Casting Stones

Jimmy Akin does a great job of clearly describing the details of the case that is the focus of the recent sex abuse hysteria.

It is still fascinating to me that publications like the New York Times can spiral downward into the realm of tabloid sensationalism, hardly conducting legitimate research or verifying sources - editors of high school newspapers appear to have higher standards. As Akin notes, the NYT ultimately shoots itself in the foot by providing links to some primary source documents that pertain to the case. Savvy readers of the sources can come to their own conclusions, after sifting through the mud that serves as unbiased reporting in NY.

As disturbing and frustrating as some facts of the case are, and as tempting as it is to bury one's head in the sand and pray that the articles and hysteria just go away, it is ultimately important that Catholics do two things: (1) Pray for everyone involved in the scandal, from abused to abusers to Catholics with the courage to speak out against the mistreatment of the Pope and (2) Make ourselves as knowledgeable about the case as possible because when others ask you about the facts or make rude comments, which they will, we need to be armed and ready.

Let me end by saying that I in no way condone any misconduct on the part of the Catholic Church, especially where the abuse of its youngest members are concerned. I do take umbrage, however, at the way in which so-called journalists, New Atheists, and others of a similar stripe rabidly snatch at any and all things negative that can be associated with the Church and boldly broadcast them as "fact." You can practically hear them giggling with glee at the thought that they contributed to the witch hunt that may finally take down the monolithic Catholic Church.



Health Care: What does the bill do?

One of the few things I know about the health care legislation is that it forces everyone in the country to buy insurance from an insurance company, with the idea that this will lower the premiums people pay because there will be more healthy people paying into the system, and this increased revenue (FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES) will subsidize the sick people.

My question is this: what's to stop the health care insurance companies from increasing the cost of the premiums for everyone? Does the legislation regulate the prices that health care insurance companies can charge, too? If so, how and by what standard?


People with Power Naturally Abuse It

In other words, only a saint makes a good politician.

With this on his mind, Joseph Bottum of First Things expresses his concern with the health care plan: (Courtesy of Professor Garnett at Mirror of Justice)
. . . The iniquitous distribution of American medicine is a scandal, but even the incomplete moves of the current plan create a system that no future bureaucracy will be able to resist using for social engineering. It puts an enormous section of the American economy and a huge slice of decisions about life and death in the hands of a government-employed elite. And, given the condition of elite opinion today, that will always mean increased government-sponsored abortion and euthanasia. We have seen it at the United Nations, and we have seen it in the European Union, and we will see it in the United States as well: You cannot create a system that allows bureaucrats to undertake major social changes and imagine that they will not use it. You cannot put their hands on the wheel and expect that they won’t start turning. . . .
To this progressive and liberal-minded people have no rejoinder, only denial and unflagging optimism. Unfortunately some actions carried out with good intentions have terrible unintended consequences. One wishes for politicians long-sighted enough to see.


Things to Do

My heart is broken to hear these stories about the Pope.

I pray they are not true.

Pray for the Church and pray for the truth.


Read Patrick Deneen

The Current State of The Institution of Marriage

Via First Things
Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate “relationship” involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the “married” couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.

—Wendell Berry
Sure, this is a reason to be sad but it also is a call. Great marriages are needed badly to buck this trend. Make your marriage a great one: love your spouse!


Health Care

Can anyone explain to me in a short paragraph what the health care bill does? Or point me to an article where it is explained? I would be much obliged. I question whether anyone knows what the bill does; it is approximately 2300 pages and no longer includes some of the major features that were readily identifiable as significant changes. This is especially concerning when the President's Chief Actuary at the Department of Health and Human Services says: "I regret that my staff and I will not be able to prepare our analysis within this very tight time frame, due to the complexity of the legislation."


the limits of the "blogosphere"

Nate Wildermuth wants to Christianize the blogosphere. A noble goal, indeed. In the course of his proposal, he suggests that the Catholic blogosphere is concerned with evangelization or formation. Broadly speaking, I think this is not true. The blogosphere is concerned with the application of Catholic principles to public life. This means the blogosphere deals in opinion where reasonable people can disagree. There is less light here. Because of this, the most important intellectual quality for Catholics is proper perspective, i.e. an appreciation of the hierarchy of truth. This is another way of saying we must be humble. If we cannot distinguish between principle and practical judgment, between dogma and opinion, and between the highest truths we know with certainty by faith and the lower truths we know with much less certainty by reason, we will not be able to find our common ground nor the true source of our disagreements. The internet is really nothing but a good place to have a conversation with people you might not encounter in your daily life. I think it's silly to expect much out of it...except perhaps a way to challenge your ideas. But I don't mean to knock Nate for trying...


2074 Pages of Absurdity

Fr. Robert Araujo thinks we should be able to read and understand the legislation passed by our Congress. How quaint!
I am one of those folks who thinks that the parliamentary process of legislation necessitates the deliberation of texts so that legislators and citizens can know, if they read it, what pending legislation says and what it does not say. This is a point I have been making in my legislation courses that I have taught over the past twenty-four years. I find it of great concern when legislators do not know on what they are voting regarding the content of the text. I realize that there are occasions, especially when legislative proposals are hundreds or thousands of pages long (such as the stimulus package of last year) that legislators’ familiarization with the text is difficult to master. But this is not a good pretext to excuse legislators from having the opportunity to know on what it is that they are committing the nation whom they represent. Texts and familiarization with what they contain are vital to law-making and to the democratic process to which we citizens entrust to our legislators.
Father Robert should understand that sometimes the common good requires getting past our common sense and that we should simply trust our congresspeople to do the right thing. Words are just a social construction, anyways. They mean one thing today, and tomorrow something else. They are useful insofar as they influence who holds "the power".


Arbitrary Privileges

Charles Kesler understands the health-care reform legislation:
Can you have a bill, a single law, that is almost 3,000 pages long? In the old days, that would have constituted a whole code of laws. When our founders thought about law, they often thought along the lines of John Locke, who described law as a community's "settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties," emphasizing that to be legitimate a statute must be "received and allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to decide all controversies" between citizens.

This phonebook-sized law that would control a sixth of the U.S. economy cannot be a law by that definition. If you rummage through the text of, say, the House of Representatives' version of the bill, you find scores of places where power is delegated to administrative agencies and special boards, which are charged to fill the gaps in the written legislation by promulgating thousands, if not tens of thousands, of new pages of regulations that will then be applied to individual cases. Voters sometimes complain that legislators don't read the laws they enact. Why would they, in this case? You could read this leviathan until your eyeballs popped out and still not find any "settled, standing rules" or a meaning that is "indifferent, and the same to all parties."

In fact, that's the point of such promiscuous laws. They operate not by setting up fences to protect each man's liberty. They start not from equal rights but from equal (and often unequal) privileges, the favors or benefits that government may bestow on or withhold from its clients. The whole point is to empower government officials, usually unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, to bless or curse your petitions as they see fit, guided, of course, by their expertness in a law so vast, so intricate, and so capricious that it could justify a hundred different outcomes in the same case. Faster than one might think, a government of equal laws turns into a regime of arbitrary privileges.


Omnipresent Pride

Mary Eberstadt has an excellent column in today's Catholic Thing.
All of us face the same problem of distinguishing what must be done to build the Kingdom from what must be done to build the Kingdom of Me. Does the diligent student work harder than anyone else in class to develop God-given talents – or because he wants to be godlike in academic prowess over others? Does the zealous volunteer labor selflessly for the good of the hospital or school – or does she work to burnish the image of herself as top charity dog?

Or consider the enormous role of “social networking,” meaning life lived online – a world in which the constant updating and promotion and image-building of oneself is not only socially acceptable, but the necessary norm. Has there ever been a bigger labyrinth than the Internet for the sin of excessive self-regard to hide?
To which one might add, does one write on a blog for the greater glory of God, or does one write on a blog to promote oneself and one's own excellence? I wish I could say I always act for the former reason, but all too often I think of myself first. This is a struggle not just on the internet, but everywhere and always in my life. Catholics are called to put God first, in everything we do. When you get up and brush your teeth in the morning, it should be to glorify God - even something as simple as bending over to tie your shoe can be offered up to God as a form of praise. I hope to learn to live my life this way before I die.


Betty Draper, World's Greatest Mom

I can only hope to be half as awesome a mom as Betty Draper. Minus the drinking and smoking during pregnancy, of course.

See Betty's Guide to Parenting.


Defend Something

"Defending something absolutely and with indignation is a precondition for philosophical inquiry. You have to love something first to be capable of beginning the ascent; you have to be in the thrall of a prejudice, to cling to something absolutely, before going through the wrenching experience of giving it up and opening up to the pursuit of truth"
- Somewhere on Postmodern Conservative

The Thing about Sweatshops

Years after activists accused Nike and other Western brands of running Third World sweatshops, the issue has taken a surprising turn.

The path of discovery winds from coastal factory floors far into China's interior, past women knee-deep in streams pounding laundry. It continues down a dusty village lane to a startling sight: arrays of gleaming three-story houses with balconies, balustrades and even Greek columns rising from rice paddies.

It turns out that factory workers -- not the activists labeled "preachy" by one expert, and not the Nike executives so wounded by criticism -- get the last laugh. Villagers who "went out," as Chinese say, for what critics described as dead-end manufacturing jobs are sending money back and returning with savings, building houses and starting businesses.
Check out the whole story here.


The Wisdom of Sowell and Lincoln

I just love Thomas Sowell. His articles are always so clear and concise, filled with citations and common sense. He begins this one, Stimulus or Sedative?, with a quotation from another logical thinker, Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."

That same principle applies today, says Sowell. The fact that politicians call something a "stimulus" does not make it a stimulus. The fact that they call something a "jobs bill" does not mean there will be more jobs.

 Sowell continues by arguing that the so-called stimulus bill has had the opposite effect of its name, instilling little to no confidence in the private sector. The result? Money dumped into the economy isn't encouraging the American people to spend. Keep reading here.

Angels, continued

And the angel discussion goes on....

You can scroll down and read Zach's post (if you haven't already, or to refresh your memory). The friend with whom Zach was originally having this debate comments by saying:
Indeed one cannot be a Catholic and not believe in angels.

Now, the fact that you can't be Catholic and pro-choice I get. And agree with. But this? Ridiculous.

Rejecting angels is in a real way rejecting Christ.

Quite a charge, Zach.

The Bible tells us that there is a very real war being waged, and it worries me that professed Catholics could be so lukewarm about the existence and the nature of the enemy. It is terribly dangerous to see the opposition as simply "deep evil" rather than spiritual beings seeking nothing short of our utter despair and the resignation of our souls.

I don't see it as an either/or. I believe in deep evil that seeks our utter despair and the resignation of our souls; in short, death. I think I take evil much more seriously than people who simply believe in "angels" and "demons" and "possession" and all that. Such people rarely actually identify evil in the world. War? Just part of life. Poverty? We will always have the poor with us. And so on. Evil is not named as evil by the very people who profess to believe in the "demonic."

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

I love this passage and believe every word of it. It's an important verse for Christian radicals. Dig a little deeper and you will find that this is NOT about "angels" or "demons."
And, lest someone be swayed by these comments, here is my response:

Firstly, according to the Fourth Lateran Council, belief in the existence of angels is a dogma of the faith. God "by His almighty power created together in the beginning of time both creatures, the Spiritual and the Corporeal, namely, the Angelic and the earthly, and afterwards, the human as it were a common creature, composed of spirit and body." As Peter Kreeft says in Catholic Christianity, his companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Angels are not mythical but real. They are not an optional addition to the Catholic faith...The life of Christ especially is surrounded by their work (see Catechism 333)" (51). He continues: If the devil is [and by extension, angels are] not real, the Bible lies (see I Pet 5:8), and Christ was a fool, for he certainly believed in demons and in Satan (see, for instance, Luke 10:18)" (52). So, to reject angels is in a very real way to reject Christ, or to at least claim intellectual authority over Him. If, for some reason, you are a Catholic who isn't compelled by dogmas of the faith, the revelation of God, or the testimony of Jesus Christ, ask yourself this: if you believe in God who is an invisible and purely spiritual Being, why would you refuse to believe in angels? if one purely spiritual being can exist, why not another?

Additionally, I'm confused about your statement that you "believe in deep evil that seeks our utter despair and the resignation of our souls." Evil isn't a "thing," because it wasn't created by God. In the way that darkness is a lack of light, evil is a lack of good. It is a turning away from the goodness of God. This turning away is a choice, thus there must be a chooser. As with human free will, angels have the capacity to choose evil (turn away from God), and to tempt and oppress humans (as demons). This is not so much an
argument for spiritual beings as it is an argument against your idea of evil itself seeking our souls.

Finally, I sincerely hope that you don't actually mean that you "take evil much more seriously than people who simply believe in "angels" and "demons" and "possession" and all that." This would be assuming the moral highground over the Church, Tradition, and Jesus Christ.


Judging Hearts vs. Judging Actions

Often you will hear a Christian say that we are not supposed to judge. This is true in one sense and false in other.

Jesus taught us, very explicitly, not to judge another person's heart. This means to judge a person's intentions, motives, circumstances, fate, and their state of soul is a serious sin. No human person should ever try to judge the deep and mysterious stuff that makes us who we are. Only God knows the shape of a person's heart, and only God can judge a person's heart.

But Jesus did not teach us not to judge a person's actions; He did not teach us not to distinguish between right actions and wrong actions. If we could not judge actions right or wrong we would be morally crippled. Thus Christians and all people of right reason separate what a person does from who a person is. For what a person does might be great evil, but who a person is - a son or daughter of God the Father - never changes.

Christians are ever called to love the person beyond all reason. And we must hate sins themselves, and distinguish, very clearly, sins from persons. One hates the sin all the more one loves the person, for the sin is corruption of the good of the person as they were created by God himself.

Hipster Dogs, Part Deux

Where do hipster dogs go to unwind after a long, hard day of blogging at Starbucks?
Why, to their local yoga studio, of course!

But don't just take my word for it; check out the news firsthand (paw?) here and secondhand here.

And finally, does anyone else see a disturbing resemblance between George Will and this hipster dog?


Catholics Believe in Angels

In a discussion with a friend from another website, the question of angels came up. My friend said first that he does not believe in angels, and I thought this was curious as he professes Catholicism. He further continued that he saw no reason to believe in angels. This made my head spin a bit, as I had never heard such a confession from a believing Catholic before. A quick search through the Catechism calmed my nerves and revealed something noteworthy I thought I'd record here for any one who may have this conversation with another in the future.

The existence of angels, i.e. non-corporeal spiritual beings, is for Catholics a truth known de fide and is part of the witness of both Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Indeed one cannot be a Catholic and not believe in angels. This belief is a simple consequence of the testimony of none other than Christ Himself in multiple Gospel accounts, and the witness of a multitude of voices in Tradition. Rejecting angels is in a real way rejecting Christ.

I pray that my friend may come to see the fullness of God's Creation and fully appreciate the testimony of Scripture and Tradition.


Vatican II on Priestly Improvisiation

Under general norms in Sacrosanctum Concilium:
22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.

3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
The Priest cannot change the Liturgical Prayers because they are not his prayers. They are prayers of the Church, the prayers of the body of Christ, and so in a real way the prayers of Christ himself.


The News

What a great time for this:
President Obama's proposed budget would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday. Proposed tax cuts for the middle class account for nearly a third of that shortfall.

The 10-year outlook released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama's budget request would produce deficits that would add about $8.5 trillion to the national debt by 2020.