Tuesday, January 31, 2006


The State of the Union speech just ended. Here's my immediate reaction,....

Non-violence or very strict and rigorous interpretations of just war derived with a presumption against war are also not pessimism, because only one with hope in the goodness of other people could ever even attempt to appeal to the conscience of others like terrorists.

It is the practicioners of non-violence and the just war advocates who opposed the invasion of Iraq who argued the precise opposite of isolationism or unilateralism.

Bush would have us locked in a mental construct of "us v. them" thinking where winner takes all and we alone against everyone. How much more isolated can one be?

The real world doesn't operate well that way. That leads to violent chaos.

As the Church has firmly held explicitly for decades, if not implicitly for centuries, our belief is that international solidarity is the path to peace.

The involvement of every individual in supporting the international common good ,through international institutions like the United Nations, and with a respect for international law and universal human rights, respect for other cultures, and employment of international charity and work for justice is the path to peace.

Nor is our criticism of unilateralism and preemption in hind-sight.

I criticized this policy with foresight. I opposed the invasion of Iraq from the moment Bush first whispered it in public.

Every Roman Catholic bishop I am aware of has opposed it from before it began. Pax Christi Catholics and consistent ethic of life Catholics were opposed to it from the time it was a rumor.

Almost all religious leaders of every major demoninations or religions oppossed it.

Many who believe there is such a thing as the legitimate use of defensive military force as a last resort against agression underway recognize that the invasion of Iraq in no way, shape, or form meets the conditions of a just war.

Most of the global community oppossed it, as did the United Nations Security Council.

And we are not "second guessing" on the future either.

We who lean to non-violence have been consistently saying for almost three years now that George W. Bush's policies have a direct causal effect of creating more terrorism, as we all predicted well before the invasion took place.

Dick Cheny, himself, once sided with us in the belief that regime change in Iraq through violence would lead to chaos!

We are promising that "staying the course" will continue to create more and more violence.

Our joyful, yet not naive, hope is that we - America - will change course and act from deep moral conviction and respect for the sanctity of human life based on the experience of God's infinite love and mercy that all who call themselves Christians know.

Because he first loved us, we are able to love even our enemies.

We do not need a message that says that if we don't kill others, we must live in paralyzed isolationistic fear, as though these were the only possible options.

Our faith in God is stronger than fear and impells us outward to care and compassionate concern for others, starting at home in the family, but stretching 7,000 miles away.

It's small digression, but does Bush have evidence that abortion rates are declining?

Returning to topic, expansive love oppossed to isolationalism has no need to eavesdrop on the international phone calls of citizens.

At home, we do not need cuts to 140 government programs serving economic justice so that tax cuts can be given to the wealthy and we can still wage an unnecessary, ineffective, and immoral war for control of oil.

And a seventy five percent reduction in dependence on foreign oil?

We don't depend as heavily on foreign oil as France, Germany or Japan. We are waging oil to control their oil - not so much our own gas prices!

I support our troops - the Peace Corp troops who are doing far more to end terrorism than anyone carrying a gun.

Lay missionaries and other international relief and development workers also do more to end terrorism than the largest army on earth.

Military troops deserve the respect of human person, and that doesn't mean I support an unjust war.

There is one and only one path to peace presented in revelation, as clearly indicated in the post below. Our priorities as a nation are reflected in our spending.

That path is non-violence, expressed by forgiveness, reconciliation, humility and charity rooted in justice - all aimed at the building up of the international human good.

It is God, himself, who reveals this unique and singular path, and there is absolutely no other path known to humanity that will ultimately succeed at creating long range peace and security in freedom and honor.


The United States Verses the World

How can there ever be a future of peace when investments are still made in the production of arms and in research aimed at developing new ones?
- Pope Benedict XVI, January 2006 Message on the World Day of Peace
The United States of America accounts for almost 45 percent of all military spending on the planet.

For 2006, the Bush administration is requesting $419.3 Billion, and the rest of the world will add up to $513.9 billion.

Global spending on poverty reduction and development runs at roughly $50-$60 Billion.

The United States of America currently gives less than 0.7 Percent of its national wealth to global efforts at poverty reduction, including private donations, as well as government aid.

Has our lavish spending on the military bought us security?

We fear terrorism. Yet, the theme of John Paul's papacy was "Be not afraid" and the Bible tells us that perfect love casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:18).

The Catholic Encyclopedia emphasizes that our tradition holds that in addition to a private or individual judgment, there will be a general judgment of nations.

Matthew 25:31-35 contains one of the scriptural passages from which this doctrine is derived:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations 15 will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."
The Holy Father chose the title theme of God is Love as his first encyclical - a letter inviting us to chose to feel erotic love maturing into agape for all people, and expressed in deeds of charity.

The Bible addresses care for the poor and downtrodden more than any other moral issue, and the love of money is seen as the root of all evil.

This love of money is often expressed in abuses of power that lead to wars. Is a war for oil a just war?

Think for a moment about the effect upon America of the non-violent witness of Martin Luther King Jr, or the way Gandhi transformed India, or the way one man stopped Communist tanks in Tiananmen Square, or the peaceful way in which Pope John Paul II, the Great, brought down the Soviet Empire without firing a shot, or the witness of Saint Francis of Assisi who sought to speak to the Sultans rather than fight in the crusades.

Charity, forgiveness and non-violence are the surest and most effective weapons we have against terrorism. We know so, because God, who cannot lie or go back on his word, promises us so repeatedly:
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. (Rm 12:17-21)

Some rely on chariots, others on horses, but we on the name of the LORD our God. (Ps 20:8)

He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (Is 2:4)

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

..., I say to you, whoever is angry with a sibling will be liable to judgment,...(Mt 5:22)

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. (Mt 5:38-39)
Pope Benedict and John Paul II and the bishops around the world have called into question the invasion of Iraq.

Pope Benedict and The Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church have all made a clear presumption against war based on the basic and minimal demands of justice which do not allow the deliberate or foreseeable end result of killing of innocent civilians in any circumstance, even unintentionally.

John Paul even linked this issue of the horror of war directly to abortion and the culture of death in his December 2003 Address to the Diplomatic Corp.

Love is patient, kind, and does not put on airs (1 Cor 13).

Beyond mere adherence to absolute moral laws in a spirit of minimal obedient justice, we are called to be people of love.


Kung's Take on the Encyclical

The gist is that he liked it and thinks it lays the groundwork for a "Congregation of Love" that will vet all future Vatican documents for charity in the manner the Congrgation for the Faith vets doctrinal orthodoxy.


After the Big Chill

Luke Timothy Johnson recent contribution to Commonweal subtitled "Intellectual Freedom & Catholic Theologians" is a must read.


Better Late Than Never

Last week's NCR editorial entitled "Cold, hard facts best myth slayers" responds to attempts to downplay the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.


Democrats for Life Gathering Steam

Joe Feuerherd has updates on the progress of the 95/10 initiative aiming to reduce abortion rates by 95 percent over ten years through other means than restrictive measures.


Last Week's NCR Cover Story on Ordained Catholic Women

I got a little behind and posted this late. Last week, NCR followed up with women ordained in defiance of Rome's mandate, and describes the ministry of these women priests.


NCR Editorial Calls Bush a Revisionist Historian

What was really interesting in this article is that the author claims that hearing Bush live is worse than the filtered stuff we get through the media. I'm sitting here wondering how much worse it could be?


Joan Chittister's From Where I Stand

Sister Joan asks Americans to consider that a nation exists that spends only 3 percent of its national discretionary budget on military expense, and college is free in that country. Meanwhile, the United States spends 54 percent of its discretionary spending on defense.


John Allen's Word From Rome

Most of this week's column deals with the recent papal encyclical and various reaction to it.


Gumbleton Resigns as Active Bishop

He was actually eligible a year ago, and steps down from being the longest serving active bishop in the United States.


Alito Sworn in as Supreme Court Justice

I have two major questions:

To the Right: Now that the major battle to get the right judges appointed has been won, will pro-life and pro-family Catholics deeply concerned about issues like abortion now be able to widen the scope of thier concern to include war and poverty?

To the Left: Is it sinking in yet that no matter how you try to dismiss it, getting abortion wrong looses support on everything else you have to say?


Monday, January 30, 2006

Great Round up on Encyclical

Christopher Blosser has done one heck of a job rounding up commentary on the Holy Father's first encyclical. Would we expect less from the Ratzinger Fan Club???


Friday, January 27, 2006

John Allen on the Encyclical

The thing that jumps out at me with Allen's take, and also with Neil's take at Catholic Sensibilities, is the way the following phrase seems to have drawn the attention of many:

An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, is not an ascent in "ecstasy" towards the Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man.
It seems to me that some folks may fear that the letter really says that even though eros is good, ecstasy is not.

For the heck of it, I did a word search in the English translation for "ecstasy". It appears in two other sentences in the letter:
True, eros tends to rise "in ecstasy" towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.

Love is indeed "ecstasy", not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: "Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25).
I don't think the Holy Father is against ecstatic experience. Rather, he is pointing a way to the greatest of ecstatic experiences.

It's like they used to tell us in Catholic grade school: Don't get high on drugs. Get high on God.

I suppose if you've never experienced the intoxicating beauty of deep prayer or sacramental married love or the ecstatic joy of the birth of a child, or the ecstatic joy of knowing you really helped another human person in a way that will effect the course of their life, and so forth, the first line might sound puzzlingly prohibitive in an otherwise joyous letter.

All I hear the Holy Father saying is that if you want ecstasy, there are far better ways to achieve it than with temple prostitutes or drugs and such.


The Philosophy of Leo Strauss

Possibly originating from the philosophy of the Marxist and Communist, Leon Trotsky, the contemporary neoconservative movement was heavily influenced by Leo Strauss.

The first link above (post title) highlights some of the principles of Strauss' philosophy as they apply to contemporary neconservatives, naming some of his students.

Basically, the idea is that there really is no such thing as morality, but only the select few who realize this lead the masses.

In order to effectively maintain their power and use it effectively, they apply the principle of deception, recognize the power of religion to manipulate the masses, and realize the function of agressive nationalism.

Much of this thought was practically fleshed out in a think tank of prominent neoconservatives called The Project for the New American Century.


Thursday, January 26, 2006


More on the Encyclical

I have only read through the letter once in its entirety, and returned to the first section briefly. Rather than quoting sections, I'm going to attempt to paraphrase what I think the Holy Father is saying.

It seems to me that if we were to try to simplify what our Holy Father is saying in yesterday's encyclical, he is starting out saying that it is OK to be fully human - to experience whatever passions and feelings you experience.

To drive home the point, presumably, this would include gay infatuation if that is how eros comes to you. I know the Pope doesn't make this example, but stick with me.

Next, the Holy Father is inviting us to an encounter with a personal God,..., a God who is not just an abstract idea of the eternal ground of being who is all knowing and all powerful but incomprehensible and totally other.

No. This is a God who, in some mysterious way, shares in the experience of eros in a perfect way that becomes transformed into agape. This is a God who is not only all knowing, but all feeling.

This is a passionate God!

And we who experience eros are made in this God's image.

When we encounter this God, our own experience of eros can become transformed like his to agape.

In eros,..., in the initial stages of falling head over heals in love or infatuation, we recognize the human longing to be swept off our feet and lifted into ecstasy where we seem to lose our minds - lose our very selves.

In agape, we are lost to ourselves in the other. What eros sought is achieved in agape.

What makes this possible is that the One who created us is deeply infatuated with each one of us - full of passionate desire for each one of us - head over heels in love with each one of us.

The eros of God is agape in that God loves each one of us so deeply that God looses himself in us.

This is most wonderfully revealed in the incarnation event, where God empties himself in human flesh, and then empties himself again on the cross in his pierced side.

God comes to us, seeks us, reaches out for us in passionate longing, and gives his very self to us, as we know in the Eucharist.

Christianity changes the world, by changing each person touched by God's love. This changing power of love includes changes to institutional structures, politics, and so forth. Every aspect of the human person is touched by this passionate love God has for the human person.

On our own efforts at changing structures and changing the world, these can be part of a life of one who has lost him or herself in agape with God, but the movement of love from eros to agape is always and everywhere person to person.

It is never person to idea.

Even in the encounter with God, it is not that we intellectually comprehend the idea of God that perfects the Christian. Rather, it is that we become lost in love with the person of Christ. This loss of self in union with Christ leads us to love those whom he loves.

Little Christian children know that Jesus loves everyone. We are called to do the same.

We are called to the same not by getting the right idea, or even the right actions, nor the right politics, but the right feelings.

To all who say "Love is not a feeling", Benedict is saying, "That's not quite right".

Love is more than a passing feeling, but it is not devoid of feeling. It always begins with eros. The spark of infatuation and the accompanying desire to lose one's very self in the other is the clue to what we should feel towards every human person we encounter.

What husband and wife feel for one another in the erotic stages of early love hint at the ecstasy we seek in God.

As love between husband and wife deepens into self offering to one another, the feelings of ecstasy may recede somewhat to the background while passionate concern for the other moves to the foreground over time, purifying eros but not killing it.

In a like manner, God's almost selfish and erotic infatuation with each one of us becomes passionate concern for each one of us - agape for each one of us - in a single eternal act that invites us and enables us to be drawn to him in selfish erotic infatuation becoming passionate concern for God - the love of God with all our hearts, minds and soul.

When we are passionately concerned with God, we care about the things God cares about - passionately. And God loves each and every person - passionately. Love of God makes us passionately concerned for others.

The test of our Christian commitment is not our orthodoxy. It is not our orthopraxis. It is our passion for others that is the true measure of our salt.

If the marriage bond resembles our relationship with God, it also resembles the love we are to feel towards one another - an erotic love that becomes agape to the point where we are swept off our feet and lost in the other person.

It is frequently said that love is not a feeling, but a decision. Benedict is saying it is a choice to feel, or at least open one's self to feeling for the other.

Who is the other?

Benedict's response is that the other is always and everywhere the very person in front of your face. Love that one. Don't just think it. Don't just strive for it as an abstract principle. Don't just do the right things. Instead, open yourself up to feeling it!

This does not mean that we will walk around wanting to have physical sex with every person we encounter, and much of what Benedict is saying about the purification of eros is telling us that.

As we lose ourselves in agape with Christ in prayer and in the persons we encounter day to day, gradually, we come to recognize that eros, raw passionate desire, is not aimed at mere sex, and never was.

This is not to say sex is bad. Sex is good, as it draws husband and wife together providing the model of eros transformed to agape.

Yet, the real meaning of sex does not lie in physical pleasure devoid of meaning. Great sex is spiritual union - an ecstatic loss of the self in another that is an encounter with the divine!

It is the spiritual union with others we seek, and seek passionately. Yet, we are not spirit apart from the body, but a body and soul unity. Spiritual union is realized in the body.

Just as spouses show passionate love for one another in other ways than sex, such as listening to one another, doing chores for one another, and so forth, so too, we can show passionate love for the people around us without sex, while expressing sex in its unique context of committed partnership expressing our monotheistic faith.

Passionate concern for the welfare of the human body and soul unity in front of your face is eros becoming agape.

Passionate concern for the body before you can be expressed in many other ways than sex, and if eros remains nothing more than a desire for physical pleasure, it is tepid and lukewarm and eventually kills the spirit, even if physical pleasure continues to be derived in the act.

We are to become infatuated with the people around us - even erotically. This erotic movement then can become agape as we grow more and more passionately concerned for those around us.

This is a process, and the letter states that.

Without explicitly saying it, the Holy Father is admitting the possibility of some mistakes along the way.

Even the one who makes no mistake will not fully understand what agape is, or how it transforms eros, until he or she has done it over and over for a period of time.

Maybe the process continues till death, and even into the state known as purgatory.

Consider a parent distracted from prayer and work by a sick child.

The love a parent has for a child is eros and agape in the singular motion that the Holy Father is referring to in this letter, though he doesn't use this specific example extensively.

A good parent does not love a child dispassionately. A good parent does not solely treat a child well without feeling, or simply avoid doing harm because of a command of moral law, or apply abstract parenting principles to how to treat the child with cool logic.

The parent feels first, and actions such as treating the child well, avoiding harm, or learning good parenting principles follow.

And any parent honest with him or herself will admit some selfish desire gets mixed with the love of a child.

Our parenting is a reflection of our very selves. Pride can distort parenting when it becomes more focused on the self than the child. We all know this.

Yet, the Pope is reminding us that the selfish aspect of parenting is natural and even good. Eros leads to agape, and is really one motion of love!

Conversely, the child molesting parent confuses eros so that it misses its ultimate mark in agape so obviously that most of us are repulsed by it. Yet, the problem is not eros, per se, so much as the misdirection of eros.

The letter doesn't give us too much clear direction on how to know when eros is being misdirected.

Instead, the Holy Father simply urges us to encounter the One in whom eros perfectly becomes agape. In that encounter, the rest will gradually fall into place.

While affirming works to change institutional structures and create social justice, and traditional acts of volunteer charity such as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, or the need to spend time in prayer, and so forth, the letter calls us beyond any of this to feel love while aware that feelings can be misdirected.

Using some obvious examples of misdirected eros such as temple prostitution in the ancient near east, the letter does affirm the possibility of sins of misdirected passion.

Yet, this letter is not really about condemning passion itself. Nor is the letter about morality, or even ideas.

Quite the opposite. This letter praises passion, and states that passion directed at its own deepest end is the basis of morality and right thinking.

It is all about passion, and in that sense, it is extremely refreshing. We've lost sight of this in so much of the Church.

Christianity is not primarily a philosophy, or even a theology, or a political program, or a non-profit charitable organization, or a set of pious practices to be carried out legalistically or an attempt to separate body and soul or mind and matter.

As valuable as philosophy, theology, politics, charitable activity, reason, and prayer are, they are all expressions of a feeling - and the ultimate test of Christianity is not orthodoxy, or orthopraxis, but passionate love for God expressed by passionate love for the person in front of our face.

Opening ourselves to erotic love that moves into agape for another human person is love for Christ and love for the God in whose image the human person is made.

Genuine heartfelt love for a human person is the ultimate act of worship.

This is what makes marriage a sacrament and a foretaste of our union with God. This is the meaning of communion with Christ and one another in the Eucharist.

Realistically, we may not feel this love for all the people around us today.

So, we turn again to the encounter, praying not in order to follow a pious observance, but to drink from the well of love so that we might become open to love once again - genuine passionate concern for every person we encounter.

This passionate love is like all human erotic love.

It is not a program to proselytize or change the other. It is a love that seeks ecstatic transcendence in losing one's very self to the other. It is the desire to let the other sweep you off your feet.

It is a love that overlooks faults and is generous because it cannot do otherwise.

I am going to throw a twist in to this that the Holy Father doesn't raise.

If I am correctly interpreting what the Holy Father is saying, dare we ask ourselves if we are passionately concerned with heartfelt love for Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or the people of Iraq, or the unborn child, or the spouse we divorced, or the parent who neglected us now terminally ill in a nursing home, or the co-worker who gets on our last nerve?

In asking such a question, I must point out that passionate loving concern for Saddam Hussein who is thousands of miles away is not as imperative as passionate concern for your co-worker or the parent in a nursing home.

Loving the person right in front of you is the priority, which is the point of the letter.

Yet, the letter invites us to consider if we are open to being in love with those whom it is difficult to love.

There is a decisive factor of love - a movement of the will - a choice.

Yet, it is a choice to feel something, and if you can't feel it immediately, to go to that eternal spring to drink of love until you can feel something. Then the right thoughts and the right acts will follow as you grow in grace and wisdom and love.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Hot off the presses, Deus Caritas Est may very well be the best papal encyclical I have ever read!

This letter really gets to the heart of the Gospel. This is what it all about - LOVE!

This is the good news for which the martyrs gave their blood.

You have to read this, because I can't adequately say it better than the Holy Father said it in some places, and there would be too much to quote.

I still need some time to digest it, so I'll keep my comments to a few scattered observations.

The tying together of eros and agape as a single movement of love within the human person, who is a body and soul unity that cannot be divided was masterful theology, and I think this will have a profound and lasting impact on how theology is done.

I need to reflect on this some more and comment further at a later date.

Yeah, yeah....as a liberal, I am aware that, over time, some folks are going to nitpick with a (very) few word choices that could have been more gender inclusive or slightly more sensitive to the Jews.

And if you get caught up in that, you missed the entire point of the letter.

Besides, it would be difficult to impossible to justify implying anything in the letter is intentionally insensitive to anyone on earth!

This may be the most pastorally sensitive papal writing I've ever seen - or at least it is way up there!

I suppose a sophisticated theologian with an axe to grind might wonder what sort of ecclesiology is reflected in paragraph 32, and that would miss the point of the entire letter.

Besides, based on my first pass, there isn't anything deep and controversial to be found going down this path.

One thing that struck me is that other than some critique of Marxism, wedded to some admission of the positive contribution of Marxist thought, there is very little condemnation directed at anyone.

How utterly refreshing!

Perhaps a gentle swipe is made at temple prostitutes of the ancient near east. A quick, yet gentle, quip is directed at young people today who would waste time with drugs when they could experience ecstatic transcendence in volunteer work and prayer.

There is not much else in the way of calling out errors, condemning actions or tendencies, and so forth.

Rather than telling us what not to do and what not to think, Pope Benedict decided to start his papacy by inviting us to a personal encounter with God in Christ that will positively motivate us to see what we can do and who can help us do what we want to do after this encounter.

There are phrases that I don't recall ever seeing in papal encyclicals urging us to go beyond doing or thinking the right thing, or even saying the right prayer, to feeling the right thing (or at least opening one-self to feeling the right thing).

And lest this sound like pious platitudes, this is deep theology that he ties to practical questions including social justice.

Some statements about Mary of the Eucharist aside, Evangelical Protestants will like most of this letter, which places so much emphasis on developing a personal relationship with Christ that leads to genuine love of others that is more than what we do, and is based on what has been done by God for us in a supreme act of love.

Liberals who are sympathetic will be utterly pleased and delighted with Pope Benedict's explanation of the distinction and proper roles or Church and state and how faith impacts politics without controlling political outcomes - and there is an explicit warning not to use charitable activity solely, or even primarily, as an opportunity to proselytize.

Conservatives will be pleased at the doctrinal precision of the language employed, its depth, and the reminder of the basics we all likely learned in grade school catechism about what being a Christian really means at the deepest levels.

In defending the positive contributions of Christianity to the world, Benedict even makes the pagans who imitated Christians under Emporer Julian look good!

Hopefully, all of us calling ourselves Christian can come together to say that overall, the Pope did an excellent job on this one.


A Very Brave Columnist

The opening line in this LA Times column is "I don't support our troops" and he pretty much means what he says. He argues that if the war is unjust, it is a mistake to say "I support the troops, but not the war."

This was posted by a pro-war reader in one of my comboxes to elicit my reaction, and it is timely, because I have been thinking about this issue.

I support our troops as human beings. I don't want to spit on them, call them names, or any of the nonsense that went on during Vietnam.

As this author even concedes, I want them to have "...,hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return."

Yet, if the war is unjust, there is a side of me saying that while I support the person, I do not support what the person is doing.

Oh sure. I admire the willingness of anyone to lay down their lives for a greater cause and to maintain loyalty and honor in extreme circumstances. That is admirable.

Yet, if a war is unjust, the deaths among the enemy, and especially collateral damage, could be potentially sinful.

I know I can never judge the soul of another person, but the act of fighting in an unjust war can be judged as an unust act.

I do believe that the troops may have a grave moral obligation to explore the just war arguments on both sides, and think and pray deeply about these issues and what they see going on over in Iraq.

I am very convinced that large numbers of the troops would admit that in the depth of their hearts, they have grave moral qualms about the war they are fighting.

If so, I think it would be far nobler to stop fighting even the in the face of court martial, rather than to continue fighting in a war you believe is unjust.

Of course, for those soldiers who can honestly say with full integrity and authenticity that in the very deepest recesses of the heart, after careful study and prayer and reflection on what they see in Iraq, that the war is just, I support you as human persons following your conscience.

So, I support our troops, but not the war, nor what the troops are doing in the war.

By support for our troops, I mean that I respect their right to follow conscience, and their dignity as human persons, and their right to justice from the government in return for services rendered.


Rove's Early Warning

E. J. Dionne Jr.'s column from yesterday's WaPo challenges Democrats to take the Republicans head on rather than ineffectively evading the way Rove frames issues. I think Dionne is on to something.


I Just Couldn't Resist

I've been mulling over whether I should tone down some of my rhetoric, but I could not resist the title or the important content of the column linked above.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

From an Ecumenical Council

At the Second vatican Council, Guadium et Spes number 81 states the following:

It is our clear duty, therefore, to strain every muscle in working for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent. This goal undoubtedly requires the establishment of some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all and endowed with the power to safeguard on the behalf of all, security, regard for justice, and respect for rights.
Guadium et Spes was approved by a vote of the bishops of 2307 to 75 and then promulgated by Pope Paul VI, and is considered many to be the most well recived counciliar document by the laity.


Monday, January 23, 2006


There is one issue that I almost completely agree with the conservatives in principle.


From a secular legal perspective, I simply believe that the condition for the possibility of a right to choose is the guarantee of the right to life.

Furthermore, in formulating a law that would guarantee the right to life, it would be irresponsible of the state not to define what is meant by human life.

It seems to me that given humanity's history of genocide and ethnic conflict, we need to define human life protected under the law as broadly as possible.

Isn't our sense of moral outrage stronger when a murderer kills a pregnant woman than someone who is not pregnant?

I would propose that human life can be determined as a self contained living organism with the double helix DNA structure belonging to human beings.

Call me dense, but I cannot think of any alternate definition that cannot be turned on a class of human beings we all, even the pro-choice camp, wish to protect.

For example, if we say that self-awareness defines personhood, can we execute the comatose, even if there is a reasonable chance of recovery without heroic measures?

If we can do this, how long would it be before a murderer argues in court that he did not commit murder because he killed someone in his or her sleep?

There are those who deny that the embryo or fetus is a human life, much less a person. Yet, the embryo or fetus has a unique human DNA code not shared with the mother. The unborn is a self contained living organism that is scientifically human.

Some people argue that the state is not responsible for a human life until the life is viable. Viability then defines personhood.

I have a hard time with this argument, because infants are not independently viable.

Infanticide is immoral and a crime!

Indeed, I wonder if any of us are completely viable without the support of society and community. Our freedom rests on a contract with society to care for one another!

This form of reasoning has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

This is an argument from human reason for making abortion illegal under civil law.

We do not need to mention the word "God" or "religion" to have a meaningful discussion about whether abortion should be legal or illegal, and good people can fall on either side depending on our values.

It is important to point out that if such a piece of legislation as an anti-abortion law were passed, the penalty would apply to the doctors who perform abortions, and not the necessarily the women who procure the procedure.

Women in difficult situations do not necessarily need to be punished.

I once heard an argument that effectively said that forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term is like forcing a person to give a blood transfusion for nine straight months. This is especially apparent in cases of rape and incest. In my mind, this is a good argument that helps us understand the pro-choice position.

The battle for civil law has to do with incommensurable conceptions of the common good.

The pro-life position maintains that if we do not safeguard human life, freedom is meaningless. For us, the state has a primary responsibility to protect human life, and all other rights rest on this one.

The pro-choice position maintains that without freedom and choice, life is dehumanizing, and hardly has value. Their motto might echo one of our American founders' who said: "Give me liberty, or give me death".

For the pro-choice camp, the state has a primary obligation to protect freedom, and secondarily protects life as an extension of the right to live freely.

Pro-choice Christians argue that in an imperfect world, the role of the state in safeguarding freedom may override the role of the state to safeguard life. Thus, it is argued one can be personally opposed to abortion, while voting pro-choice.

I do not agree with this position and do not think Christians should advocate it because we Christians are aware that our freedom is a limited freedom.

With the concepts of rights comes responsibilities. The goal is not independence, but interdependence.

We recognize the value of individual liberty and the goodness of the human person within the context of the common good.

I am also a proponent of a consistent ethic of life, meaning I oppose the death penalty, support gun control, and oppose the militarization of the United States.

Thus, as tragic as issues as rape and incest are, I cannot justify the death penalty for the child of a criminal, when I would not even execute the criminal him or herself.

Of course, the 2004 election lead to some good debate over whether unjust war or abortion are more important issues, or how whether anti-abortion laws are more effective than economic justice measures that reduce the demand for abortion.

There's been some ongoing debate about how Catholic judges make legal decisions.

Many of these debates have taken up the pages of this blog, and many other Catholic or political blogs.

For today, on the anniversary of Roe, I just want to affirm that I am pro-life, support any measure that reduces abortions, and hope for the day of a right to life amendment.

I think most Catholics lean pro-life, regardless of our voting habits.

From the religious perspective, I find language that expresses stronger sentiments about the issue than we do when we consider the matter solely in the light of rational ethics and civil law.

Christians are called to trusting faith in a sovereign God when we face difficulties in life. Though I recognize the difficulty for people facing unexpected pregnancies, I believe that human life has an incomparable dignity revealed in the incarnation of God.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ always reached out to the weakest, the poorest, and the most marginalized and oppressed in society. He gave a voice to those who were voiceless.

He recognized the humanity of those who were being de-humanized. His love was inclusive, rather than exclusive.

Even the most progressive Catholic should find resonances of Christ's notions of the reign of God extending to the unborn human person!

Psalm 139 says that God knows each one of us before we are formed in the womb.

Mary was immaculately conceived, and this has been solemnly defined as infallible doctrine - implying that human life begins at conception. How can we say life doesn't begin at conception without denying an infallible doctrine of the Church?

If we deny an infallible doctrine, this would have catastrophic consequences to our ability to discern any truth whatsoever in the Roman Catholic faith, would it not?

I fail to understand how any Catholic can deny that life begins at conception without contradicting important truths of the faith.

I understand that issues like full personhood and ensoulment are somewhat open to debate, but there is no denying a human embryo is something different than a hydra.

Murder is a violation of the fifth commandment.

We proclaim in the creed each Sunday that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.

How can any child be an unwanted child when their very being originates in the mystery of God?

A Christian confronted with an unexpected pregnancy has every right to feel whatever emotions arise in her individual circumstances.

Faith informs us that God loves and desires this human life - for if he did not, there would be no pregnancy. I know this is difficult to accept in the midst of trial, and I do not blame anyone for doubting.

Yet, faith, as trust in God's providence, provides us the internal resources to accept God's will amidst any fears and doubts and amidst the darkness of the circumstances of an unexpected pregnancy.

This is extremely difficult to put into practice, and living with such faith is partly what makes being Christian different from being an atheist.

If we throw in all the authoritative statements explicitly condemning abortion, affirmed by popes and the entire college of bishops, it simply appears that being a pro-choice Catholic is difficult to do in good conscience.

Christ's mercy is infinite in capacity, and the decision to see a difficult pregnancy through to natural birth is a challenge.

I do believe that Christ can and does forgive women and doctors involved in abortion everyday. This forgiveness is real and complete.

Yet, if one does not ask for forgiveness because one doesn't feel he or she needs it, how can that one be forgiven?

I do think abortion can be a mortal sin.

Objectively, the act is murder.

However, we can never judge another person's heart, since the ends, means, and circumstances remain unknown to us - and are only known to God and the individual.

I accept that in Catholic moral theology, even the gravest act may not lead to the actual guilt of mortal sin for a particular individual.

I am not trying to argue for a cold-hearted condemnation of all who disagree with me on the point that abortion is ultimately murder.

Nevertheless, the Church has rightly always taught that we can look at the object and make a judgment. If we cannot, all ethics and morality is thrown out the window.

Abortion, as an object, is a gravely immoral act.

It seems to me that holding the position that abortion is not ultimately murder is fraught with theological and rational contradictions. In this sense, I believe all Catholics should be fundamentally pro-life.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Fast and Pray

Today's first reading reminds us how fasting and prayer began a conversion of an entire nation.

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the protest in DC tomorrow, fast and pray for the end of abortion in this nation.


Friday, January 20, 2006

From Morning Prayer

I may have posted this before on some Friday of Week II in the Liturgy of the Hours. I love this reading:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. (Eph 2:13-16)


A Nearness in Difference

Eugene Borowitz offers very insightful comments on interfaith dialogue between Christians and Jews from the Jewish perspective in a recent Commonweal article.


GOP Contest Prompts Yawn Outside Beltway

That's the headline in The Washington Post regarding Republicans trying to challenge the party for real ethical reform.

Those wanting to reform do not feel they have the support of voters at the current time.

Our system is corrupt, and we do need genuine reform in ethics and also campaign finance reform. This is not a partisan issue. It's an issue of preserving democracy.


NCR Editorial on Abuse Crisis

At their general assembly last November, the U.S. Catholic bishops didn't discuss the clergy sex abuse crisis.
If any of the bishops think this is behind them and doesn't need discussed anymore, they are sorely mistaken.

In my own neighborhood, a religious brother in his fifties is being sued by an 18 year old boy claiming he was molested through 2002 and 2003.

This isn't over, and the editorial makes the case why the bishops need to listen to their brother, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's, recent plea for justice on this issue.

Hopefully, many will listen.


The Cost of War

The easy to read bullet points published in the link above in August 2005 indicate the cost of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq.

While the focus of my opposition to the invasion of Iraq has always been primarily the moral argument, I also predicted these costs fairly accurately prior to war, and everything I have predicted on this blog seems to be unfolding.

Some people are more impressed with arguments regarding effectiveness or the contstructive verses destructive consequences of policy decisions than arguments from moral theology.

For such people, I encourage an honest review of the cost of war as an invitation to consider the possibility that it is a true statement that acting immorally is always, or almost always ineffective, destructive and costly.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Can There be a Just War?

Most just war debate since the preparation for the invasion of Iraq has centered on paragraph 2309 of the CCC.

Proponents of the invasion try to show the criteria were met, while opponents of the invasion angrily argue that it abuses language to the point of Orwellianism to say any of the criteria were met.

I'd like to invite readers to break out of paragraph 2309 to examine the rest of that section of the CCC.

To understand that what I am about to write is supported by the Pope, read my point of view with this quote from the man now known as Pope Benedict XVI in mind:

There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war' - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, May 2, 2003
What does Pope Benedict mean by implying that Church doctrine on just war can change?

Is there something about "new weapons" that makes it impossible to wage a just war today, even if just wars existed in the middle ages?

Here is the issue I believe that Pope Benedict is addressing.

There is a constant teaching of the Church that the ends cannot justify the means:
1789 Some rules apply in every case: - One may never do evil so that good may result from it;...
There is also a teaching that it is always and everywhere (intrinsically) evil to destroy an innocent human life.

This teaching is the very basis for the Church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning. Offenses against the sanctity of life are considered among the gravest offenses.

In the opening paragraph on avoiding war, the Catechism says the following:
2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.
She then continues:
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war....
We see that there is a very clear presumption against war in the CCC, even if just wars are considered morally licit.

Yet, take a look at this next passage while remembering that the ends never justify the means:
2258 "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being."
The bold was added by me.

There is absolutely no circumstance that allows one to claim a right to kill an innocent human being.

None. Nada. Zilch. No circumstance, real or imagined justifies it. It is gravely and intrinsically evil.

Pro-lifers know this.

Yet, all or nearly all modern war involves collateral damage killing innocent civilians since we no longer fight with swords.

To knowingly, freely and deliberately chose a gravely and intrinsically evil act is a mortal sin, no matter what your intention.

Since the ends never justify the means, it seems nearly, if not actually, impossible that modern warfare could be just unless and until we devise means of waging war that has no more chance of killing a bystander than the age when just wars were fought with swords.

If a just war exist, it must be fought with means that have no foreseeable capacity to kill a non-combatant. Period. Anything else is not a just war.

Some folks will try to circumvent this by saying that what matters is your intentions. As long as you do not intend to kill civilians, they argue, you are not in sin.

Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but that position is not the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. It contradicts authentic doctrine.

That position is like arguing that abortion is permitted as long as you don't believe that the unborn is a human person, and no evil is done since the intentions of the abortionist were pure.

One could even support this view by distorting the intention of Donum Vitae where the Church refuses to define when personhood begins.

A secular atheist might see this type of reasoning as making perfect sense.

It is difficult to imagine a pro-life Catholic holding the point of view that intentions somehow wipe out evil effect of murder involved in abortion, or the possibility of subjective sin involved in chosing to perform an intrinsically evil act that destroys an innocent human life.

Even if the Church refuses to define exactly when personhood begins, pro-life Catholics make a presumption for life.

In a like manner, given that modern war always or almost always kills innocent civilians, we must make a presumption against all war.

Intentions do not mitigate the fact that in modern war, innocent civilians are foreseeably, and therefore deliberately killed.

Nothing at all ever justifies the deliberate killing of an innocent human being in Roman Catholic doctrine.

Absolutely nothing.

Self defense that kills an aggressor is permitted:
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."
Note that the killing of the violent aggressor is the unintended death that is permitted under the principle of double effect as a last resort for the proportionate reason of defending the life of the attacked.

This also sheds light on the Church's opposition to the death penalty.

Intentionally killing of anyone is murder.

Deliberate but unintentional killing of an agressor is permitted if the very act of killing the agressor had the proportionate double effect of saving human life as a last resort.

Deliberate but unintentional killing of the innocent is never permitted under any circumstances. To knowingly commit an act that will likely have collateral damage is murder.

Deliberate killing an agressor who is bloodlessly restrained amounts to to intentional killing, which is murder, and is never permitted.

I am unaware of a shred of evidence in the Bible, the writings of the saints, the decrees of the councils, the writings of popes, or the teachings of the bishops that there is ever any justification whatsoever for deliberately killing a non-combatant, even if unintentional.

Deliberately killing someone does not mean that you intend their death.

It means that you acted in such a way that the death of the innocent was foreseen with a high degree of certainty.

To act in such a way toward an innocent non-combatant for any reason is intrinsically evil, and therefore sinful if done freely and knowingly.

While the demand of justice may require resistance to violent aggression, the law of mercy supercedes justice whenever and wherever it can be applied without harm to the innocent.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make any theologically transition from "Turn the other cheek" to "Destroy a threat before it materializes", even when speaking of dealing of a violent aggressor.

It is impossible to make this leap when the lives of innocent civilians are at stake.

The law of justice, even apart from considerations of mercy, never permits killing an innocent human being under circumstances.

Unjust means cannot be used to achieve a good desired end. Therefore, the Church proposes that building global solidairty, global economic justice, diplomatic dialogue, and the non-violent promotion of universal human rights as the proper means to deal with despots and terrorists.

While limitted engagement with violent agressors without harming civilians may be necessary to defend civilians from direct attack, as in the case of local law enforcement, it would seem impossible to claim a full scale war or invasion using current weaponry in proximity with residential areas could ever by called a just war.

Even a defensive use of such force that collateral damage is foreseeably likely would be immoral.


Change is Possible

This is an article by a pro-life, pro-Bush, Catholic supporter of the invasion of Iraq who changed his mind after WMDs were not found and the insurgency proved the futility of pre-emptive war.

What is really powerful in this article is the open admission and detailed analysis he underwent whereby he realized that if he were really and truly adhering to Church teaching, he would have known in advance that the invasion did not meet the criteria of a just war!

He breaks it down with an accurate reading of just war doctrine from the perspective of those who believe just war is still possible.

He also admits the merits of the position that just war may no longer be possible and the possibility that Church doctrine is truly headed in that direction.

Yet, regardless of where the development of doctrine is headed in the future, he clarifies why those who adhere to current doctrine should have known prior to the invasion that the arguments for the invasion did not meet the criteria.

He also offers a piece of practical advice to all proponents of classic just war doctrine on how to avoid the emotional mistake that clouded his own judgment.

He suggest this practical advice should be considered morally obligatory for all serious Catholics in any debate about war.

That advice is simple:

Never trust anyone saying that classified information that is not open to public debate is the proof of imminent threat that is grave, lasting and certain.

If a threat is imminent, he argues, those aware of the threat must make the evidence available to the public and allow public debate. He argues that any American Catholic who doesn't demand this of any leader of any party could be guilty of sin.

Check it out.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Don't Drink the Koolaid

We do not need a war with Iran.


Hat Tip to Elena

I haven't been over there for awhile, and she may be surprised to see I'm not a heretic either. Indeed, I'm less so than her according to the quiz.

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

















Chalcedon compliant












Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com


Crisis Magazine's Case for Clerical Celibacy

The article is well written and doctrinally accurate. In other words, this is a case for clerical celibacy that is about as strong as it gets.

Yet, it is based on what I view as the most fundamental flaw that all proponents of mandatory clerical celibacy make.

That flaw is assuming that married clergy means the celibate vocation is invalid, or that everyone called to ministerial priesthood simultaneously has the celibate calling.

George Sim Johnston starts out running through all the proper caveats. Celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. It could change at any time. There are married priests in the Eastern rites and even in the Latin rite. At least some of the Apostles were married, and married clergy existed in the Latin rite for centuries.

He makes the turn to the case for clerical celibacy with a personal account by an Episcopal priest who converted to Roman Catholicism.

After a long night awake with a sick son, this convert attends Mass where the presider wearily expressed his own fatigue from a night up with a couple who's child has meningitis.

In that moment, our Episcopal convert accepts clerical celibacy because he realizes he could not have left his son to help that couple.

As emotionally appealing as this story sounds on the surface, it is utter nonsense with no logical validity.

That may sound harsh, but it's true.

All Christians - every last one of us - are called to generous charity and ministry by virtue of our baptism. All Christians - every last one - make choices how we will spend our time in service of others.

All ministerial priests - every last one - makes a decision at every moment to help one person over another.

That priest up all night with the child with meningitis was not available for anyone calling the rectory for last rites, or a suicidal teenager calling a priest for help, or even our Episcopal convert with his sick child.

We do not, can not, and never should fault a person who is doing good for what he or she was not able to do while doing good.

That is not only logically invalid, but just plain cruel. It places an unreasonable demand on all of our ministers.

There are people starving and dying every single moment we breathe.

We do not fault the suburban priest having a relaxed lunch with a parishioner who has some questions about the faith with the accusation that he had a moral obligation to help those in greater need, even if it means packing his bags for Africa.

What is wrong with a married man staying up all night with his own sick child instead of someone else's?

Nothing. Not even if that man is a priest.

Just because I can't walk on water doesn't mean I stop trying to imitate Christ in the life circumstances I find myself.

A married man called to ministry will naturally see an obligation to family as part of his ministry. His ministry to family is not invalidated by the fact that someone else is called to a different ministry!

As one who spent time in formation for religious priesthood rather than secular or diocesan priesthood, I may have a clearer head on this.

Religious priests are as committed to their community as any married couple. Part of the way of life or ministry of a religious priest is to his own brothers.

I have seen Friars up all night with another sisk Friar. Does the fact that such a Friar spent time with "family" mean the Friar was less of a minister?

That's absurd!

This flaw in reasoning gets carried into the rest of the article. Johnston compares Anglican priests serving in the military to celibate Catholic priests. The Anglicans avoid the front lines while the Catholics are in the trenches.

I agree with him that a very good reason to choose the celibate vocation is to be able to do things like that.

But is everyone called to ministerial priesthood called to be in a fox-hole someday?

That's absurd!

Is the ministry of an married priests further behind the lines of battle any less necessary than the ministry of the celibate in the fox hole?

That's absurd!

We need suburban priests as much as we need inner city priests. I fully expect that more celibates would chose inner city ministry than married priests, but it does not follow that we don't need suburban priests.

A second common flaw that is repeated over and over again is that we proponents of married priests need to explain the success of Denver at recruiting vocations.

With all due respect to Bishop Chaput, who I know personally and consider a very decent guy, the question needs to be asked whether Denver is producing vocations or stealing vocations from other dioceses!

If producing vocations that go all the way to ordination at a higher rate than others, then Chaput is doing something that needs examined.

If stealing vocations from other dioceses, there remains no evidence that what he is doing will actually turn around the decline in priestly numbers.

Johnston makes a passing allusion to a tradition that was widely accepted in some clerical circles that maybe the married Apostles abandoned their wives.

Saint Paul provides the evidence that this was clearly not the case in 1 Cor 9:5. Saint Peter and Saint James and other Apostles took their wives with them on mission, and Paul clearly states that it is a right for a minister to have a wife in this verse!

Of course, Paul, himself, was a celibate, and he presents some advantages to celibacy in his writings which Johnston also alludes to.

Which takes us right back to the fundamental flaw.

Support for married priests is not in any way, shape, or form an attack on the idea of a celibate calling, or even a celibate priestly calling.

Let me be very clear: celibacy is a wonderful calling for all the reasons Johnston says and probably some others.

The calling to celibacy comes from God, and we see it even in scripture in Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul and especially Jesus.

People are called to celibacy today, and there always will be celibates in the Church.

Some celibates will be ministerial priests.

Many celibates are not priests - even as I write. There are hermits, monks, friars, nuns, sisters, and single laity as I write who are committed to celibate vocations and have never been ordained, even to the deaconate.

Indeed, the number of non-ordained vowed women religious, though aging and shrinking in numbers, far exceeds all ordained men - including married permanent deacons!

The argument for married priest is not and never will be an argument against celibate priesthood.

That point must never be forgotten.

The argument for married priests merely says that in addition to all the fine celibate priests who live holy, loving and chaste lives that we have today, God may also be calling some married people to ordained ministry.

We know that such a thing is possible, because Christ, himself, ordained married men.

If there are people who have a dual calling to marriage and ministerial priesthood, it violates their rights according to Saint Paul to force that individual to choose one God-given vocation over another God-given vocation.

This is not simply an effort to make the Gospel soft and easy. It is a matter of "truth" with a capitol "T".

If God himself is issuing two vocations to a single individual, any human power that forces the person with the dual calling to chose between the two is acting sinfully.

The question is framed incorrectly when it is framed as "Why clerical celibacy?"

Nobody is arguing against clerical celibacy, which is why that question frames the debate from the start incorrectly.

The proper framing of the discussion is "Why not married priests in addition to celibate priests?"


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Supreme Court Rules For Assisted Suicide

I was a little busy today and am late posting.

I am against suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, euthanasia, and eugenics or any offense against the sanctity of life.

I believe in the seamless garment consistent ethic of life. I am opposed to unjust war, having a presumption that all war could be unjust. I am also opposed to the death penalty, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, violent crime and terrorism.

I would rejoice if Roe were overturned, but doubt whether it can happen in a legally valid way.

I am not claiming absolute certainty that courts cannot change immoral laws, but I have enough doubt that I have long said that the right to life movement needs to appeal to a wider base and make changes through the legislature.

Changes to legislature include finding ways to reduce demand for the various ways of killing, as well as laws prohibiting the destruction of human life.

My opinion on the recent court ruling is that I have no strong opinion until I see the texts of the decision to see if the arguments make legal sense - which is different than moral sense.

Meanwhile, all pro-lifers, and especially those living in Oregon, must work together to build a national consensus around promoting a culture of life and enacting an eventual right to life amendment that will protect all human beings from conception to natural death.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Onlines Bibles

Thanks to The Lesser of Two Weevils, I came across this a Hebrew Tanakh (what Christians often call the Old Testament) online.

Here is the Hebrew Tanakh.

It offers a parallel text reading with the King James Version, and the Hebrew font is very clear.

For anyone interested, here is the Greek New Testament.

Here is the Greek Septuagint with Old Testament online.

Since the Council of Trent refers to the Vulgate as as a sound basis of doctrine and because its long use in the Church, you may wish to see the Latin Vulgate.

For English speaking American Catholics, the readings in the Mass lectionary come from The New American Bible.

The N.A.B. also has some good scholarly footnotes and a scholarly introduction to each book.

If you ever want to look up a passage and can't remember where to find it, the Protestants have put together an excellent tool at Bible Gateway.

Sometimes, you may wish to look at the parallel texts of the same passage in more than one Gospel. A site provides parallel texts for the four Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas and other first and second century texts. Go to Five Parellels.

Spanish readers or those wanting to compare to a modern language may wish to see La Biblia.

I am unable to find an online version of a scholarly resource like The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. If anyone knows an online source, please point it out.

Catholics may wish to enhance Biblical reflection with reflection on The Catechism of the Catholic Church.


USCCB Statement on Iraq Transition

This is also available in a different format at www.usccb.org.

The bishops statement calls for a civil and constructive dialogue about the war that meets the following criteria:

- A dialogue that avoids both unrealistic optimism or excessive pessimism,

- A dialogue that acknowledges past mistakes were made by America with a view to learn from them going forward,

- A dialogue that is willing to ask hard moral questions and seek answers without judging others' motives or sinking into a "shrill and shallow debate".

The text addresses many important issues, and should be read in its entirety, and I highlight only a two key points:

It is well known that our bishops' Conference repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about the military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of an invasion and occupation. Similar concerns were articulated powerfully by Pope John Paul II and the Holy See. The events of the past three years, the absence of evidence of weapons of mass destructions and the continuing violence and unrest in Iraq have reinforced those ethical concerns. In light of the moral criteria of the just war tradition, our Conference remains highly skeptical of the concept of "preventive war."

...., In light of deeply disturbing and continuing reports of persistent violations of the human rights of persons in the custody of U.S. military, and more recently of reports of similar abuses by the newly reconstituted Iraqi forces, our bishops' Conference once again urges immediate steps be taken to end these violations, to prevent future occurrences and to discover how they came about. The abuse and torture of detainees violate human rights. They simultaneously undermine both the struggle against terrorism and the prospects of a responsible transition in Iraq. Such abuse undercuts our nation's moral credibility and damages our nation's ability to win popular support in other countries where backing is needed for the struggles in Iraq and against global terrorism. Defending the basic human rights of detainees can also strengthen our insistence on the humane treatment of our own military personnel who become captives.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Bush and Merkel Take Firm Stance Against Iran

This follows yesterday's news that the Europeans seek to refer Iran to the U.N.

A few scatterred and random thoughts on the solutions available to us follow:

- All spiritual or religious people must pray fervently for a peaceful and just resolution to this conflict.

- We are all human persons. All of us share something in common.

- Fasting and almsgiving to the poor or volunteer work with the poor would be a great way to help resolve this crisis.

- The love of money is the root of all evil and pride preceeds a fall.

- Our greatest enemy is fear of other human persons, followed by pride, followed by uncontrollable anger at others, followed by our own sadistic impulses, and then all other sin.

- All who work directly for or with the United Nations must work diligently to resolve this crisis.

- All people living on earth today should perceive their allegiance to the international community to be above national and ethnic or tribal interests.

- The notion of boundaries is imaginary. Geography maps are not reality viewed from the heavens. Don't forget that everything dividing us is a mental construct that does not really exist.

- There are many alternatives to military force in resolving international conflict, and a temporary diplomatic set-back does not amount to a last resort to go to war.

- Seek the win/win over the win/lose solution in every conflict.

- Fundamentally, the global community must spend as much or more energy, time, human resources and money promoting peace and justice and economic equity as it spends on military solutions.

- Changes in the global community always begin with each one of us as individuals and what we can do to persuade our people in own circle of influence.

- All considerations of the use of modern military force must take account of the grave moral implication of the fact that civilians will be killed in war.

- Lack of intention in killing civilians does not morally excuse anyone, individually or as a collective nation, from deliberately acting in a way that has the death of a civilian as a foreseeable consequence.

- Any argument that all citizens of a nation are combatants must account for babies or the elderly and infirm and the margibalized. Most of the world is civilian.

- The direct end-result of any action that kills a civilian must have an immediate proportionate secondary end-result to the evil involved (defense of a civilian).

- A presumption against war and a presumption for dialogue must be assumed.

- Factually, Iran is years away from developing a nuclear weapon. There is no need for hasty action on any side.

- Even if Iran were capable of developing a nuclear weapon and actually did so, that act alone does not provide moral justification to intitiate military action that has the foreseeable direct and immediate result of killing civilians, even if those civilians are killed unintentionally.

- Until Iran acts to kill civilians, war against Iran is immoral. War with Iran may also be very costly and ineffective, and may promote terrorism.

- Even if the government of Iran threatened its own citizens with death, through actions such as ethnic cleansing, the United Nations would be the sole existing body authorized to determine military intervention for humanitarian purposes is warranted.

- It is right for Europe and America to bring the current issues to the United Nations, which should be empowered to act as sole authority to manadate a humanitarian intervention if necessary.

- Greater participation in the United Nations by developing nations should be encouraged by all.

- If Iran attacked another nation state, such as Israel, that nation may have just cause under strict conditions to defend itself and its civilian population and enlist the support of its allies.

- No nation or coalition of nations apart from an internationally recognized authority like the U.N. can morally attack Iran or any other nation preemptively.

- Iran may not attack anyone preemptively.

- It is immoral for any nation to seek to obtain or maintain weapons of mass destruction that kill indiscriminately, even for deterrent purposes, including the United States and its immoral nuclear arsenel.

- It would be equally immoral for Iran to seek nuclear weapons capabilities, and illegal under intenational law.

- There does exist a path to peace that will be a mutually satisfying win/win for Iran and the nations that would seek to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

- The act of terrorism, or any intentional targetting of non-combatants, is intrinsically and gravely evil and violates international law and the law of most nation states as well as the morality and ethics of most relious bodies or cultural communities.

- It is immoral for any state to involve itself in any immediate material cooperation with the evil of terrorism, and any remote material cooperation with terrorists must have a proportionate reason. It would be difficult to imagine what proportionate reason could exist to provide even remote material cooperation with a terrorist.

- An act of terrorism, even with the noblest intentions, is a crime on earth and could lead a person to face damnation in the next life. If a religious leader says otherwise, ask yourself if he or she might not be insane or under satanic influences.

- It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to imagine circumstances where an alternative to the preemptive military force that will kill civilians is not available.

- The Palestinians have a right to a state and to be treated with human dignity and just repraration for being displaced from their homes.

- The Jewish people of Israel have a right to a state and to be treated with human dignity.

- The holocaust is not a myth, and anti-semiticism is immoral.

- Jerusalem is a holy city for Muslims, Christians and Jews, and the sooner we learn how to share it, the better. The God we all worship would want all montheistic worshipers to co-exist in peace.

- Ecumenical dialogue, ecumenical prayer, and working together on common cause projects is morally imperative.

- American business must relinquish the desire to control events in the middle east at the cost of human lives, no matter what the finanical cost. American government must learn to relinquish the desire to act as the world's sole superpower.

- World debt must be eliminated.

- Covert military actions must be exposed and renounced by anyone and everyone doing it. Failure to do so threatens global peace.

- Any national leader who does not honor and protect the universal human rights of those residing in his or her nation, including the right to life, religious freedom, other legitimate liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the freedom of political expression, threatens world peace, will face the wrath of God, and is currently impacting the situation with Iran and the global community.

- A consistent ethic of life seeking to reduce abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning experimentation, the death penalty, war, terrorism, and violent crime must take root in the hearts of all of humanity.

- The institution of the family must be promoted globally, and divorce and cohabitation must be reduced.

- Women must be recognized as equal in dignity to men and possessing equal rights to men.

- Racism must be renounced.

- Unjust discrimination against homosexual persons must be condemned. The connection to the situation in Iran is hard to see, but it exists.

- Detaining prisoners without due process and torture and weapons that kill indiscriminately must be renounced globally. Gun control is not a bad idea.

- All forms of slavery, sexual trafficking, child pornography or molestation, and prostitution must be reduced to zero, and all physical abuse of spouse and children must end.

- We must each individually work to reduce poverty through private charity and through every human institution to which we each belong and through existing international bodies.

- We must also protect the natural environment.

- We must reduce the demand for intoxicating drugs.

- We must seek cures to the leading diseases causing natural death, such as cancer, heart disease, malaria, tuberculosis, as well as HIV/AIDs.

- Aside from moral considerations, Americans need to ask themselves whether another war effort is practical at a time our troops are currently over-extended and bogged down in another war that has provoked further terrorism.

- Given that the United States had a larger and better equiped military force than all of Europe combined, the European nations need to consider practically whether they are really prepared for a war with Iran.

- Iran should consider that even if an invasion would be costly in terms of lives and funds to the invaders, would their defense not also be costly?

- Iran needs to ask itself if there good pragmatic reason to make concessions that quell the talk of preemptive war, even if those who make such talk are proposing immoral solutions?

- The West must come to grips with and recognize legitimate aspirations of the Arab people to self determination and the legitimate contributions of Islam to the global community.

- Catholics should be firm in our commitment to seek and express truth, without fearing questions, the points of views of others, or our need for continued personal and collective self examination and deeper conversion in Christ. In truth is the path to peace.

- God is truth. God is love. Christ is truth. Christ is love. Love is truth. In love is the path to peace.

- Perfect love is generous with others, forgiving, patient, and kind, and casts out all fear, overcomes all hatred, and will lead to blessedness in this life and the next.

- We all need to pray.


The Make Up of the Future Supreme Court

I assume that Sam Alito is likely to be confirmed. This is what the next court could look like:

Cheif Justice: John Roberts - Roman Catholic: Appointed by Republican, George W. Bush, expected by most to be conservative, but its too early to tell.

Antonin Scalia - Roman Catholic and appointed by Republican, Ronald Reagan, self defines as an originalist, considered a staunch conservative by all, and known for his fiesty arguments.

Clarence Thomas - Roman Catholic (though an Episcopelian when nominated): Appointed by Republican, George H. W. Bush, has sided with Antonin Scalia consistently and admits "natural law" philosophy/theology influences his thinking on civil law.

Samuel Alito - Roman Catholic: Appointed by Republican, George W. Bush, expected to be conservative.

Anthony Kennedy - Roman Catholic and appointed by Republican, Ronald Reagan, considered the swing vote.

David Souter - Episopelian and appointed by Republican, George H. W. Bush, at time of his nomination, he was considered a stealth conservative and is now considered a moderate by liberals, or a liberal by conservatives.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg - Jewish and appointed by Democrat, William Clinton, self defines as a cautious liberal, and considered liberal by most.

Stephen Breyer - Jewish: Appointed by William Clinton, considered liberal.

John Paul Stevens - Congregationalist Protestant: Appointed by Republican, Gerald Ford after Roe in the hope of moderating the Burger court. Considered a moderate early on, he has consistently become more liberal as the court moved right, sometimes acting as a lone liberal voice of dissent. Today, most consider him a solid liberal despite his early years of opposition to affirmative action and support for the death penalty.

7 Justices appointed by Republicans, 6 by solidly conservative pro-life Republican presidents.

7 are Christian, with 5 practicing Roman Catholics.

The 2 justices who are considered liberal and appointed by a liberal Democratic president do not view themselves as radicals, and do belong to faith communities.

A couple of points to consider:

1) If this court cannot overturn Roe, pro-lifers need to ask whether it is even legally possible.

2) Ginsberg is not in good health and Stevens is getting up there in years. It would do no harm to allow some liberals to replace the remaining liberals to keep some balance and diversity in the court.


John Allen's Word From Rome

As usual, Allen covers many topics of interest. The last section of this week's column addresses four of the main ethical issues facing Pope Benedict. Here are the short answers to my views in each:

(1) Embryo Adoption: I understand the arguments on both sides and could go either way. Currently, I lean towards the side that says embryo adoption has proportionate reason to overcome the main concern of separating procreation from conjugal acts, but I can accept the other side. The real issue is that embryos should not be created outside of the womb.

(2) Condoms and AIDS: I just wrote yesterday that it seems clear to me the defense of human life demands using a condom if you are HIV positive or have AIDs. I think the opposing view is without merit considering the gravity of the sanctity of life.

(3) Altered Nuclear Transfer: I understand the concerns on both sides, and wish there was a way out of even thinking about this issue through adult stem cell research or some other unquestionably moral and ethical technology. The head spins considering the implications of this either way.

(4) Just War and Humanitarian Intervention: I just posted the argument yesterday, and have a high degree of confidence that if Pope Benedict makes any sort of authoritative statement, it will clarify that humanitarian intervention is the sole justification for any modern war, with a very strong presumption against even this type of war, and that such wars very often must be approved by the United Nations.