Thursday, March 31, 2005

What Has Our Country Done Unto "The Least of These"?

And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
-Matthew 25:40

I have often been ashamed to be a member of the human race, because of mankind's insatiable capacity for sin and cruelty and its utter contempt for the Grace that God has bestowed upon us. However, in my 37 years, I have been ashamed to be an American only twice: one of those times is now, as our country has looked the other way and done nothing while a defenseless and disabled child of God was cruelly dehydrated and starved to death by her estranged husband and the courts of this land.

"America, America, God shed His Grace on thee." And how have we repaid that Grace in our treatment of frail, yet God-given life? In how we treat the unborn, the disabled, the aging? As Terri Schaivo's fight ends, we still have before us the prospect of thousands of abortions performed daily, legislation to clone human embryos to be cannibalized for human "spare parts", and a medical mentality towards the disabled and the aging that places the burdens of the caregivers above the inherent dignity that exists in the lives of those who require care. What's worse is that we justify this cruelty toward those who are "inconvenient" by dressing it up in terms of human rights: "the right to reproductive freedom"; "advancements in medical technology to improve the quality of life"; "the right to die with dignity".

And so we continue to slide down that slippery slope to a Brave New World; we continue to slouch toward Gomorrah. How long, oh Lord, will you continue to bless this country, given our headlong rush to degradation?

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
- Thomas Jefferson

"The Vatican denounced the 'arbitrarily hastened' death of Terri Schiavo on Thursday as a violation of principles of Christianity and civilization, and a cardinal described her end as a 'death sentence executed through a cruel method ... The circumstances of the death of Ms. Terri Schiavo have rightly disturbed consciences,' Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in the first statement from the Holy See on the case. 'An existence was interrupted. A death was arbitrarily hastened because nourishing a person can never be considered employing exceptional means.'"


"Cardinal Renato Martino, a top Vatican official, said Schiavo's death was a 'human tragedy, but also an ethical, juridical and cultural tragedy.' He told reporters her loss of life in a hospice in Florida to a 'death sentence executed through a cruel method ... That was not a natural death. It was an imposed death ... When you deprive somebody of food and water, what else is it? Nothing else but murder,' Martino said, adding that he was speaking on the case 'according to the teaching of the pope.' The pontiff has spoken on behalf of providing food and water, even through artificial means, to patients like Schiavo."


"A Vatican cardinal denounced the death Thursday of Terri Schiavo, saying removing the feeding tube that was keeping her alive was 'an attack against God.' Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican's office for sainthood, told reporters that 'an attack against life is an attack against God, who is the author of life.'"


"I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others."
- President George W. Bush


"Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow."
- Rep. Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader

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Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo, Rest In Peace

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Thoughts From the Right: "Pro-Life" Democrats

See William Bloomfield's blog, Thoughts from the Right, for his take on "Pro-Life" Democrats. Specifically, William addresses whether Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who is challenging Rick Santorum for his Senate seat, is truly "pro-life" given his support for the Democrats' use of filibusters to block President Bush's judicial nominees.

As I've said several times over at Amy Welborn's blog in regard to the judicial filibuster, it is unprecedented in the entire 218-year history of this Republic. So, why now? What is it that makes the Democrats march in lock-step on filibustering the Bush judicial nominees when such action has NEVER been taken in the past? In one word: ABORTION. It is the very raison d'etre of the modern Democrat party - they have sold their souls to the abortion lobby.

So, when we hear Bob Casey say that Bush's nominees are "too extreme", we know that what he's really doing is just towing the Democrat party line, which fears that Bush's nominees might actually think Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. What? The President's nominees are not "too extreme" for Arlen Specter, but they're somehow too extreme for Bob Casey? Riiight.

On a related matter, I have been promising for a few weeks now to blog in more detail on the Santorum-Casey matchup in Pennsylvania. I'm still working on it, but promise to have something soon.

Will has followed up on his earlier post regarding Bob Casey's status as an allegedly "Pro-Life Democrat" with another one today questioning Casey's pro-life credentials: "Bob Casey, Jr. is not Pro-Life".

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Props to Jesse Jackson

I have criticized Jesse Jackson elsewhere on this blog. But today, I'm going to give credit where credit is due. Jackson has been a stalwart figure on behalf of Terri Schiavo's right to life throughout her ordeal. He has praised the Republican leadership in Congress for passing a bill to give the federal courts jurisdiction to review Terri's case. And he has been outspoken on the TV talk show circuit in favor of re-inserting Terri's feeding tube. In fact, on one talk show, Jesse Jackson was arguing the pro-life position on Terri's behalf against a Dominican priest arguing for removal of her feeding tube!!! (Outrageous, but not surprising given the weak "support" Terri has received from her own bishop.)

And today, BlogsforTerri reports that Jesse Jackson is to visit Terri's hospice to meet with the Schindlers.

Reverend Jackson, I can go back to disagreeing with you on just about every issue after Terri's ordeal is over. But for now, thank you (and Ralph Nader and Senator Tom Harkin and countless other liberals) for your leadership on her behalf, and for proving that it isn't just "radical right-wingers" who are against dehydrating and starving to death one of Jesus's "least of these".

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Monday, March 28, 2005

The Mass-adventures of the Anderson Toddlers (March 27, 2005)

The Anderson toddlers were relatively well-behaved for Easter Sunday Mass - the key word being "relatively". Although still disruptive, they weren't so bad that we had to remove them from the church, as we did on Palm Sunday when the boys were so bad that they were only able to attend about 10 minutes of the Mass.

One thing that helped us keep our 3-year-old somewhat in line during Easter Mass was the threat of keeping him from participating in the Easter egg hunt that our parish had for the kiddies following Mass. This threatened loss of even more candy to add to his Easter "stash" was enough to calm him down any time he got loud enough to be a disturbance.

Don't even ask me what makes our 1-year-old tick from week-to-week. Last week, he kicked and screamed and cried the whole time he was in the church. This week, he squiggled and squirmed and squealed - but only periodically - and he didn't scream or cry at all.

All of this meant that we were able to stay in the pew the entire Mass for Easter Sunday, which is quite a blessing for our family.

Happy Easter!

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

He Is Risen *** Alleluia!

Resurrection by Bellini

Mark Shea reflects on this particular Easter Sunday better than I ever could.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

The Pieta by El Greco

Ironically, this year Good Friday, which commemorates the day Jesus died for our sins, falls on the same day we traditionally celebrate the moment Jesus' life began - in the womb of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the Annunciation. According to the 2005 Church Calendar, the Feast of the Annunciation will be commemorated this year on April 4 rather than on its traditional date.

I mention this, and I include the picture of El Greco's Pieta at the top of this post, in order to re-emphasize, as Mel Gibson did so magnificently in his movie The Passion of the Christ, the role of Our Blessed Lady as the first and last disciple of her son. She was there with Him at the beginning; and she was there with Him at the end. She was there when He began His ministry at Cana; and she was there when the Apostles began their ministry at Pentecost.

We must especially remember that Our Lady also suffered along with her son, as only a mother can suffer [yet also in a unique way], as He died an excruciating and undeserved death on the Cross. We are somewhat reminded of that suffering as we watch the parents of Terri Schiavo suffer along with their daughter as she dies an excruciatingly horrible death by dehydration and starvation.

I don't yet understand what lesson God has for us from what Terri is unjustly going through. But we do know that her suffering is not in vain. It is joined with Christ's redemptive suffering on the Cross for our salvation.

"Stabat Mater"

At the cross her station keeping,
Mary stood in sorrow weeping
When her Son was crucified.

While she waited in her anguish,
Seeing Christ in torment languish,
Bitter sorrow pierced her heart.

With what pain and desolation,
With what noble resignation,
Mary watched her dying Son.

Ever-patient in her yearning
Though her tear-filled eyes were burning,
Mary gazed upon her Son.

Who, that sorrow contemplating,
On that passion meditating,
Would not share the Virgin's grief?

Christ she saw, for our salvation,
Scourged with cruel acclamation,
Bruised and beaten by the rod.

Christ she saw with life-blood failing,
All her anguish unavailing,
Saw him breathe his very last.

Mary, fount of love's devotion,
Let me share with true emotion
All the sorrow you endured.

Virgin, ever interceding,
Hear me in my fervent pleading:
Fire me with your love of Christ.

Mother, may this prayer be granted:
That Christ's love may be implanted
In the depths of my poor soul.

At the cross, your sorrow sharing,
All your grief and torment bearing,
Let me stand and mourn with you.

Fairest maid of all creation,
Queen of hope and consolation,
Let me feel your grief sublime.

Virgin, in your love befriend me,
At the Judgment Day defend me.
Help me by your constant prayer.

Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Through your mother's prayers receive me
With the fruits of victory.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of your dying Son divine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In His very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awe-full judgment day.

Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Through your mother's prayers receive me
With the fruits of victory.

While my body here decays
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally. Amen Alleluia.

The Collegeville Hymnal
Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1990.

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Good Friday - Part II

Chesterton on Terri from The Dawn Patrol:

"The comparisons you posted between the actual events of the last week of Jesus' life and the events of what will probably turn out be the last week of Terri's life are indeed striking. But what has been haunting me all this week is the similarity in the "backdrop," so to speak--the state of the world that led to both events. All this week, I've had a strange, dreamy feeling that I'm living through something very big that's happened before. I don't have any illusions that the death of Terri is going to change the world like Christ's death on the cross. But I feel as though something very deliberate is happening here, as if God were saying, "Now, watch carefully. You've seen this before, and you know what it means."'

"This is what I find most troubling about this whole matter: not that it is happening, but that it is happening HERE, to US. If we were reading a story about Iranian mullahs or Pakistani villagers forcing a woman to starve to death, we'd shake our heads and deplore it, but we'd also secretly think that such abuses are bound to happen among such benighted people. But America today is like Rome was then - the best and highest accomplishment of human beings, and yet it's still not enough. It's failing the test, and in the same way that Rome failed. If 'the confident sanity of the conquerors of the world' is not a fair description of America, I don't know what is, and yet this is where it has brought us. We know what came after Rome; what can come after America, I don't know, but I do think that THIS America is not one that can resist the avalanche that's just started under its feet."

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Dear President Bush & Governor Bush:

Below is the text of an email I sent today to the President of the United States and to the Governor of the State of Florida regarding the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo (NOTE: I borrowed heavily from Mark Shea, who has sent out the clarion call for supporters of Terri Schiavo to send similar emails to these 2 chief executives):

Dear President Bush & Governor Bush:

I don't know if either of you noticed, but this week a judicial coup took place in America. This week our courts made it clear that THEY are sovereign. That they are NOT a co-equal branch of government along with the Legislative and Executive; but rather that their power exceeds and is above that of both the legislative and executive branches COMBINED. They have thumbed their collective noses at the express intent of both Congress and the President in how they have chosen to "apply" a law written and signed to protect a defenseless American citizen who has been left to die.

We have reached a watershed moment when it will be the obligation of the Executive to stop the insanity of an out-of-control judiciary. Now that Judge Greer refuses to grant Governor Bush protective custody, I challenge you before Almighty God to say, "Judge Greer has made his decision. Now let him enforce it." Then, take protective custody of her anyway.

I know I am merely a mayor, not a Governor or President. And at that, I'm merely the mayor of the smallest town in my state. But as a chief executive, and as a lawyer - knowing the constitutional, legal, and political fallout that would occur, I nevertheless would use my executive power to do whatever was necessary and to do what was right to protect the life of this innocent child of God. For the sake of our Lord whose Passion we mark tomorrow, don't play the role of Pilate and wash your hands of this poor woman's life.

Enough is enough! The state has no right to starve an innocent person to death. An unjust law is no law at all.


James T. (Jay) Anderson
Mayor, Town of Columbia
Columbia, Virginia 23038
personal weblog:

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Poll finds Americans’ morals increasingly influenced by the Pope

From Catholic News Agency:

Washington DC, Mar. 23, 2005 (CNA) - A poll conducted by ABC News recently found that more American Catholics see their moral views influenced by Pope John Paul II than they did two years ago.

The poll shows that the Pope is broadly popular with sixty-seven percent of Americans and 87% of Catholics viewing him favorably.

ABC pointed out that these numbers are up from a 2003 poll taken on the 25th anniversary of the Pope’s pontificate, which suggested that only 39% of Catholics saw their morality influenced by the Holy Father. That number has jumped this year to 51%.

Yeah, right. That's why such an overwhelming number of Americans are so supportive of the Pope's position against the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo (last I heard, around 70% are in favor of killing her).


Archbishop Chaput calls Schiavo’s starvation an "attack on the sanctity of human life"

Catholic News Agency reports:

Denver, Mar. 23, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, in the wake of Florida Federal Judge James Whittemore’s decision not to reinsert brain-damaged Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, which has been absent since Friday, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver added his voice to the fight for Schiavo’s life.

He said that, "The bishops and lay faithful of Florida have the task of leading American Catholics in the Terri Schiavo case. They're working hard to provide that leadership. Our job, outside Florida, is to support Ms. Schiavo and all those concerned for her well being with our prayers.”

"For disabled persons not in imminent danger of death and able to breathe on their own, starvation and dehydration to provoke death amount, in effect, to a form of murder. Such actions attack the sanctity of human life. They reject any redemptive meaning to suffering. They can never be justified."

Yet another voice from the Church hierarchy speaks out with authority to condemn the starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo. But who's voice seems to be missing? Why, that of Terri's own Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. While I admire Archbishop Chaput probably as much or more than any other American bishop, I have to take issue with his claim that the bishops of Florida are working hard to provide leadership on this issue, when any clear statement of authority from Bishop Lynch has been so noticeably absent.

I promised myself when I began this blog a few weeks ago that, trying to keep this site faithfully Catholic, I would refrain from bishop-bashing. To the extent that I have bashed Bishop Lynch in this post with respect to my comments about his lack of leadership on the Schiavo issue, such bashing begins and ends here.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Santorum: Terri Ruling By Federal Judge Defied Congress reports:

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore has defied Congress by not staying Terri Schiavo's starvation execution for the time it takes him to hold a full hearing on her case, a leading Republican senator said Tuesday.

"You have judicial tyranny here," [Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick] Santorum told WABC Radio in New York. "Congress passed a law that said that you had to look at this case. He simply thumbed his nose at Congress."

Surprise, surprise. A federal judge frustrating the express will of Congress and the President in interpreting a statute. Oh yeah, that never happens.

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Partisan Hypocrisy: Terri Schiavo, Conviction, and Politics

Rich Lowry at National Review Online on those who have attacked Republican "hyprocricy" for the GOP-led congressional action intended to restore Terri Schiavo's feeding tube:

If it is disorienting to see Republicans scrambling for federal intervention, at least they are acting on their deepest pro-life convictions — life is to be treasured in whatever form it takes, and preserving it is a paramount value. The starkest inconsistencies are on the other side, on the part of liberals who ordinarily support the federalization of everything, but can't bear the thought of a federal judge reviewing the facts of the Schiavo case to determine whether or not she should be starved to death.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

WSJ: "Congress May Fight Court on Global Front"

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a new front is emerging in the political battles over federal judges: the invocation of foreign law in U.S. court decisions.

The Supreme Court occasionally has cited foreign jurisprudence in interpreting constitutional terms such as "cruel and unusual" and "due process." American conservatives are stepping up criticism of the practice, seeing such reasoning as a backdoor to import liberal European ideas into American law.

"They are basing in part their decisions on the fads, the cultural environment, the laws, the constitutions and the biases of foreigners," says Rep. Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican who is sponsoring a House resolution that would declare "inappropriate judicial reliance" on foreign sources a threat to "the sovereignty of the United States, the separation of powers and the president's and the Senate's treaty-making authority." The same proposal last year drew 73 co-sponsors -- all Republicans -- but never reached a vote. Today, Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is expected to introduce a similar measure in the Senate.
"It is important for us in Congress to begin to assert ourselves with regard to the disturbing tendency of the court to issue opinions based on what they define to be international opinion," Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a committee member, said in a radio interview this month.
The debate gained intensity after the Supreme Court's March 1 ruling ending the execution of juvenile offenders. In addition to citing capital-punishment trends in various states, the majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that China and Iran had disavowed the practice, leaving the U.S. "alone in a world that has turned its face against the juvenile death penalty."

Justice Scalia, considered a possible successor to the ailing chief justice, has been the most vociferous critic of such views. In his dissent from this month's juvenile-execution ruling, Justice Scalia wrote that "the basic premise of the court's argument -- that American law should conform to the laws of the rest of the world -- ought to be rejected out of hand." He added that, "in fact, the court itself does not believe it" and went on to cite cases where, when it came to conservative causes, the justices have disregarded foreign laws that allow public funding of religious schools, criminalize abortion or permit the use of illegally obtained evidence against criminal defendants.

I hope that the judiciary committee will pursue this line of inquiry when questioning nominees for the federal bench. As I've written before in this blog and in other places, the use of foreign precedents to interpret the U.S. Constitution is frightening. Indeed it gives the Supreme Court just one more weapon to add to its activist arsenal to use in its attempts to re-make the Constitution in the image of its 5 most liberal justices.


The Supreme Court and the Schiavo Bill

Now that Congress has passed, and the President has signed, a bill to give the federal courts authority to review Terri Schiavo's case, I am beginning to speculate about how all of this may play out when the legislation inevitably comes before the Supreme Court for review.

First, some history.

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that state anti-sodomy laws did not violate the U.S. Constitution's "right to privacy". Less than 20 years later, citing a change in prevailing "world" opinion [i.e. the views of European elitists] on the issue of homosexuality, the Supreme Court overruled its Bowers decision by finding a constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Stanford v. Kentucky that capital punishment for those who have committed murder prior to reaching the age of majority was not a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Less than 20 years later, citing a change in prevailing "world" opinion [i.e. the views of European elitists] on the issue of capital punishment, the Supreme Court overruled its Stanford decision by finding a constitutional prohibition against the juvenile death penalty in the case of Roper v. Simmons.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled in Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dept. of Health that the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not require the government to accept the "substituted judgment" of close family members who want to withdraw hydration and nutition from a patient in a vegetative state, in the absence of substantial proof that their views reflect the patient's with respect to such withdrawal of hydration and nutrition.

Based on recent Supreme Court precedent, let's extrapolate a little.

My guess is that, less than 20 years after the Cruzan decision, the Supreme Court (with Justice Kennedy writing the majority opinion as he did in Lawrence and Roper), citing a change in prevailing "world" opinion [i.e. the views of European elitists] on the issue of euthanasia, will overrule its Cruzan decision by finding that families have a constitutional right to privacy to engage in end-of-life medical decisions, including euthanasia, free from ANY governmental interference.

In short, I fear that the Supreme Court will use the Schiavo case to do for the cause of constitutionally protected euthanasia what Roe v. Wade did for constitutionally protected abortion.

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Terri Wins a Congressional Reprieve

Congress has passed a law that will, in effect, send Terri's case to the federal courts. The Senate bill passed unanimously; the House bill passed 203 to 58. President Bush, putting his pro-life money where his pro-life mouth is, flew back from his vacation in Texas specifically to sign this act into law. So much for those who think he lacks the will to act on his pro-life rhetoric.

Let me say that I am elated by the outcome of this vote.

Still, as with the Supreme Court's elimination of the juvenile death penalty, I very much like the outcome, but I worry about the precedent this vote sets.

This is about as big a defeat for the concept of "Federalism" as we will ever see, and it comes at the hands of the party who allegedly supports "Federalism". In practical terms, "Federalism" and "libertarianism" are now pretty much dead concepts in the Republican Party.

It is clear that we now have two big government "nationalist" parties in this country: one party who supports big government "nationalism" when it comes to its "liberal" agenda; and one party who supports big government "nationalism" when it comes to its "conservative" agenda.

Perhaps that is the way it should be in this day and age. Conservatives have often lost the debate at the national level because they have essentially forfeited the field of play, preferring the "Federalist" option of having their issues decided at the state level.

After tonight (actually, this morning), it appears that reluctance to act at the national level will no longer be the case. Where Terri Schiavo is concerned, at least, that is a VERY GOOD THING.

A word of caution, however, regarding the federal courts. We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that the same courts who gave us Roe v. Wade and various other horrendous anti-life decisions will rule any differently on this life issue than the Florida courts have.

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The Mass-adventures of the Anderson Toddlers

Boy, was Mass today excruciatingly awful.

Not, mind you, the Mass itself. I wouldn't know, because I only witnessed about 10 minutes of it. And that was the part where we processed into the church with our palms and where I did the 2nd reading and the prayers of the faithful.

This was the absolute worst my 2 toddlers have ever been at Mass. They were fine while we processed in. But once we got inside, my goodness, were they a handful.

I made the mistake when we got our palms of explaining to my almost-3-year-old that the palms were for waving to Jesus. When we got inside the church, he spent the first 2 or 3 minutes waving his palm toward the front of the church loudly saying "Hi Jesus" over and over and over again.

When I finally got my oldest to stop saying "Hi Jesus", the 1-year-old started squirming, and kicking, and yelling. We got both kids to calm down just long enough for me to go up to do my lector thing for the 2nd reading. But when we got to the Gospel, I knew the boys were done for good. No way were they going to sit still and be quiet for that long of a reading.

So, while my wife stayed in the pew, I removed both children to outside. Where they continued to make noise that was clearly audible inside. Unfortunately, the oldest was yelling so loud, that my wife heard him from within and came out of the church to calm him down.

After a while, we got both kids calm enough so that we could go back inside for me to lector the prayers of the faithful. After which, I had to promptly remove them again because of their disruptive behavior.

So, the kids and I basically missed all but about 10 minutes of what is one of my favorite Masses -- Palm Sunday. At least my wife was able to participate in a majority of the Mass.

Stay tuned next week for the Mass-adventures of my 2 beautiful (but wildly rambunctious) boys, where I hope my report will be either short or non-existent.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Playing Politics With Terri's Life

Just when I think the Democrat Party can't do anything new that I would find disgustingly shocking, I read this by Kevin McCullough at

A handful of Democrats decided late yesterday to begin to leverage the life of Terri Schiavo in an attempt to win concessions on certain provisions of other Senate action. The move was a despicable example of the level to which the Senate Democrats are willing to stoop to try to salvage some sort of achievement in the 2005 session.

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"Judicial Activism’s Perfect Storm" from

Thomas Lifson, editor and publisher of The American Thinker, in a Commentary for, explains why judicial activism in America's courts "may have reached its apogee":
Judicial activism, as ... writing of law from the bench is known, faces a confluence of forces which promise relief for the principles of Constitutionalism, and for the American people they protect. The trend of judicial activism morphing into judicial tyranny faces a perfect storm.

Lifson goes on to list and explain some of the "key elements" of this perfect storm:

(1) The American Public Is Paying Attention
Many of these cases are symbolically connected to many people’s self-identity, or to institutions to which they have passionate attachments. Others affect the self-interests or perceived safety of ordinary people. The law is not some abstract notion or set of principles to them, but rather an ongoing force affecting their lives. Accordingly, public interest in the composition and conduct of the judiciary at all levels has never been higher.
(2) Abortion Policy Is An Increasing, Not A Receding Irritant
The decades since Roe was handed down have not cooled the passions or solidified public acceptance of its dictates, but rather have aggravated discontent. Today, both political parties find themselves required to take a stand on abortion, and it is the Republicans, who generally dissent from Roe, who hold the political advantage on the matter.
(3) Public Awe Of The Judiciary Is Receding

Judges and justices are increasingly seen as flawed human beings, rather than as principle-driven protectors of an impartial system. The very nature of judicial activism exposes itself to this perception.
(4) The Supreme Court Is At A Turning Point

If President Bush is able to appoint two or three new justices to the Court, including a new Chief Justice, there is the possibility of the Court signaling a retreat from activism, and legitimizing a return to what has been called “originalism,” the modest belief that the writers of law and the framers of the Constitution should be merely interpreted according to the actual words they wrote, not redefined and redirected by inhabitants of the judiciary.
(5) Powerful Voices Advocate A Return To Originalism
In addition to noting Justice Scalia's continuing public outspokenness (unusual for a member of the Supreme Court) on the issue of judicial activism and Mark Levine's new book Men In Black, Lifson identifies a rising voice of advocacy on the issue:

The blogopshere, with many blogs produced by law professors, lawyers, and others interested in the issue of legal activism, is another collective voice debating the topic, one which bypasses the former monopoly held by liberal media organs, which mostly supported activism with great enthusiasm.
(6) The Republican Senate Majority Seems Inclined To Break Filibusters of Judicial Nominees
I hope this isn't just wishful thinking.

And, finally,

(7) The Democrats’ Arguments Will Not Prevail In The Public Arena

If and when Democrats force the issue by obstruction of Senate business, they will look ridiculous, continuing a recent self-destructive trend. The fact that Minority Leader Reid is about as un-dynamic and unappealing a spokesman as they could select only amplifies their inability to persuade anyone but loyalists.
Lifson concludes by speculating that historians may note the year 2005 as marking the "zenith of judicial activism". Here's hoping Lifson's right about that.

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Conservative Groups Launch Ads on Judicial Nominees

( - Two conservative groups paired up Thursday to launch a national ad campaign to educate grassroots groups and voters on their senators' actions and inactions on President Bush's judicial nominees.

The Family Research Council and Focus on the Family launched the first of the two ads Thursday in the Washington Times. A second will be launched in Nevada Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's state. According to a press release, the ads urge senators to uphold the Constitution and "vote yea or vote nay but VOTE!"
According to FRC President Tony Perkins, the ads "are just the beginning." He said his group and Focus on the Family want every American to know which senators "are doing their constitutional duty and upholding family, faith and freedom and which are not. We have no higher priority in 2005."

I think these organizations are misdirecting these ads. The Washington Times? Who, other than a few conservative Beltway insiders, reads that? Nevada, the home state of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid? Didn't that state just overwhelmingly re-elect Harry Reid to another 6-year term? How much pressure is Reid going to be feeling fresh off his re-election (especially when compared to the pressure he must be getting from special interest groups like MoveOn, People for the American Way, and NARAL)?

The organizations placing these ads would be much better served targeting them to a few other "red" states with 1 or 2 Democrat Senators. For example: Arkansas, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota.

Another "red" state with a recently elected Democrat Senator would merit an ad blitz because of statements the Democrat made in order to get elected. During Colorado's close Senatorial election, Democrat Ken Salazar indicated that he would not take part in holding up judicial nominees by filibuster. Since being elected, however, Salazar has reneged on that promise. Ads to remind the voters of this might be effective.

Finally, it wouldn't hurt to run ads in "blue" states where President Bush ran close races in 2004. These states include: Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Maybe the grass-roots organizations taking out these ads are already planning to do all or part of what I have suggested as part of the next phase of their strategy. It just seems to me that the first phase is not likely to reap any dividends.


Congress Hatches Last-Minute Rescue for Terri Schindler Schiavo?

According to, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have come up with a last-minute plan to rescue Terri Schindler Schiavo, who is scheduled to have her feeding tube disconnected today:

Both the House and the Senate have passed bills that might save Terri Schindler Schiavo [NOTE: see this blog, March 09 - "Terri Schiavo Case Goes to Congress"], but the different versions of the legislation have not been reconciled and probably won't be until next month -- too late to save the brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube is supposed to be disconnected today.

But House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced a backup plan early Friday morning.

They said the Committee on Government Reform has launched an inquiry into the long-term care of incapacitated adults, and as part of that inquiry, the committee will issue a subpoena Friday morning requiring doctors to keep Terri's feeding tube connected.


In a related story, the Drudge Report says today that U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has subpoenaed Terri to appear before the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. According to Drudge, the subpoena "triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual."

In addition, Drudge reports that some members of Congress have met with the U.S. Attorney in D.C. "to ask for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a judge, which protects Terri Schiavo from having her life support, including her feeding and hydration tubes, removed."

All of this comes on the heals of President Bush's statement released yesterday regarding Terri Schiavo's condition:

... in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.

Last, and most importantly, over at Amy Welborn's blog, Mark Windsor has provided several Prayers for Terri. Please do keep Terri in your prayers today.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy Feast Day of St. Patrick - 17 March

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: Saint Patrick's Day: An Irish Celebration,

and here: The Ultimate 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 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 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) 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"). 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!!!

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
Sun Dancing by Geoffrey Moorhouse

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mirror of Justice: "Democrats, Republicans, Catholics"

See Rick Garnett's Mirror of Justice piece titled "Democrats, Republicans, Catholics" with links to posts at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture "Forum."

Mirror of Justice is a very informative blog, "dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory." This particular Catholic blog site focuses mainly on issues of legal jurisprudence and politics.

Hey, that sounds familiar!

Mirror of Justice does indeed cover some of the same ground as this blog. Well, you know what they say about "great minds ...".

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Abortion & Politics in Great Britain

Interesting goings-on in the U.K., in the run-up to the Parliamentary Elections, with respect to the Catholic Church and the relative positions of the major parties on the issue of abortion:

Cardinal tells Catholics to reject Labour over abortion.

THE Roman Catholic Church made a dramatic entry into the election campaign yesterday by backing Michael Howard’s stance on abortion and withdrawing its traditional support for Labour.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor ensured that abortion would play a greater part in the coming election than any other by praising the Tory leader’s call for a cut in the legal abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks.

The Archbishop of Westminster went on to admit that Labour was no longer the natural party of choice for the UK’s six million Catholics.

Archbishop says he is not backing Conservatives.

Following reports in the press and media suggesting otherwise, the Archbishop of Westminster has issued a statement saying that he is not supporting or endorsing the Conservative Party.

Following the publication yesterday of the pre-election document of the catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor also spelled out his position in a series of interviews with the BBC, ITN and Sky, on BBC Radio 4 and Five Live.

He also said that he didn't consider abortion to be a party political issue, although he hoped that it would feature as an election issue.

Abortion must not be election issue – Blair

PRIME Minister Tony Blair tried to defuse growing controversy around the issue of abortion yesterday by insisting it was a matter for personal conscience and not election campaigning.

The subject flared up when the Roman Catholic Church publicly backed Tory leader Michael Howard's suggestion that the abortion limit be reduced from the 24th week of pregnancy to the 20th week.

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"... And The Truth Shall Make You Free."

I have been thinking about today's Gospel lesson from the 8th chapter of John containing those well-known words of Christ:

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

How many times have we heard some slick politician quote the last part of this scripture completely out of context - "The truth shall set you free" - in order to further their own political version of the "truth"?

I know that I've heard the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson, who should know better, quote this scripture out of context on several occasions, usually to imply that he knows and wants to share with us the "real truth", which the mean old Republicans are trying so desperately to obfuscate.

[In addition, I was reminded today by a friend that the words "The truth shall set you free" appear on the facade of one of the buildings overlooking Thomas Jefferson's monument to secular humanism: "the Lawn" at the University of Virginia (my alma mater).]

What's clear, however, when you consider the Church's teachings and when you read Christ's entire quote in context, is that the Lord is telling us that the only way for us to be truly free is to know the objective Truth, which is Him ("I AM the way, the truth, and the life"). And the only way we can know Him is to continue to follow Him and do, as Our Lady commanded us, whatever He tells us.

Again, we're not talking about some subjective "version of the truth" (i.e. "Well, my truth is ..."), which depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. The Gospel today tells us of the objective Truth - who is and was and forever will be. Know that Truth, and we shall be truly free indeed.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Bankruptcy Reform Legislation: Rejection of Schumer Amendment Seen as Pro-Life Victory

Catholic World News reported last week that "[p]ro-lifers scored their first major victory of the 109th Congress ... when the Senate rejected an amendment to a bankruptcy bill that would have singled out pro-life protestors. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, would have made it illegal specifically for abortion activists to use bankruptcy to protect themselves from court-ordered fines related to their activism."

As a former bankruptcy and creditors' rights attorney, I should be better informed about this bankruptcy reform bill. But I'm not. My understanding is that its purpose is to make it harder for individual debtors to walk away from unsecured debt (like credit cards) by utilizing the provisions of Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. While I generally think that it is a good thing, in principle, to hold people accountable for their debts, I hope that this bill isn't just a boon to the credit card industry at the expense of those who have fallen on hard times, often through no fault of their own. I do know that this particular bill has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress.

But the purpose of this post isn't to dwell on the nuances of the new legislation, but rather to point out just how truly vicious Chuck Schumer must be to try to use bankruptcy legislation, the purpose of which is to give its beneficiaries a second chance in life, in order to strike at his political enemies in the pro-life movement. In his career in the House and the Senate, Schumer has shown himself to be a gun-grabbing, devout-Christian-hating (especially when they are Catholic judicial nominees), abortion-loving punk. Thankfully, he was thwarted last week in his efforts to keep pro-life activists in financial ruin for the rest of their lives.


"Catholic Republican" Judge Rules California Can't Ban Same-Sex Marriage

More judicial activism - this time by a so-called "Catholic Republican" judge who has ruled that California's ban on same-sex "marriage" is unconstitutional.

This has got to stop. It's only a matter of time before Justice Kennedy gets his hands on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and rules that, because the legislation violates European sensibilities, it therefore violates the U.S. Constitution.

It's coming folks. And I've just about concluded that the only way to protect marriage in this country as a union between one man and one woman is to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that specifies such.

A few years ago, Judge Robert Bork wrote a book titled Slouching Toward Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline - it appears that we're no longer just slouching toward that destination but rather that the courts in this country are doing their damnedest to get us to Sodom and Gomorrah as quickly as possible.


Monday, March 14, 2005

My Piece on Judicial Activism Has Been Published in The Catholic Virginian

The piece that I wrote on judicial activism and the juvenile death penalty (see this blog Monday, March 07, 2005 - "Roper v. Simmons: Judicial Activism and The Juvenile Death Penalty") appears, in edited-down form, in the March 14 edition of The Catholic Virginian, the diocesan newspaper for the Diocese of Richmond.

Thanks to Steve Neil, editor of The Catholic Virginian, for including this piece in the "Opinion" section of the paper.

RELATED: Scalia Slams Juvenile Death Penalty Ruling

WASHINGTON - Justice Antonin Scalia (news - web sites) criticized the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down the juvenile death penalty, calling it the latest example of politics on the court that has made judicial nominations an increasingly bitter process.

In a 35-minute speech Monday, Scalia said unelected judges have no place deciding issues such as abortion and the death penalty. The court's 5-4 ruling March 1 to outlaw the juvenile death penalty based on "evolving notions of decency" was simply a mask for the personal policy preferences of the five-member majority, he said.

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The Van Vandals & Our Lady of Guadalupe

I had a very nice and eventful weekend (actually, it began last Thursday). I flew down to Austin, Texas to watch my high school's basketball team play in the state tournament.

Van High School is located in the tiny East Texas town of Van. The name of the school's sports teams is the "Vandals". Well, the Van Vandals have been good at a lot of different sports over the years (mostly football, in which we won a state championship in 1979 and have been a playoff contender in most years since), but in the modern era, basketball ain't been one of 'em.

Which is why it was such a big enough deal for this team to be at the state tournament that I wanted to fly down to Austin to be a part of history. To make a long story short, the Van Vandals won their semi-final game on Thursday and the state championship game on Saturday. Congratulations, guys.

If that was the best part of the trip, a very close second was the opportunity I had to visit my favorite city, San Antonio. My best friend, who provided me with the ticket to fly down for the tournament, lives just outside of San Antonio. If you've never been to San Antonio before, there is so much more to the city than the Alamo. Don't get me wrong, the Alamo is a special place, but sometimes you can get so much more from the culture of San Antonio by going off the beaten (i.e. "touristy") path.

On this trip, I did something I had never done before. This was my first time to be in San Antonio since I became Catholic. And it was a Friday during Lent. So, I headed for the Cathedral of San Fernando - the see of the Archdiocese of San Antonio - for noon bilingual Mass followed by bilingual Stations of the Cross. Despite the fact that my Espanol is spotty at best, this was a wonderful and moving experience. I spent 2 hours in this holy place, engaged in some of the best prayer I have experienced in a long time.

Now, a little about the Cathedral. It is very small. Shockingly so. I walked in and couldn't believe the seat of an Archdiocese could be so small. I imagine that the reason for its size is that San Fernando has the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the United States - founded in 1731. But, in this instance, great things come in small packages - the Cathedral is quite beautiful, in Spanish mission style with a high vaulted ceiling and lots of gorgeous statuary and stained glass windows. Behind the altar is a pretty chapel, visible to those sitting in the pews, which houses the Tabernacle, a large vividly detailed Crucifix, and a beautiful mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

This mural inspired me to purchase something I had wanted to buy for a long time. After leaving the Cathedral, I headed for the Mexican market ("el Mercado") to obtain a black t-shirt with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe emblazoned on the front. I paid about $14.00 for my shirt - there were other "fancier" ones going for about $20.00 or more.

My long-winded tale concerning my journey to Texas concludes with the cookout that my friend had at his home on Friday night (and yes, I did abstain from eating the delicious-looking beef and chicken fajitas that were on the menu). My parents and my best friend's parents, who had all come down from Van for the basketball tournament, were there. And I was wearing my brand new t-shirt. My mom and my friend's mom, both devout Southern Baptists, had cried when they learned that I was converting to Catholicism a few years ago. So, needless to say, they were somewhat unimpressed with my new attire and the image of Our Lady thereon.

Note that they also think my wife and I are nuts for wanting more children than the 2 boys we currently have. I didn't know whether to be an apologist with these 2 women, who I love very much, or whether I should just keep my mouth shut and leave well enough alone. My wife and I have discovered that one of the biggest drawbacks to being converts is that our families really aren't there for us in order to provide the Catholic support structure that we'd like. And that was all too evident on Friday night.

But, what the heck. The Vandals won the state championship the next day, and everyone was happy.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Out of Town for a Few Days

I'll be out of town for a few days, returning late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. My high school's basketball team has made it to the Texas state basketball tournament in Austin, and my best friend - who obviously has more money and frequent flier miles at his disposal than I do - has graciously purchased a ticket for me to fly down to Austin for the games.

I hope to be back posting on Sunday afternoon. Here are a few topics I'm thinking about:
  • The "Massadventures" of the Anderson Toddlers (Get it? Massadventures? Misadventures? ... Whatever). Anyway, those of you familiar with Amy Welborn's blog may know that for the past few weeks I've been relating tales over there of my toddlers' disruptive behavior during Mass.
  • Sen. Rick Santorum and his prospects for reelection in 2006. Not looking too good if you ask me.
  • Some more stuff (I just haven't thought of what yet).


Terri Schiavo Case Goes to Congress

[Note: not sure what I think about this. It appears to be modeled after federal Habeas Corpus petitions, of which I am not a huge fan. Nevertheless, it seems that the feds may be getting in on the efforts to save Terri Schiavo's life.]

WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- Two Florida lawmakers have filed a bill that would give a brain-damaged Tampa woman kept alive by a feeding tube access to a special federal court hearing.

Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Dave Weldon, both Republicans, said incapacitated patients like Terri Schiavo should have the same type of federal hearing as death row prisoners, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday.


In a related story, Cardinal Martino has spoken out strongly on the Schiavo case, as the Vatican weighs in.

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Natural Law & Constitutional Jurisprudence

Interesting discussion yesterday (and continuing today) over at Amy Welborn's blog about the role of Natural Law in Constitutional Jurisprudence.

My Take:
Clearly, the Founding Fathers were influenced by Natural Law, and even appealed to Natural Law concepts in their Revolutionary writings (see, e.g. Jefferson's A Summary View of the Rights of British America and Thomas Paine's Common Sense) and in the founding documents of the Declaration of Independence ("the Law of Nature and Nature's God") and the Constitution and Bill of Rights ("Life, Liberty, and Property").

However, once the Natural Law principles that the Founders were most concerned about were enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is no indication that they intended the courts of this nation to use Natural Law as a continuing means of Constitutional jurisprudence.

The courts should look to Natural Law when trying to determine the "original meaning" that the Founders ascribed to the Constitution. After all, in my view, the Constitution means exactly what those who voted on it thought it meant; and if Natural Law shaped the Founders' understanding of Constitutional principles, the courts should give full weight to that particular understanding.

But that is a far cry from saying that the courts should utilize Natural Law as a means of Constitutional jurisprudence. When the courts have done that, they have involved themselves in some of the most egregious examples of activist judicial lawmaking in our history - Griswold v. Connecticut, the progenitor of the courts' abortion-related jurisprudence, being the worst such foray into Natural Law.

As you can see from my post about Roper v. Simmons (see below), I am not a big fan of raw judicial fiat. And Natural Law in the hands of these unelected and life-tenured judges is an awesome weapon to add to their activist arsenal. I'm certainly not willing to cede its use to them.

One more thing about the discussion over at Amy's blog yesterday: "al" did an impressive and admirable job stating the Catholic case for Natural Law. However, given the current activist mindset of the courts in America, it is far from certain that Natural Law would lead to objectively "right" outcomes. Indeed, in the history of American Constitutional jurisprudence, what Natural Law "requires" has tended to be in the eye of the judicial beholder who has in mind reaching a particular outcome.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

President Bush and the U.N.

According to David Corn at The Nation, the Bush Administration has given the U.N. "the finger" by nominating John Bolton for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Well, so what?

That wasn't exactly the "peace" sign the U.N. was giving to the Bush Administration last week with respect to its position on abortion.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Roper v. Simmons: Judicial Activism and The Juvenile Death Penalty

On January 31, as part of Catholic Advocacy Day at the General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia, I lobbied a number of Virginia state legislators to encourage them to abolish the death penalty for minors in Virginia (the law currently allows for the execution of those who are convicted of committing capital murder at the ages of 16 and 17 years old).

Given my unfavorable view of the juvenile death penalty, it is somewhat ironic that I am extremely troubled by the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the juvenile death penalty as unconstitutional. By a 5-4 vote, the Court in Roper v. Simmons 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.

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.

A second cause for concern among Catholics, is the Roper Court’s continuation of the troubling recent trend in Supreme Court jurisprudence of looking to foreign legal precedents to interpret the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the Court relied not on its own precedents in previous cases involving capital punishment and the 8th Amendment, but looked instead to European law to find that the juvenile death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Let me repeat: the Supreme Court of the United States disregarded its previous holdings in this area of the law, and relied instead on the law of foreign nations to reach its decision.

The idea of subverting the sovereign laws of the various states of the U.S. to the political whims of elites in European capitals is troubling enough on its face. But there is an aspect beneath the surface of the Roper decision that should strike fear in the hearts of faithful Catholics. In 2003, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the majority opinion in Roper, used similar reasoning – relying on the “enlightened” laws and attitudes of those in Europe – to write the opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which established a constitutional “right” to engage in homosexual sodomy. Many legal commentators view the Lawrence opinion as merely a precursor to the Court’s eventually establishing a constitutional right to homosexual “marriage”, thereby striking down the laws of 48 states protecting marriage as a union between one man and one woman. And there are numerous other areas of the law (euthanasia, for example) where Catholics in the U.S. should be loathe to see the Court impose on our citizenry the “enlightened” views of European intellectuals and other foreign elites.

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.

In such a situation, I am reminded of the scene from A Man For All Seasons where Sir Thomas More’s protégé and future son-in-law, ironically named “Roper”, questions Sir Thomas as to whether it would be justifiable to deny the Devil due process of law in order to achieve a greater good:

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.

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Welcome To My Blog

This is my first post to this newly created blog. As you can see from the title, my interests (and the focus of this blog) revolve around issues involving the interplay of the Catholic Church, the family (which is the basic institution of any civilization), and politics.

I am relatively new to both the Catholic Church and to blogging, so I'm not really sure what direction this blog will end up taking. I do know that I intend to keep the focus, as mentioned above, on the interplay between the institutions of the Church, the family, and the state. Sometimes, I might go off on a tangent - say, college football (for which I am passionate) or some work of literature that has caught my interest. But I hope to keep the general thrust: Church, family, politics.

One more thing, I often react to events by giving my initial impressions. Sometimes, my initial impressions turn out to be quite mistaken. Such was the case recently with regard to the murder of a Coptic Christian family in New Jersey. My initial impulse (and I think a reasonable one given some of the facts surrounding the case) was to assume the murder was probably the work of Islamist extremists, giving little credence to the possibility of robbery as a motive. Although my initial impressions could still turn out to be correct, law enforcement officials have, in fact, arrested a couple of apparently non-Muslim suspects and charged them with having committed the murders as part of a robbery scheme.

Again, sometimes (no, a lot of times) I am wrong. Whether you think I'm right or wrong about any given subject, I hope you will jump right in and comment. I have no doubt some folks will. I have found that opinions are, as they say, a bit like @r$ehole$ - everybody's got one and they all stink. Well, if you're anything nearly as outspoken as I am, sometimes you end up showing yours.

Once again, welcome.


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