Category Archives: contraception

DACA and AL: if you do it long enough it’s OK

First, as I’ve said many times, I think the GOP should propose a law with a path for citizenship for illegal aliens and personhood/citizenship for the unborn.

Second, usual caveat that “I voted for Castle,” and I have no particular opinion of Steven Bannon, one way or the other.

However, I would like to present a few scenarios for your consideration:
1) A school says “We think plagiarism is bad.  A first offense is a failure of the assignment.  A second offense is a failure of the course.  A third offense is expulsion.  Oh, but if you’ve been plagiarizing for 4 years of school, and we find out a month before graduation, you’ll be allowed to graduate with those who have been working hard.”
2) A man loses his job.  He decides that applying for disability/unemployment, Medicaid, etc., is too difficult and/or demeaning and would require too  long a wait so he starts stealing for a living (i.e., Fun with Dick and Jane).  He steals for years.  His children grow up learning to steal with him.  He gets caught after years of stealing.  Do we let him off because he’s been doing it so long and because his children are involved?
3) A family jump the fence of a rich Hollywood celebrity or a bishop and declare themselves residents of his home.  Technically, per Catholic Social Teaching, there is a greater obligation for the celebrity or the bishop to share his residence than for a country to allow open immigration–and in the latter case, try emigrating to the Vatican and see how that works out.

This is the struggle I have with the concept of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and their families.  I used to take a stronger pro- stance, but then legal immigrants or second/third generation Mexican-Americans whose relatives came here illegally convinced me that it’s an injustice to those who work hard to come here.

And the same is true of the controversy around Amoris Laetitiae: if you point out it’s a double insult to the victims of adultery who already suffer from “no fault” divorce and rubber-stamp annulments.  It’s like saying, “If you’ve sinned long enough, you’re OK,” on this narrow group of sins, but would the same reasoning apply to a serial killer or a racist or a thief?

In the current discussion, there are three issues at play:
1) How best to handle illegal immigration (and this is far too complex an issue, morally or legally). What I do know is that arguments from emotion or “justice” work both ways, and I tend to focus on the injustice towards those who are struggling or have struggled to follow the US’s existing laws that are already more generous than most countries’s immigration laws. I see this as basically the equivalent of “plagiarism is bad but if you’ve been plagiarizing all through school and just got caught right before graduation we won’t expel you.” Just as the “justice” and “mercy” of AL is unmerciful towards the victims of adultery and the children of the first marriage. At the same time, aspects of US law regarding refugees are inconsistent and purely political.
2) Whether the president has the right to legislate via Executive Order, and he doesn’t. Outside of a proper Catholic monarchy, the only way to even remotely protect against corruption and dictatorship is a precisely worded Constitution implemented literally (this is a principle Aristotle understood two and a half millennia ago). Dictators always act in what they think is “justice.”
3) Whether the bishops have “moral authority” to be expressing “moral outrage” over one particular aspect of US immigration policy, particularly on the grounds of a supposed absolute obligation to enforce positive Scriptural law in a particular way. If that is the case, if refusal to “welcome the stranger” regardless of the circumstance is a moral duty, then they should be leading by personal example. Saying that it’s wrong to hop the bishop’s wall and declare yourself a resident of his palace but it’s right to hop the border and declare yourself a resident of another country is hypocrisy.

 

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“Three Felonies a Day,” Clintons and Irish Travelers

In 2009, an attorney named Harvey Silverglate published a book called Three Felonies a Day that became a kind of a meme or urban legend, that seems sensationalist but is really based on simple facts.  He used to have a website that summarizes his book, but I can’t find it.  First, most federal law does not include the condition of “criminal intent.
The FBI recently said that Hillary Clinton should *not* be prosecuted for “gross negligence” in exposing classified information because she didn’t know any better, yet a Naval servicement is charged with a felony for taking six photos of the inside of a submarine (and potentially going to jail when crewmembers of the same ship did the same and received internal disciplinary actions).

Second, federal law is so pervasive.  One of Silverglate’s examples is the “Honest Services” clause of the mail-and-wire fraud statute, which is so vaguely worded that anyone who calls in sick to go shopping or see a show is guilty of a felony.  Speaking of which, technically using an alias online is wire fraud.
Ever download or record something copyrighted without paying?  Pass off someone else’s work as your own?  How many times does the average person break copyright law?
What about EPA regulations?
Almost anyone involved in education has done something that violates FERPA.  Almost anyone involved in healthcare has violated HIPAA or ACA.
Then there are the stories Silverglate tells us people wandering onto federal property, not realizing it, since there’s so much of it, and being charged with traspassing or theft.

Personally, I think Silverglate’s *three* felonies a day is optimistic.

Another issue Silverglate doesn’t touch on, at least in that context, is the “witch hunt” scenario.  The New England “witch” scare that led to the Salem Trials started with a book by one of the Mathers about “witchcraft” (Catholicism) among Irish and Caribbean slaves.  Now, some “witches” were selling what we’d now call recreational drugs like marijuana and “magic mushrooms.”  Sometimes, they or other witches were the forerunners of Planned Parenthood (the only convicted witch in Virginia history was convicted of selling abortifacients and contraceptives, and pardoned centuries after her execution by Tim Kaine).  Some were practicing voodoo and other pagan religions, but whatever their reasons for being accused, those who were “guity” admitted it, and took deals by “naming names.”  The women they named were mostly innocent, but since they *were* innocent and knew nothing of “witchcraft,” they were prosecuted.

The same happens today with many federal cases, particularly the “War on Drugs”: a criminal keeps his family in the dark about his activities.  When he and his wife or roommate or whomever are arrested, he takes the deal and names his wife or roommate or whomever as knowing about it.  The innocent and ignorant person goes to jail.

And because these laws are so vaguely worded, and so expansive, anyone can be prosecuted for any reason if the government wants to.  Joe Schmoe gets fired or sent to jail for checking his work email at home, but Hillary Clinton is running for president?

Meanwhile, there’s a local story about the indictment of 20 “Irish Travelers” on 45 fraud charges.  I had first heard of Irish Travelers through their popular culture representation, and, being inclined to support an underdog, have had a hard time discerning whether the allegations are accurate.  If you’ve ever heard of “red Irish” versus “black Irish” (a rivalry once depicted on 30 Rock between fictional Jack Donaghy and non fictional Conan O’Brien), or “lact curtain Irish” or “Shanty Irish,” that’s the Travelers.  Whether they’re related to “real gypsies” is disputed.

As disdained as the Irish are in general, the Travelers in Ireland are disdained by the other Irish, as well.  Around here, I find that when non-Catholics hear I’m Catholic, they think I’m a Traveler.  When other Catholics around the state hear I’m from North Augusta, they think “Traveler.”  Ironically, Travelers drive much nicer vehicles than we do, generally dress and style their hair “expensively” (even if the follow out-of-date fashions).

On All Saints’ Day about 5 years ago, we had to drive upstate overnight because my wife had an event there for work, and one of our kids had a medical appointment.  When we went to get dinner after arriving in Greenville, we realized we’d left our only card at the McDonald’s we stopped at for lunch.  We called to cancel it, but it was too late to go to the bank in person for a withdrawl.  Finding myself, in the middle of a real life occurrence of a cliche scam, I took the kids to Mass then asked for help.  The parish business manager was the usher, and he got the pastor, who gave us the $60 I requested.  That covered a hotel room (how many parents have saved on hotel rooms by undercounting their kids?) and some vending machine food.  In the morning, I *did* go to the bank and get the cash, then came back to the church to give back the $60.

The business manager said, “Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. Keep the money and do something special for your kids.”  He mentioned the Irish Travelers in North Augusta (I guess he thought we were Travelers), and recommended their church as a beautiful place to visit, as it had rescued the stained glass windows from an old church in Philadelphia.

It took us a while to actually visit, because we were worried about their reputation for being clandestine, reclusive, etc.  While they have a reputation for wearing fancy clothes and hairdos, and the women *do* have 60s and 80s style hair, for daily Mass and devotional services, at least, they dress pretty much like my wife and I do (hence the common impression of people, especially when I’m wearing the jacket they gave me–more on that later).  They usually wear religious t-shirts or hoodies.

Their liturgical music is Haugen-Haas, and the most orthodox publications in their vestibule are the diocesan newspaper and Catholic Worker. Otherwise, it’s the “Fishwrap,” US Catholic or Commonweal–I forget which.

OTOH Their parish has Adoration, various Novenas, Rosaries, Legion of Mary and a few other groups.  They have an outdoor shrine to the Infant of Prague.

We don’t know if the first daily Mass we went to there was something special, or they just always have a meal, but contrary to reputation, they invited us to join them after Mass for a very nice little buffet in the vestibule.  The “lace curtain” part of their reputation is of course a penchant for enjoying fancy food, fancy houses and fancy cars that makes this Carmelite rather uncomfortable.

We went that once for daily Mass in the evening.  Then in the Lent before my surgery, we went for daily Mass and Stations on Friday.  That was when I noticed the women wearing the religious hoodies and asked about them.  They offered to give me one next week, for free.  We asked for mutual prayers.  We came almost every Friday that Lent for Stations, and after a few weeks, they gave me a very nice St. Michael hoodie that I still have but sometimes feel embarrased to wear.  Once, last winter, we passed a group of men at Wal-Mart who saw my hoodie and said, “He’s not one of us.  Wonder where he got that?”

We’ve been once or twice since for Mass, and I went to Adoration a few months ago.

Seeing all the women praying in church, with their 60s style hair, with very few men there, made me feel  like I was in a mafia movie: the women in church, praying for the men who were out commiting crimes for a living (if reputation was deserved, and the truth is probably somewhere in between.

What I don’t understand, though, is how the fraud the Irish Travelers commit to get their fancy belongings is any different than the fraud committed by Hillary Clinton or anyone else who’s rich.  It’s not envy to point out that it’s extremely difficult to become extremely wealthy without commiting some sort of crime or sin.

Most of the articles focus on misrepresenting income to get Food Stamps and Medicaid, and I see comments online from African Americans–a community also stigmatized as being full of criminals and committing the same kinds of crimes–rejoicing.  It is horrible how we, as liberals put it, “Other” everyone.  It’s always “those people,” and the accusations against “those people” usually apply to “us,” so long as we’re the “good guys.”  Every villain is the hero of his own story, after all.

We hear about the Travelers getting paid to do work at people’s houses, doing a bad job, and then leaving.  I’ve experienced a lot of workers like that over the years, from licensed repairment to MDs.  If a doctor charges me $500 to tell me I’m being a hypochondriac and doesn’t even run a test, I still have to pay him, then he goes and uses my money to make the payment on his BMW.  If an Irish traveler charges me $500 to paint my house, does a cheap job that washes off in the next rainfall, and disappears, I’m out $500 that he uses to make a payment on his BMW.

I’ve read articles about previous raids and investigations that turned up nothing but some unaccounted for cash.  That actually sounded suspicious to me, like they *were* hiding something, but still, it strikes me as a witch hunt.  And as Hillary Clinton races to the White House on the backs of deleted emails, compromised National Security, dead ambassadors, dead friends, dead witnesses, dead lawyers, dead soldiers and dead babies, it seems hypocritical now for the government to prosecute anyone for any reason.

The flash of light at conception.

Old news, but since someone once accused me of making this up . .

Help bring an at home progesterone test to market

As several blogs and Catholic media outlets have already reported, a microbiologist named Amy Beckley has developed “Ovulation Double Check” an at home fertility test that doesn’t just test for lh but also progesterone.  She’s teamed up with the Marquette Model people, and has started a crowdfunding campaign to bring it to market.  $100 donors will get a “lifetime supply.”  In a few weeks, the campaign has been 84% funded, but there are still 60 “lifetime supply” slots available.

Click here to support the campaign.

What the Pew Poll on Catholics can tell us about Muslims.

This week, yet another Survey came out showing that most who identify as “Catholic” are not,morally.  Whatever happened to Catholics needing to “believe all the Church believes and teaches”?  Where would we be if the priest who gave Dietrich Von Hildebrand instruction hadn’t required him to accept everything?

Yet we’re told that, because the vast majority of “Catholics” use contraception without batting an eye, that means it’s O.K.  for Catholics to contracept.  The majority of Cstholics think the Eucharist is a “symbol,” which in the old days would have meant anathema, yet somehow that tells society that “the Church” (including much of the hierarchy) thinks differently than the Magisterium, but those of us who *do* believe (and go to Confession when we fall short rather than literally parading our sins) are “extremists.”

So, when the media, politicians and even well meaning Catholics insist “Islam is a religion of peace, the majority of Muslims are peaceful,” I don’t buy it.

I went to a nominally Catholic high school where, for “religion,” we once had to sit through a lesson on Islam from one student.  Back then, everyone said, “‘Islam’ means ‘submission.'”  That’s what my classmate said in a pro-Islam talk.  It’s what my professor and textbook in the Islamic history class I took for my multicultural requirement said.   Only after 9/11 did it suddenly start meaning “peace.”

Jesus Christ preached to fight spiritually, not physically.  As Tim Rice puts it, “To conquer death, you only have to die.”  He was crucified–in part, because the crowds rejected Him for *not* conquering.  Yes, Moses and the Judges took the Holy Land by force, and that is a Mystery in understanding God (most straightforward answer is that, before Christ, all mortal sin was literally mortal).  Regardless, we regard Vlad the 

Impaler, who protected all of Europe for a generation, as a monster.  Do 

Muslims do the same to their impalers?  No, they honor them as caliphs because they follow in the footsteps of Mohammed.

That is the difference.  Even when we honor those who’ve fought in just wars as Saints, it’s usually for what happened after more than before.

Yet why, in Islam or Christianity, does society point to the majorit’s beliefs and actions to represent the religion?  As Fr. Dubay put it, you don’t judge a belief system by those who do it badly.  You judge it by its heroes who best e employ its teachings.

A Question for Pastors

I have a serious question to ask to any priests who may happen to read this, but first, I’d like to begin with an example.
Arguably, the worst pope in history was Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia: we say “Borgia Popes” when there was really only one, but his reputation defined an era; his daughter(!) Lucretia is ranked in history and myth with the likes of Jezebel and Medea; his son(!) is believed to be the model for the behaviors Machiavelli describes in _The Prince_.
During an era when women were forbidden, both in canonical and civil law, from preaching, a woman who claimed to be a locutionary and prophetess was brought before the throne of Alexander VI on charges of witchcraft.  She began to recite and denounce the sins of Rodrigo Borgia.  The Pope, not known for any particular respect for human life, could have publically or privately ordered her tortured or killed in any way he wanted, but he acknowledge the truth of her words and ordered that she be released.
I have known few local pastors willing to demonstrate such humility when laity have even so much as questioned their decisions on morally neutral matters, much less challenged them for setting a bad example or being outright cruel.  13 years after the so-called “scandals,”  which were really for some reason a sudden media outburst about problems long known and rumored, have we learned nothing?
While the Church has addressed child sexual abuse nominally by targeting parents and making up draconian policies based more on legal, insurance and PR concerns than morality–which was the problem to begin with–and while some reports suggest the cases of sexual abuse have gone down, verbal and emotional abuse by pastors goes on unabated.
When a few lay organizations perhaps go overboard in their zeal for prophetic witness, they are dismissed as “causing division,” while the average Catholic who cares about the Church is still ignored or dismissed or even banned.
The Holy Father worries about pastors “obsessing” in homilies about a “few disjointed moral issues,” yet most of us have rarely, if ever, heard those moral issues addressed from the pulpit, except by priests who preach of “tolerance” and “more important issues,” and the ones who do preach about them tend to “disappear,” get  passed up for pastoral appointments, or suddenly adopt a softer tone.
You see, if a rich liberal Catholic writes an angry letter to the bishop, that letter gets heard, but if a traditionalist, whether rich or not (but usually we have less disposable income because we actually have kids) writes to the bishop, in that case the letter-writer gets ignored or worse.

Poll after poll shows that most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of Our Faith, and it’s not preached about, even when we have the Bread of Life discourse every three years.  Poll after poll shows that only a small percentage, if only a fraction of a percent, of Catholics are using NFP.
We’re told, if we point to the lack of children in the pews as a cause for pastoral concern, that we’re “being judgemental” and that maybe all those people are suffering infertility.  If that’s the case, then priests should be preaching about adoption or about how the birth control hormones polluting our water supply are causing rising infertility rates.

Yet, when the saints, and the Popes (including Pope Francis) suggest avoiding preaching against sin, they usually do it with the alternative of preaching prayer.  St. Louis de Montfort and St. Teresa of Avila both call on priests to teach prayer and devotion to Our Lady, that sinners want to know how to repent, and God will open the truth to them in prayer.

We’re told about the Pope’s admonitions against using air conditioning, but not his admonitions against priests living in luxury and his calls for pastors to “smell like the sheep” and go out among the poor.

And the question that I always come back to is: Father(s), do you care more about saving souls or about saving money?

Do you care that the majority of your flock are likely to go to Hell?  Why don’t you warn them?   Do you understand that, when you don’t encourage families to be in the church, when you tear down playgrounds or forbid people from using them, you’re telling people “children aren’t welcome”?  Do you care about the souls of people you push away?  St. Alphonsus warns that pastors will be held accountable for every soul lost to Hell because of their sins of deed or omission.  Even St. John Bosco had a vision, late in life, where St. Dominic Savio admonished him for permitting too many boys to be lost to Hell because he lacked enough faith!

If you find yourself wishing that the most fervent of your followers would die off or get over the alleged “fad” of Tradition, think about it.
If you find yourself suggesting you’d leave the priesthood rather than following Pope Benedict’s call to offer the Extraordinary Form to any group who requests it, or St. John Paul’s call to say part of every Mass in Latin, think about it.
If you find yourself saying things like a hole in one is the greatest moment in your life, think about it.
If you’re more concerned about money issues than whether children or families with children feel welcome in your parish, think about it.
If you find yourself too proud to read something like this and take fraternal correction in humility the way even Rodrigo Borgia was able to do, think about it.

And when you’ve thought about it, I invite you to make or renew a total consecration to Our Lady.  Start today.  Even if it’s not 33 days from a Marian feast, there’s no time like the present.

A guide to St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration
A guide to St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Consecration
IMG_3746
Please, Father, whoever you are reading this, please act now.

The Key to a “Perfect Marriage”

Is not to think there is one.

Back in the late 90s, Mary Beth Bonacci wrote a column about how the purpose of dating is to break up.  So often, that seems to be the purpose not just of dating but of most “relationship” articles.  “How to tell if your [guy/girl] is [cheating/wrong for you/the right one,” “How to tell if your relationship is failing.”  “What do all successful marriages have in common?”

Bai MacFarlane once observed of her divorce that there’s a certain attitude of the “perfect Catholic marriage” that has grown out of the JP2/NFP/TOB movement that sets a certain standard, and people are often led to stress about trying to achieve that standard.

A few years ago, Matt Walsh wrote a piece called “My Marriage Wasn’t Meant to Be,” which he apparently recently revised for his new Blaze column in response to the Sparks divorce.  His point is that we have free will, and the notion of being “destined” to marry someone takes away from free will but also creates an ideal that is too easily lost to sentimentalism–or questioning whether “this is the right one.”  I’d argue that a Mystery is far more complicated than that, and he is quite literally touching on the basic question of free will versus predestination and God’s plans versus our own, but he makes a good point.

Closer to home, my wife, thinking about cases like the MacFarlanes, or Nicholas Sparks and his wife, or of how every celebrity couple who give an interview about their great marriage seem to divorce shortly thereafter, always says, “Don’t say we have a ‘happy marriage.’  Saying that is just inviting the Devil to tempt us.  There’s no such thing as a ‘happy marriage’ or a ‘perfect marriage.'”  It wasn’t until recently that I connected all those thoughts and realized that’s what she means.

Maggie Gallagher a few years ago wrote of attending a 50th anniversary party, where the husband was asked the secret to staying married 50 years, and he said, “Arrive for your wedding and then wait.”

That, really, sums it up.  There are plenty of good points available for guidance in discerning whether someone is the “right” person to marry, and there is plenty of good advice for trying to do better.  But there is a great danger in constantly thinking that a relationship must be “perfect,” that a person must be “perfect,” that if you’re *not* living up to the standard, that you should call it quits.

Nonetheless, however you get there, presuming proper formation and discernment, and no canonical impediments, whether you’re “best friends,” “soul mates,” or arranged, or whatever, after the vows are exchanged, the key to marriage is a) to remember that divorce is never an option; b) to always keep working at it; c) to remember that you’ve given yourselves to each other and be grateful for that gift.

And that’s really all there is to it.