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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

There isn't anything I could say tonight ...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"He ventured forth to bring light to the world ..."

He ventured forth to bring light to the world -- The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers", says Gerard Baker (Times of London July 25, 2008):
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?” ... Read More

Gerard Baker's column is now televised in its entirety, courtesy of FoxNews.

Of course, See for a chronological history of the Obama-Messiah phenomenon.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Some Political Reading . . .

Just to alert my reader that if I'm not posting here, there's a good chance that I'm posting to our collective blog: Catholics in the Public Square, featuring contributions from Jay Anderson (Pro Ecclesia), Oswald Sobrino (Catholic Analysis), Jeff Miller (Curt Jester) and David Schrader (Catholics for Bush) -- together with my own meager contributions:

One of my daily haunts is Vox Nova: Catholic Perspectives on Culture, Society and Politics -- a blogging collective of "diverse social outlooks, traversing a wide range of demographics and political sympathies," striving to be "free, to the furthest extent possible, from partisanship, nationalism and demagoguery, all of which banish intellectual honesty from rational discourse."

Whether or not they actually succeed in this endeavor is of course part of the appeal, along with thought-provoking (and sometimes infuriating) discussions in the combox.

I also check in occasionally with:

  •'s "Inside Politics" has a daily offering from diverse Catholic perspectives. Their page "Catholic Advocate" keeps track of Catholic elected officials: "Are they voting in line with their faith, or exploiting their Catholicism for political advantage?" Let the legislation do the talking.
  • "Political News and Community"
  • Worldwide Standard, blog of the Weekly Standard
  • The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today", edited by James Taranto provides a good snapshot of daily political chatter. Usually updated every evening.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

USCCB - Played by House Democrats?

The U.S. bishops have agreed to meet with a group of Catholic House Democrats to discuss how to pursue the goal of a "responsible transition" to end the war in Iraq. (Catholic News Service July 19, 2007):
"The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable," wrote Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Policy, in a July 17 letter to Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. A copy of the letter was released July 18 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Wenski's letter was a response to a June 28 letter Ryan wrote to Bishop Wenski and Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president. Ryan's letter, sent on behalf of himself and 13 other Catholic House Democrats, urged the bishops to increase their involvement in efforts to end the war in Iraq.

Funny thing: among these 14 Catholic Democrats -- Tim Ryan (OH), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Jose Serrano (NY), Jim Moran (VA), Joe Baca (Ca), Hilda Solis (CA) -- are those who publicly joined together in May 2007 to criticize Pope Benedict's statement that pro-abortion politicians should not receive Communion.

Diogenes (Off the Record) comments on "our shared moral tradition":

A practical politician might have told these 14 Democrats that if they don't want to hear from the Catholic Church about abortion, they shouldn't look to hear from the Church about the war in Iraq. A concerned pastor might have told them that if they disregard the Church's teaching on a clear issue of moral teaching, they should not be so hypocritical as to invoke Church teaching on an issue that is not nearly so clear-- an issue on which loyal Catholics can and do differ. But the USCCB leaders didn't choose those options. Instead the USCCB implicitly accepted the lawmakers' claim that they are the moral champions of Catholic teaching.
while Jay Anderson (Pro Ecclesia) is "awaiting 2 unlikely things to occur":
  • For howls of outrage from the usual (liberal) suspects regarding the Church involving itself in the political process, and regarding one of the major political parties trying to "co-opt" the Church for its own ends; and
  • For the Bishops to similarly meet with pro-life Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration to strategize on anti-abortion policy.
Lastly, Deal Hudson muses "how the USCCB could avoid being a political pawn in the hands of the House Democrats.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Fred Thompson to Run for President?

Run Fred Run! - Prof. Stephen Bainbridge offers a few reasons why he hopes to see former Senator-turned-actor Fred Thompson run for President on the GOP ticket -- among them:
Unlike say Hillary or Romney, he hasn't been planning to run for President ever since s/he got elected President of the 9th Grade class and the senior football players ran his/her underwear up the flagpole, as illustrated by his famous comment that "After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood."
Here's a few more points in Thompson's favor:

He authored a piece for the National Review (March 15, 2007) titled: Gandhi's Way Isn't the American Way.

He took on Michael Moore.

And some facts are circulating concerning Fred Thompson's other, er, abilities (Source: Better Off Fred Jonah Goldberg (National Review June 1, 2007) and Frank Facts About Fred Thompson" IMAO:

  • Fred Thompson has on multiple occasions pronounced "nuclear" correctly.
  • Every night before going to sleep, Osama bin Laden checks under his bed for Fred Thompson.
  • Fred Thompson took over what was Al Gore's Senate seat, thereby dramatically reducing the Senate's carbon footprint. Fred Thompson then created carbon offset offsets by wastefully burning hippies.
  • Fred Thompson once ended a filibuster by ripping out a Senator's heart and showing it to him before he died.
  • Fred Thompson vows not only to win in Iraq but also to forcefully free Vietnam from Communism, thus giving America a perfect win/loss record for wars again.
  • Fred Thompson once stood on our south border and glared at Mexico. There was no illegal immigration for a month.
Honest truth, this guy's a winner.

On a more serious note, The Roman Catholic Blog is discussing the matter of Fred Thompson & Abortion (he seems to have a solid pro-life legislative record and merited the disapproval of NARAL).

I loathe Giuliani and believe he is a disaster for the GOP; if you've been reading Catholics in the Public Square, you'll know I support and appreciate Senator Brownback, but I have to wonder if Brownback has what it takes to garner popular support and come out ahead? -- Still pretty early.

I'd so love to see Thompson go head to head against Hillary.

Update: For all things Fred, try the Fredipedia.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Israel-Vatican Relations & The Fundamental Agreement

On December 30, 1993, the Fundamental Agreement was signed by Msgr. Claudio Celli, Vatican assistant secretary of state and Israel's deputy minister of foreign affairs, Yossi Beilin, paving the way to full diplomatic relations between the two parties in 1994:
The Fundamental Agreement extends the theological advances of Nostra Aetate into the political realm, creating for the first time formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel. The Agreement signifies a historic step in the evolution of the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude toward Judaism and the Jewish People.

The Fundamental Agreement addresses three spheres of relations: 1) political relations between Israel and the Holy See; 2) relations between the Jewish People and the Catholic Church; and 3) relations between the State of Israel and the Roman Catholic Church.

[Source: Milestones in Israel-Holy See Relations 1993-2005: Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate Consulate General of Israel in New York].

In 1997 the "Legal Personality" Agreement between the State of Israel and the Holy See was signed:

[regularizing] the status and legal personality of the Roman Catholic Church and its institutions under Israeli law, after approximately 500 years of undefined legal status under Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and Israeli sovereignty.

This agreement marks the first de jure recognition of the Roman Catholic Church by any government in the Holy Land. It bestows upon the Roman Catholic Church the autonomy to run its internal affairs, subject to Israeli law in interaction with other bodies. The Legal Personality Agreement constitutes a continuation of the Fundamental Agreement of 1993.

In an exclusive article, The ten years of the Fundamental Agreement 30 Giorni ["30 Days"] No. 12, 2003, Israeli statesman Yossi Beilin describes the "behind the scenes" discussions which led to the signing:

These were open talks, launched at the Vatican’s initiative in the summer of 1991, even before the Madrid Conference. It was Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the apostolic delegate in Jerusalem, who announced the Vatican’s intention to initiate negotiations on an agreement with Israel, and he did so in consultation with Dr. David Jaegar, an Israeli Jew who had become a Franciscan priest, with boasted special knowledge in Canon Law.

The initial probes between Israel and the Vatican revealed the main dispute between them: Israel wanted to reach, first of all, an agreement on diplomatic relations between the two states, and only subsequently to discuss questions such as the freedom of religion, Church taxation, education, etc. The Vatican wanted to deal with all the practical matters, and to remove – at least at the first stage – the matter of the diplomatic relations from the agenda. . . .

Each party came to the table with its own priorities -- for Israel, the objective was (understandably) "the common war on anti-Semitism and unequivocal recognition of the State of Israel." For the Church, the concern lay with the rights of Catholics residing in the State of Israel:

. . . the guarantee of freedom of worship for Catholics, the legal status of priests, and the special approach of Pope John Paul II, who, as early as 1981, had sent to the President of the State of Israel a blessing for the New Year, and in 1986, had visited the synagogue in Rome – symbolic acts which stressed – alongside a long list of other acts – his special deep respect for Israel and its people.
John Paul II's greetings to Israel in celebration of their new year appears to have sprung from a collaboration with his lifelong friend Jerzy Kluger, who played a subtle yet instrumental role (at the Pope's request) in facilitating communication between Israel and the Vatican (How a Pope's Boyhood Friend Helped Forge Ties to Israel):
When the Archbishop was named Pope in 1978, he stunned the world by granting his first papal audience, or formal reception, to Mr. Kluger and his family.

Three years later, the Pope was wounded in an assassination attempt. On Mr. Kluger's third visit to the Pope in the hospital, the Pope suggested that with the Camp David accords pointing the way for peace in the Middle East, it was time for the Vatican to consider opening diplomatic channels to Israel.

"Are you willing to help?" Mr. Kluger says the Pope asked him. "We must proceed cautiously, officially and unofficially."

Mr. Kluger played the role of broker and host, inviting Israeli and Vatican representatives to dine at his tennis club in Rome and playing bridge with key Cardinals. The steps were often small and symbolic. Once he relayed an Israeli diplomat's suggestion that the Pope send a telegram with Jewish New Year greetings to the President of Israel. The Pope sent the telegram.

In 1994, at the ceremony welcoming the first Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. Kluger stood for photographs next to the Pope, sandwiched between Israeli and Vatican dignitaries.

"I was a friend," Mr. Kluger said. "And we had friendly conversations, and friendly relationships which one way or another helped these developments. That's all."

(Pope John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger's friendship was made the subject of Darcy O'Brien's The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship (Roedale Books, 1998).

Related Commentary on The Fundamental Agreement

  • In Israel-Vatican Relations Since the Signing of the Fundamental Agreement, Rabbi David Rosen discusses some of the conceptual conceptual hurdles that were tackled in the process of formalizing the Fundamental Agreement and Israeli-Catholic relations since its signing in 1993. [Microsoft Word - printable format]:
    . . . as the Preamble of the Agreement indicates, the accord took place within the wider context of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation on which it undoubtedly had a profoundly positive impact in turn. Indeed, for many Jews especially in Israel, the diplomatic normalization served as testimony and proof of the genuineness of the transformation in theological attitudes and teaching that had taken place over the previous thirty years. The third relationship addressed by the majority of the articles in the Fundamental Agreement, concerns the relationship between the Catholic Church in Israel and the State.

    While Israel's goal was essentially the first of these3, the Holy See's primary interest concerned the third. Indeed this difference reflects the divergent perceptions of the principle purpose of the bilateral relations.

    Rosen's article was published in the anthology The Vatican-Israel Accords: Political, Legal, and Theological Contexts, edited by Marshall J. Breger. University of Notre Dame Press (February 2004).

  • Israel's Relations with the Vatican by Aharon Lopez (former Israeli ambassador to Vatican). No. 401 13 Adar 5759 / 1 March 1999. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:
    The establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See is not to be considered as a point of arrival, but rather as a starting point. We are climbing up a mountain together and, from time to time, we reach important and substantial milestones towards the mountain's peak.

    In closing, let me share with you a very significant event which I cherish close to my heart. At the beginning of my mission as Ambassador to the Holy See, I received a fax from an Israeli Christian Arab who requested my help in asking the Pope to baptize his son. He and his wife were especially keen in seeing their wish fulfilled because, sadly, they had experienced the tragic loss of their first son.

    Knowing that there are "only" 989 million Catholics all over the world, I feared we might have some difficulties in fulfilling such a request. Nevertheless, I contacted the proper authorities in the Vatican and emphasized that during the presentation of my credentials I had assured the Pope that I am representing all Israeli citizens--Moslems, Christians, and Jews alike--and therefore it was my duty to submit this request on behalf of a Christian citizen of Israel.

    I was very pleased, a few weeks later, to receive a positive answer. Indeed, the Pope agreed to conduct the ceremony in his private chapel. I will never forget the smile on the face of the boy's parents after their dream came true.

The Vatican-Israel Accords: Political, Legal, and Theological Contexts, edited by Marshall J. Breger. University of Notre Dame Press (February 2004). [Contents].

Published during the tenth anniversary year of The Fundamental Agreement, The Vatican-Israel Accords brings together essays that analyze the legal, historical, theological, and political meaning of the Accords.

The compelling essays in this collection explore not only the document and events surrounding its signing, but also the past, present, and future of Catholic-Jewish relations. Contributors, who include scholars from Israel, Italy, France, Spain, and the United States, contend that the history and structure of the Accords offer lessons that may be instructive for others involved in seeking peaceful resolutions to conflict, particularly those who work for peace between Palestine and Israel.

Contributors: Marshall J. Breger, Laurenzo Cremonesi, Msgr. Richard Mathes, David-Maria A. Jaeger, O.F.M., Leonard Hammer, Silvio Ferrari, Rafael Palomino, Msgr. Roland Minnerath, Rabbi David Rosen, Moshe Hirsch, Geoffrey Watson, Giorgio Filibeck, Ruth Lapidoth, Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., and Rabbi Jack Bemporad.

MARSHALL J. BREGER is professor of law at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America.

Reviews "The Vatican-Israel Accords promises to make a tremendous contribution to understanding a tangled relationship. It is a unique, and uniquely valuable, volume." --George Weigel, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C.

Israeli-Catholic relations since the 1993 signing have not always gone smoothly. Sandro Magister reported on two impediments to Israeli-Vatican relations and the subsequent implementation of the Vatican-Israel accords (with regards to financial issues and the status of Church property) in 2005:

The first skirmish came on July 12. That day, John Paul II was commemorated in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. And on that occasion, apostolic nuncio Pietro Sambi delivered a speech that was reprinted in its entirety by "L'Osservatore Romano" six days later.

In the speech, Sambi complained about Israel's failure to take practical measures to implement the accords with the Holy See reached in 1993 and 1994:

"The Fundamental Agreement, which was ratified by the state of Israel on February 20, 1994, and is recognized internationally, has not yet been incorporated into Israeli law by the Knesset. The same must be said of the Legal Personality Agreement ratified by Israel on December 16, 1998, and recognized internationally on February 3, 1999. The so-called 'Economic Agreement', prescribed by article 10 of the Fundamental Agreement, has not yet been concluded."

A meeting between the two parties to discuss the application of these agreements had been planned for July 26. But the meeting never took place, to the great disappointment of the Holy See and the Catholic community in the Holy Land.

On the day the ceremony was taking place in the Knesset, on July 12, Islamic terrorists carried out a serious attack in Netanya.

But at the Sunday Angelus on July 24, Benedict XVI did not mention Israel as being among the countries recently struck by terrorist attacks: Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Great Britain.

Exploiting this omission, the next day the Israeli foreign minister summoned the Vatican nuncio, Pietro Sambi, to communicate a note of protest [...]

For further analysis on Pope Benedict's 2005 omission of Israel from a list of recent victims of terrorism, I refer to John Allen Jr.'s "Context crucial in Vatican-Israel uproar" (National Catholic Reporter, August 12, 2005).

After some tit-for-tat jousting between diplomats, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moved to resolve any ill-feelings with the Vatican in a personal letter ("Israel, Vatican mend fences after dispute over pope's terrorism comments", by Arial David. World Wide Religious News August 27, 2005):

In his letter, Sharon said Benedict's efforts to promote dialogue with Jews and Israel made him "a true friend of Israel, genuinely committed to advancing tolerance, understanding and reconciliation," Ben Hur said in a phone interview, reading from the letter. He said Sharon then explained the reasons for his country's reaction to the omission.

"Israel has been devastated and victimized by terrorism, and we are very sensitive to any attempt to distinguish between Islamic terrorism which systematically targets innocent Israeli civilians and that which is aimed at citizens of other countries," Sharon wrote.

Sodano expressed his satisfaction with the letter during Tuesday's meeting, saying both sides had made mistakes and that he was happy to put the issue behind him, Ben Hur said. The letter also invited Sodano to visit Israel.

In August 2006, Magister also featured an interview with Israeli ambassador Oded Ben Hur, in which he commmented further on Israel's perception of Pope Benedict and Israel's expectations of Rome:

In mid-July, just when the war had broken out in Lebanon, [Oded] was deeply troubled by the first statements from the Vatican authorities: “All of them went the same way, against Israel. The true aggressor, Hezbollah, wasn’t even mentioned by name. But after this the judgments became more balanced.”

Q: Did this happen when Benedict XVI began speaking out personally?

A: I would go so far as to say that Benedict XVI looks at Israel from a different point of view, compared to others. He sees the state of Israel not as an error of history, but as the heart of the Jewish world, a heart that by right should beat in Jerusalem. At the same time he is a realistic pope, who understands that the Church’s political influence is limited. He knows that the Church’s strength is not political, but moral. And it is there that he exerts himself most. It’s the pope as the great educator of the world, reawakening consciences, illuminating the darkness of ignorance, and pointing out where evil is triumphing over the good.

Q: The Middle East is one of the places where evil abounds the most.

A: And it may be that today the international community is taking greater notice of this. What happened in Lebanon was not the rupture of a situation of peace. Peace wasn’t there before this war. In that country there was a cancer named Hezbollah, a state within the state, which held the civil population hostage and fought a war while using this population as a shield. Even today, after the ceasefire, Hezbollah says it does not at all consider the war to be over, and is refusing to disarm. And Hamas continues to launch Kassam rockets against Israeli cities. [...]

Q: What is expected from the Church of Rome?

A: A great deal. In Lebanon there is a strong Christian community that can act as a bridge for peace. The pilgrims to the holy places, when they come in great numbers, are also helpful to the local populations. I also have an idea that I have already proposed to the Vatican authorities: that of creating a task force with representatives from the three religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – who would travel throughout the various countries of the Middle East spreading a message of reconciliation, in order to sensitize and mobilize those who sincerely desire peace, and separate them from extremist and violent groups.

In December of 2006 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Pope Benedict XVI (Catholic News Service Dec. 14, 2006) - among the topics of discussion was the "dwindling Catholic population in the Holy Land, including in Bethlehem," and peace in the Middle East:

Ben-Hur said Pope Benedict thanked the prime minister for Israeli's declaration of a cease-fire with Palestinian militias, although Ben-Hur said the prime minister said it is getting more and more difficult "to withhold reactions" to missiles being launched into Israel from Gaza.

Ben-Hur said that when Olmert renewed a government invitation for the pope to visit Israel, the pope said he really wanted to make such a trip, but was looking for "a moment of calm."

"The prime minister told him, 'You can bring the calm,'" the ambassador said.

Talks between Israel and the Vatican resumed in 2007 with the goal of applying the provisions of the Fundamental Agreement's over the holy places, the Church‘s properties, and finances. In Holy See-Israel: painstaking resumption of negotiations ( Bernardo Cervellera, December 12, 2006), Oded Ben Hur gave another interview on the nature of the impediments to negotations.

Related Resources


  • On September 9, 2007, Shimon Peres, in his first foreign visit as president of Israel, met with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo and members of the Vatican curia, to discuss Catholic-Israeli relations and the situation in the Middle East. reports:
    Rome (AsiaNews) – The Israeli President Shimon Peres is “quite optimistic” regarding negotiations between Israel and the Holy See and has declared that “within the years end the most important problems will be resolved”. Answering a question put forward by AsiaNews, during a press conference, he also said that he had invited Benedict XVI to visit Israel. ...

    On the long standing question of the implementation of the Fundamental Agreement, 13 years on from its signing, the Holy See statement urges “a rapid conclusion to the important ongoing negotiations and the beginning of a constant dialogue with Israeli Authorities and local Christian communities, in view of their participation in working for the common good”.

    September 3 last –after a long summer pause – and after years of deadlock, negotiations between the Holy See and Israel recommenced. They aim to lead to an agreement regarding issues of taxation and Church properties, which have been waiting implementation since ’93.

    The Vatican statement makes no reference whatsoever to a possible visit by Benedict XVI to Israel, even if the pope has already expressed a positive opinion in the past. Peres told journalists that he was “moved” by the pope’s reaction to his proposal and defined Benedict XVI as “great spiritual figure”, underlining that “the Spirit” incarnated in the religions can give an important impulse to peace and the elimination of violence, “assassins and killings”.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Archbishop Donald Wuerl - Aiding & Abetting Nancy Pelosi?

LifeSiteNews' carries a disappointing story on the new Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl, who has decided to pursue a path of steadfast faithfulness to . . . . imitating the scandalous complacency of his predecessor Cardinal McCarrick towards "pro-choice Catholic" legislators. LifeSiteNews reports:
Perhaps it was a bad omen when at the installation Mass for the new Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl last June, pro-abortion Democratic Senator John Kerry was given Holy Communion and caught on camera in the act. During the entrance procession, Archbishop Wuerl shook hands with Kerry and Senator Ted Kennedy. (see coverage)

Now, Archbishop Wuerl, who replaced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has said publicly that he would not discipline or direct priests to deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politician Nancy Pelosi who was just made speaker of the House of Representatives.

When California Catholic Daily reporter Allyson Smith inquired during an interview as to whether Wuerl planned to "discipline her at all for being persistent and obstinate about supporting abortion and same-sex marriage," Wuerl responded, "I will not be using the faculty in that, in the manner you have described."

See also Amy Welborn's extensive coverage of the Pelosi / Wuerl scandal, in which she comments:

I think what Archbishop Wuerl and others fail to understand is the impact of things like this on the lay Catholic who is struggling to be a faithful disciple in the world. The message that is sent by silence is strong, in terms of the lay apostolate in the world, in terms of the unity of faith and life.

Nancy Pelosi is not "struggling" with the Church's teaching on abortion, trying to work for the protection of unborn human beings within the constraints of the current U.S. law. As we noted before, she is unapologetically, strongly supportive of abortion-rights and unborn children don't even enter into her radar (publicly, at least) as human beings. . . .

But resting on Archbishop Wuerl's statements alone, which do not indicate that there's anything problematic about Nancy Pelosi's way of living a Catholic life, and which, I admit, simply might be an expression of a reticent style that only answers the questions posed, I'll just say this again.

If this woman, engaged in a public role, very publicly works against the teachings of the Church to which she professes a very public tie isn't publicly challenged by even one of the primary teachers of the Church - the bishops - the rest of us - lay Catholics, living and working in the world, every day facing decisions on how to be faithful disciples of Jesus in the midst of the complexities of our professions, some of us who really suffer because of the things they refuse to do because of their fidelity to Christ - we get a message.

And the message we get is that - it doesn't matter. Do whatever you want.

* * *

Note to Archbishop Wuerl -- here's an excerpt from a noteworthy memo from then-Cardinal Ratzinger to your predecessor ("Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles" L'espresso, June 2004):

. . . Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

Earlier this month, The National Abortion Rights Action League commended self-styled "Catholic grandmother" Nancy Pelosi for championing "pro-choice values" for nearly 20 years -- a pretty consistent -- or obstinant -- record on abortion, wouldn't you agree?

* * *
Observing the complacency of the bishops to discipline Michael Liccione wonders What is our problem?:
People being what they are, there must be a measure of "organization"—buildings, offices, procedures, finances, programs, and the like—if the Church is to do her work. But after a certain point, the instinct for institutional self-preservation outweighs the desire for evangelical credibility.

Beneath all the legalistic mumbo-jumbo about bishops' rights to differing "pastoral styles," this is why learned, doctrinally orthodox bishops such as Wuerl allow Catholics in public life who facilitate abortion, gay marriage, and embryonic-stem-cell research to remain in ostensibly "full communion" with the Church. Beneath the facile and fallacious clichés about "conscience," this is why most bishops would discipline a priest under them who started denying the Eucharist to parishioners aware of, but staunchly unwilling to abide by, the Church's teaching on contraception. Some of those bishops are ones who for too long failed to discipline child molesters and remained in denial about that problem; the reasons for each policy are closely related. Beneath the apparently flexibility and sophistication of "the internal forum," this is why many so many priests incorporate, as a matter of course, divorced people who have remarried without annulment into parish life on the same level as other Catholics who have adhered, at great cost to themselves, to Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. For the most part, the hierarchy are terrified that schisms, be they de facto or de jure, would reduce the Church to institutional rubble. And let's be clear: such rubble is exactly what would we'd get if they got serious about challenging people to follow Christ in the pelvic area.

* * *
At least one reader of Deal W. Hudson is contemplating civil disobedience in the event of witnessing another "pro-choice Catholic" profane the Eucharist:
If these "Catholic" politicians keep persisting in walking up the communion aisle, why can't the communicants in their seats stand up and stop them by merely standing in their way much like that young man in Tiannamen Square before the tanks?

Nancy Pelosi and Company have run over innocent life long enough.

* * *

Lastly, Fr. Neuhaus on "ambivalence and resolve about Roe (First Things' "On the Square" - January 19th, 2006):

When the aforementioned Nancy Pelosi orchestrated a four-day gala in Washington celebrating her familial, ethnic, and—very explicitly—Catholic identity, people were alert to what would be said by the new archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. He said nothing. Part of the festivities was a Mass at Trinity College, a Catholic institution in Washington. The celebrant of the Mass was Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit who, more than any other single figure, has been influential in tutoring Catholic politicians on the acceptability of rejecting the Church’s teaching on the defense of innocent human life. Asked by a reporter, Archbishop Wuerl responded that Fr. Drinan has “faculties” in Washington, meaning he is authorized to celebrate the sacraments. That was it.

Also recently, Edward Cardinal Egan of New York gave a rare television interview in which he was persistently asked whether the pro-abortion position of Catholic politicians, notably Rudolph Giuliani and outgoing governor George Pataki, posed a problem for him. He just as persistently said he refused to be drawn into politics and answered, 'They are my friends.' But of course he was making a statement of momentous political consequence, in that he seemed to be saying, as far as he is concerned, that the Church has no problem with pro-abortion politicians. It is understandable that Catholics and others have drawn the conclusion that, for both Wuerl and Egan, bishops of the two most prominent sees in the country, rejecting the Church’s teaching on the human dignity of the unborn child is not a big deal.

Related "Must Read" Posts:


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Guidelines for Catholic Political Action

Phoenix, Oct. 28, 2005 (CNA) - “The ultimate political goal for Catholics must be the achievement of public policies and laws that result in the legal protection of all innocent human life and that promote the dignity of each human person without exception and compromise”, states a new document setting guidelines for political action.

The document was published by the Catholic Leaders Conference (CLC). It first reminded the importance of participation in the public debate, asserting a specific Catholic tradition in political action, and values this participation as a moral obligation. .

The first guideline the document stressed is the existence of a hierarchy between some issues that arise in political debate. Therefore the statements reasserts that “the first obligation of government is the protection of innocent human life from conception to natural death." Therefore setting life issues, such as – direct abortion, euthanasia, and the killing of unborn life for medical research, as non-negotiable.

On other issues, the document insists on the importance of Catholic principles such as compassion, justice and charity that would serve as guidelines on issues like taxes, education, foreign policy and immigration reform. It acknowledges that diversity of opinion that could occur as a consequence.

In this respect it reminded the distinction made by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to the American Bishops when he stated: “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

Source: Catholic News Agency Oct. 28, 2005.

The 10-point Guidelines for Catholic Political Action is posted to Catholics in the Public Square by my fellow editor David Schraeder, along with a list of participants, courtesy of Deal Hudson's newsletter.


Samuel Alito: "A Penance Well Served"

Sometimes you can test the merit of a political candidate by the ranting of the opposition -- in this case, note the reaction of MoveOn.Org:
. . . This morning, with his administration growing weaker by the day, President Bush caved to pressure from the radical fringe of the Republican Party and nominated Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Alito is a notoriously right-wing judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He has consistently ruled to strip basic protections from workers, women, minorities and the disabled in favor of unchecked power for corporations and special interests. . . .
With one stroke, President Bush reunites his conservative base and has liberal pundits frothing at the mouth. Here's a roundup of further reaction from both sides of the political spectrum:
  • It's Samuel Alito! - As expected, Michelle Malkin provides a good roundup of blogwide reaction to the nomination.

  • Stephen Dillard sings for joy (literally) at the nomination of Alito.

  • The Democrats are already circulating some Atolito talking points that Chris Matthews -- in a rare moment of journalistic honesty -- calls "a pretty disgusting document".

  • Notice anything different about THIS nomination? - Matthew Heidt (Froggy Ruminations compiles the reactions of the Dems, adding:
    Slick move of the day goes to the President for having nominated a candidate from the home state and judicial circuit of Judicial Committee Chairman Specter. This puts the squishy pro-abortion Republican in the position of having to consider the ramifications of punching out a fellow Pennsylvanian while attempting to reconcile that conflict with his fawning NARAL buddies. Touche', Mr. President!
    ( also charts the demonizing of Alito by liberal bloggers).

  • Ed Brayton (In the Agora) has some good advice:
    I'm sure more will come out on Alito over the next couple weeks. I make the same caution I made with Roberts, which is that you should not believe anything an interest group on either side says about his rulings or writings without looking it up for yourself. Court rulings often involve very narrow technical grounds which are easy to distort and make it sound as though the judge just wantonly came out against good and for evil.
  • On a similar note, from Powerline:
    Judge Sam Alito has served on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals for 15 years, so he has an extensive record as an appellate judge. This distinguishes him not only from Harriet Miers, but also from John Roberts, whose brief tenure on the Court of Appeals produced only a handful of opinions. Over the coming weeks, Alito's many published opinions will be fodder for endless speculation as to how he might rule on various issues as a Supreme Court justice. So I thought it might be helpful for our non-lawyer readers to say a few words about the context in which discussion of Alito's judicial record will take place. . . .
  • Pejman Yousefzadeh @ RedState.Org calls President Bush's choice The Anti-Miers:
    Judge Samuel Alito is everything that Harriet Miers is not. He brings extensive judicial experience--the most of any Supreme Court nominee in nearly 70 years--to the table. He has a clearly developed sense and theory of jurisprudence and Constitutional interpretation. Both Alito and Miers are intelligent but Alito is steeped in the work and skill sets that a Supreme Court Justice needs to bring to his/her work. He is an outstanding nominee and conservatives who were dismayed and outraged over the Miers nomination are and should be delighted over the Alito nomination in equal proportion.

    Of course, it is clear that a fight will be waged over this nomination. This fight should be welcomed . . .

    And describes the sometimes painful cost of Originalism, Strict Constructionism And Intellectual Honesty, as typified in one of Alito's decisions.

  • A Catholic Majority on the Supreme Court? -- questions of history and assimilation at David Bernstein's The Volokh Conspiracy. Likewise Mark Brumley @ Ignatius Insight on the implications of "5 out of 9".

  • No longer calling for Bush's head, Mark Shea is sated, and The Weekly Standard, conveying the sentiments of thousands, says "That's More Like It!"

  • Go In Peace Mr. President, Your Sin Has Been Forgiven - Greg Mockeridge at Cooperatores Veritatis applauds the President's humility before correction. A good penance, indeed.

  • Finally, to close on a note of amusement, Stephen Dillard @ Southern Appeal explains "Top ten changes a Catholic Majority would make to the Supreme Court".


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fr. Michael Orsi on "Different Levels of Catholic Teaching"

In an earlier post I had referenced the article "Different Levels of Catholic Teaching", by Michael P. Orsi (Homiletic & Pastoral Review December 2003). The new website for the periodical had made it available at the time of the original posting, then removed it (explanation was that articles were in "temporary rotation"); it now appears to be available again, I presume with the recognition that having appeared online it is now the focus of several discussions (by Fr. Kimel's Pontifications as well).

[Update May 17, 2005 - Oops! They removed it again. Here's the cached copy via Google -- CB].

Responding to his critics in First Things, George Weigel had observed that the Pope and the Holy See "speak in a number of different registers: magisterial, doctrinal and theological, pastoral and prophetic. To conflate those several papal voices into equivalent acts of papal magisterium with equal binding authority on the consciences of Catholics is to make an elementary mistake in ecclesiology." Fr. Orsi turns to "A Doctrinal Commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem" (1998) for further clarification, identifying the following levels and categories of Catholic teaching:

  • Divinely Revealed Truth: This occurs in Sacred Tradition, Scripture, statements by the Pope when he speaks "ex cathedra," teaching of the College of Bishops gathered in Council, or dogmas infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal magisterium. This includes beliefs found in the creeds such as the one produced by the Council of Nicea (325) which we proclaim at Mass, teaching on the sacraments (Pope John Paul II's recent encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia [2003] is a prime example), or doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which are specifically defined as infallible. Infallible statements can be recognized by the language used by the Pope, e.g., "I declare, I define, I proclaim." These teachings require assent of mind and heart. One who doubts these articles falls into heresy.

  • Non-Fallible Church Teaching: These follow from divinely revealed truths. These are taught by the ordinary magisterium. Because they have always been held by the Church there is no need for a solemn form of definition but, from time to time as the need may arise, the Pope may confirm or reaffirm a proposition. For example, in Humanae Vitae (1968), Paul VI reaffirmed the ban on artificial contraception, in Evangelium Vitae (1995), the Pope reaffirmed the injunction on abortion and euthanasia, and in Inter Insignores (1998), the Pope restated the constant teaching of the Church that priestly ordination is open only to males.

  • Teaching on Faith and Morals: These are all presented as true or at least as sure even if they have not been defined with a solemn judgment or proposed as definitive by the ordinary and universal magisterium. These teachings require assent of will and intellect. They call for a deeper understanding of revelation and for conformity to teaching the truths of the faith, and guard against heresy. The degree of adherence or binding force is differentiated according to the mind and will manifested by the magisterium which may be discerned by the nature of the document, the frequency of the teaching, the wording of the pronouncement, and its historical context. Examples would include the Papal Social Encyclicals, which promote basic principles but may address specific problems that are limited by time and circumstances, Apostolic Letters such as Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1991), which encourages the safeguarding of the faith in Catholic institutions of higher learning, and Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002), which reminds Catholics of the importance of the rosary as part of our prayer life. In this latest letter, the Pope suggests the addition of five new mysteries, which he entitled "The Mysteries of Light." While these documents do not define or pronounce truths, they do safeguard and advise Catholic practices that promote and lead to a deeper understanding of the faith and encourage practices to reinforce the truths enunciated in the first two categories.

    (Regarding the third category, Fr. Orsi adds the following qualification:)

    It must be noted, however, that eternal salvation does not depend on one's adherence to the modified form of capitalism that the Pope suggests in Centesimus Annus (1991) [n. 35], or one's approval of the mandatum requirement (license to teach as a Catholic theologian) for teachers of theology in Catholic higher education in the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Similarly, no one is required to embrace "The Mysteries of Light" as an integral part of the recitation of the rosary as recommended by Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

  • On the question of whether Catholic disagreement with the Pope on matters of capital punishment and war constituted dissent (in the same manner as, say, Senator Kerry's assertion that he could be a "pro-choice Catholic" and remain in communion with the Church), or whether they were considered, quoting Cardinal Ratzinger, areas of "legitimate diversity of opinion", here is Fr. Orsi's explanation:

    Having said this, it must be noted that there may be different levels of teaching found in the same document. For example, there is no doubt about the non-fallible prohibitions against abortion [nn. 58-63] and euthanasia [nn. 64-67] found in Evangelium Vitae. In these paragraphs, reference to the constant Catholic teaching on these issues is well documented, and the strong words used by the Pope leave no doubt as to the binding force of the prohibitions. His advice, however, in the same document that capital punishment "be used rarely if ever used" [n. 56] is a prudential teaching which deserves careful consideration. This is not binding since the long tradition of the Church on this issue allows the state the right to execute criminals for its protection and to exact retribution. While one would incur excommunication for procuring or promoting abortion, this would not be the case if one favored the death penalty. Another example of the Pope's prudential but nonbinding teaching is when he spoke through his press secretary, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, regarding America's war against Iraq. He stated that "[w]ar is always a defeat for mankind" and that "[i]t is to be deplored that the path of negotiations, according to International Law, for a peaceful solution of the Iraqi drama has been interrupted." In counseling peace and deploring war, the Pope speaks as the prophetic Vicar of Christ, but he in no way condemns a specific war as unjust since he knows that it is in the provenance of the civil realm to decide if a war meets the criteria listed in the Just War Theory (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2309). Therefore, a Catholic may either support or reject a war as just. The Pope's words as chief pastor of the flock deserve respectful hearing and should be considered seriously in one's personal deliberations on these issues.

    Fr. Orsi concludes:

    What we have seen, then, is that the weight of a document depends on many factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic factors include the type of document, the promulgator of the document, the language used in each proposition contained in the document, and the tradition behind the teaching or discipline.

    * * *

    My last post had provoked a flurry of comments and (somewhat heated) discussion with respect to Cardinal Ratzinger's statement "Worthiness to Recieve Commmunion: General Principles":

    "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

    To which Jerry, displaying his affection for quotation marks, offered the following:

    What constitutes the intrinsic logic of "legitimacy" insofar as it is associated with a "diversity of opinion?" Why is some opinion "legitimate" and some opinion not "legitimate?" What constitutes the nature of legitimacy? Clearly, one would think there are distinctions to be made here.

    Why is Fr. Reese, SJ's opinion "not legitimate?" Why is Novak's opinion on Iraq considered by some to be "legitimate?" What constitutes "legitimacy?"

    Was Fr. Reese, SJ's decision to publish opposing views in America a "moral judgment" on the "legitimacy" of "dialogue" between diverse opinions or a "moral judgment" about the "legitimacy" of the diverse opinions themselves? Is dialogue "legitimate?" What is "legitimate dialogue?"

    Back to the question of a "legitimate diversity of opinion." Outside the context of doctrine, how would you distinguish between a "legitimate diversity of opinion" -- about moral matters, let's say -- and moral pluralism? Is one reducible to the other? If not reducible, which I suspect is the case, on the basis of what would they be distinguished.

    Good questions, and here I would expect -- humbly request, rather -- my readers to jump in on this as well (as they are likely more educated and qualified than I). As far as Fr. Reese and America is concerned, the CDF's concern was that the very action of publishing pro/con positions editorials on issues on which the Church has already spoken lends the impression to readers that "the jury is still out." Mark Brumley @ InsightScoop comments:

    By publishing, say, a pro-homosexual-marriage piece and a pro-Catholic-view-of-marriage piece side-by-side, AMERICA gives the impression that this is a subject up for legitimate debate within Catholicism and that AMERICA is the place to go to participate in that debate. Likewise, by publishing "moderate" proaborts side-by-side with people who embrace Catholic teaching on the right to life, AMERICA grabs the rhetorical middle ground and assumes the guise of defining what is acceptable discussion within Catholicism. By publishing "name" Catholic commentators who are orthodox, AMERICA can draw attention to itself as it says, "See, we give both sides their chance"--as if on many of the issues under discussion there are two legitimate sides within the Catholic Church, when in fact there aren't.

    The last approach has the added benefit to AMERICA of putting the orthodox folks in a bind. They can forego contributing to AMERICA because of its dissenting stance and miss the opportunity to have articulate people defend orthodoxy. Or they can contribute and get their message out but risk adding to AMERICA's perception of legitimacy or balance.

    But Catholics shouldn't be forced by a Catholic publication into the position of having to choose either to participate in a debate that can mislead people into thinking the subject matter at hand is legitimately a matter of debate among Catholics or to say nothing, thereby missing the opportunity to defend the truth.

    Fr Orsi's article is helpful in discerning those areas where "legitimate diversity of opinion" is possible between Catholics, and why moral debate is permitted on some issues, but not others. However, to say that "diversity of opinion" is permitted shouldn't be reduced to an "anything goes" approach. Moral debate should occur with due attention to the teachings of the Holy Father and the bishops, referencing the breadth of Catholic tradition.

    I think that one reason why contemporary perspectives on capital punishment and armed warfare are met with resistance by some Catholic scholars is that they appear to be at variance with Catholic tradition over its 2,000 year history -- for example, the erroneous interpretation that capital punishment itself is a violation of the right to life, equatable to abortion and euthanasia (see Avery Dulle's "Capitalism & Catholic Punishment" First Things 112 April 2001). Or, the claim by Archbishop Martino in March 2003 that "there is no such thing as a just war"; and the elevation of John Paul II's expression "War never again!" -- what should, of course, be the desire by every Catholic -- into a formal proclamation concerning the legitimacy of the use of force itself (see "No Just War Possible?", by George Weigel. The Catholic Difference April 2003), thus contributing to the criticism that some in the Vatican had adopted what amounts to a "functional pacifism" contrary to traditional Church teaching on war.


    Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    Reflections on the 55th Presidential Inauguration - A Roundup

    • Just the Right Amount of God, Weekly Standard, Vol. 10, No. 19. Jodie Bottum thinks "George Bush delivered the most philosophical inaugural address ever" -- a refreshing dose of Catholic natural law philosophy countering "a triumphant emotive liberalism, on the one side, and a defensive emotive Evangelicalism, on the other." (Agree? Disagree? -- Join in the discussion at Open Book).

    • Michael Novak talks about Bush's Bid for Greatness" in an interview with the Slovakian publication Tyzden (January 21, 2005):

      "With his second inaugural address, President Bush made certain that his name will be identified with every movement of liberty and democracy around the world for the rest of this century. . . . then 50 years from now men will look back and say that the man who first inspired that new turn in history was George W. Bush. His speech seemed very largely in tune with Natan Sharansky’s new book on democracy as the only real defense against terrorism. It is a noble vision for one nation to embrace — and all nations to embrace."

    • "Noumenal Conservatives". "Someguy" from the blog Mystery Achievement responds to various critics of Bush's inaugeration address (". . . fascinating examples of what happens when thoughtful people with theoretically sound ideas keep those ideas in a realm that is hermetically sealed off from recent history").

    • God-Talk in Presidential inaugural addresses, a historical compilation by ecumenical blogger Bill Cork.

    • Arthur Chrenkoff wishes he was there. Not the event itself, "Anti-Bush rallies. They sound like tons of fun."

    • And to end on a humorous note, check out Jib Jab's "Second Term", "poking fun at President Bush, conservatives, liberals, and just about anyone else vying for political power."


    Monday, January 24, 2005

    Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on "communio" & respect for the Eucharist 

    As for the controversy about pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Communion, we must hope that the discussion started will continue. This is not just about pro-abortion politicians. It engages the much deeper question of the connection between "communion" and receiving Communion.

    To be rightly disposed to receive the Eucharist is to be in communion with the Church, which includes faithful adherence to the Church's magisterial teaching. Especially in America where there is a multitude of Christian denominations, many Catholics have assumed the Protestant attitude that the local parish is simply their religion of choice.

    The parish is the local franchise of the Catholic Church, much as they might patronize the local franchise of McDonald's. It is further assumed that everybody has a "right" to receive Communion, just as everybody has a right to purchase a Big Mac.

    Obviously, this is a severe debasement of "communion" and Communion. In the Eucharist, we receive Christ and Christ receives us, incorporating us into his body the Church, which is, most fully and rightly ordered through time, the People of God in communion with bishops who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

    To be rightly disposed entails confessing whatever in our lives contradicts or compromises that "communion" with Christ and his Church and then receiving absolution. Sadly, the sacrament of reconciliation has fallen almost into desuetude in many places, and certainly not only in the United States.

    One, therefore, must hope that the election-year controversy over pro-abortion politicians will lead to a much more comprehensive renewal of Catholic understanding and practice with respect to authentic "communio."

    Excerpt from Zenit's interview w. Fr. Neuhaus "On the Eucharist and Its Relationship to "Communio" January 23, 2005.

    Questions for further reflection and discussion:

    • To what extent have American Catholics understood the communion controversy in its proper light -- that is to say, a question of the individual's relationship with the Church and "in faithful adherence to the Church's magisterial teaching"?
    • To what extent do American Catholics retain a distinctly Protestant attitude toward communion and their role in the Church? -- Exemplified, I think, by Senator Kerry during the presidential election: hopping from one denomination to the next, receiving communion from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and appearing oblivious to the underlying meaning and implications of his doing so.
    • How have the Bishops performed in taking the communion controversy of last year to educate Catholics in their diocese about the meaning of (and respect for) the Eucharist as a sign of one's communion with the Church?


    Saturday, January 22, 2005

    Remembering Roe v. Wade

    • A First-Hand Account of What Goes on Inside a Chula Vista Abortion Clinic, San Diego News Notes January 2005.

      Via Amy Welborn.

    • Barbara Nicolosi reflects on what might have been in "Owning January 22":

      Before they could save anyone, the scientists who were supposed to cure AIDs and cancer and Parkinsons and Alzheimers, had their skin flayed off with our burning saline solution.

      We lost countless "alternate sources of energy when the genius who was going to free us from the tyranny of the combustion engine, had his ideas sucked into a vacuum along with his tiny body.

      The greatest soprano of human history never got past the silent scream as we pulled her arms and legs off one at a time and reassembled them on a sterile stainless silver tray. . . ."

    • How lying marketers sold Roe v. Wade to America, by David Kupelian. World Net Daily January 20, 2005, on the marketing campaign devised by Bernard Nathanson, M.D., co-founder of pro-abortion vanguard group NARAL:

      "I remember laughing when we made those slogans up," recalls Bernard Nathanson, reminiscing about the early days of the abortion-rights movement in the late '60s and early '70s. "We were looking for some sexy, catchy slogans to capture public opinion. They were very cynical slogans then, just as all of these slogans today are very, very cynical . . ."

      Nathanson is now a Catholic and pro-lifer, and has given an account of his conversion in The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind (Regnery Publishing, 1996).

    • Redstate summarizes the situation as it appears today:

      The Republican Party is now in a difficult position: pro-lifers recognize that this battle has moved to the courts, and will accept no more partial measures. There are few if any remaining ways for the GOP to use legislative policy to finesse the issue, and it is clear that the coming cycle will make or break the party's status with the pro-life community. The movement whose influx dramatically changed the party in the 1970s now seeks nothing less than a reliably pro-life Supreme Court nominee to change the balance on Roe - and what they demand will not be politically easy to achieve.

      And reminds us of "the most passionate and eloquent understanding of the abortion issue, one that came from another Republican White House": Ronald Reagan's "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation".

    • Photographs from the San-Francisco March for Life on FreeRepublic.



    Monday, December 13, 2004

    FUGGEDABOUTIT!?" -- A response to Rev'd Canon Lesley A. Northup

    Nathan at Fides, Spes, Caritas calls my attention to the text of what I would describe as "a spirited homily" by Episcopalian Rev'd Canon Lesley A. Northup, calling upon her parishioners to "Get Real - Read The Book".

    It appears that Reverend Canon Northup is deeply embittered over the recent election of President Bush; opposition to abortion and gay marriage as motivating factors in the Republican victory, and their characterization as "moral values" or more specifically, "Christian values"; the recent criticism of 250 African Anglican bishops regarding the U.S. Episcopal Church's consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, a divorced man living with a male lover, which is in itself a sign of what the Washington Times describes as the slow erosion of membership in the Episcopalian Church of America (concurrent with the ECUSA's rapid abandonment of the moral and theological doctrines of traditional Christianity):

    I read that this latest election was decided by something called "moral values." That is, specifically, opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Those were the two moral issues that made all the so-called Christians stand up and be counted. Christian values, Christian morals -- we are told that these won out in this election.

    Well, they aren't my Christian morals, and I don't want to be that kind of Christian. I don't want a name that implies I think or feel or believe like people who make these their highest values -- or fears. There are many Christianities out there -- always have been. The Religious Rightwing, the fundamentalists, the zealots, the anti-intellectual evangelicals -- have a lot of nerve trying to claim that their very narrow brand of Christianity is the only one.

    I say it is time true Christians -- and by that I mean people who believe in and follow and actually live the teachings of Jesus -- it's time true Christians reclaimed the name "Christian" and stopped being coopted by persons who have little knowledge, understanding, or practical application in their own lives of Christian principles.

    If I understand Canon Northup correctly, nobody who maintains the legitimacy of traditional Christian teachings on sexuality or the "life issues" qualifies as a real Christian, since they don't follow Jesus:

    Real Christians have to stand up and say, "Morality? This is what you call morality? You've got to be kidding!" Real Christians have to point out that "Christian" means "someone who follows the example and teachings of Jesus," not "someone who will swallow whatever a preacher will tell them." Real Christians have to take this book that everyone keeps referring to, this Bible, and actually read it and find out what those teachings are.

    It is a familiar line of reasoning you probably have heard before in discussion of such issues: if Jesus didn't mention it, it probably wasn't of concern to him; or, to put a New York spin on it: "if it's not in the Good Book, FUGGEDABOUTIT!!"

    But don't take my word for it, here is Canon Northup:

    "In the book, Jesus never said a word about abortions. Some Christians oppose aborting a fetus that cannot even live on its own, but this deeply held conviction did not prevent millions of good life-respecting Christians from voting to continue an unprovoked and falsely justified war of aggression that has killed tens of thousands of perfectly innocent people who were already living. I think Jesus probably would not have liked this.

    In the book, Jesus never said one word about homosexuality. It probably never even crossed his mind. As a matter of fact, Jesus very seldom talked about "thou shalt nots" -- about terrible things you weren't supposed to do. His morality was about what you were supposed to do. He was crystal clear about "thou shalts." Here is what morality is, according to Jesus: Feed the poor (there are about 12 million people in our country who worry daily about whether they will have food); comfort the prisoners (probably includes not torturing or shooting them); accept the outcast (the queer, the single mother, the street person, the Muslim); shelter the homeless (and stop creating more of them); be good stewards and shepherds (stop raping the environment); depend on God, not on wealth (and don't collect it at the expense of the poor); treat others as you would have them treat you. And FIGHT for justice.

    This is the morality Jesus taught. This is Christian morality. This is what "good" Christians endeavor to do. Everything else is self-righteous prooftexting of the old Hebrew Scriptures and unworthy of the adjective "Christian."

    I'm not going to respond to Rev. Northup's condescending portrayal of Christians across the nation, and her insinuation that anybody who voted Republican advocates the use of torture, the perpetuation of poverty and homelessness, and "raping the environment." Such underhanded tactics are not unlike the inquiry: "so, have you stopped beating your wife?" -- Neither a yes nor a no will suffice.

    Nor will I address at length her allegation that life-respecting Christians ought to "FIGHT for justice" and refuse to engage in "unjust wars of aggression" -- in the face of Saddam Hussein's bloody crimes against his people (as chronicled in Kanan Makiya's Republic of Fear, for example), one might also defend the liberation of Iraq in terms of bringing justice to a brutal dictator who had eluded the law for far too long.

    But these are all merely tangents, and I will trust in the intelligence and sound common sense of my readers to judge for themselves.

    I would like to address, however, Rev. Northup's line of thought regarding "true Christianity" as can be obtained by reading the scriptures, since it's a prevalent argument of our time.

    "True Christianity" = Christ - The Church?

    Canon Northup's reliance on the Bible as the source of "true Christianity" (aka. "what Jesus actually said") struck me as having a distinctly Protestant ring to it -- and a radical one at that. Note how she conveniently severes and isolates Jesus' words from the teachings of the apostles, pitting one against the other. Although she neglects to mention St. Paul in her homily, I suspect she would be inclined to dismiss the writings of the Apostle (and that of the early Church Fathers) on homosexuality as merely reflective of the bigotry of their time, in conflict with the nonjudgemental love of Jesus and thus only so much historical baggage to be discarded. The same might be said for the early Church's teachings on abortion, about which Jesus did not specifically refer but which, again, the early Church had plenty to say.

    Most Protestants posit the Holy Scriptures as the sole rule of faith, believing the Protestant Reformation's assertion of sola scriptura to be a rediscovery of real Christianity after centuries of Catholic ignorance. In contrast, the premise of Canon Northup's call to "take back Christianity" goes one step further: the imposters are not only Catholics, but practically all -- Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox -- who choose to abide by and defend the moral norms of Christian tradition.

    In her fulminations against Christian morality, Canon Northup is certainly not far off from joining the ranks of Bishop Spong (former bishop of Newark, NJ, and another intellectual lightweight of the Episcopalian denomination) in his "rescue Christianity from fundamentalism", which largely began as a protest against Christian prohibitions against homosexuality, contraception, premarital intercourse, and divorce, and has culminated in an all-out war against orthodox Christianity (aptly described by D. Marty Lasley in "Rescuing Christianity From Bishop Kevorkian").

    Interpreting Scripture with the Church

    The difficulty with Canon Northup's line of thinking is that, as Cardinal Dulles states in his excellent summary of Catholic theology The New World of Faith, "the Bible is not intended to be a complete or systematic inventory of Christian doctrine," and it is not sufficient to simply rely on "what Christ said" in the scriptures alone:

    . . . one must avoid the fallacy of primitivism. Christ laid the foundations but did not construct the entire edifice. He planted the seeds but left the full growth to later generations. Conscious that the apostles were not yet ready to receive all that he had to teach, he promised to send the Holy Spirit to supplement his teaching after the Acension. in the New Testament we can glimpse the gradual emergence of certain structures that would not assume definitive form until a later time. We are the beneficiaries of this emergence. We cannot go back to the first century and begin again. . . .

    "The unity and stability of faith required a voice that could authoritatively speak for the Church, an official teaching ministry in and for the Church. The bishops, together with the bishop of Rome, constitute what is called the "magisterium." As the official teachers of the Church, they have the power to establish Catholic doctrine. Their teaching is not simply their own; it bears the authority of Christ and is the doctrine of the Church." [pp. 79-80]

    Just as Jews rely upon the rabbinic oral tradition that accompanies the Torah, so Catholics maintain that scripture is not the sole rule of faith for Christians, but relies upon tradition to guide in its interpretation (a fact which scripture itself affirms). Likewise, Catholics assert the doctrine of apostolic succession: that Christ entrusted the care of his church to his apostles and their successors (with St. Peter at their head), and invested in them the moral authority to teach and guide His Church in its travails on earth. Catholic Answers explains in its section on "Scripture and Tradition":

    The true "rule of faith" —- as expressed in the Bible itself —- is Scripture plus apostolic tradition, as manifested in the living teaching authority of the Catholic Church, to which were entrusted the oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles, along with the authority to interpret Scripture correctly.

    In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: "The Word of God"), the relationship between Tradition and Scripture is explained: "Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.

    Former Southern Baptist Minister Charles Everson, blogging at "Land, Hope & Glory", describes his confrontation with apostolic succession in his journey across the Tiber:

    As my journey continued, I began to question my own belief in sola scriptura. The primary issue for me became that of authority. Should the church or the Bible alone be the final authority? Neither was working for me. In my studies, I found that it was Jesus’ words, as recorded in the Bible, that gave the Bishops authority but yet, the Bishops were the ones who authoritatively gathered together the books of the Bible. . . .

    I was left with two possibilities. The first possibility was that the church had gone off the tracks within several years after the resurrection of Christ. I wondered how these Church Fathers could believe these things that were clearly not biblical (in my understanding). The second possibility was that these people knew what they were talking about and they had the proper biblical perspective. Though I really couldn't understand how either of these could be true, I certainly did not want the second one to be correct.

    A Question of Obedience

    Like Charles Everson discovered, it does boils down to authority, and obedience. For if one recognizes the magisterium as the legitimate teaching authority of the Catholic Church, if one affirms that this authority is indeed invested in our bishops by Christ himself, we are not in a position to simply "pick and choose," or to appeal to "real Christianity" based on "what Jesus really said" exclusive of the tradition and teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

    As Nathan Nelson put it so eloquently himself only a year ago in his answer to Andrew Sullivan ("Loving the Church, Living the Faith" CatholicExchange. Dec. 27, 2003):

    Like Mr. Sullivan, I love the Catholic Church. I differ from Mr. Sullivan in that I believe that love of the Catholic Church is also obedience to the Catholic Church. Jesus Himself said that those who love Him must also keep His commandments. Faithful Catholics believe that the Church is not only the institution that He founded to pass on His teaching, but also His Body in a mystical and mysterious way. Thus, in order to love the Church and in order to love Jesus, we must obey the commandments of the Church, commandments that are also the commandments of Jesus. It’s precisely because I do love the Church and because I do believe it is the Mystical Body of Christ that I endeavor to obey it. It’s precisely because I love the Church and Jesus that I will not leave them, no matter how hard it may be to obey them and no matter how many times I fall when I should be flying.

    So once again, let's listen to some parting words from Canon Northup, understood in context of what I have just written:

    So, let's get real -- we act viscerally, we are easily swayed, we don't want to look too closely at the consequences of our actions. We find it hard to really follow Jesus' commands. We pick and choose our moral positions to make ourselves most comfortable. But since there's one thing we're always moral about --being polite -- we don't speak out against the theft of Christianity, we don't want to tell the harsh truth about the hijackers of morality, we don't dare mention that the emperor has no clothes. We think we have taken the high road by doing this. What we have taken is a dead-end to nowhere.

    What constitutes a "theft of Christianity"? Who is really "picking and choosing" moral positions by abandoning the Church's teaching on morality (be it a matter of chastity, contraception, adultery, or homosexuality, or the range of what has been called the "life issues")? It is an all too common lesson that when one questions and turns his back on the Magisterium (the bishops, together with their head, the Bishop of Rome) on issues of morality, it is only a matter of time before one questions the orthodox Christian faith as well.

    And at that point, one is truly, borrowing from Canon Northup, "on a dead-end to nowhere."


    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    Democrats don't need to talk about "moral values."

    In the wake of the election and the revelation that those Americans who gave Bush his second term were motivated to do so not for reasons of economics, national security, but moral values, Crooked Timber is discussing the need for Democrats to "shed their inhibitions about talking about faith" and "reconnect with the American heartland."

    Problem is, Kerry actually did spend a lot of time talking about his faith. How many times did he remind us that he was an altar boy, or that he carried a rosary in Vietnam? How many times did we hear him quote that verse from James (as if he knew nothing else from the bible)?

    But if this election established anything, it's the fact that many Americans had simply heard enough about faith from John Kerry, and no amount of pandering to the pews could conceal the moral incoherence of a "pro-choice" politician with a 100% pro-abortion legislative record proclaiming himself a "good Catholic" in open defiance of the nation's bishops and the moral teachings of his Church. Spin all you want, but that is an ugly fact that played a greater role in this election, and in the minds of Catholic voters, then Democrats would care to admit.

    * * *

    Looking back at the presidential race, I can think of no more perfect an illustration of Democratic alienation from America's religious voters than the moment during the third debate, when a young woman by the name of Sarah Degenhart asked Senator Kerry whether he could provide her with assurance that he wouldn't use her tax dollars to support abortion.

    Kerry responded by professing his "respect" for her question, and the moral convictions that her concern implied. . . . and then he proceeded to defend abortion as a constitutional right, and the necessity to preserve that right with taxpayer dollars. He went on to denounce religious criticism of abortion as a product of "rigid ideological restriction," a phrase he had often used on the campaign trail. And then, to top it off, he informed Ms. Degenhart that she would "do do a better job, I think, of passing on moral responsibility" by abandoning her opposition to taxpayer-funded abortion and embracing his pro-choice stance.

    Senator Kerry's complete failure to understand her basic point, and his utter lack of respect for her religious convictions, spoke volumes.

    * * *

    If Kerry -- and his fellow Democrats -- want to connect to the American heartland, it will not be by talking the talk, but walking the walk.

    To do so, they must reconsider their allegiance to -- indeed, completely severe their ties with -- the abortion industry; repudiate those who would sacrifice the unborn in utilitarian pursuit of "scientific progress"; forsake their support of legislative policies in blatant opposition to Judeo-Christian values; recognize what it means to believe in the sanctity of life from conception until death -- and why, with that conviction, many Christians find themselves unable to adopt a corrupt and morally-incoherent stance of "personally opposed, but . . ." when it comes to the deliberate murder of the unborn.

    Democrats don't need to talk about "moral values." They must truly understand what it means to embody them.

    Until then, I see no way for Democrats to "heal the divide" or "reconnect with the heartland."

    Let this election be a wake-up call.


    From the new blog Against The Grain

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