Monthly Archives: April 2012

Unless there is a Third Party Upset, the Constitution is Dead

No matter who wins this election, the Constitution is dead. The reason is that, all other issues aside, the two dominant parties are forcing us to choose between the two kinds of candidates the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent.

Those who are ignorant of history think that the United States was the first democratic representative government in Western history. This is most certainly not true.

England, quite obviously, had a functioning representative Parliament for centuries, and one of the goals of our Constitution was to correct some of the failures of the English system (including Common Law, which essentially gave the courts in England an oligarchy–the Constitution forbids the courts from legislating precisely to do away with Common Law amd Judicial Review, yet somehow those powers were usurped by the Courts, anyway).

Since Plato, political philosophers were aware of the dangers of democracy. The various failed attempts at democracy in Greece, combined with the failures of the Roman Republic (failures our nation has emulated), the historical lessons of democracy were clear.

History has shown that democracies inevitably fail and turn to dictatorships. Prior to the US, the most successful democratic system was the Roman Republic, which, like the US after it, was adamant about not having a king. Yet the Roman Republic converted to the Roman Empire, and the way things are going, our Republic will not last nearly as long as Rome’s did before it suffers the same fate.

Historically, democracies and republics fall because of one or more of three things:
1) People are greedy, and support the candidate who best facilitates their greed, eventually bankrupting the government
2) The people will elect a demagogue who tells them what they want to hear and seduces them into giving him dictatorial powers
3) A guy with enough money can essentially buy an election.

So, that’s what we have in this election.
In this corner is Barack Obama, a classic example of a demagogue. He has gained power by dividing the country on race and class. He has made false promises to the poor while giving huge “bail outs” to corporations that did nothing but lay people off, so that the existing public services are increasingly strained. His administration has doubled the national debt in four years.

In the other corner, we have Mitt Romney, an unlikable candidate with no clear convictions other than economic conservatism who has essentially bought the election. His competitors, all of whom were far more popular among actual voters, simply could not compete with his seemingly limitless campaign funds.

So, there you have it, folks. The two candidates that our Founding Fathers specifically warned us against and designed the Constitution to prevent. After all, that Electoral College that liberals keep complaining about and telling us is obsolete was supposed to prevent this. Presidents were never supposed ot campaign directly to the people; the Electors were supposed to campaign on behalf of the presidential candidates and do it face-to-face.

St. Therese never made her final profession

In December 2013, hopefully, I am scheduled to take my definitive promises as a Secular Carmelite. I made my “temporary promises” (for the second time) in December 2010. In the ceremony, it’s the same promise, but the text has the option of reading “for the next three years” OR “until the end of my life.” They emphasized the importance of reading only the one that was applicable, though of course there were people who read both. When it came to my turn, I almost jokingly reading, “For the next three years OR until the end of my life, whichever comes first.”
Little did I know that just a few weeks later, my aorta would dissect. The fact that I’m still alive at all is a miracle. In the meantime, my ill health has been a detriment to my attendance at meetings, which is a crucial element in the formation process (though technically the Constitution and statutes of the Order refer to “unexcused absences,” and enforcement of the attendance rule is up to the discretion of the Council).

I first began formation in 1998, and do to circumstances both in and out of my control, I’m still at the formation stage that should only last 6 years.

I was hoping not to have any absences this year or next year, so that I could average out my extensive absences from last year. This month, however, I had already been granted an excused absence because I miscounted the weeks and thought it was going to conflict with my daughter’s First Communion. Then we realized that today, the 22nd, was the fourth Sunday, when my Community’s meetings are held, and next week was First Communion. However, this week *was* the First Communion “Retreat”–though that was only held during religious education this morning and did not have to conflict with my meeting. It *did* require me getting up for religious education and Mass.

St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower” or “Little Theresa of the Child Jesus”, has always been one of my favorite saints. Holy Mother Teresa of Avila, or “Great Teresa of Jesus,” has also always been a favorite. But I’ve always felt a special devotion to Therese because I always felt she exemplified a “happy death,” and I took the “shower of roses” promise literally in the version I read in Fr. Daniel Lord’s _Miniature Stories of the Saints_.

On June 9, 1996, the night before my aortic root replacement, I was flipping around the TV and heard, “She said when she died she’d send down a shower of roses.” I flipped back. I wasn’t too familiar with EWTN at the time, other than knowing it existed. The program was _Mother Angelica Lives_, with Fr. Jacques Daley, OSB, as the guest, talking about St. Therese. He was discussing how she pondered the question of living a long life on earth to serve God or going straight to Heaven, and reconciled it by saying, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.” It was just what I needed to hear the night before my surgery.

Either shortly before or after my surgery, I got a card in the mail from my grandma that she had sent a donation to a Carmelite convent to make a novena to St. Therese for me.

Later that year, I read _Story of a Soul_.

My name in Carmel is “John of the Little Way.”

Recently, EWTN happened to rerun an episode of Fr. Jacques’ series _The Little Flower_. I’m not sure if it had been running the whole series, and I just happened on the last airing, or it was just the one episode for some reason, but in the episode in question, Fr. Jacques happened to mention that Therese died before she ever made her final profession as a nun.

Once again, Fr. Jacques said just what I needed to hear. I worry about not being able to make my “definitive promises,” but if I should die before I do, then I’ll just be following in the footsteps of St. Therese.

The following Notre Dame faculty members need to be fired

Bishop Daniel Jenky has made headlines recently for a column rightly comparing Occupy the White House community organizer Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin .
The following individuals need to be fired from Notre Dame’s faculty for opposing their bishop:

Katrina Barron, Mathematics
Laura Bayard, Library
Patricia Blanchette, Philosophy
Kevin Burke, IEI
Joseph Buttigieg, English
Robert Coleman, Art, Art History, and Design
Suzanne M. Coshow, Management
Mary Rose D’Angelo, Theology
Margaret Doody, English
Julia Douthwaite, Romance Languages and Literature
Kevin Dreyer, Film, Television, and Theater
John Duffy, English
Stephen M Fallon, Program of Liberal Studies & English
Carolina Arroyo, Political Science
Barbara J. Fick, Law School
Christopher Fox, English & Irish Studies
Stephen Fredman, English
Laura Fuderer, Library
Agustin Fuentes, Anthropology
Patrick Gaffney, Anthropology
Jill Godmilow, Film, Television, and Theater
Daniel Graff, History
Stuart Greene, English
David Hachen, Sociology
Richard Herbst, Law School
Peter Holland, Film, Television, and Theater
Raúl Jara, Institute for Latino Studies
Felicia Johnson-O’Brien, Center for Social Concerns
Janet A. Kourany, Philosophy
Sean T. O’Brien, Irish Studies
Julia Marvin, Program of Liberal Studies
Maria McKenna, Africana Studies
Mark McKenna, Law School
Sarah McKibben, Irish Studies
Dianne Pinderhughes, Africana Studies & Political Science
Ann Marie R. Power, Sociology
F. Clark Power, Program of Liberal Studies & IEI
Ava Preacher, College of Arts and Letters
David Ruccio, Economics
Valerie Sayers, English
Kristen Shrader-Frechette, Philosophy & Biological Sciences
Anne Simons, Psychology
John Sitter, English
Cheri Smith, Library
Donald Sniegowski, Emeritus-English
Laura Walls, English
Robert E. Walls, American Studies & Anthropology
Andrew Weigert, Sociology
Richard Williams, Sociology

Why I’m not quite buying the “Romneys are a great family” Bit

Anyone who follows this blog or my Facebook page knows that I am constantly arguing that contraception and the definition of the family are the fundamental issues that should always be on our minds in politics. They are the crucial issues of *any* age, but particularly our own since the family is directly under attack in contemporary Western societies.

Thanks to the HHS Contraception Mandate under Obamacare, and the fact that the US Bishops are finally taking a stand on it, and thanks to the bitterness of the Republican Primary, and thanks in part to the fact that Obama and the Left have characterized the Catholic Church’s efforts to NOT be forced to support contraception as a “GOP War on Women,” family issues have become one of the top concerns in this election, even while some commentators on both sides still insist they’re “distractions” from the “real issues” (Catholic Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has lost a lot of “points” in my book for saying that).

In the GOP Primary, great efforts were made by the neoconservatives to argue that Rep. Ron Paul, MD, from Texas is “not pro-life” because his approach to ending abortion is based upon constitutionalist, subsidiarist grounds, even though he has one of the best and most consistent pro-life voting records in history, even voting for measures like the Partial Birth Abortion ban that otherwise violate his principles. The fact that he once observed a medical partner performing an abortion–which Dr. Paul says was a major point in converting him to being adamantly pro-life–is used against him by his detractors, while the fact that he ran a pro-life OB/Gyn practice and primarily served poor women in a Catholic hospital is ignored. Similarly, those who would normally laud a politician with a large family ignore the fact that Dr. Paul has seven kids and has been married for over 50 years, instead focusing on the fact that his son the senator was apparently named after Ayn Rand. It’s absurd.

Then there’s Rick Santorum. Now, Santorum has his problems, like any politician. His claim of being unequivocally pro-life is mitigated by his fervent support of neoconservative policies on war, torture, “national security” and even assassination. While abortion should have #1 importance both in its objective evil and its horrendous scope, most authentic teachers of pro-life theory in the Church recognize the importance of being consistently pro-life: Bl. John Paul II, the late great John Cardinal O’Connor, and even “EWTN priests” like Frs. Frank Pavone, Robert Levis and Benedict Groeschel–and even Mother Angelica herself–are all anti-war and anti-death penalty. So Santorum’s positions on those issues are problematic from a consistent pro-life perspective. However, his positions are more or less consistent with Church teaching, in that he sincerely believes he’s applying Just War Theory. Santorum has also proven himself capable of changing his views, more than any other politician, so that’s a plus.

Then there’s his controversial endorsement of Arlen Specter, but he has made statements on EWTN since then that indicate his repentance of that decision.

Nevertheless, per the point of this particular thread, Santorum has 7 kids. Santorum has been mocked by the Left and some on the Right for revering the body of his dead son Gabriel after the child died in childbirth, and showing the body to his other children. Why he should be mocked for this when it is traditional to view a body for an extended period of time before burial is beyond me. Indeed, the practical purpose of a wake is to make sure the person is really dead, and the recent headline about a “stillborn” baby being found alive in a morgue shows that maybe Rick and Karen Santorum aren’t weren’t so “nuts” after all. His daughter Isabella has the genetic disorder Trisomy 18, and they were strongly encouraged to abort her but did not. Santorum had to stop campaigning twice to tend to Isabella during illnesses, and he suspended his campaign after the second time. In spite of his positions on war, these facts ought to make him the #1 choice for any pro-lifer, and he ought to have one the nomination by a landslide if the GOP were as pro-life as it claims.

Santorum also supports Church teaching in his position that contraception could and should, at least theoretically, be outlawed. This has been a politically suicidal position ever since “Catholic” Democrats led by Ted Kennedy thwarted the nomination of Judge Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. _Roe_ would be gone if Bork had been appointed, and the fact that a mass murderer like Kennedy was given such a lavish Catholic funeral and such accolades from Church officials is objectively a worse scandal than clerical sexual abuse.

I strongly support both Dr. Paul and Rick Santorum, and both have great strengths and great weaknesses in my calculations of candidates. I ended up deciding to support Santorum, for the reasons here outlined, but I applaud both of them for how they’ve personally lived a pro-life witness in their personal lives.

Then there’s Mr. Rockefeller Republican Mitt Romney. He’s the stereotype of a guy who’s only Republican because he’s rich. He has inconsistent political views. In his past, he donated to Planned Parenthood. He was openly pro-choice when governor of Massachusetts. He passively legalized “gay marriage” in Massachusetts. He forced hospitals, including Catholic hospitals (though he claims they “voluntarily complied” with the law he passed) to provide abortifacient contraceptives.

Then he suddenly decided he was pro-life when he ran for President. Now, that’s common enough on both sides. Al Gore had the best pro-life voting record in the Senate but suddenly became pro-abortion when he ran for president in 1988. Reagan and the Bushes all started out as pro-choice. However, politicians have switched from pro-life to pro-choice have done far more for abortion than politicians who’ve switched from pro-choice to pro-life have done against it, except for those like Santorum and Sam Brownback whose political conversion coincided with a spiritual conversion.

So, right after Santorum suspended his campaigning for family reasons, suddenly the big issue of the campaign was what a family man Mitt Romney supposedly is. Democratic activist Hilary Rosin criticized Ann Romney for always being a stay-at-home mom, having five kids and never “working” a day in her life. Now, there are several issues here.

First, again, the Democrats’ War on the Family should be the number 1 issue of any campaign, and Rosin’s statements drive that home.

Second, the only reason for men *or* women to work is to earn money. Chesterton teaches that it is wrong for a person to earn more money than his family needs. Why should Ann Romney, whose husband is rich, have a career and take up a job that could be held by someone who *needs* the job? The feminist movement is a major factor in our contemporary job crisis. Yes, there are women like my own wife who need to work either because they are unmarried or their husbands are disabled. However, now that it’s taken for granted that women *should* have jobs outside the home, we have twice as many people trying to get jobs as we would have if society was in favor of families having stay-at-home spouses.

It’s highly tempting, in jumping to Ann Romney’s defense on this issue, to turn to supporting the Romneys. However, as the Internet is plastered with pictures of their family that are made to look fairly recent, the Romney children were all born in the 1970s and early 80s. They’re all grown adults now. That doesn’t make a difference in terms of their family–Ron Paul’s children are also grown up–but the fact that they’re showing pictures of the Romneys with 5 *young* children is clearly a campaign ploy.

It would be one thing if, like the Santorums, they started off pro-choice and changed their views and then started living an actively Christian life. However, the Romneys had their kids in the 70s, and then supported Planned Parenthood in the 1990s and early 2000’s. They ought to have known better by then. No, the implication is the Romneys are pro-family if you’re rich.

The Catholic Church teaches that couples are to be as fertile and productive as their situation allows. Technically, by Catholic standards (and traditional Mormon standards), the Romneys ought to be like the Duggars by now. They’re mega-rich, so they can afford lots of kids. If they choose to abstain from relations to postpone children for other reasons, or if they have secondary infertility, then the Church would say that they should adopt.

Yes, being a stay-at-home mom is a noble profession, but how many servants does Ann Romney have to help with the housework? I hardly see how a struggling middle-class family trying to be consistently pro-life is expected to identify with the Romneys. The Santorums or the Pauls, certainly. But this voter is not buying the attempt to package Mitt Romney as pro-family *after* the personal merits of Paul and Santorum were either ignored or criticized, and now we’re supposed to believe a trumped-up image of the Romneys as pro-family.

Some people have their knickers in a twist over the fact that radical pro-death philosopher Peter Singer has been invited to speak at Georgetown. Now, the circumstances are very important: is he being presented as an “esteemed” philosopher? Is he being presented in some honorary fashion such as a graduation speech? Or is he being presented as a speaker whose views need to be heard, even though we disagree with him?

Pro-life Catholic Robert George is often pitted as Singer’s arch-rival because they both teach at Princeton. They are often presented on a “joint ticket” debating with each other.

The purpose of a debate in the fields of rhetoric or law/political science is to win over public opinion and possibly change the other person’s mind.
The purpose of a debate in the field of philosophy is to take an opinion and strip it down to the person’s first principles.
That’s why George says he ultimately doesn’t have much to debate against Singer about. Singer is at least honest that the entity in the womb is the same as the entity out of the womb. He only differs from us in *how* that entity is to be treated, so from a philosophical perspective, there is little to debate with him about. He is clear on the logical connections between his first principles and his conclusions. Changing his first principles is a matter for prayer. Other pro-choicers would do well to at least learn Singer’s consistency, and hopefully hearing his views will change the minds of people who think they’re “pro-choice” but fail to realize the implications of that viewpoint.
George says that Singer’s views *need* to be heard because they expose the truth of the “pro-choice” viewpoint that most “pro-choice” people are in denial about.

How “Arrest Bush” People Promote a Catholic State

I think everyone in our culture, if they know anything about Catholicism, know that the Catholic Church used to have an Inquisition. Now, much like Bishop Sheen’s statement about people hating not the Catholic Church but what they *think* that Catholic Church is, those people often think they know what the Inquisition was but know little about it.
First, there were technically two sets of entities known as the “Inquisition.” On the one hand, there was/is the entity that worked within the Church to enforce orthodoxy and investigate heresy and other issues. It still exists, though some of its methods and organizations have changed with its name. Its name was later changed to the Holy Office, and it is now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
The other side or form of the “Inquisition” was the internal agencies of local countries where Catholicism was the state religion, which enforced violations of Catholic teaching as criminal offenses. Sometimes, quite rarely, that meant “witchcraft” or “heresy,” but it also included moral offenses. The different state Inquisitions would use different methods, and the exact methods of the Inquisition would vary with different officials like any organization. Sometimes, it used torture. In some cases, it was actually closer to modern notions of justice than the criminal and civil courts of those times.

Sometimes, it would be over-zealous.

When Joan of Arc was sentenced to death by the Inquisition, her trial was overseen by substitute officials because the Grand Inquisitor was in Rome during the whole affair, and as soon as he came back, he reviewed the trial and found it to be unjust, though it took another 50 years to fully reverse the verdict and 500 years for Joan to be canonized.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who united Spain after centuries of wars between Christians and Muslims, instituted the Spanish Inquisition, which was notoriously harsh and overzealous in trying to keep the Muslims from retaking the country, and trying to keep Protestantism from overtaking Spain as it had so many countries in Northern Europe. The Spanish Inquisition was overzealous to the point that Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, two of the greatest saints of all time and both later deemed Doctors of the Church, lived in fear of the Inquisition, and at least one of Teresa’s books was “lost in the shuffle” as the Inquisition investigated it.

Yet in spite of these offenses that everyone knows about, the Inquisition did a lot of good. Back in those days, there were priests who committed sexual abuse (Holy Mother Teresa writes about one in her _Life_), but the Inquisition punished them. In World War II, the Holy Office used its network to assist Allied spies and as an “underground railroad” to help Jews and Allied POWs escape the Nazis.

The abuses had more to do with the local state-affiliated Inquisitions than the overall Inquisition of the Church, which is why the Church changed the name and reorganized it. On the other hand, a lot of what is “commonly known” comes from anti-Catholic propaganda and is actually historically inaccurate.

Thus, I find it ironic that, on the one hand, the Church is criticized for having the Inquisition. On the other hand, the *contemporary* Church is often criticized for things that the Inquisition used to handle. The extensive problem of sexual abuse by priests in this century could be blamed, in part, on the absence of an Inquisition. The insistence of bishops on emphasizing reform and forgiveness in dealing with sexual abuser priests was due, in part, to a mentality of “We don’t want to be like the Inquisition.” If the Inquisition was still active, and was a government agency, there would have been a clear avenue for punishing priests who engaged in sexual abuse or embezzlement or other offenses. But since the US insists on separation of Church and State, and the Church says, “fine; we’re separate, so stay out of our business,” the problem arose that we are all aware of.

Dr. Charles Rice points out that people are opposed to the notion of Natural Law until it’s convenient. Suddenly, at the Nuremberg Trials, people were talking about Natural Law. Then it was moral relativism all over again. People will tell me that they don’t believe in Natural Law, then say that BP needs to be punished for the oil leak in the Gulf–a form of Natural Law.

Earlier, I posted about uncivil political rhetoric and noted that I believe Barack Obama should be impeached and prosecuted for a number of things, including war crimes, violations of the Constitution and defrauding the people.

I figured an automatic reply from some would be, “Prosecute Bush,” and in one sense, I agree. Anticipating that response inspired *this* post.

Morally, Bush is responsible for a lot of offenses. I don’t think he’s responsible for everything that the Left claims. The assertions of WMDs in Iraq, for example, were made under the Clinton Administration, and again, proving a negative is impossible. We’ll probably never know for certain whether the WMDs were there or not. There are Iraq veterans who claim they found WMDs but the media didn’t report it. There are various conspiracy theories about the WMDs being sent off to other countries before the invasion. Who knows? I think that Bush was sincere, though, in acting on the intelligence he was given. I suspect something like what happens in the movie _Wag the Dog_, however.

I still think Bush also did a lot to violate the Constitution, and to violate human rights, but he did it with the support of Congress, and there is nothing in US law that would directly impeach him. Even if the Supreme Court were to rule the Patriot Act, or NCLB, unconstitutional (it already ruled McCain-Feingold unconstitutional), that still wouldn’t be grounds for prosecution. You can’t prosecute someone for passing a law that’s later overturned.

Of course, the Left would argue that he should be arrested by some UN agency, but of course that’s not an option I would support. The UN goes against everything I believe in, starting with the principle of subsidiarity, and including the fact that it’s basically a Masonic entity.

To this, I note how many Papal documents, such as Caritas et Veritate, that seem to support the UN are actually undermining it. When the Vatican says something like, “There needs to be a global entity overseeing the morality of the banking industry,” the Church is saying, “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge”; “There needs to be an entity to oversee global morality. By the way, we’re a global entity that God established to oversee morality.” It’s saying basically that the Church should be running the UN.

That gets us back to the Inquisition. Just as a modern day Inquisition would have stopped the sex abuse crisis in its tracks, so too would it give us something to do with Bush.

Obama is clearly guilty of constitutional crimes. Bush is guilty of grave moral offenses, many of which he shares with Obama, but he did them all with the protection of the institutions we have in this country. We don’t have an entity that punishes violations of Natural Law that are not also part of the criminal code. That’s what an Inquisition is for.

So, that’s how the Occupy Wall Street Left, which would reflexively say “Inquisition” as a response to any pro-Catholic statement, is actually arguing *for* an Inquisition.

Can we please NOT feed into the other side’s characterization of us?

OK, I have had it.

Yes, satire, polemic, sound bites, etc., are part of rhetorical debate and discourse. Yes, the reason our country is so ideologically divided is that we’re facing such crucial issues that people have disparate views on. I don’t understand how anyone can deny the humanity of an unborn child or the right of a disabled person to live. I also don’t understand how anyone who supports those rights can deny that the vulnerable need some help from society to live, and part of that includes some level of government assistance. Yet at the same time, I don’t understand how people can stick their heads in the ground about the fact that our government is already bankrupt, and this spend-spend-spend with no budget cuts or tax increases mentality will only lead to self-destruction (personally, I think officially adopting state capitalism is the only way to really get out of the mess we’re in). I understand that people are still afraid from 9/11, but I also don’t understand why people who profess to be devout Catholics can refuse to honestly interpret the Church’s teachings on Just War. I don’t understand why people who claim to be pro-life can fail to recognize that Blessed John Paul II, John Cardinal O’Connor and even Fr. Frank Pavone have all taught that war and the death penalty are just as much pro-life issues as abortion. At the same time, I can’t fathom how people refuse to recognize that the vast numbers of children killed by abortion compared to those other issues, and the fact that the Church teaches the state sometimes has to use them out of extreme necessity, mean that abortion should be our top issue in terms of voting. OK, I get why our country is so hotly divided.

I also think Barack Obama is a monster. His position on Born Alive Protection, that letting babies who survive abortions starve to death is “necessary to protect the right to abortion,” an issue which even NARAL won’t take a position on, which Alan Keyes pushed in the 2004 Illinois Senate election, ought to be enough to discredit him. I think the damage he’s done to our economy is offensive, and the fact that his supporters think that trillions of dollars in corporate welfare is equivalent to FDR’s New Deal shows how ignorant most of his supporters are. I’m a “birther” in that I don’t think Obama is eligible, whether or not he was born in Hawaii, because of his Indonesian joint citizenship, and his possible criminal activity. I certainly think he has nothing to hide, as he has refused to release, and instead suppressed, records which most presidential candidates have shown to the public. I think he should be impeached for his unconstitutional invasion of Libya, for his other gross violations of the Constitution, and now for his own lawyer’s admission that the “Long form birth certificate” published by the White House in April 2011 was actually a forgery meant to deceive the American people.

(Now, for those who say, “Throw Bush in jail,” I have a response coming later; stay tuned).

I am sick to death of the claim that those of us who oppose Obama do so only because we’re racists, and the ensuing debates that end up making Obama’s critics look racist in their attempts to save themselves from accusations of a “thought crime” and the effort to prove a negative.

All of that said, could we please stick to the issues and avoid making that impression? People tend to ignore the extremes of political argument that come from people they agree with. I have argued with people on the Left who insist that political discourse has only become so nasty under Obama, and that the Right is only nasty, and when I point out the 8 years of “Kill Bush” and attempts at obscene references to the president’s last name, etc., they have no idea what I’m talking about. People who never listen to Rush Limbaugh insist that he’s a hate-spewing demagogue. Then they happily listen to Jon Stewart and Bill Maher and other “comedians’ who do nothing but rip on the Catholic Church, rip on conservatives, etc.

So we keep excusing the ever-volatile rhetoric because in our eyes the other side does it worse.

But conservatives should be better. If we’re sincerely about promoting Christian values and human dignity and the Right to Life, then we need to reflect those values. Most of my political arguments with liberals the past few years have involved me fighting to prove I’m not a racist.

Then I look on my Facebook wall, and I see posts from my conservative “friends” (quotation marks referring to the Facebook term, not questioning the friendship of the individuals in question) that make me cringe: “Tar and Feather”; “Arrest Him” (again, used for Bush, took, but the pictures are the key); pictures showing either Barack or Michelle Obama with expressions on their faces that harken to anti-African American stereotypes. Then there’s the occasional outright racist reference, like the bumper sticker that plays on the N-word (in a manner that doesn’t even make sense). I saw a headline about how “Facebook censors conservative sites” that a few of my friends forwarded, apparently without reading the article. The article was actually about Facebook censoring *racist* sites, and the comments were things like, “I’m not a racist. I just believe white people are superior.” What the heck? How can anyone call themselves Christian and believe these things?

I wish to God that Alan Keyes had been the first African American president. I know one of the major reasons he wasn’t was that there is a great deal of active and latent racism among my political bedfellows–he was arbitrarily shut out of debates, for example. When Keyes and his supporters were protesting a debate he was shut out of in Atlanta, the police came and put him in cuffs, and then drove him to an African American slum and dropped him off.

I realize race is an issue, even though I think it’s stupid that people make such a big deal about it on both sides. Why should the color of one’s skin matter any more than the color of one’s hair? Oh, that’s right. In some parts of Europe, you might as well be black as have red hair (in fact, these days, red heads get treated worse than “racial minorities). African Americans argue amongst themselves about the merits of being “light” or “dark.” It’s absurd.

We intentionally put our daughters in an inner city Catholic school with a predominantly African American population partly because the school and parish are relatively orthodox/conservative/traditional, but also because we wanted them to be exposed to people of different races. While there are white children in their classes, our daughters’ closest friends are all of other “races.” Our son goes to a racially public school and in spite of his autism and severe aversion to socialization of any kind, his classmates adore him, and he seems to like them as best as he’s capable. We recently went to a birthday party for one of his classmates. We were only one of two white families at the party. It was clearly not a “we’re inviting everyone in the class” party. I think most of the guests were relatives, and it was a joint party for two sisters, so the guest list per sister was correspondingly reduced. The mother told us that, when they were doing the invitations, her daughter said, “We *have* to invite Josef!”

On the adult level, our friends are very diverse. We have friends who are white, black, Hispanic, Oriental and Arab. We don’t care about race. We *do* care that a person is Catholic and pro-life. I have a brother in law who says his standard for friends is, “Are you Catholic, are you pro-life, and do you like _The Simpsons_?” For Mary and me, it’s something similar. We dislike Kerry, Gore, and Clinton, and some of our own relatives as much as we dislike Obama, because we believe being “pro-choice” is a reprehensible position equivalent to being pro-Holocaust or pro-terrorism, but just because he happens to have darker skin tone than they do, people say we’re “racist”. It’s absurd.

But fighting that image is not helped by conservatives who consciously or unconsciously use racist language or images. I’m sick of it. You want to show Obama disrespect because he supports killing babies or he supports bankrupting our country? Fine. Then make sure your satires and images and sound bites reflect those reasons. Otherwise, when it comes to personal attacks, why can’t we as conservatives set a higher standard then stooping to the level of Jeneane Garofalo and Al Franken?

Why don’t people read the books?

The other day, I posted a slight rant about pluralism, and a certain notion that has crept in post-Vatican II. The Church rightly teaches that there is a “ray of truth” in all ideologies and religions, and that “ray of truth” is what appeals to people and ought to ultimately lead them to Catholicism. The Church, however, also holds there is a great deal of error in these other religions. Vatican II tries to emphasize building dialogue on the good things in other belief systems, but that has often manifested itself in a mentality of pluralism or indifferentism or even syncretism. So, taking for granted a great deal presuming my audience was primarily Catholics, and not intending to directly debate atheists or other non-Catholics as such, I posted a piece about how if we, as Catholics, truly believe our religion is the Truth, then that should influence how we address the issues of the Church in public life, pluralism, religious liberty, and education. We should not, in our Catholic schools even, be teaching our faith as just one option among many. In public schools, a thorough education should at least include “the Great Books,” and that includes many works of Catholic thought.

All that said, I inevitably got some spiteful replies from atheists and agnostics (or I presume so). I refused to directly engage them in a debate where I’d simply be rehashing the arguments of Catholic philosophers. I instead, per the point of my post, invited them to read some of the great texts of Catholic and Christian philosophy–some of which should be prerequisite to a proper education. The person accused me of committing the fallacy of appeal to authority. I tried to explain that I was not appealing to authority but rather referring the reader and/or interlocutor to the texts that explain things better than I could. There’s a huge difference. So this person posted yet another flippant response. Since I had said all I intended to say on the matter and saw no point in preceding in what would inevitably descend to a flamewar, I wasn’t sure the post required a response. Further, I’ve been quite busy these past few days and feeling particularly badly health-wise, so while I’ve been online and have posted a reflection or two since then, I have declined to respond immediately.

The person took my silence as a sign of defeat and posted yet another ad hominem about how I am supposedly “willfully ignorant” because I refuse to debate him or her. I wrote a lengthy response that I felt merited its own post:

Write whatever you want. Moderating a discussion to the audience and purpose I intended does not make me willfully ignorant. It makes me the moderator of this blog. There are plenty of threads on this blog where I’ve directly argued with atheist commentors. I just have no interest in doing so in this particular thread, because the purpose of it was to address the question of how Catholics should handle a pluralistic society. The post is not directly dealing with atheist-Catholic dialogue or apologetics. I don’t see how inviting you to actually read the books that I’m referring to, which make the arguments I’m taking for granted, constitutes “willful ignorance.” It constitutes willful refusal to have a discussion that would be inane without the proper context.
I have a thorough education, and I have an informal self-assigned Great Books education that I engaged in on top of schooling. I have never been adverse to studying world views that are different than mine, and I appreciate learning from them what they have to offer. However, as G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of an open mind is to shut it on something solid.”
Further, you hardly gave me that much time to reply. I realize that this Internet culture presumes instantaneous response, but I haven’t had that much time the past few days, and what time I have had, I have been having severe pain from the aortic dissection I live with. So I simply have not had interest in engaging in adversarial debates in the time I’ve spent online this past few days.

Pray for Warren Buffett

Now is the time to pray very hard for Warren Buffett. The 81 year old multi-billionaire and sometime richest man in the world has announced he has cancer.

By the world’s standards, Warren Buffett is a very rich man, and a very successful man.

In reality, though, Buffett is a very poor man. Like Citizen Kane, he has money–not necessarily “all that money can buy,” since he has lived most of his life like Ebenezer Scrooge–but he ultimately has no meaning in his life.

Buffett is an agnostic, openly hostile to the Catholic Church, has already given tons of money to “population control” and will leave the bulk of his estate to Planned Parenthood when he dies.

Like most billionaires, Buffett is a registered Democrat

I’m hoping that, at the very least, that Buffett’s recent concern for the national debt (odd for a Democrat) will lead him to change his mind and leave it all to the government, even though it would only be a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions Obama has spent on “bail-outs” for Buffett’s CEO buddies.

“But,” you say, “the Democrats are the party of the poor! Republicans are the party of the rich!” No, Republicans are the party of the middle class and of small business owners. Democrats are the party of the mega-rich manipulating the poor into voting for politicians who will use helping the poor as an excuse to give more power to the elites. Look at Obamacare: millions of people have been duped into thinking this is some kind of socialized medicine that will provide them with free health care, when in fact it’s *forcing* them to give more money to the insurance companies. More welfare for the rich brought to you by the Democrats.

But imagine the good that would be done if Buffett would give his riches to the world’s largest charitable organization. I don’t know any atheist or agnostic charities that actually help people. My family has been helped by government programs. We’ve been helped by Christian charitable groups, particularly Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Society (people who volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul are generally some of the nicest people I’ve ever met). We’ve never been helped by any secular charity. I don’t even know if there *are* such things. Secularists don’t start charities to actually help people: they start “charities” for saving the whales and killing the children.

My tendency to rant aside, I am greatly concerned for Warran Buffett’s soul, as well as the horrible damage that will be done if he leaves billions of dollars to Planned Parenthood and its ilk. Even if the federal government and every state cut its funding, Planned Parenthood could remain in business for years, making a fortune off of abortions while duping Democrats into thinking it does anything besides abortions.

Meanwhile, poor Warren, a child of God who is infinitely valuable and infinitely loved in his Father’s eyes, will most likely suffer very greatly in Hell for the damage he has done to human dignity, both through his corporations and through his support for “reducing the surplus population,” as his mentor Scrooge put it.

Our Lord warned us, speaking of a rich man, that some people will not even be persuaded if one should rise from the dead. Certainly, our society is filled with people who have heard of Christ’s resurrection and do not believe in it–Buffett is in his own spokesman’s words such an individual.

Dickens, in spite of Our Lord’s words, suggests that a rich man *can* be saved by the warning of a friend from Hell. But while Scrooge is “converted,” he is converted merely to a “joy of giving.” The Masons invented the myth that giving is inherently joyful to give a reason for alms without Christ. Of course, the Popes say that true charity is impossible without Christ (see the encyclicals condemning Freemasonry and see Benedict XVI’s _Caritas et Veritate_).

Christianity is honest enough to recognize that giving is *NOT* inherently joyful. Christians become joyful by giving because we shed our attachments and become more Christlike. But the whole reason Christians *give* is that it’s an experience of self-denial. We realize that this life is temporary, and we are supposed to store up treasure in Heaven where no thief can enter nor moth nor dust destroy. That’s why the Catholic Church, in spite of the many detractions and calumnies thrown at her by secularists, is the largest charitable organization in the world. That’s why Christians, collectively and in spite of their economic status, perform more charity than all the “billionaire philanthropists” who give of their excess to meaningless causes.

But in spite of the fact that he is like the Rich Man who let Lazarus starve to death, and in spite of the fact that his role model is Ebenezer Scrooge, we must pray very strongly that this man softens his heart of stone. Through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Katherine Drexel, St. Nicholas and others, may Warren Buffett open his heart to the Gospel. Dear Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon him. Send him a vision. Send him the right book to read, as you sent Edith Stein the autobiography of Holy Mother Teresa of Avila. Have him open his eyes to the Scriptures. You know what it takes, and we know that, through the interrelationship of love You have made us for, You want us to pray before You act, for as you said to Your Mother at Cana, “it is not My time yet” unless we and the saints intercede first and do our small part.

So please, Dear Lord, do what it takes to convert Warren Buffet. Let him be received into the Church and receive the sacraments before he dies, even if it is a death bed conversion. Give him time to change his heart and his will. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on Warren Buffett and on the whole world. Amen.

Contemplation is No Fun

People like to use all these nice glowing words like “enlightenment” and “inner peace,” and talk about consolations and “spiritual experiences.” Now, most of the time, when people use these terms they’re really talking about physiological experiences and psychological phenomena (i.e., the oxytocin surge one gets from meditation). One of the many dangers of failing to discern true spiritual or mystical experience and focusing too much on feelings is to confuse anything that brings on those kinds of feelings with a spiritual experience.

Even when people have genuine spiritual experiences, it’s usually of a kind that, when you delve into the saints’ writings on the subject, is really what the saints would consider the first stage of getting anywhere in prayer.

True mysticism is about union with Christ, and union with Christ means union with His sufferings. St. Teresa of Avila says that the most definitive sign that one is on the right track with mental prayer–and the best “consolation” one can receive–is the gift of tears. The saints agree that the Passion is the most important subject one can meditate upon, and that’s why it’s the basis of so many devotions. The spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius begin by meditating on the sufferings we deserve in Hell, and on the sufferings of Christ. That is why the first sign we’re on the right path is the ability to weep for our sins, for Christ’s sufferings, etc., and, better yet, to meditate by imagining what Christ’s sufferings felt like for Him. People make a big deal about the Stigmata, but they *hurt*. Padre Pio bled profusely and was in horrible pain. Many mystics have experienced spiritual stigmata that were not visible but gave them all the pain of the actual wounds.

The further we get in the spiritual life, the more Christ asks us to join in His sufferings. The spiritual life is not all sunshine and roses. The main reason most people fail to advance in the spiritual life is that they don’t want to. First, we have to be able to give up our sins, and our concupiscence makes us desire them. We cling to our pet sins because we figure there will be time. We think in a minimalist manner about mere forgiveness. If getting to Heaven were merely about forgiveness of sin, we’d have it easy, but it’s not. To get to Heaven, one must be perfect, one must be totally conformed to Jesus Christ, and very few people achieve that in this life–that’s what Purgatory is for.

In _The Great Divorce_, his modernization of _The Divine Comedy_, C. S. Lewis depicts purgatory as a bus ride from Hell to Heaven. Heaven is so “real” that the souls cannot bear it. There are various trials they undergo-waiting in line, being inconvenienced, suffering the pain that comes from the “reality” of Heaven, and then finally encountering people they have not forgiven who are in Heaven (such as the father of a murder victim who encounters the murderer and cannot forgive the murderer whom God has forgiven).

That is pretty much a good analogy of what Purgatory is. Purgatory is about purging *all* our attachments: first, our attachments to sin, then our attachments to *anything* that isn’t God. Finally, when all those attachments are purged, we can begin the process of union with Christ, which starts with embracing the Cross fully and literally.

Any of us can achieve that in this life *if* we are willing to rid ourselves of the attachments that all of us, myself included, cling to in our fear and weakness.

For those who embrace mental prayer, and manage to overcome most of their sins, and manage to practice some level of detachment and asceticism, the stage of fully embracing the Passion is the great challenge. Even those who have achieved those other difficult tasks will, when given just a taste of it, say, “Oh, no, not this. This is too hard.”

I had but a taste of it today. I was visiting my daughters’ Catholic school and waiting for them to come down for lunch. The cafeteria has a big crucifix with broken feet. Now, as a devotee of the Infant of Prague, I believe that one method of prayer and devotion is not so much the use of statues and images for prayer as the reverence we show them as reverence for Christ in absentia. Devotion to the Infant Jesus is about giving Him the worldly glory He was denied in His life on earth, and we give honor to Jesus when we honor His image.

OK, so I was right at the foot of this crucifix in my wheelchair. I looked intently at its broken feet and imagined how Our Lord might have felt had His feet been so broken in actuality. I thought about the damage that His tortures and carrying the cross might have done to His precious toes. Then I looked at some other parts of the statue that appeared to also have peeled paint. Then I realized that those were *not* peeled paint. The artist who did that Crucifix depicted Our Lord’s knees being stripped down to the muscle from carrying the cross and enduring the scourging. I was horrified at the thought. Then I began to pray an aspiration over and over–I think it was the Miraculous Medal prayer, but I don’t remember. Then I felt contemplation coming on and stopped and just sat there silently in my wheelchair, at the foot of the Cross. My last bit of active meditation was to imagine myself at the foot of the cross with John and Our Lady and the holy women.

Then it hit me.

It was brief, and barely even what I would call a conscious experience. I can’t in any way describe it. It just welled up within me from that place where God touches our souls in prayer.

But after all my years of mental prayer, after all my various approaches to reflecting on the Passion and trying to use my imagination to conjure up what it might have been like, I was given by Our Lord a taste of what it actually was. In some spiritual manner I *was* at Calvary. In that moment, the whole burden of the torment of Calvary came upon me. It flooded my soul.

I backed away.

I couldn’t take it. It was too much. I think I’d rather have experienced the pains of Hell. Both C. S. Lewis and Fulton Sheen compared Jesus to a dentist. When you’re in the dentist’s chair, the pain of getting your tooth worked on seems worse than the pain of the toothache–and sometimes it *is* worse.

That is a very rough analogy for what I experienced today. For it was not just about the pain. It was the overwhelming sorrow. The sorrow and fear that those standing by Jesus’ side felt for Him; the sorrow He felt for them and for all of us. I guess that’s it: usually, when I reflect on the Passion, I focus on the pain, but this was all about the sorrow: Sorrow incarnate, sorrow in some tangible sense that welled up inside me and filled and consumed my soul. The deepest despair or depression I’ve ever felt was a picnic compared to this sorrow, yet at the same time it had a wholeness to it, a fullness that was the direct opposite of the emptiness of despair.

Indeed, if on the one hand the experience was more painful to endure than the worst despair or the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt, at the same time, I recognized that its literal fullness was more truly fulfilling and uplifting than the most positive aesthetic experience or “inspirational” experience in the commonly used sense.

I could spend my life just trying to describe that one experience of a few seconds, and I could spend my life considering its import, for it was, ultimately an invitation. It was an invitation to take my journey to a higher level, to a next step that is extremely frightening because of the demands it will entail.

When it comes to rape, incest and sexual abuse, I’m pro-choice

I believe in a woman’s right to choose to shoot her assailant.

Why is it that people who claim to believe a woman has the right to kill an innocent baby do not think she has the right to carry a weapon to protect herself from assault?

Why Religious Pluralism is Stupid

I have been taken to task by some commentors on this blog and elsewhere for my assertion that atheists are stupid. I wish to recant that statement. Referring to my post on Invincible Ignorance, anyone who isn’t Catholic or Orthodox is stupid–and it’s just a question of whether it’s invincible ignorance or just lack of education.

If a person insists on saying that the earth is flat, in spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, we rightly call that person stupid.
If a person insists on saying the Sun revolves around the earth, in spite of the scientific evidence to the contrary, we rightly call that person stupid.
If a person insists on a literal interpretation of the creation stories in Genesis, in spite of both the scientific evidence to the contrary, and in spite of the fact that the Early Church Fathers didn’t interpret all aspects of the Old Testament literally, we rightly call that person stupid.

Yet if a person refuses to recognize that life begins at conception, in spite of the scientific evidence, we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.
If a person insists that same sex attraction is normal, in spite of the fact that it is biologically impossible for people of the same sex to have sexual intercourse, and in spite of the fact that a genetically favorable trait should favor reproduction, we say that person has a right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that there is one God, despite the fact that logic dictates the existence of one God (see Augustine, Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, etc.), we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that the one true God revealed Himself to Israel through numerous miracles that are historically documented, we say that person has a right to his or her own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that the Divine Word became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, revealing Himself by numerous well-documented miracles, culminating in His own resurrection from the dead, we say that person has a right to his own opinion.
If a person refuses to recognize that Jesus Christ established seven sacraments, as documented in Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, or that He established His Church through the Apostles and their Successors, as documented in Scripture and the Apostolic Fathers, we say that person has the right to his or her own opinion.

The truths of the Catholic faith are as objectively true and as well-proven as any scientific fact or theory. The Church employs thorough methods to document miracles, and there is plenty of scientific observation and evidence to validate numerous miracles, from the sun dancing at Fatima to St. Pio’s stigmata to the Shroud of Turin and the tilma of Guadalupe.

That people refuse to accept the truth of these miracles is pure ignorance, or a refusal to accept plain fact as obstinate as the refusal to accept that the earth is round.

I’m sick to death of pussy-footing around the issue. When we, as Catholics, refuse to assert the absolute truth of our faith and concede it to be one option among a plurality of opinions, we do a disservice.

Now, no one should be killed for refusing to accept the Faith, just as no one should be killed for refusing to accept Darwinian evolution. It should not be a criminal offense to be ignorant of or refuse to accept the Truth. However, it *should* be a criminal offense to refuse to *teach* the truth. Just as schools are required to teach certain curricula about history and science, and just as parents are required to get their children educated about the basics of math, language, history and science, so too must children be educated in the historical and scientific truths of the Catholic faith, simply because they are true.