Tuesday, August 28, 2012

People Don't Understand what the First Amendment Means, part 9 million and something

  Today my oldest son pointed me at an article at the National Catholic Reporter. Not one to read that magazine myself, the article immediately reminded me why I don't read the NCR. Indeed, it prompted me to write a bit of a response.
  As some of you know, I am an adult convert to the Church, joining in my 30's after years of scholarly study of Islam, Judaism, and religion in general. I went on to get a degree in Systematic Theology and I read on theology almost constantly. Add in that one of my hobbies is political theory and you will soon realize that I am capable of boring a Jesuit with my interest in obscure topics and I am pretty strongly opinionated about the topics I care about.
  That being said, the author, Pat Perriello, uses the pages of the NCR to completely humiliate himself by demonstrating his profound misunderstanding of the First Amendment, ethics, morals, and the teachings of the Church. The worst part is I am certain that Mr. Perriello (and some of his readers) are convinced that he has written something Important, maybe even Profound.
  Mr. Perriello spends two paragraphs, one third of the total article, referring to another article and mentioning that some unspecified survey he is repeating second- or third-hand states that 79% of Americans believe that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape. He also uses that time to admit that Catholic teaching does not allow for such an exception.
  Mr. Parriello's then gets to his main point, such as it is, which is nicely summed up in this quote;

    "There should be a legal exception in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother, because we live in a pluralistic society."

  Yes, Mr. Perriello bluntly states that the Church and Catholics should not ban abortion in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother because people disagree with that position. How does he justify this? Why, thusly;

    ""Under our Constitution, our laws are not meant to impose the beliefs of one group or religion on others who don't accept those beliefs."

  Sorry, Mr. Perriello, but the Constitution says no such thing. From the title of his rather short article, I assume he thinks the First Amendment's Freedom of Religion clause means that laws can't reflect beliefs held by religious people. This is the height of absurdity! The First Amendment states very simply that the government shall not have an official religion, the end. It says nothing about how people or private groups or religions can vote, what laws they can enact, etc. Of course, Mr. Perriello discusses the 'doctrine of the separation of church and state' which, of course, is never mentioned in the constitution, so I am not greatly surprised that he has no idea what the First Amendment says or means.

  Further, all laws by their very nature as laws impose the beliefs of one or more groups upon others who do not agree with them! What's next, we can't pass a law saying theft is illegal because some people think theft is acceptable? Since a core concept of Jewish law is proportionality we can't have proportional punishments because that is "forcing" Judaism on others?
  But Mr. Periello keeps going! He then writes;

    "Some, including some of our Catholic leaders, seem to believe the church should have carte blanche to practice its religion as it chooses..."

  Yes, Mr. Perriello, the Church does believe it can practice its religion as it sees fit, as do Baptists, Mormons, Sufis and everyone else who actually understands what the First Amendment means! 

  Mr. Perriello seems to think that since Catholic doctrine allows no exception for the prohibition on abortion all such laws are inherently Catholic. First, sharing traits does not make two positions identical. After all, as I mentioned before, theft is illegal is Judaic and Sharia laws  does that make laws against theft inherently Jewish or Muslim? Second, many non-Catholic (including some atheists) support a total ban on abortion with no exceptions - does that mean that the laws are now also atheistic laws, too? Does Mr. Perriello really mean to imply that the only acceptable legal morals are atheistic morals?
  My final point is about the fifth paragraph; in it Mr. Perriello attempts to draw an equivalence between opposition to what has been called Obamacare and a ban on abortion. He seems unable to understand the distinction between not wanting the government to force you to purchase something against your will and a ban on willful murder. In the one case a person wants to choose an insurance plan on their own; in the other a person is attempting to protect an innocent life from being ended by violence. While this seems clearly different to any reasonable person, Mr. Perriello seems not to grasp the gulf that separates them. 
  Overall, I found this piece painful to read and am appalled that any online magazine with an editorial staff would allow it to be published. And I am deeply saddened that NCR, whcih claims to be Catholic, did so.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shooting at the Family Research Council

There is another shooting, this time at the Family Research Council. My prayers go out to the injured and to the person who committed this crime. Yes, I pray for the shooter. Look at the messages that surround people in the Culture of Death - an unborn child is a 'parasite'; a person with an opinion that isn't "Progressive" is a 'bigot' and 'full of hate' (even if that opinion is shared by the majority of people); religious people are 'brainwashed' 'sheep' who want to oppress others; gay :marriage" is a civil rights issue; Catholic institutions not wanting to pay for birth control is a 'War on Women'. The Human Rights Campaign (a pro-homosexual group I will not link) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (a once-good group that is such no longer) had labelled the Family Research Council a 'Hate Group'. Why? Because they support real marriage. Again, holding a differing opinion automatically makes you 'evil'. As John Barth said 'everyone is necessarily the hero of their own life story'; I am certain the shooter will explain why what he did had to be done, how he had no choice but to do the right thing. You know, trying to kill innocent people. Is there a time and place for violence? Yes, Just War Theory tells us that there are times when justice requires violence. But this is always to be determined by proper authority, not by the individual. When I contacted HRC and the SPLC for comments they either directed me to their webpages or failed to respond in time for this posting.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Poor Reason to Return

As those of you who know me are aware, I am busy being a husband, father, and Catholic so I seldom post anywhere anymore. But, well, here I am.Why? because someone upset me, of course. Over in this article we see another fine example of what I call 'armchair bishop writing'. Now, I do not know Ms. Barnhardt personally but I have read some of her other writings and what I discovered is very interesting. For example, she attempts to reconcile Objectivism with Christianity via a rather... unique exegesis of the Gospel of John. [Note: As a theologian who is quite familiar with Objectivism I can state confidently that Objectivism cannot be reconciled with Catholicism] But back to the article! In it Ms. Barnhardt is rude, disrespectful, dismissive, and antagonistic towards Catholic bishops. Why? Manifestly it is because they dare to disagree with how she would do things if she were a bishop. She seems to assume that although she is not in any position of authority within the Church, has no ideas what instructions the bishops may have received from Rome, is not privy to the budgets of Catholic universities or the laws that govern Catholic hospitals she is absolutely correct in how she would act....if she were a bishop. Now, bishops have a largely thankless job; they must adhere to a budget that is largely beyond their control, since it is based upon charitable donations. They are responsible for not just the Catholic schools, hospitals, universities and other organizations within their diocese, they are also responsible for charity work, canon law, public relations, dealing with other faiths, dealing with the state, and dealing with the law. And, of course, they are also responsible for the souls of the Catholics they shepherd, as well! Further, the very nature of their job brings them under intense scrutiny from all sorts of people. In addition to the hatred of some outside groups they can be certain that almost every decision they make will upset some portion of their very own flock! Bishops, therefore, must be insightful men adept at understanding the true motivations of others and adroit at communicating complicated concepts to the world all while maintaining a tight focus on doing the proper and moral thing. Luckily, they are drawn from a cadre of men who deal with people at their best and worst - parish priests - so they already have a background in all of these areas. This makes Ms. Barnhardt's assumption (and it is no more) that the Bishops haven't already thought through the consequences of their various actions all the more prideful. She not only works from an ignorance of the constraints placed upon the bishops; she not only works from an ignorance of the goals of the various bishops, she also assumes that she is smarter and more insightful than each and every bishop. In the end, she is nothing more than an armchair quarterback who is absolutely certain that if the professionals on the field would just do what a lone, inexperienced amateur demanded they would never lose. What bothers me the most about Ms. Barnhardt and many of those who have reposted her little rant, even more than the rude and dismissive language she uses for the LEADERS OF THE CHURCH, is the lack of charity in her work - she and those who agree with her seem to busy calling people they don't know 'fools' and questioning their masculinity to express any charity. Is there a single call to pray for any bishop in her hateful little screed? Of course not. I remember, quite clearly, my pastor reading a letter from the bishops where they explained the issues of the HHS mandate clearly and simply and explained, also clearly and simply, that 'we cannot, we will not, comply'. Not only did that short phrase refute Ms. Barnhardt's most base accusations, it showed more dignity and, frankly, class than did her puerile rant. In these trying times if you worry about the responses of the bishops to outside threats, I ask you to pray for them.