Devotion

The president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country.

“Dad, will you protect us from all those nasty guns?”

“Sure, Johnny, we will have all the guns.”

“Dad, will you pay for our contraception?”

“Sure, Johnny, enjoy yourself.”

“Dad, will you let me marry Steve?”

“Of course, Jonny, as long as it makes you happy.”

“Dad, will you kill those bad men?”

“Jonny, you have no idea what they got coming,” thinking, “nor does anybody else.”

“Dad, you’re so smart!”

“You’re a good boy, Johnny.”

The Regime Has Spoken: President is Mob Boss

When the New York Times back in April, 2010 first confirmed the existence of Obama’s hit list, it made clear just what an extremist power this is, noting: “It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.” The NYT quoted a Bush intelligence official as saying “he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president”. When the existence of Obama’s hit list was first reported several months earlier by the Washington Post’s Dana Priest, she wrote that the “list includes three Americans”.

What has made these actions all the more radical is the absolute secrecy with which Obama has draped all of this. Not only is the entire process carried out solely within the Executive branch - with no checks or oversight of any kind – but there is zero transparency and zero accountability. The president’s underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president – at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as “Terror Tuesday” – then chooses from “baseball cards” and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.

—Glen Greenwald, The Guardian

Just imagine if this was George W. Bush.  Remember Abu Ghraib?  The CIA torture policies? The Patriot Act?  The suspension of habeas corpus?

Now Dear Leader authorizes himself to send out hit men without oversight or accountability and the American press yawns: “ho, hum.”

Any wonder Americans don’t want the government taking their guns?

The Regime Has Spoken: Gays in the Boy Scouts

“My attitude is … that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life,” he said.

“The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred (from) that.”

Uh, nobody is barred from it, unless they insist that the Boys Scouts condone something contrary to their purpose and oath.

Consider, for example, the widespread problem of pornography.  One could speculate that there are a number of Scout Masters and Boy Scouts who have a problem with it.  But no one would ever be barred from the Boy Scouts for that problem, unless they made their problem the Boy Scout’s problem.  The policy of the Boy Scouts expresses a moral objection to the public legitimization of homosexual behavior.

This is not a political issue about which Dear Leader has anything more to say than I do.

Contracepting Religious Freedom

Thank God the bishops are using their clout against the attempt of the Obama administration to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception. Although I do not agree with Paul Moses entirely, I believe he has a point in suggesting that the effort could backfire.  But that is a risk we have to take.

Unfortunately, politics today is largely part of our sound bite culture.  So many people are more interested in the outcome of the Twitter war than they are about having an in-depth and clear understanding of the problem at hand.  Political persuasion is to a great extent about perception. Winning a debate  seems more important than dealing with the fundamental issues. Clarifying first principles often clouds the particular agenda and appeals more to the intellect than it does to the emotions. Emotional arguments work better.

Partisanship is also an issue.  I am all for distinctions and hard ones when they reflect reality, but Republican vs. Democrat generally does not reflect the complex reality of peoples real interests and positions.  Certainly, neither political party represents the fundamental interests of the Catholic Church.

Yet the current problem does reflect a reality that could be conveyed easily on Twitter.  It is President Obama against the Church.  The interests of the bishops relative to this issue are not political.  They are not even confessional.  It is the age old problem of the Church maintaining its liberty from incursions into relgious matters by civil authorities.  And the issue even simpler than the current debate frames it.  The real question is not whether religious institutions should be exempted from paying for something considered immoral by their confession.  The real question is why anyone at all is being forced by the government to act contrary to fundamental religious convictions rooted in natural law and in legal history of our country.

During the last presidential campaign Doug Kmiec successfully convinced many Catholics that Barack Obama was the most pro-life candidate in the race.  Many of us were astounded.  Recently, Kmiec wrote to the president in respect to the present debacle.  He said:

In deciding against a reasonable accommodation of Catholic concerns in the implementation of the health care program, you lost sight of your own beliefs.  For this reason, your words this morning touched neither soul nor heart in the room. . . .

Today, Sir, I ask you no longer as an Ambassador, but simply as a friend, why put the cold calculus of politics above faith and freedom?  Please respond, for friendship will not permit me to disregard duty to faith and country.  The Barack Obama I knew would never have asked me to make that choice.

I still think Kmiec is very naive–at best.

Politicians, journalists, pundits and bloggers will now “soundbite” and “twitter” us with irrelevancies about women dying from a lack of birth control because Catholics don’t want to pay for it and about how the bishop’s are too conservative and partisan.  Unfortunately, many will buy it, which is very ironic, since the official voter’s guide of the USCCB is hardly a conservative or partisan representation.

Another irony is Paul Moses’ suggestion that the bishops employ the methods of Saul Alinsky.  This, he says, could build consensus.  Moses counsels the bishops to garner enthusiastic support by community organizing.  Grassroots support, of course, if helpful.  However, the quintessentially alinskian element here is the way in which grassroots support is generated by the ulterior motives of radicals in order to implement a preconceived and elitist agenda.  Moses rightly points out that Obama knows all about this.  But this is not the mission of the bishops. The Church is a voluntary society.  No one has to belong to it, but those who do have an inalienable right to follow its precepts without the interference of the state.   This is not about political maneuvering.  It is about keeping the claws of the government out of religious matters.

Politics is tricky.  We cannot do without consensus because politics is a matter of persuasion.  However, I can hardly think of a situation that is more simple than the present one.  The Church must not sacrifice her independence and the general principle of religious liberty for the sake of some vague measure of political coexistence and popular support. There is hardly any way to prevent those who support Obama’s agenda from casting the bishops’ position as a partisan one.  Caesar must not be conceded an inch of God’s territory even if there are political costs.

St. Francis, the Sultan and Pope Benedict

The following excerpt is from yesterday’s Wednesday audience of the Holy Father in which he offered a reflection on the life of St. Francis.  This particular passage concerns St. Francis’ meeting with the sultan in Egypt in 1219, (my unofficial translation from the Italian):

Also the successor of Innocent III, Pope Honorius III, with the bull Cum dilecti of 1218 supported the singular development of the first Friars Minor, who went opening missions in various countries of Europe, and in Morocco. In 1219 Francis obtained permission to go and speak, in Egypt, with the Muslim sultan Melek-el-Kâmel, in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus there also.  I wish to underscore that this episode of the life of Saint Francis that has great relevance.  In an age marked by an ongoing conflict between Christianity and Islam, Francis, armed only with the faith and his personal gentleness, effectively followed the path of dialogue. The reports speak about a benevolent acceptance and cordial reception to us from the Muslim sultan.  It is a model that even today must inspire relations between Christian and Muslims: promote dialogue in truth, in reciprocal respect and mutual understanding.  (cfr Nostra Aetate, 3).

Continue reading

St. Francis, the Sultan and the President

I wrote the following essay some weeks ago, but never found time to edit and post it.  Since today is the feast of the Protomartyrs of the Franciscan Order, St. Berard and Companions, I thought it would be an auspicious time to bring this to light.

While I realize the historical figure of St. Francis lends itself to romanticizing and mythologizing because of the singularly extraordinary nature of his person, as a Franciscan it irritates me to see his life used as a political tool.  Paul Moses on the CNN Opinion website, does precisely this as he attempts to have St. Francis sucked into vortex of Obama-mania.  In addition to being the author of the CNN article entitled “Is Religion about War—or Peace?” Mr. Moses is the author of a new book called The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace. Mr. Moses is at pains to state that he does not “mean to liken Obama to Francis,” but, goes on to do precisely that and, in the process of expressing his admiration for Mr. Obama, he historically misrepresents the Seraphic Saint. Continue reading

Still On Planet

No, I have not been kidnapped by aliens.  I have been working on the paper I am supposed to deliver in Fatima next week.  I will post the introduction before I leave on Monday Morning.  Meanwhile, here is a tidbit from the King of the United States, regarding his meeting with Pope Benedict;

Denis McDonough, a deputy White House national security aide, said of the pope and Obama, “They discussed a range of those issues, and I think the president was eager to listen to the Holy Father.” He said Obama was “eager to find common ground on these issues and to work aggressively to do that.”

How does the culture of death “aggressively” find common ground the culture of life except by either getting us to use their talking points, or by talking us to death, or by shutting us up?

Tradionalist Modernism?

“What in the world happened to the Traditionalists?!?!,” asks one commenter:

As one might expect, Obama also lost the Traditionalist Catholics, obtaining two-fifths of their votes. Nonetheless, he did better with the Traditionalists than with the Centrist Catholics and markedly better than Kerry’s one-fifth in 2004. This result is a surprise, being the only instance where a group of Traditionalists voted more Democratic than their Centrist coreligionists. This change represents a modest closing of the God Gap among white Catholics (although McCain still did well among regular Mass attenders overall).

Opposition to the Iraq War may account for Obama’s gains among Traditionalist Catholics: In 2004 more than three-quarters supported the war, but a majority opposed it in 2008. The Catholic Church opposed the Iraq War and its leaders, from the pope to parish priests, regularly criticized it. In addition, prominent Catholics joined the debate on related policies, such as the interrogation, surveillance, and detention practices of the Bush administration. It is ­interesting, however, that such policies could influence these voters, given their other issue positions. For example, Traditionalist Catholics were staunchly pro-life on abortion and, like the Centrist Catholics, tended to hold conservative views on economic issues. And as in 2004, they gave lower priority to economic matters than many other religious groups.

If Centrist Catholics were a bright spot for McCain, then Traditionalist Catholics were a major disappointment. This outcome may reflect the often intense competition between progressive and conservative Catholic activists for the votes of the most committed Catholic voters. Overall, white Catholics made up one-sixth of the Obama vote and one-fifth of McCain’s supporters. If white Catholic ballots are added to minority and Unaffiliated voters, the total accounts for almost three-quarters of all Obama’s ­ballots.

No definition in the article is given for “Traditionalist Catholic.”  It is only distinguished from “Modernist Catholic” and “Centrist Catholic.”  Here are the published survey results.  I assume the respondents were just given the three options undefined and were left to define and choose themselves.

In any case, the results are very curious indeed.  Why would Catholic traditionalists compromise on abortion?  One would think that those who are the least secular and the most “supernatural” in their outlook would buck the fear of being a “single issue voter.”  All is not well among the “traditionalists.”

No, traditional forms, as important as they are, are not going to save us.  Let us hope that inspite of our “orthodoxy” and “traditionalism”  we are not whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness (Mat. 23:27).

Several Messages to the “Persecuted” Catholics Who Voted for Obama”

Message 1

If at this stage our anger is directed at President Obama, our anger is misdirected. Obama is not the enemy. He needs and deserves our prayers, not our condemnation.

As Catholics, we are not guiltless. It seems to me that when President Kennedy compromised Catholic teachings and accommodated political pressures in order to be elected to the highest office in the land, he set the tone for many Catholic leaders to follow and to compromise their Catholic principles to get ahead.

In our Supreme Court and in our Congress, we have a plethora of so-called Catholics who are failing to live their Catholic identity. Over 50 percent of our electorate voted for a president who is one of the most pro-culture-of-death candidates from a major party to run for the highest office of the land.

Yes, we can thank one-half of our Catholics for bailing out on their faith!

Message 2

But most damaging, he said, was the document “Faithful Citizenship” that “led to confusion” among the voting Catholic population.

“While it stated that the issue of life was the first and most important issue, it went on in some specific areas to say ‘but there are other issues’ that are of comparable importance without making necessary distinctions.”

Archbishop Burke, citing an article by a priest and ethics expert of St. Louis archdiocese, Msgr. Kevin McMahon, who analysed how the bishops’ document actually contributed to the election of Obama, called its proposal “a kind of false thinking, that says, ‘there’s the evil of taking an innocent and defenceless human life but there are other evils and they’re worthy of equal consideration.’

“But they’re not. The economic situation, or opposition to the war in Iraq, or whatever it may be, those things don’t rise to the same level as something that is always and everywhere evil, namely the killing of innocent and defenceless human life.”

Archbishop Burke also cited the work of the official news service of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference, that many pro-life observers complained soft-pedalled the newly elected president’s opposition to traditional morality.

“The bishops need to look also at our Catholic News Service, CNS, they need to review their coverage of the whole thing and give some new direction, in my judgement,” he said.

P.S.

Message 3

Perhaps now you can understand a bit better why pro-life Catholics (Catholics who actually vote pro-life) are so upset.  Actually, you  aren’t being persecuted.  These good pastors have the eternal welfare of all their sheep at heart.