Friday, January 29, 2010

In Light of the Scott Roeder Conviction...

In Light of the Scott Roeder Conviction:
Monica Migliorino Miller, Ph.D.

The Moral Principles on the Use of Force

The doctrinal and systematic theological tradition of the Christian faith, since the time of the early Church Fathers has much to offer in aiding a person to arrive at a correct understanding of the issue before us. After all, we are not the first to wonder about these things and probe into them. I have relied very heavily on this doctrinal tradition primarily as it come to us in the form of the Christian Just War Theory.

Many Christian theologians and moral thinkers have wrestled with the very serious question of whether it is proper, and under what conditions might it be morally licit to use force in defense of life (or other goods such as property or land). Going back to St. Augustine and St. Ambrose the Just War Theory was forged. Shooting abortionists or destroying abortion centers must be evaluated in light of the Christian principles that are our heritage as the New People of God. After all, shooting abortionists and destroying the mills, can be understood within the context of self-defense, or defense of others. Now, unless one is a principled pacifist, such as Terry Sullivan, one can claim that, in principle and in practical application, it is not always and everywhere wrong to employ force, including deadly force in defense of life.

The Christian religion is not categorically pacifist, though I think within the tradition it is possible for individuals to have a vocation to pacifism. Catholic priests, for instance, are pacifists. They cannot fight as soldiers in an army. St. Francis of Assisi (who was not a priest) acted as a pacifist whenever his own bodily well-being was assaulted. Many will argue that prior to Constantine the Church was pacifist, i.e. that Christians, refused to serve in the army, and refused to defend themselves or others when attacked.

The historical record simply does not support this view. I can provide a detailed examination of this point if others want it. The New Testament itself does not condemn soldiers. For example in Lk. 3:14 some soldiers presented themselves to John the Baptist for baptism and asked what was required of them. John told them: "Don't bully anyone, Denounce no one falsely. Be content with your pay." He does not tell them that their profession is immoral which certainly required them to kill others if necessary. In Lk. 7: 1-10 we have the story about the Roman centurion (this man was not even a Jew).

A centurion is a soldier with authority over 100 other soldiers. His is a profession which involves the use of lethal force but Jesus, instead of condemning him, or pointing out this ethical problem says instead that in this soldier he has found a faith that exceeds that of the Israelites! Obviously this Roman was a righteous soldier. He cared about his servant and apparently did not abuse his authority---but he was in a profession that used deadly force against others.

Now while soldiering is not condemned we must take seriously Christ's teaching in the Beatitudes. Christ does teach that his followers are to turn the other cheek and love their enemies. And so, in fact, we are to do so. What Christ is teaching here is a whole moral attitude of life. We are not to retaliate in vengeance when others hurt us and do unjust things to us. We are to return love for evil. We are not to wish evil upon our enemies. Love means to will the good for another---even those who do us harm. The Christian faith does not teach that a person cannot defend life against unjust attacks. And this is the whole point in defense of life. If for example, my children were attacked, I can justifiably shoot the attacker (if that is justifiable proportionate force to repel him) to save my children. Believe it or not this does not mean I have hated or directly willed that evil befall this attacker. In a true and real sense his death is an indirect result of my primary object which is the defense of my young ones. I do not seek his death directly. I seek the defense of my children directly. I have not hated him. I have not will evil against him. I have sought legitimately to stop the attack---the result of which is the possible the death of the attacker.

Christ admonished Peter "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword." These words of our Lord are not a condemnation of all use of force. Christ did not say these words to the centurion, who apparently was not in an intrinsically evil profession. Again, Christ is talking about a total moral attitude of life. First, Peter resorted to force in a situation that clearly called for self-sacrifice. How often had Christ preached to the apostles that He was to offer up His life for the salvation of the world? Even at this point Peter didn't get it. Peter was trying to subvert the providence of God, the will of God for Christ at this moment. But the admonition of Christ has to do with an attitude about the use of force. What's condemned here is the living of a violent way of life---even in defense of truth. What's condemned is a person's placing his trust solely in the use of force. This is not the way of the Christian who must live by faith. At Gethsemane Peter's action showed that he was living by force and not by faith since Christ had already told Him the Father's will---but Peter would not accept it. The Christian faith has not interpreted these words of Christ as a wholesale condemnation on the use of force in defense of life. Christ Himself used force in the cleansing of the Temple---albeit not lethal force---but He did assault people (or at least threatened people with a whip) and destroyed property that was being used sacrilegiously.

What An Evaluation of the Use of Force in Defense of Life Must Consider

I think it may be quite possible to agree or disagree on some (or all) of the theological analysis I have given above. Nevertheless---the Christian tradition (mostly through the Just War Theory) provides us folks living at the end of the second millennium with some extremely invaluable principles upon which to discern when and where the use of force is legitimate and whether it is legitimate in the saving of unborn children threatened by abortion. I think if were are going to arrive at an objectively based answer that is rooted in the Christian faith any use of lethal force in defense of life must fulfill these conditions:

1.) That the force in defense of life is enough (proportionate) and no more to repel the unjust attack.

2.) That there is a probability that lives will be saved by such force.

3.) That the use of force is the last resort in defense of life.

Under these three conditions it would appear that the use of force in defense of the unborn is not inherently immoral, but under the present circumstances of how most abortions are obtained, such force is virtually immoral.

Let's take condition no. 3 for instance. There are many actions that can be done far short of killing an abortionist to save the lives of just as many unborn children on any given day. The property that is used to do the killing can be destroyed rather than the baby killer himself. Indeed, sidewalk counseling probably saves just as many lives within a given time period as taking out an abortionist would. Certainly, killing an abortionist is not the last resort and thus to do so, to save the unborn, is not morally licit. The usefulness of these three conditions bears discussion but you see where these three conditions are headed.

Why the Use of Force to Stop Abortion Should Not Be Used

The use of force in defense of the unborn is virtually immoral. This means, of course, that it could be morally licit under extremely rare circumstances.

I've been thinking about the possible hypothetical situations. However, even if force is licit I believe there is good reason to forego its use, especially in our attempt to end abortion. Simply because a person has the right to the use of force in defense of life does not necessarily mean he must make use of it. St. Francis could have defended himself against the robbers by resorting to force.

He chose not to. If he had maybe he wouldn't be Saint Francis---but in any case he would still be a good man, or at least a man not guilty of evil doing.

On the practical level force really won't work. As long as abortion is legal it is ultimately the woman who must be reached. Abortion is a very peculiar sort of murder. The victim is inside the body of another person. As long as abortion is legal this other person, namely the mother, must be persuaded not to kill her child. This means she must be reached by having the truth spoken to her and by personal acts of love toward her.

But there is something even more than just whether force is practical in saving babies or not practical. I believe that our most effective weapon against abortion is adhering to the Cross of Christ. Perhaps God will call us to fight a bloody war over abortion, but ultimately the cause of abortion can still only be healed through a massive change of heart---a conversion. Abortion is the result of a grave spiritual crisis. The Cross of Christ is the only true balm for such a moral disaster as abortion represents. What does the Cross of Christ mean but that the Christian pro-lifer lay down his life for others---to live a life of self sacrificial love so that others may be saved. We need to be radical lovers. What keeps us from this is fear. And so we need to pray for a lot of grace. We fear jail, we fear loss of our liberty, be fear ridicule, rejection, and all the risks involved on whatever level. This is the key to ending abortion. It is the key in the heart of the Church that still waits to be turned.

A Kresta Political Principle – “The Impossibility of Supporting the Contrary”

The Impossibility of Supporting the Contrary
Al Kresta

“We need to export more of our goods. (Applause.) Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. (Applause.).”

What person in his right mind could disagree with President Obama’s words? And that’s the problem with so much political speech. Statements which admit of no objection are a staple of political rhetoric. While they serve the purpose of establishing the speaker’s common sense and general appeal, they are meaningless as policy statements. They are good for pep rallies and campaign stops but of little use in actually governing or legislating.

What I am about to describe is a handy little analytical tool to help you sort through the increasing amount of political verbiage that beckons, assaults or seduces us from cable newstalk programs, blogolas, the explosion of printed political tracts masquerading as books and celebrity quips posing as profound civic insight.

It’s the rhetorical trick I describe as “the impossibility of supporting the contrary.” Here’s another example from President Obama’s State of the Union message. This time he is intent on improving our schools. “Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform -- reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans... (Applause.).” How nice. I was under the impression that we should undermine our schools by rewarding failure, penalizing success and implementing reform that lowers student achievement. Inspire students? Heck no, I thought a teacher worked to demotivate them and that school boards should just leave failing schools to steal the future of as many young Americans as possible. See what I mean? It’s impossible to support the contrary of what the President affirms.

He is not doing anything unusual. I can’t think of any politician who doesn’t talk like this. Conservatives as well as liberals, Republicans and Democrats, Libertarians and Independents- none carry immunities from this disease of the tongue. If you think that any partisan escapes, point him out so I name the beast for he’s in no jungle or zoo I’m visiting. Better send me a YouTube video. In the interest of bi-partisanship let me turn right. Remember the standard conservative promise to give us a government that won’t stifle entrepreneurship. Oh, really. How helpful. I guess liberals really want a government that will suffocate entrepreneurship, huh?. Or another common conservative line: “I stand for a strong national defense.” Oh, that’s strange; personally, I thought you wanted a weak national defense. Thanks for clearing that up.

One of my favorites was the phrase, “compassionate conservatism” as though conservatives with heart had been in short supply and a new generation was confessing its superiority to who??? Uncompassionate conservatives? I guess, although I can’t seem to find any who want to claim the adjective. When “compassionate conservatism” finally settled into legislation it became what? A program to subsidize the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. Agree or disagree, at least, the policy could be disputed in a way that “compassionate conservatism” never could.

If a political statement or campaign promise can’t possibly find disagreement with a sane person then it is meaningless for policy purposes. These used to be called ‘motherhood’ or ‘apple pie’ statements because only a person of perverse ways would deny the goodness of ‘motherhood’ or ‘apple pie.’ These wholesome words are not in and of themselves meaningless. Affirming motherhood is socially useful and theologically sound. Loving apple pie needs no justification. But they, like rewarding success, inspiring students and improving education, don’t present any real policy over which we can fight, debate, or vote. Sometimes ‘motherhood’ type phrases can become encoded with very clear policy DNA: pro-life vs. pro-choice, for instance, has come to represent a real conflict over abortion policy although everybody is pro-life and pro-choice in the generic sense. But this is the exception.

These wooly, warm but inconstestable statements must be coupled with practical suggestions if we expect to move our political discussion along and arrive at some solutions for the fiscal and security threats we face. The loss of trust in many of our institutions isn’t something that can be restored by vacuous words from which no one can dissent. We must have proposals that generate vigorous disputes and fruitful disagreement. Problems can be solved once we insist on more than these verbal salves that flow so smoothly from elected lips.

President Obama gave us a good example Wednesday night when discussing energy policy.: “[T]o create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives” (Yawn)…But then he takes a turn to concrete policy: “And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (Applause.) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.” Hooray! Regardless of whether or not you want a future fueled by nuclear power or offshore drilling you at least know that this is a meaningful proposal. Why? Because it is possible to support the contrary and oppose nuclear power plants or offshore drilling and not be insane.

So remember: when any politician speaks words which suggest the impossibility of supporting the contrary, just enjoy the thought of your mother and suspend your approval and support until he gives you something actionable that even your mother would have recognized as worth arguing about.

Bishop approves free distribution of needles to drug abusers

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, who serves as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, has approved a proposal by diocesan Catholic Charities to distribute free needles to drug abusers in the hope of preventing the spread of AIDS.

SISTER MAUREEN Joyce, CEO of Catholic Charities, says her agency’s planned needle exchange program for IV drug users will save lives.

“I understand there will be questions, but this is common sense,” said Joyce. “I strongly believe in this. It will save lives.”
“From a theological standpoint, we're not being faithful to our mission if we don't reach out to people addicted to drugs, too,” Sister Joyce added.

An $83,000 van filled with syringes will be parked in two neighborhoods and serve as the focal point of Catholic Charities’ needle distribution efforts.

“This is a proven method used around the country, but there has been a huge gap in this area that nobody was stepping up to fill,” said Angela Keller, executive director of AIDS services for Catholic Charities, whose web site links to the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council, whose mission is “to promote the well being of all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people and those affected by discrimination based on gender identity and expression.”

In a 2003 address, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, then president of the Pontifical Council of the Family, urged abstinence from drugs to prevent the spread of AIDS. In doing so, he cited a 1987 statement of the bishops of the United States:

Even earlier, the bishops of the United States of America affirmed in their 1987
statement: “abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage as well
as the avoidance of intravenous drug abuse are the only morally correct and
medically sure ways to prevent the spread of AIDS” …

Prof. Lino Ciccone
adds: “Therefore a true and effective prevention is above all the set of
initiatives that aim at putting an end to whatever promotes sexual laxity,
presented as a triumph of liberty and civilization – similar to what is being
done to help youth not to fall into the slavery of drugs or to free them from
them. In other words: true prevention takes place only through a serious
educational effort. An education free from equivocations and widespread
reductive concepts, which leads to the discovery, or rediscovery, of the values
of sexuality and a correct scale of values in human life.

“Any other
option that excludes such ways, or worse, that implies an ulterior push towards
sexual promiscuity and/or the use of drugs, is anything but prevention, and to
promote the same is tragically deceitful.”

During its 2007-8 fiscal year, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, Inc., received $17,973,859 in government grants $3,875,773 in direct public support (i.e., contributions, gifts, and grants), and $474,538 in indirect public support, according to its tax return. It also received $16,358,929 in program service revenue, including government contracts. Other revenue sources such as special events and investment income brought total revenue to $40,093,321.

Expenses for 2007-8 totaled $39,998,856, including $5,986,659 for management and general expenses and $231,234 for fundraising. The highest-paid employee was Joseph Pofit, director of long-term care, who received compensation of $148,526.

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Jon Stewart gets it right when he rips Chris Matthews for his post-SOU Address comments in which the MSNBC host said he forgot for an hour that Obama was black. Really? You are stuck in a place most of us got out of years ago Chris. Enjoy the video below.

Cartoon of the Day - SOU Alito

Today on Kresta - January 29, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Jan. 29

4:00 – A Kresta Political Principle – “The Impossibility of Supporting the Contrary”
“We need to export more of our goods. Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America.” What person in his right mind could disagree with President Obama’s words? And that’s the problem with so much political speech. Statements which admit of no objection are a staple of political rhetoric. While they serve the purpose of establishing the speaker’s common sense and general appeal, they are meaningless as policy statements. What Al is going to hash out, with plenty of examples to back it up, is a handy little analytical tool to help you sort through the increasing amount of political verbiage that beckons, assaults or seduces us from cable newstalk programs, blogolas, the explosion of printed political tracts masquerading as books and celebrity quips posing as profound civic insight.

5:00 – Roeder Found Guilty of 1st Degree Murder - Abortion, Justification, Scott Roeder’s Testimony and the Media’s Agenda
Today Scott Roeder was found guilty of 1st degree murder for the killing of Dr. George Tiller. The judge ended up NOT allowing the jury to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter. Roeder WAS allowed to present a justification defense, but the jury took less than an hour to come back with a guilty verdict on first degree murder. We listen to the Roeder testimony, activist statements, and the reporting on the trial. Monica Miller is our guest.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

FACT CHECK: Obama and a toothless commission

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama told Americans the bipartisan deficit commission he will appoint won't just be "one of those Washington gimmicks." Left unspoken in that assurance was the fact that the commission won't have any teeth.

Obama confronted some tough realities in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, chief among them that Americans are continuing to lose their health insurance as Congress struggles to pass an overhaul.

Yet some of his ideas for moving ahead skirted the complex political circumstances standing in his way.

A look at some of Obama's claims and how they compare with the facts:


OBAMA: "Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't."

THE FACTS: The anticipated savings from this proposal would amount to less than 1 percent of the deficit - and that's if the president can persuade Congress to go along.

Obama is a convert to the cause of broad spending freezes. In the presidential campaign, he criticized Republican opponent John McCain for suggesting one. "The problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel," he said a month before the election. Now, Obama wants domestic spending held steady in most areas where the government can control year-to-year costs. The proposal is similar to McCain's.


OBAMA: "I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans."

THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted - a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.


OBAMA: Discussing his health care initiative, he said, "Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan."

THE FACTS: The Democratic legislation now hanging in limbo on Capitol Hill aims to keep people with employer-sponsored coverage - the majority of Americans under age 65 - in the plans they already have. But Obama can't guarantee people won't see higher rates or fewer benefits in their existing plans. Because of elements such as new taxes on insurance companies, insurers could change what they offer or how much it costs. Moreover, Democrats have proposed a series of changes to the Medicare program for people 65 and older that would certainly pinch benefits enjoyed by some seniors. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted cuts for those enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.


OBAMA: The president issued a populist broadside against lobbyists, saying they have "outsized influence" over the government. He said his administration has "excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs." He also said it's time to "require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or Congress" and "to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office."

THE FACTS: Obama has limited the hiring of lobbyists for administration jobs, but the ban isn't absolute; seven waivers from the ban have been granted to White House officials alone. Getting lobbyists to report every contact they make with the federal government would be difficult at best; Congress would have to change the law, and that's unlikely to happen. And lobbyists already are subject to strict limits on political giving. Just like every other American, they're limited to giving $2,400 per election to federal candidates, with an overall ceiling of $115,500 every two years.


OBAMA: "Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. ... And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year."

THE FACTS: The success of the Obama-pushed economic stimulus that Congress approved early last year has been an ongoing point of contention. In December, the administration reported that recipients of direct assistance from the government created or saved about 650,000 jobs. The number was based on self-reporting by recipients and some of the calculations were shown to be in error.

The Congressional Budget Office has been much more guarded than Obama in characterizing the success of the stimulus plan. In November, it reported that the stimulus increased the number of people employed by between 600,000 and 1.6 million "compared with what those values would have been otherwise." It said the ranges "reflect the uncertainty of such estimates." And it added, "It is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package."


OBAMA: He called for action by the White House and Congress "to do our work openly, and to give our people the government they deserve."

THE FACTS: Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign - to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN "so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it's acted upon.


OBAMA: "The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades."

THE FACTS: Despite insisting early last year that they would complete the negotiations in time to avoid expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in early December, the U.S. and Russia failed to do so. And while officials say they think a deal on a new treaty is within reach, there has been no breakthrough. A new round of talks is set to start Monday. One important sticking point: disagreement over including missile defense issues in a new accord. If completed, the new deal may arguably be the farthest-reaching arms control treaty since the original 1991 agreement. An interim deal reached in 2002 did not include its own rules on verifying nuclear reductions.


OBAMA: Drawing on classified information, he claimed more success than his predecessor at killing terrorists: "And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed - far more than in 2008."

THE FACTS: It is an impossible claim to verify. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published enemy body counts, particularly those targeted by armed drones in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. The pace of drone attacks has increased dramatically in the last 18 months, according to congressional officials briefed on the secret program.

Outrageous Statement of the Day

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann last night cited a small business owner whose company was given $99 million in stimulus funds and created "at least 50 jobs." WOW. What a well-spent $99 million. I want to work there.

Cartoon of the Day - Change

Today on Kresta - January 28, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Jan. 28

4:00 – State of the Union Address: Obama’s America After One Year

President Obama took the extraordinary step in Wednesday's State of the Union address of slamming the Supreme Court for last week's decision striking down limits on corporate spending on political advertisements, ruling that the Court had "opened the floodgates" to special interests and foreign corporations in elections. And it appears that one of the Justices in the audience didn't agree. As Obama spoke, Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and appears to mouth the words, "not true." We analyze the speech and talk about this shocking moment. Political scientist Paul Kengor joins us.

4:20 – Relief Efforts in Haiti: Live From the Triage Unit
"Urgent" relief operations in Haiti are ending as aid deliveries are satisfying most immediate needs, United Nations and U.S. aid officials said today. International efforts are shifting toward helping sustain Haitians, including the estimated 800,000 residents of the capital Port-au-Prince left homeless by the Jan. 12 quake. About 250,000 people have already left the city for the countryside, and locally grown food is beginning to arrive in the capital. Col. Rick Kaiser, commander of the U.S. Army’s 20th engineering brigade, said drinking water supplies had been restored and the electrical grid may return to operation within several weeks. We talk to Fr. James Bromwich, a Priest in the archdiocese of Louisville who is currently outside of Port au Prince where he is offering his services as a priest and as a triage/trauma nurse.

4:40 – Doesn’t Pro-Choice Mean You are For Choice – So Why the Uproar Over Tebow Ad?
Priests for Life commented today on the efforts of pro-abortion groups to keep CBS from broadcasting a Focus on the Family ad featuring quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother during the Super Bowl. They ask “Why should it bother people who call themselves pro-choice if women watch Pam Tebow and her son Tim on Super Bowl Sunday and freely decide to choose life? Would fewer abortions be a bad thing?” What happened to safe, legal and RARE? We talk about it with Janet Morana of Priests for Life and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

5:00 – State of the Union Address: Obama’s America After One Year
President Obama said last night that he will work with Congress and the military to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in the armed forces. Obama made the remark in his first State of the Union speech during a short litany of civil rights issues, which included his successful hate crimes bill, a move to "crack down on equal-pay laws" and improvement of the immigration system. We talk about this portion of the speech and much much more with Gary Bauer.

5:20 – Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas – Greatest Catholic Theologian?
Saint Thomas Aquinas, was an Italian priest and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with, his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law and political theory. One of the 33 Doctors of the Church, he is considered by many to be the Church's greatest theologian and philosopher. On this, his feast day, we discuss his life and contributions with Aquinas scholar, Dr. Roger Nutt of Ave Maria University.

Good prayers for those in authority

These are taken from the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I've loved them for thirty years and frequently incorporate them in my private prayer time. I thought you'd like them too.

For our Country

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the President of the United States and all in Civil

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governor of this
State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom
and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the
love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Alito vs. Obama during State of Union

The President took a cheap shot at the Supreme Court during his State of the Union message. As SCOTUS sat politely the President scolded them saying:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign companies – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”
Justice Sam Alito couldn't tolerate the misleading claim and could be seen shaking his head and mouthing the words "Not true." Good for the Justice, it was a righteous act. The President's remark was a low blow directed at the least partisan of our three branches of government. But more important than the indignity of the remarks is that they were false.

Firstly, on this point of foreign finagling in our elections, the President is just too late and apparently uninformed (Scary, isn't it? He is scarily ignorant or deliberately forgetful, and either prospect is, yes, scary.) Congress has already passed a bill to insure that foreign entities would not control American elections: It's the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1996. It prohibits indpendent political commercials by foreign nationals or companies.

Secondly, Justice Anthony Kennedy specifically wrote in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission that the opinion did not address the question of foreign companies.

Thirdly, by chastising the Supreme Court as they sat surrounded by screaming Democrats, he seemed to be messing with the independent judiciary and reshuffling the balance of power. He was definitely sending them a signal. It was a bold, aggressive act by the President and I hope someone will correct his breach of decorum. But he won't fail to remind you that he is appalled by Washington's partisanship.

A few other observations.
I don't know if I've just heard too many of these speeches but this seemed to begin about as sappy as any I've heard. Rolling together Bunker Hill, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the 'bloody Sunday' during America's civil rights years as major challenges to our future was lame. The events were widely disparate and not at all parallel in size or significance. Further, on the emotional tone, he couldn't seem to decide whether he was the empathetic, Clintonian president who was 'feeling our pain' or whether he was the defiant, charistmatic inspirational leader, that tells people the hard truths they won't face up to without his pushing their nose up against these harsh realities. Is he the therapist in chief or is he the anointed prophet in chief.

It was good to hear him talk, unexpectedly, about nuclear power plants, clean coal technology and offshore drilling. On the other hand, how he can continue to talk about the ballooning costs of health care and insurance for doctors yet refuse to champion tort reform and unbalanced malapractice claims. Also, why toss in the tired issue of 'Don't ask, don't tell.' As far as I'm concerned, if the military brass doesn't think open homosexuality in the army represents a real compromise of unit bonding, then I guess I don't care. It just seems to be putting a diversity agenda ahead of military readiness

I liked his words on not hiring lobbyists but want to see the FACTCHECKERS on this point. I didn't think he was pure on this issue. Aren't there at least a dozen former lobbyists among his top advisors?

It's always a good rule to ask if the applause lines or policy proposals pass the 'impossibility of the contrary' test. For instance, when a candidate or politician or preacher says something like, "We need to export more of our goods because the more goods we export the more jobs we create." Uh-uh. It is a statement no opponent would disagree with. These are called motherhood and apple pie statements. Everybody loves them. They are without any opponents. Thus from a policy standpoint, they are meaningless. They reveal nothing.
Every public speaker uses them. Presidents love them and that is not a partisan issue.

Outrageous Statement of the Day

Joy Behar: Tim Tebow Just As Easily Could Have Been "Rapist Pedophile". Discounting the pro-life argument of a planned Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad featuring Tim Tebow's mother, Joy Behar told the audience of the January 26 "View" the the Florida quarterback just as easily could have been a "rapist pedophile." Wow. Watch the video below.

Cartoon of the Day - Do Over

Today on Kresta - January 27, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Jan. 27

4:00 – Sin: A History

What is sin? Is it simply wrongdoing? Why do its effects linger over time? In this sensitive, imaginative, and original work, Gary Anderson shows how changing conceptions of sin and forgiveness lay at the very heart of the biblical tradition. Spanning nearly two thousand years, he brilliantly demonstrates how sin, once conceived of as a physical burden, becomes, over time, eclipsed by economic metaphors. Transformed from a weight that an individual carried, sin becomes a debt that must be repaid in order to be redeemed in God’s eyes. We look at Sin: A History.

4:40 – Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World
Chris Lowney is here to discuss a unique guide for leaders of all kinds, drawn from the experiences of one of the world’s most successful organizations. Chris offers leadership lessons from the Jesuits, the renowned religious order whose originality and expertise have stirred admiration for nearly five centuries.

5:00 – The Virtues: Practical Application to Everyday Life
A virtue approach to life is centered on Christ. Life in Christ is, in fact, the life of the theological and cardinal virtues. Therefore, what we are seeking is a share in Christ's virtues. It is not about promoting autonomous personal achievements of character, but life in Christ and love for Christ. This approach draws on a very rich tradition already present in the Church about the virtues – in scripture and in writings of the Fathers, Saints, Popes, philosophers and theologians. We are not perfect in our ability to understand and impart all that the Church knows about the virtues, but we have the good fortune of being able to continually return to its expertise in order to learn more. We talk to Gerry Rauch of Sacred Heart Major Seminary about a “virtue approach” to life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad Controversy Heats Up

CBS is facing pressure from pro-abortion groups to scrap the pro-life advertisement Focus on the Family plans to run featuring Tim Tebow. He is the University of Florida football star whose mother chose life over abortion despite a debilitating medical condition during her pregnancy with Tebow.

Focus on the Family has produced an ad it plans to air during the Super Bowl and, although it won't confirm the content prior to its airing, the ad could feature the story of how Tebow's mom refused an abortion.

However, a coalition of pro-abortion groups called on CBS on Monday to reject the ad.

The New York-based Women's Media Center is coordinating the attack on the ad along with the pro-abortion National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups

"An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together," Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center, told AP.

CBS officials told AP they have approved the ad for airing and that they would block and issue-oriented ad not "appropriate for air."

In an interview with reporters on Sunday, Tebow defended the ad.

"I know some people won't agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe," Tebow said. "I've always been very convicted of it (his views on abortion) because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman. So any way that I could help, I would do it."

Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, told AP that officials with the pro-life group "were a little surprised" by the opposition to the life-affirming ad.

"There's nothing political and controversial about it," he said. "When the day arrives, and you sit down to watch the game on TV, those who oppose it will be quite surprised at what the ad is all about."

The Super Bowl ad would be costly -- as a spot during the game and three 30-second commercials before it would reportedly run about $2-3 million -- but provides a unique exposure to a large national and international audience.

The pro-life group confirmed earlier this month that it will air a 30-second ad both right before and during the Super Bowl. Schneeberger would not divulge the content but said Tebow agreed to appear in the ad because he feels strongly about his pro-life convictions.

Schneeberger said the money for the ad campaign from donors who made special gifts to the pro-life group about and beyond their typical donations.

"Every cent for this ad was paid for by generous donors who specifically gave for this project because they are excited about this opportunity for Focus to show who we are and what we do," Schneeberger said.

The ad could feature the story of Tebow's birth.

Pam Tebow and her husband were Christian missionaries in the Philippines in 1985 and they prayed for "Timmy" before she became pregnant.

Unfortunately, Pam entered into a coma after she contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite found in a contaminated food or drink. The treatment for the medical condition would require strong medications that doctors told Pam had caused irreversible damage to Tim -- so they advised her to have an abortion.

Tebow refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. She ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and, eventually, gave birth to a health baby boy in August 1987.

Tim Tebow would win the Heisman in 2007 and then lead the Florida Gators football team to the national championship a year later and he is likely a top draft pick for 2010.

Whether CBS would allow the potential Focus pro-life ad to air was a question when news of the ad first came up earlier this month.

Last year, NBC rejected a television commercial the pro-life Catholic group Fidelis and its CatholicVote web site hoped to run.

The ad showed a beautiful picture of an unborn child during an ultrasound and asks what would happen if President Barack Obama had been a victim of abortion.

After several days of negotiations, an NBC representative in Chicago told the group that NBC and the NFL are not interested in advertisements involving "political advocacy or issues."

Cartoon of the Day - State of the Union

Outrageous Statement of the Day

ABC's Parenting Contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy said on "Good Morning America" Jan. 25 that parents must emphasize contraception and consensual sex to their teens rather than abstinence. I nominate Dr. Ray Guarendi to be the new "Parenting Expert" for ABC. :)

Today on Kresta - January 26, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Jan. 26

4:00 – Kresta Comments - Planned Parenthood Director Fearmongers about Catholic hospitals
Operating a Catholic hospital or health care system is complex. Mergers, cost-cutting, public funding, fidelity to mission, profitability, community service- all these objectives compete with one another and no outsider should be flippant about the difficult decisions Catholic health professionals must make. This makes a recent guest column from the largely defunct Ann Arbor News especially galling. Al has a commentary on this piece of shameless pandering to latent anti-Catholic sentiment and use of rhetorical trickery.

4:20 – The Seal: A Priest’s Story
When Father Timothy Mockaitis heard inmate Conan Wayne Hale’s sacramental confession on April 22, 1996, he had no idea it was being recorded. He also didn't know that the event would spur an unprecedented legal case that attempted to demonstrate that a violation of the seal of the confessional was an infringement on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Father Mockaitis is here to discuss how this case involved not only canon law versus civil law, but also a threat to the long term viability of our Constitutional freedoms.

5:00 – Kresta Comments - Critical minds should make critical distinctions...Yes, unless we are talking about Christians
A mark of real diversity and tolerance is the ability to restate your opponent’s positions in a way that he would recognize as true and accurate. The liberal left in America finds that almost impossible when dealing with activist, serious, Catholic, Reformed or evangelical Christians. Al recently read a piece by Daryll Hart that reiterates this point and Al has some comments.

5:20 – Is the Campaign-Finance Ruling Good for Catholics?
The only three sure things in life, Benjamin Franklin should have said, are death, taxes and campaign-finance reform. Trying to keep money out of politics is like trying to keep a basement dry in New Orleans. But should it be our goal to keep money out of politics? Or should our goal be transparency? We talk to attorney Pat Gillen about whether last week’s Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance reform is good for Catholics or not.

5:40 – Archdiocese of Detroit in Focus: Aid to Haiti, Health Care Reform, and 1 Year at the Helm for Archbishop Vigneron
Archbishop Allen Vigneron joins us for his regular monthly segment. We discuss the outstanding efforts of the Archdiocese to bring relief to the people of Haiti, we look at the Archbishop’s concerns regarding health care reform, and we look at his first year at the helm of the Archdiocese.

A Slap in the Face: Utilitarianism and Special Needs Kids

Below is Chuck Colson's latest Breakpoint Column. Well worth a read.

January 25, 2010

Suppose you received a letter asking for a contribution to help needy children. The solicitation was filled with heart-rending pictures and stories about the children’s plight and how your money can make the difference between a bleak future and one filled with hope.

Duly moved, you make a donation only to learn that the organization used the money for something else. How would you feel about that? I’m guessing angry.

Well, now you know how parents of children with special needs are feeling.

The stimulus bill passed last year by Congress included $11.3 billion in federal assistance to special education programs across the country. This doubled the amount from the previous year. Advocates for kids with special needs believe that the increasing funding could have had a “huge impact” on the lives of these kids.

Notice I said, “could have.” That’s because a lot of the money isn’t going to help children with special needs. Instead, schools are “redirecting” the federal funds to other uses.

That’s what happened in Broward County, Florida: They cut their special education budget by 32 million dollars after receiving $50 million from the federal government. Thus, children with special needs weren’t the principal beneficiaries of the federal grants – the rest of the school system was. Broward used the money to save 600 to 900 jobs unrelated to special education.

Broward is far from alone: a government survey found that 44 percent of the nation’s school district plan to do exactly the same thing.

Some school officials say that by redirecting the funds, they are benefiting more people than they could have otherwise: They can save jobs and fund other programs for more students.

This is simply another application of utilitarianism—a thoroughly anti-Christian worldview, which espouses “the greatest good for the greatest number.” If a small number of the most vulnerable among us are hurt in the process—like special needs kids—well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

But apply that utilitarian standard to medical care, it becomes very scary for everyone.

As if this weren’t bad enough, the way school districts become eligible for diverting these funds is what’s most outrageous: you only qualify if you meet certain goals, such as graduation rates. So what are schools, desperate for the money, doing? They are lowering their standards to improve their graduation rates and therefore get government money to use for the wrong purposes.

Finally, while the stimulus money is temporary, the local cuts in special education funding aren’t likely to be. So the most vulnerable kids in our schools are getting shortchanged now and they will be shortchanged later. No wonder one advocate for these children called it a “slap in the face.”

I call it shortsighted and cynical. As the grandfather of a child with special needs, I’m outraged that schools are using money intended to help these kids to make up for their own mistakes and lack of proper planning. Talk about punishing the innocent!

As a Christian, I’m worried about the effect of theses kinds of shenanigans will have on our already-tattered confidence in our government. How would people if they knew that the tax dollars they thought were going to help kids who need all the help they can get had been diverted?

I’m guessing even angrier.

Critical minds should make critical distinctions...Yes, unless we are talking about Christians

A friend sends this wonderful exposition which has attained an orthodoxy among secular minded people of left wing political persuasion and imagine themselves champions of diversity and tolerance. A mark of real diversity and tolerance is the ability to restate your opponents positions in a way that he recognizes as true and accurate. The liberal left in America finds that almost impossible when dealing with activist, serious, Catholic, Reformed or evangelical Christians. The following piece by Daryll Hart breaks me up. Enjoy and learn.

A while back the History News Network featured part of a Harper’s interview with Max Blumenthal, the author of the new book, Republican Gomorrah (published by Nation Books). This snippet included Blumenthal’s explanation for starting the book with a portrait of R. J. Rushdoony, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (full disclosure, my denomination), who advocated the use of Old Testament law for modern statecraft. Blumenthal then played pin-the-tail-on-the-intellectual donkey, linking Rushdoony to Francis Schaeffer, the so-called father of the Religious Right, who influenced Marvin Olasky, who was an advisor to George W. Bush especially in developing the theme of “compassionate conservatism.” Blumenthal concludes his answer with this:
After Roe v. Wade, Schaeffer became convinced the government had legalized
infanticide. He was radicalized almost overnight and began churning out polemics
urging evangelicals to use “force in the defensive posture,” a watchword for
domestic terrorism, to stop abortion. While Rushdoony provided the Christian
right with its governmental blueprint, Schaeffer offered it the political
strategy–organizing against abortion–it required to attack America’s secular
underpinnings, including the moderate Republican establishment. It’s important
to remember that prior to Schaeffer, right-wing evangelical leaders like Jerry
Falwell were fixated on stopping the racial integration of their so-called
“private Christian schools.”

There you have it, a neat bow on a frightening package – Old Testament law, presidential politics, opposition to abortion, and terrorism, all signifying the conservative movement. And liberals think Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck simplify the Obama administration. Granted, these radio personalities have a larger audience than Harper’s, the Nation, and the History News Network. But Limbaugh and Beck don’t claim to be scholars, and their listeners don’t claim to be experts about politics, religion, or history. If Susan Jacoby really wants to claim that conservatism has dumbed-down American culture, she may want to hold up a mirror to her reasonable and smart friends who can’t tell the difference between picketing an abortion clinic and flying a 737 into a skyscraper.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Planned Parenthood Director Fearmongers about Catholic hospitals

Operating a Catholic hospital or health care system is complex. Mergers, cost-cutting, public funding, fidelity to mission, profitability, community service- all these objectives compete with one another and no outsider should be flippant about the difficult decisions Catholic health professionals must make. This makes the following guest column from the largely defunct Ann Arbor News especially galling.

It's by Michael I. Hertz, medical director of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan and an associate clinical professor with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Note its shameless pandering to latent anti-Catholic sentiment and use of rhetorical trickery. Hertz paints a picture of a vast, ambitious institution that deprives people of liberty and rolls in the dough at the expense of the poor and unwary. This is classic 19th century anti-Catholicism on a par with spook stories about Jewish banking conspiracies.

The Catholic Church controls a huge and growing slice of the health care pie as evidenced by the following numbers: the 600 Catholic hospitals represent an estimated 12 percent of the total US hospitals, which received $45 billion in public funds, and treat 1 in 6 Americans annually. In 2003, Ascension Health, the largest Catholic system in the United States remarkably brought in total revenue of $10.04 billion. And of course in the most recent past, we witnessed a dramatic tour de force of the influence of Catholic healthcare in the recent Congressional debate over healthcare reform resulting in the Stupak-Pitts amendment, potentially eliminating abortion services for women covered by the plan. The scope of Catholic healthcare in the nation’s healthcare system is daunting to say the least.
Wow. If Catholics continue to heal the sick whose to say what beast they might "sic" on the rest of us. Look at Hertz' rhetorical gamesmanship.

*Note the alarmist tone. "The Catholic Church controls a huge and growing slice of teh health care pie...eliminating abortion services for women...The scope of Catholic daunting to say the least."

*Note that the revenue numbers have no context. They sound big until you ask, well what is the total revenue of hospitals in the U.S? I don't know but the tax-exempt hospitals of Cleveland (Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, & Sisters of Charity Health System) had revenue of 7.2 billion dollars in 2007. So imagine New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Omaha, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Miami, etc. All of a sudden Hertz' statement that "Ascension Health, the largest Catholic system in the United States remarkably brought in total revenue of $10.04 billion" is not all that remarkable. BTW, the Sisters of Charity have as part of their mission to give care to anyone who walks in the door regardless of ability to pay. According to Hertz, the world would be better off if the Sisters were required to do abortions, sterilizations or be forced to shut their doors. What a wonderful world Hertz' would be? This is the same ideological blindness that forced the Archdiocese of Boston to cease offering adoption services rather than release children to homosexual partners.

*Note that while revenue numbers are given, no expense numbers are given. In 1998 Catholic hospitals lost nearly 3 billion dollars on care to the urban and rural poor.

*Note the mention of public funds as though there was something dirty about a Catholic institution receiving any public support regardless of how much it serves the public good. In fact, the law declares that the receipt of federal funds in various health programs will not require hospitals to participate in abortion or sterilization procedures. This law was born because a federal district court tried to require a Catholic hosptal to perform sterilizations.

*Note the implied nefarious political influence. The Catholic Church is a threat to the American sense of freedom and fairness.

*Note the neglect to mention his own organization's 880 clinics and self-interest in this debate.

.....there is no mention that one third of Planned Parenthood's budget is from taxpayers. In 2008, PP was the largest recipient of Title X funds, more than 337 million dollars a year. This money indirectly subsidizes abortion by keeping PP clinics financially viable. PP reported a surplus of $115 million in 2007 and is targeting the middle class with "elegant, new health centers."

.....that Planned Parenthood kills about 5,000 unborn a week. They kill black unborn children disproportionate to black population. BTW, the Pearl Harbor attack killed about 2,000 innocent; September 11th, about 3,000. Planned Parenthood beats them combined...EVERY WEEK.

Hertz believes that justice requires that poor unborn children should be aborted at the rate of wealthy unborn children. How nice and symmetrical.

Poor and low-income women bear a disproportional brunt of mergers between
Catholic and secular hospitals as they rely on such hospitals for much of their
healthcare needs compared with affluent women. Geography (in the case of rural
women) and economics or both restrict their choice of healthcare institution to
Catholic hospitals with the resultant abandonment of their reproductive needs,
this in the face of the overt mission of Catholic hospitals and in the words of
the mission statement of Trinity Health, “…to heal body, mind and spirit, to
improve the health of our communities and to steward the resources entrusted to
Hypocrisy such as this does little to further the public good. Mergers between secular non-profit hospitals such as Chelsea and Catholic hospital systems that result in the elimination of vital healthcare services must not be allowed to proceed. There is clear precedent for a “divorce” between unequal partners such as these, as many merged systems have un-merged to better provide needed care to their constituent patient population. Chelsea Hospital and the people of Chelsea would be well served to do the same.
I guess Hertz would say shame on those hypocrites like Mother Frances Cabrini. Shame on the hypocrite Mother Theodore Guerin. Shame on the hypocrites Mother Mary Russell, Mother Xavier, Mother Joseph. Shame on all of them for conniving to undermine America.

The legacy of these pioneering founders of U.S. hospitals and Catholic health care systems is now under attack. Their names are familiar to all: Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Sisters of the Holy Cross. These are a few of the religious communities renowned for founding and operating hospitals throughout the United States—generally in cities and towns where none existed, certainly none to serve the poor. This is a proud legacy of serving the common good of America. Their consciences knew pretty clearly that they were called to heal, not harm; to minister life not death, to love not destroy. Shame on Hertz. He apparently has a different vision.

P.S. In a letter to the editor the Medical Director of the University of Michigan Chelsea Health Center says in a dignified rebuttal of Hertz: "While it is true that certain procedures are not available at the hospital itself becasue of the change in hospital ownership, there has been no substantial change in the availability of family planning or related services to the Chelsea community...The quality and diversity of medical care available to the Chelsea community has not changed nor been adveresely impacted by the merger

In Case You Missed It Friday...

Kresta Commentary – Abortion in America: 37 Years Later

Watch live video from Kresta In The Afternoon's channel on

Martin Amis: We Need Public "Euthanasia Booths"

In an interview yesterday in The Sunday Times (of London), English novelist Martin Amis called for euthanasia booths on street corners to facilitate the death of elderly persons. “How is society going to support this silver tsunami?” he said in an interview. “There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops. I can imagine a sort of civil war between the old and the young in 10 or 15 years’ time,” he warned. His answer? “There should be a booth on every corner where you could get a martini and a medal.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue commented on this issue today:

"If it was the goal of Martin Amis to gin up publicity on the eve of his new novel, The Pregnant Widow, he succeeded: his sick comments have received wide coverage in the U.K. But now he’s stuck with his mad idea, and attempts to walk it back are too late.

Already, English pundit Toby Young is coming to Amis’ defense saying, “He didn’t mean it.” Young says it was just satire. Not so fast. If what Amis said was in jest, then are we to believe that he was similarly joking when he said, “There should be a way out for rational people who’ve decided they’re in the negative. That should be available, and it should be quite easy.” Sure, like having death booths on street corners.

Do we think Amis is going to start a campaign to establish death booths? No, but if someone followed up on his idea, we’re confident he wouldn’t lose a night’s sleep. In any event, we hope his dream world fantasy doesn’t migrate to our shores.

In short, it’s too late to rescue Amis. Besides, he could have gotten just as much publicity by denying the Holocaust. But he would never say such a thing, and that’s because such an idea would strike him as morally repugnant."

Cartoon of the Day - My Agenda

Today on Kresta - January 25, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Jan. 25

4:00 – Touched by an Angel: The Inspiration Collection: Faith and Love
Touched by an Angel was a television phenomenon. Executive Producer Martha Williamson made US television history as the second woman to ever solely executive produce two prime-time dramas simultaneously on American networks. She is certainly the first person ever to head two such programs that both blatantly honor God. After viewing the disastrous pilot for Touched by an Angel, no one believed that the show could be saved, but save it Martha did. Not only did she completely transform the program, her new version was the first religious drama to ever make it to top 10 in the ratings. Now we have the Touched by an Angel: The Inspiration Collection: Faith and Love. Martha is here to discuss it.

4:20 – Jan. 25, 1959 – Pope John XXIII Calls for the Second Vatican Council
Today marks the anniversary of the call for the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII in 1959. We take to opportunity to look at the primary goals of Vatican II and some of its specific directives. Next, we’ll look at a few notable ways that the Council’s wishes have been turned into reality. Finally, we’ll discuss some important things that are yet to be done and some areas where it would appear that we’ve dropped the ball. It’s “The Unfinished Business of Vatican II” with Marcellino D’Ambrosio.

4:40 – Ireland Challenged on Abortion Laws – By EU Court / Sex Abuse Fallout - Pope Calls all Irish Bishops to Rome
In a case that is being referred to as “Europe’s Roe v. Wade,” three women have taken the Irish government to a European Union court in an attempt to change the nation’s abortion law. The women, known only as A, B and C, have petitioned the European Court of Human Rights to create a “right to abortion” in the European Convention on Human Rights. They want to see that “right” overrule the right to life guaranteed in Ireland’s Constitution. We talk to Irish Catholic journalist Gareth Peoples.

4:45 – Saint Catherine’s Academy
The mission of St. Catherine of Siena Academy is to form young women centered on the redemptive act of Christ by offering an educational experience that will inspire their hearts and minds to always seek the “Truth” that is Jesus. To that end, they will be presenting a vision for the school featuring Dr. Mary Healy this week. Pat O’Mera is here to discuss it.

5:00 – Direct to My Desk

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remembering Roe: A Forgotten Warning from Ronald Reagan

On this 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a great piece by our friend Paul Kengor, professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Enjoy

Given the somber anniversary of Roe v. Wade-source of 40 million abortions since 1973-I thought I’d share an excellent but forgotten speech by President Ronald Reagan. The speechwriter was Peter Robinson, featured guest of our Reagan Lecture this year.

Reagan’s remarks, made in July 1987 to pro-life leaders, are moving to read and watch. They are prescient in light of the widening abortion abyss we face under the Obama administration and Pelosi-Reid Congress.

Reagan began with a reminder I often share with my secular-liberal friends. He told the pro-life activists: “[M]any of you, perhaps most, never dreamed of getting involved in politics. What brought you into politics was a matter of conscience, a matter of fundamental conviction.”

That point cannot be underscored enough. Few things rile me more than demands that pro-lifers-especially those motivated by their faith-keep out of politics. Quite the contrary, many did just that, quietly going to church and reading their Bibles, until one day they awoke to learn the Supreme Court had passed Roe v. Wade … and the hellacious assault was on. They entered pro-life activism reluctantly, as a reaction to what was thrust upon their culture and country. The last thing they wanted was to get involved in politics. The Death Culture came to them.

Reagan next added: “Many of you’ve been attacked for being single-issue activists or single-issue voters. But I ask: What single issue could be of greater significance?”

Agreed. For me, the life issue is my starting point, of far greater value than where a politician stands on social security or the minimum wage. Obviously, other issues matter. The right to life, however, is the first and most fundamental of rights, without which other rights are impossible. And if you, personally, are unsure when life begins, consider Reagan’s recommendation: “If there’s even a question about when human life begins, isn’t it our duty to err on the side of life?”

Reagan saw the onslaught against America’s unborn as so ferocious that he favored a “human life amendment” to the Constitution. At the time, this seemed extreme, but we’ve learned that unless amendments are attached to bill after bill-the Hyde Amendment, the Stupak Amendment-anonymous powers ensure all sorts of “unintended” consequences, including taxpayer funding of abortion.

Speaking of such funding, Reagan also acknowledged his “Mexico City policy,” which blocked U.S. taxpayer funding of international “family planning” groups. One of the first things President Obama did was rescind that policy-immediately after the March for Life last January.

Another policy Reagan highlighted in his speech was the prohibition of federal funds to finance abortions in the District of Columbia. This, too, was overturned last year, thanks to a Democratic Congress and president that rejected funding for school vouchers for poor children in Washington, DC, but supported funding for abortions for the mothers of those children.

Yes, I know the contrast is breathtaking, but it’s true.

Reagan talked more about abortion funding, and specifically “the so-called Grove City [College] legislation sponsored by Senator [Ted] Kennedy.” “This bill,” noted Reagan, “would mean that all hospitals and colleges receiving federal funds, even those with religious affiliations, would be open to lawsuits if they failed to provide abortions.” The usually affable Reagan said: “this one really touches my temperature control.”

Needless to say, all of this is extremely relevant right now, thanks to how Americans voted on November 4, 2008.

There was much more Reagan said in this speech, but I’ll close with two poignant thoughts:

“Many who turn to abortion do so in harrowing circumstances,” Reagan emphasized, including women “misled by inaccurate information.” “[W]e must remind those who disagree with us, and sometimes even ourselves, that we do not seek to condemn, we do not seek to sit in judgment…. [I]t is our duty to rise above bitterness and reproach.”

Pro-lifers must heed that call, respecting the human dignity of everyone. All victims require love and charity. On that, Reagan finished with this:

“I’d like to leave with you a quotation that means a great deal to me. These are the words of my friend, the late Terence Cardinal Cooke, of New York. ‘The gift of life, God’s special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendor as it requires our special care, concern, and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love.’”

Here was a warning against the pallbearers of the progressive death march, from Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger-who hoped to expunge the gene pool of “human weeds”-to the euthanasia precipice to which America is being dragged. It starts with the weakest of vessels: the infant in its mother’s womb.

Timeless words of wisdom to bear in mind this week, as America struggles to survive another year of Roe v. Wade.

Air America Goes Off the Air

Air America Radio, a progressive radio network that once aired commentary from Al Franken and Rachel Maddow, said Thursday it is shutting down immediately.

The company founded in April 2004 said it ceased airing new programs Thursday afternoon and will soon file to be liquidated under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It began broadcasting reruns of programs and would end those as well Monday night.

Air America said 10 consecutive quarters of declining ad revenue and the difficulty of making money on the Internet contributed to its financial woes.

"The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business. This past year has seen a `perfect storm' in the media industry generally," the company said in a statement on its Web site.

The network had some 100 radio outlets nationwide.

Franken, a Democrat, hosted his own show from 2004 to 2007 before going on to become a U.S. senator from Minnesota last year after a close election. Maddow went on to host her own TV show on MSNBC.

Cartoon of the Day - When Pigs Fly

Today on Kresta - January 22, 2010

Talking about the "things that matter most" on Jan. 22

4:00 – March for Life: A Live Report From the Scene
The pro-life community is gathering for the 37th straight year in Washington on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. The ruling established the nationwide right to abortion on demand 37 years ago. There was a rally at the National Mall earlier today and the March is currently winding it’s way down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol. Fr. Michael Orsi is there with many students of Ave Maria Law School and brings us the latest from the rally.

4:20 – Kresta Comments – Keith Olbermann’s America
In a Special Comment on MSNBC’s “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann last night, the ultra-left anchor spent about 10 minutes ranting about the US Supreme Court’s decision striking down certain provisions of the McCain / Feingold Campaign Finance Reform, and essentially rewriting the rules for campaign donations. Olbermann uses all the hyperbole he can possibly muster and lay out a vision of a future United States in which evil corporations buy politicians and the stupid American public is helpless to do anything about it. Al has his own “Special Comment.”

4:40 – TBA

5:00 – March for Life: A Live Report From the Scene

The pro-life community is gathering for the 37th straight year in Washington on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. The ruling established the nationwide right to abortion on demand 37 years ago. There was a rally at the National Mall earlier today and a March down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol. Teresa Tomeo is there reporting for EWTN Television and Ave Maria Radio and joins us from the rally on the steps of the Supreme Court.

5:20 – “Extraordinary Measures” / “To Save a Life”
From his working class roots, John Crowley has finally begun to taste success in corporate America. Supported by his beautiful wife Aileen and their three children, John is on the fast track. But just as his career is taking off, Crowley walks away from it all when his two youngest children, Megan and Patrick, are diagnosed with a fatal disease. With Aileen by his side, harnessing all of his skill and determination, Crowley teams up with a brilliant, but unappreciated and unconventional scientist, Dr. Robert Stonehill. Together they form a bio-tech company focused on developing a life-saving drug. One driven to prove himself and his theories, the other by a chance to save his children, this unlikely alliance eventually develops into mutual respect as they battle the medical and business establishments in a fight against the system and time. But, at the last minute, when it appears that a solution has been found, the relationship between the two men faces a final test - the outcome of which will affect the fate of John's children. Nick Thomm has the review of “Extraordinary Measures.”

5:40 – Kresta Commentary – Abortion in America: 37 Years Later

Outrageous Statement of the Day

In a Special Comment on MSNBC’s “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann last night, the ultra-left anchor spent about 10 minutes ranting about the US Supreme Court’s decision striking down certain provisions of the McCain / Feingold Campaign Finance Reform, and essentially rewriting the rules for campaign donations. Olbermann uses all the hyperbole he can possibly muster and lays out a vision of a future United States in which evil corporations buy politicians and the stupid American public is helpless to do anything about it. Al has his own “Special Comment” regarding "Olbermann's America" on this afternoon's show. For now, you can watch for yourself just how far good old Keith has gone. Watch the video below or read the transcript here.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Calvinism: a New Force in American Religion?

I just came across TIME's recognition of Calvinism as a "new idea" changing America in tandem with "recycling the suburbs" and "reinstating the Interstate". Of course, Calvinism is even less "new" than suburbs and the Interstate and its been far longer out of fashion even among conservative Protestants.

While it was foundational to Puritan New England, why did Calvinism (often synonymous with Reformed Theology) lose its grip on American culture? Part of the answer is simply that all theological systems have lost cultural currency. Calvinism, however, had some distinctly troubling doctrines for a nation which envisioned itself "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Central to Calvinist doctrine are two doctrines that Americans love to hate.
1. Limited atonement, i.e., Christ did not die for the sins of the world but for the elect alone. This sounds so elitist and undemocratic.
2. Unconditional election, i.e., people are predetermined to heaven or hell unconditioned by their choices or behavior. This sounds so unfair and against free will.

These doctrines became repugnant to many Americans after the waning of the Congregationalist theologian Jonathan Edwards' (1703-58) influence. Edwards is often called "the last Puritan" and is often contrasted with "the first moralist" Ben Franklin. But even Edwards had begun restating and revising the theology of his Puritan ancestors all of whom isolated key Augustine doctrines untempered by other Catholic influences or even from his other Catholic convictions.

In spite of Edwards' creativity and brilliance, even his friends, Joseph Bellamy (1719-90) and Samuel Hopkins(1721-1803) felt compelled to tweak his interpretation of Calvinism after his premature death.

So classical Calvinism had been on the defense in America since at least Benjamin Franklin's (1706-90) generation. Its emphasis on predestination and an elect spiritual elite was thought to be incompatible with the American sense of freedom, liberty and equality of opportunity. By the last third of the 19th century, even its residual intellectual appeal was petering out. While Calvinism continued to produce some great theologians at Princeton, by the first quarter of the twentieth century it was out of the cultural mainstream, just another form of Protestant "fundamentalism".

In spite of TIME's approval, it still is.

Let me explain. Conservative Protestantism entered a period of reawakening and refashioning after WWII. The "new evangelicals" were led by figures like theologian/journalist Carl F.H. Henry, evangelist Billy Graham and represented in the magazine Christianity Today They distanced themselves from combative fundamentalists and widely suspected traveling preachers. They also stood against the Protestant liberalism of the World Council of Churches.

In the attempt to portray a united front against both liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism they strategically decided to avoid taking sides in the historic doctrinal divides betweens Calvinists, Lutherans, Arminians and, later, Pentecostals. It was a juggling act to be admired and not without truly respectful nods towards Christian unity which probably reached its climax in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together documents.

Graham had served as a generous and visible sign of unity for American evangelicals. For the sake of widening the audience for preaching "basic" or "mere" or "gospel" Christianity, doctrinal disputants censored themselves and avoided very public theological disagreement. Why create obstacles to salvation by confronting non-Christians with our theological disunity? Why scandalize the uninitiated before they had accepted Christ as their savior, before they had chosen the one indispensable thing?

But with the waning of Graham's influence and the rise of theologically minimal 'seeker' megachurches and the often doctrinally indifferent 'emerging' church movement, the long stifled demand for doctrine reasserted itself among a certain portion of the evangelical world. It was no secret among religion-watchers but TIME spied out this new generation rediscovering the intellectual vitality and consistency of Calvinism just in time for the Swiss reformer's 500th birthday in July 2009.

Yes, the new Calvinism is a force to be reckoned with among conservative American Protestants but it hardly registers on the American cultural Richter scale. This is not the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards or even 19th century Princeton revived. Nor has John Piper, Albert Mohler, R.C. Sproul or Mark Driscoll had any appeal among educated Catholics.

TIME asks: "It will be interesting to see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy."

As a Catholic, I pray for the latter. What an improvement over today's militant secularism. What a shame to waste this rediscovery of God's majesty as exemplified in Augustine's doctrines of grace in a new exercise of Christian factionalism.

Yes, I know how anti-Catholic were the Puritans and their descendants through the 19th and into the 20th century. But the new Calvinists didn't take this in with their mother's milk. For them, the rediscovery of the doctrines of grace found in Augustine have been a revelation and they can't think quite so badly of the Catholics who have canonized him. They are still quite capable of calling Catholics non-Christians (as one recently did to a family member) but they are saying the same of many within their conservative Protestant subculture.

Sadly, the new Calvinism continues to dismiss the tools Christ instituted and Augustine employed to maintain sacramental unity among His people: apostolic succession, the Petrine ministry and extravagant acceptance of the lapsed. So I expect their cultural and spiritual influence to dwindle as their sons and daughters will in a few short years re-enact the doctrinal conflicts of the past. I expect the movement will fragment once again over the identity of the elect, the wideness of God's mercy, and the breadth of His covenant. The joy so prevalent in Jonathan Edwards and John Piper will fade in the attempt to transmit the faith apart from the fullness of the apostolic tradition.