Friday, August 29, 2008

An Army of One

With all the excitement on the right over the Palin pick today, I almost hate to go back and reference the Democratic National Convention and its closing ceremonies--er, acceptance speech by Barack Obama.

But among the many thoughts I had while skimming through a tape of the event and an online transcript, one lingered that I'd like to address.

Obama himself, and many of the speakers who preceded him on the nights leading up to his speech, used the phrase "an army of teachers..." Here's how Obama put it:
"I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. "
Now, I know that our public schools aren't all doing well. I know that there are problems with crumbling schools, safety, lack of resources, and so on. I know that some parents have no educational resources other than the public schools and the public education system.

But not all of us are looking for government promises or government handouts when it comes to education. Though Barack Obama doesn't mention the matter at all on his campaign website, some of us choose to homeschool our children. Over a million children are being homeschooled right now, if the statistics are accurate.

And each of us, every homeschooling parent in America, is an army of one.

We don't need regulations or restrictions interfering with our right to teach our children in the manner we see fit, using the materials and methods we select. We demand the right to determine for ourselves, free from governmental oversight, the best way of achieving our educational goals for our families. Some of us may, at times, appreciate the support of local schools, but none of us are willing to trade our freedom to educate our children at home for the strings that are sometimes attached to that support.

We expect that we won't be harassed by government agencies or made to prove by some arbitrary criteria that we are qualified to instruct our own children. We will never accept the imposition of mandatory curricula for our home educational ventures; we will not teach our children things that conflict with our deeply held values in the name of "safety" or "diversity."

I have my doubts about an army of new teachers transforming the public schools; they are, in many ways, fighting a losing cultural battle that stems more from absentee parents than from lack of qualified teachers or a dearth of materials or supplies. So long as the underlying cultural rot spreading forth from the sexual revolution reaches its decaying influence into the classrooms of America there is little hope for a positive metamorphosis; if Johnny can't read, it has more to do with the fact that Johnny's mother is on her fourth boyfriend since her second marriage of which Johnny was the result and that his chaotic and sometimes violent home life leaves little incentive and no environment for scholarly application than it does with the notion that our current teachers are somehow unequal to the task, and that an army of new recruits will whip the old guard into shape.

But my army of one is doing just fine teaching my children what they need in order to follow Christ, live in the world without being "of the world," and preparing them for whatever glorious call our Heavenly Commander issues to them when they're old enough to answer that call. So whatever else Obama means by his "army of teachers" talk, I certainly hope he's not planning to interfere with my little army, or all the little armies educating their own children one lesson at a time. Because it doesn't take an army of teachers to change the world, or even a village of them: it just takes a family.

Should Mothers Be Vice Presidents?

An interesting bit of discussion is going on among some homeschooling moms and others here, about whether or not the fact that Sarah Palin still has two young children (among her five) is something that more traditional-minded moms should support, or frown upon, in terms of her new role as the candidate for the vice-presidency for the GOP.

This may seem trivial, but the question is already being asked by some liberal opponents of McCain/Palin: will the Evangelical members of their base rally around one of their own, who is not modeling what they hold up as the Biblical model of wifehood/motherhood? Sarah Palin has nearly always worked, even if some of the work she did was in her husband's commercial fishing company; she's also a member of Feminists for Life. Is she really going to appeal to the stay-at-home moms, the homeschooling moms, the moms who reject feminism, even its Christian variations?

The first thing that springs to mind is that most moms of many I know would find a job like the vice presidency relatively restful, compared to the logistics of running a home, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and meeting the basic needs of five (or more) children. I'm fairly sure this 9,000 plus square foot home employs a good-sized staff to take care of the chores, which would give the average mom plenty of time to do vice-presidential tasks, raise the children, and probably some extra leisure time to boot. I mean, how much more could you get done in a day if somebody else was doing all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry? Heck, maybe more moms should be running for public office.

The second is that I see a vast difference between a wife helping out with a family business, and then getting involved with the PTA, and only then answering the call to public office when it became clear that the city council was a wreck and needed somebody to come in and yell at them to pick up their dirty socks and put the toilet seat down, for heaven's sake, than I do with somebody who places career above family obligations. The Palin children are 19 (Track, the son who is in the Army) Bristol who is 17, Willow who is 13, Piper who is 7 and the baby, Trig, who was born in April of this year. So by the time Gov. Palin started getting involved in politics, the older children weren't babies, and the younger two hadn't even been born.

And since Piper and Trig came along, Gov. Palin hasn't been an absentee mother. Piper accompanied her mother to work, just as Trig does now.

I think there's a big difference between what is sometimes called "Christian Feminism" and the other sort of feminism. The Christian variety is focused on making sure that the dignity and worth of women is seen in its reality, that women are never objectified or denied education or other opportunities based on their gender, and that real accomodations are made so that if a female governor happens to give birth while in office, she can be a nursing mommy and a governor at the same time. The Christian idea of feminism isn't that different, I think, from what the late Pope John Paul II was saying in Mulieris Dignitatem when he wrote:
In every age and in every country we find many "perfect" women (cf. Prov. 31:10) who, despite persecution, difficulties and discrimination, have shared in the Church's mission. It suffices to mention: Monica, the mother of Augustine, Macrina, Olga of Kiev, Matilda of Tuscany, Hedwig of Silesia, Jadwiga of Cracow, Elizabeth of Thuringia, Birgitta of Sweden, Joan of Arc, Rose of Lima, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Mary Ward.

The witness and the achievements of Christian women have had a significant impact on the life of the Church as well as of society. Even in the face of serious social discrimination, holy women have acted "freely", strengthened by their union with Christ. Such union and freedom rooted in God explain, for example, the great work of Saint Catherine of Siena in the life of the Church, and the work of Saint Teresa of Jesus in the monastic life.

In our own days too the Church is constantly enriched by the witness of the many women who fulfil their vocation to holiness. Holy women are an incarnation of the feminine ideal; they are also a model for all Christians, a model of the "sequela Christi", an example of how the Bride must respond with love to the love of the Bridegroom.

In some ages, it is sufficient for married Christian women to witness to Christ by focusing solely on the task of raising and educating their children to follow Him; in all ages, this is the most important witness a Christian wife and mother can give. But sometimes it is possible, without neglecting our tasks to our families, to share those gifts God has given us as His daughters with the wider community. And it's up to each of us to consider whether He is calling us to do that, and to what degree it's possible for us to do that without neglecting our primary obligation to our husbands and children.

Gov. Palin is the only person who knows whether she can fulfill her role as mother while also serving as this country's vice-president. But I don't think we can say that being a mother automatically disqualifies a person from such service. The powerful witness to the value of innocent human life made present by her children, especially baby Trig, is hard to ignore in this culture that values slick notions of perfection and hides away or aborts or euthanizes those we deem less than perfect. And the angry feminism that pits mothers against their children might benefit from seeing an example of how it is possible to take an active role in the world without neglecting the most important role of all, that of motherhood.

Should mothers be vice-presidents? Maybe some should. We are all called to serve in the wider community, though the details and opportunities and skills and possibilities will vary. But the Scripture passage Pope John Paul II referenced reminds us that our role as wives and mothers is important, and may involve many different responsibilities:

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
1 She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.
2 Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar.
She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household.
She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.
3 She enjoys the success of her dealings; at night her lamp is undimmed.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.
She fears not the snow for her household; all her charges are doubly clothed.
She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.
Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.
She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.
4 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.
Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her:
"Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all."
5 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

The Palin Pick

Okay. I've had time to process this morning's news; I've had time to read a few opinions and mull things over; most importantly, I've had time for plenty of strong black tea.

And none of that reasoned, sober attempt at thoughtful analysis is wiping the stupid grin off of my face.

I think Rod Dreher put it pretty well when he said, "Suddenly, I have a new reason to be interested in this campaign. My Derbyshirian gloom has been ever so slightly ameliorated by a ray of Alaska sunshine." I'd have to agree; up until this morning I didn't think I could vote for McCain at all. Now--it's at least a possibility, and even if I still vote for a third-party candidate over big government/big war concerns, I won't be surprised or disappointed if the McCain/Palin team locks the Texas vote up tighter than a Dan Rather camera head shot back in the day.

I realize that a few concerns about Palin are being raised. One, of course, is her experience level, but in a race where the Democratic opponent is a single-term U.S. Senator who had a single-term in the Illinois Senate prior to that, it's going to be pretty hard to take such concerns all that seriously.

Another thing I've been hearing whispers about is that she might be a bit "soft" on gay issues. But her record of opposition to same-sex marriage seems pretty straightforward, and if "soft" translates to "treating same-sex afflicted people with the human dignity all people deserve," then Catholics are supposed to be equally "soft." The funny thing is that should it transpire that Gov. Palin is actually in favor of some things the Church opposes, like partner benefits, I get the idea that she'd listen to people like me as to why we oppose those things; she comes across as a straight shooter.

Against such things, which haven't even materialized, we see her strong pro-life stance, her beautiful family, her reputation for integrity and effective leadership, her high approval rating among her Alaskan constituents, and her incredible bio, which includes a second place finish in the Miss Alaska contest, a college degree with a major in journalism and a minor in politics, and a stint as a sports reporter at the same time she was working with her husband, her high school sweetheart, in the commercial fishing industry. Her political record is equally impressive, given her commitment to reducing corruption everywhere she's been; and through it all she's been the kind of mom who took her nursing infants to work with her, most especially her two youngest, who have accompanied her to work in the governor's mansion.

Down to earth, genuine, adventurous, with boundless energy and determination, strong values and integrity, a leader who still manages to be there for her five children, Sarah Palin reminds me of lots of women I admire, some of whom are relatives of mine (and I think you know who you are).

And if it was even possible to inject some energy and enthusiasm into what was starting to seem like a moribund and lackluster campaign, the choice of Sarah Palin for vice president seems brilliantly inspired.

The two names most discussed yesterday, Pawlenty and Romney, were safer picks (though some readers have shared good details about Pawlenty). But even if the Pawlenty pick would have been a good thing generally, there's no way it could have compared to the message McCain's pick of Palin sends to social conservatives and to those who care more about reforming corrupt politics on both sides of the aisle than on maintinging one party or the other's status quo. Obama, for instance, has talked quite a bit about reforming Washington, but unlike Palin he is a Washington insider who has never actually reformed government. Palin has an actual record of rooting out corruption, and hasn't been hamstrung by the inside-the-Beltway myopia that soon afflicts the most Mr. Smith-ian of reform congressmen or women.

Can we reform government? Sarah Palin seems to ask. Yes, we can. Only in her case, it's more than words.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Real Dilemma

Okay. Never mind voting. Never mind partisan politics. Never mind all the issues of this campaign (just for a moment).

I've got a real dilemma on my hands.

I like singing in our new parish choir. I consider the woman running things a friend. I want to be nice and get along, hoping to be a positive influence in the general direction of more traditional music as time goes by. If I've learned one thing from the past it's that marching in with a "my way or the highway" attitude doesn't really change hearts or open minds to the beautiful traditional music of the Church's past. And so occasionally I'll sing a newer, lesser song with no complaints, but reserving the right to make my opinions about the piece known.

But this week she's scheduled "Gather Us In." No, really, the Wreck of the Edumund Fitzgerald of liturgical music, the dreck by which other dreck is measured, the tritest and most "let's celebrate us" piece of non-worship jangling, the piece which makes me want to gag, and only because it's preferable to completing the actual involutary digestive response that this piece provokes in me every single time I hear it.

I want to express my strong dislike of the piece without hurting feelings. I don't want to be unkind or disruptive, or try to take on myself a role that properly belongs to the new pastor (who, alas, might just like this kind of song for all I know). But I don't want to just sit there and sing it with no expression of my unhappiness whatsoever.

What should I do? What would you do?

Practice is tonight. I'll update later.

UPDATE: I ended up doing pretty much what Mary suggested below, just talking after practice about what I saw as the problem with the song and getting enthusiastic about the prospect of us "Vatican II Catholics" getting to rediscover/reconnect with our liturgical roots. Which is what I really believe.

One thing--for those who mentioned this, I was always planning to sing the song, despite my dislike for it. When I got involved in choir last year I decided beforehand that I would have to be capable of singing anything that was scheduled as a precondition for joining. And it was the fact that the first choir I joined would also sing lovely traditional pieces to counterbalance the less beautiful ones, a practice that continues with this new choir, that drew me back into singing in the first place, so I do see positive signs here. Obedience and humility are good things to practice along with singing--and I figure that a couple of verses of "Gather Us In" sung with a reluctant heart should shave a few minutes off of my purgatory, as well as the purgatory of everyone else who dislikes this song (for excellent reasons!) but listens to it without a grouchy or angry heart anyway. :)

The Dream

It appears that the infamous columns are not Greek temple-denoting or Brandenburg gate echoes, but a mock-up of the Lincoln memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke forty-five years ago:

The Illinois Democrat will officially become the nation's first black major party presidential nominee when he accepts the Democratic Party's nomination Thursday night at a Denver football stadium in front of an expected 80,000 people.

Adding to this historic symbolism, Obama's accomplishment arrives on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and march on Washington.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not denying that this nation of ours has come a long way on racial issues in the forty-five years since King's "Dream" speech. And I don't want to suggest that Barack Obama has never experienced racism during his years in America. In some sense the nomination of a biracial man whose white mother seems to have been a sixties radical and whose father was a man from Kenya who may have still been married to his Kenyan wife when Stanley Ann and Barack Sr. were together is still an amazing thing, given the knee-jerk prejudice of many of our nations' people against anyone whose skin color is darker than theirs.

But there's a slightly "off" feeling about tying Barack Obama's nomination to King's speech. If I really think about it, I think it's because Dr. King was speaking to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation or level of political involvement; the civil rights movement transcended politics, and brought many Americans together to overcome the dehumanizing racism of the past. But Obama's speech tonight is, in one way, the apex of partisan politics: the moment when one party's nominee stands up to say why he, and not the other fellow, should be elected. Am I wrong to think that any conscious, deliberate attempt to tie Obama's speech to King's only cheapens the dream?

Veepstakes, Republican Edition

As the nation prepares for Barack Obama's nomination to be the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, as news writers search in vain for a good synonym for "historic," all eyes have been deflected, briefly, in McCain's direction as he gets ready to announce his vice-presidential pick tomorrow:

The Arizona senator will appear with his No. 2 at an Ohio rally on Friday, aides said, though they provided no details on who McCain had picked.

Without explanation, Pawlenty called off an Associated Press interview at the last minute, as well as other media interviews in Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention.

Others believed to be in contention for the No. 2 slot on the GOP ticket included former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was meeting with donors throughout California, and Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who was vacationing on New York's Long Island.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, too, was still a possibility, as was the idea that McCain would choose a dark horse from any number of names that have circulated.

McCain, however, was uncharacteristically silent.

Why is this so unexciting?

I think it's because no matter who McCain picks, it's unlikely to be someone around whom strong social conservatives will rally. I could be wrong, and would very much like to be wrong, but realistically I know that few of the names, even the long-shot-dark-horse ones circulated, are all that exciting to a pro-life Catholic voter.

I know people have said good things about Gov. Pawlenty, for instance, but as a "raised Catholic but converted to Evangelical Christianity" candidate he's not exactly inspiring to the "Catholics Against Joe Biden" conglomerate. It's not that I don't have sympathy for ex-Catholics, and I find them to be more honest than current Catholics like Pelosi and Biden who don't seem to believe much of what the Church actually teaches but claim membership anyway. But he wouldn't be my favorite pick.

The trouble is that unless McCain were to select Ron Paul as his running mate, I find the whole bunch pretty uninspiring. And if McCain picks a pro-choice candidate I'll stop flirting with the idea that the Republicans could win, and return to focusing on why the Democrats should lose, because if McCain picks a pro-choice veep we all lose, anyway.


Just read this:

The 2008 Republican Platform Committee has finally reached the finish line, but before it crossed it tripped up on the issue of stem-cell research. When the committee reached the stem-cell language, North Carolina delegate Mary Summa offered what appeared on the surface to be a small change. Summa sought to change the sentence:

We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of and experimentation on human embryos for research purposes.

to read:

We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes.

thus severing experimentation on human embryos from their creation for that purpose. It's just one word, but it has huge implications. It is a call for a total ban on embryonic stem-cell research, including privately funded research using frozen embryos from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. By contrast, the 2004 platform was in accord with President Bush's policy at the time, which made limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research available for the first time.

In introducing her amendment, Summa gave an emotional speech in which she said, "I want my five children to live in a world where the weak are protected from the strong. I want them to live in a world where all life is protected." [...]

Bopp then offered his own amendment to Summa's amendment. At this point Burr broke it up. He instructed Summa, Bopp and Kobach to confer until they had come up with a single amendment on stem-cells. The committee then moved on to other matters.

When the three of them returned, Summa's eyes were red and swollen. She re-submitted her original amendment, without modification. Burr called for a vote, and the motion passed.

The 2008 Republican Platform calls for a ban on all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private. [Emphasis added, EM.]
Now there's an encouraging new plank in what, just a few years ago, looked like a leaky platform as regards pro-life issues.

If nothing else comes of election 2008, this will be remembered as the election where pro-life voters finally made it clear that we're not going away, and the major parties ignore us at their peril.

Thank God for delegate Mary Summa.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Arthurian, Not Messianic

Rod Dreher weighs in on the Greek Temple Fiasco:

Is Team Obama crazy? Or do they have a Republican mole on the senior staff? I ask because they're going to have the Lightworker giving his acceptance speech in a football stadium, surrounded by Greek temple columns. Shazam! Straight from Olympus to bring word from on high to us mere mortals! Man, if I were making McCain's commercials, I would thank Zeus for this gift.

See, Obama supporters, this is why Republicans have so much to work with, making fun of his messianic image. The meme doesn't come from nowhere. Karl Rove isn't making these decisions, you know.

According to the article in the second link, though, Obama's motivations here may be more Arthurian than Messianic:

Politicians in past elections have typically spoken from the convention site itself, but the Obama campaign liked the idea of having their man speak to a larger, stadium-sized crowd not far from where the Democratic National Convention is being held, at the Denver pro basketball arena.

Obama was taking a page from the campaign book of John Kennedy in 1960 when the future president delivered his acceptance speech to 80,000 people in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Once Obama speaks, confetti will rain down on him and fireworks will be fired off from locations around the stadium wall.

Hmm. John F. Kennedy, miniature Greek temple--wait. Is Obama going to have another shot at copying Kennedy's appearance at the Brandenburg Gate? After all, Michelle has been dressing like Jackie O. for some time now, and some have already made the connection.

I think that Barack Obama really wants a new Camelot, not a New Jerusalem. While his supporters--and critics--have focused on the messianic images and messages from his campaign, I suspect that his real mission has always been to be the second coming of JFK.

Let's see how many of the key phrases from this speech end up in Obama's acceptance speech. I'm betting we'll at least hear something that sounds an awful lot like this:

Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. [...]

It is time, in short -- It is time, in short for a new generation of leadership. All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power, men who are not bound by the traditions of the past, men who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries-- young men who can cast off the old slogans and the old delusions. [...]

The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not.

Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink from that new frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric -- and those who prefer that course should not vote for me or the Democratic Party...
It might be a good idea to have a few Kennedy speeches in front of you while Obama is giving his acceptance speech. I have a feeling that everything he's going to say is a variation of something our parents or grandparents heard forty-eight years ago.

Catholics and the Death Penalty

If you haven't read it already, Mark Shea's article about Sr. Helen Prejean and some of her more outrageous recent statements is here, and worth reading.

The worst thing about activists like Sister Helen is that they end up doing their cause more harm than good, especially among those of us Catholics who are inclined to view such obvious leftism and heterodoxy with suspicion.

Indeed, it was because of activists like Sister Helen that it took me years to realize that the Church wasn't all that inclined to look positively on the nuclear arms race; and it's because of people like Sister Helen that it also took me years to tease out just what a Catholic ought to be thinking about in terms of the death penalty, too.

Because, of course, the death penalty isn't intrinsically evil. Unlike abortion which is never permissible, the just exercise of the death penalty by lawful civil authorities for the purpose of punishing the guilty has always been, and will always be, morally acceptable.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.67

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.NT

Two things should be clear from reading the above: first, that Catholics are not required, and indeed are not able, to oppose the death penalty using the same philosophical guidelines as we do to oppose such grave evils as abortion, torture, contraception, and other intrinsic evils for the simple reason that the death penalty is not intrinsically evil; and second, that determining those circumstances where the death penalty might be appropriate is the prudential duty of lawful authority, and of a just society as well.

It is true that generally speaking our use of the death penalty in America today doesn't always appear to meet the prudential guidelines outlined in the Catechism, which I'll summarize as follows:

1. The guilt of the person must be fully determined.
2. Non-lethal means must be insufficient to protect innocent people's lives from the convicted criminal.
3. The non-lethal means must include the opportunity for redemption.

Now, I think that the first criteria is setting a higher standard than our legal notions of "beyond reasonable doubt." That standard, after all, still allows the convicted person to appeal his case. I'm not sure at what point between "beyond reasonable doubt" and catching the criminal red-handed in the process of committing the crime, with the added weight of his own guilty confession, we would find "fully determined," but that's why these are prudential decisions to be applied on a case-by-case basis. However, it can't be overlooked that the death penalty today is too often disproportionately applied not to those whose evidence of guilt is the strongest, but to those who can least afford highly-skilled criminal lawyers to defend them, which is inherently unjust.

The second criteria is the one that many strident death penalty opponents focus on. Surely, surely in America in the twenty-first century our methods of incarceration are sufficient to protect society from those who pose a danger! But as this recent story reminds us, this is not always the case. Even given high-tech security measures and well-guarded prisons, it's possible for some prisoners to pose a threat to other inmates, to guards, and to the public. I recall the news when the so-called "Texas Seven" escaped; I remember reading about the police officer killed by them on Christmas Eve. Of the seven, two were supposed to be serving life sentences; in fact, the man supposed to be the group's leader was serving eighteen life sentences for his crimes. The duty to balance the potential public threat posed by those convicted of serious crimes against the criminal's right to be treated with the intrinsic dignity owed to all human beings is an important and weighty one.

The third point may seem strange at first glance. But consider for a moment the possibility that sometime in the future it might be seriously proposed to replace the death penalty with a life sentence that includes keeping the convicted criminal on some kind of prescription medication that will rob him of his free will and consciousness, making him docile, easily controlled, and no longer a threat to the public, his fellow prisoners or guards, and so on. It seems clear that the Church wouldn't consider this an acceptable alternative to the death penalty, at least not if the medication in question made it impossible for the prisoner to remember his crimes, learn to feel remorse, and seek God's forgiveness for them.

All of this means, of course, that opposition to the death penalty from a Catholic perspective isn't at all in the same category as opposition to abortion. They are not two different sleeves on the same seamless garment; and though at root both are connected to our appreciation of the inherent worth and dignity of all human life we don't do either issue any favor when we try to conflate two such dissimilar matters. Opposing abortion is the duty of all Catholics, who should work to end it and never to support it; opposing the death penalty in general because of our desire to see criminals repentant and working for their salvation as we hope for ours, and mindful of the Church's belief that it is not inherently wrong for the state to choose to impose this penalty under certain circumstances and that we may on occasion disagree with our fellow Catholics about specific criminal cases and whether these meet the criteria outlined above from a prudential standpoint, is also a duty, but a duty of a different sort and degree.

Unfortunately for many pro-life Catholics, the constant attempt to equate abortion and the death penalty as if they were of the same moral weight, or worse, the tendency by some leftist Catholics to oppose with great vigor the death penalty while insisting that their "personal" opposition to abortion should not be imposed upon society, weakens the effect of our efforts to promote the Gospel of Life. To put it in the simplest possible terms, abortion is always wrong, while the death penalty may or may not be wrong in an individual criminal case depending on certain prudential considerations which both justice and mercy compel us to consider.

A Little Break

No, not from blogging--not just now!

But let's have some fun with a Blogthings quiz--I haven't posted one in a while, and this one is entertaining:

You Are the Storyteller

You have a way with words, and you love hearing yourself talk.

You are at your best when you have an audience, and you can carry on a conversation with anyone.

You are light hearted and fun - a natural entertainer. It's a side of you that you can't really turn off.

You thrive on attention (perhaps a little too much), and you love applause.

When you allow yourself to be serious, you can be a moving and articulate speaker.

Your words have power, and not just the power to make people laugh.

How about you? If you take the quiz, how do you come out?

I'll get back to some serious blogging later this afternoon--but somehow, after watching a bit too much of the DNC last night, all my thoughts seem to have taken on a grey dull pallor, and all I can really think to say is that Nancy Pelosi should really put a sock in it--which isn't the kind of thing I ought to be blogging.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Evening With Hillary Clinton

"I knew she'd pick the salmon-colored one. Or, at least, it looks salmon-colored on our TV, " I said as Mr. M. and I prepared to watch Hillary Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention.

"What do you mean?"

"The pantsuit. Or is it a skirt-suit? She's behind the podium already..."

"It's a pantsuit," Mr. M. said. "I saw her come onto the stage."

Holding the buttered slice of banana bread from our late dinner that I'd decided to carry over to the couch, thus missing Hillary's pantsuited entrance, I sat down. "They were testing the pantsuits earlier. It was on Drudge," I said, biting into the bread. "There were four different pantsuits, and they were holding them up to see which color went best against the backdrop, and I had a feeling she'd pick..."

"Who was?"

"I don't know. Her handlers, I guess. At least the attack necklace is gone."

"Hmm?" he asked.

"The necklace. It's a nice little one. Do you remember during the primaries when Hillary kept appearing with those giant chunky necklaces that looked like they were attacking her neck? She's got a shortish neck, like me, and you just can't wear..."

I stopped talking as Hillary started.

"She's pretty boring," said Mr. M.

"I know. This feels like she's sleepwalking through it."

"It's the same old stuff."

"I wonder what the message is? She just said, "...fight for the future..." like Mark Warner. Do you think that's it?"

"I'm not sure they have a message," said Mr. M.

We got quiet again.

"Ha! Standing up for the invisible people. How 'bout the unborn, Hillary? They're pretty invisible..."

"Free health care for Puerto Rico? You've got to be kidding me..."

"Do you see Bill, mugging for the camera? The guy's a consummate actor."

"I wonder who picked out Michele's dress. I think it looks terrible! Way too shapeless..."

A few more minutes of listening.

"Man, this is boring."

"I know."

"Is Harriet Tubman..."

"Underground railroad. You know, the..."

"Yeah, I know. The last name just sounded weird for some reason."

"I hate it when that happens."

"Good Lord. We're going to talk about Suffragism now??"

"She's spent most of the speech talking about herself."

"Thank goodness it's over..."

"Wait. Did Brian Williams just say, '...that speech by President Clinton??"

"I guess Hillary's not the only one who's wishing for that..."

"I'm going to go see what people are saying about the speech. I'm pretty sure that will be much more interesting than the speech itself was..."

UPDATE: Wow. On the Internet that pantsuit looks light orange. I think we may need to start thinking about a new TV...

Bishops on a Roll

A funny thing is happening in our land just now. A political convention was started, and all of a sudden an episcopal synod broke out...

...okay, okay, not really. But in light of all the spine-tingling evidence of episcopal spines snapping to attention from sea to shining sea, which the Curt Jester is conveniently collecting, one can't help but smile. It's wonderful, your Excellencies; it's also about time, but we'll let that slide in the general aura of gratitude for this working of the Holy Spirit.

I know it's been difficult to be a politically conservative Catholic in the past forty years. For far too long, the USCCB has been jokingly--and not so jokingly--called "The Democratic Party at prayer." For far too long it seemed like the only political statements the bishops were willing to make took strong stances on prudential matters such as illegal immigration or the justice or injustice of a particular war, while maintaining a deafening silence on the biggest war of all, the war against the innocent unborn. Worse, when the abortion issue was mentioned it always seemed to be wrapped up so tight in the "seamless garment" that you couldn't see it at all, giving the impression to a whole generation of Catholics that so long as you opposed the death penalty the Church would give you a pass on your "pro-choice" beliefs.

Time, however, has passed. The newer American bishops aren't so inclined to parse and nuance when it comes to abortion. And they're starting to get annoyed, one suspects, with Democratic Catholic pro-choice senators and congresspeople who think they can redefine Catholic teaching to suit their own ends, and mislead the faithful in the process.

It's truly encouraging to see our bishops taking a stand and repeating what most of us know to be true: you can't be a practicing Catholic in good standing and vote in favor of abortion; you can't be Catholic and pro-choice.

Now that the bishops have started to make that clear, I'd love to see them seize this opportunity to take that message into every Catholic parish in each of their dioceses, to tell Catholic Americans once and for all that we are not permitted to be merely "personally opposed" to evil. A Catholic should strive to fight evil, not to make peace with it in order to make war on some other problem or trouble that might not rise to the level of intrinsic evil. And I'd love them instruct their priests to remind that everything they've said about abortion holds true for contraception, too: we can't remain true to our Catholic faith and seek to use contraception or to tolerate its use.

The Bishops are on a roll. If we give them a little push maybe they'll be able to keep on rollin'.

Memento Mori

I didn't watch the DNC convention last night. I have a low tolerance for political conventions, and the first night generally seems to contain all the substance of the first hour and a half of the Academy Awards, which is to say not very much at all.

And I didn't really trust myself to remain charitable during the Ted Kennedy tribute and speech. To me, there is much to pity but little to admire in Senator Kennedy's life and work, and while the advent of his serious illness and the high possibility his remaining days on earth will be few are a reminder to pray for him, there seems to be little of worth in the spectacle of a premature political canonization for a man whose earthly life has hardly been a model of morality and goodness.

God can do wonders, of course, and Ted Kennedy could be moved to a sincere repentance and heartfelt reconnection to the Church and her teachings. Given that he's still shilling for the slicing and dicing of embryos to be used to "cure" juvenile diabetes (and probably, if he were honest about it, brain cancer), one can only shake the head and fold the hands, and beg God to have mercy on him before he draws his final breath.

The heyday of the Kennedy political dynasty was before my time. I wasn't born yet when JFK was killed, and though I've read about this powerful Catholic family and their role in American politics it wasn't ever a part of my experience. Ted Kennedy was already a rather old senior senator by the time I ever heard of him, and while my occasional interest in books of the "true-crime" genre lead to my reading a pretty good analysis of the dreadful Chappaquiddick affair even that was already a past and mostly forgotten--or at least, seldom discussed--matter.

In a sense, what happened to the Kennedys is what happened to so many Catholic families of the age: they stopped fighting against the evils of the world and sought compromise with it, instead. From abortion and contraception to ESCR and the killing of the elderly and handicapped, the Kennedy family got on board the Culture of Death express, and now, decimated, ennervated, weak and tottering, they cast shadows of skeletal grandeur when all that might have been decent and noble and admirable has been stripped away, leaving only echoes of long-ago good sentiments and high ambitions.

I'm sure Ted Kennedy feels a little cheated by fate. This was supposed to be a grand moment of closure, when the Democratic party ushered in a new era of racial cooperation by nominating a black man to be the President of the United States. Senator Kennedy may have seen himself sharing the dais, approvingly handing over the crown, to a new generation of Democratic voters, the text-message kids who want to change the world and have ordained Barack Obama to do it for them. He was probably planning to work closely with an Obama administration from his position of power and prestige in the Senate.

Instead, the talking heads on PBS have just suggested that Hillary Clinton may become the new "lion of the Senate," replacing ol' Ted--and Senator Kennedy will have to watch from the wings for however long God spares him.

We build up our kingdoms, and our dynasties. We amass our fortunes and count our grain in its harvest. We rub our hands with glee at how important and powerful we are--and then with the suddenness of candle-light extinguishing, we are gone.

Last night, Ted Kennedy faced an adoring throng full of people who cheered him just for coming. One day soon he, like all of us, will face Our Lord, and give an accounting for his actions in this world, and the admiration and respect he garnered during his life will count for nothing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Separation of Church and Conventions

While we Catholics focus on Biden and the problem of abortion-supporting Catholics, the Democratic Party has been trying to present themselves as a party of faith. From NPR:

For the first time ever, Democrats have planned "faith caucus meetings" led by an array of religious and spiritual leaders, including Christians, Muslims and Jews. Democrats want to convince voters that they are putting their faith in action — and show that Republicans haven't cornered the market on family values or faith.

"Everybody woke up after the last election and realized the Democratic Party had not done well dealing with religious voters," says Steven Waldman, founder of the online spiritual center [...]

"Republicans were able to use religion more effectively," says Jim Wallis, founder of faith-based Sojourners magazine.

The agenda of the religious community has changed, Wallis says. As recently as two years ago, many religious Americans were focused only on issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

The new generation of religious citizens "has a wider, deeper agenda that includes poverty, protecting the environment or 'creation care', war and peace, human trafficking and Darfur, for instance," he says.

This convention will try to juggle all of these concerns. "I believe in separation of church and state, and so does Barack Obama," says Wallis. "But that doesn't mean segregation of moral values from public life or the banishing of religious language from the public square. Dr. [Martin Luther] King invoked the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah and Jesus. He spoke with a Bible in one hand and the constitution in the other."

This pernicious nonsense has got to stop at once.

What pernicious nonsense? Why, the idea that until yesterday the only "faith-based" voters were WASPs who cared primarily about stopping abortion (because they want to control women) and gay marriage (because they hate gays).

Because, you see, all deeply committed Christians are troglodytes like that. They want to burn the Constitution and impose the Christian version of sharia on America. They don't care about enlightened issues like Darfur and the environment and peace and human trafficking--genocide, Hummers, military stuff and cheap labor is meat and drink to these people, or at least most thinking people say so. They act like abortion is somehow actual evil as if such backward medieval notions as good and evil still mean anything in the age of HDTV and text messaging. And we're pretty sure that, living in Southern Gospel Utopia, they've never met a real-live gay person, because that's the only reason they could possibly want to keep gay people from exercising their God or Deity of Your Choice-given right to an abor...wait, wrong speech...marriage.

Thankfully for the Democratic party there's no shortage of spiritual or even downright religious people who will grasp at the opportunity to shill for the Party of Dead Babies. From the NPR piece:

Each evening of the convention will be punctuated by an invocation and a benediction by religious leaders, including a rabbi from Washington, D.C., a Catholic nun from Ohio and a Greek Orthodox archbishop from New York. There will be other faith-based panels, too, geared toward spiritual discussion. One is titled "Faith in 2009: How an Obama Administration will Engage People of Faith."

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter spoke at an interfaith service on Sunday. The convention CEO, Leah D. Daughtry, is a preacher.

Now, in one sense I could understand a religious leader accepting an invitation to pray with the Democrats on the ground that the party needs prayer--heck, some of us think it just about needs an exorcism. But to take the appearance of so many religious figures at face value would be naive; the Democratic party hasn't changed. There may be an attempt by the party to get religion, but it's clear from their unwavering support for ESCR, abortion, gay marriage, and a whole host of other policies that the god Moloch still gets the lion's share of their worship efforts.

Maybe it's time that organized religions started instructing their leaders to turn down invitations to appear at national political conventions. The party of "separation of church and state" ought to reconsider the wisdom of attempting to blend church and convention, especially when you can only do so by defining "church" to exclude a large number of religious believers.

A Teaching Moment

As I said below, one of the dangers of having all these so-called "pro-choice Catholic" legislators run around working to promote and support and fund abortion (and contraception, N.B.) while still calling themselves Catholic, attending Mass, and receiving the Eucharist with the appearance given by some Catholic leaders that this is just fine is that those who are not Catholic, especially our separated brethren in various Protestant churches, are left with the impression that the Catholic hierarchy doesn't really take the issue of abortion all that seriously.

I firmly believe that nothing could be further from the truth; we have seen more bishops in the recent past speak out against abortion, join protesters at abortion clinics and lead prayers there, and otherwise provide witness to the truth that every abortion kills an innocent human being than we have for many years prior to the recent past. So I don't think the lack of episcopal action is always and everywhere proof of a lack of episcopal vertebrae, despite the temptation to believe that on occasion about specific prelates.

I don't know, but I suspect, that one thing which makes some bishops reluctant to force some kind of Eucharistic showdown with dissenting Catholic legislators and other public figures is the negative publicity that would probably result, and the harm that this might do to non-Catholics and their view of the Church--indeed, it might even create a backlash where people would threaten the Church for having dared to "interfere in politics," even though the interference would have nothing to do with politics aside from fostering the radical and controversial belief that even politicians have souls. No bishop, or priest, or other minister of Holy Communion, ordinary or otherwise, wants, I think, to create a situation where network news media personnel are camped out at Mass hoping to see a senator or congressperson given the smackdown at the communion rail (or in line, more often these days), yet in this day and age of cell phone cameras and YouTube videos such an act would be an instant media sensation.

But the reality is that the spectacle of the abortion-supporting Catholic politician attending Mass and receiving Communion is going to be an equally explosive matter for the Church to handle, and sooner or later someone will capture on a cell phone or other small camera Biden or another abortion-supporting politician receiving Holy Communion. News reports are already slipping in the fact that he went to Mass and received Communion this weekend, and it's only a matter of time before some kind of an incident takes place which will require explanation and clarification by the American hierarchy.

Rather than let things get that far, I think the Catholic faithful ought to ask some questions of our bishops. Why is someone's decades-long support for and aid to the "cause" of legalized abortion on demand not considered obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin as described in Canon 915? Are the Church's teachings on abortion and contraception really all that serious, constituting grave matter, or is one's acceptance or rejection of those teachings immaterial to one's self-identification as a Catholic? If the Church means what she says in regard to abortion being a matter of intrinsic evil, how do we explain the reluctance of the bishops to bar those cooperating seriously by their actions with that evil from the reception of Holy Communion (or, indeed, any of the Sacraments of the living?). Is it not true to say, and indeed to insist, that it is not possible to be "pro-choice" and Catholic?

I hope that our bishops will seize this opportunity to clarify these and other related matters. Not only is it important for the sake of Catholics, but for our friends in Protestant churches who are wondering why someone like Joe Biden can keep receiving the Eucharist with no problem despite his support for abortion on demand.

The "Pro-Choice Catholic" Problem

There have been some pretty brilliant musings about Joe Biden's Catholic problem over the weekend. This post by blogger Irenaeus is a must-read:
I'm beginning to think that it's not a case of Democrats reaching out to nominal, cultural liberal Catholics. Rather, I'm beginning to think it's a case of the Democrats trying to define Catholicism....[...]

I have often observed that for liberals, religion is great when exercised within the limits of liberalism alone and for liberal ends. Thus, if the church functions as a caucus supporting lefty issues and does good social justice things, then fine. If not, then libs raise hue and cry. Christian faith cannot have its own integrity and define its own ends; it's only one of many means to ends decided by other means.
And Patrick Archbold weighs in:
As with just about everything with Joe Biden, his religion is all about, you guessed it, Joe Biden. Take this classic line from the Senator, "I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It's my time alone."

So in a nutshell, the rosary is about his comfort and mass is his alone time. For alone time, I lock myself in the bathroom, Joe Biden goes to mass. One might be tempted to think that this is just verbal slip from the notoriously overweening and wordy pol. There is a whole lot more where that came from. Take this humdinger.
"My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion. It's not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It's the culture."
Get it? His whole worldview comes straight from Catholicism, except for well ... all the Catholic stuff. Reread that paragraph again. Not the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten commandments, or the sacraments. In short, everything that God has taught or given us in order to make us holy does not inform Biden's worldview. No not that stuff, the culture.

What does Biden mean by Culture? Well, unfortunately it means whatever Biden wants it to mean. His abortion support, while not in line with the formal teaching of the Church, is in line with his idea of his Catholic culture.
These brilliantly intelligent gentlemen have started to connect some pretty significant dots. It's been a while since I've played "dot to dot," but let me see if I can extrapolate the next point.

When Joe Biden calls himself a Catholic, he is telling the truth. Any baptized Catholic is a Catholic. Even if the baptized person leaves the Church he is still a Catholic. It takes a formal renunciation of the faith before one's status as a Catholic comes under any doubt.

However, when Joe Biden calls himself a Catholic, he is also telling a lie (objectivly speaking). This is because he is clearly not using the word in its most simplified form; he doesn't mean merely that he was baptized a Catholic and no longer practices the faith. He goes out of his way to present himself as a practicing, Mass-going, rosary praying, son of the Irish sort of Catholic. And--this is the important part--he says that his years of unwavering support for Roe v. Wade do not in any way interfere with his identification of himself as a faithful Catholic.

In other words, he, as well as Nancy Pelosi and other "pro-choice" Catholic legislators, are making a claim that isn't true: they are claiming that it is possible to be a practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church and still work to promote and preserve the principle of legalized abortion on demand for any woman who wants one.

The reality is a little different.

One may be many kinds of Catholic. One may be a strong Catholic or a weak one, a practicing Catholic or a lapsed one, a faithful Catholic or a "cafeteria" one, a Catholic who has no impediment to receiving the Eucharist or a Catholic who is in some way impeded from doing so. All of these people can identify themselves as Catholics, of course. But none of them can claim that each of these is identical with the other.

The Catholic who picks and chooses from among the Church's teachings can't claim that he is the same kind of Catholic as the one who simply holds up the Catechism and says, "I believe this--all of it." The Catholic who goes to Mass twice a year can't claim to be the same kind of Catholic as the one who is at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days (and sometimes daily as well, though that's not a requirement). The Catholic who has divorced his Catholic spouse from a valid Catholic marriage and remarried outside of the Church isn't entitled to present himself to receive Communion without sincere repentance and a willingness to do whatever the Church requires in terms of his invalid marriage. And the Catholic legislator who by his actions promotes and encourages abortion and sees it as a "woman's right" in defiance of the Church's clearly taught doctrines to the contrary is obligated to refrain from receiving Communion until or unless he, too, repents, refuses to support so-called "abortion rights" anymore, and seeks the healing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Because the culture of relativism has spread its infection into the Church here in America (and probably elsewhere, but I can only speak to the American situation) a particular kind of confusion arises. What does it mean to call oneself a "Catholic?" And who gets to decide? If Joe Biden feels like he's a good Catholic, well, isn't that good enough?

Those who reject relativism reject this. Being Catholic, especially as an adult, carries with it obligations as well as privileges. If our greatest privilege is our ability to partake of Our Lord in the Eucharist, our greatest obligations involve living our lives and practicing our faith in such a way that we do not do so unworthily. It's not that Catholics, even good ones who are sincerely trying to live their faith, can't fail at this from time to time; but there is a difference between neglecting to confess a serious sin before receiving the Eucharist, particularly if this act is followed by sincere contrition and an immediate recourse to sacramental confession, and living one's life in such a way that one is clearly not entitled to present oneself to receive Communion yet doing so anyway.

Canon 915, which Ed Peters discusses in regards to Biden here, directs ministers of Holy Communion not to give the Eucharist to those "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin." Some people try to argue that this can't be used to deny the Eucharist to pro-abort or "pro-choice" Catholic politicians since we can't know the state of their souls, but the Canon only mentions persisting in manifest grave sin; whether the person in question is meeting the three conditions necessary for the commission of a mortal sin is for his or her confessor to determine. Still, just as a priest might tell a couple whose marriage is invalid that he can't give them Communion until or unless they regularize the situation, so may a priest tell a politician who votes in favor of legalized abortion that he must not receive Communion until he stops doing so. The couple may sincerely, if erroneously, believe that their civil marriage was "valid enough," and the politician may sincerely, if erroneously, believe that voting pro-life will not help stop abortions. But it is still the case that objectively speaking the people in my example (assuming the couple are living together as husband and wife) are persisting in manifest grave sin regardless of their personal thoughts, or level of moral culpability.

So it doesn't really matter if Joe Biden feels like a good Catholic, or if Joe Biden sincerely believes that he can be Catholic and pro-choice. The objective reality is that no good Catholic can ever do anything that in any way supports and promotes abortion while failing to protect the intrinsic worth of every human being from conception to natural death. It is the Church's duty first to remind Biden of that fact, and then, if he fails to repent, to determine whether he ought to be barred from the reception of Communion under Canon 915.

The fact that so many "pro-choice" Catholic legislators exist at all is a sincere problem: if the Church in America were properly carrying out her role as catechist this wouldn't be such a widespread phenomenon. But as each election cycle passes the Church has an opportunity to teach the truth about this issue, to make it clear to all the faithful that we may not select for ourselves which of the Church's teachings to follow and which to disregard, all while considering ourselves "good practicing Catholics." The urgency of the need for the Church to teach with firm clarity and unwavering charity about this grows each time the issue of "pro-choice Catholics" comes up; many souls could be in danger of being lost if they continue to believe that "pro-choice Catholic" is a viable option instead of a meaningless oxymoron.

And the fact that continued inaction on the "pro-choice Catholic" problem by the Church's leaders will add to the impression given among the wider community that the Church isn't all that sincere in her own teachings about abortion is a grave danger as well; but more about that later.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Check Out This New Blog

I don't think I've ever posted this much on a Saturday before. :)

But before I quit for the night, check out this new blog: Catholics Against Joe Biden, which I've added to my blogroll on the sidebar. It's being run by Steve Dillard, Christopher Blosser, and Jay Anderson, all Catholic converts with impressive blogging credentials. They're doing exactly what needs to be done, here: highlighting Joe Biden's "personally opposed" take on abortion, zeroing in on the notion that it's possible to be "moderately" in favor of killing unborn humans, and taking a look at Biden's record on life issues, including such sour notes as his decision to vote against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which surely should have been a no-brainer for a Catholic to vote for if there ever was one. More, Biden has done all of this while claiming to be totally in line with Catholic teaching.

If that's in line with Catholic teaching, then Mark Shea is a Rad-Trad. I'm just sayin'.

So visit this new blog, support these gentlemen as they shine the bright light of truth in Biden's general direction, and pray for the unborn, abandoned by Catholic legislators on both sides of the aisle.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

From a blog post from the LA Times about Biden's speech today:
So which stumble at today's Democratic lovefest in Springfield, Ill., will live on the longest -- Barack Obama introducing his running mate pick as "the next president," or the Joe Biden crack about his wife that has not been universally well received?

If it's the latter, at least Biden gets a pass on it from the highest-ranking women in the history of U.S. politics -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Here's what Biden had said in his debut as the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee:

"Ladies and gentlemen, my wife Jill, who you'll meet soon, is drop dead gorgeous. My wife Jill, who you'll meet soon, she also has her doctorate degree, which is a problem. But all kidding aside ..."

Pelosi, who had spent much of the lunch depicting an America in dire straits after eight years of a Republican administration, didn't miss a beat: "Lighten up," she said. "We've got a planet to save."

She added that if Biden found his wife beautiful, "That's A-OK."

But what about the PhD part of Biden's comment? That's what sparked reaction in the blogosphere, including an item by Adele Stan on Huffington Post headlined: "Careful Joe! 'Smart Women" Jokes a Dicey Game."

I don't know what's more precious here: the new presumptive veep nominee dissing intelligence in women, or Nancy Pelosi--Nancy Pelosi!--telling angry feminists to "lighten up."

This is gonna be a blast, kids. Wait until the Democrats start attacking "political correctness" once ol' Joe really starts to let loose.

Biden's Bishop

There are going to be lots of people doing in-depth analysis of Joe Biden and his experience over the next few days; I'm not even remotely qualified to be one of them.

But on one matter I'm qualified to speak: Joe Biden's status as a Catholic now needs to be clarified by his bishop, Bishop Michael Saltarelli.

According to this article, Bishop Saltarelli is a strong defender of the rights of the unborn:

Bishop Saltarelli denounced the notion that politicians can 'personally oppose' abortion, but refuse to pass laws protecting the unborn.

'No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.' Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena,' said Bishop Saltarelli.

In fact, Bishop Saltarelli made clear that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

'The promotion of abortion by any Catholic is a grave and serious matter. Objectively, according to the constant teaching of the Scriptures and the Church, it would be more spiritually beneficial for such a person to refrain from receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. I ask Catholics in this position to have the integrity to respect the Eucharist, Catholic teaching and the Catholic faithful.'

Now that Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee to be the Democratic candidate for the vice-presidency of the United States of America, Bishop Saltarelli might need to address this matter publicly and specifically. Senator Biden should be informed, as Gov. Sibelius was, that he can't continue to receive communion as long as he holds so-called "pro-choice" positions which favor legal abortion and deny to unborn humans the right to live. Catholic voters deserve clarity from the Church before Biden claims to be a Catholic in good standing.

Update: Apparently, Wilmington has a new bishop-elect since last month, Bishop William Malooly. Does anyone know whether he's likely to take a strong stand on the matter of Joe Biden's reception of communion? I'm looking into it, but can't seem to find much about him.


ABC's political blog has some interesting info about that ill-fated text message:

The long-awaited text message announcing Obama-Biden '08 arrived in cell phones and inboxes just after 3 a.m. ET on Saturday. The 3 a.m. timing may evoke memories of an attack ad run by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., questioning whether Obama would be ready to lead in the event of a 3 a.m. phone call.

In the end however, Obama supporters got a 3 a.m. cell phone text message and e-mail about Biden, rather than Clinton.

3 a.m. Were they trying to be cute?

If the time was selected deliberately, it would seem so. The excuse that the campaign wanted the message to go out after newspaper publishing deadlines so the Saturday headlines wouldn't be about the Biden pick is telling, too--they obviously wanted to dominate Sunday paper coverage instead of the leading the news the one day of the week when many Americans don't see the paper.

But newspaper deadlines aside, there's no doubt that this was targeted at Hillary's infamous "3 a.m." ad suggesting that Barack Obama was too inexperienced to be the person answering the White House phone at 3 a.m. when some crisis or emergency calls thepresident out of bed in the middle of the night. Barack Obama won't just be answering calls at 3 a.m., this time frame choice for the veep announcement suggests.

And there's confirmation in the ABC post of my theory as to who the Obama campaign is targeting in all of this:

Asked how they kept Obama's vp pick a secret for almost a week and why they announced Obama's V.P. pick in the dead of night, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" co-anchor Kate Snow, "We weren't trying to hide anything. We're pretty good at keeping secrets. ... I have a feeling that most of the people who normally text were probably up and got it." (Emphasis added, EM.)

See? The old geezers, the tragically unhip technophobes, the poor who don't rountinely text each other because they don't have cell phones or text devices or wireless service--they weren't the ones this message was being aimed at. It was the young cool Friday-night-partygoing set who were still partying hard at 3 a.m. that Obama wanted to reach, the foot soldiers in his own personal cultural revolution.

There's just one thing Barack Obama is forgetting. People who party hard all weekend are inclined to spend much of Monday and Tuesday in a fog--and last I checked, national elections weren't held on Friday nights. The old geezers, tragically unhip technophobes, poor, and others who didn't find this stunt amusing--they'll be the ones at the voting booths, bright and early on a crisp morning in November.

UPDATE: Commenter "Mick" says below, "So that was the motivation for 3 a.m.! I just assumed he wanted to get the message out to his European friends, bright and early."

That's really good thinking! Mr. "Citizen of the World" didn't want to be American-centric in terms of time zones!!


It's Not Official...

...but it's close enough, and it's getting late, even for me.

Biden? Really. Hmmm.

(No, I'm not joining in the cackles of maniacal laughter emanating from the penumbras of the Republican Party Platform. I am personally opposed to cackles of maniacal laughter over what has to be the best possible choice Obama could have made--from the Republican perspective. I may be grinning a bit--but I won't admit to more than that.)

I'm going to have a lot to say about this once it is official, but like I said, it's late.

And out of respect for the countless frustrated, disappointed, angry Democrats who will not be getting that ultra-special celebrity text message before they hear the news, after all, which makes them feel a bit like the jilted prom date as she watches her guy march in to the school gym with the head of the cheerleading squad on his arm, I'll save my yammering on the matter for some time tomorrow.

Unless, of course, this is yet another fake-out. In which case Obama not only isn't Mr. Darcy; he's becoming perilously close to being Maxwell Smart.

Dog Places "Undue Burden" on Teenage Mom

Or, at least, that's how Barack Obama would explain this CNN story:
A dog sheltered a newborn baby abandoned by its 14-year-old mother in a field in rural Argentina until the boy was rescued, a doctor said Friday.

A resident of a rural area outside La Plata called police late Wednesday night to say that he had heard the baby crying in a field behind his house.

The man went outside and found the infant lying beside the dog and its six newborn puppies, Daniel Salcedo, chief of police of the Province of Buenos Aires, told CNN.

The temperature was a chilly 37 degrees, Salcedo said.

The dog had apparently carried the baby some 50 meters from where his mother had abandoned him to where the puppies were huddled, police said.

"She took it like a puppy and rescued it," Salcedo said. "The doctors told us if she hadn't done this, he would have died."

"The dog is a hero to us."

The mother is getting psychological treatment, and the baby is in a hospital.

To pro-choicers, the tragedy of this situation is that this young mother couldn't quietly kill her baby son sometime before birth. To Barack Obama, I suspect, the tragedy of the situation is that the dog interfered with the mother's decision and placed an undue burden on her by saving the baby's life (and without even calling a second doctor! Let alone a first one!).

I think what could have been a really tragic situation was made less tragic by the survival of the baby; certainly the teen mother's mental health and eventual healing will be better if she doesn't lay awake nights imagining the horror of her child's death on top of all the pain and guilt she already carries. But then, I agree that the dog was a hero, so what do I know?

Friday, August 22, 2008

To Whomever Keeps Searching for "Abortion Tea"

Twice in as many days someone has found this blog through a Google search for the phrase "Abortion" and "Tea." This person, and I'm assuming she is female, appears to be looking for some kind of tea or herbal remedy that will "naturally" induce an abortion.

Whoever you are, I know the minute you get here you can tell I'm not in favor of abortion at all. Won't you please consider contacting your local crisis pregnancy center? I know they can help you.

If you need help finding one, my email address is on this page. Please don't hesitate to contact me. Just to be clear, I won't in any way help you get an abortion, but if you want your baby to live and need help finding the people in your area who can help you in this time of need, let me know, and I'll do whatever I can.

God bless you.

The Subtext

As I write this, Barack Obama has not yet named his running mate, and some people are starting to say that this delay's going to cost him, as the average American is heading or soon will be heading home from work and has a busy weekend ahead of him--Obama will have to wait until Monday to capture people's attention.

In one sense this is true; Obama's text message will now only excite three groups of people:

-his die-hard supporters who are on the text list,
-professional journalists who will be biting their nails all evening
-political junkies who through accidents of fate aren't professional journalists (like yrs. trly.)

Some would say there's a fourth group, Obama's opponents, but aside from waiting to pounce on whoever it is with negatives, I'd say the Republicans aren't as eager as the first three. By now, they have reams of paper full of focused hard-hitting talking points about all of Obama's possible running mates, and the only momentary excitement, if you can call it that, will be making sure they grab the correct sheaves before heading for the phone or microphone.

But in another sense, the text-message stunt is doing what it's designed to do: create a buzz, make this vice presidency pick seem much more momentous and important than it really is, and add a complicated aura to the Obama campaign, in which the medium becomes the message, and directs the same level of attention to the Obama vice presidency announcement as is usually reserved for American Idol or Survivor (back in the day) results, with possibly just a hint of Oscar night drama.

Who will be the Best Supporting Actor, Presidential Edition? Whose phone rang with a terse message ("You're fired!) just before the all-important text was sent? Who got voted off of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue before he (or she) ever really had a chance? Who ended up paralleling the blowout success of Kelly Clarkson, and who was Sanjaya, the crowd favorite whose charm wasn't enough to seal the deal?

And, of course, that message is aimed at the texting crowd: the young voters, that elusive group who are always supposed to change the course of an election and who seldom actually show up in numbers sizable enough to do so on election night.

Obama's been targeting young voters from the get-go, as Democrats are often wont to do. So much of the "superstar" motif has been designed to appeal to their generation; so many young Obama supporters have said things about how this will be their time, this will be their moment, this is their candidate of change. This is The One. They don't even realize they're being messianic when they talk that way; their "messiahs" so far have been rap stars and actors and sports phenoms, Neo of The Matrix or Anakin of Star Wars. So it makes perfect sense to them that Obama would treat his selection of the vice presidency in a way designed to maximize the buzz and minimize the yawns.

But the subtext here is that anyone who doesn't appreciate this is really too old, conservative, or out-of-touch to be an Obama voter; anyone who doesn't own a pager or cell phone, or who doesn't pay to receive text messages, is not the kind of person Obama's campaign is really reaching out to. The elderly, the poor, the kind of people who think that creating this garish spectacle out of one of what is usually only a mildly interesting moment in a presidential campaign--these are not (forgive me) the droids he's looking for.

But Obama can't come right out and say that, and neither can his campaign. There are a sizable number of voters who don't own cell phones or Blackberrys, or who would find them frustrating to operate if they did. There are groups of voters who would find the underlying unseriousness of this way of announcing Obama's running mate to be offputting, to say the least. There has to be a balance between the superstar buzz and the serious man of the people, the two competing images Obama's been trying to project.

And that's why the McCain "Celebrity!" ads threatened the Obama campaign as much as they did, because for a hideous moment it seemed like the whole country might actually catch on to all of this. But as breathless journalists camp around their phones and computers and televisions tonight, as rumors about iffy bumper-stickers swirl, as young hip Democrat voters make sure their text device of choice is fully charged and operational, I suppose Obama can breathe a sigh of relief--who cares if the label "celebrity" is a negative, so long as Americans are inclined to get enthusiastic about the latest greatest newest hottest craze in the election game.

A Better Alternative

Please read Kathryn Lopez's terrific article in the WSJ about the difference between the "womynpriest" types and healthy religious orders (Hat Tip: Creative Minority Report). I especially liked this part:
The same weekend as the "ordinations," I joined 30 fellow lay Catholics gathered in Birmingham, Ala., for a sold-out retreat at the Casa Maria convent. The retreat is run by a group of Dominican-Franciscan (they follow both saintly models) religious sisters. Now in their 18th year as an order, the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word are as far away as one can imagine from that scene in Boston.

"As an active woman religious working in the field of retreats and catechesis in the Bible Belt South, I have to say that I am far too busy . . . to feel slighted by the fact that the priesthood is not open to women," insists Sister Louise Marie, a member of the order. She suggests that if Catholics and non-Catholics understood what a "powerful role women religious have," they would never "feel sorry for [us]."

I could write about how much I agree with Sister Louise Marie and ultimately with Kathryn Lopez about how being a busy, happy, faithful Catholic woman doesn't leave you much time for disgruntled speculations about how Our Lord would have ordained women if Constantine and the Council of Trent and Dan Brown and Leonardo da Vinci and Tom Hanks hadn't formed their cabalistic conspiracy to keep Him from doing so (wait...have I got that right?). But I've got to brag about family, first: one of my younger sisters is a nun at Casa Maria! I can tell you that Ms. Lopez is right about them, too: they're a vibrant young order of happy orthodox sisters who care way more about doing God's work than engaging in a tired old Marxist-feminist power struggle over the priesthood, which doesn't really respect God's plan or the Church's laws or the ancient ties to the sacrificial nature of the priesthood or anything else except the feminists' own peeved sense that somehow, somewhere, some man is doing something that women don't get to do.

I hope Ms. Lopez is right in saying that the womenpriest movement may be dying out; certainly, the average ages of those faces behind the tie-dyed chasubles would support that theory. But I've got an idea of how the Church can approach these ladies to bring them back into the fold: we can let them start their own religious order. No, they can't be priests or offer the Mass; but the order will allow them fifteen minutes a day to complain about the unfairness of it all in between doing good works and caring for the poor, sick, and needy. They can be called the Sisters of Persistent Grievances, or something; but that fifteen minute daily limit will have to be strictly enforced, lest they spend more time complaining than actually doing the Lord's work.

Please Join In!

If you haven't already seen this post at Creative Minority Report or clicked on the link to the right under the heading "Urgent," I'd like to ask you to consider joining in the petition effort to support the University of San Diego for their decision not to hire known Catholic dissenter Rosemary Radford Ruether to teach theology.

I think the effort to gather the signatures of as many supporters as possible to offset the signatures of those signing opposing positions is a very good one. Please consider joining in this effort to raise many signatures of support for the University to commend them for NOT hiring someone who dissents from Church teaching to a theology chair position. This website will take you to a page where you can add your name to an e-mail petition of support. You only need to provide your name and an e-mail address for verification.

Surely this is an effort that all faithful Catholics can support! So often we divide ourselves into opposing categories that make it hard to see our unity, but on this matter any Catholic faithful to the Magisterium should be happy to see a Catholic university standing up for Catholic teaching. We want such efforts to be rewarded, not punished--so please consider visiting the website and signing the petition if you haven't already done so.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on Obama and Abortion

I've been focusing in on Barack Obama's radical pro-abortion stances, and in particular on his denial of support for the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act. It's amazing to me that this late into the campaign some of these details are still coming forward, but hopefully now that the media has noted some of his inconsistency and denials in this arena we'll see more attention paid to the abortion issue and Barack Obama; at the very least, if the MSM ignores it, we can count on various right-wing media outlets to do the one thing they do really well by picking up the slack.

But let's take a look for a moment at some of the other positions Barack Obama has taken on abortion. Bear in mind that this is not a "personally opposed" Kerryesque figure; this man has made it abundantly clear that for all his talk about fostering good will and so forth that he wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, completely supports abortion. There is no abortion anywhere in America that Barack Obama would ban, no matter how late in gestation or how gruesome the procedure. Here's a look at some details:

Barack Obama voted against banning Partial Birth Abortions. (Link goes to NRLC black and white drawing; it's not as graphic as a photo but senstitve people might want to avoid it anyway.)

Barack Obama supports federally-funded embryonic stem cell research.

Barack Obama voted against extending SCHIP health insurance eligibility to unborn children. (The argument I've heard from pro-abortion Democrats is that coverage for "pregnant women" is adequate, and we don't want people to think of unborn children as "patients" because that might undermine Roe v. Wade.)

Barack Obama voted against stopping minors from crossing state lines to get abortions in other states. (So if your state has parental notification laws the underage pregnant girls in your state can travel elsewhere to avoid those, and that's fine with Barack.)

Barack Obama voted against parents being notified that their minor children have crossed state lines to obtain an abortion. (So not only can minor girls get abortions without telling their parents, nobody else is allowed to tell them either.)

And, as we already know, Barack Obama voted against the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

Barack Obama is not even remotely opposed to abortion, personally or otherwise. He is radically pro-abortion to a level that ought to disturb anyone who doesn't share those radical views. He has successfully presented himself as a typical "moderate" on the abortion issue, but moderates don't tend to get 100% approval ratings from the group that changed its former more truthful name as the National Abortion Rights Action League. "Naral Pro-Choice America" is about as "pro-choice" as Barack Obama; they're only in favor of choice when the choice results in a dead baby.

A Bit Of Good News

Sometimes in the midst of all the big world issues, it's nice to remember that the small stories of ordinary people averting tragedy are a more real moment of contact with God's presence than all the headline-grabbing politics and doomsday scenarios. Exhibit A:

Frank Devaull is normally working each mid-day, but on Thursday the 60-year-old handy man came home to cool off for a short while.

The elderly woman living next door in the 5500 block of Geddes Avenue was glad he did.

Luella Crosby, 90, came over and quietly asked if he could lend a hand.

There was smoke inside her house and she wanted to get her husband, Alfred, outside. The couple had lived in the west-side home near Lake Como since 1944. [...]

But 92-year-old Alfred, a double-leg amputee with other medical problems, was stuck in a hospital bed. [...]

Devaull could finally get Alfred out of the door, but that was tough, too.

"He's an amputee, but he's not a small man," Devaull said. "But he never hollered and he never cried. I don't think he ever got scared." [...]

"I'm just glad Frank was at home," Luella said later, surrounded by loved ones. "My husband would have burned because I couldn't get him out.

"Frank -- he's all right."

But Devaull declined to take credit

"Every morning," he said, "when I say my prayers, I say 'God, please give me the strength to help somebody, if I ever come across somebody in that position.'

"Well, today he did."

When we say the right sort of prayers, God always answers them, doesn't He? If you have time, read the whole article; it's good to remember that the Franks and Alfreds and Luellas in our life will always mean more to us than the McCains and Obamas, and that the little stories of everyday miracles can uplift us more than a dozen campaign speeches or clever candidate ads.