A journal of news, commentary, opinion and observation on the state of relations between faith and reason in the Church and the public square.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Why do I read the Boston Globe?

They've seemingly abandoned all pretense of objectivity as a newspaper; not only is their op-ed page rife with pro-Kerry, pro-Democratic Party columnists, but even their "hard news" sections are blatantly pro-Kerry.

Today's "bombshell" is about President Bush's alleged failure to register for National Guard duty while in Massachusetts at Harvard Business School. Front page news, no less.

Okay, if he didn't register while here, that's clearly wrong. Even if hundreds and hundreds of others were doing the same thing, it was clearly wrong. If it's true, the President should immediately acknowledge it and apologize for it.

But I think it's a non-starter, because Kerry has already admitted that he didn't do his own reserve duty when he returned to the states after a four-month tour in Vietnam. The three-Purple-Heart "out" meant that he had to come back stateside and perform reserve duty. He was assigned as an adjutant to a Navy brass, but admits he didn't do it (presumably, this was when he was mobilizing the Vietnam Vets Against the War).

Wonder if the Globe, in fairness, will report as front page news Kerry's admitted failure to serve?

In an unrelated (but telling) piece the other day, the Globe featured prominently the Rev. Eugene Rivers, a black political activist from the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, endorsing (his own words) candidates for elective office.

You KNOW that if Rivers had been a Catholic priest, there would have been literally hell to pay! If a member of the Catholic Church even tangentially suggests that he/she might support one set of positions over another (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage), the entire Church is accused of conflating the Church/state "wall of separation." Apparently, though, inner city black pastors get a free pass.

Or perhaps I'm being too harsh. Maybe the only ones who get a free pass are those who happen to champion those favored by the Globe itself.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Been away for a while . . .

But now I'm back -- with a vengeance!

First off -- congrats to Zell Miller on a great speech at the RNC last night. Well spoken man, posed my question: why has the Democratic Party left so many of us behind by becoming beholden to so many special interest groups?

Secondly, I'm developing a germ of an idea about a way around what I see as a continuing challenge for those of us who are uncomfortable with the two-party system (and who are frustrated with the lack of committment both parties show to life issues).

I'm wondering if we couldn't start a third party -- say, the "Christian Democrats" -- and make enough of a noise to influence the policies of the "Big Two."

Obviously, it would take a concerted effort in several states, beginning with Congressional elections. We would have to field enough STRONG candidates to make inroads on the current seniority system that makes getting things done in DC so difficult.

I'm currently writing up a series of policy and position papers for this proposed new party. I think that we have to take POSITIVE action, rather than recriminate and whine when the two major parties ignore us.

Let's face it, folks: the overwhelming majority of the people of these United States agree with us on a couple basic points: (1) that unborn life deserves protection; (2) that the elderly are a wealth of experience and a treasure for us; (3) that there are people in our country who need our help financially and emotionally; (4) that government exists to serve, not rule, the people; (5) that the establishment of a new class (i.e. government employees) is bad for America because this new class of "worker" doesn't produce anything -- thus, smaller government is better for America as a whole; (6) that there are some things that are, by their nature, intrinsically wrong (and that one need not have a plebiscite to determine it); (7) that charity should be encouraged as the development of virtue; (8) that preservation of traditions can be a good thing, and that "progress" for its own sake is not necessarily always good; (9) that education of young people is the primary obligation of parents, who should be encouraged to make appropriate decisions regarding their children's educational choices; and (10) that the "separation of Church and state" means essentially that Congress or the President shall not establish a formal state religion -- not that religion and God need to be kept out of the public square.

I think that if these positions -- well developed and argued, of course -- are put before the American people in all 50 states, there is a great chance that within 10 years a number of members of Congress will be members of this new party.

What do YOU all think?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

"Why not Kerry?" Redux Part II

There's a Bob Novak column in today's Chicago Sun-Times that piques my curiosity: when will the people who are currently screaming about Fox News' claim to be "fair and balanced" run this huge story?

Let's do a walk-thru of the last 4 years of Democratic rhetoric, shall we?

1. The President failed to act on pre-9/11 intelligence reports that Bin Laden was planning major terrorism attacks in the US.
2. The President acted upon faulty intelligence reports that Iraq had WMDs.
3. The President lied to the American people about Iraq's intentions, saying that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium from Africa.
4. The President acted unilaterally against Iraq, thus costing us the good will of people around the world.
5. The President used the Iraq war as a pretext to give lucrative contracts to his Vice President's former company, Halliburton.
6. The President used the Iraq war as a pretext to get back at Saddam Hussein for trying to kill his father.
7. The President lied to the American people about a link between Al Qaida and Iraq, when his own intelligence said there was none.
8. The President diverted troops from Afghanistan (where they should have been seeking Osama Bin Laden) to Iraq.
9. The President is only a puppet for Dick Cheney and major oil interests.
10. The President is a low-functioning, semi-illiterate drooling moron.

Oh, yeah, one more:

11. The President stole the election from Al Gore.

Now, in a move sure to infuriate Democrats everywhere, let's look at the truth about each of these statements:

1. There were, in fact, no predictable reports prior to 9/11 about Bin Laden's operational plans. One of the few bipartisan agreements is on the lack of good operational intelligence about Al Qaida due to a severe lack of humint -- human intelligence. The reason for this lack is that a liberal congress and a liberal president (Clinton) and a now-dismissed intelligence officer (Richard Clarke) for years curtailed recruitment of field agents in the CIA in favor of electronic surveillance operations. This move away from human operatives infiltrating Al Qaida cost us dearly on 9/11, and continues to cost us as we await subsequent terrorist attacks upon our country. In fact, if anyone is truly to blame for not having acted upon available intelligence, it would be President Clinton, who had reliable humint about Al Qaida terrorist training camps and refused to take action.

2. The fact that we have not yet recovered intact WMDs in Iraq does not mean that they were not there. In fact, UNMOVIC (the UN agency charged with monitoring Iraq's compliance with its disarmament agreement after the first Gulf War) recently reported that surveillance photography and ground follow-up finds substantial evidence of WMD transfers to Syria and Jordan before and during the recent war, and even some missiles themselves (in violation of cease-fire protocols) sent as scrap metal to the Netherlands. The fact is that the United Nations found compelling evidence of Iraq's dangerousness to sanction this recent incursion into Baghdad, and there's not much US-flag-waving going on down on 1st Avenue!

3. See Novak's column today (above).

4. This war was (a) the resumptin of the first Gulf War, and (b) sanctioned a second time by the UN. How anyone can say it was unilateral is beyond me.

5. The red herring of Halliburton's contracts bothers me enormously. First of all, the Vice President served (rather briefly, actually) as a director of this company, and when he entered public life again, he put all his non-divested holdings into a blind trust, as do all public officials. The suggestion that he is somehow benefitting from this war must be enormously offensive to him -- it certainly is to me! Not only are we taken for idiots, to presume guilt by less-than-association, we are asked to believe that the Vice President of the United States is so evil that he would waste American and Iraqi lives for sake of a dollar. That is preposterous in itself, and says a whole lot more about the accusers than it does about the accused. That said, the contracts were awarded to the only company able to handle them! Nobody contests the fact that Halliburton is uniquely qualified to take on the task of rebuilding Iraq -- and I use the word "uniquely" as it is intended. No other conglomerate has Halliburton's resources. Full stop.

6. Please! Iraq under Saddam Hussein has a long and documented history of playing poorly with others. Israel bombed their nuclear reactors a long time ago because they were seen as a threat. During the first Gulf War, Iraq lobbed missiles toward Israel, a non-combatant! Iraq fired at US and coalition aircraft daily as we tried to enforce the conditions of his surrender. Hussein brutally put down the Kurdish rebellion by gassing his own people. And someone has the audacity to suggest that this war is the result of the President acting out some personal vendetta?

7. This one's a good example of media bias. Even a Congressional committee (loaded with Democrats) could only say that there was no direct evidence of a collaboration between Saddam Hussein and the attacks on 9/11. That's a whole lot different from saing that there was no collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaida. When a body like the Congress (or even a single politician -- see Novak's column, again) uses limited language like this, it must be read restrictively. The press, however, knowing that fact as much as I do, trumpeted the news that "there was no connection." How disingenuous can you be?

8. Afghanistan's oppressive -- and Al Qaida helping -- government has been overthrown. We believe strongly that Bin Laden has moved into Pakistan because he can no longer find refuge in Afghanistan. He is said to be completely surrounded and isolated, running out of time. And we needed those extra troops for . . . what?

9. and 10. These are both the smug, elitist dismissals of a man who doesn't fit their bourgeois model of someone who should be in the upper echelons of society. It's the Cambridge snob's immediate dismissal of the Dorchester pipe-fitter. It's the Georgetown elitist's disdain for the Silver Spring plumber. It's the Berkeley professor's instinctive sense of superiority over the Oakland construction worker. It's the pooh-poohing by those who "know" of those who, they're sure, don't know.

What it is is disgusting. It's class snobbery. And it's wrong.

First off, George W. Bush is not stupid by anybody's standards. He's a graduate of Yale and of Harvard Business School (and not even a famous father could get him through the course work there). Because he's not "glib" is not a reason to doubt his intelligence, and I am insulted that others try to make me think that it IS a reason to do so.

Secondly, though, I personally find incredible intelligence, awesome intelligence in many who are not formally educated. To dismiss people who might not be articulate as unintelligent I think is worse than snobbery; it's un-American.

And finally,

11. Get real, will you please? Even the Gray Lady found that, upon recount of all the votes, G.W. Bush won Florida. And would you really want Al Gore in the White House today anyway?

I guess the point of this whole long rant is that, if Kerry is politicking based upon the above, why would any thinking person vote for him?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

"Why not Kerry?" Redux

(This is a long idea, so I might have to break it into two or three sections. I'll see how it goes.)

A person whom I count as a very good friend, and a very well educated and very principled, faith-filled man, stunned me on Tuesday. I discovered that he is pro-Kerry since he is vehemently anti-Bush.

We had a long discussion of the issues, and I expect that we will have more such in the future. But I left the conversation vaguely unsettled, and I thought then that I'd have to blog this one out.

First off, I have to say that I suffered from the same presumptiveness-shock that I disdain so much in lefties. That is, I've noted in the past how much I dislike the fact that people (often priests!) presume that everyone in a given conversation is on the same [leftist] side of an issue. I can't count the number of times that I've been at a clergy social event and somebody at the table [insert here your favorite pejorative descriptive that generalizes those of such opinions!] derides a person, thought or position that I hold strongly -- with the clear presumption that nobody in their right mind, or within earshot anyway, could possibly hold an opposing opinion! They are often speechless when I utter any kind of rejoinder (and, I presume, feel embarassed not for themselves but for me, who in their view holds such an idiotic, defenseless position that one can't begin to know how to talk to him!)

I recognized that presumptiveness-shock in myself when my friend spoke up about Michael Moore's film and his hatred for Bush. I almost didn't know how to respond. It was enlightening to understand a bit of the lefty dilemma when I confront their presumptions.

But as to the meat of the discussion . . .

The brunt of my friend's anger at Bush was (and I hope I paraphrase him accurately, as I'm sending him this blog) that Bush has led us into an unjust war, a war that has cost the lives of approximately 1,000 Americans and an untold number of Iraqi men, women and children. He feels the war is unjustifiable, even though he cedes the removal of Saddam Hussein as a very good outcome.

I asked him whether he thought that Mr. Bush had lied to us about the WMDs, and he said "no," that he believed that the President believed that the WMDs were, indeed, present. He averred that he had not heard of UNMOVIC's recent report that WMDs were present in Iraq before, during and after the war, and that they have been shown to have been moved to Syria, Jordan and even the Netherlands. He felt that the requirements for a "just war" had not been met, and that our preemptive strike at Iraq was not "proportionate means." He didn't really respond to my critique of his argument that the "current" Iraq war was merely the finalization of the 1991 Gulf War, since Hussein had regularly cuckolded the US during Clinton's reign and had played "hide and seek" with its WMDs, in direct violation of its cease-fire agreement. He also felt that the "end-game" or "exit strategy" was badly flawed, and that there was no clear way out or end to the carnage in sight.

This was the first of his objections to Mr. Bush as a candidate for reelection. My own support for Mr. Bush has waned somewhat during the last few months (as he's opened again a channel for US money to be spent on "family planning" overseas), but I disagree with my friend over whether this "current" war meets the criteria for being a "just" war.

First, I think that much of what's being seen as the after-effects of the war are being partially reported and deliberately obfuscated. None of the major news services have any people on the ground in Iraq, because they fear the loss of life of their news staff -- predictable and understandable enough. However, the news we're consuming is therefore coming from Iraqi "stringers," many of whom are even less fair-and-balanced than the Western newspeople they're supplanting (!). Soldier after soldier returning home recounts a completely different reaction to the American presence than does the media.

Secondly, I think that most people today agree that a substantial (if not predominant) part of the "resistance" is not Iraqi resistance at all, but rather is armed provocation by Muslim externs seeking to prevent the establishment of a democratic state in the Middle East. Just yesterday I heard reports of Iranian intelligence agents captured after leading assaults on occupation forces. One can hardly blame or excoriate Mr. Bush for the actions of the enemy! There clearly IS a nexus between Al-Qaeda, Muslim fundamentalists and the current terrorism in Iraq. One would have to be willfully blind to miss or deny it. be continued....

Eileen McNamara (of all people!) poses the right question to Kerry

This surprised me greatly. She hits the nail on the head, even if the hammer she's swinging is coming from the other side of the plank.

How can one ever truly consider conception as the beginning of human life AND agree that ending that life is somehow acceptable? Hearing Kerry's comment the other day, I immediately predicted he'd shot himself in the foot; he could never hope to defend such an oxymoronic stance.

But I failed to predict the other side's (demonic?)finesse: simply do not advert to the dilemma and it will go away. McNamara, I think, was stunned by the reaction of the feminist leader she quotes as being overjoyed by the Kerry-Edwards matchup. In retrospect, I'm not stunned at all.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the other side is under no moral compunction to tell the truth or even advert to it. They are completely end-driven, and will tolerate any means to their end. Their embrace of Clinton (a la Packwood earlier) tells it all -- "If they say the right things, we don't care what kind of slime they are -- we'll support them!"

How devastatingly sad. And how important it is that America (especially American women!) sees right through them.

Congrats -- and blessings -- to a United States Marine!

A good friend of mine, 2nd Lt. Brian Hanrahan, USMC, graduated from Basic School this morning and will be going to Pensacola, FL for flight training as he prepares to fly helicopters for the Corps. I am proud to know him. I am even more proud to count him as a friend. At the age of 25, prior to 9/11, Brian decided that he was called to serve his country as a Marine officer. He is a man of faith and conviction, and I wish there were more young men like him in our church and our world. We will be praying for you, Brian.

Semper Fi

Saturday, July 03, 2004

No, I'm a Dresser of Sycamores!

Amos didn't want to speak God's prophetic Word -- but he did it anyway!

This is what he had to say about "The Chosen People":

Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they ripped open expectant mothers in Gilead, while extending their territory, I will kindle a fire upon the wall of Rabbah, and it will devour her castles Amid clamor on the day of battle and stormwind in a time of tempest. Their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes with him, says the LORD.

Here's what the American bishops say:

The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law. In the United States of America, abortion on demand has been made a constitutional right by a decision of the Supreme Court. Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good. . . The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.

Question: Why was it easier for Amos to proclaim God's Truth than for modern American bishops?
Answer: Because Amos wasn't in bed with the Democratic big-government bureaucracy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Amos, a prophet for our time

I find myself bemused at the expropriation of the latter prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) by the leftist/socialist/liberal apparatchik. While these clearly represent God's Holy Word spoken in favor of a preferential option for the poor, that one element of their cry cannot be isolated from the rest of God's message to mankind.

The first reading for daily Mass has recently been taken from the Book of the Prophet Amos. This man, a "regular joe" from Judah (the southern kingdom) was selected by God to preach His Holy Word of reproach to the northern kingdom (a century or so after the fall of the United Monarchy came, during the reign of Solomon's sons). He speaks not only of God's horror, anger, disgust and vituperative spirit towards those who have violated the Covenant, but also of His utter disdain for those who would continue to worship Him and offer Him a Sabbath sacrifice even while living daily without reference to their covenantal responsibilities.

It seems to me that God is reserving his harshest criticism for those who not only fail to "do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God," (Micah 6:8) but who also presume to come to Him in worship, as if their daily lives are of no consequence vis-a-vis their worship -- as if one could separate one's daily life from one's faith. Through Hosea, God says, "Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away."

Is this not exactly what the Pelosi-Kerry-Democrat (and, to be fair, Schwarzenegger-Weld-Cellucci-Republican) crowd is doing? Are they not saying that it is possible to be "Catholic" on weekends (at best!) and ignore the Just Judge during the rest of the week?

How else can one suborn abortion (which even Kerry's wife has trouble with) during the greatest part of his daily life and come to the Judge Himself, in His Holy Body and Blood, on Sunday?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Why Not Kerry?

I have a lot of friends who identify with the Democratic Party so completely that they can't imagine voting Republican or Independent. Even though they claim to be pro-life, they so despise President Bush (and, in fact, all things Republican) and could never be persuaded to vote for his re-election. In fact, the "good Catholics" who are also dyed-in-the-wool Democrats say they'll vote for Kerry for one of four reasons:

(1) He's the lesser of two evils.
(2) Bush's record on social justice issues is just as bad as Kerry's on abortion.
(3) Bush is pro-death penalty, which the Church is against also.
(4) Even if they don't particularly like Kerry, it's a vote against Bush.

Which leaves me with a dilemma: how to convince them that, no matter how poorly they think of Bush, that voting for Kerry is not a choice they can make as Catholics.

Now our work is clealy cut out for us. We have to convince people by speaking out clearly that:

(1) We are NEVER allowed to choose one "evil" over another. That is not a possibility for a Catholic Christian. "Do the good, avoid the evil," is the apostolic exhortation.

(2) While people might legitimately feel that Bush (and Republicans in general) are not as interested in the 'social gospel,' it is a stretch to say that he and his party are out to kill poor people (although Carville-clones have gone there!). One would have to seriously believe that Bush intended the death of poor people to legitimately equate a deficit here with Kerry's support for abortion.

(3) The death penalty issue is extremely confusing to the average person. The truth is this: that while the Church has always and everywhere taught that the state has the legitimate right to utilize the death penalty as appropriate punishment for crimes AND to ensure the public safety, the Pope's latest pronouncements on capital punishment have focused only on it as it has been used to safeguard the public. Two thousand years of tradition regarding its punitive value are ignored in the current debate. Additionally, there is no way to equate several (less than 100) deaths per year of convicted criminals with the wholesale slaughter of 1.5 million unborn children each year in these United States. To equate Bush's support for the death penalty with Kerry's support for abortion is fatuous.

(4) This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. Here is where I think we have the clearest ability to make a point. Votes are always, always, always FOR one candidate, not AGAINST another. A vote against a candidate is actually not voting for him/her!

Thus, we could argue as follows: "If you despise President Bush and/or feel that he is not a fit president AND you recognize that Kerry's support for abortion makes him ineligible for elective office, then you must refrain from voting (if these two are the only candidates). While you might feel that this would guarantee the re-election of President Bush -- which you oppose -- the wholesale abstention of Catholic voters would send a clear and unequivocal message to both parties, that the direction they are taking is unacceptable! Even if Bush were re-elected because of such abstention, you would have no guilt in any actions he takes, since you refused to vote for him. But you also would avoid any guilt associated with Kerry's furthering the pro-abortion groups he supports so strongly. In fact, the only non-sinful option open to you (feeling as you do about Bush) is to abstain from voting in this election and working within your political party for better representation at the next election."

What do you think?

Faith and Reason at Baylor

A good friend sent me this link from Christianity Today. Without explicit reference to Catholicism, it describes pretty succinctly the issue we've experienced over the past forty years -- and particularly since the promulgation of Ex Corde Ecclesia -- in the titularly Catholic institutions of higher learning.

One of the first things I learned about Catholic Christianity when I got to the seminary was that our faith is eminently reasonable. There is no dichotomy between faith and reason, as both are gifts of the One True God, from Whom only Truth flows.

The secular "problem" begins and ends with the theory of evolution, I think. While it must be granted that the human history of our Church is replete with incidents of dismissal of learning and scientific progress, there are (to my knowledge) no current scientific debates that would provoke us to question the validity of our faith. Nor are there any Church doctrines that prescind from scientific data (with the caveat that belief in a personal God demands belief in His miraculous intervention within human history).

Interestingly, though, I think popularly there is a conception that scientists cannot be men or women of faith at the same time. Although we know that not to be the case (doctors, especially, are often deeply faithful), it is a common misconception.

When 'catholic' colleges like Boston College or Notre Dame or Fordham claim the doctrine of "academic freedom" (or the more recent non-proven dogma that "diversity" in and of itself is an absolute good) in support of hiring a non-Christian faculty, there is a fundamental dishonesty at work. For the administration to say that non-Christians are better because they are non-Christians is to dismiss the idea out-of-hand that faith and reason can coexist. This prescinds completely from the question of whether the two should coexist.

I applaud Sloan's efforts. He's batting for the wrong team, I think, as a Baptist, but he's in the right league and he's putting his money where his mouth is. In addition, toward the end of the column comes the reality that gives us all hope -- the old regime is fading away, and the new and vibrant Christians are taking over. Praise Him!