Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On hierarchy of truths

In order to understand the bishops' resistance to the current health care bill we must understand the priority of truths. We must understand that these inherent rights that belong to us as human beings differ in their necessity and priority.

The first is the right to life. This is fundamental to the human being. Without the right to life all other rights are undermined because the very essence of their existence is threatened. Therefore any action or policy that threatens the right to life, even under the guise of advancing a good, undermines both the right to life and that good.

Consider a society where the government pays for everything. Healthcare, education, the works. The only condition is that the government could decide that you no longer "contribute to society" and therefore can kill you. Suddenly, all of the rights such as healthcare disappear, and are about as rigid as tin foil.

After the right to life come the necessities. Food, clothing and shelter fall under this category. These elements are needed for basic survival. Human beings have an immediate right to these necessities, and society should provide for them to the extent a society can.

However the right to life supersedes this. Again imagine if you were starving and offered food in exchange for killing someone. You do not have the right to kill that person to obtain the food. His life is as valuable as yours.

Finally come other rights. The right to medical treatment, education, etc. These are rights in the sense that a society again must provide to the best of their ability. But these rights are more relative, in that they are more subject to availability, societal organization, etc.

But again as the right to life supercedes the immediate rights to food, clothing and shelter; the right to things such as health care, etc are superceded by the the above rights. Consider the case of embryonic stem cell research. If such research were to result in cures for various diseases, etc. We would still be required to end such treatment, as the treatment requires the killing of human beings.

This hierarchy must guide us in matters of public policy. If we do not respect the priorities, we will only undermine the rights we are trying to advance, as well as the rights that are higher in priority.


it's only incendiary if Republicans say stuff like this:

No big deal if Democrats do it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Not really news

If it's Republicans in the crosshairs.

Not that violence on either side is justified. But this latest spat isn't the "first" spark.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On passions

Passion is often difficult to deal with. When used for good it can be harnessed into a motivational energy that can change the world. Used wrongly it can corrupt anything it touches.

I look out at the Catholic landscape and I see (among other things) two main camps. Those who are concerned for the wellbeing of the poor, who often call themselves proponents of social justice. In another main camp we have those who uphold the right to life of the unborn (and soon the elderly and the infirmed).

Now ideally both camps would work together for the wellbeing of both the poor and the unborn. That all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Both sides would operate passionate for their particular cause while recognizing the necessity of the other camp's cause. And both would work to insure that evil, regardless of the dimension, is not advanced. We would stand in solidarity with one another.

Sadly, the two camps are at war with another. Social justice folks view the prolife movement as an impediment to social justice causes. Likewise prolife folks view the social justice movement as being complict in the expansion of the culture of death. Both sides view the other not as allies, but at best an obstacle and at worst as enemies.

The problem is that both sides are right. The social justice movement, with their support of the latest health care debacle, IS complict in the expansion of the culture of death through the expansion of abortion. Likewise the prolife movement has failed to appreciate the very real problem of health care financing situation. The unborn, the poor, the infirmed. All of these are vulnerable and require our protection.

What we cannot do however is harm for the sake of good. Would that a politician would offer to end abortion if torture were to be legalized, we have an obligation to say no. We CANNOT cooperate with evil, even if good ends are sought. When we compromise with evil, only evil prevails.

We must recognize that if we are to truly fight for social justice and the common good, we cannot advance evil. We may not be passionate about torture, or abortion, or healthcare, or modern slavery. But we cannot support that which we know will bring more evil into the world. We gain nothing, and lose our souls in the process.

Both sides need to cooperate

to calm down the toxic atmosphere:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On violence, war and abortion

My friend Matthew Carlin asked me the following question (his question reproduced here with his permission):

I have one question about the entire thing, and I ask this in all openness and
all seriousness, because it's been on my mind for almost a decade:At the rate
things are changing, will it ever be worth civil war to you?

This continues a long string of conversations we've had over the years regarding the state of the country. Given the anger felt by the majority of the people during the Iraq War and now this debate over healthcare, it only makes sense to ponder such questions.
Even more so is the pertinent question regarding abortion. If abortion is truly the heinous crime that pro-life advocates insist it is, why are the pro life groups not taking up arms in defense of the unborn? Shouldn't the call to arms be issued, like the Germans should have during the Holocaust?

Catholic teaching on the matter of just war are clear on the requirements necessary for a war to be just:

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous
consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous
conditions of moral legitimacy.
At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than
the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very
heavily in evaluating this condition.

It is hard to imagine circumstances that would justify the conditions for a civil war given the above. Self defense is the only circumstance I can think of, and even then the justification for taking another's life in self defense against the government creates a host of issues to work through.

Regarding abortion it is even more difficult to justify using violence considering the situation. One only needs to look at the murder of George Tiller to see the problem.
1. The intent was to murder George Tiller. Defending the unborn was not at issue.
2. The death of Tiller would not end the abortions at his clinic. Someone has stepped in to take his place. Legitimate defense is not an option under these circumstances.
3. George Tiller's life is just as valuable as those he murdered in the womb. The witness of the truth of the dignity of every human being is undermined by using violence to attempt to stop the killing.

Because abortion is the front and center moral issue facing this country (as slavery was in the past) it is often at the forefront of any debate, from judicial nominees to health care. But we must be careful to distinguish between the moral and the political, even when they overlap as in health care. Purely political reasons do not justify violence, even when policies strike at the core of a country's founding principles. And even when the issue is moral, the bar for using violence is very high. So much so that right now it is impossible for me to see how violence would be justified. Though if one thing is certain, the evil of abortion could provide inspiration.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Christ is the true King

May God have mercy on those who callously abandoned the unborn who will be slaughtered under the new health care bill. May God have mercy on us for our failure to live up to the Gospel. May God have mercy on those celebrate the funding of the murder of children. May God have mercy on us for tolerating the Holocaust for so long.

We have gone to a society that disregards the sanctitiy of life. We tolerate the treatment of human beings like refuse. A person is only a person if they can survive the womb. We have abandoned the weakest of us, in favor of funding money into a system that will only continue to exploit. We are a truly sick society, one that says either choose the sick person or the unborn child. Pick who to die. There is no hope where the basic principles of justice are abandoned. Where the sanctitiy of life is ignored or outright attacked.

We hide behind nuance and euphemism. Behind words and legality. We console ourselves by torturing our conscience. We rationalize away our sins. It is a sick joke that we have expanded the culture of death so close to the Resurrection of Our Lord.

And yet...

It is times like these that we are reminded why hope is a virtue. That we must cultivate that small spark that lies within us. Our worldly hopes are dashed in order that we look to the source of Hope. We see the evil in our midst in order to see that the true hope is in He who died for us.

Our trust lies not in the pricipalities and princes of this world. The schemes and machinations of men. The systems of death and destruction. The lies and deceit of the Devil.

The blood of the innocent cry out to God. He hears the cry of His little ones. The murders that go on every year and the legal system that keeps it so are an abomination. There is no justice, no peace when a socitey wages war against its own young.

His victory is assured. The King of Kings has already conquered death. The Enemy has no idea his days are numbered. Our Hope lies in the King eternal. He will come with power and majesty. His rule is absolute. His justice will be done. His little ones will see justice done.

God will not let injustice stand for long. Our hope lies in Him. His victory assured. The machinations of the Enemy will come to naught. The societies of death will be washed away. The blood of the victims of the holocaust will be avenged.

This is not the time to be dejected. This is not the time to count our losses. Our victory is assured. The innocent will see justice. God will prevail.

The night is darkest before the dawn. But the dawn will come. That hope must be held. We must allow that knowledge to comfort us. The abortion scourge will be washed away. Those that cling to the industry of death will be swept away like chaff. The evil in this world will be wiped from it.

Every tear will have meaning. Every valiant sacrifice will be rewarded. The King of Kings, the Lord of Hosts, the Alpha and the Omega, He is our true King. His judgement will be rendered. His mercy extended to those who wish it. Our hope lies in Him. The source of Hope.

For those who are dejected with the expansion of the death industry, be not afraid. Do not succumb to despair. This is the time to rise up. This is the time to turn to God, now more than ever. Now is the time to stand up.

God will prevail. His will is everlasting. His justice and mercy will rule to the ends of the earth. We know this. We cannot falter now. We will stand with those who do not have a voice. We must stand with those who are murdered every day, now in the name of health care. We must redouble our efforts, knowing that the victory of the King of Kings is assured.

We have work to do.

Viva Cristo Rey!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Will it be worth it?

Heading to the final vote today on the health care bill I have examined the arguments of the pro-bill side of the debate, especially from those of the progressive Catholic wing. I have wondered if they realize how many bridges they have burned in their attempt to get this bill passed. To date, I count the following:

*Thrown the USCCB under the bus for its opposition to the bill
*Called into question the USCCB's legal dept. on its ability to analyze this bill (re abortion).
*Imputed ulterior motives on the part of the pro-life movement in general (ie. it's not about abortion, it's about killing health care)
*Become so single issue minded to denigrate the concerns of a wide sector of the population's views on the bill (constitutional, moral, fiscal, etc.)

It amazes me in a sense because the bill itself falls way short of the vaunted goals of those who believe in state financed care. The public option doesn't exist, for example. Nor is the system streamlined to achieve any real benefit from getting the government involved.

More importantly, they have made it much more difficult for those on the other side to cooperate in the future. By undermining the USCCB as well as fellow Catholics in the pro-life movement they have further widened the rift between Catholics on this issue.

I do hope some good comes out of this bill if it passes. But I can't imagine what good could possibly offset the damage this bill has caused to the Catholic community, as well as the general U.S. population.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Health care bill is litigation city

Another issue that the health care bill causes: A huge spike in litigation:

I didn't sign up for this!

I can't help but be amused by the occasional outburst of righteous anger from well meaning Catholics who get worked up over attacks against the Faith (author included). From the Da Vinci Code, to Piss Christ, to TV in general, it is true that attacks come from all sides. And indeed at a certain level the anger is legitimate.

But friends kindly remember three things. First that it has always been this way, if not worse. Second, as Christians we signed up for this. Finally, we have already won the fight.

As for the first thing whenever I see such attacks I try to remind myself what it must have been like for the first Christians whenever a new Emperor mounted the throne. Odds are it went something like this:

Christian 1: "We have a new emperor."
Christian 2: "Wonder if he will continue the current policy of feeding us to the lions?"
1: "Maybe he's a progressive and will simply behead us?"
Etc. It could be a lot worse than it is now. It WAS a lot worse for those who came before us.

Second, our King warned us about this. He didn't promise life would be a cakewalk after we chose to follow Him. Jesus died on the cross, and before then told us we must do the same. We should be thankful that our burden is so light.

Finally, We need to remember that we have already won. Christ conquered death, folks! Who is Dan Brown compared to the King of the Universe? Instead of being "OUTRAGED!!1!11!", we should be saying to folks like Dan Brown, "That's really the best you can do, huh." The victory of God is inevitable. Our job, first and foremost, is to preach that Good News.

USCCB and fair weather fans

One of the more interesting things about the current health care debate is the sudden realignment of the loyalties to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Old friends are now enemies, and vice versa.

The progressive held that since the USCCB was against the Iraq war this was the official Catholic position on the war in Iraq. Multiple appeals to documents released during the run up and initial phase of the war lent credibility to the idea the correct moral position was one of opposition.

However, since the bishops have come out against the current Senate bill the progressive Catholics have all but ignored the USCCB. Indeed some have insinuated that they are misled on abortion, they are in too deep with the NRLC (National Right to Life Coallition). Indeed, we are suddenly reminded of the fact that from a "required submission" standpoint that fidelity to the USCCB is only mandatory insofar as your local bishop agrees with it. Note: This is the correct view, it is simply the timing that bothers me.

Conversley, we have those on the right who have in the past and present criticized the USCCB for being too far to the left on political issues. From the Iraq War to immigration, these folks have referred to the USCCB as a left wing organization. Arguments abound about the right to differ with prudential matters with the USCCB. Again, the arguments are correct so far as the moral teaching of the Church is concerned, but the motivation is somewhat dubious.

Now with the USCCB coming out against the health care bill conservative Catholics now view the council as the vanguard of the Faith. Suddenly it is popular to agree with the USCCB among conservative Catholics.

It is enough to make one's head spin. One can only wonder what will happen when immigration is a hot topic again. The political shift might tilt the Earth's axis.

Single issue voters

For those of us who stand up for the rights of the unborn, we are often accused of being "single issue voters." This term is used in a derogatory fashion. It basically means that prolife folks are so focused on abortion to the exclusion of other social justice concerns.

I am therefore enamored by the extent to which the current health care bill proponents support and defend it with almost single-minded focus. Objections to the bill are dismissed as being tangential.

*Inadequate conscience rights - not important
*Funding of abortion through CHCs - irrelevant
*Constitutional concerns - pfft!
*Budget issues - poor people are dying!1!!1
*Rationing of care - "death panels.....sure"

Indeed the concerns that a variety of people have concerning the the current bill from a number of perspectives are dismissed if not denigrated as being uncaring about the poor.

As this is written proponents are undermining the validity of the "single issue voter problem" by promoting a bill that has a variety of problems, under the guise of being "too important" to be hampered by such trivialities as funding the murder of unborn children.

I guess it depends on which issue you "single out."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Suspicion for me but not for thee

As if to continue my last post it seems that taking your advice is a very difficult thing to do. Over at Vox Nova one of the regular posters writes about the Hermeneutic of Suspicion. I could not help but notice the following:

Today, the pro-life movement is automatically inclined to view any Democratic initiative in this area through the “hermeneutic of suspicion”, always assuming bad motives, and always seeking hidden traps and pitfalls.
Given that the Democratic Party platform is dedicated to the expansion of abortion "rights" as they define it I think a little suspicion is healthy. Although suspicion of politicians in general is a good idea, regardless of your fav government ideology.

What I kept thinking about was what came toward the end of this post:

It would be a grave mistake to prevent passage of such a momentous bill based on a prudential preference for the language of one bill when the differences are second order. It would be a grave mistake for the USCCB to be influenced by the likes of the NRLC in this matter – they are not trustworthy[emphasis mine].
Apparently it is okay to distrust groups that the author disagrees with.

Now in all fairness the author is correct in that there are those who want to use the abortion issue as a wedge to stall the passage of the current health care bill. Just as there are those who would use the current health care bill as a vehicle as a means for more government control over the health industry (Obama himself stated that the public option is a gateway to a single payer).

But to plead for those of us who are "suspicious" to drop our suspicion, not in order for people to approach all sides in charity, but simply to transfer the distrust from the author's view to the author's ideological opponents is a bit suspicious in and of itself.

This is not to say that the NRLC may deserve some criticism for inconsistency(the "evidence" provided for Medicare Advantage is from 2009, not sure what was passed since Medicare Advantage was first passed), or that the Democrats are trying to sneak in abortion funding. It's just that I don't think it is entirely convincing to plead for insinuation of motives to end and then to accuse your opponents of falsehood in the same post. Apparently only those of us who disagree need to "get with it."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A call for civility in debate?

Every once in a while I will read a blogger or writer calling for "civility in public debate." The hatred is too intense. The language is too coarse. We aren't communicating with each other. Etc. All of the above in a certain sense is true (though I truly wonder if it was really different in any other age or time).

What I have found interesting is a curious phenomenon where the person calling for civility is often commits the very crimes he decries. In one post the writer will lament the lick of civility and then in the next declare how his opponents are the very incarnation of evil, because he wants to lower/raise taxes or some other trivial nonsense(depends on what you read).

I read such articles and posts and while in general I agree that we could all do well with a dose of civility, I often feel that those who make the call often enough are in need of their own advice. It's almost a dye marker of sorts. If you find yourself thinking there is too much heat in the kitchen, maybe you were the one who turned up the oven.

I was thinking these thoughts as I realized that I myself was thinking that there is too little charity in the public square. But as I meditated more I realized I was just as much as a problem as anyone else. The Internet, for the good it does in terms of making information readily available, makes it difficult to connect on a human level. A person I tear apart in a combobox I might be best friends with despite our disagreements if sat down and had a beer.

I think anyone who wants more civility in discussion should take a good look in the mirror. Too often we fail to see, in specific terms, how we contribute to the problem. Whenever we accuse someone of ulterior motives, we should be the first to point out our own faults in this matter. To truly see if we are acting in charity rather than simply trying to "win" or "be right."

In this vein I would like to make an apology. There is one person named Henry Karlson, a regular contributor at a site called Vox Nova. Their politics are about as far from mine as they can get. Yet in arguing with him I have said things that were unfair. In particular, I have accused him of supporting the pro-abortion movement despite his protests to the contrary.

For clarification, I think Mr. Karlson argues too much against the pro-life movement. At best, I think his views do little to advance the rights of the unborn, and at worst undermine them. I stand by my view of this and will defend such. Indeed it was because of my view on this that I initially thought he was actually arguing for a pro-abortion position.

But my evaluation of his arguments and what he actually says and believes are different things. Everyone deserves to have his opinion represented accurately. What I think his opinion leads to is not the same as his opinion. Karlson, despite my disagreements with him, says he is pro-life, and without evidence to the contrary he deserves to be taken at his word.

And so with that I offer a heartfelt apology. I hope to rectify this mistake however I can. And will attempt in the future to discuss, debate, and argue in the spirit of charity. If we truly seek to live as Christ's disciples, then we should at least be able to discuss our political differences in the Truth of the Faith.