Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Possible Thousands Die in Storm

The hurricane that swept through the south this week may have killed thousands. Please pray for and give support to the victims of the storm.


A New Father Imagining God the Father

As frequent readers know, my wife and I had our first born child ten months ago - the most beautiful creature God ever made!

She has six teeth now, and, like most babies, loves to test those teeth out by biting everything she can.

When I get home from work, I love to gently toss her on the bed and smother her with eskimo kisses while she giggles with glee.

..., except that now she is starting to bite my nose!

When a baby bites your nose, you can't really get mad. She doesn't know what she is doing. You don't want to spoil her joy - the gleeful giggling.

Her teeth are not big enough and her jaw is not strong enough to cause any "real" damage....

..., but a bite on the nose hurts like hell, even when inflicted by a ten month old.

I'm thinking that our relationship with God is that of infants to a loving father (or mother).

Even a ninety year old man is a mere infant compared to God.

Heck, even if the Virgin Mother has literally been in heaven for 2,000 earth years in the same sort of time and space continuum we experience here on earth, she is a mere babe compared to God.

I don't want to imply that my daughter is at moral fault for biting me on the nose, because she obviously commits no sin when she has no understanding whatsoever what she is doing or the pain she is causing.

Yet, those bites hurt.

I carefully try to extract my nose and distract her from her desire to chomp on my nose, and sometimes she gets a little upset.

The nose is simply such an enticing object to munch upon.

I think actual sin is somewhat like this. When we sin, we bite God on the nose. It hurts God.

Jesus said, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." We are infants who do not know the pain we cause God sometimes when we sin.

This doesn't mean that God suffers any permanent damage, nor that she is angry with us, nor that we are not forgiven - perhaps even before we do it.

God is not seeking that we dwell in feelings of sorrow, guilt, shame and other bad feelings so much as simply wishing that we developed a little empathy for his pain and stopped that particular behavior.

But it hurts, and push come to shove, God doesn't want to be bit.

And when we give God thanks and praise for the good things in life, it is not that she "needs" this in the manner that the body needs food to survive.

But some thanks and praise to God is like a parent seeing your baby giggle with glee. It brings joy to the heart beyond my needs and beyond my wildest expectations.

When I get home tonight, I will gently toss my daughter on the bed again and smother her with eskimo kisses, and maybe she is going to bite me on the nose again. The giggles are worth it.

But I still hope she won't bite me.


NCR Profiles Rick Santorum

Santorum has new book entitled, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good.

The upcoming Senatorial challenge by pro-life Democrat, Robert Casey, could be his toughest political battle yet.

Joe Feuerherd decided to spend some time with Rick Santorum.

The article is interesting, if maddening at times.

There are actually quite a few points Santorum makes where I would agree with his philosophical principles, but don't quite follow the application.

There are some policies he supports that I take no issue with, and others where I would see an alternate possibility, but that is not what I find meddening.

What is "maddenning" is certain glib statements that need elaborated and the way he forces a false dichotomy and makes certain assertions about "liberals" that don't quite ring true.

Here's a primary example of a glib statement needing some elaboration: "[Liberals define liberty as] the freedom to do whatever you desire, as long as nobody gets hurt,..."

It seems to me that's pretty much how Saint Thomas Aquinas defines the role of the state in limitting or protecting freedom too!

Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like. (Summa)
Further, paragraph 1738 clearly indicates that freedom, especially in regards to moral and religious matters, is an inalienable right of the human person which the state must safeguard.

Likewise, paragraph 1789 of the CCC states that the golden rule applies to all moral decision making, and therefore, if you cannot demonstrate how an act harms another, it is difficult to make a moral argument that a law is morally required.

Santorum argues that states should have the right to ban contraception if the community desires this.

I'm not entirely sure I don't disagree as long we apply subsidiarity and leave this type of law to the smallest body of government necessary.

But when it comes to legislating morality at the national level, as Santorum seems to imply regarding marriage and some other issues, we need to be careful.

A Jewish majority has no right to force others to receive circumcision and eat kosher.

Catholics have no right to force Jews to eat pork and attend Catechism classes (as the Spanish Catholics did a few centuries back).

My basic point is that Santorum's glib reference to freedom being defined as doing whatever you want so long as you don't hurt anyone definitely needs elaboration, because there is nothing wrong with defining political or civic freedom this way - either according to the Church or the Constitution of the United States.

It is true that religiously, we believe a kind of freedom is achieved by acting morally that is not achieved by acting immorally. Our freedom is realized in obedience to God.

Civil law should be based on natural law, which is less restrictive than divine law.

Divine law includes natural law, but not vice-a-versa.

Civil law does need to be limitted to demonstrable promotion of the common good and prohibitions against demonstrable direct harm to others.

When we start legislating beyond this, even with religious motivation, we are treading on very thin ice.

Santorum paints the picture that liberals are consciously out to destroy the very notion of the institution of family.

This is not my experience of what most liberals think or feel.

The issue is not whether marriage and family can be good and wonderful things that society should help promote.

The issue is whether every single individual is called to marriage.

As Catholics, we know that not everyone is called to marriage. Priests and nuns do not marry, and we believe that some people are called to the blessed single life.

Further, the Church does not teach that gays and lesbians are called to enter into heterosexual marriages.

Nor does she even forbid gays and lesbians living together and receiving legal benefits available to other non-married domestic arrangements.

She even acknowledges that their condition is not a choice, the inclination is not a sin, and she forbids unjust discrimination against gays and lesbians.

It is true that the Church does not support gay marriages or gay civil unions that function as a marriage, per se, and people like myself ask why this should be the case when no harm is done to anyone through such arrangements.

Theologically, we also wonder how monogamous gay love is different from a marriage between infertile heterosexuals.

But I digress a bit.

Santorum seems to imply that if you would want the law to aknowledge these "exceptional cases", you are out to destroy marriage.

That's no more true than arguing that if I own a desk manufacturing company that makes a small subset of desks for left handed students, I am out to force right-handers to write with their left hand.

It's no more true than saying that if I believe buildings should access ramps for people in wheelchairs, I must be opposed to people walking on both feet.

Another thing Santorum says that I find maddenning is the constant theme that those who seek to change social structures are some sort of "elite" pulling strings from positions of power.

I grew up in a home that would not be considered anything but working class, in a small town in Ohio, the oldest of nine children. My upbringing was "red-neck".

My wife grew up part of her life in a village in Africa without water or electricity.

We live in a small townhouse and drive cars over ten years old, and work regular people's jobs.

The union workers of yesterday who were the back-bone of the Democratic party were not "elites".

There are no statistics that would support the contention that Blacks are "elites" with power.

Gays and lesbians do not become homosexual only when they go to graduate school. They are just as likely to have grown up right next door to red state red-necks as I did.

The women concerned for equity that flock to the Democratic or liberal polical leaders are not the "elite".

On the flip side, the wealthy millionaires and billionaires who support the Republican party and own our media outlets are "elites" by anyone's definition.

Santorum raises some valid concerns about the way privacy is being interpreted in the courts, and perhaps even some valid concerns about judges abusing their authority to "legislate fromt he bench".

But that criticism can play both ways in my mind.

Like Santorum and his opponent, Casey, I am pro-life, and I've written many times that I would prefer the abortion issue were settled legislatively through an amendment, rather than the courts.

Finally, despite the fact that Santorum says he is now seeking common ground, he insist there is a cultural war. If you want to find common ground, don't start from the position that we are at war.


NCR Minces No Words Over Robertson

According to National Catholic Reporter, Pat Robertson is a charlatan, a snake oil salesman, a huckster, a carny barker, and a self-absorbed idolater, who is exegetically silly in Biblical interpretation, and overall, reckless and irresponsible not only in recent calls to assassinate an elected world leader, but throughout his entire career.

NCR points out that Catholics have historically given Robertson some respect, even inviting him to meet with the Pope or supporting him at the 1988 Republican convention.

The editorial calls upon the religious right, and particularly Catholics who associate themselves with the religious right, to marginalize Robertson once and for all.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Is Assassination EVER Moral

Lynn, who leans strongly towards non-violence from the Friend's (Quaker) tradition, examines Father Jim Tucker and others on the issue of whether assassination can ever be a moral choice.

She concludes that if there is such a thing as a just war, Father Jim is correct that assassination could meet jus en bello criteria under very strict conditions.

Father Jim's criteria for when and how the United States might use this tactic are extremely rigorous - perhaps leading to a practical impossibility of such a thing occurring.

Indeed, he juxtaposes his position against William F. Buckley, who is far more casual about not only using assassination, but makes a claim that the government has a responsibility to deny involvement!

Nevertheless, in the abstract, Father Jim argues it is a possibility that assassination may be moral in certain strict instances.

Thinking about it all from the standpoint of Catholic just-war doctrine, if jus ad bellum exists, then a foreign dictator as principal belligerent would be a legitimate military target. If the only way to remove him is to kill him, then the jus in bello considerations of proportionality seem to indicate that assassination of him alone would be more ethical than waging war against his armies in the conventional manner. This would all fall under the notion of self-defense. Have I missed something in the traditional calculus?
The basic argument is continued in other posts that once a just war is formally declared, if the proper authority (Congress in the case of the U.S.) were to prudentially decide that assassinating a dictator would secure peace with less proportionate damage than conventional warfare, and killing the leader is the only way to stop him, assassination is a just means of waging jus en bello.

Is this a morally correct view?

I did a quick word search through several of John Paul's encyclicals and some sections of the CCC trying to find any specific reference to assassination, and I cannot find anything.

Father Jim's succinct argument does make a kind of logical sense to me, but I am uncomfortable with it.

At the same time, I'm sure that my own discomfort would cause others discomfort - especially if we consider what benefits might have occurred if Adolph Hitler were assassinated in about 1939 by the Polish government.

Yet, Hitler is powerless without Eichman, Himmler and Mengele.

Generally, I think assassination is typically avoided out of a sort of pact among world leaders: I won't directly shoot you if you don't directly shoot me, but if our people fight, so be it.

In some cases, it may simply be hard to get at a leader. We had a heck of a time even finding Saddam, and getting at G.W. would be no easy feat with the intense security around him.

But neither the difficulty, nor a sort of pact is moral thinking at its best.

I am uncomfortable with the notion that it is ever morally licit to assassinate a world leader.

I understand the feelings of those who do not share my discomfort, because some leaders do some very bad things that rightly elicit anger or fear in all of us.

Father Jim's logic of the proportionate harm of conventional warfare makes a certain rational sense.

But something doesn't smell right to me in his reasoning, and I cannot quite figure out what it is in any way I can back with explicit and clear Church teaching.

Of course, I lean towards active non-violent conflict resolution and active non-violent resistance to evil, and hold very strict and rigorous standards to any application of just war doctrine.

Maybe my bias is simply a knee-jerk reaction of a liberal peace-nik.

On the flip side, I think that what is causing my discomfort is the notion of labeling a specific human person as "a military target".

Saddam Hussein, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Osma Bin Laden are human persons, not objects, as implied by a term like "military target".

All of these names are names of human persons: Yasir Arafat, Kim Jong Il, Ariel Sharon, Adolf Hitler, Adolph Eichmann, Benito Mussolini, Muammar al-Qaddafi, Pervez Musharraf, Ayatolla Khomeini, Crown Prince Abdullah, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Leonid Brezhnev, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Dong, Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic, Papa Doc Duvalier, Attila the Hun, Ghengis Khan, Ivan the Terrible, Fidel Castro, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroder, or George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

None of these men have power except that power is given to them by others.

I am not one of those crying out for the release of Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic from prison. They pose a threat to global security and should remain restrained until they die for the safety of all of us.

Hopefully, during his confinement, Hussein will come to know the love God, and maybe even explicitly embrace Jesus Christ, and be saved.

People die in war, and combatants are particularly "targeted" in a certain sense.

But are people targeted as individual persons?

That's the issue I am struggling to articulate. There is a difference between fighting an evil force - the Nazis or the communist or the terrorists - and fighting individual human persons.

The difference is subtle, because the power of evil is manifest in the actions of flesh and blood people doing evil.

But such persons never lose their humanity in the act of evil. The goal of a just war is to stop the evil acts, not to obliterate human persons.

When my grandpa Cecil spoke of his experience in WWII fighting the Japanese, he did not "target" anyone.

He lied on his back in the Philippine jungle behind a tree and with a piece of shrapnel in his foot. He held his rifle about a foot above his body propped up over the tree and just kept pulling the trigger praying it would all end soon.

He wasn't aiming at anyone. He couldn't even see what he was shooting.

That was what we call the "great generation" these days, and nobody doubts they helped save democracy and the American way of life.

Few of us question whether WWII was a just war, though a few question whether every single allied tactic was jus en bello.

But I digress.

My point is that war is sort of messy and people die, and when and if there ever is such a thing as a just war, we must have just cause and it is tragic and we try to minimize the damage and fight with jus en bello.

But there is something I find repugnant in the notion of deliberately targeting an individual human person, even in a just war, and even when the person has done the gravest of evil acts.

Arrest a world leader? I could go along with this.

Kill a world leader in the process of trying to arrest him? If done in self defense, that could be legit.

Kill a world leader unintentionally as collateral damage during a just war? Sure.

But intentionally assassinate a world leader? It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


This is Surprising

I ran across this ideology selector at Elena's who got it from Fr. Jim Tucker's.

1. Liberal
2. Radical
3. Third Way
4. Neoconservative
5. Centrist
6. Conservative
7. Libertarian
8. Left-libertarian
9. Paleoconservative
10. Paleo-libertarian

I'm not surprised that I come out a liberal and a radical who thinks "third way". What surprises me is that I am coming out "neoconservative" at number four.

I suspect that the questions triggering this were on abortion, the illegality of cocaine, regulating gambling, and regulating obscene material.


New Studies Continue to Compare Scandanavia and U.S. on Marriage

I read this EWTN article with interest due to prior debates, particularly with Elena, regarding the reasons that Scandanavia has such dismall marriage statistics.

The article does not suggest, as Elena maintains, that the institution of marriage in Scandanavia has fallen apart due to contraception and gay marriage.

Interestingly, it is more difficult to divorce in Scandanavia than in the United States. It is also harder to obtain an abortion (that's right - liberal Sweden is more pro-life than religious America). Likewise, Sweden has stricter regulations on IVF.

So, why does marriage fare so poorly in Scadanavia compared to the United States?

EWTN points out that religion is weak in Scandanavia, and this may be a contributing factor.

Yet, the most obvious difference is that there is absolutely no financial advantage to being married in Sweden, and absolutely no financial disadvantage to self or children to being separated.

It seems to me that if Americans are serious about saving the institution of marriage, we need to look at the economic strains on marriages, and ensure that there is a clear economic advantage to being and staying married.


Give the Trads What They Want!

Pope Benedict XVI met on Monday with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the Society of St. Pius X, for talks aimed toward reconciliation between the Holy See and the traditionalist group.
Fellay made two requests:

1) Rescind the excommunications of 1988 for himself and other bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, and

2) Grant a universal indult permitting every priest to say the Tridentine Rite Mass.

So long as this does not mean that the Novus Ordo would be rescinded, I take no issue with Fellay's request.

While I prefer to worship in the vernacular according to the new GIRM, I think the Latin Mass should be available in every diocese, and I would not even oppose it being offerred in every parish as an option.

In exchange, I would hope, and if I were Pope, I would even demand that the traditionalists stop calling the Novus Ordo an invalid Mass, stop calling vatican II a robber council, and stop spreading conspiracy theories or accusations of satanic influence calling into question the legitimate authority of the Pope.



Monday, August 29, 2005

Can Morality be Framed Positively?

I've asked this question before, and I think the answer is "Yes".

All morality can be framed in a way that is less about what we should not do, and more about what we can do to achieve happiness in union with God.

Take the ten commandments:

1. "Thou shall not worship idols" could be "Seek the highest good and settle for nothing less."

2. "Do not take God's name in vain" could be "Use the Lord's name with judicious reverence"

3. "Honor the Sabbath" - this is already a positive command to give yourself a break.

4. "Honor your parents" - again, this is already positively worded.

5. "Thou shall not kill" could be "Respect the dignity of human life and the inherent right to life of all people"

6. "Thou shall not commit adultery" could be "Be true to your yourself through your own commitments, making your deeds match your words. Respect the procreative power of your body and seek the joy of unitive love"

7. "Thou shall not steal" could be "You have a right to your property. So do others have a right to their property."

8. "Thou shall not lie" could be "Be authentic" or "Be true" or "Respect truth"

9. "Do not covet your neighbor's goods" could be "Be grateful for what you have"

10. "Do not covet your neighbor's spouse" could be "Love your spouse" or "Seek your own spouse"

Christ framed the moral law positively by summing it up as treating others as you want to be treated, claiming this rule was the entire law and prophets.

Elsewhere, he stated that the entire law and prophets is to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Aquinas summed up the law as to do good and avoid evil. Augustine simply claimed one could love God and then do whatever one wanted.

I have made a multitude of posts trying to explain why certain actions - such as waging a preventative war - are intrinsically evil according to the Church.

Then, in reading a book on non-violent communication, the author stated that we are more likely to communicate our ideas effectively to others if we frame issues less in terms of what not to do, and more in terms of what we can do.

We can also be more effective when we show compassion for the feelings of others and express our needs directly and avoid moralistic judgments and words like "should".

I'm not sure I agree with everything the author says, but I'm trying to think through how to express my need for others to understand non-violence without labeling the opposite thinking "evil".

I sense that others reject non-violence out of fear. We are afraid that if we are soft with "evildoers", they will terrorize us.

When a person threatens me with violence, I feel angry and resentful. In this fear or angry resentment, I am tempted to react with fight or flight actions.

I do not often take the time to examine myself thoroughly, and am tempted to respond to violence in kind.

Even when we are morally wrong, we are tempted more strongly towards violence when the other treats us with violence than we would be if met with compassion.

I believe in non-violence because I am afraid to respond to violence with violence because I cannot understand how violence ends violence.

It seems clear to me that to act violently, even in response to prior violence, only provokes the other to defend himself or herself - or to run and hide until strength is gathered for a later assault.

I need to believe that even evildoers can be changed by the grace of God.

I need to believe this because I am frightened that if it were not true, I, myself, would be damned.

It is not that we first loved God, but that God first loved us that empowers us to love one another. We are merciful because we were shown mercy.

If evildoers can be changed by the grace of God, who is love, and perfect love casts out all fear, according to the scriptures, it follows that responding to evil acts with love is the most effective way to end the cycle of violence.

Saint Paul claims that when we do good to the evildoer, we heap burning coals on his or her head effecting a change in behavior.

I believe that good is stronger than evil, and meeting evil with good wins the day.

I do not advocate non-violence simply because preventative war might be labeled evil by the Church.

I advocate non-violence because I honestly believe that responding to evil with love will change the heart of the evildoer and end the evil acts which illicit fear.

I have faith that the promises of God are true.

I believe that if I live according to the Gospel, turning the other cheek and blessing those who hurt me, God will be with me or I will be with God.

I have faith that if my light shines, others will see it and give glory to our heavenly father.

I have hope: not a naive hope that practicing the teaching the Jesus will mean I am never hurt. Surely, if I live as Jesus lived, I could very well be crucified.

No. My hope is not a naive hope, but a sort of cynical hope. I expect to be hurt in love, and hurt badly.

It is hope that if I am willing to lay down my life, even in love of my enemy, I will change my enemy, often in this life, and surely before the next life.

Eventually, good will triumph when every tear is wiped away.

I have hope that even if the world will never be perfect until "the Day of the Lord", I can leave it a little better place than it was when I entered.

I have hope that even if I will be crucified, there will be some miraculous instances of new life and healing I will witness here and now.

I have hope in the resurrection that always follows the evil of the cross, and I hope that resurrection follows in the lives of victims of any evil I have done.

I have faith and hope that the reign of God is breaking into the world today - through me - through my acts of love in trying times.

Faith and hope support love: a decision to act even when I am not always "feeling it".

Love is not merely a feeling that comes and goes, as important as my feelings are.

Love is not something I understand intellectually all that well, as important as the gift reason may be.

Love is not something I merely contemplate in prayer, as important as prayer may be.

Love is something I do, and in doing it, I come to experience it deeper.

Aquinas said God is pure Act. God is not a noun. God is a verb. He is "I Am Who Am" - absolute "Be-ing", the act of existing considered in itself.

And, as Christians, we believe that God became flesh to show us that BEING - the ground of all that is - is LOVE.

God did not save us by merely thinking about mercy. God became flesh to put mercy into concrete deeds.

I know God by doing God,...., that is, by acting lovingly.

The more extreme the act of love, the closer I am to God.

We love in small acts done day-in and day-out, and charity begins at home.

We love in broad strokes by thinking well of all humanity and doing our best to support the common good locally and globally.

And we love to the extreme when we face evil square in the face and refuse to respond with fear, anger, apathy, resentment, or hatred, and instead act with love no matter what we feel.

Oh. We will feel some of these things as surely as Jesus felt terror in the garden.

There is even a righteous anger that can be constructively channeled as it was when Jesus cleansed the temple due to thievery and idolatry by evildoers ripping off poor widows.

Yet, the text never says in any Gospel that he struck a human person in this event.

Feelings come and go, and are neither good nor bad. They simply are. They reveal needs placed in our hearts by God, and when we are living rightly, our needs are fulfilled.

Even sexual attraction is not itself the sin of lust referred to in the Bible. If it were, we could not marry and procreate without sin.

Lust is a deliberate choice to dwell in a state of desire for what is not authentic to the human person at the level of our deepest needs.

Feelings simply are, and we need not fight against them. We need to recognize that in all feeling we are prompted towards the highest good.

Aquinas said that the sinner seeks God even in the act of sin, which is why he or she is fooled by an apparent good to turn away from the real good that would bring life giving satisfaction to the sinner.

We need to understand feelings and learn to channel our energies to obtain the highest good possible in every act we commit.

Every decision we make is to some degree a moral decision if we simply consider "Am I achieving the good in this act?"

Am I achieving the most good I could achieve in the here and now in this act?

By "achieving the good", I do not mean that we achieve a good that does not seem good to us.

Rather, we fail to recognize that we good we seek in sin is really achieved better in another way.

If I desire health and my body needs iron, I could eat a bowl of tacks, but that would be only an "apparent good", since tacks are really bad for me.

I could also eat spinach, and I would be choosing a "real good".

Yet, if I do not like the taste of spinach, I am not limited to this. A juicy steak has iron too, or, if I am vegetarian, so do beans!

Non-violence in response to evil is a "real good" in the sense that it really works to achieve the good we all seek.

Non-violence will make us safer from so-called "evildoers" such as people like Osama Bin Laden.

Non-violence will make us safer because it does not simply stop Osama alone or scare him into a cave to wait for a stronger day. It changes his heart and the hearts of those who would follow him.

The questions we American could ask to begin to promote a non-violent solution to terrorism is to honestly examine "why they hate us?".

Without excusing the evil of terrorism that elicits righteous anger in us, what is the real good that Al Queda seeks in choosing the apparent good of terrorism?

When we get in touch with the feelings of frustration and resentment that others may feel towards past Western actions, it almost becomes self-evident that more violence will not solve the problem of terror, and may even provoke further terror.

And when we get in touch with the needs expressed by the likes of Al Queda, new options open before us ,...., new ways to act other than war that may achieve greater peace and security for us and for the Arab people.

If the energy we channel into the creation of such things as nuclear bunker busting bombs were channeled into finding mutually satisfying "win/win" conflict resolution, there would be fewer wars, if not no war at all.

Active non-violent conflict resolution is our first resort response to evil. Active non-violent resistance to evil is our second response.

The just use of proportionate force to defend the innocent is to be our absolute last resort only invoked in the most extreme circumstances, with a keen awareness that when we come to this, we have already failed to put our highest ideals into practice and that we need to return to non-violence as soon as possible.

Active non-violence requires the virtue of a soldier. One must be ready to die for one's values, even if not willing to kill for those values.

Active non-violence is a form of warfare of sorts, and a more effective form than conventional uses of deadly force.

Will there be "soldiers by non-violence" who will lose their lives in the cause of changing hearts?

There probably will be. As I say, my hope is not naive.

On the other hand, we have some examples of "soldiers by non-violence" in history, like Francis of Assisi who were not literally crucified by others.

Francis went to dialogue with the Sultan rather than fight in the crusades. The sultan respected him for his actions.

Francis may have changed the world more profoundly than those who - to use the phrase of the Psalmist - place their trust in chariots and horses.

Will there be few who will heed the call to non-violence in any age?

Probably. But I want that number to grow day by day and year by year because the world would be a better place as we prepare for "the Day of the Lord."

Pope John Paul rang this same theme as he called on us to "say no to war" and to embrace the Gospel of Peace as intrinsically connected to the Gospel of Life.

He reminded us that evil is conquered by good, and showed us the example as he forgave a would be assassin. He dedicated his life to the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace.

Pope Benedict reminds us that war is always an absolute last resort, and that preventative war is not the teaching of the Church.

Benedict, too, calls us to peace, as have the bishops around the globe as they elucidate scripture, tradition, and reason applied to our response to terror.

The twentieth century was likely the bloodiest century in human history, and it was also a century of great hope in figures like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

A just peace through non-violence can be obtainable.

There are American "soldiers by violence" who are losing their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan as I write - in a cause that seems to me cannot be won by this tactic.

I am saddened by the loss of life of our troops as well as the loss of life of so many Iraqi civilians.

Those who live by the sword die by it. We cannot escape the law of justice except by grace.

The way of non-violence seems to me to be the most effective way to achieve the end we all seek: the most peaceful and secure world we can obtain prior to "the day of the Lord".

I invite other Catholics to open the Gospels to Matthew, and prayerfully read chapters 5 through 8 and see if our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, does not seem to be saying the same thing.


States Creating More Abortion Restrictions

Grassroots pro-life efforts are resulting in more and more state restrictions on abortions than any time since 1999.

This is good news in my mind, since this is one area I definitely side more with conservatives.

I hope that legislators on the Democratic side will not lose sight of seeking ways to reduce the demand for abortions as well.

It seems to me that a two pronged strategy of reducing abortion rates by reducing demand, and reducing abortions through restrictions on the supply side is the best approach.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Some Liberal Vatican Teaching

This list is in no way exhaustive....

Here is Church teaching on the Death Penalty from the Catechism:

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.
Some Catholics often try to argue that there is room for dissent on the current teaching regarding the death penalty because the Church taught in the past that it was morally licit.

That is a misunderstanding of the issue.

The Church still teaches today what she always taught on the death penalty, which is that "the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined".

This means that it would be immoral to deny a death row convict the opportunity to prove his or her innocence through such means as DNA testing.

It would also be immoral to use torture as a means of eliciting a confession for a capital crime.

Furthermore, the teaching has always been that the death penalty may be used "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

In an age before prison systems were developed, such as the days of Moses, the death penalty may have been an appropriate response to violent crime because of the ongoing threat of violence posed to the larger community.

As soon as you have a jail system or other means of restraining a violent offender, it becomes immoral to consider the death penalty, according to the Church. Period.

Some may argue that it is absurd to such a thing.

It might argued that such a stringent standard would make the moral use of death penalty impossible in today's world.


The Church's teaching is that in today's world, a moral use of the death penalty is "practically non-existent".

"Practically non existent" may imply one of two things: either very rarely, or realistically never.

In either case, since the United States is the front running industrialized and technology savvy executioning state int he entire world, we use it far too often.

A police officer may use deadly force in life threatening self-defense or defense of the life of others against a violent offender. To execute a restrained criminal is immoral.

Here is Church teaching on torture:
2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.
There is no ambivalence here. Torture is immoral, and lumped together with terrorism. It cannot even be done to punish the guilty or coerce confessions.

If any Catholic participates in torture, or supports public officials who support torture because of their view on torture, you are in dissent with the Vatican.

Not only is torture immoral, but kidnapping elected world leaders is obviously immoral.

The ends do not justify the means, and there no such thing as "a little torture" any more than there is such a thing as "a little adultery".

Because torture is an offense against human dignity, it is a graver form of dissent than that of dissenting on contraception or homosexuality.

Offenses against chastity are less grave than offenses against human dignity and human life.

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

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

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
The very first criteria is that the war is defense against "damage inflicted".

The CCC does not say "the damage the aggressor may inflict" or "the damage to be inflicted by the aggressor".

A just war, always and everywhere, must be a response to an attack that has already occurred by a body posing a continued threat that is lasting, grave and certain.

"Certain" does not mean "plausible", nor even "probable". It means "certain" as in beyond reasonable doubt.

Certainty also does not mean that there "may be" a connection between a state and an aggressor. It means there is a known connection that is clear and demonstrable.

These conditions are "strict and rigorous".

To chose to go war, even with a nation that has a government that has done evil, prior to these conditions being met is to make yourself an unjust aggressor in an unjust war.

War must also be a last resort when "all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective."

It seems clear to me that even after all diplomatic efforts have failed, a nation absolutely must try active non-violent conflict resolution and active non-violent resistance to evil if there is any chance it even might succeed.

It would seem to be usually, if not universally the case that only after non-violent resistance has been tried and failed can a war be declared just.

I am specifically referring to such techniques as used by Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr, and yes, I am saying that failure to seriously try to implement these techniques prior to going to war is immoral!

Anyone who believes that the war in Iraq or any sort of "preventative" or "pre-emptive" war is a just war is in dissent with authoritative Church teaching.

Does this mean that every Catholic soldier fighting in Iraq is in mortal sin?

Every Catholic soldier who freely chose to be part of the inititial invasion and fully knew and understood and accepted the Church's teaching chose an evil action, and thereby committed mortal sin, and is not worthy of Communion unless the sin is confessed.

It is highly doubtful that most, if any, soldiers who took part in the invasion did so with full knowledge, understanding and assent to either Church teaching or the issues involved in Bush's decision for war. Therefore, many may not have sinned subjectively.

The act of invading Iraq remains an objectively disordered act and is therefore evil.

Those who were not part of the invasion but are part of the current occupation are not guilty for the invasion, and must pray in their own conscience over what to do now.

War is a life issue, and, as such, is among the gravest issues.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Newsweek on "John Paul Catholics"

This seems to be the term now for Catholics who were born during the reign of John Paul II as pope, and never knew any other pope until Benedict XVI.

The article is part of a larger series of articles in Newsweek's cover story on American spirituality and religious practice.

The "John Paul Catholics" that this article focuses upon are students at the Fransiscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

My first year in seminary, my closest friend was a Steubie graduate, and we went to the campus to visit some of his old friends.

What impressed me was that there were chapels with tabernacles on what seemed to be every floor of the dormitories. I went in one of them at 3:00 AM, and there were already two students there.

My friend who graduated from there wound up dropping out of seminary, becoming a Unitarian, and then comming back to Catholicism as a liberal.

I have two comments on the article and some of the presuppositions made by the author or the students.

First, it is not the case that people who pray the Rosary or go to confession or any of the so-called "traditional piety" are thereby "ultra-conservative".

To give some examples, Gary Wills, and the late Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, and myself all pray(ed) the Rosary and have nothing against sacramental confession (I use it about once a month).

I also do not believe it is demonstrable that there was ever some sort of generation gap as implied by the author's description of the Rosary. He describes it as a devotion belonging to the students' grandmother's generation.

I'm 40 years old, and my generation seems to like the Rosary as much as the Stubbie students, and my parents' generation in their sixties prays the Rosary, as did my grandparents' generation.

When I was eighteen, it is true that I wished more of my friends prayed the Rosary, but if they weren't, it was more because 18 year olds of every generation are not as inclined to pray as 80 year olds facing death.

True, I remember my parents made comments sometimes about how the Pre-Vatican II Church put more emphasis on the Rosary.

Well, emphasis or no emphasis from the official Church or the parish priest, the Rosary seems to be popular among Catholics because people spread the word by mouth that they get something out of it.

Second, it is not always the case that Steubies remain conservative when they graduate.

The author of the article does not say that they do. In fact, he raises the question whether they will.

Knowing a few graduates, I'd say that the answer is not unobtainable.

Indeed, I have not met a single graduate of the Fransciscan University who holds the same views he or she held in college three years after graduation.

I'm not presenting a scientific survey here, because I may only know about ten to fifteen graduates total.

The most stunning re-conversions seem to be among those few who join the T.O.R. Franciscans who run the school. They are sent to the same school where I studied graduate level theology.

Indeed, every Stubbie graduate I know - which admittedly is not a huge number - describes their life after college experience as a period of turmoil where their spiritual journey takes them places they never expected.

I've even met a couple of the Stubbies out in the business world, and it's always the same story so far.

Every one of the graduates I know becomes more liberal with age.

True, they may never lose their love of the traditional devotions. The solid foundations of prayer and service seem to last a life-time. Most will remain loyal to the Church through the years or come back to her if they leave.

But even during John Paul's reign, the almost unquestioning loyalty to John Paul exhibited in their college days by these students diminished within a few years of graduation and exposure to the wider world.

Almost all of them seem to come to understand better the questions John Paul left unanswered and why people keep asking those questions.

Some may remain "conservative" when compared to someone like me, but they will admit to being more liberal than when they graduated, and be able to specifically identify what views changed.

Most pointedly, the biggest change that the graduates I know universally describe is going through a period of a real and awful doubt, and through that experience, comming to a less judgmental attitude towards the so-called "cafeteria Catholic" they seemingly despised in college.


Robertson Apologizes

Gee. I'd like to say that Pat read my post yesterday and decided an apology was in order, but I highly doubt he reads my blog.

Continuing with the non-violent communication technique in my reaction to Robertson's apology,....

Observation: Pat Robertson apologized for claiming it is appropriate for the United States to assassinate the elected Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, admitting that he mispoke.

He also referred to Dietrich Boenhoeffer as moral justification for the idea that assassination should not be considered unthinkable to Christians.

Feelings: Pat Robertson indicated that his comments were the result of his "frustration" that Chavez is anti-Bush and sympathetic to those Robertson considers terrorists.

I sense that Chavez is controversial because he is frustrated with the bullying tactics of the United States and maybe mispeaks his own reactions.

I feel frustrated by the tendency of many Christian Americans such as Robertson since 9/11 to slide into the mentality that the ends justify the means in the so-called war on terror and rash judgment of anyone critical of America.

Needs: I need to feel confident that it is always better to take the moral high road than to respond to evil by doing evil.

I need to feel certain that I can never be judged by God as acting immorally by refusing to do evil so that good may come of it.

I need to believe that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was not wrong when he said that all morality is based on treating others as I want to be treated, and that avoiding judgment, forgiveness and reconciliation and peace building are real possibilities that we can actualize with his grace.

Request: I call upon Pat Robertson and all Christian Americans to re-examine the notion that 9/11 somehow changes the strict and rigorous conditions developed over 2000 years in church history which apply to the use of deadly force with government authority.

Observation: Terrorism is not a new phenomenon.

In the middle ages, when most of the tradition was developed, marauding warlords burned villages to the ground, raped and/or killed all the women, and sometimes even killed the children and burned the crops. Warlords tortured people, and posted the heads of the men on poles. Assassination was common, and vendettas were taken for granted.

Mass killing of non-combatants and other forms of terrorism have always been present in history.

The Church did not develop the strict and rigorous conditions of a just war in a vacuum disconnected from any experience of mad-men run amok.

Rather, it was out of the experience of mad-men run amok that just war doctrine developed.

The Church has always tried to limit the harm of war by promoting non-violent conflict resolution where possible.

From the days of the martyrs who resisted the Roman Emperor to Martin Luther King Jr.'s non-violent resistance for civil rights, Christians have always held that creative ways of avoiding violence without surrendering human rights is the prefered conduct of our collective body.

The historic church later developed doctrines holding the so-called "good guys" to very strict and rigorous conditions both ad bellum and en bello when and if a just war truly becomes the inevitable last resort response to address unjust aggression when non-violence fails.

Just war doctrine is not an outdated theory in need of a major overhaul.

If any doctrine needs to develop further it is the doctrine of the early Christians we are in danger of losing: the doctrine of non-violent conflict resolution.

We could advance this doctrine to find more ways to effectively apply it with better results.

9/11 does not change any of this.

Feelings: If we fail to live up to our highest ideals, I feel guilty because we are not the "good guys" we seek to see ourselves being.

Though it was not my decision to say Chavez could be "taken out" or that Iraq could be "pre-emptively" invaded, I feel guilty because I ultimately belong in the groups that make such claims (I am consciously and deliberately a Christian and an American).

I fear that we deserve whatever we reap from the seeds we sow.

While I have a degree of respect for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, nobody, Protestant or Catholic, would claim he was infallible.

If Bonhoeffer truly believed that it is appropriate for one nation to assassinate an elected leader of another nation, he was likely wrong from a moral point of view.

There are those who may wonder how I could say such a thing when it was Adolph Hitler that Bonhoeffer had in mind.

I sense you may feel that my position puts me in formal cooperation with the evils of people like Hitler or Hussein. I sense that those who disagree with me may feel angered by my statements.

I am not saying we need to cooperate with the Hitlers, Husseins, Castros, or Milosovich's of the world.

In fact, I wholly share the sense of rage you might feel with the notion that anyone cooperate with such blatant disregard for the sanctity of the human person that these men display in their actions.

How do we respond to a Hitler?

I am saying is that the ideal response of the German Christian during WWII to Adolph Hitler would have been non-violent resistance to him.

I respect Bonhoeffer because he did this for a long while at great cost to himself when he could have avoided the cost!

Once unjust aggression by the German army was set in motion, the Allied powers had every right to use just force in self-defense, but that does not mean there were no limits whatsoever to what they could do to stop Hilter.

Carpet bombing during WWII should have been considered off limits. Assassination should have been considered off limits. Nuclear force should have been considered off limits.

There are always and everywhere moral limits to what we can do while still claiming to act rightly.

Need: I need to believe that the Gospel is true. I need to know that there is something essential to the Gospel that stands the test of time.

It seems to me that Jesus spent far more time and energy advocating non-violent conflict resolution, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, humility, generosity and compassion and love than he spent worrying about who could legally marry in civil society, who slept with whom, or so many things that seem to be defining characteristic of calling onself his disciple these days.

Just conduct in war holds as true against Hitler or Bin Laden or Chavez as it held in warfare against Attila the Hun. It also holds true in examining the policies of George Bush.

How do we stop evil of the sort we have seen in Saddam Hussein or Adolph Hitler?

If the entire German people simply refused to carry out Hitler's orders, the holocaust would not have occurred, whether Hitler was alive or not.

Adolph Hitler does not have sole responsibility for the evils that occurred during WWII.

Anyone who acted complicitly with Hitler in performing intrinsically evil acts participated in evil.

Saddam Hussein was powerless without people willing to carry out his orders.

The same is true today with Osama Bin Laden, George Bush or Hugo Chavez.

No matter who you are following, and no matter to whom you align yourself, if you perform an act that you would normally consider evil, even if you perform it in response to evil, you are still committing evil.

If you believe that it is wrong for George Bush to be assassinated (and I believe it is), it is wrong for George Bush to authorize the assassination of anyone.

Simply put, it violates the golden rule, and I need to believe that this rule applies always and everywhere.

Request: I ask all Christian American readers to prayerfully consider what I am writing and examine your own thoughts, words, deeds and ommissions as well as those observable actions of our government in light of the Gospel.

If what I am saying does not ring true to the Gospel to you, please explain why and how you feel and think that way.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gaza Pullout Finalizing: Controversy Over West Bank Continues

The Psalmist says the following:

I rejoiced when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."
And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about.
Here the tribes have come, the tribes of the LORD,
As it was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
Here are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David.
For the peace of Jerusalem pray: "May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers."
For family and friends I say, "May peace be yours."
For the house of the LORD, our God, I pray, "May blessings be yours."


Pat Robertson on Hugo Chavez

Practicing my non-violent communication techniques described in the post below:

Observation: Pat Robertson made a statement implying to me and several others that it is appropriate for the United States to assasinate the Venezuelan President. Now he states that he was misunderstood.

Feeling: I sense that Pat is embarrassed by his statements and I sense he felt a certain pride in America's prowess when the statements were made.

I feel enraged by his statements because of the callousness displayed to human persons in Venezuela who elected Chavez, not to mention the disrespect to Chavez himself.

Needs: I need to believe that being an American and being a Christian ideally means treating human persons around the world with dignity, respect, equity and fairness, and that there are moral standards among Christians prohibiting acts of terrorism such as assisinating, or even kidnapping, elected world leaders.

Request: I would like Pat Robertson to not only try to explain the comment in a better light, but to flat out retract the implication and apologize publicly to Chavez, Venezuela, God and the church for the implication of his words.


What I'm Reading

I'm reading a book my wife picked up in the library called Non Violent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values by Marshall B. Rosenberg.

I'm not entirely finished with it yet, but I'm getting close and wanted to comment on this fantastic book.

The book is an easy read so far, and well organized. Each chapter could probably be summarized in about four actionable bullet points. There are plenty of examples throughout and exercises at the end of many chapters.

The customer reviews at mostly give the book five stars or one.

It seems people love the book or hate it, and I do not find myself in agreement with the critics.

I have read some of the people Rosenberg quotes (such as Carl Rogers or Rollo May).

I have been through workshops on empathic listening, and taken courses with titles like "The Helping Relationship", done the Myer's Briggs and Enneagram, and so forth.

As far as technique, Rosenberg presents the the best aids to add to your communication toolbox I've seen in quite awhile.

His technique is similar to, and yet very distinct from, the standard assertiveness training so many people use where one person says to another something like the following:

"When you do X, I feel ________."
The problem with this is that you can quickly reach an impasse, and seldom move beyond narcissism.

To summarize the way Rosenberg would formulate such a statement, it would sound more like the following:
"I observed that you do X. I sense that you may feel _________. I feel _________ because ________. I need _________. Would you do Y?"
There's actually a lot that goes into this formulation and Rosenberg walks the reader step by step through separating observations from feelings, how to express needs and make specific requests.

These become the four step process to more effective and non-violent communication:

1. Observation
2. Feeling
3. Needs
4. Requests

Separating observations from feelings takes up the bulk of the opening chapter. To cast what Rosenberg is saying in theological language, it is separating the sin from the sinner, and more.

Rosenberg advises against any judgment of an act whatsoever, as well as any judgment of the person.

Instead of saying, "You're lazy", say the following:
"You have not done the dishes for the last five nights, and you left your clothes on the floor."
After stating the observation, you want to show empathy for the other:
"I sense that you feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities."
You do not need to deny your own feelings and part of the observation process is being very aware of your own feelings. You might continue:
"I am angry because I need more order in the house and I feel frustrated because I am doing your chores."
Finally, you make a specific request that would make your life better:
"Would you pick up your clothes and wash your dishes before going to bed tonight?"
He also has chapters dealing with empathic listening so that when you say "I sense you may feel ______." You will now how to respond when the other says, "That's not what I was feeling at all."

For example, our "lazy person" could respond, "I don't feel overwhelmed at all. I just assumed that you liked doing housework more than I do. Sure, I'll pick up my stuff. Why didn't you ask me to help before."

Or, he or she may respond, "You know, you're right. I am feeling overwhelmed. I've been trying to think about how to tell you this, but when I went to the doctor's the other day, they found a lump, and I'm scared."

Your view that the person was lazy might change quickly,...

Or, he or she might respond, "I'm not feeling overwhelmed, per se. What I'm really feeling is pissed off. I think I leave the dishes unwashed and leave my clothes on the floor just to tick you off sometimes."

It may be tempting to respond defensively to such a comment as this last one.

Rosenberg might suggest saying "I hear you saying you are angry. I sense this frustration has built up for some time. I feel confused because I don't why you are angry with me. Can you tell me what I have done?."

Rosenberg is also extremely precise in what he means by expressing a feeling.

I don't know if I've ever run across the notion that saying "I feel unloved" is not an expression of feeling - but Rosenberg points out that it is not.

Saying "I feel unloved" is an expression of what I believe someone else is doing or not doing to me (the other is not loving me).

What Rosenberg wants us to say is "I feel lonely" or "I feel unworthy" or "I feel sad".

The focus should be internal, not external. One should express feelings in such a way that there is no blame placed on the other person.

Rosenberg even provides a list of words taking up two and a half pages to describe postive and negative feelings.

He also spells out that feelings are not really expressed clearly by comparison.

Instead of saying, "I feel like I'm talking to a wall", one might say, "You are not responding to what I am saying. I sense that you may feel irritated by my talking. I feel lonely because I don't know if you are listening. Could you repeat back to me what I have said?"

Why do this?

Because when you say "I feel like I'm talking to a wall" there is no way for the person to whom you are saying it to know accurately what you mean or what response you want.

You may inadvertently illicit the very opposite reaction you intended.

By saying "I feel like I'm talking to a wall", the other person might interpret you to mean that he or she is not making eye contact.

You may be trying to express a sense of loneliness, but the other person senses anger at their lack of eye contact.

So the individual grows more quite and stares you in the eye to show you that he or she is paying attention, and you are growing more frustrated because the response is exactly what you did not want.

Such formulations may sound cumbersome and difficult to remember to do all the time, and Rosenberg does not dismiss such reactions and the feelings of anxiety that may be provoked by his advise on how to communicate.

He explains the difference between a request and a demand and how to make a request that is specific and mutually satisfying.

He warns against making a negative request. For example, instead of saying, "Would you stop smoking", your request might be framed, "I understand that quitting smoking is difficult, and I sense you fear failure. I am afraid of losing you to cancer because of your smoking. Would you be willing to try the patch?"

Requests should be very specific, and Rosenberg, like many others emphasizes the importance of seeking the win/win or mutually satisfying solution where possible.

While Rosenberg believes strongly that his non-violent communication techniques maximize the potential for you to get exactly what you want or need from others, he also emphasizes that we need to remember that a request always leaves open the possibility that the other may say "No."

Non-violent communication is not about winning friends and influencing people. It is hard work.

When the other says "no", we are to try to understand the feelings of the other that lead to the "no" while remaining aware of and observing our own feelings in response.

Non-violent communication is not intended as a means of manipulation of others.

Rather, it is a process to arrive at mutually satisfying resolution.

If the response to a request is "no", we dive deeper into the process until we come to shared experience of our humanity, mutual understanding of feeling, and finally create the request that is mutually satisfying.

He writes about the four options we are faced with when confronted by another making demands upon us:

1. Accept blame or responsibility
2. Blame the other
3. Respond with our needs
4. Empathize with the needs of the other

The first option leads to resentment and bottled feelings, and is the most commonly chosen option.

The second option places the other on the defensive.

The third option is better than the first two, but risks ignoring the needs of others.

Non-violent communication seeks to move to the fourth option without losing sight of our own feelings, needs, and requests.

Rosenberg points out that more often than not, most people accept blame without even knowing whether an accusation was made.

I caught myself doing it just two nights ago. I was in the kitchen next to the living room.

The baby had left toys scattered on the floor of the living room. I overheard my wife say, "This room is a mess".

I immediately assumed I was being criticized for not cleaning it up, and with that, I immediately started creating my mental arguments that I did not make the mess and had been too busy from the moment I got home from work to clean it up.

Imagine I had vocalized my thoughts by saying something like, "I didn't make the mess and I've only been home for an hour, and have been doing X,Y, and Z the whole time. Why are you criticizing me?"

We'd have been headed into an unnecessary argument.

Or, I could have chosen the second option and blamed her: "You've been home all day. Why'd you let it get so messy?"

Or, I could chose the third option and say; "I feel anxious when you nag me. Would you stop nagging?"

But none of these options would have got at the truth of what was occurring.

What I could have done was say something like, "I heard you say the room is a mess. I sense you feel frustrated that the house is not in order. I feel guilty that I have not cleaned up the room myself since I got home. Would you like me to clean it up?"

Or, "I heard you say the room is a mess. I sense you feel frustrated that the house is not in order. I feel so tired after a long day at work followed by the housework I've been doing. Were you going to clean it, or can it wait till tomorrow?"

Fortunately, in this case, what I actually said was "You know, I just caught myself doing what that book you got from the library says not to do."

I then explained that I had interpreted her comment as a criticism of me and I had started to formulate my counter-argument.

Fortunately, I immediately realized that I was mixing together observation and feeling before speaking.

As I explained this, she then explained that she was feeling frustrated, but not at me or even herself, and her comment was not meant in any way to be a criticism.

It may sound like a great book for married couples, but what about other applications?

Rosenberg spells out how to apply these communication techniques with real life examples in the boardroom, in the classroom, in politics, and even in extreme situations such as gang disputes, having a knife held to your throat by a drug addict, conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, or a woman being threatened by a rapist.

Rosenberg also deals with what to do when people say "Stop using your psychology on me" (Respond with something like, "I sense that you feel threatened and manipulated. Is that right?" ).

He tells us what to do when others say, "Oh. Your feelings were hurt. Boo hoo. Get over it." (Respond with something like, "I sense that you have felt that your own feelings have been ignored. Did that make you angry?" )

As I read this book, I'm thinking about my own habitual ways of communicating in cyberspace, which is usually a polemic style sometimes intended to be provacative or argumentative.

Yet, as a believer in non-violence as a way of life, I need to think harder about how to make my points in ways that reach rather than repelling.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Pope Benedict's WYD Homily

It's a good homily on the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic experience. Here's a few experts:

This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28).

To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being -- the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death.

We are to become the Body of Christ, his own flesh and blood.

We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one.

The Latin word for adoration is "ad-oratio" -- mouth-to-mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love.

The new prayer -- which the Church calls the "Eucharistic Prayer" -- brings the Eucharist into being. It is the word of power which transforms the gifts of the earth in an entirely new way into God's gift of himself and it draws us into this process of transformation.

The Eucharist must become the center of our lives.

It is good that today, in many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday so as to constitute a "weekend" of free time. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present.

...,the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much,...

..., if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product.

These [the CCC and its compendium] are two fundamental texts which I recommend to all of you. Obviously books alone are not enough. Form communities based on faith!
The quotes above are "teasers" that may encourage some to look at the whole text of the homily linked above.

What I liked in the homily is four essential things:

1) Benedict strongly emphasizes that the Eucharist is a self offering of Love - of God - that makes a real change or transformation in the receiver uniting us wholly with God and each other.

2) Benedict stayed "on message". He did not use the homily as an opportunity to hammer at every issue he considers important, which would be tempting with such a large audience. This homily is incredibly focused and "simple" without being simplistic - deep, without being obtuse.

3) I loved that Benedict is admitting a "shadow side" to regiosity when it is separated from the One who is Love. Benedict is not calling young people to embrace religion. He is calling young people to embrace a person who has the power to transform lives and cultures.

4) Benedict appeals to both the personal and individual nature of Catholic experience in our deep interior relationship with Christ, and to the fact that such a relationship leads to deeper connections with others that manifest in a compulsion to reach out to others in love. I have written myself that Christianity can never be "Me and Jesus and to hell with the world". Christianity must always be "We and Jesus" as I personally grow in my relationship with Him each day. Benedict emphasized the personal and communal nature of Eucharistic experience.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Very Nice Meditation on the Assumption

I'm a little late reading it, but Sister Antonia Ryan, OSB, wrote a very moving meditation on the Assumption in NCR this week.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Amy Wellborn's Extensive List of WYD Links

Last I heard, 135,000 were already gathered in Cologne, with 400,000 registered for the upcoming events, and another 600,000 expected to converge.


Dems Seem to be Squabbling Over How Hard to Fight Roberts

It seems to me that there are three separate reasons people might be opposed to a judicial nomination.

1. Evidence exists that the judge has acted illegally, unethically or in a grossly immoral fashion. For example, in past confirmation hearings, issues were raised such as whether a nominee smoked pot or sexually harassed co-workers. Questions could be asked such as whether a nominee took a bribe, hired illegal immigrants, and so forth.

2. Evidence exists that the judge has a blatant disregard for common standards of law. Usually, a judge like this would be so controversial that a President will not bother nominating such a candidate to the highest court, but lower court nominees have been rejected on these grounds. This is where I think some questions about Robert's religious views could possibly be in order, since it is important to know if he would place a personal religious conviction above the law, legislating his morality from the bench in a dictatorial fashion.

3. Evidence exists that though the judge conducts with personal integrity and a respect for common standards of law, his or her decisions reveal a political bias that is either far right or far left. This seems to be where most of the Roberts debate is focused right now.

Of these three potential reasons that people may oppose a judge, it seems to me that the third is weak, and should not be the primary reason to reject a judge. It may serve as a secondary reason, but the primary focus should be on the first two issues.

Am I saying that I support the John Roberts nomination?

No. I'm not saying that at all. There may be good reason that John Roberts should not serve on the court.

Am I saying that I do not support the John Roberts nomination?

No. I'm not saying that at all. He may very well be a competent judge.

What am I saying?

I'm saying that as long as the discussion is only about his political biases, I lack any justification for not accepting him, whether I like his politics or not.

I don't think I'm only American who feels that the debate should not exclusively be about whether John Roberts is, or is not, a conservative. The debate should be about whether he is a competent judge.

And I do think there should be an honest debate about this, because if he is confirmed, we're stuck with him for a very long time.

If the Democrats want to gain popular support for rejecting John Roberts, they need to do more than simply convince us that John Roberts is a conservative. We take that for granted. What we want to know is whether he is a competent judge who possesses integrity.


Israel Continues to Pull Out of Gaza

Israeli troops have been met by Israeli resistance, mostly non-violent, as Ariel Sharon's order for Israeli settlers to pull out of Gaza continues.

The pull out, itself, is commendable and may be a first step towards lasting peace and respect for Palestinian rights.

I am a supporter of a two state solution with Jerusalem as an international city protected by the U.N., though I usually shy away from stating my own opinion on the matter.

Honestly, I think it is better for a solution to come from the people living in the region, than for those of us in America to dictate solutions from afar.

I confess that when backed into an either/or dichotomy, my bias is typically with Israel.

Terrorism is intrinsically evil, and the Palestinians have used this tactic repeatedly for decades.

The use of this tactic has always made it harder for me to empathize with the Palestinian cause, even though they raise many valid concerns.

After the holocaust, it is clear that the Jews needed a state of their own for those who chose to live there, and the U.N. sanctioned the creation of Israel on land taken from them centuries ago.

As an American, I also like it that Israel is democratic.

There has always been a Jewish presence in the region, though the size of that population was small at the turn of the twentieth century. Many Israelis bought land prior to the U.N. mandate fair and square.

Aside from this, I do cling to the notion that the Jews are God's chosen people in a unique way, and that Israel was intended as a nation by God in some mysterious way.

At the same time, I don't excuse the Israelis from several human rights violations against the Palestinians, and I do not believe tactics such as pre-emptive war are ever just.

I don't think it is anti-semitic to support a two state solution or to call attention to the fact that Israelis can sometimes act in ways that are as evil as the terrorists.

While my bias is with Israel, the Israelis have acted immorally on many occasions, and it seems obvious to me that the Palestinians have always had a moral and a legal right to a state of their own or some form of just compensation.

It is difficult for me as an American Christian to understand theologically why Jews and Muslims do not see one another as one and the same children of Abraham and worshippers of the one true God.

The land in Gaza was taken by Israel in 1967 through an act of pre-emption that likely fails just war doctrine. The U.N. originally designated the land for a Palestinian state before the 1967 war.

In the case of Gaza, there are over a million Palestinians compared to under 10,000 Jewish settlers who came to the land after an act of Israeli aggression.

For Israel to give it back during the life-time of the generation that this aggression occurred seems just and fair to me as an observer from several thousand miles away.

At the same time, who does not feel for those settlers who have lived in the territory for decades - some even being born there. It must be painful for them.

From what I have read throughout the week, the resistance is likely unavoidable, but could possibly be mitigated a bit by assurances from Sharon's government that the settlers will be getting a fair deal, or even trading up for their new homes.

I reiterate that I am not saying the resistance would not occur, and anyone who cannot feel for the plight of the displaced settler lacks basic empathy.

For many resistors, it's simply the idea that they can be forced to move by their own government to appease what they perceive as Palestinian terrorists that is repugnant.

Some Jewish settlers even feel that G-d gave them the land.

For almost all of them, giving up familiar surroundings and ties to community must be painful.

However, from what I have read, matters are made worse in that it seems settlers are being placed in manufactured or mobile home type structures.

That certainly doesn't make the move any more enticing than it would be if they received a home of comparable or greater value on land of equal or greater value.

Don't get me wrong: the pull out is the right move, and an incredible act of courage and good will on the part of Israel.

The majority of Israelis support the withdraw so that they can focus on security in greater Israel. The vast majority of Palestinians also support the withdrawal.

I am merely saying it needs to be executed with as much justice and fairness as possible to everyone.

Let us pray for the displaced settlers and for lasting peace based on justice in the region.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Something I Have Been Mulling Over....

When I was growing up, there was a televangelist in our area named Ernest Angley.

Based on the link, I guess he's still active. As kids, we used to poke fun at Ernest and imitate his accent while slapping each others ears screaming "Yo-or HEEEEAled".

Now, I suppose it is entirely possible that ol' Ernest is a sincere Christian with a great gift from God, but as a kid, I just assumed he was a fake.

Everytime he solicited for more money on TV, I joked with my friends "Jesus loves you, and for $50 he'll love you even more!"

Maybe part of my distrust of Ernest Angley was simply that he wasn't Catholic. I figured Padre Pio was the real deal, but couldn't believe in my youth that real miracles were happening outside of the Roman Catholic Church.

Well, maybe I would have allowed a miracle among the Eastern Orthodox, but I'd have believed a Bhuddist had more healing power through some mastery of natural processes than I believed an Evangelical Protestant had any sort of healing power, whether natural or divine.

Today, I have grown in my respect for Evengalical Protestants, without glossing over the fact that we have significant theological differences.

I accept the possibility that God could work through a Protestant in the same manner he may have worked through a Solanus Casey - whatever that was.

But I don't want to write specifically about who does and who does not possess miraculous abilities, or whether such abilities are natural or divine, and so forth.

Rather, I want to raise the question of how we would know the Christ if he were walking in our midst.

Oh. We all know that we are to treat each other as other Christs in some way.

We all know that the saints have almost universally held that Christ is with us among the poor in the some mysterious way, and we know (at least intellectually) that the Church is the body of Christ.

I'm not talking about this type of thing. Rather, I mean something more like this:

If I were alive in the first century of the common era, would I have believed in Jesus or would I have shrugged him off as a fake or a flake, or worse, a blasphemer?

Or, if the Word had not become incarnate in the first century of the common era, and instead picked our own day and age to become incarnate, would I recognize that he is the Word incarnate? Or would I shrug him off as a fake or a flake, or worse, a blasphemer?

More to the point: how do we know we are reading the signs of the times and recognize the precense of God in our midst?

I think I'm comming to an answer to this question, but I sense my answer might not be accepted by everyone, and I'm not sure how to articulate it in a way that might be less objectionable.

Let me start with a moral precept with which many devout Roman Catholics are familiar:

One may never do evil so that good may result from it (CCC 1789)
We all know this. We've heard it put many different ways. The ends do not justify the means. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Some acts are intrinsically evil, meaning they are always and everywhere or absolutely wrong, no matter what the end result, intentions, circumstances or means.

Could the reverse be true as a sort of rule of the devil?

Can it be that Satan is incapable of doing good that evil may result?

I am speaking of "intrinsic good" here - much in the same sense that we refer to some acts as intrinsically evil.

Certainly, we know that the devil can quote scripture, but there is nothing "intrinsically good" about quoting texts per se - even if the text is divinely inspired.

Intrinsic goods are the opposite of intrinsic evils. Saving human life is an intrinsic good. Procreation is an intrinsic good.

This notion of intrinsic good is not controversial at all, because it is firmly rooted in scripture, tradition, and reason.

But I don't know if I've ever heard anyone say that we recognize the presence of God because an intrinsic good is actualized in our midst.

If Ernest Angley is the real deal,..., if genuine healings of physical ailments occur through his intercession,..., God is working through him no matter what we think of his theology (or his accent, silly hair style and flashy suits).

I am led to believe this notion that we recognize the presence of God through the actualization of an intrinsic human good by reflection on a gospel passage that captures my question exactly:
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute. He cured the mute person so that he could speak and see. All the crowd was astounded, and said, "Could this perhaps be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons." But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. How can anyone enter a strong man's house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:22-32)
What is interesting here is that an intrinsic good is occurring: the healing of a blind and mute man.

Some people speculate that God is working uniquely in Jesus. They may not yet realize that he is God, and they may not change their lives much yet - but they are open to the possibility that God is here because good things are happening.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, see good things occurring and assume evil is behind it all.

The Pharisees aren't just speculating that Jesus is a fake or a flake, and maybe sceptism of this sort could be excused.

No. The Pharisees are not skeptics.

They have no doubt that the man in question was blind and mute, and that Jesus really healed him. They also have no doubt that God could do such a thing.

But, they attribute an intrinisic good not to God, but to Satan. Jesus calls this blashphemy of the Spirit and claims it is the only sin that cannot be forgiven.

What is so "controversial" about what I am suggesting, some may ask?

Consider these key points.....

First, a skeptic, agnostic, or outright atheist cannot blaspheme the Holy Spirit to the same degree the Pharisees did.

In a world where there is no God and no Satan, one cannot attribute intrinsic human goods to powers of evil.

However, such a skeptic may come close to the same thing if constantly questioning the motive of do-gooders no matter how honest, decent, and consistent the do-gooder turns out to be.

Yet, for the most part, blasphemy of the Spirit is a sin committed by believers.

How does this occur?

Something happens sometimes in the heart of a believer where he or she looses sight of the fact that God is absolute goodness, pure love, life and the source of life, the ultimate intrinsic good.

I think a peculiar manifestation of this occurs in Christians in our focus on the cross.

Saint Paul said we preach Christ crucified. The gospel narratives tell us to pick up our crosses. Ascetisism has always held some esteem in the tradition.

This focus on the cross can become a distorted notion whereby we only see the presence of God in suffering, and leave no room for the possibility of the presence of God in blissful joy even in this life, much less the next.

In reality, the cross is meaningless without resurrection, and Saint Paul reminds us his preaching is vain without the resurrection.

Without the resurrection, the cross is just one more sad story of a Jew persecuted under occupation - a senseless death of an innocent man.

We do not know the presence of God through or even in suffering of any kind.

Rather, we know the presence of God where the human person is fully alive, and the resurrection of a crucified man gives us faith that God remains present in suffering.

Elsehwere (sidebar), I have written that the unforgivable sin is not a single act, but a deliberate ongoing refusal of grace through either presumption or despair.

I think I am essentially still ringing this theme. Those in ongoing presumption think their own evil is good enough. Those in despair cannot see God in intrinsic goods.

When Christ commands us to pick up our own cross, we are to lay down our lives in the manner he laid down his own life: to give life to others.

Picking up our cross is not engaging in senseless suffering for its own sake.

Picking up our cross is loving another until it hurts.

What does this mean in our theological wrangling with the issues of the day?

It means that we need to be on guard against accusations that Satan is behind life affirming decisions people might make out of love, and we need to guard against moral directives that encourage suffering as a virtue for its own sake.

Of course, I offer this reflection somewhat tentatively. Afterall, we parsing a verse that deals with the unforgivable sin, and we don't want to get it wrong.



Commonweal on the Intelligent Design Debate

There are two articles in the recent issue, both worth reading.

John Garvey points out how intelligent design is not Biblical, nor consistent with Catholic tradition.

John Haught points out why it is bad science, as well as bad theology.