incomparable dignity is revealed in a core doctrine of Catholic dogma - the incarnation event.

Defending the dignity of human life translates into action in opposition to abortion, embryonic stem cell research, eauthanasia, human cloning, the death penalty, unjust war, torture, rising crime and rising poverty and all that is dehumanizing and fosters gross and sinful inequity between human persons.

In order to act as spokespersons for human dignity with integrity, the Church must practice what it preaches.

If women are made in the image and likeness of G-d, and women have an equality of dignity and rights with men, and women share in the nature that G-d assumed and saved in the incarnation event, and the female completes the male to reflect the fullness of humanity in some way, the internal structure and organization and discipline of the Church must reflect these realities.

When a male bishop condemns abortion but supports inequal treatment of women, societies that respect women's equality will ignore him because his behavior does not match his words.

More importantly, societies that do not respect the full equality of women will imitate his actions while ignoring his words!

Only when our words match our actions will anyone listen to us.

I've written before, and I honestly believe, that the most effective step the Church can take to end atrocities such as forced sexual slavery of young women, abortion, unequal pay and opportunities based on gender, and even rising divorce rates is to ordain women.

I know that stating the point in the manner I am stating it today requires a bit of an intuitive leap. I've already tried to spell out the logical steps in the past, and I may try again some other day.

In the meantime, I post this letter simply to say that I am not alone in seeing the connection between the Church's inability to adequately stop the spread of legalized abortion and its failure to ordain women. Apparently, a bishop and this woman in India see the connection as well.


Hillary Criticized by the Left

I commented on this on Monday. Casting herself as a pro-war, pro-life centrist, Hillary risks losing her base in the left, and comes across as the Democrats' version of Bush.

Of course, being pro-life myself, and having always distrusted Bush's sincerity on the issue of abortion, I have been intrigued by Hillary's call to Democrats to reduce the abortion rate to zero.

But that's not the main cause of critique of her from the left recently.

In fact, much of the left seems to have embraced the message that even if abortion is kept legal, it should be rare, and there has even been some movement to open up to those who want legal restrictions on abortion.

The main cause of critique is that we have an Administration that has repeatedly enacted policies or tried to enact policies that are evil or ineffective or both, and the left wants to take the neocons head-on and aggressively with a clear alternative vision.

Hillary would rather try to reach the centrists in the heartland of red America on the issues they care about, and emphasize points of unity among various leftists and centrists.

From her associations to her recent speeches, she has been taking this centrist position rather than radically critiquing the Administration.

The current talk is that Hillary is misreading the political climate, but I'm not sure she is, even though I don't agree with her on many things (notably, the war).

Unless G.W. tries to change the constitution soon, he isn't going to be running in 2008, and we don't have a clue who the right is going to put up.

If Democrats manage to grab the center before the Republicans have a viable candidate, they can cast the Republican candidate as a right wing extremist.

My advice to the Democrats is two fold:

1) I continue to hold the position that I held in 2000, and 2002 and 2004 that a militant pro-choice position is a losing strategy.

One must be right, centrist or center right to neutralize this issue. The left cannot win this one (and I mean this politically, not morally and theologically - it is political suicide to go too far left on abortion).

2) I think the far left is correctly reading the situation for 2006, but not for 2008.

In the upcoming congressional and gubernatorial elections, a full out attack on Bush may be necessary both to mitigate the harm of his Administration and to begin to persuade middle America of the truth that Bush is a radical right wing nut and has been all along.

But in 2008, the strategy does need to be to grab the center.

By that time, the center may not be supportive of the war in Iraq, and the economy may be different.

So, I do not mean to imply that a centrist position is pro-war and pro-business.

However, it is true that if the Democrats want the White House, they need to appeal to concerns of the mid-west farmer, the Southern and Reagan Democrats, the liberal Republican, the independent voter, and so forth.

By the way, I offer this opinion as a registered Republican who would have never considered Hillary four years ago, but who is so adamantly opposed to Bush that I'd vote for Moe of the three stooges before voting for him or anyone who thinks like him.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

NCR's Joe Feuerherd on John Roberts

My mind is not made up about Roberts, and being a pro-life Catholic and registered Republican, I am even a bit hopeful that Roberts is a sensible conservative (Yes, there is such a thing).

Feuerherd paints a portrait of such a man.

On the flip side, I find George W. Bush's policies to be absolutely morally repugnant, and his prior court picks have caused me heartburn - especially on issues like torture, the death penalty and a bias to big business and anti-environmentalism.

I am also no fan of Antonin Scalia.

You don't have to be a Democrat to be against torture, the death penalty pre-emptive war or pollution and poverty.

Or, more precisely, those of us who hold to a consistent ethic of life find it difficult to be at home in any current American political party.

But the courts aren't like the parties, and while Bush has picked some losers, Roberts may be allright. I need more information to make a judgement, and Feuerherd helps fill in a few gaps.


Musing on Modern Motherhood

I was born in South Carolina in 1965, and we moved to Ohio when I was three, and I grew up in a small town of about 13,000 people surrounded farm-land and the Amish.

My mom was a "stay-at-home mom" who bore nine children (I was the oldest).

Mom had a college education, spoke several languages fluently, played piano and enjoyed reading and people, but she chose to stay home until my youngest sister was in grade school.

I seem to recall that when I was very young, maybe up to the age of about 10 (the year 1975), my mom would talk to neighbor women in the middle of the day in the back-yard.

In fact, I have a distinct memory of the mothers sitting on the steps of the back porch "shucking peas" as they gossipped and the neighborhood kids played.

I also remember mom either inviting women over to the house, or taking us kids to someone else's house in the middle of a summer day for her various clubs, like coupon club, book club, or card club. The mothers even had a bowling league.

The women did not travel great distances to get to these clubs, and it was not difficult to schedule such an event in the middle of the day.

We would play with the other kids while the mothers did their thing.

We also knew that we were expected to listen to the other mothers as though they were our own mother.

Mom seldom left the house without us kids in tow, except twice per week: choir practice on Tuesday night, and her Saturday afternoon grocery shopping.

What makes me recall of this?

I support my wife in her decisions, and though she has a Master's degree in Construction Management and is a Registered Nurse, she has opted so far to stay home with our daughter, who is now nine months old.

My wife gets a little stir crazy around the house sometimes.

There are no mothers with whom to chat in the back-yard. Nobody sits on the stoop shucking peas these days. There are no local bowling leagues.

When I get home from work every evening, my wife often wants to simply hand me Sarafia and leave - even just to go to the library or visit with her sisters who work similar hours to me.

Like my mom, she also looks forward to choir as a big opportunity to get out of the house and interact with adults.

She decided to start working a few hours per week again as a nurse, doing some home nursing for the elderly on Saturday's.

We could use the money, but I think she wants to do it more to get out of the house and interact with some adults than anything else.

My wife joined a mom and baby yoga class, but has to drive far further than my mom ever drove. The mothers came to this class from great distances, and otherwise would not know each other.

Some of the mothers were taking the baby yoga very seriously and were concerned that their babies weren't learning the positions correctly until my wife reminded them that they were there more for each other than for their babies.

Last night, my wife and I were talking about how we get nervous about other people watching our baby.

We don't believe in coporal punishment, and some parents still use it. We are vegetarians, and most Americans aren't. We think most American couples our age overschedule their kids and don't allow kids to be kids anymore.

We recognize too, that other parents may think we're nuts, and would not want us watching their own kids if we are going to deprive them of discipline and meat.

There are so many different parenting styles these days, and we're all a bit dogmatic about our own way of doing it.

Some chose to homeschool, while others want Catholic schools, while others want Montessori, and so forth.

But the long and short of it is that some of the reason for the current tendency in society to schedule every waking moment of a kid's life is that mom wants to get to yoga class on time for some adult company with parents who share her interest.

And the whole society grows more and more conscious each day that there are sexual predators and violent people out there. We simply don't trust leaving our daughter with just anyone, and nobody should trust us either until they get to know us.

And so, we shedule our kids' activities to find like-minded people we trust at church, school (or homeschooling groups), and so forth, all done less for the kids, and more for the parents who are starved for adult interaction but in a safe environement.

We create an artificial sense of community where there was once a time - in my mother's younger days - that community formed over the back-yard fence.

The days of telling children to obey another mom as though she were own are gone. That is a bygone era, or well on its way to becoming such.

Things were already probably changing drastically by the time my youngest sister was born in 1983.

Certainly, by the late nineties, it would have been difficult for stay at home moms (and the emerging stay at home dad) to find adult company across the back-yard fence.

My wife and I live in the suburbs of a major metroplitan area, and maybe the small town in Ohio where I grew up still has a little of the same flavor it had when I was a child.

But I suspect that the entry of women into the work-force in greater numbers than 100 years ago has permanently changed everything.

I sense that there is sort of a back-lash against seventies style feminism these days, and more women are choosing to stay at home with the kids than maybe a decade ago.

Still, I don't anticipate that the restoration of back-yard community is just around the bend.

And maybe it shouldn't really be the way it was.

My wife comes from a village in Africa where she recalls that too much trust was sometimes placed in adults who abused kids in various ways.

I don't want to overidealize the notion of the village raising the child. Villages can be places where dark things occur.

Though she was not abused personally, our fears of leaving our daughter with others are heightened by the fact that small villages in the developing world relatively untouched by modernity have the same problems we read about in our newspapers today.

In my own case, I was either unobservant, lucky or both that I did not see some of the things as a child that we read about in our newspapers today or that my wife witnessed in the village.

My own experience as a child was far less eventful and I saw that my mom had adult companionship and a sense of belonging to a community in the neigborhood and local church.

Can we and should we try to go back?

Aside from the worse case scenario of various forms of child abuse, I'm not sure that the changes initiated in the 1960's and 1970's should be rolled back in order to re-create the sense of community my mom once knew.

The only way to ensure that women in child bearing years are home with the kids to chat over the back-yard fence would be to disallow women in the work-force once again, which seems to me to be an absurd proposition.

As long as women can work and acheive success through work, many will choose to do so, and that is their right. Even the Church affirms this right in GS 29.

One could argue that couples with children should have one or the other parent stay home, and maybe there should be more stay at home dads.

That would help create some adult company at the back-yard fence.

What's the answer?

I don't really know for sure, but I have long thought that since the work-force theoretically doubled as women came on the job, and our workers are growing more and more educated each passing year, would it not make sense to reduce the work-week?

Why is America mentally locked into the notion that working less than a 40 hour week is "lazy and irresponsible"?

How is it that so many of us (including myself) wind up spending so much more than 40 hours per week at the office?

Why can't a country as rich as ours afford to pay workers enough to support a family on a 30 hour week, with no overtime?

Heck, if we reduced the work-week, we'd not only have more time with our kids and neighbors, but we might need to hire every currently unemployed American right back into the work-force to keep up current production.

But other slack could be picked up by automation and technology and efficiencies in process - and we all know that hardly any organization is running on maximum efficiency.

Why is a two week vacation considered adequate?

Europeans take a month, as do many of the highest paid executives.

What about more paternal leave for new babies?

It seems inherently unjust to me that most companies as well as the law give more leave to women than men.

I don't know. A reduced work week with more vacation and paternal leave is simply one idea, and there are probably others for restoring a sense of community.

I'm done musing for the day. Thoughts?


Monday, July 25, 2005

John Roberts Opens Door to Questions About His Religion

In an informal meeting last week, attendees state that Roberts, a devout Catholic married to an ardent pro-life activist, admitted to Senator Richard Durbin (D. - Ill.) that he would recuse himself if the law required a ruling that the Church considers immoral.

By answering such a question, G.W.U. law professor, Jonathan Turley, opines that Roberts has opened the door to further questioning by the Senate.


Hillary Clinton Criticized by Left for Pro-War Position

Hillary has come out consistently supportive of the war in Iraq and called upon the Democrats to aim at a zero abortion rate. Is she the Democrats' alternative to Bush?


John Allen's Word From Rome

Allen delves into recent controversies around evolution sparked by a recent article by a Cardinal.

Personally, I think evolutionary theory is imperfect at the present time based on gaps in the evidence. That said, it's the best theory we have at the moment to explain the available evidence.

The way I see it, the job of science is to answer the "How?" questions, and the job of theology is to answer the "Why?" questions.

There can be no true conflict between science and theology if each sticks to its domain.

Allen also writes about a CDF crack-down on the founder of a religious order who may have been involved in sexual misconduct, and some Vatican views on Harry Potter.


Students Protest Pro-Choice Catholic Politicians

Starting in front of the office of Nancy Pelosi, a group of Catholic students is marching 800 miles through California to protest abortion clinics and the offices of several Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.


Kenyan Priests Arrested in Connection With Bishop's Death

Initially, it was thought that the gunmen who killed Bishop Luigi Locati were connected with politically motivated enemies of the bishop who strongly denounced official corruption and black market profiteering.

Police are now focusing their investigation on two priests who were upset with the bishop's personnel decisions.


Court News

A ruling David Souter made about government siezure of property may back-fire on him as a farm he owns has been targetted for such siezure.

Meanwhile, Bush's pick to replace O'Connor, John Roberts, cannot remember if he was once a member of the Federalist Society.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Anyone Can Run for Prez

Many call him a "bigot", but Tom Tancredo thinks he has support that could turn into a presidential bid.

I have a better idea. Vote for ME in 2008!


Thursday, July 21, 2005

An Interesting Perspective on Conservative Courts

I was listening to NPR radio this morning and there was a law professor speaking about different types of conservative justices on the federal courts.

Unfortunately, I did not catch the name of the talking head, but his five classifications of conservative judges was interesting, and nobody really knows which type John Roberts might be.

The originalist: This is represented by Scalia and Thomas and is a judicial philosophy that one should constantly return to the meaning of the Constitution intended by the framers, ignoring any contrary developments in the tradition of legal jurisprudence. This group would be most likely to overturn Roe, since abortion is not mentioned at all in the Constitution, and there is no explicit right to an abortion in the Constitution.

The traditionalist: This group was represented by Sandra Day O'Connor. While this group acknowledges the authority of the developing tradition of legal jurisprudence, it is conservative in its judgments that may lead to new developments. At times, they may even roll back developments, but not completely overturn a prior decision. This group may moderate Roe, but not overturn it, believing the legislators should make laws rather than judges. They see it as wrong for a judge to ignore precedent.

The pragmatists: This group does not depend so much on general principles as the specific facts of a particular case and the known probable outcomes of their decision. Though they often reach the most "liberal" decisions of the conservatives, they allow the facts to lead where they may, and are not considered liberals because there is no agenda prior to hearing the facts of the case that will color their reading of the facts. To the extent they bring any preconceived bias, they lean a bit towards the traditionalist view, but are willing to go further out on a limb with a development in tradition if the facts of the case lead in that direction. David Souter was placed in this group by the professor. This is the group that is hardest to predict.

The libertarian: This group believes that the courts have too much say over commerce and economic matters and seek to limit the power of the court. For this reason, such judges are appreciated by fiscallly conservative Republicans and are therefore classified conservatives. Such judges can dissapoint the religious right on issues such as abortion, where their libertarian streak toward less court interfence in the lives of people might uphold Roe on principle.

The social conservative: I may not have caught the name of this group correctly, but it seemed the professor was saying that this is a group of judges with a specific pro-life, pro-family agenda that is almost if not explicitly religious in nature. They make decisions based on socially conservative principles by almost any means necessary so long as they can find a legal principle to justify it.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Traveling This Week

I was in flight most of the day yesterday, and will be tomorrow as well. Not much blogging will be done this week.


Bush Nominates John Roberts to Supreme Court

The nominee argued before the Supreme Court that Roe was wrongly decided, and later stated that Roe is settled law. I see no contradiction in that position, but it will be a hotly debated point in the confirmation process.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Sister Joan Chittister on Anglican Women Bishops

Undoubtedly, some Anglican ministers will decide to "convert" to Roman Catholicism, and Rome will undoubtedly accept them.

Sister Joan asks what kind of conversion this is when these same ministers once accepted women priests, but not the idea of women bishops?

What kind of conversion is it when the sole reason for it is to run from women leaders?


John Allen's Word From Rome

I don't see much to comment upon this week, but Allen is certainly building some anticipation for Pope Benedict's first encyclical.


NCR Piece on Iraqi Bloggers

This is interesting to any blogger, whether Catholic or not.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Prayer Request

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Matthew, a young man who died of cancer this week in his early twenties, and pray for his family that God will comfort them in this trying time.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Some Basics in the Vatican's Moral Theology

Whether talking about pre-emptive war or homosexuality, I find myself frequently frustrated that self-defined "conservative" or "orthodox" or "loyal" American Roman Catholics do not seem to me to even understand what the Vatican means by certain terms she uses.

These Catholics then draw all sorts of conclusions that the Vatican would not embrace based on what I see as their misunderstanding of certain key terminology.

So here is an attempt to go over the basics, and I am trying very hard to present the Vatican position - not my own.

First principle: The Catholic Church does not teach that any single act whatsoever is always a mortal sin. This is not liberal clap-trap. This is the Vatican's own position. Culpability for sin is conditioned by a person's knowledge, intentions, freedom, means and circumstances.

Second principle: Though the Vatican does not teach that any act whatsoever can ever be called a sin always and everywhere, she does hold that certain acts are always evil. This is the meaning of the term "intrinsic evil".

How can an intrinsic evil not be a sin?

It is intrinsically evil to kill an innocent human being. However, if a three year old fires a real gun at his brother, he does not sin because he does not know what he is doing. An evil act occurred, but no sin.

It is intrinsically evil to aide and abet an armed robbery (cooperation with evil). However, the bank teller who hands money to the robber at gunpoint rather than taking a principled stand of laying down her life is not guilty of the sin cooperation with evil because of the limitations on her freedom by the duress of being held at gunpoint. An evil act was done by the bank teller, but not a sin.

Again, it is intrinsically evil to kill an innocent human being. However, if a child runs from between parked cars and you run him over in your car though you were sober and driving carefully, you are not guilty of the sin of murder. A tragic evil occurred. The act was intrinsically evil. But you did not sin.

In order to sin, one must have full knowledge, freedom, and deliberation (consent) to do evil.

The term "intrinsic evil" does not mean that the particular evil is really, really, really bad.

Telling a lie is intrinsically evil, but a white lie is not considered a mortal sin even when done with full knowledge, freedom and deliberation.

In order to judge that one has sinned, one must choose to do evil with full knowledge freedom and deliberation. In order for the sin to be mortal, as opposed to venial, the evil must be a grave evil.

Thus, only when one chooses a grave evil with full knowledge, freedom and deliberation is one in mortal sin.

One can also chose a grave evil that is not intrinsically evil, and if you do so with full knowledge, freedom, and deliberation, you commit a mortal sin due to the gravity.

Thus, even evils that are not intrinsic evils can be mortal sins.

For example, the death penalty may be morally licit in certain instances - such as a society that has no other possible way to protect itself from violent offenders because they lack a prison system.

Because the death penalty is not always and everywhere evil, it will never be declared intrinsically evil.

This said, it is evil for the state to apply the death penalty to a person for jay walking. The penalty is cruel and unusual for the crime.

If you participate in such an application of state power, you commit a grave evil against human life.

In recent years, the Church has called into question whether any society today has just cause to use the death penalty, since there are other ways for society to protect itself.

War is not intrinsically evil, since there could be a just war.

However, since a just war is always a war of defense against aggression, pre-emptive war can possibly be called instrinsically evil and a grave offense against human life.

All of this leads to two follow up questions:

How is an act determined to be "intrinsically evil"? and How is the "gravity" of the sin determined?

An act is considered intrinsically evil when it violates a human good always and everywhere regardless of the ends, means or circumstances.

If an act does not always violate the good, it may be evil under contingent circumstances, as we saw with the death penalty and war.

For example, torture is considered intrinsically evil. It offends against human dignity in every conceivable instance.

Whether one uses a mild stress position or severs a limb, torture always involves evil. To knowingly, freely, and deliberately engage in torture is therefore a sin.

Is servering a limb therefore intrinsically evil?

Of course not. Severing a limb as a surgical technique to remove a cancer is not evil at all, but instead promotes the good of human life.

The end of such a surgical technique is not contrary to human dignity, but instead supports human dignity.

The gravity of the act is determined in two ways.

If two offenses are judged against one another but each offends a different good, the more foundational or fundamental good offended is considered the graver act.

For example, murder is an offense against life. Fornication is an offense against chastity. Life is ranked as a higher good than chastity, and therefore murder is worse than fornication.

In this sense, there are degrees of gravity.

In judging two acts that offend the same good, an act against that good is either grave or it is not. There are no degrees of gravity within a single genus of evil.

The act is judged grave when the act is entirely contrary to the good at stake.

A so-called white lie is not considered grave, because the lie involves an insignificant matter and the end is usually less to deceive as to hide.

An example is telling your loved one you like his or her new haircut when you really don't. The end is less to lead the person to a false impression and more to hide your subjective feelings.

A grave offense against truth might be providing false information to decision makers who will decide on whether to go to war because you desire the war no matter what the facts. Here, the end is direct deception over a grave matter.

For those who wish to call themselves "orthodox" and "conservative" and "obedient" children of the Holy See, the Vatican claims that she can assist you in determining grave and intrinsic evils through her authorative teaching.

If you accept this, it must be understood that two acts considered gravely and intrinsically evil against the same human good are equally evil.

Within a single class of offense, there is no degree of gravity. An offense against the procreative and unitive ends of human sexuality is either grave or it is not.

Offenses against chastity, even grave offenses, can never be more grave than offense against life.

Where we have degrees of gravity is not within a single classification of the type of evil based on the goods violated, but between two different types of evil or more than one good violated.

Some acts can offend against more than one human good. For example, adultery violates chastity and truth. Rape violates chastity and the dignity of the human person.

In such a case, the gravity of the act is determined by the greatest good offended, and the fact that multiple goods are violated.

Thus, because the dignity of the human person is considered a greater good than chastity, rape is worse than other sins that involve sex, and rape may also be worse than torture.

What does all of this mean?

The Vatican claims that homosexuality and masturbation are both intrinsic and grave violations of the procreative and unitive ends of sexuality.

Self-defined "conservative", "orthodox", or "loyal" American Roman Catholics seem to jump through all sorts of hoops trying to prove that homosexual acts are worse than masturbation according to the Vatican.

I don't think a single one of them will ever find the definitive text that proves this assertion, because it is simply wrong to believe that Rome teaches such a thing.

To the best of my knowledge, the Vatican holds that masturbation as an act apart from the person is equally evil with homosexual acts.

Nor does the Vatican say abortion is worse than waging an unjust war. Both are grave offenses against human life.

Nor does the Vatican teach that gay sex is on par or worse than either abortion or unjust wars.

This is not liberal clap.

We liberals make all sorts of arguments that neither masturbation nor homosexual acts should be called instrinsically evil and neither should be considered grave in every instance.

We say that sometimes masturbation or homosexual acts are not evil at all (i.e. - we think that there are instances where they express unitive love), while other times both are gravely evil. We say there are potential means to rank sins against the same good.

For this, we earn the label "relativists".

We know we are in disagreement with Rome.

But we also know what Rome says, and Rome does not say that masturbation is less gravely evil than homosexual acts.

Nor does she say homosexual acts are worse than artificial contraception, or fornication, or deliberate entertainment of lustful thoughts and viewing pornography for that matter - though most of us accept that there probably is some way to rank these.

Yet, according to the Vatican, all are grave and intrinsic offenses against chastity.

Since we all know that roughly 97-99 percent of men masturbate at some point in their lives, just about every male alive has done grave and intrinsic evil on par with homosexual acts according to the Vatican.

My basic point here is that when so-called "orthodox" or "conservative" or "loyal" or "obedient" Roman Catholics try to use the terms "grave and intrinsic evil" to mean "so really, really, really bad that only the worst sinner would consider doing it", they misuse Vatican terminology!

Just about everyone has performed a grave and intrinsically evil act in their lives according to the Vatican, and Pope Benedict would likely be the first to admit he has!

Nor is it useful or a correct way to use Vatican terminology to discriminate against persons with same sex attractions by focusing on how the Vatican says homosexual inclinations are "disordered".

Any desire to engage in a grave and intrinsic evil of any sort for any reason under any circumstances is considered a disordered desire by the Vatican - even if there is not actual sin involved due to circumstances mitigating culpability for sin.

We all are born with disordered desires - every last one of us. This is an effect of original sin called "concupiscience" by the Church.

The person with homosexual inclinations does not chose those inclinations any more than anyone chooses to be born in a condition where many of us have an inclination to masturbate on occasion.

Those who experience homosexual inclinations are not likely to find the temptation easier to resist than the temptation all of us have to any form of offense against chastity.

The Church also understands and accepts that a person is not any more likely to change the condition of having predominately or exclusively homosexual inclinations than a heterosexual person is likely to change his or her own inclinations.

Even if you accept the Vatican view that homosexual inclinations are disordered, they are no more disordered than any other inclination towards evil.

Being subject to temptation is not a sin (or Jesus would be a sinner, since he was tempted). Ten thousand temptations resisted do not make a single sin.

The inclination to homosexual activity is no more disordered than the inclination to masturbate.

In pastoral practice, it is true that the Church may have thought through more instances where culpability for sin in the act of masturbation is reduced than she has thought through for homosexual acts.

Culpability is reduced only by considering factors that effect freedom/consent, deliberation/intention, and knowledge. The person must be considered in concrete circumstances.

However, in the acts considered in general and abstract terms in themselves apart from the person performing them, masturbation and homosexual acts are equally grave and equally intrinsic evil offenses against chastity according to the Church.

If you do not believe masturbation and homosexual acts and contraception in a marriage are objectively the same when considering the acts apart from the person, you either misunderstand the Vatican, or are likely in dissent.


Rove Confirmed Plame at Least Indirectly

We still don't know all the details, so I make no judgment of the man or the legality of his acts. It does not look good though.


Been at Amy Wellborn's

I've been spending most of yeaterday and today responding in a thread at Amy Wellborn's entitled "Liberalism, yadda, yadda, yadda".

The original issue is whether so-called "conservative" or "orthodox" priests and seminarians live chastity any better than liberals. From there, we branched out into the nature of "grave and intrinsic evil" and why Thomas Aquinas seems to see sodomy as worse than rape.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Reader's Challenge to Simplicity

As you may have noticed yesterday and earlier today, I was challenged by a reader to state my ideas in 100 words or less.

Yesterday, I tackled my usual themes in exactly 100 words.

This morning, I posted 200 words summing up my whole faith.

Immediately below, I posted three words.

The Gospel in one word is love.

God is love (1 Jn 4:8 ).

Think of any person in your life who you believe loved you. God loves you more than that person loved you.

Think of any person in your life who you believe you have loved. God loves you more than you loved this person.

Even if you have never felt loved by another person, and never yet felt that you loved another person, you can begin to know God's love by simply deciding to love another and knowing that God loves you more than this.

Loving parents know that they love all of their children equally, yet as unique individuals.

So it is with God. God loves each one of us uniquely and all of us equally.

Saint Francis De Sales once said that God's love is like the rays of the sun. It shines on each person as though he or she alone were receiving it.

All of the commandments to love God or love our neighbor are rooted in the fact that God loves us first (see 1 Jn 4:19 ).

When I begin to perceive that the God who loves me so much also loves my enemy with a passion as great as His love for me, I must love my enemy.

How much does God love me?

God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that all who place faith in him may not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16 ).

The all powerful God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim 2:4 ).

What is Jesus?

He is true God and true man, which is to say that he is love incarnate. He is pure love lived out in human existence.

What happens to those who do not know Jesus Christ?

All people who love know Christ in some mysterious way, for Christ is love. All people who love belong in some mysterious way to the mystery of the Church as seen from a God's eye perspective.

Saint Augustine once said that morality can be summed up this way: love God and do whatever you want.

Of course, if you love God, you will want what God wants, and that's why the person who loves God can never go wrong even by following his or her every desire and whim.

Jesus said it as well with a little elaboration. He said that the entire law and prophets can be summarized in two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Elsewhere, he stated that the entire law and prophets can be summed up in the rule to treat others as you would want to be treated.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law affirm that the golden rule underlies each and every moral decision, no matter how great or small.

God is infinitely transcendent and infinitely immanent - both beyond all comprehension and closer to us than we are to ourselves.

God's love transcends human love. God's love is beyond human comprehension. If you think you understand it, whatever you understand is not God's love, because God's love is beyond understanding.

But in saying that God's love is beyond human love, we must be clear that it is not less than human love. Rather, it is greater than human love and includes all that we know in human love magnified by an infinite proportion.

What you cannot do another in love, God would never do.

What you would do for another in love, God would do better.

God's love is a merciful love. His mercy is infinite. His forgiveness knows no boundaries.

No single act by a human being can separate that person from the love of God.

God's love is also a just love. When siblings fight as children, a loving parent must sometimes intervene. Sin has consequences.

But God never holds a sin against us, and if we merely accept that He has forgiven a sin as He says He does, it is forgiven.

We are not saved by what we do. We are saved by the absolutely free gift of grace given to us in love. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics affirm that salvation is by grace alone.

Catholics believe that works flow from grace and inspire more grace in such a way that we insist that one is not saved by faith alone, but rather through grace alone by faith and works.

But our works, no matter how justly meritorious, are always produced by grace alone and by themselves, no work, no matter how great, can save a person. Grace alone is what saves.

And what is grace but an awarenes of God's love manifest as his very life being infused in our being?

By acting lovingly, we open our eyes to the grace that has already been given to us.

By acting lovingly, we actually begin to love, and when we love, we catch a glimpse of the nature of God - and we catch a glimpse of how much God loves us.

But even if we did no works of love, God still loves each one of us.

God loves each one of us into being.

In each and every second of our existence, God, who is "I Am Who Am" is willing us into existence out of His great love.

If you are aware of yourself as a living being, this is because God loves you.

We love others not to earn God's love or to earn salvation.

Rather, we love others to become aware of God's love, and in awareness of his love, we are saved.

And as our awareness of God's love increases, our desire to love God and others increases day by day so that are empowered to follow Saint Augustine's advice: love God and do whatever you want.

There is only one sin that is not forgiven, and that sin is not a single act, but is instead the sin of continually refusing to accept God's love: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

If you are reading this today, consider the possibility that the Creator of the universe who sustains your very existence in this very moment has lead you to this site today for the sole purpose that She is trying to tell you once again: "I love you!"

One thousand, one hundred and forty eight words to say it, but the Gospel in one word is love!


Three Words:



Prostitution a Form of Slavery

Prostitution is "a form of modern day slavery," says the text of [a recent Vatican] document. In fact, "sexual exploitation, prostitution and trafficking of human beings are all acts of violence against women." As such they "constitute an offence to the dignity of women and are a grave violation of basic human rights."

"The Church has a pastoral responsibility," the document continues, "to promote the human dignity of persons exploited through prostitution and to advocate for their liberation and economic, educational and formative support. The Church must take up the defense of the legitimate rights of women," and "denounce the injustices and violence perpetrated against women wherever and in whatever circumstances this may occur."
I'd bet this would be a cause where women priests could be highly effective if the Church would honor the right she teaches women have to the same "states of life" as men (GS 29).


Abu Ghraib Tactics First Used at Gitmo

The abuses at Abu Ghraib were first used at Guatanamo Bay with Donald Rumsfeld's approval.


Is Freedom of Speech in Jeopardy

Though she is no fan of the Bush Adminstration, Sister Joan Chittister is worried about the way the courts have tried to force reporters to reveal sources to uncover how Valarie Plame's name was revealed.


Two Hundred Words

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Be baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit. Do not worship idols. Do not take the Lord's name in vain. Honor the Sabbath. Honor your parents. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet your neighbor's belongings. Do not covet your neighbor's spouse. Receive the Eucharist. Confess your sins. Be confirmed. Follow the marriage laws of the Church. Consider a calling to ordained ministry. Seek anointing when seriously ill. Give a tithe to charity. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Heal the sick. Free the prisoner. Bury the dead. Instruct the ignorant. Counsel those in doubt. Admonish the sinner honestly with gentleness and respect. Bear wrongs patiently. Forgive sinners. Comfort those in sorrow or morning. Pray for the living and the dead. Fast during Lent. Support the missionary activity of the Church. Accept the Nicene creed. Think critically. Pray without ceasing.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Differences Between Girls and Boys

This is an interesting article on cognitive differences generally found between pre-pubescent boys and girls. It was posted at EWTN.

It may surprise some readers who know I favor women's ordination that I would post this.

It shouldn't surprise anyone.

If Pope John Paul II was correct that men and women form some sort of "complementary" relationship (generally speaking), the very meaning of the term is that our differences complete one another.

Thus, an all male celibate priesthood is an incomplete priesthood.


Church of England Clears Way for Women Bishops

Despite ecumenical concerns with the Church of Rome, the Church of England voted to allow women bishops.


The Demise of the All-Volunteer Army

In the feature article of Commonweal, Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, points out how the decision to go to war in Iraq was undemocratic, and because of this, the all volunteer army is unraveling.

In a nut-shell, the American people - particularly minorites - are demonstrating their opinion about the war with their feet: refusing to join the armed forces in sufficient numbers to continue the war in Iraq.

Furthermore, the growing unpopularity of the war makes discussion of a draft politically unfeasible, according to Bacevich.

Should a draft ever be implemented anyway, I have two words for young Catholics who understand the Church's just war doctrine: concientious objection.


Chief Justice Rehnquist in Hospital

Yesterday, Laura Bush made it known that she hopes her husband will appoint a woman to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

It looks probable that Bush will get a chance to name at least two Justices.

Commonweal makes some predictions before Rehnquist's hospitilization.


Former World-Com CEO Gets 25 Years

Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years on nine counts of conspiracy, false statements and securities fraud that lead to the collapse of the tele-com giant.


Heated Debate at Commonweal

In the "Short Take" piece in the June 17th issue of Commonweal, a theology doctoral candidate, William Woods, took issue with a speech by his emminence, Francis Cardinal George.

Cardinal George fires back with two supporters also writing that Woods misunderstood the Cardinal.

In turn, Woods, who taped the Cardinal's speech, and another conference attendee say that if the Cardinal did not mean what Woods originally stated, the Cardinal's word choice certainly lent itself to the original conclusions.


One Hundred Words

A reader's request: my ideas in one hundred words.

It is evil to initiate a war.

We can end dire poverty.

Ratzinger stated that OS is not a solemn definition. Scripture and Tradition support women's ordination.

The same principles underlying NFP and infertile marriages apply to the questions of contraception and gay unions.

Vocations to celibacy and priesthood are two separate callings. Christ ordained married men. We could too.

The Church should be as accountable to civil law in matters of sex and finance as secular institutions.

President Bush is either a liar, an idiot, or both.


GOP Takes Offense to Defend Rove

The Washington Post reports that talking points distributed in the RNC indicate that Republican strategy is to attack Democrats for questioning whether Karl Rove illegally leaked the name of a CIA agent to a reporter.

The talking points also advise that the idea is to deflect attention from what Rove may have done until the Supreme Court nomination and other news drowns out the allegations against Rove.

Personally, I don't care what the Democrats or the Republicans say about Rove. All I want to know is one thing: did he leak the name of a CIA agent or not.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pope Benedict on Making Poverty History

Among many things in John Allen's weekly Word From Rome was Pope Benedict's message to the 200,000 people who gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland prior to the G-8 summit demanding justice for the world's poor:

The Holy Father was pleased to be informed of the Make Poverty History rally beginning on Saturday 2 July in Edinburgh in preparation for the G8 summit. He sends greetings to all who are gathered for this event, united by their concern for the welfare of millions of our brothers and sisters afflicted by extreme poverty. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, 'God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of everyone and of all peoples; so that the good things of creation should be available equally to all' (Gaudium et Spes, 69). For this reason, people from the world's richest countries should be prepared to accept the burden of debt reduction for heavily indebted poor countries, and should urge their leaders to fulfill the pledges made to reduce world poverty, especially in Africa, by the year 2015. His Holiness prays for the participants in the rally and for the world leaders soon to gather at Gleneagles, that they may all play their part in ensuring a more just distribution of the world's goods. In the ardent hope that the scourge of global poverty may one day be consigned to history, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.
Amen Papa Ratzi!


NCR Editorial: Reticent Bishops Shift Away From Wider World

NCR is appreciative of the explanation given by two American Archbishops Wilton Gregory and Joseph Fiorenza for the bishop conferences inward focus over recent years.

This is compared to the outward focus of past decades where the bishops spoke out on peace and economic justice.

While NCR winds up a bit critical of the "reticence" of today's conference to address the world, I'm not sure that an inward focus is not needed.

The bishops have lost a great deal of credibility due to the sex abuse crisis, and maybe they need to clean the inside of the house before heading out to the world to tell others how to clean house.


Slow Blogging

I've had a lot going on in the real world outside of cyberspace over the past couple of weeks. You may have noticed a few skipped days, or days when I posted nothing until rather late in the day. I've just got too much going on right now.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Holy Fool Uses The Mission to Examine my Position

After an admittedly inflamatory post on July 7 (immediately below), a Catholic blogger going by "Holy Fool" examines my position on the war in Iraq.

My position is juxtaposed against the position of a couple of other Catholic bloggers.

Holy Fool concludes that though he did not really like my rhetoric, I am like the character played by Jeremy Irons in The Mission, Father Gabriel, who is the foil to Robert De Niro's Father Mendoza.

Holy Fool offers a "spoiler alert", so let me warn as well that I will try not to give away the whole movie, you may want to see it first before reading further.

To start, let me say that I'm quite flattered that despite the dislike for my tone in my post, Holy Fool would compare my ideology to that the character played by Irons (Fr. Gabriel) in The Mission.

It's one of my favorite movies, and I am powerfully inspired by the character portrayal - the character who most closely resembles my own way of thinking.

If you see that character as respresenting me in some way, you have pretty good grasp of my basic orientation on issues of war and peace and how the Gospel should be lived in its ideal purity.

But there is a subtle difference between Father Gabriel and I that is very important.

That difference is that I think Father Mendoza (De Niro) acted justly - and therefore did nothing immoral, where Irons character seems to think Mendoza has chosen an almost sinful path making him unworthy of the Jesuits.

Mendoza may not have chosen the most effective path or the one that shows the highest level of virtue (a heroic virtue), but Mendoza chose a path that is still virtuous and effective nonetheless.

I do believe in just war doctrine.

In fact, given that the movie was probably more about liberation theology than our current situation, I saw both Father Mendoza and Father Gabriel as representatives of the authentic Catholic stance on the meaning of "integral salvation".

Indeed, one of the issues of liberation theology where Pope Benedict and I might disagree is that he too sides with Father Gabriel, and condemns Father Mendoza - where I see Mendoza as meeting the minimum requirements of justice, and Gabriel as embracing the higher ideal with heroic virtue.

As in the movie, the Vatican historically seems to support just war doctrine when a powerful Catholic nation uses it, but then sort of turns its gaze from instances where powerful Catholics with wealth are ignoring just war doctrine - and then condemns "insurgents" who may actually be fighting a just war for a just cause against that Catholic power.

Where I take issue with the war in Iraq is that it fails each and every single criteria of just war doctrine ever developed in Roman Catholic doctrine and theology - every last one down to the last jot and tiddle.

This is not Father Mendoza's position.

There is not a single Catholic thinker I have read who has offered a single criteria that is based on the tradition explaining why the invasion of Iraq is not an unjust war.

Oh. I've read justifications (or rationalizations) for the war written by Roman Catholics. But every one of them run the line of "The teaching is not infallible. The decision belongs to the state, not the Church. September 11 changed everything so that we now know the tradition was wrong."

If these people are correct, the same line of reasoning they use to rationalize violence against Iraq could have been used by Saddam Hussein in his attacks on the Kurds.

This is so different from the way I frame my questions that earn the label of "dissenter". Where I "dissent" or "withhold assent" is where I see a direct contradiction between two principles of Catholic doctrine on a contemporary issue.

For example, the Church teaches as doctrinal principles that "unitive love" and "procreation" render conjugal acts morally licit.

Further, she argues that "unitive love" alone renders conjugal acts between infertile heterosexuals or heterosexuals practicing NFP morally licit.

I simply ask why that same principle (unitive love) is not applied to contraception and monogamous gay sex.

What principle renders initiating war against a nation that has not attacked you morally licit?

The best the apologists for war can do is obfiscate the issue by claiming the government holds some sort of mystical insight into what constitutes "prudential judgment".

But let's return to the movie to clarify what I mean...

In the movie, Father Mendoza is leading the Native Americans in a clear defense against an unjust aggressor and Mendoza's troops are using proportional force targetted solely at combatants for a just cause and they employ just means of warfare, willing to lay down their lives for a higher cause.

So, why don't I say this about Bush and Blair?

Because if we are going to use The Mission as our metaphor, Bush and Blair do not represent either Father Gabriel or Father Mendoza.

Instead, Bush and Blair are the Spanish army that kills both priests and the Native Americans that both priests have come to love!

Bush and Blair represent imperial power inventing rationalizations for war that has financial benefits to the colonialists.

Bush and Blair ordered the murder of innocent Arabs.

By "innocent", I do not mean "sinless" (none of us are sinless).

Rather, I mean innocent of doing anything that morally justifies a military strike against them.

Iraq did not attack either the U.S. or Britain or any of our allies.

Iraq was not involved in 9/11, and there was no evidence that would hold up in court at any time prior to war that they were involved in 9/11.

Iraq did not even declare war on us.

Iraq possessed no WMDs and had allowed the UN inspectors back in and the inspectors found no evidence of WMDs prior to the war.

The invasion was rationalized publicly on a single ground: pre-emption.

The war was rationalized "behind the scenes" but in documents that are publicly available on the grounds of controling oil supplies.

Even the notion of pre-emption is not a justification for initiating war, as the man now known as Pope Benedict clearly stated prior to the war.

Father Mendoza did not lead the Native Americans to attack the European colonies already formed in South America nor did he build a ship to bring his young warriors to Spain to change the Spanish regime.

Father Mendoza trained men to defend themselves when unjust agressors come to them!

I am not opposed to America or Great Britain defending themselves. I am opposed to invading nations that have not attacked us!

This is another point where the movie, The Mission would not quite capture my world-view even in the character of Father Gabriel. The Native Americans in the movie are over-idealized.

In my world view, even if the Native Americans were the type of tribe practicing human sacrifice, Father Gabriel's approach would be ideal.

Father Mendoza's approach would be "just" and the Spanish army would be commiting a gravely and intrinsically evil act of aggression.

In a like manner, despite Saddam's evil, nothing justifies invading Iraq unilaterally.

If regime change is ever a morally licit act, the proper authority to declare such a war would be an international body.

One nation initiating war against another is always and everywhere wrong.

In other words, I do not need to say the Native Americans were pure to say the Spanish were committing an evil act in the movie - though the movie portrays this sort of image for effect.

Stalin's regime remained evil even while the Russians fought with the allies in the war against Hitler. Yet, the Russians had every right to defend themselves against Nazi aggression.

Hitler's ideology remained evil even though he opposed the atrocities of Stalin's communism. Yet, he had no right to invade Russia.

In the movie, Father Mendoza would have been right to side with the Native Americans against the Spanish for the mere fact that the Spanish acted as unjust aggressors.

The initiator of war is always wrong: plain and simple.

To initiate a war is to commit a terrorist act: plain and simple.

Terrorism is never justified, even in retaliation for prior terrorism: plain and simple.

Having stated that terrorism does not morally justify retalitory terrorism, it is a simple observation of human nature that terrorism causes retalitory terrorism.

We invaded Iraq, right or wrong, in retaliation for 9/11: or at least that's what the American people believed at the time, whether Bush thought so or not.

September 11 was retaliation for American troop presence in the middle east since the first Gulf War and American support for Israeli aggression.

Israeli aggression was retaliation for Arab aggression which was retaliation for British aggression that gave the land to the Israelis.

The American troop presence in Saudi Arabia was retaliation against Iraq for its aggression against Kuwait in retaliation for Kuwait's aggression against Iraq who was propped up by America against the Soviets who were aggressors against the Afghanis who were also helped by the Americans until the Soviets fell apart, etc...

The war in Iraq is, as I stated the other day, the reaping of a harvest of seeds sown decades and even centuries ago.

And with each act of violence, we sow more seeds for future generations.

In the end, the Spanish and the British learned that global imperialism and colonialism cannot be maintained and did more harm than good not only to the people of foreign nations, but to their own homelands as well.

America is repeating the same mistake, and Great Britain seems to have forgotten what it had learned the last time it tried to set up empire in the middle east.

Violence always begets violence and always involves some degree of evil, and should be avoided until there is absolutely positively no other option.

In order for violence to shift from being unjust to just, it absolutely must be the very last resort against an attack already underway. Otherwise, you sow the seeds for more violence.

Prior to the just use of force, every non-violent means must be used to achieve the good.

In the case of Iraq, the UN weapons inspections were working to contain Iraq.

In the case of Osama Bin Laden, which had nothing to do with Iraq, an attack was mounted and we were right to defend ourselves by asking Afghanistan to hand him over.

When the Taliban government refused to hand Bin Laden over and refused to allow law enforcement into the country, we used force "justly" to enter the nation and find Bin Laden. I never criticized the war in Afghanistan in the beginning.

However, a just war with Afghanistan would have been one that used the minimum force necessary to get in and capture Osama Bin Laden alive as quickly as possible.

I wrote the other day that we could have and should have done things differently, and I could go on about our mistakes.

But what should we do now?

I think the United States and Great Britain owe the world and the Iraqi people a huge apology and restitution.

I think we need to beg the United Nations for forgiveness and help.

Whether we get help or not, I think the Iraqi people should be empowered to set very clear benchmarks whereby they can demonstrate that they are ready for us to withdraw.

Our goal needs to be complete withdrawal as soon as the Iraqi people say they are ready for us to withdraw.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Confession

As a child, I was very small for my age, and even at 40 years old, I am a 5'6" male who might weigh 140 pounds soaking wet. I was also nearsighted, not very well coordinated, and somewhat shy.

I was bullied quite a bit, which gives me a great sensitivity to injustice and empathy for victims of injustice.

Non-cambatants should never be intentionally killed. Intentionally targetting civilians even in times of a just war is an intrinsically evil act.

I feel very strongly for the innocent people in London who died today.

Terrorism is immoral and forbidden by Allah - never being considered moral in his eyes no matter what your intentions or the desired end of what you aim to achieve.

If Mohamed himself claimed that the angel Gabriel delivered a message to kill non-combatants, the very claim would prove beyond doubt that Mohamed was a false prophet.

The voice that whispers in the conscience of some human beings telling him or her to kill a civilian is no other voice than Satan - always and everywhere.

Anyone who says differently is certifiably insane or following the voice of a demon, plain and simple.

Furthermore, suicide is an intrinsically evil act. No war can be called just unless declared by a proper authority. Just means must be used in waging war.

Terrorists are not religious people. They are not Muslims, because the meaning of the word "Muslim" is one who submits to Allah, and Allah asbolutely forbids the killing of innocent people. Period.

I am sensitive to the feelings of the victims of violent terrorists.

I cannot say anything strong enough to condemn how gravely evil and unjust and immoral it is to ever commit any sort of terrorism.

Even venegeance against a true injustice does not justify terrorism.

The willingness to lay down your own life does not justify terrorism.

Nothing - absolutely nothing - can ever justify terrorism under any circumstances.

Terrorists are people who chose to act immorally and criminally. Though they sometimes claim religiousity, they are truly irreligious people lacking true spiritual insight. They are psycologically immature. Their acts are purely evil.

Terrorism is dishonorable and shameful.

I am angered and saddened by the acts of terrorism in London. I grieve for the families of the victims. I am pained even imagining the physical pain of the survivors. I am outraged by the injustice. I wish something I could say could mean anything valuable to the victims and their families, and all I have to offer is prayer.


Here's the confession,...

There is another side of me that I confess is ,..., dare I say it ,..., gloating?

I confess that while I wish no violence or destruction or chaos on anyone, I have been saying for the last two and a half years that the war in Iraq will not make us safe.

I am not gloating in the death of innocents, which is truly a tragedy. I would never commit an act of terrorism, never approve of it, never encourage it, and never wish it to happen.

But there is a sort of satisfaction that comes from saying "I told you so" even when it is a tragedy that prompts saying it.

We are not safe from terrorism. We are not safe in London. We are not safe in New York. We are not safe in Washington, DC or Pennsylvania. We are not safe in Madrid, Jerusalem, Moscow, or Fallujah.

We are not only not safe, but we live in graver danger today than we did 1396 days ago, which was September 10, 2001.

We live in gaver danger today than we did then because of a Biblical promise: you will reap as you sow.

By invading Iraq in a terrorist act of unilateral pre-emption, the United States and Great Britain have sown the seeds of terror for years to come.

Oh, those other terrorists will get their come-upance as well. What goes around comes around and Osama Bin Laden will receive a hard slap in the face from karma. That's an absolute certainty.

Even if Osama and George W. decide to reconcile and become love buddies, and truly repent of their respective acts of terrorism, and get themselves right with God, they may side-step the eternal consequences of sin, but even repentant sinners suffer temporal consequences of sin.

The war in Iraq is an evil and immoral and unjust and illegal act of blatant terrorism.

By waging it, Bush and Blair have unleashed a Pandora's box.

What happened today in London is a tragedy, and not a single civilian killed "deserved" to die. The terrorists will suffer consequences for what they did and there is absolutely no chance they will ultimately succeed.

But, the same is true for the American and British venture in Iraq. There is absolutely chance it will succeed - either at making the middle east a stable and peaceful democracy, or at preventing terrorism.

Terrorism and insurgency will continue until we in the West get it through our thick and stubborn skulls and our stoney hearts that Jesus meant exactly what he said: if you live by the sword, you will die by it!

Terrorism will not defeat terrorism, and every aspect of the war in Iraq is an act of terrorism.

I am pained for the victims of injustice in London, and equally pained for the women and children of Iraq who suffer and die daily because of our aggression. Their blood cries to heaven for justice!

There were injustices of the West against Arabs before 9/11 as well, from the crusades through British colonialism to the era when Bin Laden was trained by the CIA while Saddam Hussein was propped up by America.

The chickens have come home to roost.

If you want to be safer today than you were 1395 days ago (9/11) or safer than you were this morning, the way to be safer is to follow the Master's lead:

Be humble,...,pray,...,turn the other cheek,...,give generously,...,forgive those who persecute you,...,bless your enemies,...,be contrite and seek reconciliation,...,love your enemy!

This is not just pious platitude. It is the only true way to lasting peace, and I get this information from no other person than God in the flesh!

How do we make these ideals into policy?

It isn't through shock and awe tactics used in a war of agression leading to Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.

It isn't by thumbing our noses at the United Nations and ignoring international law.

It isn't by ignoring 2,000 years of just war tradition.

It isn't by making military spending on unjust wars a higher priority than giving a measly 0.7 percent of our GNP to ending poverty in our life-times.

It isn't by reinforcing unjust economic relations with developing nations such as exhorbitant debt and unfair tarriff laws.

And it isn't by ignoring the effectiveness of non-violent resistance to evil or bypassing diplomacy or attacking people who weren't involved in the terrorism we claim we want to stop.

We could have and should have done may things differently, and the damage has already now been sown.

To fix this mess, every single individual in the West and in the Middle East must undergo a conversion.

This conversion starts with me and you - the reader. We cannot wait for others to convert first. Peace and security will not be achieved by waiting for someone else to take the first step.

If the human ingenuity that went into the creation of bunker busting nuclear smart bomb or devising a plan to fly commercial planes into a skyscraper were channeled to creating ways of relating peacefully, we could win the war on terror.

Until we do, none of us are safe from each other, and neither Al Queda nor the English speaking world will win.

The so-called war on terror is a lose-lose proposition. Bush's stratgy against terrorism is nothing but mutual assured destruction. There can be no good outcome to it.

That's a certainty that comes from Allah!


Ed Deluzain Blogs From London

Fellow liberal Catholic blogger, Ed Deluzain, and his wife are fine, and just arrived in London yesterday.


Death Toll Reaches 37 due to London Blasts

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. May perpetual light shine upon them, and may they rest in peace. Grant comfort to their families and the nation of Great Britain and reveal your loving mercy that turns our hearts from sin to those who would kill civilians.

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.


Violence Against Women Examined

Pat Morrison takes a look at global violence against women - particularly cases where a woman makes an accusation of rape in a society that punishes her for making the claim.


Joe Feuerherd on CAFTA

Feuerherd tries to be fair to both sides of the debate, but I've already written my respresentatives against CAFTA.