Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

"Remember, Man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Such are the familiar words of the ceremony, as the priest or deacon traces the ashes on the faithfuls' foreheads.  Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem revertis. "Remember that you are mortal," the slave used to whisper in the ear of the triumphator even as he was hailed as a god by the Roman crowds for his victories.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.

Even today, there are those who seek to deny this fundamental truth of human existence.  The alchemists and sorcerers now wear lab coats, the philosopher's stones replaced by centrifuges and smoking draughts replaced by enzymes.  And yet it's the same misdirected imperative — the desire to live longer rather than live better.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Contraception and economic collapse

Having written yet another post on the HHS mandate — think this issue’s gonna go away soon? Fuhgeddaboudit! — I thought I could actually relax and write about something more congenial and directly religious, such as the upcoming Ash Wednesday celebration.

Then Tina Korbe tweeted a link to Mark Steyn’s “Contraception Misdirection”.  The first two paragraphs were enough to make me reach for my hypertension meds, as Steyn described the future of the national debt as illustrated by charts from the Office of Management and Budget:

My favorite bit is Chart 5-1 on page 58 of their 500-page appendix on “Analytical Perspectives” [faithfully reprinted above].  This is entitled “Publicly Held Debt Under 2013 Budget Policy Projections.”  …  Just to emphasize, this isn’t the doom-laden dystopian fancy of a right-wing apocalyptic loon like me; it’s the official Oval Office version of where America’s headed.  In the New York Times–approved “responsible budget” there is no attempt even to pretend to bend the debt curve into something approaching reentry with reality.

The one presented to the budget committee was even worse: “an even steeper straight line showing debt rising to 900 percent of GDP and rocketing off the graph circa 2075.”  According to House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, “We cut it off at the end of the century because the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 on this path.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Is the mandate issue a blunder for the GOP?

Almost a month after the Department of Health and Human Services reaffirmed its refusal to take First Amendment conscience protections seriously, the battle over the contraception mandate is spinning — or rather, being spun by the MSM and Obama Democrats — into a pseudo-debate about contraception itself, and its role in women’s health.

The “why” of this is fairly obvious.  On face value, to prevail in a SCOTUS challenge to the Obamination’s mandate the Catholic Church doesn’t need to argue why she teaches the immorality of contraception; it’s enough that she does, and that some Catholic-Americans do indeed believe artificial contraception to be wrong — 22%, according to a recent CNN/ORC opinion poll.  As long as the issue is focused on religious liberty, slightly more Americans disapprove of the HHS mandate than approve (50% to 44%, with a margin of error of ± 3%).

But while the mandate can be seen as a part of a larger “cultural war”, conventional wisdom holds that putting it directly in those terms would be a mistake. MSNBC’s First Read argues that GOP strategists believe “Republicans should be talking about the economy, not social issues.”  And Andrew Sullivan writes in Newsweek:
The more Machiavellian observer might even suspect this is actually an improved bait and switch by Obama to more firmly identify the religious right with opposition to contraception, its weakest issue by far, and to shore up support among independent women and his more liberal base. I’ve found by observing this president closely for years that what often seem like short-term tactical blunders turn out in the long run to be strategically shrewd. And if this was a trap, the religious right walked right into it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romance, self-sacrifice and St. Valentine

I fail miserably at romance.  I’m like the guy in Billy Joel’s song, “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”: sometimes I get so tense, I’ll say or do something that completely spoils the moment … usually, it’s a joke. 

So if I were to write a post telling men how to win women’s hearts, I would be putting myself in a false position.  I don’t even have the excuse of being a priest;  a priest could at least form some conclusions from what he hears in confessions and spiritual counseling.  In fact, I’m convinced that even Dr. Phil is making educated guesses when it comes to women. 

(“What do women want?” asked Freud in despair … to which cartoonist Mimi Pond replied, “Shoes.”  Thanks, Mimi.  Big help.)

It’s especially difficult to write about romantic love when, in one sense, both “love” and “romance” have lost meaning in the post-modern world.  Saint Valentine, his day stripped of its sanctity in the name of secular commerce, now presides over a semi-ritualized gift-giving that drips the same sappy sentimentality with which American marketing saturates every major holiday.  Where is the passion, the adventure, the hypergolic mix of eros and agapē?  At the same time, why bother with the jewelry and the chocolates when you can just as easily get laid on Groundhog’s Day as Valentine’s Day?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No such thing as free contraception

Yesterday, Catholics across the country were merely angry with the Obamination.  Today, we’re not only angry but mortally offended and insulted.

Why?  Didn’t Pres. Obama outline an accommodation on the HHS mandate that would allow religiously-affiliated institutions to not offer contraceptives and sterilizations?  What more could we want?  Isn’t that enough of a compromise?

In truth, it wasn’t an “accommodation” at all.  Under the “accommodation”, the insurance company would offer the employee the coverage … at no additional cost (wink-wink-nudge-nudge).  But since the employer is still paying the insurance company, and because the insurance company doesn’t get a conscience exemption, the net effect is that the employer will still be paying for the contraceptives indirectly through higher rates … the bookkeeping will look a little different, that’s all.

Let’s explain it a different way: Under the old phrasing, the religiously-affiliated employer was subsidizing coverage for no-copay contraceptives.  Under the new phrasing, the employer is still subsidizing coverage for no-copay contraceptives … but she’s allowed to say she’s not.  But she still has to tell the employee how to get the coverage she’s not providing from the carrier she’s paying to not provide the coverage the employee is still getting.  Make sense to you?  It doesn’t to me.

By offering such a transparently phony compromise, Obama told mandate opponents, “Forget it, you’re not gonna get out of paying for birth control.  I’m just offering you this one chance to chalk up a face-saving ‘win’.  Then you might as well just shut up and bend over.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

“The best is yet to come!”

I’d like to start with a story my cousin Greg sent me the other day:

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live.  So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.  She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.
Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.
“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.
“This is very important,” the young woman continued.  “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.
“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.
“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.
The young woman explained.  “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement.  ‘In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.”  It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming ... like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!’

You like me! You really like me!

I've heard of chain letters ... but chain awards?
No worries.  The Liebster Blog (Liebster = Ger. "dear, darling") is really a good way to get people to follow some of the more obscure blogs in the Catholic blogosphere.  You can either follow forward and read the wonderful blogs I've picked — the trick was whittling them down to five — or follow backwards to see who picked me (Subvet from Blowing San #1), and who picked them, and so on and so forth.  Either way, you're bound to find some good new writers.

Here are the rules: 

  1. Copy and paste the Major Award to my blog.
  2. Link back the person who gave me the award.
  3. Pick out five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
  4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.
And my five picks?  Hmmmmmmm ....

  • Linen on the Hedgerow: Just barely qualified with 181 followers, Richard Collins helps keep me up to speed with what's happening in the Catholic Church in England (as opposed to the Church of England — all that's happening there is a falling into a genteel desuetude).  Great fun, a ripping good read, with all the dry, understated humor you'd expect from an Englishman of some education.
  • not a minx, a moron, or a parasite: Pretty, witty and wise beyond her years, Trista Leigh is one of the Bright Maidens whose praises I sing as "what feminism should have produced but couldn't".  For a good sample of her writing, try the first one I read: "Wearing Crucifixes and Condoms".
  • St. Joseph's Vanguard:  The home of Catholic Answers apologist and author Devin Rose.  His book If Protestantism is True (which I reviewed on The Impractical Catholic) has 327 "likes" on Facebook — far too few for such a great apologetics tool — but his blog has a mere 57 followers.  A really nice guy who writes with great intelligence and charity.  Go read him and bulk up that number.
  • The Corner with a View: Julie Robison is another of the Bright Maidens ... attractive, intelligent and confident.  Most of her posts have great extracts from great literature and poetry, wonderful passages from saints, mystics and popes, but occasionally doing the pop references (like this great quote from Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame).  Go have your mind enriched.
  • Catholic Boy Richard:  I just discovered Richard a couple of months ago.  A former Protestant minister who was involved in LGBT causes, he writes with great charity and enthusiasm ... a truly pleasant change from all the bitter, sarcastic and angry blogs that (as Simcha Fisher once said) "always make me want to hide in the catacombs, to get away from those awful Catholics.  Brrr."
  • HONORABLE MENTION — Kissing the Leper: You read Elise Hilton's blog and you'll see why I couldn't find it in my heart to leave her out.

So many other people I wish I could have listed but: 1) they have too many followers; or 2) I couldn't verify the number; or 3) he already nominated me, so nominating him back would defeat the purpose; or 4) their writing has been sporadic due to other obligations (the other Bright Maiden, Elizabeth Hillgrove at Startling the Day, and my friend Rob Hall's Road to Rome).

So what are you doing still here? Go read these great writers and spread their names around!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Two crimes against human dignity: rape and domestic violence

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that second-wave feminism bought into male chauvinists’ devaluation of the domestic sphere — inferior, less valuable, less this, that and the other thing — and turned it into a cult of hatred for motherhood and child-rearing.  A lot of things have changed for women as a result of that denial of female biological difference, some for the better and some for the worse.

Two things haven’t changed: domestic violence and rape.  Well, there’s a slight difference … women don’t have to be married to be battered and abused by the men in their lives.

No Catholic in his/her right mind believes for a second that women are inferior to men, that they can ever “deserve” to be battered or violated.  While more traditional families may subscribe to the doctrine that men have authority over the household, they equally assert that the authority doesn’t make the men superior or better human beings.  To quote Pius XI:

This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband’s every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs.[1]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pro-aborts: Don’t bet the farm on the “war on women” talk

As the battle lines over the HHS contraceptive mandate form, a battle which at least one pundit has said may cost Pres. Obama his re-election, both sides are cleaning and polishing their rhetorical weapons.  One weapon on the pro-mandate side, though, promises to be more damaging to the side wielding it than to their opponents.

To wit, the “war on women”.  Let’s look at the ever-nutty Amanda Marcotte:

[The fight over Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s funding of Planned Barrenhood] was a battle about values. Specifically, whether or not we value women as human beings or not. Anti-choicers are trying to marginalize comprehensive health care for women basically to put us in our place, to demote us from the status of people and return us to the status of objects. Saving breasts is all good and well — they are decorative, after all! — but health care for dirty sluts who go around having sex as if they have a right? I think, and said in my Alternet piece, that one reason this really hit home is anti-choice objectification of women had gotten to the point where they were pitting our own body parts against each other, creating a war between wholesome, all-American boobies and evil vaginas.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

How I helped create the myth of the Flip-Flopping Charity

A line from a historical novel about Lincoln — was it William Safire’s Emancipation? — sticks in my head: “A lie will run from Georgia to Maine while the truth is still putting its boots on.”  Twitter simply makes the process faster.

A couple of days ago, I joined with a bunch of other people in spreading the news that Susan G. Komen for the Cure had “kicked Planned Parenthood to the curb”.  I tweeted it; I posted it on my Facebook page; I did all but hire a plane to drop flyers on the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex (no money).

Meanwhile, Planned Barrenhood was ramping up the propaganda machine.  The story which David McCrary of AP broke was, according to Elizabeth Scalia, actually a leak by PB “in order to sic their buddies in the senate and in the media on Komen.”  And what followed was a blanket party on a national scale — a shameless, hysteria-driven, mob-style beatdown.  (“Nice little charity you’ve got there,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution scathingly remarked.  “Shame if anything happened to it.)

Then, yesterday, SGK surrendered.  Immediately, most of the people who had been singing their praises in blogs and Twitter feeds and numerous other outlets started howling. (“Cowards,” sneered Patrick Archbold in one tweet, and wrote in his National Catholic Register post, “This is one of the most politically craven public acts I have ever seen.”)  People who had donated to SGK in response — over $1 million in 24 hours — now started pulling their donations away, like Mollie at GetReligion.

Nobody got it right in the beginning, so why should we have gotten it right in the end?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

American or Catholic? Why must we choose?

Since January 20th, when the Obamination confirmed the HHS rule heavily restricting religious exemptions to the new health insurance requirements, the outcry from American Catholics has been overwhelming in its unity.  Even Sean Michael Winters wrote in his Fishwrap column, “They have punched Sr. Carol Keehan and Fr. Jenkins and many other Catholics who have taken shots for this Administration in the nose.”

On CatholicVote, Tom Peters the American Papist has been keeping a running tally of bishops who have written and spoken out against the HHS ruling (135 out of 187 dioceses that aren’t currently sede vacante as of January 30).  My friend Stacy Trasancos has written a self-critical piece arguing that, by not educating Catholic doctors on the problems and perils of contraceptives, Catholic women have been part of the problem (and can be part of the solution by being more proactive … ugh, I said that word).  Fellow devil-dog Frank Weathers has gotten a petition at going that has collected 11,376 signatures (out of 13,624 needed by February 27 — have you signed yet?).

Indeed, as the USCCB blog notes, the amazing unity this outrage has prompted is “a true ‘here comes everybody’ moment.”  But Louie Verrecchio at Catholic Lane sees “far more to lament than to applaud in this situation, beginning with the fundamental question of Catholic identity that it naturally begs.”

If current events indicate anything at all it’s that we really need to take a step back and ask ourselves who we are. Are we Catholics first and Americans second, or vice versa?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

“Reproductive Justice”: more pro-abort doublespeak (*yawn*)

In many respects, the “culture wars” primarily consist of struggles over language, in competitions between buzzwords.  Consider the following commercial (and forgive me if you’ve already seen it on other blogs):

“Product of conception.”  “Uterine contents.”  “Clump of cells.”  “Blob of tissue.”  Simply calling the unborn baby a “fetus” is no longer sufficient because the word’s been unpacked: we all know now that “fetus” is a stage of development and not a different species.  (Of course, this doesn’t stop certain pro-aborts for inserting words like “zygote”, “blastula” or “embryo” to achieve the same verbal illusion.)  Euphemism, as The Bearded Sage of Patheos reminds us, is the first refuge of the person who refuses to look evil squarely in the eye.

In the same way, the defenders of abortion have shifted names to find new moral high ground to capture.  At the time of Roe v. Wade, it was Privacy; eventually, it morphed into Reproductive Choice.  Then it became Women’s Health, a buzzword of truly Orwellian provenance.  Now, Kristi Burton Brown tells us, the new hill they want to be kings — er, rather, queens of has been dubbed Reproductive Justice.

Thank God for the Internet, for it allows us to tear apart pro-abort doublespeak as fast as they can coin it.  In fact, I’m almost ashamed to write about it, as it’s such low-hanging fruit.  Even better, “Reproductive Justice” affords us the opportunity to drill into a major inconsistency in the radical feminism which has long fueled the core of the pro-abort movement.

All lenders are predatory

When we left off last week, we’d come to the present, in which the Catholic Church still preaches against usury, but no longer inquires too closely into the different loan types to see if extrinsic titles obtain or not.  I was going to go further on this topic; however, Thomas Storck has a better breakdown of the history and current understanding of usury from the Church’s point of view.  Therefore I refer you to him gladly.

(Well, not entirely gladly, since I’d spent fourteen hours writing a post that Storck’s essay made redundant …. Oh well, God is good.)

However, this still leaves room for us to look at the current economic crisis from the standpoint of the financial sector’s involvement.  And when we do that, we find plenty of grounds to indict the credit industry.  In fact, if anything it demonstrates why the Church believed the collection of interest to be a sin.

Saint Thomas Aquinas’ argument against interest still bears repeating: to sell an item is to sell the use of it; so charging interest on a loan is like selling a bottle of wine and then charging each time a glass or sip is taken from the bottle.  This is different from rent, in which what is being used is not being consumed in the process; the purpose of money is to be consumed by exchange for goods and services. (Summa Theologica II:II:78:1, Answer)