Sunday, May 31, 2009

Abortionist George Tiller Shot and Killed

Breaking news:

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, a prominent advocate for abortion rights wounded by a protester more than a decade ago, was shot and killed Sunday at his church in Wichita, a city official said.

A City Hall official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about the case told The Associated Press that the 67-year-old doctor was killed Sunday morning at Reformation Lutheran Church.

Police spokesman Gordon Bassham would not confirm the victim's identity pending notification of relatives. He said the shooting occurred at 10:03 a.m. and the gunman fled the scene in a 1993 powder blue Ford Taurus registered in another part of the state.

Bassham said no suspects were in custody. He said it is not clear whether one or more suspects were involved.

Capt. Brent Allred said police were looking for a gunman who fled in a 1993 light blue Ford Taurus registered in Merriam.

Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue issued a statement denouncing the shooting.

Violence is not the answer; shooting a man like George Tiller without giving him the chance to repent of his monstrously evil deeds is not God's way.

May God have mercy on his soul.

Some blog reactions (I'll try to add more as the day progresses):

Mark Shea

Creative Minority Report (plus a second post with statements from many groups)

Andrew Sullivan (who calls this "Christianist Terrorism" and blames the "far right;" get ready, people, because this is exactly the kind of high-profile case that will be used as an excuse to shut down the free speech/free assembly rights of those of us who protest against abortion)

Catholic Fire (with links to her earlier posts)

The American Catholic

Acts of the Apostasy

American Papist

Father Z

Friday, May 29, 2009

See You at Crunchy Con!

Sometime this afternoon, I'll begin blogging over at Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog. Technically I've already begun, as I've written my first post over there; but there seems to be a minor technical issue with my access which is keeping me from publishing the post for the moment. Hopefully that will be resolved soon--I'm fairly sure that by tomorrow at the latest my posts will begin to appear.

As before when I was Rod's substitute blogger, I probably won't be posting here daily. I'll put a link to Crunchy Con over in my sidebar, though, and I hope that during the next two weeks you'll get a chance to come over and read what I write over there.

See you soon!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A History of the Wanderer, 1867-1931: Article Five, by Paul Likoudis

(Note: this continues the series of articles by Paul Likoudis which I am publishing each Thursday.)

AT THE CENTER OF THE STORM:
DER WANDERER & THE 1916 ELECTION

by Paul Likoudis

seventh in a series

As Europe headed into the third year of the Great War in the summer of 1916, Americans faced one of the most bitter and bruising campaign seasons in its history, as Democratic President Woodrow Wilson sought re-election against his Republican challenger, Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes.

For Joseph Matt, the editor of Der Wanderer and a major influence in the most important German-American groups at the time, it didn’t matter which party or candidate won. Neither, he figured, would keep the country out of the European war, neither would correct our disastrous participation in Mexico’s civil war; neither had a “constructive” program for America.

“It makes no difference which political party is in power in this difficult time,” he wrote in an October 5 editorial. “For the basic root of the malaise affecting our American political life lies
in the fact that there is no really constructive party, no party whose program is anchored in eternally valid ethical principles. On the contrary, any party in control allows itself to be swayed by considerations of momentary advantage, and it is from this standpoint that judgments about ‘right or wrong’ [German text uses English here] are formed....”

In this election, German-Americans’ loyalty to the United States was questioned, their morality impugned and their votes courted by both parties – the Democrats to whom they were traditionally loyal, and by the Republicans who understood German-Americans loathed Wilson.

Even before the campaign opened, the Germanophobic Wilson, in his December 1915 message to Congress, accused German-Americans of having “poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our government into contempt, to destroy our industries...and to debase our policies to the uses of foreign intrigue.”

His address drew a response from Frederick Kenkel of the Central Verein, who wrote: “We regret this utterance and deplore its effects,” charging it was “calculated to foster unfounded suspicion and mistrust of a large element of our American people.”

Kenkel’s appeal for moderation was picked up by the New York Times, which published an editorial, “Germans Attack Wilson,” criticizing “certain fanatics and alien propagandists” who “subordinate their religion to their transmarine idolatry.”

German-Americans, naturally, were opposed to American entry into the European war on England’s side, and German-American groups, including the Central Verein, organized massive rallies – one in Manhattan attracted more than 100,000 demonstrators – protesting entry in a war that would only serve the interests of “international capital.”

“German-American organizational efforts grew even more feverish and complicated in the election year of 1916,” writes Notre Dame historian Philip Gleason in his book The Conservative Reformers: German-American Catholics and the Social Order. “In February, German-American journalists met in Chicago to form the National German Publishers Association. Ex-president [Nicholas] Gonner of the Central-Verein and August F. Brokland of Die Amerika and the Central Bureau were among the Catholics at the meeting....”

As German-Americans rallied in opposition to the war, Der Wanderer’s editor Joseph Matt, writes Dr. Gleason, “was troubled by the number of Catholics flocking to the North American Alliance,” a German-American association led by socialists, Freethinkers and “self-seekers” who did not share the same views “on the duties of citizenship” as did Catholics.

As the summer of 1916 approached, anti-German-American propaganda intensified. On the opening day of the Democratic Convention in St. Louis, June 14, Woodrow Wilson darkly warned at a “Preparedness” rally in Washington: “There is disloyalty active in the United States and it must be crushed.”
FEEDING HYSTERIA

Wilson accused anti-war German-Americans of treason and blackmail, charging their threat to exercise their political might at the polls constituted aiding a foreign government. Wilson pledged he will “teach these gentlemen once and for all that loyalty to this flag is the first test of tolerance in the United States.”

“Speaking in the Midwest on the same day,” writes Dr. Alan Carlson in his book The American Way: Family and Community in the Shaping of the American Identity, “former President Theodore Roosevelt was less circumspect about the identity of the disloyal:

“‘No good American...can have any feeling except scorn and detestation for those professional German-Americans who seek to make the American President in effect a viceroy of the German Emperor.’

“Roosevelt blasted ‘adherence to the politico-racial hyphen which is the badge and sign of moral treason.’

“One day later the Democratic Party, meeting in Convention in the heavily German-American city of St. Louis, adopted a platform plank on ‘Hyphenates’ and ‘Americanism.’ Together, these stood as ‘the supreme issue of the day,’ the document declared. Anyone ‘actuated by the purpose to promote the interests of a foreign power in disregard of our own country’s welfare’ created ‘discord and strife’ among Americans, obstructed ‘the whole sum process of unification,’ was ‘faithless to the trust...of [U.S.] citizenship,’ and stood as ‘disloyal to his country.’ Any ‘division’ of Americans into antagonistic racial groups destroyed ‘that complete... solidarity of
the people and that unity of sentiment and national purpose so essential to the perpetuity of the nation and of its free institutions’....

“Held during the third year of The Great War in Europe,” Carlson continues, “the American election of 1916 became, at least at the rhetorical- and domestic- political levels, a form of civil war. More broadly, the supposed ‘German-American threat’ to national unity betokened a crisis in American self-understanding....”

Carlson continues: “When Hughes won the Republican nomination on June 10, German-Americans congratulated themselves on their success. But they also reaped the ‘Flag Day’ denunciations by Wilson and Roosevelt....Wilson made ‘anti-hyphenism’, along with ‘he kept us out of war,’ his major campaign issues. In early September, he warned darkly about ‘the passions and intrigues of certain active groups and combinations of men amongst us who were born under foreign flags [and] injected the poison of disloyalty into our most critical affairs.’ He largely succeeded in casting Hughes as the candidate of ‘the Kaiser’ and of extremists of all kinds. When the St. Louis Chapter of the Alliance endorsed Hughes and boasted of 20,000 members ready to vote as a block, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch accused the group of a ‘vehemently unAmerican,’ pro German conspiracy.”

The anti-German hysteria fueled by Wilson and Roosevelt, Carlson reminds us, had consequences:

“Out in the states, countless vigilante acts directed against German-Americans occurred. In Illinois, there were ‘nightrider’ attacks on Mennonite churches with skulls and crossbones painted over the doors. A mob demolished the piano of a German singing society in Eugene, Oregon. Eight men entered a Birmingham, Ohio, pastor’s study, and burned his books. In Bishop, Texas, a mob flogged a German Lutheran pastor. The tar-and-feathering of German-speaking clergy was common. Boy Scouts burned German-language papers in Columbus, Ohio, while the National Guard torched German books in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Pacifist Mennonites and Hutterites were jailed and treated with unusual brutality. German language classes – called a ‘distinct menace to Americanism’ – disappeared from many school districts; among all the others, the number of students fell sharply. In South Dakota, authorities closed a Mennonite flour mill when a customer reported finding glass chips in the flour. The spirit of the age was ably expressed in a pamphlet linking the Alliance to the brewing industry, A Disloyal Combination:

“‘Everything that is pro-German [in this country] must go. The German Press. The teaching of German in the elementary schools....German alliances and the whole German propaganda must be abolished....The brewers and allied liquor trades that back such an alliance should suffer the same penalty’....”


AT THE CROSSROADS

Against this over-heated political background, on October 5, 1916, Der Wanderer’s editor Joseph Matt wrote a page-one editorial “Am Scheideweg” – At the Crossroads:

“American election campaigns have never enjoyed the reputation of promoting the education of the people in high ideals. For the most part, they were dedicated to self interest, eloquence, demagoguery. Pessimists generally came out ahead when they claimed to find their dour
expectations realized in our political life. ... But those who sought comfort in the politician who repeated the phrase: ‘My son, you have no idea how much nonsense is spoken in world governance’ – these were not on the short end either....

“It is hard to say what is the dominant characteristic of the current campaign: is it a tragedy of a people undoubtedly called to high tasks which sets about building its future devoid of all planning and setting of goals and lacking any kind of solid principles or is it a comedy in
which its political leaders articulate soothing, multivalent phrases behind which an ego-trip stands as a categorical imperative. Thus, the anointed leaders set about extolling each other.....

“Our people, the ruling party, the leaders of the parties have the splendid opportunity to make their mark on world history and assure for the American republic lasting gratitude from all the peoples now suffering from the catastrophe of a world war.... It makes no difference which political party is in power in this difficult time. For the basic root of the malaise affecting our American political life lies in the fact that there is no really constructive party, no party whose
program is anchored in eternally valid ethical principles. On the contrary, any party in control allows itself to be swayed by considerations of momentary advantage, and it is from this standpoint that judgments about ‘right or wrong’ are formed....

“A similar tone is adopted in a document by D. W. Lawler, Democratic candidate for the Senate, in which he attempts to illuminate the political climate. He tries to calm down the German-Americans, to protect the President against charges of xenophobia, and to convert the
Republicans to a position for which Mr. Wilson has been criticized. He is not very successful in defending the President. According to his logic it is not Wilson who is guilty of embittering the German-Americans but rather the evil Republican spokesmen who have put Mr. Wilson in a
bad light....

“The fact is and remains that Mr. Wilson was the one who first raised the infamous charge of disloyalty. He did this not in the name of a private citizen who had no responsibility to discharge but as the highest official of the Republic. All the wooing by Democratic press offices and Democratic politicians cannot change this point one bit....

“Mr. Wilson has squandered the trust of the great mass of German-Americans. That he insulted and defamed them – because he didn't know them – as Mr. Lawler suggests – German-Americans could and would have to forgive for the sake of the country. But their attitude toward him will not be defined by feelings of personal revenge. They just don't
think that he is the man who in this troubled time should be entrusted with the helm of the ship of state. His Mexican policy dictated by fanaticism and a know-it-all attitude has revealed him to be a political dilettante of the most dubious sort. His policies toward the belligerents have the stamp of bias, narrow-mindedness, and one-sided judgments. The things that are known about his methods as he simply insisted on imposing his will on Mexico lead us to expect the worst from him for the time when it will be cleaning-up time in Europe....

“From him one can expect that at the last moment he will shove through our country's participation in the world war when he judges that to be useful for carrying out his dark plans. One can expect that he will support England's position at a future peace conference. In short,
Woodrow Wilson is not the man into whose hands one can easily entrust the fate of our country in view of the uncertainties of the present world situation.

“We have said it often and now we repeat it: we don't have complete trust in Mr. Hughes either. We completely respect his problematic situation and don't fail to recognize that his prospects for an electoral victory would be nothing short of brilliant if he were forced to do without the
support of people like Roosevelt, Root, Lodge, etc. but it is precisely these people whom he will not be able to get rid of once he has been elected. With a man like Root as Secretary of State and a Roosevelt in the role of minister without portfolio a Republican administration might be formed that is even more disastrous than one under Mr. Wilson whose weaknesses would at least shield the country from the worst consequences of his dismal policies. We don't feel any great confidence in the expectation of some German-American papers that Republicans would learn
a lesson from a Wilson defeat and guard themselves from falling into the same errors as plagued the Democrats and keep the German-Americans at arm's length....After the election one would speedily forget that Wilson was defeated with the help of German-Americans and one could even rely on the conclusion that Mr. Hughes was elected in spite of Roosevelt's fierce rumblings against the German-Americans.

“The dilemma facing the German-Americans would be easier to solve if it were possible to devise a common electoral program uniting the great mass of German-Americans. Such a platform could lead to a powerful demonstration through which they could make Mr. Wilson aware of their lack of trust in him and could show the Republicans that they won't let
themselves be used as a tool and that they would not be ready to sign up for the Republican Party without adequate guarantees. As the situation looks now the most useful strategy lies in the direction of abstaining from voting in the presidential election. It is possible that in the last weeks before the election Mr. Hughes might declare himself in a clearer fashion on some of the critical issues. In this way, he might be able in part to put to rest the strong misgivings legitimately attaching to the nature of his main supporters. In his latest speeches he has come
somewhat closer to supporting these legitimate expectations, but he has a long ways to go to set aside all misgivings.

“Our discussion so far has focused on the forthcoming presidential election. Of equal importance are the Congressional elections.... It is beyond dispute that the Democrats have proved their ability to govern. There is no point now in seeking to wrest any position of power from the Democrats in Congress. We consider it undesirable that either party have an absolute majority in Congress. But a simple majority of Democrats in Congress seems to us to be necessary to provide a check against a potential Republican administration. One only has to consider the kind of influence a Lodge, for example, might have as chair of the Foreign
Affairs Committee to be convinced of this argument.

On April 2, 1917, President Wilson went to Congress and asked it to declare war on Germany, which Congress did two days later.

This declaration of war, observed Dr. Gleason, “began a period of ‘inner martyrdom’ for German Americans and marked a turning point in their history....Newspapers and societies were ‘scoured away’ in the storm of anti-German feeling that swept over the country....Because their old homeland was the national enemy, portrayed as the embodiment of everything evil, the self-confidence and self-esteem of the Germany-American was, if not extinguished, at least seriously undermined. German Catholics suffered along with their ethnic brethren, and the psychic damage of the war is discernible in many aspect of their post-war development....”

While anti-Catholic newspapers demanded that German-American Catholics – “papal henchmen” – be deported, writes Gleason, “more distressing to German American Catholics was the lack of sympathetic support from their fellow religionists and attacks on things German by other Catholics....”

Post Number 1000!

I'm a bit pressed for time today, so in a moment I'm going to put up the next installment in Paul Likoudis' "History of the Wanderer" series; unfortunately, I won't have time to write any comments about this next article today, but I hope to get back to it tomorrow.

That said, I'd like to pause for a moment to celebrate the fact that this is post number 1000 here at And Sometimes Tea! Thanks to all of you who keep reading, commenting, and making this blog a fun and worthwhile enterprise.

God bless!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Opportunity

Some of you who read this blog also read Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog (referenced in the post below this one) on a regular basis. If you read it today, you may have noticed that Rod mentioned that I'll be taking over for him while he's in England for a couple of weeks; my substitute hosting is supposed to begin this Saturday (though depending on Rod's schedule I may put up an intro post before then).

Most of you who read what I write here are fellow Catholics or serious Christians who believe, like I do, in traditional religion and traditional morality, and who view with alarm many of the indications of our culture's present rate of decline. Getting to write posts at Crunchy Con is always an opportunity for me to engage in discussion with those who don't necessarily share all of our beliefs, but who do still find that some aspects of modern American culture seem toxic or unhelpful in the tasks of living, raising children, and finding more meaning in life than what can be purchased with one's latest paycheck.

I think our call as Christians, to live in the world but not be of the world, is a call that even those on the edges of religious belief still hear. Even people still just beginning a journey to the truth are often repelled by the noise and crudity and selfishness and commercialism our culture puts forth as its best offering; those of us who, by the grace of God, are a little (but only a little, really) further down the road to knowing, loving, and serving Him should welcome their search for the Truth--because if they're really looking for Him, we know they'll find Him.

With that in mind, then, I'd like to give all of you the opportunity to suggest any topics that you'd really like to see covered during my two weeks or so of substitute hosting at Crunchy Cons. I have a few lined up already, and of course the blog is rather news-driven so I'm sure more will come up as time progresses, but if there are any issues you'd really like to see addressed from a Catholic and conservative standpoint, please let me know in the comment box or via email.

Next week and through the time that I'm subbing at Crunchy Con, posts here will be a little scarce; I probably won't manage to write one every day. I'll put up a link to Crunchy Con on Saturday, and I hope to see you all over there!

Incubators

One of the persistent canards flung by the pro-abortion side of the abortion debate against the pro-life side is that pro-life people only see women as "incubators." No matter how many times pro-life Americans demonstrate their kindness and generosity to both mother and child, before, during, and after the child is born, the charge goes out: pro-life women, say those who believe in any choice except the one that results in a living child, view woman as mere baby-making machines who have no say over their "reproductive choice" once a baby is already occupying the premises.

Yesterday I followed this post over at Crunchy Cons dealing with gay marriage (I know, I know, but fools rush in, etc.). When a gay man remarked that he and his partner are expecting a daughter, and received congratulations, I finally had to jump in this morning, asking whether it was appropriate to congratulate the mother of the child. I couched it as a matter of etiquette--e.g., that it's so hard to know, when the mother could be anything from a "parenting partner" to a mere paid "rent-a womb" whether it's appropriate to congratulate her on the impending arrival of the child who is undoubtedly hers, regardless of the child's relationship to either of the two men (one of whom is probably her father, but who knows, these days?).

The reaction has, so far, been to accuse me of snarky ulterior motives (no comment) to a polite discussion of the matter as an etiquette issue (in which the gentleman who first announced his impending "parenthood" participated). There has been no acknowledgment that there is anything wrong with contracting with a living human being to, essentially, pay her to provide the genetic material and the womb in which to manufacture another living human being, a child whose right to both her father and her mother are being ripped away from her before she's even born. One commenter even compared the situation to adoption, in which a woman who, for whatever sad reasons, finds herself unable to raise her own child--even though such a comparison is a deep insult to any woman who has ever made the loving, selfless decision to allow her child to be placed with a caring father and mother who will provide the security and stability she cannot. There is simply no comparison whatsoever between a mother who accepts the necessity of adoption for the child she can't raise, and a woman who willingly rents herself and her genetic material out to manufacture a child as a commodity for a couple; while it's even worse if she's planning to hand the child over to a "couple" who will deprive her child forever of either a father or a mother, it's still deeply, deeply wrong for her to do so if the couple involved are a married heterosexual couple.

The commodification of a child is a grave evil. Though surrogate mothers may think they are acting altruistically, they are not; they are denigrating the very notion of motherhood and reducing both themselves and their children to objects which may be purchased. In the event that the surrogate only "rents" her womb, "growing" a child manufactured from the husband and wife's own intact embryo or embryos, she is still participating in the grave evil of IVF, with its multiple murders of innocent unborn humans; surrogacy itself is a grave evil, with its supremely reductive view of a human being to a collection of body parts which may be used by others in exchange for money or other considerations. There is very little difference between a surrogate and a prostitute; both are selling what must not be sold, and cheapening not only their own dignity but the dignity of every member of their gender in doing so.

Ironically, it is not the "pro-choice" side which finds anything wrong with the use of surrogate mothers or the notion of surrogacy. Indeed, in regard to the manufacture and sale of children to gay male "couples," the pro-choice side is wildly enthusiastic for the most part. And while a few feminists have raised concerns that widespread cultural acceptance of surrogacy may lead to the exploitation of women in the third world, these concerns are muted against the push to create gay "families" in which many of the children are brought into being in this very way.

Consider this, from a NY Times article from March of last year in which the problem of surrogacy in India was discussed:

Although some Indian clinics allow surrogates and clients to meet, Mr. Gher said he preferred anonymity. When his surrogate gives birth later this year, he and his partner will be in the hospital, but not in the ward where she is in labor, and will be handed the baby by a nurse.

The surrogate mother does not know that she is working for foreigners, Dr. Kadam said, and has not been told that the future parents are both men. Gay sex is illegal in India.

Israel legalized adoption by same-sex couples in February, but such couples are not permitted to hire surrogates in Israel to become parents. A fertility doctor recommended Rotunda, which made news in November when its doctors delivered twins for another gay Israeli couple.

Rotunda did not allow interviews with its surrogate mothers, but a 32-year-old woman at a fertility clinic in Delhi explained why she is planning on her second surrogacy in two years.

Separated from her husband, she found that her monthly wages of 2,800 rupees, about $69, as a midwife were not enough to raise her 9-year-old son. With the money she earned from the first surrogacy, more than $13,600, she bought a house. She expects to pay for her son’s education with what she earns for the second, about $8,600. (Fees are typically fixed by the doctor and can vary.) “I will save the money for my child’s future,” she said. [...]

So far, for the Israeli couple, the experience of having a baby has been strangely virtual. They perused profiles of egg donors that were sent by e-mail (“We picked the one with the highest level of education,” Mr. Gher said). From information that followed, they rejected a factory worker in favor of a housewife, who they thought would have a less stressful lifestyle.

Words fail to express the diabolical level of evil involved in what these men are doing. Yet in our modern culture, there's no problem here: the poor women get money, the gay men get a baby, and everybody's happy. Only homophobia and bigotry could possibly object the the manufacture and sale of children to those whose sex acts will never produce one, right?

One thing is clear: it's not the pro-lifers who view women as incubators.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Gets it Right--A Little, Anyway

By now, everyone knows that the California Supreme Court upheld that state's new ban on gay marriage (as per Prop. 8), as should have happened. Of course, today's decision doesn't change the Court's initial power grab in which they unilaterally redefined marriage for all Californians, changing the meaning of an ancient word and reality which predates not only California but the United States and most modern-day political entities to mean something it never did mean and never really will; so the 18,000 Californians currently in a state-sponsored sodomy marriage (or SSM) will get to retain their SSM licenses:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed.

Demonstrators outside the court yelled "shame on you!"

The 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Ron George rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California Constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval.

The court said the Californians have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution.

"In a sense, petitioners' and the attorney general's complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California Constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it," the ruling said.

The justices said the 136-page majority ruling does not speak to whether they agree with Proposition 8 or "believe it should be a part of the California Constitution."

They said they were "limited to interpreting and applying the principles and rules embodied in the California Constitution, setting aside our own personal beliefs and values."

The announcement of the decision set off an outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse awaiting the ruling. Holding signs and many waving rainbow flags, they yelled "shame on you." Many people also held hands in a chain around an intersection in an act of protest.

Gay rights activists immediately promised to resume their fight, saying they would go back to voters as early as next year in a bid to repeal Proposition 8.

Of course, the problem of "civil unions" continues in California and in other states in the nation. Catholics need to remember that our Church does not support civil unions for homosexual couples (or indeed, for heterosexual unmarried couples) and that we ought not support them either in any way which denies Church teaching. For example, in the document Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, we read:

Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.

Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

Any Catholic who has not yet read this important document, issued in 2003, ought really to set aside the time to do so (it isn't especially long). It explains in clear, easily understood language why the Church opposes the "civil union" solution and why such arrangements are not in the best interest of the homosexual persons themselves, of society at large, and especially for the safeguarding of the young, who more and more are faced with the prospect of growing up in a society that blurs the lines between men and women and that wishes to promote and celebrate homosexual relationships as the equivalent of marriage, something they are not and never can be.

So although I'm glad that California's court has not used this opportunity to nullify the will of the people and re-impose state sodomy marriage on unwilling Californians, I must regret the push for civil unions as the "solution" to the SSM problem. Setting up a parallel institution to marriage will not only weaken the efforts to protect marriage, it will also lead to an existence in grave sin for many same-sex attracted people, and will foster the notion that it is the proper role of the government to create policies, codify, and support what is gravely morally wrong. Perhaps it's already too late for America to avoid that notion, as it seems that our government's major role in recent years has been to do exactly that in many arenas; but just because our culture is already significantly and perhaps irrevocably biased in favor of evil does not absolve us of our duty to fight it.

Sotomayor Strategies

The Sotomayor SCOTUS pick has the right in a tizzy, which is to be expected because let's face it, few of us trust Obama to be anything more than horrific on Supreme Court appointments--he's all but promised to pack the court with pro-abort radical activists.

But is Sotomayor really that? Consider:
Abortion rights have been a flashpoint in several recent Supreme Court confirmations, although Sotomayor has not written any controversial rulings on the subject.

As a federal appeals court judge in 2002, she ruled against an abortion rights group that had challenged a government policy prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions.

In her opinion, Sotomayor wrote that the government was free to favor the anti-abortion position over a pro-choice position when public funds were involved.
Now, I know that there are still problems with Sotomayor's judicial outlook; she's clearly liberal in her viewpoints. But a truly rabid pro-abortion judge wouldn't have ruled in favor of the pro-life side in the case mentioned above; he or she would, instead, have made up some excuse about emanating penumbras or the sweet mystery of life in order to rule the way he or she wanted (and the way his or her Planned Parenthood friends wanted).

So I propose a new strategy for the right: say that we're delighted with the Sotomayor pick, and point to this particular ruling as the reason why. Hint at her Catholic schooling and background as another thing that delights us, and express hope that she'll resume the practice of her ancient faith once confirmed as a Supreme Court judge, what with the example of the other five Catholics on the Court (as reports seem to indicate that at present her church attendance is limited to family celebrations). Admit that we'd like to know a bit more about her beliefs on a few things like affirmative action etc., but say that for the most part we're delighted that Obama has selected a woman who has every appearance of taking the Constitution seriously, and who may even be a strict constructionist when all is said and done.

Attacking Sotomayor from the right is probably doomed to backfire. But nothing will make the left more uneasy than the appearance that the right is, when all is said and done, relatively pleased with this choice, and especially pleased that "rabid pro-abortion activist judge" isn't anywhere on Ms. Sotomayor's resume.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Click here to read the paragraph where the answers can be found (note that number 5 is asking for the General's last name, so the line is out of order). You can also copy and print the crossword puzzle there (and here).

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Politicial Endorsement

A while back, Larry D at Acts of the Apostasy did me the kindness of nominating me in the category of "Best Underappreciated Blog" in the 2009 Cannonball awards. I thought that was very kind, but let's face it: as I wrote below, I'm not really the "contest" type. I haven't really mentioned the nomination or asked people to vote for me--some have done so anyway, which is really, really kind of them, but I'm not at all in the running, so to speak.

And so, in the grand tradition of "also-rans" giving political endorsements to the front runners, I'd like to repay Larry's kindness just a little by asking my readers to get over to the Best Underappreciated Blog category and vote for Larry D, whose blog is listed there as "Acts of Apostasy" (not sure what happened to the "the"). Voting ends tomorrow, May 23--so hurry!

Even if you've already voted, this particular blog award lets you vote once a day in each category. Right now, Larry is running in third place, behind quasi-professional powerhouse Minnesota Mom (who is getting the "about to have a baby sympathy vote" in addition to being not at all underappreciated in the blogosphere, which kind of seems a bit like having a professional singer on stage at American Idol, or something) and the blog Sancte Sanctis, which is really lovely and fun to read and all, but I can't help but thinking she's not currently as truly underappreciated as our friend Larry, who is, frankly, hifreakinlarious--another category at the Cannonball Awards in which he's nominated, so feel free to vote there too.

As I write this Larry is in third place, but his 80 votes trail behind the 157 and 200 totals posted by the other two blogs (and hey, the fact that they can get so many votes doesn't exactly make them underappreciated, now, does it?). Larry's pretty sure he'll end up with third place in that contest, but let's make sure it's a good third place tally, or maybe even move him up to be neck-and-neck with second place, shall we?

C'mon, you know you like pulling for the underdog. Right now Larry is like the doomed quixotic third-party candidate we talked about so much in the last election--your votes for one of the front-runners won't send any kind of a message to the Powers that Be, but a vote for Larry is a vote that says, "When we say 'underappreciated,' dang it, we mean it!"

Vote for Larry! Vote for Acts of (the) Apostasy! Red Cardigan approves this message. :)

Idol Chatter

I've been a bit surprised by the amount of talk there has been in the conservative, and even Catholic, blogosphere, about the recent American Idol show and its outcome. We're not Idol-watchers here; I'm not a big fan of contest shows in general, I'm not a big fan of pop music (and while Thad enjoys some, he's usually not all that interested in the sort of stuff that plays on the average radio station, which is what Idol's music seems to be from people's descriptions of it) and between the various costumes worn by female performers on the show and the usual sort of advertisements that run, I'd rather my teen and preteen girls didn't get exposed to the program.

I understand that the "talking points" of this years' controversy have to do with the notion that the contest boiled down to a "red state/blue state" contest; I share Rod Dreher's opinion that it's unlikely that this was the reality.

That said, though, I have to confess that though my tween and teen girls have no awareness of either Adam Lambert or Kris Allen, they have been a bit smitten by a different contest winner. No, we definitely didn't watch this contest; it's my understanding that the general raunchiness of the Eurovision contests makes American Idol look like a bastion of purity and moral virtue. But when I stumbled across this video clip showing the Eurovision 2009 contest winner performing his original, contest winning song, they were amazed. They have some friends who play violin, and they were pretty awed by this young man's talent:



He may not have the best singing voice in the world, and there's a distinctly 1970s look to the costumes worn by the two blond backup singers. But if American Idol started featuring photogenic young men with outstanding violin skills instead of pop phenoms with vastly differing vocal styles, even my girls would want to watch.

We'd still have to black out the commercials.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Thoughts on Today's Wanderer Article

I've been thinking about Americanism and its legacy, especially as described by Mr. Likoudis in the Wanderer article below this post.

I think we've reached an especially low point in the Catholic Church in America today. Never, thanks to the Scandal, has the Church been in less esteem than it is now, and this despite a concerted effort to make Catholicism seem just like Protestantism in every respect possible by some previous generations of Catholic leaders.

The Catholic Church in America remains a target of ridicule by politicians, comedians, and the general public; the Scandal has given her detractors a sad amount of terrible ammunition, and the fact that the lives, habits, practices, etc. of Catholics is virtually indistinguishable from that of anyone else in America, not excluding the atheist and the irreligious.

Meanwhile, forces on the left are actively pushing and promoting a definition of "Catholic" that means a person who rejects the Church's teachings especially in areas of sexual morality, including contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexual activity, premarital sex, the distribution of condoms to the third world, and so on. This definition of "Catholic" is wrong, and utterly meaningless, but to the world the only sort of Catholic who can be called good is the one who is willing to turn his or her back on the Church for reasons of political expediency, personal immorality, or some combination of the two.

Nevertheless, this is a time of great hope for Catholics in America.

Why? Because those who seek to be Catholic today are those who embrace the Church in her totality, not those who pick and choose among her teachings to satisfy their own desires. The young are rediscovering devotions and prayers an older generation tried to discard; as misguided 1970s architecture and music begin to fray at the edges and crumble, the faint glimmerings of a renaissance of Catholic art and music can be seen on the horizon. Perhaps it is a mirage, but it's been a long time since that horizon held any vista other than that of the heavy pall of an unfortunate felt banner, so it's not, perhaps, premature to be excited about the possibilities.

If one thing has become increasingly clear, it's that American Catholics are called to be both--to be Catholic, fully and authentically, and to be American in the light of that faith. We are not supposed to subjugate our faith and enervate it, under the mistaken impression that our American citizenship demands it; to do so is to be much less fully Catholic, but also much less authentically American, than our forbears who sometimes had a clearer notion of what it meant to be both.

A History of the Wanderer, 1867-1931: Article Six, by Paul Likoudis

(Note: this continues the series of articles by Paul Likoudis which I am publishing each Thursday.)

The Wanderer at 140....

Th Wanderer’s Defines ‘Americanism’
As “The False God of the Present Age”

by Paul Likoudis

(Sixth in a series)

The Americanist controversy, which Pope Leo XIII addressed in his 1899 encyclical Testem Benevolentiae was much more than an argument over the extent American Catholics should blend in with the dominant Protestant culture and participate in public life. For German-American Catholics especially, Americanism represented the idolatry of modern nationalism, coupled with a radical assimilationist ethic that would de-Catholicize and de-Europeanize their children and their communities.

In his study, The Conservative Reformers: German American Catholics And the Social Order (University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), historian Philip Gleason writes that German-American Catholics “had reservations about the easy compatibility of Catholicism and the American spirit. They were less impressed by the glorious opportunity open to American Catholics in reconciling the Church and modern culture than they were by the indisputable Protestantism and periodic nativism of Americans; hence they emphasized the need to maintain the traditional integrity of Catholic life and thought as the surest means of maintaining the faith in the United States.
“To men of this persuasion, the flexibility commended by the liberals [i.e. the liberal Catholics led by Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis/St. Paul] looked much like laxity, accommodation, suggested compromise, and adjustment to the new environment resembled capitulation before the enemy. Since the program of the liberals seemed to require departures from the traditional stance in a number of areas, the conservatives were fearful of the possible consequences of Americanization; they urged that the preservation of the faith should not be endangered by the reckless adoption of the novelties aimed at harmonizing the Church with American culture.”

The major areas of disagreements between German-American Catholics and the predominantly Americanist hierarchy were over public schools, secret societies (such as membership in Masonic lodges), ethnic parishes, the temperance movement, the right to maintain their German language, and so on. But, as Gleason observes, all these had a theological dimension: “Americanization represented a formulation, on the highest level of abstraction, of the same problem of Americanization of which the language question, the school question, and all the other specific questions were practical aspects. It is hardly surprising that after resisting Americanization in practice, the German Catholics should reject Americanism in theory.

“Testem Benevolentiae ended the period of controversy,” Gleason continues, “but it did not settle the question of Americanism. Rather, the question was left in terrible ambiguity. Something called Americanism had been condemned, but it was not a doctrine expressly formulated by the champions of Americanization. Rather, the condemned doctrines were derived for the most part from the writings of conservatives who claimed that they were simply spelling out what was implicit in the Americanists’ position....The Americanizers could argue that all they had in mind was bringing the Church into harmony with Americanism understood in precisely that fashion [i.e. participating fully in American life].

“Further analysis of the theoretical relationship between Americanism and Catholicism was postponed indefinitely after Testem Benevolentiae. Indeed, the American Church has still not confronted the task. The problem of adjusting the Church to American circumstances without sacrificing any of the essentials of Catholicity did not, of course, go away after 1899 simply because people stopped quarreling about it, but mutual exhaustion seemed to overspread both camps....”

When Joseph Matt, the longtime editor of Der Wanderer from 1899 to 1964, wrote the centennial history of the Central-Verein in 1955, Gleason reports, he looked back at the controversies surrounding Americanism, and “confessed that ‘a perusal of the documents of those bygone days always stirs my innermost soul.’”

A PROPHETIC STANCE

The concerns raised about the costs Americanism would place on Catholicity make the editorials of Der Wanderer during the Americanist controversy all the more prophetic, as this sampling indicates.

A front page editorial from March 8, 1899, “Auslegungen” (Commentaries) expressed befuddlement at the Americanist party line that Pope Leo’s encyclical was not intended to criticize any features of the American Church:

“What should we say to that?” asked the editor.

“Let us have the Holy Father answer himself. He writes a Brief on ‘Americanism.’ He addresses it to a Cardinal in America. At the same time he sends it to all bishops in the United States of America. In the introduction to his letter he says he wants to call something to the attention of the Church precisely in these United States of America which is to be avoided and improved in the future. Immediately thereafter he asserts clearly that this is a matter of certain novelties and refers to the biography of Isaac Thomas Hecker, an American priest, as his source. Then he proceeds to discuss these novelties in detail, asserts the danger of each of them and rejects each. Finally, he condemns them all wholesale which ‘taken together’ – as the Latin texts suggests – are called ‘Americanism’.…. These are the same opinions, which have been steadfastly opposed in America as theological ‘Americanism’ by the ‘conservatives’ (including our newspaper) as well as in the old world, especially by Dr. Maignen. But they are also the same opinions from which propaganda has been made unceasingly and not without success, in America, from America and by Americans in the press and on the speaker’s podium....

“Poor optimists, who believed a piece of paper from the Vatican would suffice to end all strife. We have never belonged to that group. Even less do we cast our lot with the pessimists. The voice of the Holy Father – whether it is incapable of stemming the controversy in the near time or whether the strife will even rage more fiercely for a while – has not been raised in vain. Let the confusion become even more widespread as a result, the voice of the pope will ultimately have the power to clarify the issues and call each one to make a decision. Blessed be the person who then will find himself on the right side and sees that he has always been there.”

A March 8 editorial, “Auch Msgr. Keane hat nun” (Now also Bishop Keane) reports on Richmond Bishop John Keane’s response the encyclical:

“Even Bishop Keane – according to an Associated Press dispatch from Rome – has now sent a message to the Pope in which he declares that ‘the liberal wing [sic] of the Church in America has been misrepresented and he insists that the so-called ‘Americanism’ has never subscribed to the errors now condemned by the Holy Father and that he himself has never taught them. … Both leaders of the Liberals (Archbishop Ireland and Bishop Keane) , according to the same dispatch, have proven by their clarifications that the Vatican has totally misunderstood the meaning of ‘Americanism’ by relying on the version of Father Hecker’s Commentary [?] which has appeared with a papal imprimatur ( this refers to Maignen’s book. (!) …

“If these dispatches are accurate one can only conclude that one cannot say: ‘Roma locuta causa finita.’ – Rome has spoken. Case closed.

A March 15, 1899 editorial, “Wie zu erwarten war” (What we expected) notes the irony of so many Americanist prelates denying they were ever “Americanists.”

“As was to be expected,” wrote editor Hugo Klapproth, “there is a great rush everywhere to disclaim the teachings condemned in the papal letter to Cardinal Gibbons by quickly declaring – the password is readily at hand – that the condemned Americanism never existed here. Thus the Boston Pilot writes: [Der Wanderer cites the English text]: ‘The American Catholicism which the Abbé Maignen and his followers have evolved largely from their inner consciousness is not indigenous to our soil.’ The following points can be raised in this connection. The book by Abbé Maignen: ‘Is Father Hecker a Saint?’ was translated into English from the French original. Citations from the biography of Isaac Hecker in this English translation are not taken from the French translation of Elliot’s book; rather they are taken from Father Elliot’s original English text. And the teachings condemned by the Holy Father are taken from this latter book. It follows, therefore, that the so-called Americanism is in no way a figment of Abbé Maignen’s imagination. Finally we have some questions to direct at the Pilot:

“1) In the introduction to his encyclical the Holy Father indicates that the biography of Father Hecker contains some false opinions. Does the Pilot now wish to maintain that the Holy Father is in error?

“2) The Holy Father addressed his letter to His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore and not to a French, Italian, or other foreign prelate. Is the Pilot ready to assert that the Holy Father had the wrong address?

“3) Right at the beginning of his letter the Holy Father says it is not his intention to praise American Catholics but rather to refer to some errors that had to be taken care of. Does the Pilot dare to suggest that these words of the Holy Father are based on an error? We are looking forward with great expectation to the Pilot’s answer.”

The controversy surrounding the acceptance of Leo’s encylical by leading American prelates continued over the months. A March 15, 1899, editorial, “Wir constatiren,” observed:

“We note that many English-language American papers are filled with factual errors in reporting on this Americanism controversy. Indeed errors creep into English Catholic papers as well...

“What can one say, for example, when at this late date (13 March) a Catholic paper can report Archbishop Ireland’s letter to the Pope and, using large print headlines, celebrates this letter as ‘an unconditional surrender’ on the part of Ireland?! Doesn’t this paper really know that Archbishop Ireland vigorously, and we might add, legitimately protests such an interpretation of his actions?”

A March 22, 1899, front page editorial, “Das Schreiben Erzbishof Ireland’s an den Hl. Vater,”
(Archbishop Ireland’s letter to the Holy Father), observes:
“This letter functions as a response to the Pope’s Brief on theological ‘Americanism.’ The full text is an exact translation into German from our copy of the French original.

[There follow here several excerpts from Archbishop’s letter]:

“Now light has been shed on the situation. The misunderstandings are at an end. We are now in a position of providing a definition of the error to which ‘some’ have delighted to confer the name of Americanism, and the true meaning of Americanism, as only the Americans can comprehend it, is made clear….

“With certitude and with all the energy of my soul I reject and condemn all the opinions which the Apostolic Brief rejects and condemns. I condemn as well those erroneous and dangerous opinions which, as the Papal Brief affirms, ‘some persons’ call Americanism....I reject and condemn these opinions literally and categorically just as Your Holiness rejects and condemns them.. And I condemn and reject them all the more readily and all the more joyfully, in as much as my Catholic faith and my understanding of the teachings and practices of holy Church have kept me from ever, even for a moment, entertaining similar wayward ways.

[letter signed and dated February 22, 1899]

Der Wanderer editor Hugo Klapproth observed:

“How a respected and otherwise sensible Catholic newspaper can look at this letter and speak of ‘unqualified submission’ is incomprehensible. It is just as clear as the day that this letter is essentially nothing but an angry protest against the assertion of ‘some,’ ‘several,’ ‘certain persons’ that the ‘opinions’ condemned by the Holy Father ever existed in America and especially that Archbishop Ireland ever fostered or promoted such ‘opinions’…

“If it were to be supposed that the Holy Father intended to use his own Apostolic Letter to
assert that such ‘opinions,’ theological ‘Americanism’ never existed in America, then he was at least mistaken. But according to the letter of Archbishop Ireland above the Holy Father didn’t intend to say that….”

A March 29, 1899 editorial, “Die Amerikanisirer,” observes:

“One after the other, the ‘Amerikanizers’ are beginning to recover from the shock they have experienced as a result of the recent lightning bolt from the Vatican. It is clear from their actions and words that they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Instead of bearing witness to the truth and admitting that they had been following a will-o-the-wisp, and that in Heckerism and ‘Americanism’ they have been worshiping the false gods of the present age – instead of doing that they deny flatly that there ever has been anything like ‘Americanism’ and declare that the Papal Brief is the latest and most dangerous product – read it and weep – of the Cahensly-conspiracy. It is seen as part of the effort to paint the Church in America with the offensive brush of ‘foreignism.’ ‘As long as foreign languages, customs, and practices are transplanted into this country and forced upon the Church, so long will her enemies treat her with scorn,’ thus writes the editor of the Catholic Union and Times in their last issue.”
An April 5, 1899 news report, “Erzbischof Corrigan an den Papst,” (Archbishop Corrigan to the Pope), informs that L’Osservatore Romano “published last week a letter of Archbishop Corrigan of New York to the Pope in which he thanks the Holy Father in the name of his suffragans for his latest communication on ‘Americanism.’ The archbishop says he accepts the Brief exactly as it stands in his own name as well as in the name of the clergy, religious orders and parishes. He adds that the question is now settled and the well-known errors under the name of Americanism are now for ever dead. (?)”

An April 5 news item, “Die Paulisten,” reports that the Paulists have withdrawn from circulation “The Life of Father Hecker,” but the Paulists’ newspaper, The Catholic World, declares that Father Hecker “is not only totally orthodox but is the best defender that the Church ever had.”

An April 12, 1899 editorial, “Es gibt keinen ‘religiösen Americanismus,” (There is no American religion) observes:

“‘There is no theological Americanism,’ exclaim our liberals. But they are the only ones who hold to that position. The Pope and the Catholic world think differently. Archbishop Bruchési of Montreal made such remarks in one of his sermons in his cathedral, as quoted in the Fall River Independent of 17 March. ‘To err is human.’ How often has that not been verified in the course of the centuries? But the infallible teaching office of the Church was always there and watched over the sacred treasure committed to her care. And to this day no one has been able to subtract from it….

“All these opinions bore a name which characterized them as a system which speaks to the needs of our time, namely ‘Americanism.’ Lively discussions followed. There was recourse to Rome. Leo XIII considered it wise to intervene. After careful review he condemned the theological novelties in a letter written to the head of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States. This letter will remain one of the most important documents of his reign. The pope has thereby called to mind the unchanging foundations of the Gospel and tradition.”

FAREWELL & WELCOME

On June 7, 1899, editor Hugo Klapproth bid farewell to his readers in a front page editorial “Zum Abschied” (A Farewell):

“In the editorial office of Der Wanderer we have always given pre-eminence to the honor of God. In dealing with the various ‘questions’ of recent years which exercised the spirits we have always positioned ourselves on that side of the issue which after careful examination seemed to us to be the right one. It was not rare to find ourselves in the painful situation of fighting against something which leading members of the hierarchy promoted or worked for....

“In those situations where we considered it to be our duty to take a particular stand which was in opposition to one taken by an ecclesiastical leader we have always, as far as possible, tried to separate the person from the issue. Each time we faced such a situation we asked ourselves before we made our decision whether and to what extent an opposing view in the question at issue might be possible. To the best of our knowledge we have never intentionally opposed an ecclesiastical superior’s legitimate commands and instructions. For that reason we found ourselves constantly in a cross fire from the side of good friends, some of whom found our ‘tone’ too sharp, while others – indeed, the majority – judged the tone not to be aggressive enough. We listened to everyone’s view and – plotted our own course. Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re. [pleasant in manner, courageous in substance.] But how difficult it was, how very difficult, for us to foster in the lay man, who was by no means a trained theologian, a conviction in these difficult issues which extend more or less deeply into the realm of theology. It was equally difficult to find the right expression. How often we felt burdened by the feeling of responsibility and the anxiety that we might be harming the very cause we were promoting rather than helping it. Did we always make the right decision? We don’t know but we lay down the editorship with a spirit of interior relief and an untroubled conscience as this mountainous burden is finally taken from us. For the rest, we can add that in all the great ecclesiastical questions that have been disputed in recent years – once Rome has made the final decision – it was clear that Der Wanderer always stood where every Catholic is supposed to stand: there ‘where Peter is.’

In his inaugural editorial the following week, June 14, 1899, 22-year-old Joseph Matt (who would eventually serve as editor for an American record-smashing 66 years), wrote, under “Mit Gott und für Gott !” (With God and for God!):

“When we come before the readers of Der Wanderer today for the first time and when they scrutinize us with a critical eye and ask us about our program it doesn’t take us long to respond: our earnest and zealous goal will be to walk in the footsteps of our mentor and predecessor. Whatever might come about in the future, the measure by which we shall judge ourselves will be: With God and for God!…”

# # # #

NEW SURVEY OF CATHOLICS REVEALS
THE TRAGIC COST OF “ASSIMILATION”

by Paul Likoudis

In the late 19th century, and early 20th, Der Wanderer’s editors Hugo Klapproth and Joseph Matt fought, and history shows they lost, a decades-long battle against “Americanism” and the assimilation of German-American Catholics into the “mainstream” of American society, as this week’s installment of “The Wanderer at 140" shows.

But a new survey conducted by a prestigious California firm, the Barna Group, describes in dramatic detail the price of Catholic assimilation: Catholics are the least likely of all self-professed Christians to profess their faith in public, to practice their faith, to share their faith with others and even to believe the basic doctrines of the faith they claim to belong to.

The president of the Barna Group, George Barna, oversaw the survey and expressed alarm at what he learned, which not only has terrible implications for the Catholic Church in the United States, but powerful social and cultural implications.

“The history of American Catholics is that of a pool of immigrants who have successfully blended into the native culture,” Barna said in releasing the survey on July 9. “They have done well at adapting to their surroundings and emerging to become a backbone of the community and the national economy. The questions raised fifty years ago about the political loyalties and social objectives of Catholics are no longer relevant in this society.

“Yet, the cost of that struggle to achieve acceptance and legitimacy is that Catholics have largely lost touch with much of their substantive spiritual heritage,” he added. “They retain an
appreciation for tradition and consistency, but have much less of a commitment to knowing and practicing the commands of Christ. For instance, the data show that some of their long-held distinctives, such as being champions of social justice, are no longer a defining facet of their community.

“The trail of Catholicism in America is a clear example of culture influencing faith more often than faith influencing culture,” Barna continued. “The faith of tens of millions of Catholics is affected by the prevailing culture more than by the central principles and teachings of the Bible. Spiritual leaders who are passionate about remaining true to the scriptures and to Catholicism’s historic commitment to Jesus Christ and the Word of God must address this spiritual drift within the body. If they fail to do so, in the next quarter century American Catholicism could well lose its ability to shape people’s minds and hearts in ways that conform to the historic teachings and purposes of Christianity.”

According to a press release announcing the results of the survey, headlined, “Catholics Have Become Mainstream America,” Catholics constitute the larges single religious denomination in the country, at 22 percent, but “they are virtually indistinguishable from people aligned with other faith groups.”

According to the press release:
“The survey explored three dimensions of people’s faith: behaviors, beliefs and attitudes. Catholics were significantly different from other Americans in each of those areas. Two out of three Catholics (68%) said their religious faith is very important in their life – the same as was true among non-Catholic adults – but how their faith is manifested is quite divergent.

“All five of the faith-related attitudes tested showed a gap between Catholics and other Americans. Among the elements tested were people’s highest priority in life (Catholics were only half as likely as others to mention their faith, and a majority identified family as their priority) and their commitment to the Christian faith (44% of Catholics claimed to be ‘absolutely committed’ compared to 54% of the entire adult population).

“Further; Catholics were less likely than average to look forward to discussing their religious views with other people, to attending church services, and to reading the Bible. In fact, Catholics were only half as likely as other Americans to say they look forward ‘a lot’ to reading from the
Bible.

“Of the dozen faith-oriented behaviors tested, Catholics strayed from the norm in relation to eight of the 12 items. Specifically, the typical Catholic person donated about 17% less money to churches; was 38% less likely than the average American to read the Bible; 67% less likely to attend a Sunday school class; 20% less likely to share their faith in Christ with someone who had different beliefs; 24% less likely to say their religious faith has greatly transformed their life; and were 36% less likely to have an ‘active faith,’ which Barna defined as reading the Bible, praying and attending a church service during the prior week.....

“Catholics differed from most people on seven of the 11 belief-focused questions raised. For
instance, Catholics were significantly less likely to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches and only half as likely to maintain that they have a responsibility
to share their faith with others. They were more likely than the norm to say that Satan is not real; to believe that eternal salvation is earned; and to contend that Jesus Christ sinned while on earth....

“The moral behaviors of Catholics also stood out in several areas. Among the 16 moral behaviors examined, Catholics were notably more likely to not say mean things about people behind their back, and were more likely to engage in recycling. However, they were also
twice as likely to view pornographic content on the Internet and were more likely to use profanity, to gamble, and to buy lottery tickets.

“Among the moral behaviors in which Catholics were indistinguishable from other Americans were illegally downloading copyrighted music from the Internet, stealing, engaging in physical abuse, getting drunk, using illegal, non-prescription drugs, lying, committing adultery, and seeking revenge....

“Regarding aspects of life outside of faith and morals, Catholics are strikingly similar to the rest of the public. There is less anticipation among Catholics regarding a good night of sleep or reading a good book, and slightly more excitement about spending time working on their garden and yard. But the bulk of the attitudes investigated – regarding media, consumerism, vacations, health and exercise, and even household duties – showed no difference between Catholics and other Americans....

“Years ago, politicians counted on Catholics to respond to certain cues based on the unique demographic profile of the group. That distinction has vanished. The survey explored a dozen demographic variables and discovered that Catholics are the same as the rest of the country on ten of those twelve items....”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peaceful Coexistence is Not the End Game

You know how, in gay-marriage debates, gay activists always insist that their "marriages" pose no threat whatsoever to religious freedom? You, they insist, will still be free to belong to a bigoted homophobic church that bars gays from marrying, and nobody will stop you from preaching against it--in church, that is.

Most of us reject that argument on the grounds that religious liberty means something more than confining one's arena of religious belief and expression to church property; but the latest development in New Hampshire shows that gay activists have no intention of respecting religious freedom even according to this minimalist definition:

MANCHESTER, N.H., May 20 (Reuters) - New Hampshire lawmakers unexpectedly rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have made the state the sixth in the United States to authorize gay marriage.

The state's Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted down the bill in a 188-186 vote, hours after its Senate approved the legislation 14-10 along party lines. An earlier version of the bill passed the lower chamber on March 26.

The legislature had been asked to approve language that would give legal protections, including the right to decline to marry same-sex couples, to clergy and others affiliated with religious organizations.

That wording was added by Governor John Lynch, a Democrat who promised to sign the bill if those changes were made.

The House vote against the governor's amendment means the bill will be sent to a committee that will try to resolve the differences between the two chambers. It remains unclear how the governor would respond to any changes to his wording.

Lynch has said he would veto gay marriage if his wording is not adopted.

State Representative Steve Vaillancourt, a gay Republican from Manchester, was a leading voice against the amendment securing religious liberties, saying that the House should not be "bullied" by the governor.

Vaillancourt said an earlier bill that did not provide protections to clerics or religious groups was the one that should have been passed, adding that the amended bill would allow discrimination to be written into state law. (Emphasis added--E.M.)

So, any provisions in the law to protect religious groups or even clerics from having to toe the state-sodomy marriage line is somehow the equivalent of writing "discrimination" into state law. Mark my words--there will be no real religious freedom if state-sponsored sodomy marriage (SSM) is made legal, overturning the definition of marriage, centuries of human custom, and common sense.

For now, the good thing is that the wrangling about language has stalled New Hampshire's efforts to legalize SSM in their state. And New Hampshire's governor has said he will veto any bill that does not contain the religious protection language, which may put the two sides at an impasse.

But the larger lesson from New Hampshire is this: when gay activists say that they're not trying to destroy religious freedom in America, they're lying. There's no idea of tolerance for the views of those millions of Americans who think that two males or two females engaging in some sorts of sex acts does not make a marriage. There's no notion of getting along with those whose deeply-held, centuries-old religious beliefs teach that homosexual acts are always immoral, and that marriage is a relationship that has nothing to do with this sort of behavior. It should be obvious by now that gay activists intend to force everyone to acquiesce in and even celebrate their lifestyles, and will stand against any effort by the law to protect the free speech, free assembly, and freedom of religion of those who insist that homosexual acts are gravely sinful. Peaceful coexistence is not the end game of the gay rights movement; it never was.

Missing...Something. Or Someone.

This poster is brought to you by Jean, whose comment below led to its creation:


Maybe monkeys and lemurs are related. Maybe they both evolved. Maybe man's physical body even evolved.

But cocoa beans, and the sweet rich happiness they give to so many? Maybe the beans evolved, but the soul that first thought to add sugar, and the one who added creamy milk, and those who thought to cook it to a certain point and then let it cool and harden?

Atheists and agnostics and materialists can go right on believing that chocolate is a coincidence--and that sunsets are only beautiful because we're conditioned to think so, and that richly beautiful music makes us cry because it affects our central nervous system, etc. I think they're missing something--maybe not a link, per se, but something real, and important, and beyond science. Something Who is really a Someone.

Giggle

Oh, those wacky folks at Google. They're so excited about a prehistoric lemur fossil that they've made its image their logo for the day.

Granted, as a Catholic I have no particular problem with evolution, provided that we understand that the soul did not evolve and was infused into exactly two people (one male, one female) once the physical body had been prepared. But as a reasonably intelligent person, I've still found some of the gaps in the theory a bit dubious here and there--and as a reasonably religious person, I'm pretty sick of the stupidity of the atheists who somehow think that evolution proves the nonexistence of God.

Which, you have to know, is why the kids at Google are so giddy; I'd be willing to bet that most of them think the existence of little Ida somehow proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that man evolved from the apes (not a problem for Catholics, provided there's actual scientific evidence, not a bunch of wishful thinking and one fossil) and that God isn't real, a definite problem for any religious people.

Of course, it's the height of stupidity to think that evolution, even human evolution, even if 100% proved, would thus mean that God did not exist, no matter how many time the secular materialists try to balance this ludicrously uneven equation. If a small child anxiously explains to his mother that the lamp smashed in pieces on the floor wasn't necessarily pushed or bumped, but quite possibly ended up on the floor via a complex and interlocking series of events that started with a sibling footrace and ended with an intricate arrangement of Hot Wheels (tm) tracks and a slightly too-big car, Mom isn't suddenly going to exclaim, "Why, then, no one is responsible! The lamp just evolved its way onto the floor! I'm sorry I blamed you, Billy."

And it may be that little Ida, coincidentally the star of her own show which is being heavily promoted all over the Internet, will be about as crucial to explaining human evolution as the snack Billy had two hours before the lamp incident is to the scene of the crime. But provided all the secularists and materialists have their fun jamming their fingers into the eyes of religious believers first, no one will care if it is eventually shown that Ida, rather than a startling new discovery, is nothing more than proof that lemurs and monkeys are connected--not such a leap, really.

In the meantime, Google's logo makes me giggle. Those wacky God-haters--what will they think of next?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Duty to Die

One of the things about euthanasia is that whenever opponents talk about the slippery slope between the so-called "right to die," and the notion that the elderly or critically ill have a duty to die, euthanasia supporters howl in derision. No, of course not, they say. No one will ever be euthanized who hasn't put into writing his or her wish to die in the event that he or she is critically ill, comatose, or otherwise seriously impaired. This isn't about killing people who don't want to die--it's about allowing those people who may have no religious beliefs whatsoever about the sanctity of life to have their own plug pulled at the time of their choosing. Religious people may not like that, but we're a pluralistic world, and religious people don't get to tell the irreligious, the atheist and the blasphemer, that he can't off himself with medical assistance any time he feels like it.

The Terry Schiavo case exposed that lie a bit for what it is. Terry never wrote down anywhere that she'd want to be starved and dehydrated to death if she were ever critically ill. Terry never led anyone to believe she would want that--not in any legally verifiable way, of course. Her decision was made for her by her unfaithful lout of a husband who wanted to move on and marry the floozy he was shacking up with; not suprisingly, only Michael Schiavo and a couple of his relatives magically "remembered" that Terry would want to die--and this was long after Schiavo had demanded money to care for Terry for her presumably normal life span. With the "help" of a judicial accomplice to Terry's death (the infamous Judge Greer), Michael was able to get what he wanted--and even to get a Catholic wedding to the woman with whom he committed adultery against Terry, something that quite simply should never have been allowed.

As horrifying, terrible, and unconsionable as the legal murder of Terry Schiavo by her husband, a judge, and a staff of medical Judasas at the death camp where she was so unfortunate as to be placed really is, I think this new case in Australia has the potential to be an even greater offense against innocent life:
JOANNE Dunn wants her son to die in her arms. Mark Leigep, 34, has been in a vegetative state for more than three years.

His mother wants the right to "put him to sleep" humanely using morphine.

"So he can die in our arms and we can all be there when he passes away," Ms Dunn said.

"Mark isn't coming back. He's my baby and they should let my baby go."

Mr Leigep, father to Kaitlyn, 7, suffered major head injuries in a car crash in Elizabeth in 2006.

Euthanasia is illegal in South Australia and his situation sparked a right-to-life debate at the time of him entering a coma. [...]

Doctors removed Mr Leigep's feeding tube twice in 2006, but it was replaced following family disagreements that year.

The tube was then removed by doctors again in the same year, but Royal Adelaide Hospital administration ordered the tube be replaced. [...]

It is possible the family could stop feeding Mr Leigep, but Ms Dunn said they did not want to starve him to death.

"I just want the Government to realise that technology says Mark's not coming back. He's brain dead," she said.

"I want them to let him go peacefully and humanely with his family around him, so we can have our closure and so Mark's not dying on his own."

Do you get this? Mark Leigep's family wants him dead. And it's perfectly legal for them to remove his feeding tube and watch him die. But that's not good enough for his mother--oh, no. She demands the right to have him put down, like an animal, with a lethal dose of morphine (administered by a health care worker, no doubt; the idea that any health care worker would object to a little light murder here and there is so old-fashioned in our post-abortive world, isn't it?).

Even the headline on the article is a lie--"Mother wants son to be allowed to die." No, not really. She wants him killed. Call it a really, really, really late-term abortion, if you like; she's demanding the right to choose whether he lives or dies, and not only that, but what sort of death will make her more comfortable (quick shot of morphine, instead of an agony of pain and terror like Terri's fourteen day Passion).

Here in America, Washington and Oregon currently allow assisted suicide; Montana allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs for their suicidal patients to self-administer. We're still standing at the precipice of this particular slippery slope, though cases like Terri Schiavo's remind us how easy it is for unscrupulous, self-interested relatives to demand the right to starve and dehydrate their "loved ones" to death. How long before we begin to move forward, to that place where anybody can be put to death by their relatives, regardless of their expressed wishes ahead of time? And how long before the "right to die" becomes the duty to die, to quit being a drain on a future national health care system, to let some nurse or physician's assistant inject you with a lethal cocktail so your impatient family members can get that outdated and primitive ritual called the funeral over with and get back to their selfish and miserable little lives?

I wonder if Mark Leigep, in some corner of his mind that is somehow still cognizant (as some comatose patients have later reported) or some arena of his immortal soul that knows just what's going on, ever asks himself these kinds of questions.

Tactics; or, Those Crazy Pro-Life Fanatics

Years ago, I had the chance to take a class on human life issues with Rita Marker; the class covered abortion and euthanasia as well as the death penalty, unjust war, and other themes relating to Catholic teaching on issues pertaining to the sanctity of human life.

One thing that struck me at the time was Mrs. Marker's insistence that we act carefully when presenting ourselves as "spokespeople" on these issues, even if we were just being interviewed by a local newspaper or TV channel. The media, she said at the time, loves to stereotype pro-lifers. They look for the most elderly woman carrying the biggest, most garish rosary beads, or for the person who is a walking pro-life billboard covered in signs and messages not all of which are as coherent as they should be. If they approach college students, they're looking for people who are camera-shy and inarticulate, but who will agree to be interviewed on the mistaken notion that it's better to speak out badly than remain silent eloquently. They will almost never seek out calm, quiet people who are capable of saying a few words about abortion without shouting or becoming angry; they avoid the well-dressed, the professional, the poised young man or woman, or anybody else who doesn't fit the media's template that all pro-life Americans are really wild-eyed crazed fanatics, only a stick of dynamite short of blowing up an abortion clinic.

More than twenty years have passed since I took that class, but the media's approach to the pro-life movement hasn't changed. Sadly, neither has the pro-life movement, which seems to have a never-ending supply of people who designate themselves as spokesmen for the movement without taking the least amount of pains not to fall into the media's stereotype trap. Though their sincerity, their love for the unborn, their zeal for life, and their passionate devotion to the truth are above question, their tactics are not. And while some of those tactics may be effective and provide the kind of silent witness to the sanctity of life that can help change hearts and minds, others are not helpful; still others may work well in one-on-one or small group settings, but have a tendency to backfire when engaged in amidst a hostile crowd.

The three tactics that I think need to be examined seriously by anyone engaging in pro-life activism are the following: civil disobedience, theatrics, and use of graphic photos and images of aborted children. I recognize that there will be disagreement on these specific tactics, and on the advisability of their use in different circumstances, but I'd like those who discuss this in the comment box to remember that we're on the same side here, and that if we disagree about how to defend life, we still agree that life must be defended.

The first tactic, civil disobedience, has a venerable pedigree. No one can forget the civil rights movement and the courage of those willing to be arrested to demonstrate the unequal and unjust treatment of African-Americans in this country; the sight of protesters being arrested for trespassing or for other acts of civil disobedience today evokes those images of courage of the relatively recent past. And civil disobedience usually is quite civil; that is, protesters planning to be arrested in the defense of unborn life usually intend to go along quietly when asked to do so.

The sight of Fr. Weslin being arrested on a Catholic college for speaking up for the sanctity of human life is a powerful image. The young people who were arrested trying to bring a cup of water to the dying Terri Schiavo also said more than many who wrote and spoke eloquently for weeks before. These images tend to linger in our minds, provoking reflection and even prayer. Most of the time, then, I'm inclined to think that those protesting in this way are doing good.

Unfortunately the first tactic is often combined with or associated with the second, that of theatrics. I should say right out that I don't think theatrics are generally an effective means of protest, whatever the cause, or whatever the specifics. When the issue is one of as great seriousness as abortion, theatrics tend to dilute and pollute the message, not spread it or create sympathy for it. And the media loves this stuff--they love to talk about people at pro-life marches or events carrying a blood-dripped cross or waving homemade signs with lengthy, conspiracy-oriented slogans; they loved, in the Notre Dame coverage, to talk about the protesters who showed up on campus with "bloody" red-painted baby dolls in strollers.

Theatrics are juvenile. They reduce the protest to a kind of street performance, and seek to draw attention by being shocking, vulgar, crude, or loud. And since our enemies in the press would like nothing better than to tell America the lie that this is what pro-life activism means, theatrics just play into the media's hand; those engaging in theatrics will get all the attention they crave, but none of it will do the cause any good.

The third tactic is always a subject of controversy--do we show pictures of aborted fetuses in our discussions of abortion, or don't we? I think we do--sometimes. I like that Priests for Life's website has such pictures, and that they clearly label them "graphic" before you click on a link to see them; no one is going to stumble across these photos without knowing what they're about to see. I also know that sidewalk counselors have found these pictures helpful, along with pictures of living babies in the womb--but again, these images are used when a woman considering abortion has asked to see them, and is prepared to face the reality of what she is thinking of doing. Another time we might use these images is in real-life or online discussions with people about abortion--but we should preface this by saying "I have (or can link to) a picture of a first-trimester abortion, if you'd like to see that the baby really does have hands or feet etc. at that age," giving our conversational partner the opportunity to say, "No, thanks," if they're unprepared to see a graphic picture.

Thanks to the tremendous leaps in 3D and 4D ultrasounds, though, it's not always necessary to show a graphic image of a child's death by abortion in order to make our points about the humanity of the unborn baby. And it seems to me that any time our pictures will be seen by crowds of people, our preferred option should be to show these sorts of images, not the ones of abortion itself. Is this a shrinking from the truth, or an abandonment of our tiny brothers and sisters so cruelly murdered in their mother's wombs? No; I think it's an act of prudence, given that anyone from very small children to grieving post-abortive women might be present in the crowd, and instead of standing in solidarity with all our fellow pro-life Americans, we might be adding to the pain some of them live with every day.

This does not mean that these images ought never to be used, of course, but again, in a protest we hope will be covered by the media, "graphic pictures of abortion" comes right behind "baby dolls covered in fake blood" in their list of things that many Americans won't understand and will therefore reject about the pro-life movement.

Granted, all of the above are my opinions; I'm sure that others may disagree. But we've been at this fight for a long time, and it seems sad to me that the same tactics which Rita Marker warned our class about a couple of decades ago are still creating all the noise and thunder on the pro-life side--and still being held up for derision and ridicule by the press, which continues to convince ordinary Americans that they are nothing like those crazy pro-life fanatics.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wormtongues on the Left

I do plan on eventually writing about things other than Obama's regrettable appearance at the erstwhile Catholic University called Notre Dame, but I did want to spend a brief amount of time having a closer look at Obama's speech. It's amazing how well the man knows what many orthodox Catholics call the "AmChurch," or the Church of the Americanist Heresy, which has been struggling to take over the Catholic Church in America for about forty years, give or take.

There's no point in doing a full fisk of the speech--it isn't substantive enough for that, and so much of it was composed of old, retreaded ideas that were flat enough to begin with; one might as well try to fisk a Marty Haugen song (which, come to think of it, would probably be vastly more entertaining than fisking this Notre Dame speech of Obama's). But I'd like to have a look at a few of the lines used by our Abortionist-in-Chief on this far less than auspicious occasion, and to translate them from Obamish (and AmChurchish) into plain English:
Thank you so much to Father Jenkins for that extraordinary introduction, even though you said what I want to say much more elegantly. You are doing an extraordinary job as president of this extraordinary institution. Your continued and courageous — and contagious — commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all. [...]
Extraordinary, extraordinary, extraordinary. One gets the feeling that Obama has about as much idea of what this word means as some AmChurch leaders do (e.g., "extraordinary" ministers of Holy Communion). A translation of this passage is simple: "Thank you, Fr. Jenkins, for letting me use Notre Dame for my own purposes, and for pretending that this is about dialogue." Of course, I'm also compelled to note that in the AmChurch, "dialogue" means, "You orthodox types listen to us tell you how it's gonna be around here from now on, and if we tell you there's going to be liturgical dance, women giving homilies, and "priestless parishes," your only permissible response is "Sir! Yes, sir!""
You, however, are not getting off that easy. You have a different deal. Your class has come of age at a moment of great consequence for our nation and for the world — a rare inflection point in history where the size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age. It's a privilege and a responsibility afforded to few generations — and a task that you're now called to fulfill. [...]
Anybody else hearing "Aquarius" in their heads? Oh, yes, we're special, all of history has been waiting for us to come along and fix things in the Church that we never knew were broken, things like hierarchy and patriarchy and a lot of other malarkey. And how exactly do we "align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age..."? Should the test of the age be how well it aligns to our centuries-old values and commitments? But this is the same AmChurch rhetoric that's always claiming that you have to make liturgy "new" or "fresh" or "relevant" once every five to ten years, apparently, leading many to wonder what was wrong with liturgies that lasted a few centuries at a time.
The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved. [...]
And you know what? I bet they all have their own stories and journeys. I bet they've all pondered the works of the spirit--whatever spirit, we're for equal opportunity spirits--as best they can. I bet they're all willing to walk the labyrinth together, too. But you know what else? Some of them are wrong. Shocking as this may be to Obama and AmChurch members alike, not all life-journeys and experiences and dreams are valid. Some are even--dare I say it?--evil. The gay activist wants what is evil, and calls it good. The parents who want other people's children to die so that their child can live want what is evil, and call it good. Some soldiers want, and do, good, and some do evil; some lawyers want, and do, evil, and some--yes, it's true; there is probably at least one good lawyer in America somewhere.

But Obama (and much of AmChurch) is all about validation, which is a concept that means that everybody should be applauded for wanting anything at all, regardless of the goodness or evil of their wants, desires--choices. Yes, choice can be evil, though some liberal brains might explode at the very concept.

After I read the doctor's letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn't change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my Web site. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me. Because when we do that — when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions." [...]

In other words, Obama, like AmChurch, learned that the best way to disarm and disable opponents was to pretend to respect them. "I can see you feel strongly about this," "You know, I appreciate what you're saying, but nobody else has complained," "You clearly love the Lord, but maybe you haven't realized that Sr. Pantsuit loves Him too, and that's why she wants to preach at Mass." Etc. ad nauseum.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It's a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. A lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where "differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love." And I want to join him and Father John in saying how inspired I am by the maturity and responsibility with which this class has approached the debate surrounding today's ceremony. You are an example of what Notre Dame is about.

Years ago, my mother was told by an AmChurch type that her problem was that she still thought of things like good and evil in "black and white," terms; the Church, this person informed my mom, had moved past that, to "shades of gray." Obama is referring to that, when he talks about "Notre Dame tradition," the incorrigible and unconscionable idea that evil should be treated with an open mind or an open heart or fair words. And not just any evil--the evil of murder, the murder of the innocent unborn.

And at the time, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the Archbishop of Chicago. For those of you too young to have known him or known of him, he was a kind and good and wise man. A saintly man. I can still remember him speaking at one of the first organizing meetings I attended on the South Side. He stood as both a lighthouse and a crossroads — unafraid to speak his mind on moral issues ranging from poverty and AIDS and abortion to the death penalty and nuclear war. And yet, he was congenial and gentle in his persuasion, always trying to bring people together, always trying to find common ground. Just before he died, a reporter asked Cardinal Bernardin about this approach to his ministry. And he said, "You can't really get on with preaching the Gospel until you've touched hearts and minds."
Read this article to examine Cardinal Bernardin's support of United Power and the IAF--and these organizations' support of abortion. Beware of libs speaking of "common ground;" what this term means is, "If you get out of our way, we'll probably avoid hurting you later. Unless hurting you gives us some kind of advantage."

And in this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you've been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. In other words, stand as a lighthouse.

But remember, too, that you can be a crossroads. Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It's the belief in things not seen. It's beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own. [...]

I've left the whole "lighthouse/crossroads" meme alone up to now, but let's state the blindingly obvious: lighthouses are supposed to stand on a promentory of some sort, overlooking the ocean, sending their signals of light and life to those adrift, nearly lost, in danger of sinking. A lighthouse erected in a crossroads would not only serve no useful purpose whatsoever, it would be dashed inconvenient--it would be most regrettably in the way. A crossroads need a lighthouse about as much as a teleprompter needs a spotlight. Of course, it is directed at the sort of people who use phrases like "small faith community" (where do people with larger faith go?) or "Office of Peace and Justice," (no, I'm sorry; I wanted the Office of Violence and Oppression).
For if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. It's no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism. It is, of course, the Golden Rule — the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. The call to serve. To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.
If he'd thrown in something about "living stones" or "environment and art," this could have been lifted straight from a bishops' committee document, circa 1980-2000. The problem with these sorts of statements is that they fall apart when we examine them closely in the light of the issue at hand: how is abortion "treat(ing) one another as we wish to be treated"? It isn't, of course; nobody wants to be dismembered, burned to death, or left alone to die in the soiled linen room of a hospital. The only way Obama can apply the Golden Rule to abortion is to declare preemptively that tiny humans in utero are not "others," but property--and then, trampling derisively over all considerations about "common ground" or "lighthouses" or "open hearts," to make laws and allocate funds that make it easier and easier to dispose of that human property.

It's not all that surprising that Father Jenkins would invite Obama to speak at Notre Dame; they speak very much the same sort of language. If anything, the surprise factor has been that so many Catholics are ready, willing, and able to cut through the liberal/AmChurch rhetoric and stand up for the truth--which has been both surprising and vastly encouraging. The Wormtongues on the left may have beguiled a generation of Catholics into thinking that a little clever dissemulation was all that was needed to capture the Holy Grail of policial power and relevance, but the new generation of Catholics--and even a handful at Notre Dame, a school at the center of this sort of obfuscation of the truth--will have none of it, and are beginning to find their voices and to make that perfectly clear.