Category Archives: George W. Bush

Remembering 9/10/2001

Yes, you read that right.

Last night, I was in the ER.  I was in what I call “Marfan limbo”: I felt kind of like I did before my aortic dissection: I’ve been very active lately, I’ve had a lot of stress, my blood pressure has been erratic, and I feel a lot of pressure and pain in my arteries (a concept which many doctors claim is “Impossible,” even though it’s the experience of many people I’ve talked to either with Marfan syndrome or atherosclerosis).  Before I digress into a complaint about ERs, the point is I came to the hospital around 7 PM and got into a room at 11.   I went to CT at 12:15 AM and noticed that the clock in my room said 2:15, so I wondered if it was broken or just off by 2 hours.  It still said 2:15 when I left the hospital at 1:45.  So it wasn’t “off by two hours”; it was “off, period,” thus illustrating the adage that a “stopped clock is right twice a day.”

An illustration of the adage in application happened 17 years ago.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a disgruntled Gulf War veteran and atheist, used a truck full of fertilizer to commit what at the time was the deadliest and most destructive act of terrorism on US soil in history.
On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed, and given St. John Paul II’s guidelines for the proper use of the death penalty, his execution could have been considered justified.  At that point in my life, I was a young husband with a wife and unborn daughter, trying to work on my MA thesis and trying desperately to find a full time job so my wife could be a stay at home mother as she wanted.
We had a stack of Catholic periodicals I hadn’t had time to read yet.

On September 10, 2001, I was doing both–working on my thesis and catching up on my periodicals.  I read two things which a day later had great significance and showed me as always that God tends to guide my reading where He wants and when He wants me to know things.

C. S. Lewis’s fictional and allegorical books are sometimes considered novelizations of his nonfiction-he himself makes that point specifically in some cases, such as his association of That Hideous Strength with The Abolition of Man.

So in preparation for my thesis on Till We Have Faces, I was rereading The Four Loves and happened to be reading the part about patriotism.  Therein, Lewis (who was ironically pro-death penalty and one of the few pro-death penalty Christian writers that influenced me in my early reading) talks about how “Just War Theory” and Self-defense follow parallel principles.   He says that if someone invades your home and threatens you, robs you or assaults you, you have the right to fight back, but you do not have the right to chase the invader back to his home and kill him.  That’s vigilantism, not self-defense.  Thus, Lewis says, just war has to be defensive, not retaliatory.

Then I picked up a stack of slightly old diocesan newspapers and scanned for articles that might still have relevance.  I hit upon the USCCB’s statement about the then-upcoming execution of McVeigh.  I thought of the broken clock metaphor when I read the statement, presented by Roger Mahony, who argued that violence only perpetuates violence.  They warned that worse terrorism might result from McVeigh’s execution.

Three months to the day after McVeigh was executed, those words proved prophetic, as an even deadlier and more destructive act of terrorism was perpetrated by men with utility knives on commercial airlines.

These men had come into the country “legally” on student visas but stayed after those visas were expired.  Like McVeigh, the disgruntled Gulf War veteran, they were supposedly motivated by their anger at the United States’ imperialism in the Middle East.  I thought at the time how this event not only fulfilled that warning by the Catholic bishops–it also validated every warning that Patrick “I like what he has to say but I don’t think he can win so I’m not voting for him” Buchanan had made during his bids for the presidency, how if Republicans had nominated Buchanan instead of “likely to win” incumbent Bush in 1992, or possibly even in 2000, that 9/11 might not have happened because Buchanan would have tightened immigration policy, and brought our troops back to guard our own country instead of oil companies’ interests.

A week or two before, we went to a Sunday Mass where the priest quoted the famous Billy Graham quip that if God didn’t punish America, He owed an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Yet know this, that the kingdom of God is at hand. [12] I say to you, it shall be more tolerable at that day for Sodom, than for that city. [13] Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida. For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the mighty works that have been wrought in you, they would have done penance long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. [14] But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgement, than for you. [15] And thou, Capharnaum, which art exalted unto heaven, thou shalt be thrust down to hell.” (Luke 10:11-15, Douay).

For about a week, people flooded into churches.  People prayed.  It seemed like America was having its Ninevah moment.  Then, suddenly, it became “They hate us because of our freedom.”
Suddenly, we were being told, “Islam means ‘peace,'” even though I was always taught before that–by Muslims–that “Islam means ‘submission.'”  We were being told that it was wrong to see God’s justice in the “tragedy,” that the victims were “innocent” (even though there has only been one innocent victim in history).  Rather than doing things that might have actually prevented something like 9/11 from happening again, like tightening our immigration policies and bringing our troops back to our country to defend our own borders, we got involved in a perpetual “War on Terror” that has just perpetuated the cycle of violence even further, and we’re told that if one criticizes this cycle of violence, if one criticizes the imperialism of it, one is “dishonoring the Troops.”

Socrates said it is better to suffer wrong than to do it.

A common theme of many Marian apparitions–which have very accurately warned of the times in which we live–is that our only weapons should be the Rosary and the Cross.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

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What’s your price?

We’ve all heard the story, attributed to various writers, of the British humorist sitting next to the beautiful woman at the banquet and asking, “Would you sleep with me for 1 million pounds?” “Of course!” “Would you sleep with me for 10 pounds?” “What kind of woman do you think I am?” “We’ve established that; now we’re just haggling over price.”
Chesterton said that men do not differ so much over what they consider evil as what evils they consider acceptable.
It is the easy compromise that keeps the culture of death going. Every one of us who refuses to compromise gets labelled an “extremist” precisely because of the easy way people sell out.
Every time the Republicans gain ground in national office, pro-life and pro-family issues are a major reason for the voters, but the Republicans never follow through because they claim they won’t be reelected. “Next time,” they tell us.
In the 1970s, the National Right to Life Committee developed a “long term strategy” for overturning _Roe v. Wade_. The first law passed was the Hyde Amendment, banning federal funding of abortion. 40 years later, “progress” is the Republican House passing a new ban on such funding.
Meanwhile, does anybody even talk about embryonic stem cell research anymore? George W. Bush’s “if the babies are already dead, might as well put the remains to good use” reasoning has crept not only into the NRLC’s positions but into the Catholic commentariat. And that’s the same position we hear on vaccines derived from fetal tissue.
In 2005, the Pontifical Academy for Life (pro Vita, or PAV) issued a statement supporting conscientious objection to vaccines derived from from fetal tissue research. There were already position papers from several organizations, most notably the so-called “National Catholic Bioethics Center,” saying such vaccines were acceptable. For most people, this isn’t even an issue. The sheer fact that the Vatican bothered to issue a statement should lean any ambiguities in favor of conscientious objection. Many have tried to twist the document to say it opposes conscientious objection. If so-called “anti-vaxxers” are a minority of extremists, why would the Vatican, which so often fails to address prevalent problems of theological discipline, bother to tell “anti-vaxxers” to comply?
Yes, the document explains the parameters of remote material cooperation (more on that later). Yes, the document explains there are conditions which mitigate culpability for such cooperation. Yes, if somebody feels compelled to vaccinate, the document says they should voice their objections, but that is supposed to be the exception, not the rule.
In 2008, a lot of people said, “I’m pro-life, and I voted for Obama because I figure that, if he knows pro-life people voted for him, maybe he’ll change his views.” Yep, that’s how politics works.
If nobody stands up and says, “I won’t support this,” what is to motivate those in power to change?
There are very few vaccines for which the only form is derived from fetal tissue research, and all of those are diseases that have other means of treatment or prevention and/or are rarely life threatening. The most life threatening diseases (e.g., polio) have alternatives that exist, but they’re increasingly unavailable. When our eldest was a baby, there were separated forms of measles and mumps vaccine available, but they were hard to get, and you had to find a doctor willing to order them. The ethical rubella vaccine is not available in the US because of “FDA” regulation, even though it’s proven effective in other countries.
If there were more people standing up and saying, “We want ethical alternatives and will not vaccinate until you provide them,” things would change pretty quickly, but as it is, a) most people just vaccinate, with or without “stating their objections”; and b) the rest just become out right “anti-vaxxers,” objecting to all vaccinations and tying in other issues to fetal tissue. So thus of us who merely object to specific vaccinations on specific ethical grounds are left without support. It is so disheartening to have to file for a “religious exemption” at Catholic institutions when we’re Catholic, and explain to Catholic school and parish officials why we object. It is disheartening to find that most state regulations and doctors’ offices take an all-or-nothing approach, so we can’t get the ethical vaccines, either.

The original NCBC position paper from the 1990s had two related points that really irk me.
1) They, and most subsequent “the good of the vaccines outweighs the evil” ends-justify-the-means arguments, hold that parents have a “moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children.” To a certain extent, this is true. However, this moral obligation gets transmuted into saying it’s mortally sinful to get someone sick. This is also applied in the question of whether you should go to Mass when you’re sick, and other situations. Now, if such moral obligations and sinful circumstances exist, and I have a 50% chance of passing on Marfan syndrome, which will be far more likely to be fatal than any virus, to my children, I think one can see why I take some offense to this, especially when so many people who *do* have Marfan syndrome insist on contraception, IVF and/or abortion for that reason.
2) The original NCBC document grants that conscientious objection constitutes heroic virtue (and I think most of us on that side would agree), but argues that parents do not have the right to make decisions of heroic virtue for their kids. The problem with this (and the previous premise) is, what about Catholic parents in Muslim and Communist countries? Should they not baptize their children for fear of putting their children’s lives at risk and making decisions of heroic virtue?

If you’ve decided that vaccination was the right choice for you and your family, and you feel no pang of conscience about it, then why be so hard on “anti-vaxxers”? Aren’t you and your kids safe?

If we, as Catholics, mistrust the medical establishment on contraception and other issues, why is the rhetoric on vaccines to do as you’re told by Big Pharma?

If measles is making a comeback, why won’t Merck provide the ethical, separate measles vaccine it discontinued in favor of MMR? Why is Merck so adamant about forcing people to violate our consciences?

On Phil, A&E, Freedom, and Urban versus Rural America

Some of my left-leaning Facebook friends (yes, I do have a few) have been posting memes about the alleged hypocrisy of the “red state” folks regarding the recent controversies about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame being fired by A&E and some people talking about it as a “freedom of speech” issue.

This is from the page “Being Liberal.” For lack of a better word, “Duh.” That’s not what we’re saying.

Here’s another from “The Beer Party”:

Again, I’d agree, insofar as what *some* people are saying, but most people I’ve read are acknowledging this.

In fact, I’d say there are some interesting parallels between the “Dixie Chicks” controversy and Phil Robertson. First, the difference, in part, is that the Dixie Chicks were not fired by their publisher; Phil Robertson was. Secondly, the Dixie Chicks are singers. I don’t generally like it when singers or actors take positions on “issues,” or force their audiences to support their “causes,” regardless if I agree with them. However, Robertson is in that strange amorphous zone known as “reality TV,” which is about as “real” as professional wrestling. He entertains people (I’ve never seen his show) with a certain persona, and it has become clear over the past few years that a) he’s a Christian, b) he’s a conservative, c) A&E doesn’t like that, and d) audiences do.

The Dixie Chicks took some flack for mocking the president, and in *that* respect it’s hypocritical of “Red Staters” in terms of criticism of Bush versus criticism of Obama. Their careers have gone on just fine. They never got fired. However, the situation is the same in that both cases involve the media not “getting” the “Red State”/”Flyover State” public. It’s an issue that goes back for decades, if not for all of history, in entertainment: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse,” as it were. “Country Come to Town” is a subgenre of American literature. In the 1960s, the TV industry produced lots of “rural comedies” like _The Andy Griffith Show_, _Green Acres_, _The Beverly Hillbillies_, etc., that were supposed to ridicule “country bumpkins,” but people *identified* with the characters.

Then there was the “rural purge” and the rise of liberal ideology-promoting “urban comedies”, mostly from Norman Lear. When _All in the Family_ came along, there was a Hollywood stereotype of an urban blue-collar conservative in Archie Bunker as exaggerated as the redneck stereotypes of the rural comedies, pitted against the liberal hero, son-in-law Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), forever known to the public as “Meathead,” which symbolizes the public’s reaction to the show: they liked Archie and hated “Meathead,” the opposite of Lear’s intention.

Flannery O’Connor’s discussion of how professors interpret “A Good Man is Hard to Find” applies here:

I’ve talked to a number of teachers who use this story in class and who tell their students that the Grandmother is evil, that in fact, she’s a witch, even down to the cat. One of these teachers told me that his students and particularly his Southern students, resisted this interpretation with a certain bemused vigor, and he didn’t understand why. I had to tell him that they resisted it because they all had grandmothers or great-aunts just like her at home, and they knew, from personal experience, that the old lady lacked comprehension, but that she had a good heart. The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence, and he knows that a taste for self-preservation can be readily combined with the missionary spirit.

That sums up the conflict that has always existed between the “elites” in the “big cities” of the Northeast and the “Left Coast,” versus the “Red State” “rednecks” (a term which, interestingly enough, used to refer to Southern Democrats, farm workers who had “red necks” because of working in the sun).

That gets us back to this Phil Robertson fellow. His recent interview with GQ has been well discussed. In short, he talked about his sinful youth, as he has done before, and how he “found Jesus,” and how he believes (rightly) that we all need Jesus’ grace to be healed of our sin. Then he paraphrased the “controversial” passage of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

9
* Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes* nor sodomitesc
10
nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11
That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

(emphasis added)
As my friend Kevin O’Brien has pointed out, homosexuality seems to have “Most Favored Sin” status in our culture. Or, as Jay Leno apparently put it, ” Gay people are upset with him. Then he went on to criticize adulterers, drunks and swindlers, and now Congress is mad at him. So the guy just can’t win.”

I’ve never watched _Duck Dynasty_ and I’ve never read _GQ_, but from the quotations of the interview that are all over http://www.amazon.com/Holocaust-Childlike-The-Progress-Spiritual/dp/1492895474/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387218063&sr=8-1&keywords=holocaust+of+the+childlike Net, I don’t see the problem.
Yes, some of his phrasing was a bit crude, but that fits with his persona and intended audience (both on his show and _GQ_).  It was also arguably “The Emperor’s  New Clothes” principle: he’s in trouble for stating the obvious.  Again, he said it in the context of “sin is illogical.”  He probably could have made a better argument for “theology of the body,” but I don’t know enough about him to know if that was (as some say) his own lack of sophistication or his intentional persona.

People are saying he implies that homosexuals engage in “bestiality” because he presents a (very true) slippery slope argument about society’s tolerance of sin.

He is accused of “equating gays with terrorists” because he says he loves all people, regardless of who they are or what they do.  He is accused of “hate speech” by saying that he doesn’t judge anyone’s souls but wants everyone to know  Jesus.  Oh, and, while he was clearly fired for offending the GLBTQXYZ lobby  (which at most accounts for 18 million Americans, is most realistically 9 million and that includes statistics on anyone who has ever had a “same sex relationship”), some people have accused him of “racism” for saying that when he was a farm worker (again, a literal “red neck”) in the 60s, he didn’t see his African American co-workers being treated any worse than whites–at worst, an ignorant statement but hardly meant in hate.

But, again, even if it means cancelling what is supposedly the highest-rated show in the history of cable, TPTB are so literally hell-bent on pushing their agenda that they will sacrifice views and even advertisers rather than sacrifice their agenda.

So, no, this is not, strictly speaking, a First Amendment/Free Speech issue.  It’s a free market issue.  A&E had every right, theoretically, to fire Robertson, and the viewers and advertisers had the right to react according to their positions.  Robertson will do fine.  He’s a millionaire.  He has already garnered a national following and is circulating the “mega-churches.”  This publicity has increased his status.  He reportedly already has offers from Fox News and Glenn Beck’s “the Blaze” network.  He’s going to do fine, just as the Dixie Chicks have done fine.

What worries me, and many others, is the double standard the media apply to these situations.  Look at all the controversy about suppression of speech online (again, it’s “Facebook [or whichever entity] has the right to suppress users’ speech”).  Where does that end?

On Voting: “Fraud” is in the eye of the beholder

In 2000, we were told that Bush won by fraud because no one in their right mind would vote for Pat Buchanan, and even though it’s impossible to prove in retrospect that anyone did or did not vote a particular way, except for absentee ballots, we were told that Buchanan got “too many votes” in some counties. The Democrats and their shills in the media produced some random individuals who claimed that they couldn’t read the ballot and voted for the wrong guy. This was supposedly exposing a massive flaw in our voting system (yes, it was, but the liberals pointed to the wrong flaw), and evidence of massive fraud. It was also the first time Pat Buchanan was ever accused of drawing votes away from a Democrat.
Yet, in 2012, when Obama supposedly got 100% of the vote in some counties, with Romney getting *0* votes in counties that were highly Republican, and when people came forward and said, “I voted for Romney, but he supposedly got no votes in my county,” we’re told that there’s no evidence of fraud or error in Obama’s favor, and that the only evidence of fraud is on Republicans’ part. After all, if Snopes says it, it must be true.
In the intervening 12 years, Democrats, in their typical fashion, convinced most districts to switch to electronic voting. You see, we learned from 2000 that Democratic voters are too dumb to a) read a ballot, b) punch a hole in a piece of paper, and/or c) fill in a bubble with a pencil. This is, of course, Republicans’ fault. It’s so much easier, they told us then, to tap your finger on a touch screen (back then, if you may recall, it would often take several attempts to enter one’s PIN at an ATM or cash register because the touch screens were so very accurate). Not only would electronic voting make things easier for illiterate voters who couldn’t use pencils, they claimed, but it would make it much easier to make sure that votes were reliably counted and recorded than having to look at actual physical ballots.
After all, there’s no way a computer voting system could be hacked, or crash, etc. There’s no chance that such votes could simply be deleted and replaced. There’s no chance that, after Republicans won the 2000 and 2004 elections, Democrats got their electronic voting machines and started winning in 2006 because of “more accurate” votes.
Then, to add insult to injury, they started claiming that it was Republicans who pushed for electronic voting and that electronic voting is too subject to fraud, and that any minor Republican victories in the past 7 years *have* to be due to fraud.

I don’t know what makes me more cynical: the fact that our votes really mean nothing and can easily be replaced, or the fact that “the people” buy into all the two-faced lies the media tell them.
Oh, and how is it going with keeping your health insurance and your doctors?

Have a Heart: Rabbi Gellman, a Marfan, talks about War on Terror (only YouTube video I could find with him)

Remote Material Cooperation Explained in a Nutshell

Once again, this year, a majority of US “Catholics” went out to vote and cast their vote for a man who:
a) is a more radical pro-abortionist than NARAL or Hillary Clinton (i.e., he supports outright infanticide by starving born babies to death and says that is necessary for preserving the right to an abortion)
b) is forcing Catholics to pay for other people’s contraceptives and abortifacients
c) is forcing Catholic health care workers to violate their consciences
d) is bringing this country closer and closer to recognizing same sex “marriages”
e) has involved us with several more unjust wars and increased rather than pulled back his predecessor’s policies regarding bombing of civilians, unjust treatment of prisoners, etc.
f) has taken away, with Congress, US citizens’ constitutional right of habeas corpus
g) criticizes people who “cling to their Bibles”
h) says Jesus is just a great moral teacher and not necessarily God incarnate or the only savior
i) is supported by a party that “booed” God at its convention
i) whom Pope Benedict XVI indirectly called an enemy of the Church (he called present administration an enemy of the Church, and commenter on this blog once asserted I was lying because he did not directly name Obama).

I could, of course, go on way past “z” if I wanted to.

These Catholics say this doesn’t matter because (supposedly) those aren’t the reasons they support him (though some at least have the courage to admit they do), but because supposedly their greed for more money (in other words, their worship of Mammon) supersedes those issues in importance. They don’t care that our country is headed for complete bankruptcy, that the government is not going to be able to help those who truly need it if they keep driving it into insolvency with huge debts to pay for pork (such as the pay increase that the Executive and Legislative branches just gave themselves).

These “Catholics” say voting for this puppet of the Freemasons is OK because he “cares for the poor” (hogwash: he was supported and paid for by the richest men in the world, and his policies are only designed to help the rich). When confronted with the Church’s teachings on material cooperation, they say that they’re OK because it’s “remote.” It’s the same justification they use for benefitting from medical procedures developed with embryonic or fetal tissue research.

The problem is that the whole point is “remote” material cooperation is still material cooperation. There are obviously mitigating factors for someone engaging in remote material cooperation, but it’s still cooperation. The remote control doesn’t control the TV any less than the buttons on the TV itself: it just does it from far away.

The classic example of remote material cooperation is the mob: if the only restaurant in town is owned by the Mafia, and you know it, you don’t have much choice but to use that restaurant if you’re in a situation where going to a restaurant is necessary. However, if the only restaurant in town is owned by the Mafia, and you don’t really need to go there, you’re consenting to funding the Mafia’s actions. If there are two restaurants in town, and the Mafia owns one but doesn’t own the other, you’re morally obliged to go with the one that’s not owned by the Mafia.

I always say that people’s attitudes towards remote material cooperation with abortion just show how they really do not believe abortion is the taking of a human life (and thus, under _Evangelium Vitae_, they are heretics). The Nazi soldiers tried at Nuremberg and elsewhere used the infamous defense of “I was only following orders”: they claimed that even though they committed the atrocities themselves, Hitler was to blame, not them (obviously, they had a choice). I don’t know if anyone ever tried those who *voted* for Hitler, but I think most of us would say that those who voted for Hitler are morally culpable for their participation in what he did. Indeed, it has become a popular way for secular liberals to discredit Pope Benedict XVI in that the young Josef Ratzinger was enlisted unwillingly in the “Hitler Youth.”

Most of us would agree that a person who is a supporter of the KKK, even if that person isn’t an active participant, is in some way guilty of encouraging the violence done by the KKK and other hate groups.

Indeed, the very Catholics who insist they can detach their support for Obama from his support for slaughtering babies will say that you’re a schismatic if you show any sympathy for views of the SSPX, so they show their own double standard.

Who’s your Pope?

Tracy: “So what’s your religion, Liz Lemon?”
Liz: “I pretty much do whatever Oprah tells me.” –_30 Rock_

“His heart was moved to pity for them, for they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” –Mt 9:36

The Catholic Church is often attacked over the concept of Papal infallibility, yet one of the ironies is that people long for “infallibility.” There is a reason the Bible is constantly comparing people to sheep: sheep are, as a priest once pointed out in a homily I heard, stupid. This is a controversial point, I know, but most people really are stupid. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: our great excuse at personal and final judgement day will be, as the Catholic Church teaches, stupidity (Catechism 1793).

So we seek out people to guide us, like Israel begging Samuel for a king (1 Sam 8). Yet, just as when Samuel warned Israel that a King would become a tyrant (and all the kings of Israel fulfilled that warning, so too do the little kings we create for ourselves inevitably fail, because all are human.

In a previous post, I explained the limits and extents of Papal infallibility. Infallibility is, in one sense, a very limited concept, though it includes a general sense of obedience to the Pope. A traditional notion of anti-Catholicism holds that the Pope somehow micromanages the Church. The “Kennedy Doctrine” is heretical because, as Vatican II documents, Bl. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all teach, the State *must* listen to the Church. However, in one sense, Kennedy was right in trying to dispel a common notion that Catholics all get secret personal marching orders from the Pope.

Papal infallibility only plays a big part in my life because religion plays a big part in my life. As I noted in the earlier post linked above, a Pope’s personal opinions are just that: opinions, and even his prudential judgements about matters of great import, and whether the Church’s teachings are properly being applied, are just that, prudential judgements. A Catholic owes a certain deference to the Holy Father, but Catholics are free to make up our minds on such matters, provided that we give them due study.

The principle of subsidiarity that the Church teaches in politics and economics applies in the Church as well. The Pope oversees 2 billion Catholics and does quite a lot but relatively little. A few thousand people work at the Vatican to oversee those 2 billion Catholics, and the proportion of Vatican employees to worldwide Catholics is far less a percentage than the staffs of most secular corporate or government headquarters.

Then there’s the local bishop, who oversees hundreds or thousands or even millions of parishioners. Again, the bishop’s authority is relatively minimal and mostly managerial. Most practicing Catholics only see their bishops on rare occasions, such as Confirmation or Ordination masses, or special events. I was a parishioner in my diocese’s cathedral as a kid, and I remember even *there* that the bishop making an appearance was a special event.

Then comes the local pastor, who *ought* to be involved intimately in each of his parishioners’ lives, but in practice this rarely happens. So the Church in general, in terms of Her human agents, doesn’t play that big a role in the average person’s life. I care about my pastor’s views on theology, morals, liturgy, church discipline and even politics. I don’t care about my pastor’s views on music (except liturgy or moral issues), sports, movies (except moral issues), etc.

The Pope doesn’t tell me what to watch on TV, though he may give advice on what to consider from a moral aspect when choosing a TV show.

However, people in general look for “infallible authorities” to give them simple answers. They balk at the notion of an established and official hierarchy, but they create one for themselves by seeking out little gurus, the way the fictional Liz Lemon “worships” Oprah.

Look at the way certain Protestant televangelists rake in the dough and the adulation, and people hang on their every word. Look at the range of issues where people would seek advice from James Dobson. Look at the followers of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura or Martha Stewart, the modern-day Sophists.

then add to that the polarization of society, and people’s basic need to separate everything in to “good” versus “evil.” So once a particular “guru” has been established as a “good guy,” then everything that person says *must* be good, and if anyone criticizes that person, watch out.

So the followers of Fr. Corapi, myself still one of them when his troubles started, reacted in his defense when he announced that he’d been suspended. Anyone who raised a sign of caution that there might be validity to the allegations–especially since he based his entire ministry on his allegedly sordid past–were attacked as agents of Satan.

Look at what happened when some people raised questions about the ethicality of Lila Rose’s “undercover” operations at Planned Parenthood.

Even questioning one aspect of a “good guy’s” behavior is offensive to the “follower” because the “good guy” is bestowed a kind of personal infallibility that goes far beyond the scope of the infallibility of the Pope–and often the person doesn’t have any real claim to such authority.

I raise this issue because, back in 2004, Catholic Answers, which is a wonderful apologetics organization, issued a “Catholic Voter Guide” was basically geared towards saying it’s wrong to vote for the Democrats. Interestingly, the content of the Guide itself favors voting for a third party candidate, but it has been manipulated to support the Republicans.

This “Voter Guide” was issued right around the same time as the leak of the “private letter” that then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger sent to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, clarifying the prioritization of “life issues” in voting, and in various reports, the content of the Catholic Answers “Voter Guide” got conflated with the Ratzinger letter.

The Catholic Answers Voter Guide introduces a concept of “Five Non-Negotiables”: abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, cloning and gay “marriage.”

Now, it’s true that these are “non-negotiable” in Catholic teaching. This refers to the fact that the economic documents always emphasize the freedom of Catholics to determine how to apply them, and it refers to how in matters such as war and the death penalty, the Church discourages them and gives strict guidelines for their application but still gives the State the right to use them when necessary.

The whole point of the Catholic Answers Voter Guide is this:

Candidates who endorse or promote any of the five non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them. You should make your choice from among the remaining candidates.Candidates who endorse or promote any of the five non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them. You should make your choice from among the remaining candidates.

Do not reward with your vote candidates who are right on lesser issues but who are wrong on key moral issues. One candidate may have a record of voting exactly as you wish, aside from voting also in favor of, say, euthanasia. Such a candidate should not get your vote. Candidates need to learn that being wrong on even one of the non-negotiable issues is enough to exclude them from consideration.

Eliminate from consideration candidates who are wrong on any of the non-negotiable issues. No matter how right they may be on other issues, they should be considered disqualified if they are wrong on even one of the non-negotiables.Eliminate from consideration candidates who are wrong on any of the non-negotiable issues. No matter how right they may be on other issues, they should be considered disqualified if they are wrong on even one of the non-negotiables.

These posts would seem to advocate voting for a third party candidate because the voter is encouraged to eliminate anyone wrong on one of these “five non-negotiables”. This is affirmed by the teaching of John Paul II, who said it was more important to vote for the candidate that’s morally correct than to worry about who would win. See “John Paul II on Incrementalism”.

The Voters Guide, on its own merits, is a helpful document. However, there are several problems that have arisen from it because of tribalism and party politics:

1) Because Catholic Answers has a reputation for “orthodoxy,” they are “good guys” in the above calculation, so they are, according to the reasoning, beyond reproach, and on the other hand, anything Catholic Answers issues gets elevated to Magisterial teaching. So even though this is a voter guide issued by a lay apologetics group, many Catholics speak of the “Five Non-Negotiables” as if the concept was an ex cathedra papal statement.
2) There are more than five non-negotiables in Catholic teaching, and the Catholic Answers staff were misrepresenting papal teaching to suit their own accomodation to American politics. This is my big beef with the document. The Voter’s Guide is used to argue why ESCR, abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and cloning are always evil, but the Church also says many other things are always evil: contraception, in vitro fertilization, etc.
3) it has become confused and conflated in the public mind, which isn’t the fault of Catholic Answers. A woman once insisted to me that there are only “five intrinsic evils,” and she listed CA’s “five non-negotiables.” I quoted the passage in the Catechism (2297) which defines intrinsic evil, itself quoting Vatican II:

“Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator”

Now, the lady in question told me that I wasn’t a Catholic for thinking that the Catechism, _Veritatis Splendor_ and _Gaudium et Spes_ superseded Catholic Answers and “defriended” me on Facebook. Surprisingly, she didn’t block me, and we run into each other periodically on other groups and pages.

But her confusion and tribalism represents a typical problem. In 2008, things were complicated by the war and ESCR. The “Catholic Left” argued that torture should be a “non-negotiable” since the above passage lists it as equally evil to abortion. That would be fine if Bush had been running for re-election, but the fact was that most of the Republicans running in 2008, and the third party right wing candidates, all opposed waterboarding: IIIR, only Giuliani (who’s also pro-abortion) and Thompson specifically supported it: Dr. Paul, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr (pro-abortion) and especially John McCain all opposed “enhanced interrogation” for one reason or another, and so torture should have been a non-issue. Ironically, all the Catholics who voted for Obama because of “enhanced interrogation,” illegal detainment and other intrinsic evils of the Bush Administration, along with the questionable justification of the war in Iraq, elected a president who has been far worse for these evils and who has gotten us into several very clearly unjust military actions, such as Libya.

Meanwhile, Catholic conservatives continue to blindly vote Republican the way Catholic liberals have blindly voted Democrat. Even though the CA Voter Guide itself encourages voting third party if possible, Catholics have used the CA Voter guide to justify milquetoast Republicans over Democrats because “abortion is a non-negotiable!”

Well, the problem is that John McCain supported ESCR, and suddenly ESCR became a “negotiable” — NRLC even dropped it as a priority issue (and let’s not forget that Bush authorized it so long as the babies were already dead). Now, we have Mitt Romney, who passively legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts, passed a healthcare mandate law in Massachusetts (and convinced Obama to go with a mandate over total socialization), ignored a Catholic protest in MA to his own contraception mandate, gave money to Planned Parenthood, made money off two abortion-related companies (one that produced abortion pills and another that handled “disposal” of aborted fetuses), and was outspokenly pro-abortion and for changing the GOP platform.

We are supposed to believe that social liberal Mitt Romney has undergone a total change in his views since being governor of Massachusetts. We’re supposed to believe he’s pro-life, even though he’s skipped every pro-life event this year, including events that all his opponents in the primary attended. We’re expected to believe he’s opposed to a health care law he helped write.

We’re supposed to believe that he’s pro-life and pro-family because of his stay-at-home wife (in whose name the Planned Parenthood donations were made) and his 5 kids–one of whom is having his own children through “surrogate motherhood”–even though the Romneys had their kids in the 1970s, and their kids were grown before their father did his worst anti-life and anti-family actions. The fact that the Romneys were already Mormons with a big family when they supported PP and contraception mandates, etc., before they opposed them, they makes them far worse.

And for some reason people are buying this garbage and getting mad at those of us who don’t. They insist Romney’s going to be better than Obama and change things, but he’s not. He’s going to say “Ha, Ha!”

I remember the arguments of Catholics–from died in the wool liberals to people like Doug Kmiec–who argued that if Obama knew a lot of pro-lifers voted for him, maybe he’d change his mind. Yeah, right. How did that work out for *them*?

Now we have Catholics arguing on the Right that if they vote for Romney, and he knows they voted for him because he claims to be pro-life and claims to be pro-marriage,

I argue with the “Catholic Left,” and they say that abortion is a settled issue, and it’s futile to keep fighting it, and it’s never going to be illegal, so it isn’t worth considering it as an issue.

Then I argue with Catholic conservatives about issues like contraception, and they say that contraception is a settled issue, and it’s futile to keep fighting it, and it’s never going to be illegal, so it isn’t worth considering.

The odds are I’m going to be dead before the election. My concern is primarily with peoples’ individual souls–including the candidates’–and not with what actually happens in the election. It’s better to vote third party, and know that you vote for someone who represents your conscience, than to vote for a major candidate by compromising your beliefs. It’s fine to vote for a “lesser of two evils” if you really think that’s necessary, but don’t try justifying the evil.

C. S. Lewis warned about “Christianity AND”. The Vatican censured the Action Francaise because its leaders referred to the Church as a tool to achieving the monarchist cause, rather than the opposite.

Shape your politics to your religion, not your religion to your politics.

More importantly, remember that human beings are flawed. The fact that you happen to like a lot of the things a particular writer or organization puts out doesn’t make that writer or organization infallible. You don’t have to 100% agree with someone. Decisions like whom to vote for are incredibly complicated, and any attempt to simplify the decision is going to be problematic.

And stop assigning absolute infallibility to people just because you generally agree with them. Let God be God.