Friday, April 17, 2015

"The Wrong Side of History" -- Francis Cardinal George, RIP




“... God sustains the world, in good times and in bad. Catholics, along with many others, believe that only one person has overcome and rescued history: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, savior of the world and head of his body, the church. Those who gather at his cross and by his empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history. Those who lie about him and persecute or harass his followers in any age might imagine they are bringing something new to history, but they inevitably end up ringing the changes on the old human story of sin and oppression. There is nothing 'progressive' about sin, even when it is promoted as 'enlightened.'

“The world divorced from the God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters...”

~ Francis Cardinal George

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Everything Old is New Again -- The Return of Catholic Advocacy for Judicial Activism to End the Death Penalty

Okay. This time will DEFINITELY be my last post here. But just had to acknowledge one last thing on my almost blogiversary.

Two days from today, Saturday, 7 March, will be the 10th anniversary of this blog. The very first substantive post on this blog was about capital punishment. To be precise, it was about the then recent Supreme Court ruling in Roper v. Simmons, which held that it was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to execute those who have been convicted of committing murder prior to their 18th birthday. The effect of the Roper decision was to abolish the juvenile death penalty in at least 19 states.

In that post, I acknowledged my opposition to the juvenile death penalty (which has now become an opposition to all forms of capital punishment). However, I also noted the troubling aspect of many anti-death-penalty Catholics hailing the Roper decision as a positive thing. While I agreed with the desired outcome of abolishing capital punishment for those who had committed murder before reaching the age of majority, I warned against the impulse of looking to the judicial branch to implement our agendas:
Catholics who are opposed to capital punishment in general, or who, like me, are opposed to the juvenile death penalty in particular, may be tempted to hail the Court’s Roper decision as a favorable development. Indeed, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on March 2 stated that it was “very encouraged that the United States Supreme Court has recognized that executing juvenile offenders is indeed cruel and unusual.” However, notwithstanding the desirable result, I would like to warn Catholics against viewing the Court’s decision in too positive a light, as the Court’s majority, in reaching its holding, relied on reasoning that could lead to outcomes that are problematic for Catholics.

First, it must be noted that what the Court did in Roper was, in my view, an abusive exercise of judicial fiat by unelected and life-tenured judges, who usurped what should be the function of the duly elected and politically accountable legislative branch of government. The majority on the Court ignored the views of the electorate on this issue and read its own policy preferences into the Constitution in order to create a constitutional right that was never there before. In doing so, the Court’s ruling flies in the face of over 200 years of 8th Amendment jurisprudence, and is at odds with the Court’s own previous ruling 15 years earlier in Stanford v. Kentucky, which held that the death penalty for minors was NOT unconstitutional. Amazingly, the Court essentially concluded, as pointed out by Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissenting opinion, “that the meaning of our Constitution has changed over the past 15 years – not, mind you, that this Court's decision 15 years ago was wrong, but that the Constitution has changed.”

This type of activist judicial lawmaking is essentially the same thing the Court did in creating (out of whole cloth) a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, as well as in recently striking down laws banning the practice of partial birth abortion. Those Catholics who think the Court acted properly in abolishing the juvenile death penalty in the Roper decision, should not be surprised when the Court uses that same judicial fiat to rule in a manner opposed by Catholics, such as it did in Roe and subsequent abortion-related cases.
I also noted the troubling trend of the Court's increasing reliance upon foreign precedence and the potential ill effects that might have in the arena of creating additional "rights" -- some of which would undermine Catholic views of the family -- out of whole cloth.

Next, I noted the troubling acceptance of the Court's ruling by people who ought to know better:
Again, I realize that many Catholics, despite the concerns I have raised, will nevertheless be tempted to rejoice at the result of the Roper ruling, as evidenced by the positive statement coming from the Bishops’ Conference. I have corresponded with other Catholics who, although troubled by the Court’s reasoning, believe that the “legal technicalities” of the Roper decision should be ignored because the result was just. I would caution Catholics, however, to keep in mind that such good ends cannot justify improper means. And, in my view, running roughshod over the rule of law, as the Roper Court has done, in order to reach a particular desired result simply cannot be justified.
Finally, I concluded with a quote from A Man for All Seasons, and applied it as a warning for what was likely to come from an acceptance of raw judicial activism:

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! 

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? 

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! 

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. 

Sir Thomas More’s admonition to Roper should serve as a warning and a reminder to Catholics that the activist Court that sides with us in this particular instance is the same activist Court that is likely in the future (as it has in the past) to “turn round on us” and use its increasingly strident activism to decide cases contrary to our Catholic values.
Now, fast forward 10 years, and along comes this joint editorial from "the national Catholic journals":

National Catholic Journals Unite: ‘Capital Punishment Must End’ 

Joint Editorial of America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, and Our Sunday Visitor


Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Glossip v. Gross, a case out of Oklahoma that challenges the most widely used lethal injection protocol as being cruel and unusual punishment.

The court took up the case in January after a year of three high-profile, problematic executions in three states. The court will likely issue a ruling by June. Our hope is that it will hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States.

[...]

We, the editors of four Catholic journals — America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter and Our Sunday Visitor — urge the readers of our diverse publications and the whole U.S. Catholic community and all people of faith to stand with us and say, “Capital punishment must end.”
[...]
The Supreme Court has agreed with Archbishop Coakley and will consider the issue. We join our bishops in hoping the Court will reach the conclusion that it is time for our nation to embody its commitment to the right-to-life by abolishing the death penalty once and for all.
So, here we go again. I can understand America's and National Catholic Reporter's affinity for judicial activism, since those publications have never been averse to the Court's using its raw power to push agenda items to which those editorials staffs are friendly. But National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor should know better. They have seen the pro-life and pro-family causes burned time and time again by unelected, life-tenured, activist judges.

The editors at National Catholic Register did feel the need to at least provide an explanation, although they avoided discussing the problematic stance of urging the Court to engage in raw judicial tyranny. My response in the comments to the Register's statement was as follows:
I oppose capital punishment. I want it to be abolished.
***
BUT the remedy for which the national Catholic journals are advocating is a recipe for judicial tyranny. You are asking for unelected life-tenured judges to usurp a power unto themselves that they do not have—to find something in the Constitution that simply is not there (although they are certainly not shy about doing so when it comes to declaring a constitutional right to abortion on demand and same-sex “marriage”).
***
In fact, you are asking the Supreme Court to find “unconstitutional” something that is explicitly provided for in the Constitution. The Constitution itself, by its terms, validates the “constitutionality” of capital punishment by making it the penalty for treason. How can something be “unconstitutional” when it is called for by the Constitution? What this editorial proposes is for the Supreme Court to ignore the clear language of the Constitution and substitute the judges’ own personal policy preferences.
***
Yes, capital punishment should be abolished, but not by judges who, by doing so, would be making up the law, not following it. Instead, we should be advocating the abolition of the death penalty to those in the elected branches in the state and federal governments who are empowered to act in this regard. It is in the lawmaking branches across the nation—in the legislatures and executive branches—that we should be looking to for action. Movement in the right direction is already happening in several states throughout the nation, as this editorial acknowledges.
Well, that's all I have to say on the matter. Just thought it interesting to see this "joint editorial" encouraging the Supreme Court to abolish capital punishment almost 10 years to the day after I published my first blog post on exactly the same topic.

Thanks for a great 10 years. Goodbye.


UPDATE (6 March 2015)
Pat Archbold, writing at National Catholic Register, takes issue with the publication's advocacy of judicial tyranny, citing the same concerns I have cited here and that I cited 10 years ago in response to the Roper decision. (Hat tip: Paul Z at The American Catholic)

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 07, 2014

Did "Catholics Abandon Democrats" in 2014?

Folks, it comes as no surprise to you, given my absence, that I'm no longer blogging. Haven't been for a while. So, don't be surprised if this is the last post you ever see at this blog. But I felt like I needed to say something, and, given the overriding theme of this blog for the past 10 years, a post about the so-called "Catholic Vote", and whether such a thing even exists, seems as good a way to wrap things up as there is.

Today, the Catholic League put out a press release on the results of the 2014 elections:
Just two years ago, Catholics voted for President Barack Obama by a margin of 50 percent to 48 percent. On Tuesday, they abandoned Obama’s party: 54 percent voted for Republican candidates and 45 percent went for the Democrats (60 percent of white Catholics chose GOP candidates). What is most startling about the Catholic vote is that it represents an exact turnaround from 2008: 54 percent voted for Obama and 45 percent cast their ballot for Senator John McCain.

Catholics are pragmatic. Until the McGovernization of the Democratic Party in 1972, they were among the most reliably Democratic voters in the nation. Since that time, they have been politically homeless, which is why both parties vie for their vote so aggressively. Catholics are a bellwether: whoever wins their vote, generally wins the election. By contrast, Protestants vote Republican and Jews vote Democrat...

I'm sorry, but these particular numbers regarding "the Catholic Vote" just don't stand out to me. In fact, it's time we stop talking about "the Catholic vote" or "Catholic voters" because such a thing no longer exists. 

Bill Donohue says "Catholics are pragmatic." But when I look at these numbers, all I see is Catholics supporting the Democrats in 2012 by the same proportion as the rest of the country, and Catholics supporting Republicans in 2014 by the same proportion as the rest of the country.

In other words, there doesn't appear to be anything unique to or distinct about Catholic voters that differentiates them from the rest of the country at large. Catholic voters appear to be merely a mirror of the rest of society in their voting patterns. And that's just sad.  


Catholics appear to have become what many of our forebears, culminating in the election of President John F. Kennedy, seem to have wanted - to just fit in. To be seen as "normal Americans". To not be seen by the rest of the country as in any way beholden to our Faith (certainly not be be seen as beholden to a "foreign power", i.e. the Pope).

But "fitting in" isn't what is required of us. We're called to be in the world, but not of it. We're called to be counter-cultural. We're called to be witnesses of our Faith. We're supposed to change the world, NOT let the world change us.

So, no, I don't believe that "Catholics abandoned Democrats" in the 2014 elections. The VOTERS abandoned the Democrats in the 2014 election, and Catholics just went along for the ride. By contrast, our evangelical brethren voted against the Democrats in a proportion that FAR exceeded the proportion of the electorate at large. THERE's an instance where faith seems to make a difference in voting patterns. With us Catholics, not so much. Again, sad.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

225 Years Ago Today - First Presidential Inauguration of His Excellency, George Washington


225 years ago today - 30 April 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as our Nation's first President on the steps of Federal Hall in New York City. In his First Inaugural Address, President Washington TWICE invoked God and asked for His divine guidance and blessings upon the new Nation:
"... Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence...

"... Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend."





Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Happy 281st Birthday to the Father of Our Country, His Excellency George Washington

His Excellency, George Washington

Remember Remember the Fifth of November

In Honor of the Father of Our Country - His Excellency, George Washington

Bill Would Honor Washington and Lincoln Separately

The Conversion of George Washington

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, April 27, 2014

St. John Paul II, Ora Pro Nobis!






We have this photo hanging in the entryway hall of our home. We bought it shortly after the death of Pope John Paul II, which occurred less than a year after we entered the Catholic Church. If it weren't for this man, I would not be Catholic. For that reason alone, I am thrilled with his canonization today.

St. John Paul II, ora pro nobis!

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March


[NOTE: This is my annual St. Patrick's Day post, originally posted on St. Patrick's Day 2005]


Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!
(Happy St. Patrick's Day!)

As a Roman Catholic of Irish descent, I am, quite predictably, a big fan of St. Patrick. Long before I became Catholic, St. Patrick - with his bishop's mitre and crozier - stood there beckoning me home to the Church of my forebears. Indeed, the first rosary I ever purchased (again, before I ever became Catholic) had a St. Patrick junction and a Celtic Cross Crucifix. St. Patrick's feast day, therefore, is a cause for great celebration in our household.

But just what is it about this British-born saint - who (1) was kidnapped as a boy from his home in Britain by Irish pirates, (2) was sold into slavery in Ireland, (3) escaped from his Irish oppressors, and (4) returned to Ireland to evangelize his former captors (the same Irish who would, a century later, with saints like Columba and Aidan, re-evangelize Britain after the Anglo-Saxon invasions) - that makes his feast day celebrated to a greater extent around the world than most other saints?

Perhaps it is because of the extent of the Irish Diaspora, which stretches from Continental Europe to North America to South America to Australia, and numbers in the tens of millions - making St. Patrick not only the patron saint of Ireland, but of all Irish all over the world. Possibly, it could be St. Patrick's contribution to Celtic Christianity, an influence that can be seen in the Lorica of St. Patrick, which has been attributed to him.

For more on the story behind why St. Patrick is such a significant personage within the Church, especially where the Irish are concerned,
go here: Patron Saints Index - Patrick,

and here: The History of St. Patrick's Day,

and here: Catholic Online - St. Patrick.
But unfortunately, I think the real reason this particular feast day has such resonance with so many people has nothing whatsoever to do with its religious significance. St. Patrick's Day, like Christmas, is a religious feast day that has lost much of its meaning due to over-secularization. Rather than a day to celebrate the life of this great British saint who evangelized the Irish, St. Patrick's Day has become just another excuse to get drunk and tell stupid Irish jokes.

Personally, one of the biggest problems I have with the secular celebrations of St. Patrick's Day is the ubiquitous presence of the leprechaun. On and around St. Patrick's Day, this little fairy creature can be seen on the front pages of major newspapers, on greeting cards, and on televisions selling used cars, credit cards, and beer in a cheesy Irish brogue accent.

Given the artistic legacy of beautiful music, poetry, literature, and liturgical art bequeathed to us by the Irish; given the indispensable contributions the Irish have made to Christianity and Western Civilization as documented by Thomas Cahill in his best-selling book How the Irish Saved Civilization; and given the steadfastness of the Irish in overcoming historical persecution - racial, cultural, economic, and religious; I find the use of the leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day as a symbol of the Irish people and their cultural contributions about as appropriate as a lawn jockey on Martin Luther King Day.

Some will think that is not an apt comparison. Sorry, but I think it quite apt. The leprechaun as a symbol of this holy feast day is just plain offensive, and should go the way of the kerchief-headed version of Aunt Jemima.

The Irish - that mystical race of warriors and poets, saints and scholars, who brought us great works of literature like Ulysses and Gulliver's Travels, early medieval illuminated manuscripts like the Books of Kells and Durrow, musicians like Turlough O'Carolan, Altan, U2 and Van Morrison, wordsmiths like W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, kings like Brian Boru and ... (well, Brian's about it as far as great Irish kings go), political heroes like Daniel O'Connell and Michael Collins, and saints like Columcille (a.k.a. Columba), Brendan, Aidan, and Columbanus - deserve better on the feast day of their patron saint than to be represented by a short, ruddy (and might I add, pagan) fairy dressed in a green suit.

The University of Notre Dame is also guilty of this blood libel against the children of Erin. The University does quite a disservice to the true spirit of the "Fighting Irish" by representing that spirit in the form of a leprechaun (of course, some would argue that Notre Dame also does a disservice to Ex Corde Ecclesiae by calling itself "Catholic" while allowing such nonsense as prominent positions for Fr. Richard McBrien and Prof. Candida Moss in the Theology Department, not to mention honoring the anti-Catholic bigot and all-around pro-abort, President Obama, with an honorary law degree). Bring back the Irish Terrier to represent the Fighting Irish, as it did in the days of Knute Rockne. Just get rid of that damned leprechaun!!! (Oops! Sorry about that. That should be "damned leprechaun".)

Okay. Rant over.

Hopefully, we can try to keep in mind today (1) the spiritual legacy of Ireland's patron saint, and (2) the many cultural contributions of the people he loved so dearly as to bring them the Light of Christ - which are, after all, the primary reasons we celebrate the feast of St. Patrick. Even if the rest of the world is too deep in a drunken stupor to notice.

And so I end with the following blessing:

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
(St. Patrick's Day Blessing On You!)


Recommended Reading: 
Patrick: The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland by Maire B. de Paor 
The Confession of St. Patrick by John Skinner 
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
Wisdom of the Celtic Saints by Edward C. Sellner
Sun Dancing by Geoffrey Moorhouse





Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
St. Patrick's Breastplate (The Deer's Cry)

Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March (2010)

Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March (2009)

Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March (2008)

What I'm Listening to in Honor of St. Patrick's Day

Don't Drink Green Beer!

St. Pat's Spat Pits Church vs. Cities
Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March (2007)

 
"... The Slur of the Fighting Irish"

 
Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March (2006)

Search Terms: St. Patrick's Day, Lent, Abstinence, Meat - Corned Beef, Dispensation, Indult, Catholic
 


Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March (2005)

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pat Archbold's "Controversial" Call for Pope Francis to Normalize Relations With SSPX Removed by National Catholic Register

Since the Register won't carry it, I will (and Pat also has it at Creative Minority Report):

Pope Francis and the SSPX: An Opportunity

By PATRICK ARCHBOLD
By now, many of you have probably seen the Tony Palmer video last week that was so exciting to many.
At a Protestant conference, Tony Palmer, an Anglican priest, brought along an iPhone video of greeting from Pope Francis. The subject of the presentation and of the Pope’s recording was unity of Christians.
In his remarks, Pope Francis made the following statements to our separated brethren regarding the separation: “Separated because, it’s sin that has separated us, all our sins. The misunderstandings throughout history. It has been a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame. We have all sinned. There is only one blameless, the Lord.”
It is certainly true. Regardless of the truth of Catholic doctrine, the Church has accepted its share of the blame for the misunderstanding that were allowed to deepen and harden, leading to centuries of separation.
When I heard this, something else written by Pope Francis’ predecessor came immediately to mind. In 2007, along with the issuance of the “motu proprio” Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI issued a letter explaining his reasoning. In that letter, he made the following statement.
Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.
It strikes me that this may be one of those critical moments in history to which His Holiness refers.
With the breakdown of discussion between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X at the end of the previous pontificate, the public mood during this first year of the current pontificate, and other internal events, traditional Catholics, both inside and outside the Church, have felt increasingly marginalized. Whether fair or true, I say without fear of contradiction that this is a prevailing sentiment.
This perception of marginalization has manifested itself in increasingly strident and frankly disrespectful rhetoric on the part of some traditionalists and their leaders.
I have great concern that without the all the generosity that faith allows by the leaders of the Church, that this separation, this wound on the Church, will become permanent. In fact, without such generosity, I fully expect it. Such permanent separation and feeling of marginalization will likely separate more souls than just those currently associated with the SSPX.
I have also come to believe that Pope Francis’ is exactly the right Pope to do it. In his address to the evangelicals, he makes clear his real concern for unity.
So here is what I am asking. I ask the Pope to apply that wide generosity to the SSPX and to normalize relations and their standing within the Church. I am asking the Pope to do this even without the total agreement on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever their disagreements, surely this can be worked out over time with the SSPX firmly implanted in the Church. I think that the Church needs to be more generous toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a non-dogmatic council. The issues are real, but they must be worked out with our brothers at home and not with a locked door.
Further, Pope Francis’ commitment to the aims of the Second Vatican Council is unquestioned. Were he to be generous in such a way, nobody would ever interpret it to be a rejection of the Council. How could it be? This perception may not have been the case in the last pontificate. Pope Francis is uniquely suited to this magnanimous moment.
I believe this generosity is warranted and standard practice in the Church. We do not insist on religious orders that may have strayed even further in the other direction sign a copy of Pascendi Dominici Gregis before they can be called Catholic again. So please let us not insist on the corollary for the SSPX. Must we insist on more for a group that doctrinally would not have raised an eyebrow a mere fifty years ago? I pray not.
Give them canonical status and organizational structure that will protect them. Bring them home, for their sake and the sake of countless other souls. I truly believe that such generosity will be repaid seven-fold. Pope Benedict has done so much of the heavy lifting already, all that is required is just a little more.
Please Holy Father, let us not let this moment pass and this rift grow into a chasm. Make this generous offer and save the Church from further division. Do this so that none of your successors will ever say, “If only we had done more.”

Labels: ,

hit counter for blogger