Friday, December 13, 2013

One way it's good to imitate NYC

The Catholic League has again built a créche in New York's prime public forum, Central Park. Their reasons:
  • We are celebrating the true purpose of Christmas, which is the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • We want Christians to know that they have every legal right to display religious symbols on public property, unadorned by secular symbols, just so long as the property is regarded as a public forum (e.g., we do not seek to erect crèches on the grounds of City Hall).
  • We are sending a message to militant secularists that Christians will never retreat from exercising their First Amendment right to religious liberty. We favor, as does Pope Francis, a robust public expression of religion. We will never settle [merely] for freedom to worship.
If the League can do this in one of the country's most aggressively secularized cities, what's wrong with the rest of us, wherever we are? What are we afraid of?

Pope Francis' message to the Americas

The Pope delivered a fine special message to the Americas yesterday:
...When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego, it was the prophecy of an embrace: Mary’s embrace of all the peoples of the vast expanses of America – the peoples who already lived there, and those who were yet to come. Mary’s embrace showed what America – North and South – is called to be: a land where different peoples come together; a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age. A land of generosity. 
That is the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it is also my message, the message of the Church. I ask all the people of the Americas to open wide their arms, like the Virgin, with love and tenderness.
Many people will quickly fasten onto the statement's explicit connection with immigration policies. Fewer will notice its explicit mention of abortion and euthanasia, or that these things are actually mentioned before the bit about welcoming immigrants, the poor, and the marginalized.

I'd like to point out that economic freedom such as the people of the United States have enjoyed for two centuries is also a form of embrace. People have flocked here from everywhere else because they had some justified confidence that if they offered goods or services with honesty and goodwill, they would be rewarded with personal prosperity, without facing insuperable barriers because of their race, their ethnicity, or who their parents were.

Mind you, I said insuperable. This is a fallen world. This side of Heaven, there is no perfect ubiquitous fairness or justice. There is only the daily struggle to make those things happen a little more often in our own families, neighborhoods, and businesses. 

That's the Catholic doctrine of Subsidiarity, and it is the friend, not the foe, of economic liberty.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Elections sure do have consequences

Many Catholics voted for Barack Obama despite his support for abortion-on-demand. After all, they told us, he's so good on Social Justice issues.

Many Catholics voted for Democratic senatorial candidates despite their support for abortion-on-demand. After all, they told us, they're so good on Social Justice issues.

Having predicted the end of the world a few years ago if Republicans altered the Senate's filibuster rules to allow President Bush's bench nominees to be confirmed, Democrats did exactly that last month, when faced with filibusters or threats thereof against President Obama's nominees. Republicans backed away from this so-called "nuclear option" in 2005. Democrats welcomed it in 2013.

The Catholics who re-elected President Obama enabled him to nominate the astonishingly pro-abortion Cornelia Pillard to the District of Columbia's Circuit Court. arguably the most influential Federal Court of Appeal in the country, since cases which concern the White House and the federal bureaucracy get heard there first. Little issues, like the HHS mandate, for example.

Then those Senators whom Catholics elected despite their pro-abortion record changed the Senate rules and confirmed Ms. Pillard with a bare majority of 51 votes, when it would formerly have taken 60.

So now, you good Catholics, we all have a new lifetime judge among whose milder pronouncements is this:
Antiabortion laws and other restraints on reproductive freedom not only enforce women’s incubation of unwanted pregnancies, but also prescribe a “vision of the woman’s role” as mother and caretaker of children in a way that is at odds with equal protection. Renewed attacks on abortion have turned attention to how the Equal Protection Clause, and the right to sex equality more generally, might advance reproductive self-determination.
She's also completely opposed to abstinence-based sex ed.
The abstinence-only approach is permeated with stereotyped messages and sex-based double standards about acceptable male and female sexual behavior and appropriate social roles. Public school teaching of gender stereotypes violates the constitutional bar against sex stereotyping and is vulnerable to equal protection challenge...
Catholics might want to remember that abstaining from sexual relations is exactly the Catholic Church's teaching on preventing unwanted pregnancy. Too bad that there's now a majority on the D.C. Circuit (it used to be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans) that thinks the Church's teaching is an affront to human rights.

And so the red tide of abortion will roll on, at a million dead children each year in the United States alone.

But I'll bet Ms. Pillard is so good on Social Justice issues...

Nelson Mandela, R.I.P.

The President of the USCCB has issued a statement mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela. You can read all of it here.

But a much better expression of Catholic witness was penned by Archbishop Tobin of Connecticut, as reported by LifeSite News:
“Many people around the world and in our own nation are mourning the loss of former South African President Nelson Mandela,” Bishop Tobin commented in a statement. “Indeed there is much to admire in Mandela’s long life and public service, particularly his personal courage and his stalwart defense of human rights. 
“There is part of President Mandela’s legacy, however, that is not at all praiseworthy, namely his shameful promotion of abortion in South Africa. In 1996 Mandela promoted and signed into law the ‘Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill’ that, according to the New York Times, ‘replaced one of the world’s toughest abortion laws with one of the most liberal.’” 
Tobin continues: “While we pray for the peaceful repose of President Mandela’s immortal soul and the forgiveness of his sins, we can only regret that his noble defense of human dignity did not include the youngest members of our human family, unborn children.”
To their great credit, the Catholic bishops of South Africa pointed out that same disconnect in Mandela's record. So did John Smeaton, a prominent pro-life leader in the United Kingdom:
“May God rest Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa who died last night,” he said. “But it is absolutely vital that Catholic leaders do not allow themselves to become respecters of persons, swept away by personality cults. Catholic leaders have a duty to stand up to public figures with  anti-life and anti-family records, however praiseworthy their record may be on other issues. The sanctity of human life and the dignity of the family are the foundation and guarantee of all other human rights.”
[Update]: Bishop Tobin is the Bishop of Rhode Island, not Connecticut. My bad.

About that Time magazine cover...

Much of the Catholic internet is abuzz with Pope Francis' selection as Time magazine's "Person of the Year." My take: Person of the Year is a recognition of notoriety, not of approval. But even if you think it's a positive thing, enjoy it while it lasts. The video below, from a riot demonstration by pro-abortion feminists outside a cathedral in the Pope's native Argentina, is an accurate expression of the pure hatred of Christ and His Church that bubbles just beneath the surface of Progressive niceness. In case it's not clear, the thing that gets set afire in the middle of the frame is an effigy of Pope Francis.



Michael Voris' post on this event has additional footage that shows how faithful Catholic men linked arms in a cordon around the cathedral to protect it, and absorbed without retaliation the verbal abuse and physical attacks heaped upon them by many in the crowd.



Now, those guys are real men, and real Catholics. How many of us American Catholic men, drowning in the lukewarm banality of the Church of Nice, still would have the guts to do what they did?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Still waiting...

Six years ago, I asked in this blog why Nancy Pelosi had still not been denied the Eucharist for her public, clear, and defiant persistence in supporting abortion in her congressional votes. Back then, we Catholics were told to be patient because the then-Archbishop of San Francisco was taking a "pastoral" approach to her correction.

Six years on, and Ms. Pelosi is still flaunting her leadership against even the slightest limitation upon abortion. No statement condemning her behavior has been forthcoming. No statement noting her self-excommunication under Canon Law and consequent inability to receive the Eucharist has been forthcoming. No repentance. Not even an acknowledgement that her actions are in contradiction to Church doctrine.

How long, O Lord, how long?

My JFK thoughts

I thought I'd wait until most of the noise surrounding the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination had dissipated, before adding my own reflections.

Most reminiscences from us Boomers start with where we were when we heard the news. But I don't have many strong memories of that day; just a bewildering announcement on our car's radio. What I do remember much more vividly are two incidents from the autumn of 1960, during the campaign.

The first memory is a conversation with a couple of neighbor boys I was playing with. They solemnly informed me that their public school teacher had told them that if Kennedy were to be elected, all Americans would be forced to convert to Catholicism. Despite the grudging respect that the Church had earned in 20th-century America by raising up great men like Fulton Sheen, that's the kind of casual Protestant anti-Catholicism that Kennedy, and all of us, still had to live with.

The second memory is being allowed to accompany my mom to a Kennedy campaign rally in Long Beach, California. I don't remember anything about his speech — not surprising, I guess, for a 10-year-old —but I do recall how tanned his face was, and how broad and sincere his smile looked. Our seats were only about 50 yards away from him. Closer than the sniper in Dallas.

I think he set a bad precedent in his famous apologia (to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association) for being a Catholic candidate, seeming to banish the Faith from the public square. This attitude of the Kennedy Democrats, after all, morphed into that of the Cuomo Democrats not long after, when Roe v. Wade was handed down: personally opposed to grave evil, but unwilling to "impose our morality" on others. At MercatorNet.com, Sheila Liaugminas quotes both Peggy Noonan and George Weigel at length about this; these will give you better background than I could.

Despite the many sins that drag down his legacy, he left behind many great statements that will always buoy it up. I'll just imitate Sheila, and close with this:
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. 
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

Pope Francis on Life, for real

Our liberal friends in the Catholic Church thought they heard a major policy change in Pope Francis' widely-quoted off-the-cuff remarks back in September, when he seemed to downplay the importance of the issue of abortion. Too bad they weren't paying attention the very next day, when, speaking with carefully-chosen words to a gathering of Catholic OB/GYNs, he said:
The third aspect is a mandate: be witnesses and speakers of this "culture of life" . Your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all to yourself, to be committed to being consistent with the Christian vocation; and then to contemporary culture, to contribute to recognising the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception. This is a commitment to the new evangelization that often requires going against the current, at a cost to the person. The Lord counts on you to spread the "Gospel of life."
Read the rest: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/popes-strong-words-in-defense-of-the-unborn#ixzz2laPjneTF

It bears repeating that even in the earlier casual statement, the Pope was simply reminding Catholics that preaching Christ must always come first, before we try to advance any social issue.

"Without Me, you can do nothing," Our Lord said, and Francis was just reminding us that He meant it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Empowerment?

A pundit with whom I usually agree recently asserted that Christ "empowered" his disciples, in the sense of accomplishing great works, and even miracles. While this is true, it deserves a little reflection to understand rightly.

I can't think of an instance when Christ performed a miracle without giving thanks to the Father first. I can't think of an instance when Christ accepted Satan's dare to show power in some prideful way; that's the lesson of the temptations at the end of the 40 days' fast in the desert. Turn the stones into bread? No. Leap off the top of the temple so that He could summon a host of angels to save him from the law of gravity? No. And at the end, save Himself from the unbearable agony of the cross? No, not even that, though I think we can all agree that the very human temptation to do so must have been enormous.

Always, He lifts His eyes to Heaven and gives thanks to His Father. There in the Father's hands, He taught us, is where real power comes from, the kind that doesn't just tinker, but transforms.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pope Francis puts one over the fence


I've often criticized Pope Francis' careless statements in recent months, but this time I have to say he hit one out of the park:
During his homily at Mass on November 18, Pope Francis called the first chapter of the First Book of Maccabees “one of the saddest pages in the Bible” because “a great part of the people of God withdraw from the Lord in favor of worldly proposals.”
Well, that sure sounds like it could have been ripped from today's headlines.

He continues:
“We would do well to think about what happened in the Book of Maccabees, he continued, about what happened step by step, before we decide to follow an ‘adolescent progressivism’ and go along with what everyone is doing,” the L’Osservatore Romano report added. “We would also do well, he said, to ponder the consequences of their infidelity, to think about the ‘death sentences, the human sacrifices’ which followed thereafter. He then asked those present: ‘Do you think there are no human sacrifices today? There are many, many of them. And there are laws that protect them.’” 
The rest can be found here. H/t CatholicCulture.org.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Catholic Brand

Why is it that non-Catholics know what constitutes the outward signs of Catholic culture, but Catholics often don't?

Take this little bit from Stieg Larsson's bestseller The Girl Who Played with Fire:
...Bublanski felt an urge to talk to God about the case, but instead of going to the synagogue he went to the Catholic church on Folkungagatan. He sat in one of the pews at the back and did not move for over an hour. As a Jew he had no business being in a church, but it was a peaceful place that he regularly visited when he felt the need to sort out his thoughts, and he knew that God would not mind. There was a difference, besides, between Catholicism and Judaism. He went to the synagogue when he needed company and fellowship with other people. Catholics went to church to seek peace in the presence of God. The church invited silence, and visitors would always be left to themselves. (pp. 376-377 of the Vintage paperback edition)
Catholics seek peace in the presence of God. Yes, that's exactly the atmosphere that ought to imbue every Catholic church building, both when nothing is going on, and when Mass is being offered. But in most American parishes, Catholic worship no longer invites silence; it treats silence as an enemy. If no one is doing anything or saying anything or singing anything, it means that people aren't actively participating. Oh, the humanity!

But why did Larsson, a thoroughly non-Catholic author, understand that silence is a part of the Catholic "brand" but most Catholics don't?