Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reflections on a New President

Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2) 

Since Election Day, I knew I would need to comment on what had happened. The problem I faced was deciding what to say that emphasized a Catholic perspective and neither seemed to whitewash nor exaggerate the problems we’ll face over the next four to eight years. Perhaps I have an advantage here. I tried to keep my blog non-partisan during this tiring election season, and I can honestly say I didn’t vote for either major party. I voted for a minor party which formed its platform on Catholic social teaching. [†] So hopefully what I say can be seen as non-partisan.

I don’t believe Trump will be a “political messiah” that many of his supporters think he’ll be. He strikes me as a pragmatist who will be flexible on his positions. He holds many positions I believe are incompatible with our Catholic faith. The question in my mind is, how flexible will he be? Will he keep his promises to oppose abortion and to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will defend Christians from unjust laws? Or will he compromise on these issues, betraying the Christians he promised to protect? By the same token, will he keep his promises on enacting what I see as unjust immigration policies? Or will he compromise and do less harm than I fear?

At this point, I don’t think any of us can say what he will do for certain. We’ll have to watch and see. We may gain some clues during the transition period, with who he appoints to positions. Others we’ll probably have to wait and see how he acts once he is sworn in to office. Some are filled with hope and assume he will do good. Others are filled with dread and assume he will do evil.

As Catholics, I think our position should neither be one of elation, nor of dread. It should be one where we take each of his actions and support moral laws and oppose immoral laws. During the last eight years, it was easy for informed Catholics to recognize attacks and government harassment over our beliefs. Because there was a concerted effort to push religion out of the public square and to falsely label our moral obligations as “bigotry” and a “war on women,” Catholics could stand together against an overt attack.

Now that this attack is ending, it will be easy for us to think we can rest from our labors. But we can’t do that. We must witness to our faith and moral values even if people tell us, “Shut up! Don’t rock the boat!” Where his values are compatible with our Catholic faith we should encourage him, and where they are incompatible, we should urge a change and even oppose him when necessary.

What we cannot do is let our partisan values supersede our Catholic faith. We have to bear witness in Democratic administrations and in Republican administrations, regardless of whether it seems to be convenient or not (see 2 Timothy 4:2).

So my recommendation over the next four to eight years of this administration is to remember our Catholic faith and let it shape our response, neither giving our next President a free pass nor unremitting hostility based on our personal politics. Let us pray for our country, and that those who govern us may govern justly.



[†] No, I didn’t think they would win. In fact, they received less than 1,500 votes nationwide. The purpose of this vote was to say, “Because I can’t vote for either candidate without violating my conscience, I will vote for a party which professes Catholic teaching to symbolize my standing with the Church.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Persecution: American Style

Western nations attacking Christians don’t normally use the violent, brutal attacks we associate with the term “persecution.” Because of that, it is easy to pretend that Western Christians are not targeted for their beliefs. But that’s the fallacy of relative privation. The fact that attacks on Christians in Country A are far worse than harassment of Christians in Country B does not mean the situation in Country B is not unjust.

In the West, attacks on Christians begin over teachings against popular vices. Foes portray Christian opposition to moral wrongs as hating the people who commit them. Then they accuse Christians of violating an esteemed cultural value out of bad will. These accusations justify laws (or, more commonly, executive action and court rulings) against the alleged wrongdoing of Christians. When Christians insist on obeying their faith despite unjust laws, foes harass them by Criminal and Civil complaints aimed at forcing compliance. 

Political and cultural elites argue that the injustice is just a consequence of Christians doing wrong. If they would abandon their “bigotry,” they would not face legal harassment. The problem is, they accuse us of wrongdoing, but we are not guilty of wrongdoing. We deny that we base our moral beliefs on the hatred of people who do what we profess is wrong. They must prove their accusation. People cannot simply assume it is true.

In response, foes bring up the bigoted behavior of a few who profess to be Christians. The Westboro Baptist Church was a popularly cited bugbear before the group fell into obscurity. They argue that groups like this prove bigotry on the part of Christians. This means that those who deplore stereotypes stereotype us. They claim (and we agree) that people can’t assume all Muslims are terrorists or that all Hispanics are illegal aliens just because some are. But they do use fringe group Christians to argue all Christians are bigots.

To avoid guilt in this persecution, Americans must learn that our believing certain acts are morally wrong does not mean we hate those who do those acts. Yes, some Christians confuse opposing evil with hating evil-doers. You condemn them. But so do we. Just behavior demands you investigate accusations against Christians, not assuming our moral beliefs are proof of our guilt and claiming the only defense is to renounce our beliefs.

Please, do not try to equate our moral objections with America’s shameful legacy of slavery and segregation. We don’t deny the human rights of any sinner—for then we would have to deny them to ourselves—but we do deny that law can declare a sinful act the same as a morally good act. Do not assume we want to reinstate laws and punishments from past centuries to punish sinners. We’re also shocked by what nations saw as necessary to deter crime that harmed society [1]. But saying theft is wrong does not mean we think chopping off the hands of a thief is right. Even when an act is evil, there can be unjust and disproportionate punishments in response.

Also, please do not assume that your lack of knowledge of what we believe and why we believe it means we have no justification but bigotry when we say things are wrong, Just because a foe cannot imagine why we believe X is wrong does not mean we have no valid reason. I can speak only as a Catholic [I leave it to the Orthodox and Protestants to explain their own reasons when it differs with the Catholic reasoning] but we do have 2000 years of moral theology looking into acts, why they are wrong and what to remember for the moral considerations about personal responsibility. Our goal is not coercion or punishment. Our goal is reconciling the sinner with God. That means turning away from wrongdoing and doing what is right.

Foes may say they think our ideas of morality are wrong. But if they believe we are wrong, then they have an obligation to show why they are right and we are wrong—with the same obligation to answer criticisms of their claims that they demand of us. They cannot accuse us of “forcing views on others” and then demand we accept their views without question. That’s not the values America was founded over. That’s partisan hypocrisy worthy of the old Soviet Union, and should have no part in American discourse.




[1] Of course, remember that France as a secular nation did not abolish the guillotine until 1980, so perhaps we shouldn’t think we’re so far ahead of those times as we would like to think?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Because Sin Is Real: The Truth America Forgot

If you read the works of the saints, or their biographies, you can see that they were aware of a truth that America has forgotten—sin is real and it alienates us from God. Instead, America (or, rather the whole of Western civilization) has a bad habit of presuming that God “doesn’t care” about the action we do that falls under the category of sin. As a result, we have an understanding about sin that is both self-contradictory and has nothing to do with the reality:

  • When others do something we dislike, we have no qualms about acknowledging it as a sin.
  • When we do something that is a sin, we refuse to acknowledge it as a sin and call it an arbitrary decision made by human beings that doesn’t matter to God.

In other words, while people are perfectly willing to denounce others, the fact is that, instead of thinking rationally about the good or evil of our actions we contemplate doing, we rationalize the things we already do to avoid thinking about whether they are good or evil or rationalize a reason not to do what we ought to do.

This mindset actually convicts the person before God—because we call the actions of others “sin” or “wrongdoing,” we acknowledge that there is a good which must be lived and an evil which must be avoided. But because we refuse to apply this knowledge to ourselves, we show ourselves to be hypocrites and evildoers.

When we think of it this way, the proper way to interpret Matthew 7:1-5 suddenly becomes a whole lot clearer:

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

If we refuse to acknowledge our own sinfulness, we become unfit guides for helping others avoid sin—having that beam in the eye. Unfortunately, because everyone seems to think that sin is affiliated with those we disagree with, but not ourselves, that is in essence a refusal to repent. If we get angry at the Church for saying that it is sinful to commit fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, contraception, abortion, etc., and claiming it is not a sin to do these things then, by refusing to stop doing them, we show to God our refusal to repent and turn back to Him.

In other words, the sin of the pharisee is not limited to the religious zealot. It is committed by every person who refuses to say ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13b).

Unfortunately, people like to misinterpret Matthew 7:1-5 to mean that any person who says “X is a sin” is disobeying Jesus. But if that were a true interpretation, then it would certainly be disobeying Jesus to accuse them of being judgmental. But anyone who takes the time to read Chapter 7 of Matthew can see that Jesus certainly does not forbid us to say that actions are evil. In fact, near the end of the chapter, Jesus also says:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Luke 7:21-23)

Indeed, elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 18:15-17), Jesus tells us about admonishing sinners:

15 “If your brother* sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.* If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

These teachings of Jesus show that “Don’t say X is a sin” is a false interpretation. In fact, if we love Christ, we keep His commandments (Luke 14:15) and if we reject the Apostles and their successors we reject Him and His Father (Luke 10:16). That is a message which is widely forgotten today by a people which thinks that the only moral obligation is being nice to those we think deserve our being nice to.

Our nation has forgotten the reality of sin as something that rejects God and harms our neighbor. In replacing it with “be nice to each other,” it has perverted the Christian message to the point that it accuses actual Christians of behaving in an “unchristian” manner. Not for bad behavior (which unfortunately does exist among who profess a belief in Christ) but for following their faith and saying “X is wrong!"

Until America recognizes the difference between rejecting evil and actual intolerance it will continue to justify evil while praising itself for “being nice."

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Tactics of Redefinition Leads to the Abuse of Law

A few months ago, people were arguing that a religious  freedom was for individuals, not for businesses. Now, definitions have changed again, and a couple who run a marriage chapel according to their religious beliefs are being told to perform same-sex “weddings” or face penalties of 180 days in jail and $1000 in fines for each day they refuse to perform these services. (For refusing to perform one service for one year, that’s 180 years and being fined $365,000 . . . murderers don’t face those penalties).

The argument is that this chapel is not a church but is "considered a place of [public?] accommodation” and therefore subject to the ordinance.

Now a place of accommodation is considered to include:

A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.

So, basically this is assuming that because a wedding chapel, which approaches marriage from a Christian perspective, serves the public, it cannot refuse performing same-sex ceremonies. This is essentially a use of redefining in order to change the meaning of the law to the benefit of one group and the detriment of another group.

That’s the common practice in America today. When it comes to religious freedom, the government practice is to define the law or court ruling in such a way that they can exclude as many as possible from the exercising of these rights if the exercise of religious freedom goes against the preference of the lawmaker or the judge.

Religious freedom belongs to the Bill of Rights as something the individual possesses independently of what the government bestows—the government simply has no right to infringe on them. The First Amendment essentially enables the freedom to do what one feels morally obligated to do. It’s not a laundry list of separate and unrelated rights. It’s a case of of forbidding the government from coercing people to do that which they believe is immoral to do. The amendment reads:

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 according to this, the State cannot:

  1. Restrict one’s right of peacefully living in accord with one’s religious beliefs.
  2. Restrict one’s right to peacefully speak or write to promote what one believes is good and oppose what is evil—openly.
  3. Restrict one’s right to peacefully assemble with people who share one’s beliefs.
  4. Restrict one’s right to peacefully change the government through legal means when we believe it is going in the wrong direction.

But the government and groups allied with it have been restricting these rights by trying to limit the influence of religion in the following ways:

  1. Denying the freedom of religion from applying to all aspects of the life of the person who adheres to it.
  2. Bullying people from speaking out on what is right.
  3. Limiting what kind of groups that assemble can practice religious freedom—for example, denying places of businesses can be run according to religious beliefs of the owners.
  4. Negating laws supported by a majority of citizens on the grounds that it has a “religious motivation.”

These tactics pervert the First Amendment by making the government the judge of which religious values are legitimate concerns, when the whole point of the First Amendment was to prevent the government from behaving in this way. The government being able to restrict whether a person or group may be free to hold to a belief others may dislike is a dangerous one. The Nazi and Communist regimes are obvious examples of a government forbidding anything deemed to be against their interests. But other restrictions by less extreme regimes differ only by degree because the government is still demanding authority over the religion one believes to be right.

Thus the government declares that a university or hospital affiliated with a Church may not refuse to supply coverage of contraception and abortifacient drugs even though the Church believes the use of these things is wrong. It decrees that a wedding chapel, run by Christians according to religious values, may not refuse to officiate over a relationship the owners believe cannot even be a marriage. It says laws passed by a majority of citizens affirming that marriage is a relationship that only can exist between one man and one woman, or laws acknowledging that the unborn child is a human being are not valid because the shared beliefs of the voters is deemed “religious.” (Genetic Fallacy).

The defense currently popular with the government and its allies is to equate these things with historical “discrimination.” For example, laws against contraception and abortion are considered “discriminating” against women. Laws defining marriage as existing only between one man and one woman are labelled as discriminating against people with same sex attraction. The assumption is supposed to be proven, but the fact is people assume it is proof. (Begging the Question Fallacy).

Ultimately, what the government does is to constantly redefine things in order to place something they dislike under the categories of “discrimination,” “establishment clause,” or “equal protection clause” in order to prevent them from being enforced.

What was once recognized as freedom under the First Amendment is now called “discrimination.” This is not because we have become more enlightened (begging the question again), but because it is a convenient way to negate a law the government dislikes without using the legal process to change a law.

Another tactic is the slippery slope fallacy. It is alleged that without the government and the courts overseeing religion, we’re opening the doors for the rise of sharia law or human sacrifice. But that’s asinine. The American concept of the freedom of religion has never recognized the right of a religion to actively harm another person. Nor have the advocates of religious freedom ever advocated such a thing. Catholic bishops condemn abortion—but they also condemn the murder of the abortionist.

Scare tactics like that make no sense. It’s wrong for Person A from Religion B to murder another person, so it’s wrong for person A to oppose contraception and abortion?

If anything, it’s government that is behaving in a coercive way. Imposing support for anti-Christian values against the will of the Christian citizen is merely a bloodless version of something like ISIS is doing in the Middle East. Go along or be targeted—by law or by bullying in our case. I don’t use this image insensitive of the suffering of the Middle East. Rather I am pointing out that, regardless of whether one uses law or terror to impose a position, one is actively forcing believers to do what they believe is wrong (which is quite different from forcing everybody to do what a religion wants). It is a violation of religious freedom

So ultimately, we have to beware the government because the government changes the meaning of words (fallacy of redefining). When it changes the definitions of words and legal terms, such as “religious freedom” and “marriage,” it does so to vilify the opponent or to promote its own agenda. The danger is, when we allow the government to do such things, it can easily change anything it wants. The only defense is to hold it to the true definition every time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What Scares Me About America Today

We have in America a set of factions with the mindset that says one must tolerate views in opposition to our own—except when the view is that of the Christian view of morality. Then we are told that people have no right to impose their views on others.

This view can be summed up as, "What's mine is mine, what's yours is up for grabs." Basically, the mindset is not an appeal to mutual tolerance, but a demand for Christians to surrender their beliefs whenever a person takes offense.

Indeed, when the courts actually defend the rights of the Christian faith, the result is outrage . . . how dare that court not side with the popular movements.

Think about this for a second. What we have here is a mindset that behaves in a partisan manner, unwilling to tolerate, unwilling to let equal justice under the law be done. If a politician or a judge rules or votes against them, it is proof of their intolerance and justifies anything being done with them. If a private citizen takes a stand, that justifies anything being done against them.

This isn't cheap rhetoric here. High ranking members of the Senate are trying to overturn the RFRA and obligate religious business owners to pay for things they find immoral. Brendan Eich was "encouraged" to leave Mozilla because he made a campaign donation for the defense of marriage. We are seeing groups castigate the "Five male Catholic" members of the Supreme Court "forcing their views on others," saying they have too much power and that needs to change . . . Never mind the fact that the Constitution says in Article VI that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

So the results are a foregone conclusion. More people get intimidated by these tactics and decide it is easier to stay quiet. Fewer individuals stand up for what they believe is just under the law and just go along with the flow. Then there is less resistance to the next round of demands. We've already reached a point I never expected to see in America in my lifetime. How much worse will it get?

Obviously the Catholic Church will not accept changes to what she believes Jesus Christ commands, even if some members of the Church should fall away. So then the partisans will have to make a decision. What will they do with those of us who refuse to put the state above God?

This is a dilemma that all Americans, religious or not, will have to face:

  1. If people choose to respect the rights and freedoms this nation at its founding recognized as belonging to all peoples, they have to respect that the Freedom of Religion in the First Amendment expressly forbids the infringement of the Free Exercise of religion. Thus they must accept that they cannot compel us to do that which we believe is evil.
  2. If people choose to go along with the factions insisting that their ideology trumps the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with them, then it means they tolerate a decision where these factions only respect the law when it serves them and set it aside when it doesn't.

Now remember that choosing the first option will earn you the enmity of these factions, which will YOU choose?

Most people tend to go along with option #2 . . .

. . . and that's what scares me about America today.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thoughts on True and False Freedom on Independence Day, 2014

The Catholic view of Freedom holds that freedom allows us to do what we ought to do. The modern American concept of freedom is the idea that we can do whatever we want. These views of freedom are obviously contradictory because doing what we want and doing what we ought often run into conflict.

There's also the problem that the freedom to do what one wants tends to contradict itself. If I am free to do what I want, am I free to own slaves? Most people would be horrified at the thought. (if you're thinking That's a good idea! then do yourself a favor and keep quiet). The freedom to own a slave removes freedom from the person who is a slave.

The person who claims the freedom to do what one wants takes offense with the challenge that there are limits to what one can do. But the person who says there are limits points out that there are things it is never right to do. I'm not free to rape or murder or enslave, and most people would agree that no person should ever have such "freedom."

Yet, it's funny that the proponent of the "freedom to do as I want" school of thought tend to view any restrictions to do what they want as having someone "imposing their views." But the fact remains that the person who demands the freedom to do something immoral denies the freedom of the person who thinks it is immoral to act.

There's a really stupid slogan that has made the rounds on Facebook, the internet in general, and the bumper stickers. It reads, "If you're against abortion, don't have one." It's really stupid because the concept allows you to justify anything:

  • If you're against murder, don't murder anyone.
  • If you're against rape, don't rape anyone.
  • If you're against stealing, don't steal.
  • If you're against discrimination, don't discriminate.
  • If you're against slavery, don't own a slave.
  • If you're against torture, don't torture anyone.

These all sound ridiculous, and with good reason. In all these cases, it is recognized that the thing opposed is seen as something that no person should do. The person who actually believed one of these would be viewed with horror. But the person who would use such an argument is making the assertion that there is nothing wrong with the existence of a behavior. Opposition to the behavior is portrayed as a preference. If you don't like the behavior, and demand nobody be allowed to do it, the accusation is, "You're forcing your views on us!"

No. Opposing murder, rape, theft, discrimination and slavery all stem from the belief that all these actions are wrong, and nobody should do them. If we accept the idea of "If you're against abortion, don't have one," the others follow logically . . . the individual's preferences are supreme and the other person's rights can be sacrificed.

But once we recognize that a person is not free to murder, rape, steal from, discriminate against, or enslave another person, we recognize that there are limits to individual freedoms when it comes to actions that are always wrong. So we know that the freedom to do what you want is false. The problem is we tend to make exceptions for ourselves. If I want to do something, I should be able to do it without any repercussions . . . I should have the freedom from consequences of my actions.

But nature itself shows that is false. Yes I can probably be drunk 24 hours a day, but that freedom comes with a cost to my physical and mental health. Yes, I can probably have sex indiscriminately, but that freedom comes with the cost of the chance of pregnancy or the chance of venereal diseases. People want to avoid those consequences and demand that means be provided to avoid such consequences—at no cost to themselves. Of course that means at the expense of others. As the old saying goes, There's no such thing as a free lunch. If the person demands the means to avoid consequences without having to pay for it, that person is demanding that other people pay for it (such as, the taxpayers).



Keep out of my bedroom . . . but leave your wallet!

Of course, that is where people who claim the freedom to do as they ought rightly object. Because Catholics believe that some things are always wrong (the term is Intrinsic evil) and may never be done, they cannot cooperate with such acts, even when lawmakers unjustly approve of them. For example, if a government should be taking part in a genocide and passed a law that all citizens must turn in members of the targeted ethnic group, we would recognize our obligation to not take part. People in the government could try to force us, but they would have no right to do so.

OK, the genocide example is an extreme one—it's meant to be. It's meant to demonstrate the principle in a way that most people would recognize. But we have obligations to live as God commands, and we believe these obligations are reasonable and are actually beneficial. Going against these obligations is harmful spiritually to be sure, but going against them are also harmful physically and mentally as well . . . we're going against the way we're hardwired to be.

If you believe that your freedom to do as you want trumps the freedoms of others who believe it is wrong to act this way, that is the same mindset of the person who believed he had the right to own slaves. While you're decrying people "pushing their views on you," it's actually you who are pushing your views on those who think it is wrong.

That's the problem with America today. People want the freedom from consequences when they claim the freedom to do what they want. They insist others provide what they need to avoid consequences, even if those others believe it is wrong to enable their behavior.

The Supreme Court recently defended the right to do as we ought—with the result that people who want freedom from consequences are outraged that we don't have to do what we believe is evil. That outrage is alarming. It indicates they are actually contemptuous of true freedom and actually want their privileges to trump the true rights of others.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thoughts on the American Situation

Truth be told America is becoming precisely what our Founding Fathers wanted to prevent -- a government suppressing the inalienable rights this nation was founded on recognizing.

At this time, the right of religious freedom is under attack. The government and certain elites are seeking to restrict the rights by which we live according to how we ought.

At first, the attacks were based on trying to silence people with religious convictions seeking to enact just laws. Christians were told they were wrong to "force" their views on others while those who were trying to overturn laws based on Christian morality were hypocritically forcing their own views.

Then came attacks which sought to bully Christians into silence by slandering them as being motivated by hatred. Homophobe! War on Women! Being concerned for the well being of their immortal souls was misrepresented as irrational fear and hate. It's gotten to the point that a Christian who openly agrees with Christian morality risks repercussions if their place of education or employment should hear.

Now comes the legal attacks. It started in 2009 when Obama threw out the executive orders on conscience protection. Then people could be fired if they refused to do things they found morally objectionable. Then we had the contraception mandate which forced businesses and institutions to provide coverage for abortion and contraception even if it went against what they believed they were obliged to do before God.

Currently we have seen businesses face lawsuits and legal action for making a stand on what they felt obligated to do. Bakeries have been slapped with discrimination charges for refusing to participate in a so-called "gay marriage."  Catholic hospitals are threatened for their refusal to perform abortions.

Consider all of that.  Now consider the first amendment:

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.

This amendment is about the limitations of government in regards to what sort of laws they may impose. The government may neither impose a state religion nor restrict how religion can be practiced.

The government today behaves in a way that violates our Constitution with impunity.

This puts the religious believer in a bad position. Instead of having "certain unalienable Rights" according to the Declaration of Independence, we have a government which treats all rights as if they were favors granted and can be removed at their whim.

In other words, a government that contradicts what America was supposed to be.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Realities of America

Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Rev 3:2)

The Election results certainly were not good for the free practice of the Christian faith in America to be sure.  A majority of Americans voted in favor of a candidate who is noted for promoting things which people of good will must call evil.  It's a situation where Christians may be forced to choose between their faith and their livelihood – a choice no government has the right to demand of us.

However, now is not the time for recriminations.  Now is not the time for "Obama = Hitler" statements and Secession petitions.  What it requires us to do is to recognize that we cannot assume that America today is the Christian America we had in the past.

This fact requires professing Christians to recognize the realities of America and respond accordingly.  The fact is, a majority of Americans seem to fall into one of these positions:

  1. Christian belief and morality is an aberration and harmful to others.
  2. Christianity is all right for personal life but is not important compared to "real issues."
  3. Not liking what is being done, but does not want to "force their views on others."

In short we have a nation where the truths of reality are dismissed as having no place in America.  It has become an apostate nation.  America is now a mission territory and we have to approach it with this understanding.

The problem is:  Americans have a tendency to think of God as a sort of Santa Claus.  He may want us to be on the "nice" list, but His commands don't really have to be followed.  The mindset is extremely irrational.  You can't even put it into a logical syllogism.  It assumes:

  1. God is good
  2. A good God will not do an evil act
  3. Hell is eternal suffering
  4. Eternal suffering is evil.
  5. Putting people into Eternal Suffering is doing evil
  6. Therefore God will not cast people into Hell.

In other words, under this view, God may want us to act in a certain way, but we won't be sent to Hell for disobeying Him.  Well, maybe if someone is a mass murderer.  But surely not someone who "hooks up" on occasion, right?

The problem is, people overlook the fact that God has given us free will.  To be free to accept God means that one is free to reject God.  If one accepts the belief of life after death, then it is clear that people who do reject God will not be with God after the resurrection.  So where do they go?  Well, Heaven is being with God.  Hell is being apart from God.  Everybody has to go somewhere after all….

Consider what Jesus has said:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

"Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d 8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love." (John 15:4-10)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day,o ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’  Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers.’ "(Matt 7:21-23)

"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

"If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." (Matthew 18:17)

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:17-20)

What we can see is that Jesus has declared that how we act shows whether we accept or reject God.  But this is the teaching that Americans seem to want to ignore.  We see Jesus as a nice guy.  we see Him as a good moral teacher… even though people tend to ignore more and more of His teachings when they are inconvenient.  But we don't actually think that we need to change.

But we do.  The entire concept of repentance is a turning away from evil and turning towards God.  If we will not repent, we will not turn away from sin and we will not turn towards God.  The modern American concept of a relationship with God has been reduced to "Do what you want and then go do Heaven."

America has essentially forgotten the bad news: That all people are sinners living apart from God.  If we ignore that bad news, the Good News of Salvation is devoid of meaning.  If sin is meaningless, then nobody needs a savior.  The Good News is to repent from evil and turn to God, living as He commands.

So it seems clear to me that we need to realize that the missions are not far away in Africa and Asia.  The mission is right here.  Our neighbors, our families are the mission field.  God desires the salvation of His people, and has sent us to carry it out.

Regardless of what government policies may be enacted in the next four years, the next eight years, the next generation… we have a mission to re-evangelize America.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Demagogues: American Morality by Mob Rule over Reason

Demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

Psalm 29: If a wise person disputes with a fool, there is railing and ridicule but no resolution.

Christianity, to be precise Christianity that believes the moral commands have divine authority and are not merely customs, receives a lot of flak from a certain portion of the Western World, especially in America.  A certain segment of the population essentially denies some or all of the moral law as having authority. The portion of the moral law this group rejects is labeled as being nothing more than an innovation imposed on everybody by a small minority.  Those individuals who object to changes in the law based on this allegation are attacked as intolerant.

This allegation is that it is based on the claim: "There is nothing wrong with [X].  People who think there is something wrong with [X] are pushing their beliefs on others."

It rather reminds me of the definition of the term, Dramatic Irony:

a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

It is irony because the claim that "There is nothing wrong with [X]" is itself a statement of belief on morality.  Moreover, the disapproval expressed against people who "push their beliefs on others" is also a statement of belief on morality.  If pushing beliefs on morality on others is wrong, then it follows that condemning people for not sharing the denial that [X] is wrong… are wrong.

If [no values should be pushed on others] is absolutely true (true in all situations, times and places), then it follows that [tolerance] is a value  that cannot be pushed on others, because tolerance is seen as a value in modern America.

However, if one wishes to deny that tolerance cannot be pushed on others, that means that some values can be insisted on for all times, places and situations.  That means the person who wants to include the values they prefer and exclude the values they dislike must show the basis of their claims as to what criteria determine absolute values from mere opinions.  Otherwise these champions of "tolerance" are being hypocritical.

In a reasonable world, when there are differences in moral views, discussion and exploration into what moral views are true, and people of good will would all seek to follow them.

But this is exactly what doesn't happen.  Instead we see an assertion that [X] (such as abortion, homosexual acts, or contraception) is morally good or at least neutral.  When that assertion is challenged, the response is not a reasoned defense, but instead an ad hominem attack which accuses the questioner as being judgmental or bigoted.

That isn't a defense of the assertion or a refutation of the challenge.  That is merely the act of a demagogue, who seeks to sway the population by appealing to desires and emotions, committing distortions to sway the audience.  The person who attempts reason is usually mocked or attacked (verbally or sometimes physically).

Now consider who acts like a demagogue?  is it a Pope who speaks about how certain acts are contrary to what God calls us to be and are harmful to us if we practice these acts?  Or is the demagogue the person who spews out slogans like "War on women!", "Homophobe!", "Right Wing Extremist!" and the like?

The people who say it is the Pope who is the demagogue are a large portion of the problem in America today.  The rest of the problem comes from the people who accept what "feels" right without asking what is true.

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.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Commenting on the New Comment Period

Reports are that we're having a new comment period for those institutions which are non-profit, but don't fall under the Obama administration's exceptionally narrow definition of a religious organization, like say Catholic Hospitals and Universities.  I'm not impressed.

First of all, the Obama administration doesn't even have the Constitutional authority to do this.  The Constitution forbids laws which interfere with the free practice of religion.  The only reason this can happen is because members of our government aren't bothering to stand up to the Obama administration's violation of the Constitution and the Presidential Oath of Office:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (US Constitution Article II, Section I).

Merely commenting on the extent of the violation of the Constitution ought to be allowed falls short of the defense of the Constitution.

Second, Those who have freedom of religion under the Constitution do not merely consist of churches and non-profit organizations.  Men and women who are religious believers but also work in a for-profit business also have the freedom of free exercise of religion.  If Catholics in the Insurance industry believe it is their moral obligation not to cooperate with the moral evils of contraception by funding them, and if the government forces insurers to fund contraception and abortion, then it follows that the government is interfering with their moral obligations according to their religion.

No matter how Obama and his supporters may spin it, the HHS Mandate, and even the Comment Period are open and flagrant violations of the Constitution simply by their existence.

Ultimately, the morality of contraception and abortion will have to be settled in America, and the Catholic Church will certainly need to make clear why our teaching is not mere opinion in order to lead people to the truth – and this is what they are trying to do.  They are not trying to pass any "stealth legislation" to ban these things by trickery.  So long as the voters and politicians of America fail to recognize this truth, the issues of contraception and abortifacients will continue to be accepted.

However, even the acceptance by a majority does not mean it is permitted to force the minority, who believes it to be evil, to accept it.

We used to recognize this was tyranny (oppressive and arbitrary rule seized without legal right to do so).

Why not now?


+Pray for our Country

Friday, March 16, 2012

TFTD: Even Pagans Recognized Abortion Was Wrong

I came across this passage by Aulus Gelius (AD 125-180) in his work, Attic Nights (Noctus Atticae).

In so doing they show the same madness as those who strive by evil devices to cause abortion of the fetus itself which they have conceived, in order that their beauty may not be spoiled by the weight of the burden they bear and by the labour of parturition. (12.1.1)

Compare that with today, where such a concern for appearance is considered a valid reason for abortion.  We've really lost the moral sense that people once knew.

It kind of makes you wonder when comparing ancient Rome with modern America – why is it ancient Rome that is considered the vicious and cruel society and America is considered the enlightened society?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Will You Do If They Come For You?

With the recent news of the government first forbidding the reading of the letter issued by Archbishop Timothy Broglio (who oversees the Catholic chaplains) condemning the HHS decision, and then after a protest, censoring the letter that was read, we must ask… how can anyone pretend that the Obama administration is not a menace to the rights and liberties of all Americans?

First we have the imposing of a directive which demands that religious institutions either comply with providing coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients or shut down.  Now the government is beginning to stifle the freedom to oppose such directives.

Now I recognize that not all Americans share the views of this blog or of the Catholic Church that this blog seeks to reflect.  However, even those who do not share these views need to consider something.

If the Obama administration succeeds in their tactics, then there is nothing to prevent them from using these tactics against any other body who displeases them.  Moreover, if the administration is removed from power and if these tactics are left in place, then whoever succeeds the Obama administration will also have these tools to stifle dissent.

Regardless of one's views of politics or morality, the Obama administration is taking a path which all people of good will must oppose.  Otherwise the American concept of freedom ends in failure and we become yet another nation with an authoritarian regime. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The State of Our Union


Personally, I wanted to let my blog fade away into obscurity… well into more obscurity… and retire.  But like it or not, our nation has a crisis on its hands.  The crisis is the Constitutional Right of religion is being negated by a government which is so determined to force a set of values on us that they do not care what they violate in doing so.

The issue is that the Obama administration is determined to force certain things (sanctioning of homosexual relationships and requiring employers to pay for contraception and abortions) even when such things force us to disobey God.  This is an action that no state has the right to demand.

Good and Evil

Ultimately the state is considered good or evil based on how it positions itself in relation to God's law.  The state is considered free or not free depending on whether or not it harasses or restricts people who do seek to follow God's law.  I think it can be argued that America has been an evil nation for quite some time with the government making legal and supported things which violate God's law.

I also think it can be argued that America has passed from being a free nation (tolerating Christians who seek to do God's will) to being a not free nation (harassing and restricting religious groups who seek to follow God's way rather than to disobey God and follow the state).

Forcing Beliefs on Others?

It is true that not all Americans are Christians, or even believers in any religion at all.  Some may take that fact in saying, "You're just forcing your beliefs on others!"  However this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues.  Jewish Americans approach American life from the perspective of their values.  Muslim Americans, Buddhist Americans, atheistic Americans all do the same.  However, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and atheistic institutions are not being forced to act in a way contrary to their beliefs, while Christian institutions are told they have one year to comply with directives which run counter to their beliefs.

Now, as to the issue of "imposing views on others."  This is a common accusation, which essentially works like this:

  1. Opposition to Abortion is a "personal value"
  2. These opponents want to make abortion illegal.
  3. Therefore opponents to abortion want to push their personal values on others.

The problem is, even if one accepted this argument (which I do not), it overlooks the fact that supporting abortion is also a personal value, and one can simply reverse the argument and say supporters of abortion want to push their views on others – and such a charge would be absolutely true!  If we who believe abortion is wrong can be charged with "pushing values on others," then those who want to promote abortion can be accused of exactly the same thing.  If it's wrong for us to do this, obviously it's wrong for them to do this as well.

Therefore, to oppose Christians on this ground is hypocrisy pure and simple.

Objective Truth Dictates What Must Be Done

To avoid such a charge of "pushing values," we have to recognize that certain things are absolute and are always wrong even when society does not recognize it is wrong.

Take the issue of slavery.  Our country once thought (and still struggles with in some aspects) that certain races were inferior and less than fully human.  Despite some arguments on the subject, the majority of the nation at one time accepted it as reasonable.  Even some abolitionists doubted that African-Americans had the ability to act like human beings and fit in as American citizens.

Today we recognize that this was a terrible belief that dehumanized others and refused to treat people as the human beings they were.

That is why we don't accept arguments that the opposition to slavery was nothing more than one group "pushing values" on another group.  When a society supports a view that contradicts objective truth, that society is doing wrong even if members of that society don't realize it.  However, our revulsion with such a society is that there is no valid reason for people to think in such a way.  Either they close their eyes and mind to the truth to avoid difficult questions or they deliberately choose what they know is wrong.

Such a view recognizes there is a knowable truth which people fail to reach through their own fault.  Such knowable truth is demonstrated by the praising or condemning of behavior based on this.

Essentially, the Obama administration and their supporters believe that their views are absolutely true – abortion and gay "marriage" are good in and of themselves and whoever disagrees is acting from intolerance.  Such a view – especially with the condemnation of Christians as "intolerant" – indicates that they believe their views are objectively true and can be known.

Twofold Problem With the Attack on Christianity

The problem is twofold.  First, they cannot show the objective truth for their claims but can only make use of logical fallacies to claim their situations are similar to objective truths we recognize.  Secondly, they assume four thousand years of Jewish moral beliefs and two thousand years of Christian moral teaching was dead wrong based on intolerance.

The logical fallacies are largely appeals to emotion and fear, while misrepresenting the motives of those who oppose them: "How can you want to prevent people who love each other from marrying?"  "How can you want to force a woman to be pregnant?"  These are not at all our motives.  However, these false statements gain acceptance simply by having people repeat them over and over.  It's like those people who believe Catholics worship Mary.  We don't, but the lie is so often repeated that people accept it as true.

The assumption that Christian moral teachings are nothing more than 2000 years of intolerance leads to the question, "On what basis do you say this?"  Usually what you get in response is a litany of supposed abuses (mostly repeated lies or else distortions of what is true) which are unrelated.  Some ignorant peasants burned suspected witches, therefore the opposition to homosexual "marriage" is the result of ignorant Christians.  The problem is, the hysteria over witches by uneducated peoples in the 15th and 16th centuries is not the same as the reasoned condemnation of homosexual acts even in times and cultures where it was tolerated in decadent societies. 

Basically it is an argument of chronological snobbery which assumes that an advance of 2000 years of scientific knowledge automatically means an advance of 2000 years of moral knowledge.  I think history will show that this assumption is not true.


So ultimately the state of our Union is troubled and ominous.  The present administration and those who agree with it assume they know what is good and can force those who disagree with them to comply, contrary to the Constitution of the United States.

Those people who support the Obama administration should beware.  Once it is accepted as true that the government can overrule the obligations of conscience, there are no limits to what they can do.  History is full of examples of government ideologies which were forced on the people.  The results were the gulag and the concentration camp in those cases. 

Now the gulag and the concentration camp may never show up in America, so let's not be distracted by arguing over whether they will. That misses the point of danger which is:  If you think the government has the right to force people to act against conscience, then when the wheel turns and those out of power come into power, you will have no justification to object when the government turns on you.

And that's why even people who don't recognize the truth of Christianity should be alarmed about Obama's decrees.  If you are silent when the government turns on us, who will speak up when it turns on you?

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Told You So…

"As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

Back in June of 2011, I wrote a post entitled "The Sooner We Realize America Is No Longer Free, The Sooner We Can Take Action."  Today I see in the news that HHS Secretary Sebelius has gone on to show that the Obama administration is without question hostile to the concept of religious freedom in America.

The announcement essentially states that religious groups are obligated to provide contraceptive coverage (including abortifacient contraceptives)  to employees, even if the religious groups believe contraception and abortifacient drugs are intrinsically evil and may never be supported.

Instead, religious groups are given until August 2013 to comply with this requirement.

As Archbishop Dolan put it:

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,”


“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."

Since such an obligation forces religious groups to choose between serving God and obeying an unjust law, we are forced to become criminals because of the state.

Unfortunately, if this edict is not overturned, we will have to oppose the government of the United States by refusing to obey.  No government has the authority to compel a person to participate with evil.  If the United States takes this road, this nation will have joined the ranks of totalitarian states who use force and fear to compel people to violate what they believe God requires them to do.

That an administration should so flagrantly ignore the freedom of religion without an immediate outcry and call for the firing of Sebelius is chilling.  No it doesn't mean we're going to see "Goose stepping Nazis marching in Washington."  I doubt we'll see gulags or other concentration camps in America.  But it does mean that we have gone from a nation that says "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" to a government saying we have one year to turn our backs on God and obey the state.

I think it should be pretty clear that at this time the Obama administration is the greater of the evils when it comes to the elections, and I pray he is defeated.

Otherwise, I truly fear what our nation will become.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Discrimination and Persecution against Religion in America

Preliminary Notes: Accident and Essence

Since I will use the terms below, I should very briefly explain them. Essence is what a thing is. A triangle has three sides and three interior angles which total 180°. If the shape has more or fewer sides than three or the interior angles do not equal 180°, then you do not have a triangle.

Accident are qualities a particular thing has but are irrelevant to the essence. I can have a green cardboard triangle. I can have a chromed sheet metal triangle, but the color or the materials do not make a thing a triangle.

In the issue of racism, properly speaking a human being is a human being regardless of gender, ethnicity or skin color. Gender, ethnicity or skin color are accidents of the essence of human being. Whether the person is male or female, dark or light, Asian or Caucasian is irrelevant to whether the person is a human being. So a person should not be treated as less than a person because of the accidents of appearance. Neither should they receive benefits on account of the accidents.


One attitude I have encountered over the years as American Law and Government becomes more hostile towards religion is the argument that since the treatment of religion in America is not like the treatment of religion in China or the former Soviet Union, it means the Church is not persecuted in America.

Thus when people speak out against the actions of the American government and use terms like "persecution" it is easy to be dismissive and say, "you're not persecuted… people aren't locking you up!"

The Fallacy of the accident

This is a metaphysical fallacy – The fallacy of the accident – which Peter Kreeft (See Socratic Logic 3e page 110) describes as either treating something accidental as something essential (for example, racism wrongly assumes the accident of skin color is essential in determining whether a person is to be treated as human) or treating something essential as accidental (such as denying that there is any difference between heterosexual coitus and homosexual sodomy since both can result in orgasm).

A common demonstration of the fallacy of the accident is:

  1. Cutting people with a knife is a crime.
  2. Surgeons cut people with knives.
  3. Surgeons are criminals.

(The accident of cutting people with knives depends on the essence of why a person is cutting you with a knife, to heal or to harm).

In our case, the argument that there is no persecution in America works this way:

  1. Communist China persecutes religion by imprisonment, torture and executions
  2. The United States does not imprison, torture or execute people on religious grounds
  3. Therefore the United States does not persecute people on religious grounds.

In this case, the accident of how persecution is carried out in Communist China (imprisonment, torture, execution) is confused for the essence of discrimination itself existing (the unequal treatment on the basis of religion).  Since the degree of persecution is greater in Communist China, a degree which is less is argued as not being persecution at all.

That would be like a triage nurse in the Emergency Room saying that because the patient's pain level is not at 10, the patient is not in pain.

Persecution and Discrimination Defined

To clarify issues, we ought to begin with the definition of Persecution and Discrimination

Persecute: 1. subject to prolonged hostility and ill-treatment. 2. persistently harass or annoy.

Discriminate: make an unjust distinction in the treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.

—Oxford English Dictionary

The two concepts are very similar.  The state discriminates when it treats one group of people less fairly than others because this group is different.  The state persecutes when it treats a group hostilely or harasses them.  Ill treatment can vary from unequal treatment under the law to active coercion.

In America, the Catholic Church can be said to be treated unequally under the law on the grounds that the First Amendment is ignored when it comes to State interference in compelling Church institutions to either act against their beliefs or else discontinue their services.  The political elites in America are treating those who act on religious convictions with hostility.  Our institutions have been ordered to act contrary to what they believe God requires of us and have needed to seek justice in the courts to try to protect ourselves from what the government has no right to do to begin with.

Lest anyone attempt a tu quoque and say we are hypocritical because we discriminate as well, we utterly deny the charge.  Catholic hospitals do not refuse to treat non-Catholics or sinners.  Catholic schools do not refuse to teach non-Catholics.  Catholic orphanages do not refuse to let non-Catholics adopt or refuse to take in non-Catholic orphans.

We merely insist that our institutions, being based in the Catholic faith, be allowed to carry out our mission according to the way we believe God calls on us to behave.  Those who come to a Catholic institution and insist on making us behave in a way we call sinful are not being discriminated against when we refuse.  Rather they are discriminating against us by trying to force us to act in a way we call sinful.

Now the state can make unjust decrees that it enforces through legal, physical or financial coercion.  However, such decrees are not binding laws in our eyes because the state has no authority to force us to do something that God forbids.


The degree to which the United States makes use of coercion to comply or face repercussions when it demands Catholic institutions to follow the Government commands may not be to the extreme of China or Afghanistan, but this does not mean that the coercion does not exist.  It does exist and it is unjust because even if one rejects our claims to be the Church established by Christ to teach with His authority, this coercion does violate the US Constitution.

To borrow from Pastor Niemöller, they are coming for us first.  You may not speak out because you are not Catholic.  However if one stays silent during these early and less extreme violations of our rights, you may find that eventually, "Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reflections on Election Day

3 Put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save.

4 When they breathe their last, they return to the earth; that day all their planning comes to nothing. (Psalm 143)

At the time I write this, I do not know which party will come out ahead (though the news stories seem to be pessimistic about the Democrats at this moment which I write).  During this election season we have seen party positions endorsed as being for our salvation and others as being the worst thing ever.

I believe one thing we need to remember that if we replace one party with another on moral grounds, or work is not done on November 3rd.  It begins on November 3rd.  If the party which champions everything Christians must oppose is in power, we cannot remain silent of course.  However, if the opposition is elected we cannot remain complacent.  Just because the "bums" may be thrown out, does not mean our work is over, because just because one party may favor things like abortion rights and so-called "gay marriage" does not mean our job is done in opposing that party.

As Catholics, called to evangelize the world, we are called to stand up for what is right, called to denounce evil and called to remind the world that it is in sin and in need of a savior.

There are those Catholics who seek to distort the Church teaching, seeking to say abortion is merely "a issue" and if the Candidate is good "on the whole" it is ok to vote for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life candidate.

This is in fact contrary to what the Church teaches.

Evangelium Vitae tells us:

73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10).

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it".

It goes on to say:

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

So we must keep in mind that we may never do anything which promotes abortion, or support those who promote it, but must in all cases oppose abortion and seek to restrict it.  (See HERE for insights from Cardinal-Elect Burke).

Those who say abortion is merely a matter of opinion to the Catholic voter and can vote for a pro-abortion voter over a pro-life voter speak falsely about what the Church believes.

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem!

22 Woe to the champions at drinking wine, the valiant at mixing strong drink!

23 To those who acquit the guilty for bribes, and deprive the just man of his rights!

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire licks up stubble, as dry grass shrivels in the flame, Even so their root shall become rotten and their blossom scatter like dust; For they have spurned the law of the LORD of hosts, and scorned the word of the Holy One of Israel.(Is 5:20-24).

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Souls Day, Election Day

45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Tomorrow, November 2nd, is All Souls Day in the Catholic Church, where we pray for all those who have died.  November 2nd is also Election Day.

Recalling the issues of so-called "Choice" which "terminates" the unborn child, which politicians have brought into law, perhaps part of the remembrance of those who have died should also include opposition to the laws and politicians which makes it possible to kill the most defenseless people.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reflections on The Constitution, The Supreme Court and Justice

Much of the political debate going around today is based on the idea that because the Constitution permits a thing, there can be no complaint against it.  Setting aside for the moment specific issues of dispute in America, the theory ignores one crucial question:

Can the Constitution (or an interpretation of it) err or be unjust?

I believe the answer can clearly be yes to both.  I recall in High School civics class that the Constitution can be amended if a problem is perceived.  Certainly before 1865, the Constitution was flawed in that it denied citizenship to certain parts of the population simply on the basis of the color of their skin.

This shows the problem when certain politicians rally around the "Constitutional" Right of the woman to choose [abortion].  The right may be decreed constitutional by the Supreme Court, but neither it, nor the right to privacy it is based on can be found in the Constitution.

If the interpreters of the Constitution are unjust, it follows that the interpretations they give can be unjust.  This kind of rhetoric goes on frequently.  Today, there is a dispute over whether Obamacare is constitutional.  Nine years ago, there was a dispute over whether the Supreme Court "unjustly installed" George W. Bush as president.

What this demonstrates is [Regardless of whether the charges are true or not], we do have interpreters of the US Constitution whose decisions are binding and not able to be appealed.  If they are unjust in their decisions, there is very little we can do to stop them.

This isn't mere theory.  The Supreme Court has made some historically bad decisions and have been forced to contradict previous precedent, such as the Dred Scott case and Plessy vs. Ferguson.

I believe this shows that the Supreme Court can give an interpretation which they call Constitutional, but is also unjust.

This demonstrates that to invoke the Constitutionality of a law is no evidence as to whether or not it is just.

On Justice

However, justice in law is what separates the good forms of government from the immoral forms of government, and here the person who argues against any moral absolutes have hamstrung themselves when opposing injustice.

Justice can be defined as giving to another their due, and behaving in right conduct with other people.  All human persons are considered to have human rights simply on the basis of their being human.  Each person is entitled to the due of not being treated in a subhuman condition.  In America we have in the Bill of Rights which assumes all people have certain rights.

The Catholic Church speaks of justice between men as follows:

1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35

1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

In other words, because a person is human they possess certain rights independent of the government, and no government can take them away without being unjust.  Moreover, any government which denies these rights lacks moral legitimacy to their rule, and can only use force to make their decrees followed.

The Difference Between the Constitution and Justice

Whether or not the Constitution, or its interpretation, can be considered as possessing moral authority depends on whether it respects the human person or not.  If it does not respect the human person, the law may be binding by force, but it is not a law which we are morally obligated to follow, and in fact are morally obligated to oppose.

The Abortion Example

In 1973, the Supreme Court decreed abortion legal, and since then we have been told that it is based in the Constitutional Right to Privacy, which is not in the Constitution, and was not described as a right until 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut.  This invokes the Ninth Amendment, which is a circular argument which one can dismantle with a reductio ad absurdum.  [The Constitution doesn't say I can't murder anyone either, therefore I have a constitutional right to do so].

Now, one can argue that the right to privacy is a basic right which precedes the Constitution.  However, this overlooks a crucial consideration: Are the unborn human persons?  If so, then their right to life precedes the Constitutional Supreme Court Right to abortion.

The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade entirely ignores this consideration, when it declares:

3. State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.

This is entirely a circular argument, which assumes what it needs to prove: That a woman does in fact have the right to terminate a pregnancy.  It calls the unborn a potential life, but this is to be proven, not assumed to be true.

Indeed, without proving the fact that the fetus is not a person, the Supreme Court appears to have violated the 14th amendment:

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (Emphasis added)

If the assumption that the fetus is merely a potential human being is false, then the Supreme Court has created a situation where the unborn are denied the equal protection under the law.

The Roe v. Wade decision relies on an irrelevant appeal to past decisions of legal precedent, which selectively chooses certain examples and ignores others.  The reason it is an irrelevant appeal is that many of the precedents they cite are based on the scientifically erroneous ideas of quickening of the fetus, ignoring later medical advances.  From this we see the argument that since the actual forbidding of abortion in America was based on the fact that outright forbidding of abortion did not exist until the 19th century in America.

However, this is an argument from silence.  "We don't know of laws forbidding abortion until the 19th century.  Therefore it was permissible before then."  That laws were made in the 19th century does not prove that abortion was acceptable before.  Positive evidence that the nation, prior to the 19th century, sanctioned abortion is necessary.

Even from this, it does not follow that abortion is right.  To judge abortion as being morally neutral, it has to be established that the fetus is not alive.  If the fetus is a human person, it contains human rights which precede the laws of the United States.

The Quadrilemma of abortion

A right to abortion requires us to create some categories.  First, whether or not the fetus is a human person.  It either is or it is not.  Second, we need to determine whether we know this to be true.  This leaves us with four categories:

  1. The unborn is a human person and we know it.
  2. The unborn is not a human person and we know it
  3. The unborn is a human person and we do not know it
  4. The unborn is not a human person and we do not know it

In these four cases, we have three levels of guilt or innocence.

  1. In the case of us knowing the unborn is a human person, government sanctioned abortion is the murder of a human person.
  2. In the case of us knowing the unborn is not a human person, there is no problem with abortion.
  3. In not knowing whether or not the unborn is a human person (cases 3 and 4), abortion becomes a reckless, grossly negligent act.

We can demonstrate these cases with another scenario.  You and a friend are deer hunting, and get separated.  You hear motion in the bush.  There are four possibilities:

  1. The movement is caused by your friend and you know it
  2. The movement is caused by a deer and you know it
  3. The movement is caused by your friend and you do not know it
  4. The movement is caused by a deer and you do not know it

When is it legitimate to shoot?  Only in case two.  Why?

  1. In case 1, shooting when you know it is a person is willed murder
  2. In case 2, shooting when you verified you can shoot safely is morally acceptable
  3. In case 3, you are guilty of gross negligence and manslaughter at the very least
  4. In case 4, you are still guilty of gross negligence.

Yet, instead of proving when the human person begins, the Supreme Court acts with gross negligence.  it "fires into the bush" without verifying the target, when it argues:

A. The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, [410 U.S. 113, 157] for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. 51 On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument 52 that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Whether or not past law has made a statement on whether or not the fetus is a person has no bearing on whether the fetus IS a human person.  To assume that the fetus is not a human person based on interpretations of the 14th Amendment is an evasion of the issue, when it says:

All this, together with our observation, supra, that throughout the major portion of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.

This is an appeal to irrelevant authority fallacy.  Does the lack of laws that declare the fetus a person make it so?

Dangerous Precedents

Certain nations, including the United States, have at certain times determined that certain human beings were not persons on the basis of their ethnicity.  The most extreme example is that of Nazi Germany with its claiming that Jews and Slavs were subhumans which lacked human rights.  We are of course horrified by the actions the Germans justified by a legal claim.  Through a legal ruling, human persons were terribly mistreated.

Now of course Nazi Germany was an extreme example.  However, the United States once considered the blacks to be less than fully human, and such a view was upheld by the Supreme Court.  Under the logic of Roe v. Wade past precedent could be used to deny any African American was a "human person."  After all, before 1865, there were no laws which held that view.  It instead took a war and some amendments to overturn the bad logic of the Supreme Court.

Constitutional Is Not the Same as Just: QED

We are back to the beginning, and the conclusion is clear.  Just because the Supreme Court or the Constitution says a thing is constitutional has no bearing on whether a thing is just.  So despite what the Supreme Court says, it still must be assessed as to whether it is just or not.  If it is not just, it must be opposed.

Yet, the whole problem is a thing is not defended as just, it is merely called "Constitutional" as if that was all the sanction which was needed.

Unfortunately, in America, there is little recourse to an unjust ruling by the Supreme Court.  It is the state legislatures which can vote for a proposed amendment (which first requires 2/3 of both House and Senate to vote in favor of a proposed amendment), not the people (unless the states call ratifying conventions… which happened once).

So where does this leave the Christian who feels he must oppose an unjust ruling?

An Unjust Law is not a Law

One may want to ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

—Martin Luther King Jr.  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This is ultimately what must put the Christian unwillingly in conflict with the government of the United States at times.  When the government decrees that it is permissible to degrade the human person, we must speak out against it, not bowing the knee to the unjust law… even if it comes from the Supreme Court or the Constitution itself.

However, there is a limit to what we can do.  If it comes to a choice between doing evil and suffering evil, we must choose the suffering of evil, as we may not choose an evil means to achieve the desired end.  Nor can we participate with the evil law.

So, in short, our opposition to injustice must be done in keeping with making a Christian witness.