Sunday, July 29, 2012

TFTD: Pulling a Fast One

Chico Marx: I make you proposition. You owe us $200, we take $2000 and we call it square.
Groucho Marx: That's not a bad idea. I tell you ... I'll consult my lawyer. And if he advises me to do it, I'll get a new lawyer.

(Horse Feathers)

The tragic thing about the current battle of the Culture Wars being fought is the fact that one faction is being given leave to decide the terms without observers even questioning the fact that this faction is not impartial, not reasonable and not logical.

In the current debates about abortion, gay "marriage" and the HHS contraception mandate, we see the faction in favor attempting to introduce their views as both personal choices AND fundamental rights.  The traditional Christian views on these issues are rejected on the grounds that moral values are "relative" and can't be imposed on others.  At the same time, it is also claimed that these issues are fundamental rights and those who oppose them are opposed to the rights of women or persons with homosexual inclinations.

It can't be both.  If it morality is relative, a person can't be compelled to accept abortion, gay marriage and contraception.  But if these things are "rights," then morality can't be relative and the proponents of these issues are obligated to make a case for their attempting to legitimize them.

It is hypocritical to condemn Christians for "pushing their values on others," when believers oppose innovations made to the moral beliefs which contradict long held values while at the same time imposing these new "rights" on society in the name of "human dignity."

During this time, coming up to the elections, we need to be aware of these hypocritical double standards which demand that Christians place their moral beliefs on hold while pushing their own moral beliefs.  We do not need to be ashamed of our faith.  As Americans we have the same rights as anyone else to speak out on when the country goes in the wrong direction.

We are not the ones pushing beliefs on others.  They are pushing their beliefs on us, telling us to shut up when we speak out, telling us we are anti-woman or homophobic when we say the unborn are persons and marriage is to be between a man and a woman.

We need to stand up for the truth and not let the lies and propaganda pass unchallenged.  We cannot let them intimidate us into silence.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sentimentalism vs. Compassion

One danger America seems prone to fall for is the danger of sentimentalism, which is the tendency to replace the reason and will with what "feels" right ("feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.  Having or arousing such feelings in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.")  Americans prefer stories of the underdog triumphing over the powerful – especially if it is a bureaucracy, institution or government agency. 

The problem is, the underdog is not always right just because he or she is the underdog.  Nor is the person portrayed as the underdog always the underdog to begin with.  Sometimes it is the group portrayed as the evil institution that is in the right.

So today we see "women" (actually a sub faction of women who have a shared ideological view) struggling for freedom against the institution of the "heartless Church" because the Church refuses to change her teachings on sexual morality.  We also see homosexuals portrayed as the underdogs against the "fanatical religious right."

What we don't see is the fact that these so-called "underdogs" have the support of the Executive Branch of the US Government, the mainstream media, Hollywood, College faculty, rich millionaires et5c.  What we don't see is that those being coerced are not the women and the homosexuals, but those who disagree with the HHS mandate or those who do not recognize "gay marriage."


Sentimentalism is essentially a logical fallacy – the appeal to emotion (usually sympathy and fear).  What we get in this propaganda is someone who is weak who must act in a certain way and will suffer terribly unless the "evil institution" changes their policy.  This is where we see the Church attacked on its opposition to contraception ("those poor women married to men infected by AIDS!") or abortion ("those poor women who were raped!") or "gay marriage" ("those poor people forbidden to marry when they love each other!").  It's propaganda used to elicit an emotion favorable to the policy the propagandist wants passed.

What's not considered is whether the emotion sought is properly applied to the case at hand.  For example, if the fetus is a human person, then there is no justifiable case to kill that person.  If marriage is only possible between a man and a woman, no appeal to "how cruel to be denied the right to marry" can justify "gay marriage."

When people use propaganda of the back alley abortion and the coat hanger, this does not answer the primary questions:

  1. Is the fetus a person or not?  and…
  2. On what do you base your view?

Considering True Compassion

True compassion differs from sentimentalism in a meaningful way.  Humanity, being flawed and sinful will find people who have been afflicted in some way, either through a bad choice of their own, or being the victim of another.  Such individuals do need some sort of assistance regardless of whether they are in the right and victimized by another or are in the situation through their own fault.  However, compassion requires a solution which is in keeping with the truth and not merely treating symptoms.  True compassion does not treat one person as a means to help another.

Ultimately compassion must be in accord with what really is, seeking to change the situation, not alleviate the symptoms.  We don't show compassion by providing drug addicts with clean needles.  We show compassion by helping them break free of addiction and stay free.  We don't provide compassion by permitting abortion and destroying human life.  We provide compassion by providing support (especially if the woman is a victim).  We don't provide compassion by permitting condoms to be used.  We provide compassion by teaching the men that they don't play Russian Roulette with their wives. 

(Really, if these advocacy groups cared about these women, they'd direct their outrage at the AIDS infected men forcing sex on their wives, not at the Catholic Church whom these men were already ignoring by placing their wives in jeopardy).

In all of these cases, the popular solutions fall into sentimentalism.  The poor drug user who reuses needles should be given clean needles (which does nothing to get them free from drugs).  The poor woman who is pregnant and single is not helped by having her abortions and contraception paid for.  She is helped by helping her to use self control and be responsible, recognizing that pregnancy comes from sexual relations.  The poor African woman who is forced to have sexual relations with her infected spouse, but by providing opportunities to escape from such a desperate situation.


Today's sentimentalism doesn't help people.  It merely provides a (usually futile) attempt to reduce the impact of the symptoms of self-destructive behavior while permitting that self-destructive behavior to continue.  True compassion does not settle for the treating the symptoms but tries to find a lasting solution.

If we don't try to find permanent solutions, which includes modification of behavior, we'll find we've made a whole lot of commotion with no results.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Understanding the Nature of the Church

With the current attacks on the Catholic Church in the United States of America, we see that a large portion of Americans and even some American Catholics seem to believe the propaganda used by her opponents – the canards of "celibate old men" who are trying to "control" people and "impose their views on others."  It is believed that if the Church were not governed by this group, it would have different teachings on sexuality.

Such a view demonstrates a lack of understanding, thinking it is about factions and not understanding why the Church acts as she does.

The first thing to realize is Christianity is not some sort of philosophy with competing schools of thought.  It is not a human system of gaining some sort of enlightenment.  Christianity is a revealed religion given to the world by Christ which is focused on the salvation of humanity – the reconciliation of God with man.  Christianity acknowledges that each person is estranged from God, but God redeems us because He loves us.

Reconciliation between God and man indicates a separation between God and man exists however.  Reconciliation also indicates a response on our part – a desire to change our lives, rejecting behaviors and attitudes which are contrary to a loving relationship with God.  The behaviors and attitudes may differ.  The person uneducated in religion may be bound up in sex and drugs, while the person who is more advanced in faith might struggle with pride and disdain.  In any case, no person can honestly claim to be without need for God's grace and no person honestly can claim to be without sin.

Second, the Church is not a "School of thought" that forms around a certain interpretation of Christ the Philosopher.  The Church is the means Christ chose to bring His salvation to the world.  From the Twelve Apostles to the present day, the Church preaches the message of salvation to the world.  She reminds the world that every person is in sin and needs to repent to enter the right relation to God.  The Magisterium of the Church is not supposed to be a career (though some have treated it this way).  One doesn't enter the priesthood with the goal of getting a "promotion" to Bishop or Cardinal.  The intended role of the clergy is to serve Christ looking after His flock.  The priest or bishop who looks it as a career looks at it wrongly.

The teaching authority of the Church ensures the teaching of Christ passed on to the Apostles remains uncorrupted.  She evaluates, accepting the compatible formulations and rejecting those which contradict this teaching.  This includes what we believe about God, doctrinally, and the moral teachings we are called to follow.

Because certain behaviors are incompatible with the relationship of God and man, the Church must speak out – both to the whole world and to the members of the faithful.  To the former to inform them there is a God who loves them and to call them to holiness.  To the latter to remind them that Christianity is not a "check the box and move on."  It is a lifelong relationship with God, constantly growing more intimate.  The Church must speak out even when such vices are morally acceptable to the world.

Third, those who would claim to be Catholic must, obviously, accept what the Church teaches.  Can you imagine the NAACP accepting as a valid point of view that blacks are naturally inferior to whites?  Can you imagine B'nai B'rith accepting the views of a member that the Nazis were right?  Of course not!  Such views are grossly incompatible with the purpose of these groups.  Nobody would accuse the NAACP of bigotry for refusing to accept as a member someone who was openly racist.  Nobody would accuse B'nai B'rith of intolerance for refusing to accept a Nazi skinhead into their ranks.

Moreover, why should someone who openly rejects the beliefs of such a group want to be a member to begin with?

But this is the problem with the so-called "cultural Catholic" who dissents from Church and wants to change her teachings.  They effectively deny what the Church believes about herself.  Given the scope of what she claims (that she is the true Church established by Christ and teaches with Christ's authority, not her own), the dissenter has a dilemma.

  1. If what she teaches is false, no sane person should even want to remain in a Church that makes such a wild claim.
  2. If what she teaches is true, the dissenter is not rebelling against man, but against God.

Either way, the attempt to get the Church to "change her views" is absurd.  If her teachings are false, she is a sect of people who dress funny one day a week.  People are free to leave such an institution.  If one thinks the Church is not Christ's, they are fools to remain in her and have no cause for complaint because the Church teaches differently than they like.

BUT, if she is what she claims to be, she cannot change what she teaches to be held definitively because to do so would be unfaithful to the God she believes in.  She then must stand firm against all the hostility of the world, when compromise would be humanly easier.  People are still free to leave her, but to do so would be to trade truth for a lie.

In the first case, the attempt to change Church teaching is a waste of time.  In the second case, it is rebellion.

I believe it is clear that the Church is not on some power trip.  Because she believes she serves Christ, she must preach Christ in season and out of season.  She must preach to the ones who are in her and those who are outside her, even at the cost of being hated.

We can then see that the bishops are not being political in opposing the HHS mandate being imposed on the Church.  They believe that the government is promoting a lifestyle which is in opposition to reconciliation with God, and they must warn them that they risk losing everything if they continue on the path.

Brief Reflection on "Science Saved My Soul"

Someone on Facebook shared the video, Science Saved My Soul, the upshot being the video makes the claim that science saved his soul from religion.  Watching the video and reading the transcript, I was struck by how bad it was.   So what is wrong with it?

The man has minimal knowledge of religion and assumes it to be an enemy of science.  He asks:

If God exists, God made this. Look at it. Face it. Accept it. Adjust to it, because this is the truth and it’s probably not going to change very much. This is how God works. God would probably want you to look at it. To learn about it. To try to understand it. But if you can’t look—if you won’t even try to understand—what does that say about your religion?

The funny thing is, many scientists were Catholics who believed that because God created the universe, the universe must be reasonable.  The myth of Galileo aside, it was the Catholic Church who did the most to advance Astronomy (35 craters on the Moon are named for Jesuit astronomers).   Cathedrals were built to function as observatories. 

Consider that.  Now consider the narrator's words:

Religions tell children they might go to hell and they must believe, while science tells children they came from the stars and presents reasoning they can believe. I’ve told plenty of young kids about stars and atoms and galaxies and the Big Bang and I have never seen fear in their eyes—only amazement and curiosity. They want more. Why do kids swim in it and adults drown in it?

Now consider that the founder of the theory which would become to be known as The Big Bang Theory was Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître – a Catholic priest from Belgium who was an astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain.  He founded it in 1927.  He was the one who demonstrated the expansion of space was shown by the red shift of galaxies.

(Religious person – must be ignorant of Science according to the video)

The person who says Science and Religion are in conflict may know a great deal of Science – but he or she is demonstrating a profound lack of knowledge of religion.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bleak Fourth of July


         “Why do you recite my commandments
         and profess my covenant with your mouth? 
         You hate discipline;
         you cast my words behind you!"
(Psalm 50:16b-17)

—From the Responsorial Psalm for July 4th, 2012

Independence Day is the day we celebrate the birth of our nation from being a colony of England.  The nation was founded on the recognition of the fact that man had, by his very nature, inalienable rights that do not come from the state so the state cannot take them away.  We have always been a free nation in principle, though tragically we have sometimes in our history failed to recognize that certain groups of people had the status of men, seeking to deny them the rights due to all human beings.

The Founding Fathers always recognized the concept of Natural Law .  They recognized that there is a way which all human beings should behave which fits into their nature of being human, not being an animal.

The point is, in our Declaration of Independence, our justification for breaking away from the British Empire was based on the premise that a government which is in opposition to the natural law must be altered or abolished.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This is not "Hallmark Card" sentimentality.  This is a recognition that the government cannot do what it pleases – it must always respect the natural law and the rights inherent in being human.

Recognizing this, the Founding Fathers specifically listed in the Bill of Rights restrictions against legislation that was in opposition to those natural laws.  To go against these principles is to become a government destructive of these ends.

The First Amendment, as written, recognizes the freedom of conscience to do right before God and the need to speak out openly when the nation does wrong as one of these unalienable rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, the government cannot do the following:

  1. Interfere with religion by either promoting one denomination or preventing one from exercising their faith freely.
  2. Interfere with the ability to speak openly without fear of government reprisals
  3. Interfere with the ability to write openly without fear of government reprisals.
  4. Interfere with the ability to peaceably assemble concerning grievances against the government.

It's a wise Amendment to the Constitution.  It prevents the Government from forcing the people to do evil and prevents them from silencing condemnation when they do wrong.

Or so it was in theory.

It is a sad Independence Day this year, because some of us are fearful that the Government of the United States will interfere with the free exercise of religion by mandating that Catholic Schools and Hospitals, and Catholics who run their own businesses will be mandated to provide certain services which faithful Catholics believe go against the command of God.  The only way to avoid this, is to limit the services to Catholics alone (though I suspect a discrimination lawsuit would quickly follow).

So a Catholic Hospital must choose between disobeying God when it comes to caring for the (non-Catholic) sick or disobeying God by trivializing sex as if it were merely an "itch to scratch."

Preventing a member of a religion from doing what their faith tells them they must do – without fear of repercussions – is indeed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Unfortunately, this is not merely a problem of a corrupt government.  We've had warning signs for years.  Pharmacists risking loss of their jobs for refusing to sell abortifacient drugs have been met with silence or a public attitude of "so go work elsewhere if you can't do your job."  Owners of a business who are religious and believe they cannot offer services supporting so-called "Gay Marriage" are sued for "discrimination."

Basically, we have a society which tolerates injustice in the name of an ideology they support.  So, "Throw the bums out" is only part of the issue.  If people will keep voting the bums back in, ignoring the abuses if they support the preferred ideology, we will continue to have these problems until one day we might be unable to vote the bums out any longer – because they won't let us.

What is happening is the Government has taken and altered the First Amendment in practice:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If this action by the Obama administration is allowed to stand, it means that apart of the First Amendment can be ignored.  We will have permanently lost a part of the freedoms the Government has no right to take away from us.  Any future religious group can be coerced by the administration in power if its beliefs are inconvenient.

This is why I find the state of affairs so bleak this July 4th.  We are still free this year, though our freedom is challenged.  How many more Independence Days will we have before we are no longer free?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

TFTD: Reflections on an Anti-Catholic Commercial

Propaganda on TV

Today, while watching the History Channel, I came across a rather offensive commercial from a group called the "Freedom From Religion Foundation."  It featured a fallen-away Catholic accusing the Bishops of distorting the issues by claiming it was a religious freedom issue.  She stated that it was an issue of power and the bishops were trying to impose their views on others.

Now I don't think that the FFRF believes what they say at all, but they hope to sway the uninformed to believing their propaganda.

What annoys me the most about this group's commercial is the brazen lack of reason and logic in their message.

The issue is, Catholic Bishops are speaking out saying the Government has no right to mandate that Catholic institutions or businesses do something they believe is contrary to what God demands.  Those who oppose the Catholic Church says they must obey the government mandate, except for a definition so narrow that it prevents the Catholic Church from carrying out the works of charity she performed far longer than the United States has existed.

Such Propaganda Justifies Whatever the Government Wants to Do

Think about it.  The Catholic bishops are accused of politicking and forcing views because they oppose government interference with Catholics doing what is right before God.

By such reasoning, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders would be guilty of forcing their views on Southerners because they dared to oppose an unjust law.

Catholics in the United States need to be aware that the cultural elites and the current Administration of the United States of America are making war on us and restricting our beliefs.

What are the ramifications of this Attack on Religious Freedom?

No, it isn't like persecution in China or fundamentalist Islamic nations – and probably won't be unless Americans allow the government to get away with this over a long period of time.  But they are calling us bigots, homophobes, etc.  They are attempting to force us to yield to government policy.  So Americans of good will need to ask themselves something.

How far will you let the government go when we refuse to comply with Government attempts to force us to do evil?

It is not a polemical question.  Faithful Catholics are being forced to choose between God and State.  If we choose to obey God, the government will take legal action against us.  Fine our institutions certainly.  Perhaps we might begin to see them treat some of our hierarchy as disloyal later on.  Perhaps Catholic parents teaching their children the faith will be portrayed as being the same as racial extremists teaching their children propaganda?  Perhaps they'll decide children need to be protected from Catholic parents?

It's hard to speculate of course because it is difficult to assess the limits conscience places on the current administration and at what point people will say "Enough!"

A Warning to Americans of Good Will

Americans of good will do need to keep in mind that if the government is not stopped now, then any future government (whether Democratic, Republican or Third Party) can also use the power of government to coerce other people to do what they believe is wrong.

To borrow from Pastor Niemöller, they are coming now for us.  You may be silent because you are not Catholic or perhaps because you favor contraception coverage.  However, once you let the government come for us, there is nothing to prevent them from coming for any other group who holds a position they dislike.