Showing posts with label Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Obama. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hypocrisy: Thoughts on the Rise of Disrespectful Behavior

Untitled

I saw a blogger refer to Trump as “Liar-in-Chief.” There’s nothing surprising in that by itself (the internet being what it is). What made it troubling is I’m reasonably sure I saw said blogger castigate people who treated Obama in the same way during the past eight years because it was against Christian charity. That got me thinking about how far we’ve fallen from seeking out the truth and living it in all circumstances, replacing it with the hypocrisy of doing to one’s enemies what one normally thinks is wrong.

This is not a political problem, though politics seem to be the place where it happens most often today. Nor is it a factional problem. This kind of behavior seems to be found across political and religious lines. Where it seems to be rooted is in the belief that when I disagree strongly with someone, whatever I do in response is justified. 

It’s natural to feel strongly about things one thinks is right. It’s natural to feel revulsion towards things one thinks is wrong. But in doing so, we have a moral obligation to treat all persons as children of God, loving them even when they do wrong. Whether it’s a conservative who found Obama’s policies offensive or a liberal who finds Trump’s policies offensive, both are created and loved by God and we have an obligation to treat them accordingly. We don’t have an exemption when it comes to someone whose politics we hate.

This isn’t a call for moral relativism. There are things that are morally wrong and must be opposed. There are things that are morally good and must be done. But there is a difference between doing good and opposing evil on one hand, and hating the person who does wrong on the other. As a Catholic, I find Pope Francis emphasizes this difference in his calls for mercy. He recognizes that people sin, and that sin is wrong. But his position is we must reach out to the sinner with love, trying to bring them back to a right relationship with God.

I believe the remedy is to look at our behavior and see how we would react if someone acted that way towards something we hold important. If we would be angry, we should not do it ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t oppose evil—we can and must. However, using evil means to stop evil is forbidden to us as Christians.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Socrates, Pope Francis, and Politicians

“I am wiser than this man; for neither of us really knows anything fine and good, but this man thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas I, as I do not know anything, do not think I do either. I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either.” (Apologia 21d)

 

 Plato, Plato in Twelve Volumes Translated by Harold North Fowler; Introduction by W.R.M. Lamb., vol. 1 (Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1966).

So, today we saw another misrepresentation of Pope Francis. He spoke about investigating the role of the ancient position of deaconesses and clarifying what role they might play in the Church today. This suddenly became “Pope to investigate ordaining female deacons.” This resulted in both the radical traditionalist looking for “proof” that the Pope is a heretic, and the misguided Catholic who thinks the Church can ordain women jumping to the inaccurate opinion that the Pope justified their views. Once again we had people commit eisegesis, letting their preconceptions interfere with an accurate understanding. Debunking this was pretty easy compared to other incidents.

But after finishing this debunking, I had a thought. We’re quick in investigating false claims when it challenges what we find important. But we seem willing to take the same sources at their word if it supports our friend or harms our foe. This is more noticeable in an election year. We want our candidate to get elected and whatever harms the opponents of the candidate is good enough. So we end up sharing links which achieve this on social media without considering their accuracy.

The problem is, as Christians, we’re not supposed to do this. We’re supposed to speak the truth and live it. This obligation holds firm regardless of whether we talk about the Pope or about controversial politicians like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or Paul Ryan (to pick out four controversial names this election cycle from the headlines). We have to avoid rash judgment and calumny in what we say or what we repost. The Catechism tells us:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity. 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 594–595.

Before a person makes a negative interpretation about the character of someone, he has the obligation to discover (to the best of their ability) whether the charge is true or whether it comes from a partisan interpretation of the facts. If it is the latter, we need to ask ourselves if this interpretation is the only one possible or if there are other justified interpretations that do not prove the moral badness of the target. In other words, we need to make sure we are not playing the hypocrite. If we object to people misrepresenting or defaming what we hold important, we must not do the same thing when it comes to people we dislike.

For that matter, if someone we like actually does wrong, we can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter and kick it under the rug either. So, for example, if we denounce corruption in one candidate, we cannot be silent if a candidate we like is also corrupt.

Discerning the right thing to do can be a fine line to walk. But it is about not letting our prejudices lead us to act unjustly through action or omission. If someone does wrong, we can’t condone it. But we do have to make sure it is wrongdoing and not disagreement over the best way to do things or a misunderstanding over what happened. 

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m the wise Socrates from the quote in the beginning of this article and everyone else is the person who thinks he knows and does not. I had to catch myself in the act of doing this before realizing I was playing a double standard. I noticed that I just took the word of the mainstream media when it came to public figures I disliked and investigated it when it involved people I approved of. But when I looked more closely at what the articles alleged, I saw other reasonable interpretations than moral badness. Because of this, I had to ask myself, “What sort of witness am I leaving to support my promotion of Catholic moral teaching."

I didn’t like the answer I gave myself.

Since, as Christians, we’re called to be the light of the world, the city on the hill, the salt of the earth (see Matthew 5:13-16), we have to consider what sort of beacon we give to the world compared to the beacon we’re supposed to give. That means we have to do what is right, speaking the truth, even when we think the person involved seems entirely wrong.

Monday, October 20, 2014

TFTD: The President's Problem

Obama

In the New York Times article, President Obama Evolves on Gay Marriage, Again, Obama is quoted as saying, “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states."

The Equal Protection Clause is found in the 14th Amendment, and reads:

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.

There are two problems with his thinking.

The first is, the traditional view of marriage is not something implemented like the “Jim Crow” laws of the South with the intention of preventing people with same sex attraction from exercising their rights under the law. It was recognized, even in societies that did not disapprove of homosexual acts, the understanding of marriage was that of one man and one woman in a relationship intended for the raising of a family. Laws passed to defend that understanding of marriage were not depriving people of a right to marry. It merely insisted on defining the common understanding of marriage in the face of judicial activism.

So these laws defending the traditional marriage are not restricting. They’re merely defining the law in the face of the argument from silence fallacy used by judges (the law doesn’t specifically say between a man and a woman so it must be OK!) in abuse of logic and law—clarifying what was originally meant from a lawyer or judge who abuses the system.

The second problem is, we can apply a reductio ad absurdum to his argument. If forbidding a certain type of sexuality from being practiced with public sanction is a violation of equal protection, then any other law which forbids other sexualities from being practiced also violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. That means that the State can have no say in passing laws forbidding incest between consenting partners, polygamy, bestiality (we don’t require people to get permission to get milk, meat or wool from farm animals, so why require them to get permission for sexual activity?), necrophilia (if an unborn child doesn’t have rights, neither do dead people) or pedophilia (hey, it was practiced in ancient Greece).

All of those sexual behaviors are considered offensive, so I’ll cut off the list here. Curiously, if one mentions these, activists for same sex couples get outraged that people are “equating” these behaviors with same sex relationships. But that’s the point. These advocates recognize there is a line they will not go beyond. So the question remains, why draw the line here and not there

The thing is, once you remove family from the equation of what marriage means, you no longer have any lines to draw. Someone who tolerates more than you will want the law to permit something you do not think it should.

So the President has a flawed view of things. He thinks a law is discriminatory if it defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and he thinks that it is not discriminatory if it forbids other things. Basically he’s saying that, in his opinion, there’s nothing with calling same sex relationships, “marriage."

But he has no logical or rational justification for doing so. He can only use the law like a club to force acceptance . . . which is another fallacy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Musings on Freedoms and Attacks on Freedoms

Introduction

I see things in the news, on Facebook comments and other sources and see our nation is in deep trouble because it cannot discern the difference between true freedom and false freedom.  True freedoms are infringed upon.  False freedoms are trumpeted as "rights" and challenges are ignored.  This article is a sort of reflection on the current danger to true freedoms that the Obama administration is inflicting.

The Syllogism

Let's start out with a logical syllogism.

  1. Major Premise: It is [unjust] to [compel people to do what they think is evil] ([B] is a part of [A])
  2. Minor Premise: The [HHS mandate] [compels people to do what they think is evil] ([C] is a part of [B])
  3. Conclusion: Therefore the [HHS Mandate] is [Unjust] (Therefore [C] is a part of [A])

The major premise is a foundation of America ("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 deny it is to deny the basic principle of freedom we hold as Americans. 

The Minor premise is also true.  Catholics will have to pay for contraception and abortion coverage, and believe that providing such coverage is sinful.

In logic, when the premises are true and the argument is valid, the conclusion is proven true.

And it is proven true.  We can make use of a Euler diagram to show this:

Euler ABC

As we pointed out above, [A] includes all things which are unjust, [B] includes all things that compel people to do what they think is evil and [C] is the HHS mandate.To deny the HHS Mandate is Unjust ([C] is a part of [A]), one has to deny that forcing people to do what they think is evil [B] is unjust [A].

Reductio ad absurdum

If one wants to deny that [B] is a part of [A], one has to admit that a government has the authority to compel people to do what they want them to do regardless of what people may think.  Now supporters of abortion rights and the like may think this sounds great.  But under such a principle, a government could reject conscientious objector status in times of a draft.  It could force reporters to reveal their sources.  It could force doctors to violate doctor-patient confidentiality, lawyers to violate attorney-client privileges, force wives to testify against husbands and so on.

The point is, if the principles behind the HHS mandate are upheld, then the next administration could easily use these principles to force their own views.  Liberals may favor these principles when used by the Obama administration, but are they willing to let these principles be used against them by a conservative government?

I strongly doubt they would.

Recognizing the between Compulsion to do evil and Refusal to give aid.

Some may attempt to address the Catholic protests by claiming that Catholics are trying to force their views on others and using the government to force them.  Pelosi for example made this argument.  She is either ignorant or dishonest however in doing so.  There is a difference between compulsion and refusal to assist.

Freedom is violated in saying, "You must pay for contraception and abortion coverage, even if you think it evil."  It is not violated in saying, "Pay for your own damn contraception!"

What is the difference?  The first forces others to comply.  The second simply refuses to assist wrongdoers.

It is similar to the abuse of the term "Censorship" whenever the discussion of cutting funding for the NEA comes up.  It is censorship when the government says, "You are forbidden to do art on Topic [X]."  But if the government says, "I'm not going to pay you to take photographs of crucifixes in jars of urine," it isn't making any kind of restrictions on what the so-called artist can do.

In other words, to confuse "I order you to do [X]" with "I refuse to assist you in doing [X]" is to be irrational indeed.  Yet it is this argument which is being made by those who would force this mandate.

Do Bishops Force Catholics?

It may be argued that Catholic bishops force Catholics to do what they think is evil by telling them certain things are wrong and must be opposed.  Doesn't this violate the freedom of dissenting Catholics?

This would be a false challenge.  The Catholic Bishop, speaking to his flock, says that being faithful to God requires the rejection of certain behaviors, and to do these things is to estrange oneself from God and the person who does these things must be considered as doing evil.  In doing so, the Bishop is speaking to people about what is true and essential.  Catholics believe that Jesus is God and willed to establish a visible, hierarchical Church under the authority of the Pope in Rome for the purpose of bringing God's salvation to the world.

If one accepts that as true, it is reasonable for people to take heed to what the Church teaches.  If one rejects this, then why the hell are they in the Catholic Church to begin with?

Cruel Heartless Physicists!

To call the Catholic Magisterium cruel, heartless or bureaucratic – to call them anti-woman or homophobic – because they say that perversions of the sexual act are harmful to the person in this life and the next is pretty irrational.  Catholics believe the Church teaches what God has passed on to us through the Apostles to the present day.  If our beliefs are true, then her teachings reflect the reality of existence.  To demand that the Church change her teachings is as ridiculous as demanding that physicists change the laws of physics to prevent people from hurting themselves in a fall.

A physicist could not change the law of gravity.  He or she can only explain how reality works.  Likewise, the Church cannot change her teachings on morality.  She can only teach what this reality is.

A person can of course ignore a bishop's teaching, just as a person can ignore a physicist's explanation of the law of gravity.  However, the person who ignores the law of gravity and steps off the side of a building will suffer harm, and so will the person who ignores the Church teaching on issues of morality.

A Common But False Argument

Some may say, "Well your beliefs may say [X] is wrong, but mine do not.  Therefore you are forcing your beliefs on me!" 

Such a statement is essentially an enthymeme (an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated according to the Oxford English Dictionary).  To make such an argument a valid syllogism, we would have to state their argument as such:

  1. All [Morally Binding Obligations] are [Things Held Universally] (All [A] is [B]) (This is the Enthymeme)
  2. [Belief (X)] is not a [Thing Held Universally] (No [C] is [B])
  3. Therefore [Belief (X)] is not a [Morally Binding Obligation] (Therefore No [C] is [A])

("X" would be whatever belief is under dispute)

Since I placed the first syllogism in a Euler Circle, I will show the Euler Circle for this argument as well:

False Argument

In this diagram, [A] would be [Morally Binding Obligations], [B] would be [Things held universally] and [C] would be [(Belief [X])] which is under dispute. 

So what's wrong with the argument?

The argument assumes the unstated major premise that All [Morally Binding Obligations] are [Things Held Universally].  We can demolish this by a reductio ad absurdum by changing (Belief [X]) to a more repellant belief.  For example, we can say that the condemnations of slavery, forced deportation, segregation, subjugation of women, lynching etc. was not universally held.  This is not a hypothetical – these are sad events from American History.  In fact these things could happen because at one time a majority at the least tolerated these things as legal.

Thus, if we accept the above argument as to why Catholics have no rights to "impose our beliefs" on others, we must recognize that [Treating People Equally] was not part of [Things held universally], and therefore [Treating people equally] is not a [Morally binding obligation].

But that is absurd!  the concept that slavery, segregation, forced resettlements etc., must be tolerated because they were not held universally means that one can justify anything they can convince people to accept and people who try to oppose them are accused of "forcing their beliefs on others."

Since this is absurd,  the major premise is also shown to be absurd and must be rejected.  Thus that argument cannot be said to be prove its point.

Conclusion

I Hope to explore more about moral obligations and truth in a future article, but I hope these musings will show that the HHS mandate is certainly a mandate against truth and freedom.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thoughts on America, Freedom and Catholicism

Introduction: The Problem

The most disputed issue in America today is over the issue of freedom.  The target of this dispute is the Catholic Church and reason for this debate is over the recent government mandate that all employers must pay for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs unless that employer exclusively hires and serves co-religionists.

Since faithful Catholics believe that contraceptives and abortion are intrinsically evil acts (that is, can never be considered good regardless of intention), they believe they cannot participate in these acts either directly (by distributing contraceptives or performing abortions) or indirectly (paying for these things), this mandate by the government is seen as forcing Catholic institutions to do something which God forbids, and therefore they must not do regardless of what the government decrees.

15 The king of Egypt told the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was called Shiphrah and the other Puah,16 “When you act as midwives for the Hebrew women and see them giving birth, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she may live.”
17 The midwives, however, feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt had ordered them, but let the boys live.
(Exodus 1)

Moreover, since Catholics believe that they are called to help all in need regardless of whether they are Catholic or not (see Matt 25:31-46), it is not an option for them to limit the care provided by their institutions to Catholics alone (see Matthew 5:46)… to act such would be to disobey the command of our Lord.

Thus, if the government persists in this mandate, the only way the Catholic Church can be faithful to God is to defy the state – which will sooner or later result in some sort of repercussions (fines, confiscations, prosecutions) which will eventually shut down these Catholic institutions.  Thus the Catholic bishops of America feel called to speak out against this unjust and coercive legislation.

Church Authority: Real and Perceived

The opponents of the Church take advantage of the widespread ignorance about the Church.  Many believe that the violent and autocratic culture of the 16th and 17th centuries was mandated by the teachings of the Catholic Church and that the Church is by nature a coercive, power hungry group which is by nature contrary to the American concept of freedom.  Thus, Catholics are portrayed as"forcing" people to comply with "archaic" rules.

The problem is, such views are untrue.  Nobody is forced to remain a Catholic.  If Nancy Pelosi were to formally leave the Catholic faith tomorrow, the magisterium would not put a death sentence on her.  Rather, we believe that God Himself will judge us all.  Vatican II teaches:

Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium #14)

and,

All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged. (ibid)

So, the only powers the Church possesses is the claim to be the Church established by Christ with the authority given by Christ (see Matt 16:18-19, Matt 18:17-18).  If what the Catholic Church claims about herself is true, then what she teaches should be taken seriously.  If one does not believe this to be true, then why remain a Catholic to begin with?

The Constitution and the Bishops' Appeal

Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless. For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who did or taught anything wrong, but it is incumbent on the lover of truth, by all means, and if death be threatened, even before his own life, to choose to do and say what is right. Do you, then, since ye are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning, give good heed, and hearken to my address; and if ye are indeed such, it will be manifested. For we have come, not to flatter you by this writing, nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgment, after an accurate and searching investigation, not flattered by prejudice or by a desire of pleasing superstitious men, nor induced by irrational impulse or evil rumours which have long been prevalent, to give a decision which will prove to be against yourselves. For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers, or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us.

(First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter 2)

In the Second Century AD, when Christianity was illegal, St. Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) wrote to the Emperor (Antonius Pius), appealing to the Empire to treat Christianity with justice.  In this defense of the Church, he appealed to the standards the Emperor and his associates held important: To behave honorably and justly and not to condemn without learning the truth of the matter.

Likewise, the bishops today, in speaking out to the fact that this mandate is unjust are making a similar appeal.  If one holds to the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they cannot violate these simply because the Catholic belief is unpopular today.  The bishops do recognize that most Americans don't recognize the fact that truth is never outdated – that most Americans feel they can reject a true moral statement simply on the grounds that it is old.  Therefore, they make an appeal to what most Americans still do recognize – even if they regard Catholicism with antipathy – that if America wants to consider herself a nation based on freedom, she must apply those freedoms to Catholics.

The First Amendment, in full, 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.

What is listed in the First Amendment are fundamental rights that the government may not interfere with.  The government may not restrict us from doing what is right, speaking out on what is right, nor to assemble and peacefully challenge the government to do what is right.  In this case, we can see the bishops are exercising their First Amendment rights in opposing the Obama administration mandate, while the Obama administration is violating the First Amendment by hindering the free exercise of the Catholic faith to aid those in need without violating what God requires of us.

Fundamentally Distorting the Issue

Proponents of the mandate have made all sorts of appeals to support the demands of the government.  The bishops are accused of trying to use the government to impose Catholicism on non-Catholics.  This is false – so much so that those who repeat it are either grossly ignorant or are guilty of slander/libel.

The Catholic Church is not seeking to force other institutions to accept Catholic beliefs.  Yes the American embrace of contraception and abortion is a grave evil for everyone and must be opposed and, yes, the Catholic Church seeks to appeal to people of good will to understand why these things are gravely evil.  However, if the Catholic Bishops were to have their way and the Obama administration were to admit they were in the wrong (rescinding the mandate), there would be no change in what the non-Catholic can legally do.

What the proponents of the mandate are insisting is that Catholic institutions financially support what they believe is evil.

(Picture source: Catholic Vote.org)

Those who are so irresponsible as to view sex as recreation and refuse to recognize the fact that the sexual act is one designed to bring forth new human life insist that they be free to engage in this activity freely – but those who think differently should be forced to subsidize their behavior.  It should be clear that it is not the bishops seeking to impose anything on others.  It is others that are trying to impose things on the Catholic Church.

The argument that the Catholic Church is forcing their views on non-Catholic employees is also false.  If one works for a religious institution which holds different values than what the individual believes, the individual should recognize that their motivations and views are different.  I wouldn't expect a restaurant owned by Muslims to provide me with a wine list or a Jewish deli to make me a ham sandwich on my lunch break even though my Christian values permit me to make use of wine and pork.  If I wanted the wine or the ham so much, I'd go elsewhere for lunch and not insist my non-Christian employer provide something they believe to be wrong.

That's being respectful.  Of course, I believe the Jew or the Muslim should accept Christ and perhaps through prayer and dialogue they might through the grace of God – but I wouldn't try to force them to do something they believed would put them in defiance of God.

Conclusion

I don't want to give the impression that everything is relative of course.  Catholics believe that their teaching on sexuality is not merely true for them, but that it is absolutely true for all people at all times, and it is certainly something that should be explained to others so they accept it freely.  However, even those who deny the Catholic teaching or the authority of the Church should recognize that the Catholic Church has the same freedoms under the constitution that other groups do, and that we have the right to practice our faith without the government forcing us to do what we believe God condemns.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TFTD: Dangerous Signs From the White House

Sometimes one can pick up what a person thinks by their choice of language.

While reading about a recent Virginia law designed to protect religious based adoption agencies, I came across this White House issued statement:

While the president does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, he has long believed that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals based on their interest in offering a loving home, not based on discriminatory and irrelevant factors.

In other words, the Obama administration views issues of religious conscience which says homosexuality is wrong as "discriminatory and irrelevant."

It seems to me that such an attitude displays a sense of contempt for religious belief and a warning sign that we cannot expect the Obama administration to protect our constitutional rights from those who wish us to either disobey God or close our doors.

Certainly Catholics should stop casting a blind eye towards this administration's hostility to religion.  Non-Catholics should recognize that if this attitude towards religious freedom is accepted, then it is a weapon which can be aimed at any belief that a future government decides they don't like.

Suggested Readings for these Troubled Times

With the election season coming up, we need to be informed about the Catholic teachings and how they apply to the American political system. We need to be informed about what is right and moral before entering the voting booth.

Render Unto Caesar by Archbishop Charles Chaput.  Written before the 2008 elections, the Archbishop speaks on what Catholics need to consider when voting, recognizing the moral considerations vs. the culture of today.

American Babylon by Fr. Richard Neuhaus.  Not Babylon in the wretched Left Behind sense, but in the sense of we are exiles in America just as the Jews were once exiles in Babylon.  The Jews then were called to work for the good of Babylon but refusing to be unfaithful to God.  We in America are called to do the same.

We Hold These Truths by Fr. John Courtney Murray SJ.  Written in 1960, this book is still an amazing insight into America and the political dangers which threaten her.  The things he wrote about over 50 years ago are still true today… in fact he seems to have accurately described the mindset of the Obama administration a year before Obama was even born.

What We Can't Not Know by J. Budziszewski.  An excellent explanation of Natural Law, and how even those who disagree with the Church can know (even if they choose to ignore it) the basic sense of right and wrong.

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. 

USCCB Rebuts Obama Administration

You can find the article HERE.

We're in a nasty battle for the freedom to do as we ought to do, with the propagandists for the government seeking to mislead people into thinking we're mindless bigots.

This is the time for all people to do what they can depending on their talents.  We're now in a battle over the souls in our nation.

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,”

and:

“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, September 22, 2011

Reflections on the Moral Responsibility in Determining the Lesser of Two Evils

How are we to determine the lesser evil when it comes to voting when both candidates fail in some aspects according to the teaching of the Catholic Church?

Preliminary Note: A couple of weeks back, when the Republican Debate was on CNN, I found myself morally troubled by some of the candidate's positions in terms of the Catholic teaching on social justice.  Since then, I was thinking of the whole concept of the lesser of two evils and how we need to view our faith in relation to the political parties.  While we're still over a year away from the elections, it is important for us to remember how we need to unite ourselves with Christ and what we need to consider in discerning what is a lesser evil.

Introduction

To be honest I found myself with misgivings with some of the Republican candidates .  Their stands on certain issues of social justice seems to fall short of the Catholic teaching on social justice (not merely the liberal buzzword either).

On the other hand, Obama's position on abortion and homosexual "marriage" and religious freedom not only falls short of the Catholic position, but is utterly in opposition to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.  He actively supports things which the Catholic Church must call evil if she is to be faithful to the teachings of Christ.

So what is the candidate to do when, even if we should like some of the views of one candidate, his views are contrary to the teachings of the Church in critical ways?

We CANNOT Just Freely Vote for Whoever We Might Prefer

Ultimately, we must realize that in cases where neither political party is in line with the Catholic teaching, we are NOT free to simply vote for who we might otherwise prefer.  Certain actions are more harmful to individuals and to the state as a whole than others.  In other words, you can't vote for Mussolini just because the other party can't make the trains run on time for example.

If we are to endure the lesser evil, we must discern the greater evil that must be opposed.

It might be good to refer to a fundamental insight from Aristotle's Rhetoric (Book 1 Chapter 7):

A thing which surpasses another may be regarded as being that other thing plus something more, and that other thing which is surpassed as being what is contained in the first thing. Now to call a thing 'greater' or 'more' always implies a comparison of it with one that is 'smaller' or 'less', while 'great' and 'small', 'much' and 'little', are terms used in comparison with normal magnitude. The 'great' is that which surpasses the normal, the 'small' is that which is surpassed by the normal; and so with 'many' and 'few'.

So, when it comes to discerning the greater evil, it means it will do more evil than the lesser evil.

On Greater and Lesser Evil

We need to distinguish something first of all.  To say [A] is worse than [B] does not mean [B] is not evil.  It is simply to say that when being forced to choose between [A] and [B], [A] will do more harm physically or spiritually and therefore needs a more urgent effort than [B] if we cannot choose a selection which gives us neither evil.

In terms of Church teaching and politics, this means we recognize that both [A] and [B] run afoul of Church teaching, but [A] is a greater evil which we must witness against.  We must still oppose [B], but if it is impossible to have neither [A] nor [B] we must stop the greater evil first.

The Culture of Death

We must oppose the mindset that some human life is not worth protecting.

Abortion and Euthanasia are actions which come from the view that some life does not have value and is better off ended.  The unborn or the infirm/elderly are seen as not possessing life which is worth preserving.  Politicians who support these "rights" and enshrine them law are guilty of moving society in a direction which treats certain life as being without value.

So before we could label a candidate who supports abortion as a "lesser evil," there must be a case where candidate treats even more lives as having no value.  For example, a candidate who supports infanticide would be a greater evil than a candidate who only supports abortion.  However I would absolutely reject the idea that wanting to reduce the dollar amount given to social programs is a greater evil than saying the unborn and the elderly possess lives not worth protecting and sanctioning the arbitrary ending of these human lives.

Proportionate Reasons

We need to remember another Catholic teaching.  Even if one does not directly do an evil act (which is always forbidden) we can still have moral responsibility if our act aids an evil act, making it possible.  The more essential our action is to the performing of an evil act, the greater the justification is required to avoid culpability in sin.

For example, the gas station attendant who pumps gas into any vehicle that comes along is less responsible for supplying gasoline to a van which drives women to an abortion clinic than the driver of that van who willingly takes the women to that clinic or the owner of the building who rents space to the abortion clinic.

If we know that our actions will cause evil, we are obligated to oppose this evil and not enable it.  When it comes to voting for a candidate, Catholics must realize that a vote for a person who supports a thing the Church teaches is evil is an action which allows the politician to make this evil legally sanctioned by the government.

So it follows:

  1. The person who votes for a candidate BECAUSE he supports that evil undeniably sins.
  2. The person who votes for a candidate IN SPITE OF his support for that evil is obligated that he must justify his vote before God, and the greater the evil, the greater the justification must be.

Archbishop Chaput, when he was in Denver, wrote in 2008:

9. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life — which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.

That's a strong indictment.  He's saying that abortion is such a great evil, that to vote for a candidate supports abortion  requires such a strong reason that we will not be ashamed to explain it to Christ at the final judgment.

So the person who claims that they are justified to vote for a pro-abortion candidate has to give justification.  It's not enough to say you're voting for pro-abortion candidate [A] because you're opposed to candidate [B] because of his position on Social Security.

It's human life at stake with abortion.

Conclusion

Catholics need to stop thinking in terms of, "Well neither candidate is fully Catholic so I am free to vote for whoever I want."  We have the somber duty to reject (vote against) the greater evil while challenging the lesser evil to change their ways.

It is clear that right now, abortion is the gravest evil facing America because it is an evil which decides some human lives are not worth living.  If you want to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, you MUST be able to justify your position by pointing to the greater evil you think is a greater than the slaughter of over 1 million unborn children EVERY year in America.

Think of it.  Catholics must think of the unborn as human lives – not subhuman lives which mean less than adults.  So we must recognize that abortion is not merely one issue of many.

When Election Day 2012 comes around, we are all obligated to seriously consider these things and remember our vote has moral consequences which we must answer for before God.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For What It's Worth: Text of Obama's Executive Order

I'll admit I was surprised that the Executive Order was actually released. So here it is.

Document can be found HERE in PDF format for those who want it straight from the source.  For those who just want to read it, I have the text below.

Keep in mind this is a straight OCR scan of the PDF with only page numbers removed and "continued" or "more" or "next page" removed.  Funny line breaks are on account of this.  The text is as follows:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 24, 2010
EXECUTIVE ORDER

clip_image002

ENSURING ENFORCEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF ABORTION RESTRICTIONS
IN THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Public Law 111-148), I hereby order as follows:

Section. 1. Policy. Following the recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the "Act"), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. The purpose of this order is to establish a comprehensive, Government-wide set of policies and procedures to achieve this goal and to make certain that all relevant actors -- Federal officials, State officials (including insurance regulators) and health care providers -- are aware of their responsibilities, new and old.

The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 300a-7, and the Weldon Amendment, section 508(d)(1) of Public Law 111-8) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Numerous executive agencies have a role in ensuring that these restrictions are enforced, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management.

Sec. 2. Strict Compliance with Prohibitions on Abortion Funding in Health Insurance Exchanges. The Act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) in the health insurance exchanges that will be operational in 2014. The Act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services

in exchange plans (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires State health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office.

I hereby direct the Director of the OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this order, a model set of segregation guidelines for State health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act's segregation requirements, established in section 1303 of the Act, for enrollees receiving Federal financial assistance. The guidelines shall also offer technical information that States should follow to conduct independent regular audits of insurance companies that participate in the health insurance exchanges. In developing these model guidelines, the Director of the OMB and the Secretary of HHS shall consult with executive agencies and offices that have relevant expertise in accounting principles, including, but not limited to, the Department of the Treasury, and with the Government Accountability Office. Upon completion of those model guidelines, the Secretary of HHS should promptly initiate a rulemaking to issue regulations, which will have the force of law, to interpret the Act's segregation requirements, and shall provide guidance to State health insurance commissioners on how to comply with the model guidelines.

Sec. 3. Community Health Center Program. The Act establishes a new Community Health Center (CHC) Fund within HHS, which provides additional Federal funds for the community health center program. Existing law prohibits these centers from using Federal funds to provide abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), as a result of both the Hyde Amendment and longstanding regulations containing the Hyde language. Under the Act, the Hyde language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers under section 10503 and all other relevant provisions. I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of Federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law. Such actions should include, but are not limited to, updating Grant Policy Statements that accompany CHC grants and issuing new interpretive rules.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) authority granted by law or Presidential directive to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) functions of the Director of the OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE, March 24, 2010.

# # #

So, about six months to enact models for these policies.  No mention of what happens if they fail to do so.  Pretty vague though, and of course the Hyde Amendment has to be renewed every year.  Two potential pitfalls here.  I'll hold off speculating however and wait for commentary from knowledgeable sources.

Stupak de facto Rejects Church Authority and Accuses Bishops of Hypocrisy

Sources: Stupak: Pope doesn't control Catholic lawmakers - Water Cooler - Washington Times,

Stupak Calls Pro-Lifers Hypocrites | Blogs | NCRegister.com,

Stupak says Catholic bishops and pro-life groups hypocrites for condemning health-care vote | The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment

Stupak had a chance to choose between his faith and his party alliances.  His comments in the post vote fallout show he has made his choice… in favor of his party.  To defend his vote for Health Care against the teachings of the Bishops and the Pope, he has in effect denied their authority to teach what sort of behavior is moral.

Stupak on the Pope's Authority

Let's start with Stupak and his answering of questions on the authority of the Pope.  When questioned in an interview, Stupak demonstrated a gross misunderstanding of things:

PICKET: Do you believe in the primacy of the Pope over in Rome?

STUPAK: Do I believe in the primacy…can you explain that to me?

PICKET: Well considering the Vatican have in terms of the Catholic religion…

STUPAK: The Pope and the Catholic faith does not control Catholic legislators. We must vote reflective of our districts and our beliefs. When I vote pro-life, it happens to be my own personal belief, also my district’s beliefs and the nation's. As the polls show 61 percent of the American people believe we should not use public funds to pay for abortion. I agree with that.

Stupak displays the logical error of equivocation here.  Now it is true that the Pope does not dictate to the politician how to vote.  However, Stupak is bound to carry out his task as a political leader by applying Church teaching to how he views the issue.  If abortion is wrong, then one is not allowed to enable this wrong.  This includes not only the direct voting for abortion rights (formal cooperation) but also making the act of evil possible (material cooperation).

Given the Bishops of the United States had condemned the Senate Bill as being unacceptable, and denounced the option for the "Executive Order" as being inadequate, Stupak cannot claim he did not know that the magisterium of the Church had spoken out against the action he did set out to do.

Stupak on the Bishops

They say the first step to getting out of a hole you have put yourself into is to stop digging.  Stupak, however, seems to have increased the vigor of his shovel based trip to China by attacking the Bishops for hypocrisy.  He has said:

“The [National] Right to Life and the bishops, in 2007 when George Bush signed the executive order on embryonic stem cell research, they all applauded the executive order,” Stupak said in an interview with The Daily Caller.

“The Democratic Congress passed [a bill] saying we’ll do embryonic stem cell research. Bush vetoed it in 2007. That same day he issued an executive order saying we will not do it, and all these groups applauded that he protected life,” Stupak said.

“So now President Obama’s going to sign an executive order protecting life and everyone’s condemning it. The hypocrisy is great,” he said.

Stupak is guilty of the fallacy of the false analogy here [In that the conditions are not the same] and of a Straw Man [the opposition is not to an Executive Order in general, but is based on the lack of protections it will provide compared to law in this situation]. 

In 2007, Bush not only vetoed the embryonic stem cell research, but he also deepened those protections with an executive order.  In contrast, the health care bill does not protect life or conscience, but depends on an executive order which can be overturned (if Obama decides to do so.  Remember Obama's overturning of the Bush Conscience protection and his promise to create a "better" one?  It's been almost a year since he said that…) at any time or ruled unconstitutional, to supposedly do what the Bill will not. 

Jimmy Atkin points out:

To my mind, the addle-headedness of his [Stupak's] comments is great.

President Bush, for all his flaws, vetoed a Bad Bill and then issued an executive order to further protect unborn life.

What Stupak did was vote for a Bad Bill with only a hope that the next pro-abort president (or even Obama himself, or the courts) won’t void the executive order he got in exchange for his vote.

Whatever else, Mr. Stupak does not seem gifted in finding good analogies to back up his charges of hypocrisy.

(emphasis in original)

There is no hypocrisy on the part of the Bishops here.  The Bishops opposed the bill which Bush vetoed.  Bush also created an executive order to prevent evasions.  Stupak voted for a bill the Bishops condemned as contrary to Catholic moral teachings, and relied on the promise of Obama to pass an executive order, when his record on keeping such promises are poor.

Conclusion

Stupak, in denying the Church can judge his actions as immoral, has in effect denied Magisterial authority over his actions.  He may oppose abortion of course.  However, in his responsibility in passing the bill (which passed 219-212.  If he and his bloc had voted against it, it seems this bill would have failed 215-216) he does have to answer for his defiance of casting a vote which enabled policies.

Stupak may have been guilty of a deliberate sell out, or he may have merely been misguided in his trust of Obama (now that the Bill is passed, will Obama keep his promise, and if so in what form?).  However, he is wrong in his accusing the bishops and pro-life groups of hypocrisy.

The whole things smells of excuses on the part of Stupak.  Whether to justify it to his constituents or to justify it to his own conscience, he has done wrong, setting his religious beliefs aside in favor of a party platform.

We will now have to see what Obama does with this.  It is not impossible he will keep his promise to issue an executive order, but his track record is not good.  If Obama fails to keep his promise or passes an executive order which falls short of what is needed to protect life, Stupak will have to share the blame.

Monday, March 22, 2010

All For The Want of a Horseshoe Nail: The Scapegoating Begins

Source: Bishops Share The Blame | Blogs | NCRegister.com

[Disclosure: This article is an expansion of a response I wrote on another blog]

Let the Blames Begin…

For better or worse, health care has passed.  I believe it is for the worse of course.  Not because I oppose a reform of the system we have, but because it is a "reform" which makes legal things which must be condemned and opposed as evil.  What I find tragic however is to see that instead of a unified front to challenge the evils, we are now seeing infighting among the Christians, pointing fingers.  Among Catholics, this is shown as pointing fingers at "The Bishops."

The problem I have with the Register's assessment, in saying…

Again, while the Bishops have acquitted themselves well through this process recently, they cannot ignore the past.

The hard truth is that for years the Bishops have allied themselves with the pro-abort party in matters related to health-care, and now they claim 11th hour betrayal.

When you hang out with thieves, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get robbed.

Moreover, the Bishops silence for years in the face of pro-abortion Catholic politicians has given aid and comfort to those who seek the death of children.  The Bishop’s unwillingness, with some obvious exceptions, to effectively address or discipline pro-abort Catholic politicians allowed for the Democrats to portray the Church as divided on the issue.  They have also allowed a culture of dissent to flourish for decades that culminated in the shameful last minute endorsement by a group of radical nuns that seriously hurt the cause of life.

The bishops’ decades long collective silence on these issues allowed for this culture to develop and has resulted in the USCCB being understandably criticized as an extension of the Democrat party (the Democrat party at prayer they say).  This is the horrible result of that ungodly alliance.

…is that while many bishops may not have saw the danger at the time, they certainly stood strong during this Health Care debate.  I was never in any doubt that the USCCB opposed the Senate Bill from the time it was originally created, so I disagree with the "11th hour" claim.

Reflections on the American Bishops

Yes, American bishops had been weak for decades.  For that matter, German Bishops prior to 1517 were also weak in enforcing discipline in the Church, leading to the abuses that Luther opposed.  Does that mean the bishops after this time were to blame as they sought to repair the damage done?  Whatever happened in the past is past.  As Catholics, we believe that people can repent and begin working for the truth.  Many of those bishops responsible for the silence of the 80s and 90s are retired or deceased.  Many of those who remain seem to have been strongly encouraged when Pope Benedict XVI visited America and began speaking out.

Remote Cause vs. Immediate Cause

This is the confusing a remote cause with an immediate cause, like the old poem:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

Often (mis)interpreted as saying small things lead to big losses.  However, one has to assess how far back one can reasonably assign blame.  Is it reasonable to say because one nail was missing, the kingdom was lost?  Or is it more reasonable to assign blame to a failure to prepare for contingencies?

Did certain bishops back in the 1980s and 1990s often behave ineffectually?  Yes.  Did they sometimes identify Democratic policies with Catholic teaching?  Yes, tragically.  Did some bishops think Obama would be a good president?  Yes, it sadly seems to be so.

Is it correct to say that because bishops in the past failed to act as they ought, that this is the cause of the situation we face today?  I think not.  I am inclined to think the direct cause of this is too many placed all their trust in Stupak and failing to consider other contingencies.  The bishops who spoke out did not rely on Stupak.  They kept speaking out to the members of Congress, seeking to convince as many as they could of their moral duties.

Who Failed to do Their Job Now (As Opposed to the Past)?

Some failed in their duty and some did not.  This is why I must disagree with the Register article when it says:

Blame may be cathartic for some but that is not the reason I bring this sorry history up now.  Like the Republicans, the Bishops too must learn from their mistakes.  If they continue to ally themselves with the Democrat party and continue their cowardly and ineffective “pastoral” approach to pro-death Catholic politicians things will only get worse, and yes they can get worse.

So it is time for all of us to admit our mistakes and learn from them.  Lives depend on it.  We failed them before, let’s not do it again.

The problem I have is that it is clear from the actions of Bishops being increasingly vocal since the beginning of the Obama administration that they already have learned from their mistakes.  Yes, we now need to do more still.  Some may still do less than they ought, but this article seems to negate the strong witness bishops have given.

If We Wish to Judge, Let Us Begin With Ourselves

1 † “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

† [Commentary from NAB] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with Mat 7:5,6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults.

People want someone to blame.  If so, perhaps we should begin with ourselves, on our own failure to do enough at our level.  Did we do our best to oppose the bill, or did we decide to let Stupak do it for us, failing to consider he might be turned?

I believe that, if we examine our actions, most of us will have to say the latter.  Perhaps I should have written more on the subject than I did, for example.  I believed the statements of the bishops were quite strong, but perhaps I ought to have made them available on this site to inform the (admittedly small) number of followers of this site.  I could have looked for links to put on the site banner.  I couldn't have forced people to change their minds, but I could have perhaps let others know of other views.  For that, I can only say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Yes it is easy to point fingers.  Yes, Archbishop Niederauer (for example) should have imposed discipline on Pelosi long before.  Yes other bishops have been lax.  Yes, the USCCB can use a better system of vetting when people try to use their name to promote a political agenda.  Yes, the visitation of the American nuns should immediately be ratcheted up a few notches in intensity.

Indicting the Whole For the Acts of Some

However, there is a large difference between being disappointed in saying certain bishops should have done more and indicting "the bishops" as a whole.

The USCCB did make their voice known through the proceedings, urging changes and once it became clear that the final senate bill was set, shifted to outright opposition.  When the CHA made their 11th hour deceits, when certain nuns misrepresented themselves as speaking for 60,000, when the Stupak compromise was announced, the USCCB made clear that these things were unacceptable, and urged members of Congress to vote against this law.

Certain Catholics in Congress may have used the words of dissenters to justify their wrong actions, but they would be guilty of vincible ignorance in the face of what the Bishops spoke out about.

We cannot control what others do of course.  We can control what we do.  We can only make our voice be heard and pray.

What If They Opposed Obamacare and Nobody Came?

I believe this comic, from DBD.com makes clear our duty now.  If we know this bill will impose injustices on us, it is up to us to fight, and not expect others to.  I think Berthold Brecht said it well:

What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why, then, the war would come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid battle.
Since not to fight for your own cause
Really means
Fighting on behalf of your enemy's cause.

Let's avoid pointless recriminations now.  We have this to deal with now, and we need to face it united as Christians, not infighting among ourselves.  The infighting, the blame seeking and the scapegoating only aids those we must oppose.

Now, for better or for worse we have this system of Health care.  Now, it is our duty to challenge those aspects of it which are contrary to what we believe to be right and just.

Now is not the time to blame and scapegoat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On the Errors of Obama

Source: The White House - Press Office - Remarks by the President at Human Rights Campaign Dinner

Many people are of the impression that Obama is really friendly and willing to listen to people of faith.  Then Obama does something which shows this faith in this impression is groundless.  That what he really stands for is light years away from what the Christian faith requires.

In this address, posted on the White House web page and not on some right wing blog, Obama tells the audience that those of us who believe in the authenticity of Christian teaching are the intolerant bigots which he is trying to save America from.

He starts off by telling his audience:

Thank you so much, all of you. It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady GaGa. (Applause.) I've made it. (Laughter.) I want to thank the Human Rights Campaign for inviting me to speak and for the work you do every day in pursuit of equality on behalf of the millions of people in this country who work hard in their jobs and care deeply about their families -- and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. (Applause.)

For nearly 30 years, you've advocated on behalf of those without a voice. That's not easy. For despite the real gains that we've made, there's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open. There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones -- good and decent people -- who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted. And that's painful and it's heartbreaking. (Applause.) And yet you continue, leading by the force of the arguments you make, and by the power of the example that you set in your own lives -- as parents and friends, as PTA members and church members, as advocates and leaders in your communities. And you're making a difference.

The fact is, homosexuals have the same rights as Heterosexuals in America.  They can vote, can own property, can hold jobs.  They can even marry… people of the other gender.  The issue of course is what marrying someone of the same gender means.

Obama makes use of a logical fallacy right off the back, that because an argument is old, it is invalid.  This is a false and dangerous way of looking at things.  What matters is whether the argument is true.  Obama is operating under the following reasoning:

  1. Marriage is about sex
  2. There is no difference between enjoying heterosexual or homosexual activity
  3. Therefore anyone opposed to homosexual marriage does so out of intolerance of homosexuality.

Except the proponents of traditional marriage would reject proposition #1.  Marriage is not about sex.  It is about family and unity of two spouses.  Laws about marriage are to protect the institution of the family, the right of the spouses to generate life from each other and to raise children according to their beliefs.

The so-called "Homosexual marriage" carries none of these elements.  Without an outside third party, procreation is not even biologically possible (which differs from the infertile heterosexual couple who can at least perform the act of procreation as it was intended to be), which means both the elements of procreation and unity of spouses would be absent in a homosexual "marriage."

St. Thomas Aquinas recognized the fact that the marriage act required marriage to be valid:

Now the marriage goods are the cause of rectitude in the marriage act. Therefore the marriage act cannot be excused without them.

Further, the aforesaid act does not differ from the act of fornication except in the aforesaid goods. But the act of fornication is always evil. Therefore the marriage act also will always be evil unless it be excused by the aforesaid goods.

I answer that, Just as the marriage goods, in so far as they consist in a habit, make a marriage honest and holy, so too, in so far as they are in the actual intention, they make the marriage act honest, as regards those two marriage goods which relate to the marriage act. Hence when married persons come together for the purpose of begetting children, or of paying the debt to one another (which pertains to faith) they are wholly excused from sin. But the third good does not relate to the use of marriage, but to its excuse, as stated above (A3); wherefore it makes marriage itself honest, but not its act, as though its act were wholly excused from sin, through being done on account of some signification. Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt. otherwise it is always at least a venial sin. (Summa Theologica: Supplement Q49 A5)

We would be wise to consider the 13th century, and not make the fallacy of the argument from time as Obama does.  Certain acts, such as Rape, Child Abuse, Prostitution and fornication etc. do indeed involve the same physical act as the marriage act but they are not under the same meaning of the marriage act.  St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that what makes these acts good are the openness to life (one cannot help if one is infertile, but one needs to be open to the possibility of life) and as an act of love for the spouse (which is what "marriage debt" means).  Acts of lust, using one's spouse for sexual gratification etc, are an abuse of the marriage act.

Obama acts under the assumption that opposition to homosexual marriage is the same thing as opposition to the civil rights of racial minorities in America, but this is a false analogy.  The racial laws of America were unjust because they denied to a person of a different ethnicity to do the same things as another ethnicity.  It is quite possible for a white man and a black female to marry and to raise a family, and laws denying this are in fact unjust.

However, Gender is not the same as race and homosexual marriage is not the same thing as interracial marriage.  Whether a man be Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic or Black, he is still a man.  Whether a woman be Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic or Black, she is still a woman.  A man of one race and a woman of another race are still a man and a woman.  Two women "marrying" or two men "marrying" are not a man and a woman.

As I said above, homosexuals are free to vote regardless of their sexual orientation.  However during America's racial discrimination, blacks were not free to vote.  The opposition to interracial marriage was unjust because it restricted which men could marry which women.

A ≠ B

Since A does not equal B, Obama's attempting to equate opposition to homosexual marriage to opposition to civil rights is fallacious.

The problem we as Christians now face with Obama is that he stands in opposition to what we in fact believe.  Now he is free to reject the teachings of the Christian faith of course.  But since he has set himself in opposition to what we believe, we do need to stand up for our faith as Christians and withstand him to his face.

We believe that what God commands, He does not for a sense of being nasty or petty but for our own good.  We believe that what God commands is rational, and can be understood from reason.  We must pray for his conversion of course, but we must also be willing to suffer for the truth.  If Obama calls us intolerant, if he equates us with segregationists, it is of course a slander of us.  We may be persecuted, or we may not.  However, we know who our Lord and Master is, and our duty is to Him first, and to the state only to the extent that the state does not contradict God.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What the Vatican Congratulation to Obama Means

Sources: Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : Vatican congratulates Obama on Nobel Peace Prize; http://www.catholic.net/index.php?option=zenit&id=27125

I figured I'd post this preemptively as I know some people will try to spin this as "Vatican loves Obama… US bishops out of touch" or else as an accusation that the Pope "betrayed" faithful Catholics.

This is not a carte blanche endorsement of the Obama administration.  This is an acknowledgement of one area where the Obama administration and the teaching of the Catholic Church coincides (peace and the opposition to war).

It makes sense in context when one reads the Pope's statement on war, from yesterday:

POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: NEVER YIELD TO TEMPTATION OF WAR

VATICAN CITY, 9 OCT 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Auditorium on Rome's Via della Conciliazione Benedict XVI attended a concert entitled "Young people against war (1939-2009)", played by the "InterRegionales Jugendsinfonie Orchester" conducted by Jochem Hochstenbach. The programme included compositions by Gustav Mahler and Felix Mendelsshon-Bartholdy and texts by Johan Wolfgang Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Paul Celan and Berthold Brecht, as well as two poems by children imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, read by Michelle Breedt and Klaus Maria Brandauer.

The concert, called to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, was organised by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, the German embassy to the Holy See and the European "KulturForum" of Mainau.

At the end of the concert the Holy Father made some brief remarks, expressing his joy at having been able participate in this initiative which, he said, "using the universal language of music, ... seeks to encourage young people to build the future of the world together, drawing inspiration from the values of peace and the brotherhood of man".

"This evening the tragedy of World War II returns to our memory, a terrible page of history steeped in violence and inhumanity which caused the death of millions of people, leaving the winners divided and Europe to be rebuilt. The war, instigated by National Socialism, affected many innocent peoples in Europe and on other continents, while with the drama of the Shoah it particularly affected the Jewish people, who were victims of a planned extermination. Yet calls for reason and peace were not lacking from many sides. Here in Rome, the heartfelt cry of my venerated predecessor Pius XII rang out. In his radio message of 24 August 1939 - on the very eve of the outbreak of war - he decisively proclaimed: 'nothing is lost with peace. Everything may be lost with war'. ... May the recollection of those sad events be a warning, especially to the new generations, never to yield to the temptation of war".

Pope Benedict then went on to mention the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, "an eloquent symbol of the end of the totalitarian Communist regimes of Eastern Europe", he said. "Europe and the entire world thirst for freedom and peace. Together we must build true civilisation, not founded on force but on the 'fruit of our victory over ourselves, over the powers of injustice, selfishness and hatred which can even go so far as to disfigure man'".

"The ecumenical movement", he concluded, "can help to build [this civilisation], working together with the Jews and with all believers. May God bless us and grant humankind the gift of peace".

BXVI-CONCERT/WORLD WAR II/...

War may at times be unavoidable when another party seeks aggression and we have no choice but to fight or suffer a great injustice, but war should never be sought out.  If a just and peaceful path can be found which avoids war, it is the way Christians are called to follow.

So for those out there seeking to claim "abortion isn't as important as other issues," for those who want to accuse the Pope of "betraying the Church," you speak falsely.  We have a great body of work of the Church, including that of the current Pope which stands firmly for the right to life.

It merely means, as I said above that the reason Obama was awarded the peace prize was an issue which is compatible with Church teaching. 

No more, no less.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kmiec Fundamentally Misses the Point

Source: timesofmalta.com - Catholic, pro-life, pro-Obama

(Previous writings on Kmiec can be found HERE)

Doug Kmiec may indeed believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.  He may even believe himself to be pro-life.  However, in this interview with the Times of Malta, Doug Kmiec shows he is profoundly missing the point about what it means to faithfully carry out the teachings of the Church.

The article tells us of Kmiec's experience:

Prof. Kmiec was invited to a meeting in Chicago of faith leaders, where many people were opposed to Mr Obama on several matters "including myself on the question of how the life issue should be handled".

He says Obama opened this meeting in a remarkable way, saying: "Alright, give me as good as you've got. Give me your best arguments. I know there is disagreement but I want to see whether there is source for common ground."

By the end of the meeting, Prof. Kmiec says, everyone realised that this was a man of humility, great intelligence and capable of listening.

"These were qualities I believed were much need in America in the Oval Office. I believe I saw some of those same qualities in Ronald Reagan in a different time, with a different emphasis," he says.

Even though there were areas of disagreement, Mr Obama pointed out the responsibility of government to provide a family wage, to care for the environment and to provide healthcare for the uninsured.

"When I thought about all these things, I thought 'this is my catechism come to life' because we are called to each of these things in the social teachings of the Church."

I would like to point out Kmiec's fatal flaw here.  The fact that Obama may have some ideas on health care and family wages which are similar to the Catholic teaching (we can validly dispute that his ways are the right ways of course) does not mean Obama the candidate holds the Catholic position.

The Catholic Church has consistently taught that it is the right to life which is fundamental here… that if the right to life is neglected, these other rights are meaningless and can be easily taken away.  Obama may use rhetoric which sounds nice, but his deeds are something else altogether.

Another area he fundamentally misses the role of government comes here:

He recalls how he told Mr Obama during the campaign: "How can you allow someone to terminate another person's life? What moral authority do you have for that?"

Mr Obama replied: "Well, professor, not everyone sees life beginning in the same way. The Methodists see it differently, the Jewish faith in part sees it differently." And he went through the list, Presbyterians and so forth.

"If I am elected President," he told Prof. Kmiec, "I am President of all these people."

It's a nice platitude, but when one thinks of it, it is not only worthless but dangerous.  Let us envision a nation which consists of a large Nazi minority and a large Stalinist minority.  Under the platitude Obama offered Kmiec, a president of such a country would have to tolerate their views as well, even if those views brought harm to another.

The fact is some beliefs are not only wrong but evil, and the fact that people support them does not give the political leader the right to tolerate that evil.  If Obama does believe that abortion is evil, then he has a moral obligation to oppose that evil.

Truth is not decided by vox populi vox dei ("The voice of the people is the voice of God").  If one man imposes a just law, it is to be followed even if 99% of the population dissent.  If 99% of the population support an evil law, it remains no law and must be opposed.

Obama's failure to recognize this is his failure as a leader.  Kmiec's failure to recognize the falsity of the statement is a failure in understanding Catholic teaching.

A third fundamental failure on the part of Kmiec comes from this telling bit:

Prof. Kmiec says Mr Obama told him that he views abortion as "a moral tragedy" and that there were two ways of addressing it. There is the law in which people who involved themselves in this procedure would be subject to a penalty. The Supreme Court has put that off limits.

The other way is to do something about it and look at what causes people to have an abortion.

Mr Obama asked Prof. Kmiec: "What would cause a mother to contemplate taking the life of a child? It has to be something awful. It has to be a woman without shelter, without insurance, without the next meal on the table."

Prof. Kmiec admits that this approach to abortion is not the ideal solution, saying that poverty or not being married is no excuse to take the life of a child. However, he believes one should be realistic about the problem and if the abortion rate could be reduced - and some studies point out that tackling poverty could lead to fewer abortions - "this seems to me a good interim step".

This is the false dilemma which Kmiec employed during the campaign.  In arguing that neither candidate was "really" pro-life, he portrayed pro-lifers as solely working to end Roe v. Wade and tried to contrast that as a futile gesture compared to the Obama way.

The problem is that pro-lifers aware of Church teaching recognized that we must do both: oppose the legal sanction of abortion and support those in crisis pregnancies.  Obama's policies are like supporting a campaign to reduce teenage drunk driving… and then lowering the drinking age to sixteen.

His policies of economic support have yet to work, but the work for life is continually being weakened by the Obama administration.  Conscience protection is gone, under the promise to be "replaced with a better one."  Catholic Hospitals have felt the beginning of coercion to permit contraceptive and abortifacient procedures.

This then is Kmiec's problem.  He believes Obama will do more for life, but his assumptions are based on a fundamentally flawed view of what the Church requires.