Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Is Usury Still a Sin?

I knew Pope Benedict was for eliminating world debt, and that the Church never really stopped criticizing exorbitant interest. It seems Benedict might be hinting that all loans at interest beyond recovery of the cost of inflation might be wrong. You know, I'd back him on that more than the Instruction on gays in seminaries.


Relational Understanding of Sexuality and Spirituality

Christopher, a frequent commenter here, has a very deep and well articulated series on some ways of understanding and theologizing about sex that retrieves a relational understanding from our ancestors in faith, with less focus on specific types of actions.


One Priest Quits so Far

Honestly, if I were a priest who experienced myself as having deep seated homosexual tendencies, even if chaste, I'd be considering resignation myself.

Another option might be to implement the Church's social justice doctrine, form a union and strike.

And you know what, even as a straight priest, I'd have difficulty with the Instruction and may be tempted to go on strike too.


Nathan Reminds us of the Other Half of Teaching on Gays

This is a very well reasoned and well framed question about how to practice - not dissent with, but practice - the CCC references to homosexuality and chastity.


Father B.'s Invitation to Gay Priests

This is fantastic use of Gospel imagery, well worth reading, especially by priests who experience "deep seated homosexual tendencies", whether such priests define themselves as gay or not.


Anti-Catholic Media Bias?

Damien's Spot covers what got left out of the secular news yesterday when the Vatican Instruction on gays in seminary was released.


Full Vatican Text on Gay Seminarians

The USCCB posted the *.pdf version of the full official text of recent Vatican Instruction on admitting persons with homosexual tendencies to holy orders, with the footnotes.

The footnotes confirm the original interpretation I posited as the intended meaning yesterday.

IMHO, this Instruction very clearly and unambiguously is intended to mean that any man whatsoever who experiences sexual attractions to the same gender of a non-transitory nature as a predominant or exclusive condition, whether he identifies himself as homosexual or not, should not be ordained, even if he is chaste.

The reason for this discipline outlined in the document is stated as follows:

Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.
This issue is seen as a condition for the "affective maturity" required of a candidate of ordination.

Footnote 8 confirms that I am likely reading the meaning of "deep seated homosexual tendencies" correctly as an issue of a persons attractions, as outlined in the CCC paragraphs 2357-2358 and several other Vatican documents, none of which define "deep seated homosexual tendencies" as merely a matter of self identification.

Indeed, footnote 8 makes specific reference to Homosexualitatis Problema, which specifically addresses people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies advising them not to see their inclinations as their core Identity:
Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.
Is the Church contradicting itself in drafting a letter on "homosexual persons" whom it "refuses to consider as a 'heterosexual' or a 'homosexual' and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity"?

No. She is not contradicting herself, whether I agree or disagree with the doctrinal position outlined here.

I am right handed, but my right-handedness is not core to my Identity as a human person such that I am a different kind of person than a left handed human person.

My point is that the Church does mean something when she refers to "homosexual persons" in so many of the documents.

She may not see homosexuality as core to "Identity", but, nevertheless, it seems unquestionable to me that she means a specific group of people meeting a certain criteria that is as clear and distinct as the distinction between right-handed and left-handed people, even though we all agree that right or left handedness does not define anyone's Identity as a human person.

Homosexual persons are consistently defined throughout the CCC and other teachings as persons with "deep seated homosexual tendencies", and such tendencies are defined variously as the "condition" of persons "who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex". It is an "orientation" that is described as follows:
...., the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
In my opinion, it is disingenuous to imply that this Instruction is not intended broadly to apply to each and every male person on earth who experiences "more or less strong" tendencies or inclinations to "sexual attraction" with members of the same sex as an "exclusive" or "predominant" condition that is not merely "transitory".

According to the Instruction, the test of transitory inclinations is the ability to completely overcome the tendency for a period of at least three years.

This means more than being chaste for three years, as important as sustained chastity may be. It means having no inclination to homosexuality for three years, as well as no homosexual acts.

I understand the desire to hope that I am making an argument of reductio ad absurdum, and I wish that were the case myself, but it's not - or at least not in any deliberately conscious way.

I am trying to say that what strikes many Americans, including myself, as absurd, is in fact, exactly what the Vatican seems to intend to say by her own words, which she clearly defines and provides abundant reference material to clarify.

In the Vatican opinion outlined in this document, it is simply not absurd at all to say all people who experience a homosexual orientation, no matter how they define themselves, should not be ordained.

Nor is it absurd, according to what I see the Vatican saying, to suggest that homosexual persons, on the very basis of such a condition, cannot relate with affective maturity to men and women, even if they are chaste and striving for the perfection of a Christian that all of us are called to strive to achieve.

The President of the USCCB, William Skylstad tries to soften the blow with the following statement. After setting the stage by claiming the document offers a profound "realism", he says:
This realism also makes it clear that it is certainly not acceptable if a candidate practices homosexuality, or, whether active or not, if he identifies himself principally by a homosexual inclination or orientation.
This is a valid inference of part of what the document actually says.

Yet, the Instruction does not address the issue of how people principally identify themselves. Skylstad is telling the truth, but not the whole truth.

Rather, the Instruction very clearly addresses "deep seated homosexual tendencies" regardless of how people who experience such a condition self identify.

There is simply no indication in the text of the Instruction that any other meaning was intended, and the official version with footnotes makes it clear that the intended meaning is any and all people who experience such inclinations "more or less" strongly as "predominant" to "exclusive".

I do not agree with this Instruction, but once again, I stand by the fact that the meaning appears to me to be very clear, unambiguous, and almost beyond debate that "homosexual persons" as consistently referred to in the full body of Church teaching on the subject - including members of Courage - are the very persons this Instruction intends to dissuade from ordination.

I just don't see any indication in the way "deep seated homosexual tendencies" is used in this document or other Vatican documents that permits another reading of the text, and if we don't agree with such Instruction, I do not believe it is helpful to try to interpret it away rather than saying the Instruction is disagreeable.

Skylstad and everyone else seeking a way to simultaneously praise the Instruction while applying it with compassion are to be commended for displaying the virtues of loyal obedience held in tension with prudent pastoral sensitivity.

Nevertheless, it seems inescapable to me that the intended meaning of the document was and will remain until clarified otherwise to ban all men from ordination who experience a homosexual orientation no matter how such men define their "Identity".


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Official Instruction on Gays in Seminary

On all key points that I argued earlier today, the official version is agreement with the unofficial version.

In "extract form", it shies away from explicitly stating that people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies cannot relate properly with men and women, and simply leaves a vague and open ended statement that persons with such tendencies would have negative consequences on the priesthood.

Bear in mind this is extracts, and not the full text.

Nevertheless, it seems clearly and inescapable conclusion to me that the intended meaning is that those with a condition of predominant to exclusive same sex attractions, even if chaste, should not be ordained.

That's not my own position at all. Nevertheless, it is the Vatican instruction.


The Vatican Instruction on Gays

Frankly, I decided about ten days ago to take a break from blogging over the holiday. For seven days, I even stopped looking at my comments or email while I went home to my parents' over Thanksgiving.

While I was staying away from the PC, John Allen reported on Wednesday of the leaked version of the Vatican Instruction, and EWTN posted the unofficial text from CNS the same day, and the same text made The New Oxford Review via the Tablet on the same day.

The official version was released today, though I cannot seem to locate it on the Vatican web site yet.

Perhaps I should wait to see the true "official version", though it seems by most accounts that we have an accurate version.

I have not yet caught up on all Catholic blogs, but there seems to be a consensus in blogdom emerging in my mind that the Instruction says whatever people are predisposed to want it to say.

Liberals will see wiggle room allowing business as usual, with many gay men ordained in the future, while conservatives seem to see a crack-down against the formation of a gay subculture in the priesthood, though they generally seem to agree with liberals that this is not an outright ban on all men living with same sex attractions.

Interestingly, whether liberal or conservative, only a very small handful see an absolute ban on men who experience predominant to exclusive same sex attractions.

Even some conservative Catholic bloggers argue that so long as those men are chaste and do not define themselves as "gay" or "homosexual" and stay out of gay politics, they could be admitted to priesthood. The document is supposedly aimed at a political ideology, and not men living with same sex attraction who do not define themselves as gay.

For example, David Morrison, who admits to living with same sex attraction, argued last week that it is not men like himself who live with same sex attractions being banned, but "self identified gay" men who accept an "ideology" of making these attractions the "pillar of his identity".

Mark Shea argues that liberals who would say, "..., a priest's commitment to celibacy should be the issue, not his sexual orientation,..." are in basic agreement with what the Instruction says.

Liberal Catholic blogger, Ed Deluzain, argues that "...,this thing allows both sides--Liberal and Conservative--to hold exactly the positions they held before its release..."

But that's not what the leaked version of the document seems to clearly and unambiguously say to me.

I mean no disrespect to anyone, but it seems plain to me that David, Mark, and Ed are all misreading the text, and the people who get it right are folks that Morrison says got it wrong.

Those who seem to me to get it right are Father Gerard Thomas, self identified as gay, who sees this as a discouragement to men with same sex attractions from joining priesthood, or Father James Martin, who John Allen quotes as follows:

"An honest reading of the document shows that the Vatican is simply banning gays," said Jesuit Fr. James Martin. "The 'application' of the document, even the portion of the document that says that rectors are ultimately responsible for their men, will be meaningless: No emotionally mature gay applicant these days will want to enter."
Morrison and others seem to almost play with words to try to demonstrate that a man with same sex attractions can be emotionally mature without defining himself as gay, and therefore be free to be ordained.

The issues set forth in the document are not a man's emotional maturity as gauged by how he defines himself.

The issue is whether an emotionally or affectively mature man could possibly experience same sex attractions predominantly or exclusively in any non-transitory sense at all, and the answer the Vatican has landed upon is that clearly he cannot.

I'm a liberal who believes that homosexual persons do not experience predominant to exclusive same sex attraction merely because they have not matured emotionally or affectively. My position is not what I understand the Vatican to be saying, but I am willing to allow the text to speak for itself rather than making it say something it doesn't.

I'm a liberal who believes that self identified gay men willing to live loving and holy lives in chaste celibacy should definitely be permitted ordination to a priesthood insisting on all male celibacy as a rule. My position is not that of the Vatican, as I understand the Vatican's position in this text.

I'm a liberal who wonders if committed monogamous adult gay partnership might be an expression of the same unitive love and grace as heterosexual married couples. My position is obviously not that of the Vatican on gay unions, and I see no way to twist this Instruction into meaning something it doesn't say.

These theological perspectives aside, I fail to see how gay civil unions, even if considered sinful, contribute to a break-down in heterosexual marriage in wider secular society more than the potentially sinful act of legal no fault divorce.

The Vatican remains clear in other documents that gay civil unions, even without religious sanction, and even when labeled sin by the wider society, do threaten heterosexual marriage.

What's my point?

My point is something that has been eating at me for a long time that bugs me about BOTH liberals and conservatives, and that something is the tendency for everyone to look for a way to prove the Vatican really says what we thought all along (i.e. - MY tribe, whether liberal or conservative).

Despite my natural liberal desire to read some wiggle room into the leaked version of the Instruction, it seems to me that there clearly isn't any wiggle room to the intellectually honest - and the document clearly would lead to the conclusion that every member of Courage and all the David Morrison's of the world should not be ordained.

It appears to me to be almost pure Orwellian manipulation of language to read the document as it was released unofficially in any other way.

Of course, there may be some footnote or hidden nuance in the translation of the official version that will change my mind, but if the unofficial translation is reasonably accurate and complete, I have little hope for such nuance.

The meat of the Instruction references The Catechism of the Catholic Church as its starting point, which has this to say about chastity and homosexuality:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Section II of Instruction Concerning The Criteria Of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies In View Of Their Admission To Seminaries And Holy Orders uses the CCC as a starting point to say the following:
Since the Second Vatican Council up until today, various documents from the Magisterium – especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church -- have confirmed the Church's teaching on homosexuality. The Catechism distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies.

Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented grave sins. Tradition has always considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence, they can never be approved under any circumstance.

As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people. They must be accepted with respect and sensitivity; every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter.

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.

Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women. The negative consequences that can result from the Ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be obscured.

When dealing, instead, with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination.
I do not see how anyone could possibly read these two documents (the CCC and the Instruction) side by side, remain intellectually honest and not conclude that the very people referred to as "homosexual persons" in paragraph 2359 of the CCC are not the same people who "show profoundly deep-seated homosexual tendencies" who, while called to chastity, are clearly to be excluded from ordination by the Instruction.

Who are the "homosexual persons" referred to in paragraph 2359 of the CCC, if they are not "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies" referred to in paragraph 2358, which is a number of person that "..., is not negligible."

And lest we doubt what is meant by "deep-seated homosexual tendencies", it was defined in the preceding paragraph 2357 as those who "..., experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex."

The Instruction allows ordination of those with a "transitory problem", but the tendencies themselves must be "overcome" at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

In other words, a man cannot "experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex" for three full years prior to ordination to the diaconate.

The meaning is clear and unambiguous. Gay men are not to be admitted to priesthood, whether they define themselves as gay or not.

The issue is not a capacity for chaste celibacy, which the Vatican has been clear all homosexual persons are capable of achieving. In fact, Ratzinger's words in prior documents were that it is "demeaning" to suggest gays cannot be chaste.

Nor is the issue a capacity for a degree of holiness, which the CCC clearly indicates is possible, even tending toward perfection.

The issue laid out in this document is the capacity for affective maturity in relating to both genders, and the document is clear that homosexual persons are incapable of full affective maturity in this area that is considered essential to ordained ministry.

Think of it this way: If there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to homosexuality that manifest as "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" that are "experienced" as "predominant" to "exclusive", are not simply transitory adolescent confusion, and we had a way of identifying that genetic make-up in a hair sample of candidates, the Instruction clearly indicates that those with such a genetic make-up will never achieve the emotional maturity to serve as ordained priests.

It would be similar, I suppose, to a genetic predisposition to violence, or mental retardation, or alcoholism, all of which might be conditions that the Church may wish to exclude from ordination due to an emotional or intellectual incapacity for the vocation.

While the Instruction discourages unjust discrimination against gays, just as the Vatican might discourage unjust discrimination against the mentally retarded, it is clear that the Vatican sees this "disorder" as an impediment to ordination, which is not a fundamental human right in her view.

I am not saying I agree with this position. I am merely saying that the text seems to clearly indicate this position!

Furthermore, the document clarifies the "grave duty" of bishops, seminary rectors, seminary teachers, spiritual directors, confessors and other formators to reach "moral certainty" that a candidate meets all requirements for ordination, including that he has overcome any "homosexual tendencies" and reached the "affective maturity" presumed to a heterosexual candidate.

An interesting question might be whether aesexuals or true bisexuals or hermaphrodites or even heterosexual pedophiles and ephebophiles ever achieve "affective maturity", and by what criteria is the "affective maturity" of predominantly to exclusively heterosexual candidates measured. The Instruction does not address these questions.

It is true that the document clarifies that some obvious practical means of reaching "moral certainty" of a man's deep seated homosexual tendencies when he does not tell you are that he acts upon them in homosexual acts, or "supports the so-called gay culture".

However, the surest way to reach moral certainty of such tendencies is that he plainly tells you about his same sex attractions, describing them as predominant to exclusive experiences.

And it does not matter whether the homosexual person acts in a manner that is so-called "butch" or "femme" or something else, because what matters is the predominant to exclusive sexual attractions of a more than transitory nature.

Lest we see this as encouragement for candidates to lie, the Instruction says the following:
..., It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality, regardless of everything, to arrive at ordination. Such an inauthentic attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty, and availability that must characterise the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.
A candidate is not to lie to anyone in the formation process about his same sex attractions, and if they appear to be "sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex" that are experienced as "exclusive or predominate", that person is to be honest about those attractions and based on such honestly, the formation staff and bishop have a "grave duty" to deny the candidate ordination if he does not voluntarily leave formation on his own.

I don't see how else the text could be interpreted.

Let me put it this way: In my first year or two in seminary when I understood little about homosexuality or the number of gay men in seminary, I would have used this text as ammunition against educating myself further on the issue or accepting my gay brothers.

I'd be very curious as to how many current seminarians within three years of diaconate ordination can honestly look themselves in the mirror and say that they do not experience predominant to exclusive sexual attractions to the same sex, no matter how they define themselves. There are some who can do this honestly, of course, but I think the number of current candidates is miniscule – not just in America, but globally.

But hoping the text means something different than what it says doesn't make it mean something different than what it says.

It is repeating clearly defined terms from the CCC to make its point, and it appears to me to border on being disingenuous to pretend that the meaning of "deep seated tendencies" does not have a clearer meaning to the Vatican than everyone on all sides of the theological spectrum wish to give it apart from Vatican intent as revealed in usage.

Of course, just because I am willing to say that the Vatican text is an outright ban on gay men to ordination does not in any way, shape or form mean that I support what the text says.

One can agree it is a clear an unambiguous ban and decide the ban is simply unjust, immoral, impractical or imprudent.

One can agree that it is a ban on all homosexual persons, and typical of many Vatican documents, represents an ideal seldom reached in reality, and always applied with pastoral sensitivity. That's a valid point.

Yet, let the text say what it really says as far as what the ideal is, and either agree or disagree with that ideal.

As an instruction, this would not even likely place one in dissent to simply flat out disagree with it, since an instruction is not the same level of authority as authentic doctrine, much less solemnly defined dogma.

It goes without saying too that when the official version is released in English, I will recheck my entire textual criticism to determine if there was some hidden nuance or footnote we missed in the versions available so far.

Assuming these versions are accurate and complete, however, let's be honest and admit this is a ban on men living with predominant to exclusive or non-transitory same sex attraction no matter how such men define their identity.

Let those who do not agree with the notion of banning all same sex attracted men from priesthood be clear in their own minds that the Instruction, itself, is wrong if that's how you feel, whether you define yourself as liberal or conservative.

The bottom line is that Archbishop O'Brien had it right in the beginning when news reports indicated that he stated a forthcoming document, if obeyed, would make it impossible to ordain a homosexual man even if he were chaste for up to ten years prior to ordination. That is the clearly implied meaning of the text, even if not explicitly said in O'Brien's exact words.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Cleansing

Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me." (Jn 2:13-17)

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, "It is written: 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you are making it a den of thieves." (Mt 21:12-13)

They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. Then he taught them saying, "Is it not written: 'My house shall be called a house of prayerfor all peoples'? But you have made it a den of thieves."
Think whatever you want of me, but this was pretty much where I was headed with scriptures I quoted on Monday with planned stops along the way.

I mean, it wasn't all crystal clear, and posting rules on the main page (soon to be added to the template) was not part of the original plan, but I'm glad I did set down some rules.

Follow the rules I've laid out in discussing the meaning of the texts.

By now, we should have released all steam and we have places to carry on unrelated discussions like war and abortion.

So far, I have had to ban nobody - people have mostly respected my wishes. Thank you.

When is anger just?

How is it properly expressed?

How is Jesus' actions consistent with the teachings on Monday on turning the other cheek and loving your enemy and avoiding even anger in the heart?

When, if ever, is it appropriate to show tough love?


Friday, November 18, 2005

More Texts

Can a politician be guilty of formal cooperation in evil? If the person intends to promote the killing of innocent life, s/he would be guilty of such sinful cooperation. If such an intention were present, even a voter could be guilty of such cooperation. But this seems unlikely as a general rule. Should every Catholic politician who has voted for an unjust law favoring abortion be judged to have this intention? I hope not.
This was written by Archbishop William Levada as part of the theological reflection for the USCCB document available here. The original texts of Levada's reflection was posted to the USCCB site in a now defunct link, and the bold was in the original.

At any rate, Levada has since received a bit of a promotion. He is now the Prefect for the Sacred Congegation of the Faith, which is a position once held by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

Same rules as yesterday. What does this text mean?


Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Dangerous Post

In light of the heat generated this week, the planned post for today comes rather late because of my hesitation to deal with the subject I most want to explore.

I decided to go forward anyway.

By now, I hope my new rules are abundantly clear in order to keep the temperature cooler:

- ad hominem logical fallacy is not permitted,
- character assassination, especially directed at the host, will not be tolerated,
- reading into the motives of other commenters, including and especially the host, is entirely unwelcome,
- any psychological assessment of a commenter, particularly the host, of any type, even if done by a trained professional, is not acceptable here on this site, because objectively right or wrong, the host does not believe psychology is well practiced in cyberspace,
- I do recognize intellectual bullying tactics and do not want to see it here, and will deal with it ruthlessly and with very extreme prejudice if I do perceive it,
- name calling will not be tolerated,
- meanness is unacceptable behavior, and anything I personally deem pisses me off because it is my blog will be deemed mean and dealt with accordingly,
- stick to the topic of this post, and do not dredge up ancient history with others you have encountered in the past, whether in cyberspace, or in real life, or any other venue,
- be as nice as you possibly can muster even to a mean host who you are simply not permitted under any circumstances whatsoever to say is mean no matter what you think of him,
- Do not nitpick with anyone over things like spelling and grammar, because the host struggles with this himself and does not see correct spelling and grammar as essential to the validity of a person's point of view,
- All "on topic" points of view are welcome, even if needing more factual support,
- Opinions may be expressed in terms of "I think" or "I feel" and will be welcome without personal assault, so long as I, and I alone, do not judge you to be mean to other commenters,
- Diversity of input to the topic is encouraged, and I hope I am not scarring people away by demanding strict adherence to what I consider very commonsense politeness,
- I am a liberal. While I may tolerate some politically incorrect speech, be careful. I reserve the right to reign you in. What I percieve as blatantly or intentionally racist, sexist, or homophobic may not fly, though I'll grant a wee little latitude if I can see where you are headed, or have no reason to believe your intentions are what I, and I alone, consider unacceptable,
- State your case and don't be evasive when directly asked a question,
- Saying "I don't know" or "Let me look that up and get back to you" is an intellegent choice of words that please the host and might even please God,
- I welcome different ways of knowing than the rational technique of arguing, but also like to argue and debate according to the rules I am outlining,
- Logical fallacies identified by the Greek philosophers may be pointed out, and when accurately pointed out according to my final judgment, do not call for retaliation against the person who pointed it out,
- Democrats, Republicans, Independants, Green, liberal and conservative, and all parties are welcome. Please present your case positively without defining yourself by solely tearing others down,
- Some criticism of other ideologies than your own by you will be tolerated by the host if you can support your position as judged by the host,
- You must accept criticism of your own ideology charitably, whether it was given charitably or not,
- I am not particularly fond of the cyber-practice known as "fisking" (line-by-line analysis of a comment in quote and response format). I'll tolerate it usually without saying anything, but be aware it may set me on edge, or encourage me to do the same, even though nobody talks that way in real life. Use it judicially,
- Do not imply anyone commenting is stupid,
- you may refer to public figures who are not commenting as stupid if you believe it true or more charitable than the alternatives,
- when a public figure who is not participating in this discussion is called stupid by a commenter, no other commenter is permitted to retaliate against that commenter because it might be true that the public figure has a low IQ. Instead, you are to ask for the evidence, and if it is supplied, shut up no matter how much you like the the person lacking intelligence, accept that the public figure might be stupid, and if you do not follow this rule, I will shut you up upon my own discretion,
- if making any sort of moral critique, focus on acts instead of persons,
- treat all other commenters with the respect due to a human person possessing the incomparable dignity revealed in the incarnation event,
- Please, do feel free to appeal to textual support if you have it for your opinions, such as Vatican documents, the Bible, statements from bishops, etc... but don't overwhelm us, even if the host does that all the time, and accept the possibility of alternate interpretations than yours,
- If you've been away from the Church for decades and can't back your opinion up with texts, do not fear - I will help you,
- Follow your mothers rule, which is do as I say, not as I do when it comes to the rules of the host
- and finally, follow the golden rule, whether you think I do or not, and do not coment on my own consistency with this rule in the way I manage my blog no matter what you think.

All commenters must stay strictly on topic or I will verbally swat you hard enough to emotionally hurt you if possible, and for the purposes of today's post, I may even exercise the never before used function of banning. I reserve the sole right to be mean as hell if I choose to be without criticism.

Beware - mind your P's and Q's and stick to the subject of the post, or I will verbally beat the shit out of you as best I can, delete your comments or ban you if necessary.

On the flip side, if you are nice to me and each other, you can express whatever "on topic" opinion you wish with any choice of words you feel is effective - including curse words and expletives and images - so long as they very clearly are not directed at any person reading this blog by my own supreme judgment which is to be considered unquestionable and off limits to discussion in the comments.

I, and I alone, reserve sole right and privilege to judge who is following my own rules of discussion. Do not accuse me, or even another commenter of breaking the rules either implicitly or explicitly. If you're thinking it, don't say it, and try not to let it leak into your comments. The judgment of who is following my rules belongs to me alone because this is my blog.

If I happen to be away from my PC while discussion gets heated from one individual, do not call it out. Wait until I get back to my PC and let me decide who is being cruel, if anyone. And I may very well be away for hours on hours at a time. Tough. Wait it out, or I'll beat you up too (and delete your comments if I feel I should).

I am the judge and jury here - I am not God - but for the purposes of this discussion close enough that if you wish to participate, you better do what I say, which I hope I have made crystal clear.

If you don't like it, tough shit!

If you've been nervous to make comments because of the heat lately, I'm finally laying some ground rules. I welcome responses from the silent majority who visit daily.

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
This was written by the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Faith, then known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI.

My question to Roman Catholic readers only (or those willing to play by our rules) is what did our Holy Father mean?

What could present proportionate reason to vote for a pro-choice candidate you otherwise do not agree with?

What, if anything, did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger consider more important than the issue of abortion?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Papal Teaching

Below are excerpts from some teachings of the late Pope John Paul II that are related to the CCC passages posted yesterday and the scriptural passages posted the day before, seemingly answering some questions the CCC may have left unanswered.

The authority of this teaching is not a solemn definition, and because specific historical contingencies are embedded with the doctrinal principles, there is room to debate the application of the doctrine.

One can seek to postively understand the doctrine within the texts in light of earlier teachings posted this week, and in doing so, one is discerning authentic Catholic doctrine, no matter the application.

These teachings are considered to be an exercise of ordinary papal magisterium. According to LG 25.2, the doctrinal principles embedded within the teachings are due the religious submission of intellect and will, if not the assent of faith.

What are these doctrinal principles? What do they mean for all Catholics of all times? Does John Paul apply them correctly? Where the application is questionable, is there legitimate room for dissent from the doctrinal principles informing the application, or only with the application itself?

Like yesterday, italics are in the original texts, while underlining is my own emphasis:

Lastly, it should be remembered that after the Second World War, and in reaction to its horrors, there arose a more lively sense of human rights, which found recognition in a number of International Documents and, one might say, in the drawing up of a new "right of nations", to which the Holy See has constantly contributed. The focal point of this evolution has been the United Nations Organization. Not only has there been a development in awareness of the rights of individuals, but also in awareness of the rights of nations, as well as a clearer realization of the need to act in order to remedy the grave imbalances that exist between the various geographical areas of the world. In a certain sense, these imbalances have shifted the centre of the social question from the national to the international level.

While noting this process with satisfaction, nevertheless one cannot ignore the fact that the overall balance of the various policies of aid for development has not always been positive. The United Nations, moreover, has not yet succeeded in establishing, as alternatives to war, effective means for the resolution of international conflicts. This seems to be the most urgent problem which the international community has yet to resolve. (Centesimus Annus no. 21, May 1, 1991)

Clearly, when a civilian population risks being overcome by the attacks of an unjust aggressor and political efforts and non-violent defence prove to be of no avail, it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the aggressor. These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome of armed intervention alone.

The fullest and the best use must therefore be made of all the provisions of the United Nations Charter, further defining effective instruments and modes of intervention within the framework of international law. In this regard, the United Nations Organization itself must offer all its Member States an equal opportunity to be part of the decision-making process, eliminating privileges and discriminations which weaken its role and its credibility.

This opens a new field of reflection and discussion both for politics and for law, a field which we all hope will be earnestly and wisely cultivated. What is needed without delay is a renewal of international law and international institutions, a renewal whose starting-point and basic organizing principle should be the primacy of the good of humanity and of the human person over every other consideration. Such a renewal is all the more urgent if we consider the paradox of contemporary warfare in which, as recent conflicts have shown, armies enjoy maximum security while the civilian population lives in frightening situations of danger. In no kind of conflict is it permissible to ignore the right of civilians to safety.

Beyond legal and institutional considerations, there remains a fundamental duty for all men and women of good will, called to commit themselves personally to the cause of peace: that of educating for peace, setting in place structures of peace and methods of non-violence, and making every possible effort to bring parties in conflict to the negotiating table. (Message for World Peace Day, January 1, 2000, nos. 11 and 12)

Is this not the time for all to work together for a new constitutional organization of the human family, truly capable of ensuring peace and harmony between peoples, as well as their integral development? But let there be no misunderstanding. This does not mean writing the constitution of a global super-State. Rather, it means continuing and deepening processes already in place to meet the almost universal demand for participatory ways of exercising political authority, even international political authority, and for transparency and accountability at every level of public life. With his confidence in the goodness he believed could be found in every human person, Pope John XXIII called the entire world to a nobler vision of public life and public authority, even as he boldly challenged the world to think beyond its present state of disorder to new forms of international order commensurate with human dignity. (Message for World Peace Day, January 1, 2003)

"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences...., And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations. (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, no. 4, January 13, 2003)

At the beginning of the New Year, I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world. For the theme of this 2005 World Day of Peace I have chosen Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.

..., Finally, how can we not think with profound regret of the drama unfolding in Iraq, which has given rise to tragic situations of uncertainty and insecurity for all? (Message for World day of Peace, January 1, 2005, nos. 1 and 4)


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Teaching of the Church:

The following passages are taken verbatim from The Catechism of the Catholic Church. (CCC)

The passages site many of the Biblical references I posted yesterday, setting the scriptural context for what follows.

The CCC provides references to demonstrate that the the teachings are the historic position of the Roman Catholic Church held authoritatively as authentic Catholic doctrine by ordinary magisterium.

To my knowledge, none of these teachings are solemnly defined at this point in history, but all would hold similar authority to Church teachings on life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, or non-life issues such as contraception and homosexuality.

The italics and bold below are in the original, the underline is added for my own emphasis.

2261 Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous."(Ex 23:7) The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.

2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill," (Mt 5:21) and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.(Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44) He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath. (Cf. Mt 26:52)

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not." (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 64, 7, corp. art)

2269 The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person's death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger.

The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them. (Cf. Am 8:4-10)

Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone's death, even without the intention to do so.

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. (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56)

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. (Cf. DS 3722)

2302 By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill," (Mt 5:21) our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice." (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 158, 1 ad 3). If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment." (Mt 5:22)

2303 Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." (Mt 5:44-45)

2306 Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death. (Cf. GS 78 # 5)

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed." (GS 79 # 4)

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.

2311 Public authorities should make equitable provision for those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms; these are nonetheless obliged to serve the human community in some other way. (Cf. GS 79 # 3)

2317 Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war:
Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (GS 78 # 6; cf. Isa 2:4)
2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."(Mt 22:21) "We must obey God rather than men":(Acts 5:29)
When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.
2243 Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.


Monday, November 14, 2005

The Word of God

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Mt 5:9)

You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you, whoever is angry with your sibling will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to a sibling, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. (Mt 5:21-22)

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:38-48)

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." (Lk 6:29-38)

Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Rom 12:14-21)

1789 Some rules apply in every case [of moral judgment]:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."
- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ." Therefore "it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble." (CCC, par 1789)


Saturday, November 12, 2005

EWTN Spin on Upcoming Vatican Instruction on Gays in Seminary

The content sounds similar to what John Allen has reported, but the tone is definitely different.

Where Allen sees the 3 year rule of displayed chastity as sign of anyone's capacity for chastity, heterosexually or homosexually oriented, EWTN is looking at this rule as a guideline for a candidate to demonstrate his homosexual tendencies have changed.

The implied meaning in EWTN's spin is that all men with permanent dominant same sex attraction ought not be admitted to priesthood, while those with a transitory same sex attraction have three years to prove they have overcome it.

Of course, until about November 29, nobody will see the document but Vatican insiders.




Bush Claims No Manipulation of Intelligence

The Administration, and particularly President Bush, claims it never manipulated intelligence on Iraq or pressured intelligence officials to change their conclusions.

And I honestly believe that very well may be true.

The important question is not whether the Administration changed or pressured others to change intelligence reports in order to tell a direct falsehood.

One can lie without ever uttering a falsehood, and I am convinced the Administration likely did this, even if it is possible no falsehoods were uttered.

Omission of truth, such as not sharing important caveats or dissenting opinions can be deceptive.

For example, if I'm a used car salesman telling you about all the fantastic characteristics of a car on the lot, but willfully neglect to mention that it was in a flood, I am being dishonest, even if every word coming out of my mouth is true.

In making the case to the American people, Congress, and the world, the Administration left out important counter-evidence and caveats in the intelligence reports that did not support its claims. This is oncontrovertible.

The Administration never really even attempted to explain why U.N. weapons inspectors were unable to locate WMDs.

Was this like a used car salesman intentionally neglecting to tell a buyer that a car was in a flood? If so, Bush "lied" without necessarily uttering falsehood.

If the used car salesman is ignorant of the flood, then he is not a liar, but questions of his competency as a used car salesman can be raised if he should have known.

If Bush was ignorant of important caveats and dissenting opinions in the intelligence reports, then we have to ask if he is competent to be President.

Overemphasizing truth by repeating weak evidence frequently or vehemently can be deceptive, and Bush, Rice, and so forth did this.

Prior to war, even many neoconservative Bush supporters admitted that the case against Iraq was not as strong as it should be, and rationalized that the President had more information than he could share due to security concerns.

This conclusion was drawn, in part, by the vehemence and repetition of the Administration's arguments, leading folks to assume the Administration must know more than they let on to create such a sense of urgency.

The evidence of Iraq's possession of WMDs was weak enough to have more than a shadow of doubt, but when we hear it often enough, it starts to gain some credibility.

We now know that Bush had no more evidence than was presented in public. Was the passionate repetition of weak evidence an intentional act of deception, or honest conviction based on weak evidence?

Either way, it's not good.

Simply implying a falsehood without explicitly saying it, if done intentionally, is a lie. This was obvious and frustrating to those who were following the debate prior to war like myself.

Bush never actually explicitly and clearly said that there was hard evidence linking Iraq to 9/11 or Al Queda, but he constantly did imply it, so much so that about eighty percent of Americans and many members of Congress believed it true.

Bush also never corrected those who took the implication as truth.

Furthermore, insiders like Richard Clark and Paul O'Neil have made it clear that was a sense that the Administration was "manipulating" the data, without changing the data in intelligence reports.

The technique is similar to what people do with the Bible when trying to prove a point.

A person combs through documents or statements looking for anything and everything that supports the conclusion already held before looking at the evidence, and ignoring all else.

Clark and O'Neil made it clear that intelligence officials were pressured to do this to find and help build a damaging case against Iraq, and the pressure started even before 9/11.

The intelligence community may not have been told or pressured to change conclusions, but it seems clear they were pressured to filter conclusions, and hunt for those conclusions that were the desired conclusions, etc....

Did Bush lie to Congress and the American people? Is Bush a liar?

That depends on the meaning of the word, "is"....

I'll grant that Bush may have never intentionally and directly said something he knew to be entirely false. In that sense, he would be no liar.

Bush probably also did believe in his heart that Saddam Hussein is a really bad guy, and that Iraq could align itself with terrorist and eventually pose a threat to someone, including America. I think most of us thoguht that in 1991.

Yet, Bush did act deceptively to get his way and portray the threat as more imminent than it was, playing on what occurred on 9/11 to help us swallow such deception.

If he did so knowingly, he is a liar. If he did so unknowingly, he is incompetent to be the President of the United States.

What do we do now?

Given the indications of possible hard ball and illegal tactics such as leaking the name of a CIA agent to the press when false evidence was exposed, I honestly think that G.W. maybe should be impeached, but I'm not sure on what grounds yet.

Of course, as a Christian, I must avoid rash judgment, and impeachment itself does not mean he would be removed from office or proven guilty of a crime.

But I think there may have been criminal offenses that need investigation precisely because of his position of power, and not out of any hatred.

Generally speaking, impeachment is not always good for America, but if the President decieved the nation to go to war for reasons that are more and more murky each passing day that another American dies, there must be a way fo removing this President legally if this is proven.

I am not judging the soul of the President, and no matter what, we must pray for mercy upon him and guidence from the Holy Spirit for him in his decisions while he remains in power.

I've said before that I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me to be very clear that this Administration very probably considers itself somewhat above standard morality or laws, whether national or international.

If this is not true, they seem so incompetent as to create the impression.

We must love the persons, but if they are either dishonest or incompetent, the faults need to be corrected: especially if it is getting people killed. There is such a thing as "tough love" when truth is spoken to power.

The saying goes that where there is smoke, there is fire.

I'm not really a gambling man, but I'd bet quite a bit that this Administration - including Bush himself - have clearly broke some law that is an impeachable offense.

I just don't know the law well enough to know which law, but I'll bet they have broken some law forming grounds for impeachment.

Being merciful and loving to Bush or the Republicans does not require that we turn a blind eye to what may be blatant deception or illegality.

Nor does loyalty to America or a belief in God's providence guiding world governments, or even agreement with Bush's intentions, demand allowing the Administration to act deceptively or illegally.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Think Globally, Act Locally

I was catching up on reading some other blogs, and saw Steve Bogner's A Culture of Life.

Steve nicely states the case that building a culture of life is so much more than spending immense energy trying to effect politics. It is following the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor in our daily lives.

I've been struggling with this week.

Steve and I are both Catholics, both moderate to "liberal" Republicans, both work in the information technology sector, both about the same age (I think he's just under a year younger), both grew up in Ohio, and even have similar Myer's Brigg's personality types (INTJ's).

We have different writing styles, and Steve eschews labels far more than I, and while we may not agree one hundred percent on every issue, I think we probably see eye to eye on many of what we each see as the major issues theologically and politically.

Steve writes the following:

A friend came by the other day to drop off her son to spend the afternoon at our house, playing with my younger son. We got to talking, somehow, about life in our 20's. How energetic and idealistic we were back then! Now a decade or two past the 20's, we're less energetic, and certainly less idealistic. She felt a bit overwhelmed - so many causes, so much injustice in the world, and what difference can one person make in all that?
Maybe I'm hitting the mid-life crisis or something a little earlier than Steve.

I find myself desperately clinging to that idealism of my twenties that led me to explore seminary life, and I'm trying very hard to discern what the next steps are for me in God's plan - my vocation.

Don't get me wrong,..., Steve is right that the two great commandments sum up everything. And a big part of my vocation in life is crystal clear when I look at my one year old daughter.

Feeding her, giving her bath, changing her diaper, playing with her when I get home from work, picking up after her, soothing her when she cries, singing her a lullaby when she lays down to sleep,...,all these small acts of love have a profound and eternal significance that hits me on the head like a brick when I see the light of her smile.

Likewise, anything I do or say that brings my wife and I closer together seems very clearly part of my vocation and a demand of the two great commandments.

The little flower wrote in her autobiography on the holiness of small acts of love within a cloistered environement, and it made her a saint.

But I still feel that fire I felt in my twenties to change the world in some way.

Yes. The problems in the world are overwhelming to even consider:

There are a billion people living on less than a dollar per day and dying of starvation, AIDs, malaria, and tuberculosis, not to mention all the people dying of cancer and heart disease, whether rich or poor.

There is genocide in the Sudan and elsewhere.

The world's sole superpower is engaged in an unjust and unnecessary war of aggression in an already troubled middle east, and terrorism seems a daily occurrence around the world, while the President tries to pass laws allowing torture.

If it isn't terrorism, there is crime and drug problems and prostitution everywhere and more gun deaths in the United States than anywhere. And the solution so many people accept is the unnecessary use of the death penalty.

We kill almost a million unborn babies a year, expirement on human embryos, and euthanasia is being accepted.

Nearly half of marriages end in divorce in the traditionally Christian nations, if people marry at all, while polygamy is rampant in non-Christian cultures that treat women as chattel.

The environment is being laid waste.

Corporate criminals are give a tax break while the poor get poorer and bishops who illegally and immorally cover up the sex abuse of children by priests are given cushy jobs in Rome, while women are denied ordination and gays are unjustly scapegoated as the source of all the evils I have just described.

I've been thinking lately that maybe blogging doesn't do anything to solve any of this, because naming the evil is not enough.

Steve is right that love is ultimately the solution. It isn't sufficient to denounce abortion or even pass a law against it. We must love women facing crisis pregnancy.

Love is more than a sentiment. It is an act.

But how do I do this?

How do I love women facing crisis pregnancies or those with cancer or the Sudanese refugee or the Iraqi scared for his or her life or the Israeli or Palestinian resident of Jerusalem or the Chinese citizen longing for legitimate freedom or the person suffering malaria.

If love is an act, what am I called to do in the act of love?

I know charity begins at home, and like I say, the here and now demands of my vocation are crystal clear in certain moments of loving my wife, my daughter, a co-worker, a customer, a friend or even the person who crossed me.

And I know I can pray for the world,...,that I even should pray for the world.

But I feel called to do more, and while charity begins at home, it does not end there. It goes from the self to the family to the local parish to the wider local community to the nation to the international community. We are called to love everyone - not just in word, but deed.

But how?

Maybe most people reach a certain peace in their forties with the idea that we only have so much time and so much energy and none of us should consider ourselves the messiah. There is only one messiah.

Yet, Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, got started at the age of forty.

I want to know how to do that - not to have fame, like Ignatius, but to be effective like Ignatius. How does one love in word and deed where it has that kind of profound effect on the world.

I do not accept that turning forty means giving up that ideal. I don't know how to do it, but by God's grace, I hope I find the way.


The Inconsitency of the Morally Dizzy

Sister Joan's recent From Where I Stand article raises some serious questions about the relation between church and state.

Personally, I think of the Church as above the state.

Yet, the golden rule as the guiding moral principle of Christianity forces the Roman Catholic Church to be respectful of the proper autonomy and role of the secular state, and the universal rights of human persons, including the atheist and agnostic.

The golden rule is also the basis for the Roman Catholic Church to be respectuful of the rights and liberties of other religious bodies and the human persons who belong to these other communities of faith, and even requires a spirit of genuine ecumenical dialogue aimed at finding common ground, peaceful coexistence, and common cause projects or united prayer.

Critique of the Church by a Church member must have some basis in the internal teaching of the Church, itself, rather than a critique based on secular principles.

Church members, such as bishops, should be fully accountable to secular law when the secular law is just and moral by the Church's own principles (i.e. - cover up of sex abuse of children is both immoral, and criminal).

Yet, the Church must be free of state coercion - sort of "above the law" in making moral critique of the state - if it is to fullfil its prophetic role. Every professional clergy person, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, or New Age guru, etc...should be free to critique the state from the pulpit.


Was Machiavelli a Priest-Sex Abuse Survivor?

The question is raised in John Allen's regular weekly column, the Word From Rome in NCR, and for some reason, struck me as the most interesting tidbit in this week's piece:

Machiavelli, author of The Prince, is the most famous political theorist in Italian history, and was a leading critic of the secular power of the Catholic church.

Recent studies had already suggested that Machiavelli may have been bisexual. Now historian William J. Connell of Seton Hall University in East Orange, N.J., has concluded on the basis of correspondence between Machiavelli and a friend that a priest named Ser Paolo Sasso, Machiavelli's Latin and grammar teacher, pressed the young man into sexual acts over a period of years.

That experience, Connell suggests, may explain some of Machiavelli's anti-clerical hostility.

Connell told Corriere della Sera that he's sure "beyond a shadow of a doubt." He cites a 1515 letter from Machiavelli's friend Francesco Vettori, in which Vettori says that behind Machiavelli's "love for men" was a teacher who "had his way" with the young man.

Whatever the historical judgment on Connell's assertion, it's fascinating to observe that alleged sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in the 16th century counts as news here, because it was directed at a famous Italian. Reports of sexual abuse in the church today, on the other hand, have thus far by and large not registered in the Italian media.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Alito on Roe According to Senators

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. has signaled he would be highly reluctant to overturn long-standing precedents such as the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling,....

In private meetings with senators who support abortion rights, Alito has said the Supreme Court should be quite wary of reversing decisions that have been repeatedly upheld, according to the senators who said it was clear that the context was abortion.

"He basically said . . . that Roe was precedent on which people -- a lot of people -- relied, and been precedent now for decades and therefore deserved great respect," Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) told reporters after meeting with Alito yesterday. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she had a similar conversation about an hour later with Alito, who has made clear that he personally opposes abortion.

"I asked him whether it made a difference to him if he disagreed with the initial decision but it had been reaffirmed several times since then," Collins told reporters. "I was obviously referring to Roe in that question. He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided."

Collins, Lieberman and others cautioned that they did not directly ask Alito if he would vote to overturn Roe , and that his comments should not be seen as a guarantee of how he may rule....


Short Take on Intelligent Design

This Commonweal piece doesn't delve into the arguments in depth, but does recommend some resources backing up my own position on considering intelligent design as a scientific theory.

The bottom line is that intelligent design is not science.

It is philosophy, and if it should be studied in grade schools and high schools, it belongs in some other class than science class (the author recommends social studies, while I recommend philosophy).

I'll go a step further than the Commonweal piece in not only saying that ID is not science, but as a theological position, it's bad theology from a Catholic doctrinal perspective, treading dangerously close to deism.


Why Religious Feminism is Still Important

Sister Joan Chittister addresses with concrete examples why feminism still has a lot to say to people of faith, and what people of faith who believe in the dignity of the human person, including women's dignity, have to say to the secular world.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Great Article

I just got around to reading this piece in the latest Commonweal, and think this article hits the nail on the head.


Monday, November 07, 2005

John Allen's Word From Rome

This week's piece gives lots of updates on things he has already reported.


Friday, November 04, 2005

How One Man Reshaped the Democratic Party

This article by Mark Stricherz for Commonweal describes how Democrat miscalculations in the 1970's effect the party today.


Majority Question Bush's Integrity

According to the latest polls, Bush has slipped below 50 percent approval on every measure, and shown the biggest decline in questions regarding whether he is perceived as honest and trustworthy. Overall, his approval rating is an all time low of 39 percent.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Would Alito Overturn Roe?

The Seattle Post Intelligencer says no.

"There's no question he's going to move the Supreme Court to the right because he is conservative," said former Judge Timothy Lewis, an appointee of the first President Bush who typically voted with liberal members when he served on the 3rd Circuit from 1992 to 1999.

"But in tens of thousands of cases that came before us, he faithfully showed a deference and deep respect for precedent," Lewis said. "From private caucus meetings and on the bench, I know he is an intellectually honest man and doesn't have personal predilections to foist upon the American people."

Senior Judge Leonard Garth, a Nixon appointee for whom Alito served as law clerk from 1976-77 before they became colleagues in 1990, said Alito supports tighter abortion restrictions, such as parental and spousal consent, but would stop there.

"Sam is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade," said Garth, a moderate conservative who signed on to a 2000 abortion-rights decision involving a procedure foes call "partial-birth" abortion that Alito criticized as too expansive.
I am no fan of Roe. Indeed, were it overturned, I would dance for joy.

I'm no lawyer, and I've never been to law school.

However, it seems to me that it is nearly impossible to overturn Roe legally. I'd love to be wrong about this, but I just don't get the counter-arguments.

Maybe I don't "get" the counter-arguments precisely because I lack training in law, but I'm going to describe my view of how the law works anyway.

I know folks think the court can pretty much do whatever the court decides to do, and I can't count the number of times people say to me "What about Brown v. Board of Education?"

It seems to me to be a misnomer to say Brown "overturned" Plessy v. Ferguson.

The more accurate thing to say is that Brown accounted for realities that Plessy did not anticipate, and applied the principles of Plessy to this reality.

Plessy is summed up simply in the succinct phrase "separate but equal".

Brown is summed up simply in the succinct phrase "separate is inherently unequal".

Who would deny that at the time of Brown, the socio-economic disparity and disparity in educational opportunities between African-Americans and Americans of European descent was grossly unequal?

If Plessy insisted that the freedom of separation was only justified where equality was preserved, and it was a demonstrable fact that separation was reinforcing inequity, far from "overturning" Plessy, the later decision affirmed its principle of equality as the overarching principle that legitimately restricts freedom.

I'd love to see an argument showing how the very principles outlined or defined in Roe actually demonstrate that states can restrict abortion in ways Roe did not foresee given realities that Roe did not anticipate.

Instead, I hear arguments that the case should never have been taken, is immoral apart from any legal reasoning, and/or was decided wrongly in its entirety and therefore can be dismissed with a wave of the hand.

I don't see how any of that is a valid legal argument.

The case was taken. Whether you think it was decided rightly or wrongly, the precedent has been set. Whether you think it immoral or not, the precedent must be followed by a judge sworn to uphold the law.

Roe is what John Roberts called "settled law".

If it's going to be overturned, it seems to me that the argument has to run along the lines of something like this:
"Roe was correct when it said principle X. Since principle X is not a reality due to legalized abortion, we now know that restrictions on abortion will actually promote principle X. Therefore, in order to support the principles of Roe, namely X, we must strike down some of the specific applications of the decision that we now know do not support principle X".
I hope and pray such a thing will one day happen. But until an argument like this is set forth, I don't see how any judge, even a conservative, can legally "overturn" Roe.

And it seems to me that judges do a moral obligation to be true to their oath to uphold the law - and that this oath even requires of them that they do not impose their own personal moral biases into deciding whether to accept precedent or not.

If the Bishops demand that a judge rule a specific way as a condition for receiving communion, even if such a ruling is illegal and violates the oath of office, it would seem to me that all Catholics who are federal judges must recuse themselves from all abortion and death penalty cases - or resign.

They are sworn to uphold precedent - and must demonstrate that even when there is an "apparent" contradiction between a prior decision and a current decision, the contradiction is not real.

Those who engage in apologetic theology know exactly what I mean by apparent verses real contradictions.

For example, the trinity of persons in the one being called "God" is an "apparent contradiction" that is not a "real contradiction" when one learns to properly define the distinct philosophical categories of "personhood" and "being" and accepts the difference between the "irrational" and "non-rational", and accepts the distinction between "apprehending" truth verses "comprehending" truth.

Brown and Plessy seem to my untrained eye to be a clear case of an apparent contradiction rather than a real contradiction.

If Roe is "overturned" it will not be by an argument of contradiction. It will be more akin to what Catholic theologians call "development of doctrine".

It would be like the development of doctrine that clarified that extra Ecclesiam nulla salus means that there is no salvation "apart" from the Church, rather than "outside" of the Church, where the Latin could be rendered either way and was interpreted either way by various theologians before Vatican II.

It is my impression that legally speaking, Roe cannot be directly contradicted, even when and if it is ever made null in practice by the courts.

If the Bishops decided that instead of telling a judge to rule against his oath of office, he is to recognize the moral dilemma and look for an opportunity to do his best to limit the harm of abortion or the death penalty without violating the law, I think Catholics could subtly influence the court towards life - but they remain ultimately bound by precedent.

On the flip side, the way to directly contradict Roe legally is through the legislature: pass a right to life amendment, which I wholeheartedly support.

Yet, the dilemma here is for the public office holder how must not only represent his own interest in conscience, but those of his constituents.

Again, he can subtly influence culture and law in a pro-life direction, but what does his or her oath of office mean when an overwhelming majority is passionately in support of immoral laws?

Could the bishops at least give the lattitude to abstain or compromise?

I'm open to being corrected on everything I said above - by a legal argument, even if dumbed down a bit for my untrained mind.

I've been trying to find exactly where Scalia might have said Roe can be overturned, and I can't find precisely where he says that in a way most pro-lifers seem to mean.

Maybe a more legally trained reader knows where to find an opposing point of view to what I outlined.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Alito and Roe according to WaPo

His record is amiguous. It seems clear that he is likely one who is personally pro-life, but it is not clear that he would overturn Roe.


Joan Chittester: Practice Compassion and Someday You Will Become It

Reporting on a Buddhist celebration she attended in Taiwan, Sister Joan speaks of love and compassion shown in deeds and words of those who find common ground among the worlds religion traditions.


John Allen's Word From Rome

Allen covers the ongoing challenges of Nostra Aetate after its 40th anniversay, the continuing disscussion of the recent synod, America's new ambassador to the Vatica, and a seminar in Rome on human trafficking.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

WaPo on Alito

The differences in judicial philosophy between Alito and O'Connor are not absolute. He has not flatly written that Roe v. Wade , the Supreme Court's 1973 abortion rights ruling, should be overturned -- as have some other conservatives who were thought to be on Bush's list for the court.

Alito struck down a New Jersey law that would have banned the procedure known by opponents as "partial-birth" abortion -- just as O'Connor did. His ruling, following the one O'Connor voted for, said the statute was unconstitutional because it did not include an exception for cases in which the woman's health was at risk.

..., The scholarly Alito earned his conservative reputation not through outspoken opposition to the Supreme Court's jurisprudence -- which was the approach taken by Judge Robert H. Bork in his failed bid for the Supreme Court in 1987. Instead, as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands, he sought to uphold precedent as he saw it through his own conservative filter.
It would seem to me that a judge who would rule against a partial-birth abortion ban does not sound like the kind of judge that at least some Catholics and Evangelicals hoped Bush would nominate.