Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Perhaps the Most Revolting Thing I've Ever Heard

"Abortion is a blessing," says Katherine Ragsdale, newly-elected Dean of the Episcopal Dvinity School at Cambridge in Massachusetts. She goes on:

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.
Stomach turning yet? Read more here.

Can we please stop bickering over ND and get our eyes back on the ball here, folks. We are wrestling with principalities and powers, here. Evil is good.

Hat-tip to MCJ.

Vatican Official: US Catholics Treating Barack Obama Like La Sapienza Treated Pope Benedict XVI

In hopes this might at least encourage people to take a step back and do some deep breathing, if not soul searching regarding their treatment of ND's Fr. Jenkins:

I spoke with a high-ranking Vatican official who told me that as far as he can tell, US Catholics are treating the President like the folks at La Sapienza treated Pope Benedict awhile back.

I'm just reporting.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Cardinal George Defends Conscience Rights

This one slipped under the radar:

Maybe make a little more noise next time you do something like this?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interesing blog, interesting take...

The Creative Minority Report is a blog I ought to add to the roll. There is an interesting piece there about the bishop of Madison, WI's remarks regarding the ND controversy.

The short version of my take on the controversy is: if the Pope can make Nicholas Sarkozy an honorary Canon of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John Lateran, then Barack Obama can speak at ND (thanks to CC for the succint formulation).

Friday, March 27, 2009

7QT at the PQ

This week's Seven Quick Takes are up at the Puella Quadragesimalis. Go check 'em out, and enjoy the cartoon at the top of the page.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My friend, Clayton Emmer, blogs at The Weight of Glory, and has an excellent take on the President's 2006 Call to Renewal keynote address. Go read it.

Like I said, I think Clayton does a bang-up job of things.

There are a few points on which I would have been somewhat more precise, or on which I would have a slightly different, though by no means incompatible take.

The President's text is bulleted, and Clayton's comments are in [bold brackets], while mine are in LD Blue:

  • Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. [This is a legitimate concern.] Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. I would take issue with the ambiguity of this statement. We are, whatever religion our fellows practice, "[A] new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Participation in this common conviction, in dedication to which is forged the soul of the nation, does not require a real assent to the data of faith. Nevertheless, the notion that all men are created equal is unthinkable - I mean this in a strict, technical sense - outside the cultural and institutional context that is explicitly Christian. So, the president's discussion actually begs the question. It presumes that what we might call the cultural commitments of a society desirous of securing ordered liberty to itself and its posterity are not necessarily those, which as a matter of historical fact did give rise to the first, and arguably only nation on Earth to be successful in such an experiment.
  • This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. [This is a very good point. Many religious groups in this country could stand to look critically at their initiatives in this light. I remember going to the March for Life a few years ago and seeing "God is Pro-Life" buttons everywhere.] I agree with the President's understanding of the requirements of democracy. I agree therefore with his explicit discussion of abortion, insofar as the negative aspects of it are concerned. I am not entirely convinced that a legislator in, e.g., Mississippi, need explicitly consider the possible objections of, e.g., a Buddhist, in his formulation of his arguments in favor of a legislative ban on abortion. The point is that legislators build consensus among themselves, and enact laws that represent that consensus. In Roe, the Supreme Court said a state legislature is not competent to regulate abortion. If a legislature is not competent to impose its consensus regarding an act that may be directly destructive of a human life, then a fortiori, it is not competent to set speed limits or a legal drinking age. In sum, what appears to be the expression of a desire to see our public discourse conducted reasonably, actually ends up setting the bar too high, as it were.
  • Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. [Impossible merely on the basis of human resources, perhaps. But not de facto impossible.] If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. This is a false dichotomy. The art of politics is compromise, but the essence of politics is the common good, and this is knowable. Indeed, at some fundamental level, the continued existence of a given political society requires that efforts at compromise be put aside. We may disagree over where that point lies, or whether it has been reached. We cannot, however, deny that it exists. Ask Neville Chaimberlain.

Reflections on ND's Invitation to President Obama

The reaction to the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite the President of the United States to speak at their May 17th Commencement ceremony has seen a number of more or less important issues raised for public debate. Some of this has been good and healthy. Some of it has not.

Some of the issues raised in the wake of the decision are more important than others, and some of the more important ones are very important, indeed.

The decision to invite the President of the United States to speak at the Commencement events was, however, and remains in itself, entirely unexceptionable.

If I were the president of Our Lady's university, I would not have issued the invitation. That I or anyone else would have done differently in his position is in no wise - absolutely no wise - a criticism even of the opportunity of ND's decision to issue the invitiation; much less is it a moral indictment of the decision or of the person - real and juridical - who made it.

The President of the United States is both Head of State and Head of Government. As Chief of State, the President's presence at and participation in an important event in the life of an institution cannot but be an honor for it, for any institution, including a leading Catholic institution of higher learning, and even when the certain of the policies and legislative agenda of the President as chief of government are incompatible with the ethos of the institution.

So much for the propriety of the invitation, sic et simpliciter.

If things had been left at that, i.e. a simple invitation, such as the University issued to presidents Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush and G.W. Bush, then perhaps the issue would not have erupted so violently.

Nine presidents (John Kennedy received his as Senator in 1950) have received honorary degrees, and it seems that the six who delivered Commencement addresses received their degrees as part of Commencement exercises.

On this reading, then, to withold the degree would have been very bad form, indeed.

The Local Ordinary, Bishop D'Arcy, has decided not to attend ND's Commencement ceremony, the first Commencement in 25 years that he will miss.

Bishop D'Arcy has issued a statmeent explaining his decision.

The bishop's statement is excellent, and puts just the right touch on things: he says, in essence, that his decision not to attend is meant neither as an insult to the President, nor as a criticism of the University's decision to invite him (some bloggers for whom I have great respect have suggested that the Bishop D'Arcy implied criticism in inviting Fr. Jenkins, CSC, to consider whether he chose prestige over truth - I do not pretend to know the mind of the bishop, but I do know enough about his care and thoughtfulness to conclude that his letter need not be read as implicitly critical - it may be simply and plainly pastoral - university presidents are under a perpetual temptation to precisely the thing about which +D'Arcy invites the university to reflect prayerfully), but as a clear sign of the Church's opposition to certain political and legislative goals of the nation's Chief Executive.

Bishop D'Arcy says he has spoken with and encouraged Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon to accept the Laetare medal, and to use the occasion to teach. This shows us not only what Thomas Peters has already noted, i.e. that the bishop is operating an important distinction between his attendance and the ambassador's; it also shows us that Bishop D'Arcy does not believe the University to be morally compromised. If it were, he could not conscientiously encourage Ambassador Glendon to participate.

I applaud Bishop D'Arcy's decision, and I support the movement for a prayer vigil on Commencement Day. It ought to be prayerful, reverent (mostly silent and candle-lit) witness to the truths we can know about the human person through the right use of our reason, truths perfectly revealed and realized in the One, who is the Word of God in human flesh.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Updates, and good news

I'll have some considerations on the ND commencement affair tomorrow - I need to digest and incorporate +D'arcy's remarks.

Also tomorrow, Clayton shall have what I promised him.

I had news today that my PhD project has been approved and the defense will be slated for sometime in the Fall Semester.

If you haven't yet done so, go read PQ's latest.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I have a bug

I need to fight this off, as I am working through the weekend. That is why I am not blogging. I'll be back soon.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shout out to the PQ!

The Puella Quadragesimalis has been giving us good things to ponder since Lent began, especially her 7 Quick Takes, published each Friday. They combine a refreshing candor and practical sense of self-deprecation with unabashed and at the same time unprepossessing erudition. I salute her, and look forward to this Friday's list.

PBXVI in Africa - some brief reflections

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has anticipated a few of my own sentiments - click here to read them.

In addition to his considerations, I would offer three further reflections:

  1. The Pope really does believe in the human and spiritual potential of Africa and of the African peoples. He is one of the very few world leaders who does.
  2. The Pope understands better than perhaps anyone else on the face of the planet how the spiritual crisis of the West is involved in and continues to contribute to Africa's woes.
  3. The Pope recognizes that what Africa needs is, in a word, the Gospel. The Gospel challenges, transforms and perfects the cultures of the peoples that receive it. If Africa is to meet the social, political and economic challenges posed by an imbalanced involvement in and disordered (or at least misguided) desire for the worst elements of Western culture - the slop of a civilization that has sold its soul - then it needs the Gospel - the very thing the West is in danger of losing entirely.
I'll have more on this later, though I will likely put what I have into a new post, rahter than update this one.

J-Com of Ct. Legislature: haywire

First, the good news: raised bill Ct. 1138, a piece of proposed legislation the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Andrew McDonald styled "An Act Concerning Death With Dignity" has been withdrawn and will not come up again this session.

Now, we have to deal with the second bill to alter existing marriage legislation in the Constitution State. Senate Bill 899 would not only implement Sheridan, it would classify as unlawful discrimination, e.g. the teaching of traditional sexual morality in schools. It also does the following:

(1) The best interests of a child are promoted by having persons in the child's life who manifest a deep concern for the child's growth and development;
(2) The best interests of a child are promoted when a child has as many persons loving and caring for the child as possible; and
(3) The best interests of a child are promoted when the child is part of a loving, supportive and stable family, whether that family is a nuclear, extended, split, blended, single parent, adoptive or foster family.

I thought you gentle readers should see these last for yourselves.

Maybe I'll come back to this with a fulsomely reasoned, dispassionately reasonable response when I am in a better frame of mind.


What's in a Name?

Did you folks think I called this blog "The Lazy Disciple" to be cutesy?

Seriously, the past week has been ferocious,a nd the week in course will only get more hectic.

I am going to be posting on a few different things during the day today, however:

  1. Two more raised bills in Ct. dealing with marriage and euthanasia;
  2. A brief reflection on PBXVI's Voyage to Africa;
  3. A reflection on a topic about which I have taken some heat in some circles

So, keep checking in, and again, thanks for the patience.


LD broke the 1'000-hit mark sometime late last week. That's 1'000 unique hits since I installed the counter in late January (I think). Thanks to everyone who comes by.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Under Control of CDF

The Italian daily Il Foglio Generale is reporting on Pope Benedict XVI's surprise letter to the world's bishops re. the SSPX.

Check Rorate for updates.

Obama Ends Executive Requirement for Funding Alternative Stem Cell Research Projects

Earlier this week, the President of the United States, Barack Obama rescinded a long-standing executive order that limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to lines existing in 2001.

Wesley J. Smith is reporting Obama also rescinded another Executive Order, #13435, which required federal funding for non-embryonic stem cell research projects. Read about it on the First Things Blog.

Hat tip to Clayton.
Bishop Lori of Bridgeport spoke to Vatican Radio about the now defunct bill threatening the liberty of the Church in the State. Click here for link.

The rally scheduled for today at the capital is also scheduled to go ahead. Click here for more from Bishop Lori on Vatican Radio.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breaking News: Hearing Postponed, 1098 Tabled!

This Just In from the Connecticut GA:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lawrence B. Cook / (860) 240-8609
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 David Bednarz / (860) 240-8503

Statement of Judiciary Committee Co-Chairmen Senator Andrew J. McDonald (D-Stamford) and Representative Mike Lawlor (D-East Haven) regarding the request by proponents to cancel Wednesday’s public hearing:

“For reasons that are unclear, Connecticut has had generations-old laws on the books singling out particular religions and treating them differently from other religions in our statutes. That doesn't seem right. In fact, many of our existing corporate laws dealing with particular religious groups appear to us to be unconstitutional under the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If that is correct, any changes to that law would likely also be unconstitutional.

“With that in mind, it would serve no useful purpose to have a conversation about changing the laws that govern existing Roman Catholic corporations until we know if any of these existing laws are constitutional. At the request of the proponents who are advocating this legislation, we have decided to cancel the public hearing for tomorrow, table any further consideration of this bill for the duration of this session, and ask the Attorney General his opinion regarding the constitutionality of the existing law that sets different rules for five named separate religions.

“We think it would be more appropriate to invite representatives from all religious denominations around the state together with legal scholars on this topic to participate in a forum regarding the current law. Such a conversation would be more appropriate to have when the legislature is not in session and other more important issues, such as the current fiscal crisis, are resolved. We intend to do that once we
have the benefit of the Attorney General's opinion.

“In the meantime, we think it would be most beneficial if the proponents who requested these changes and church officials meet together privately to see if they can come to a resolution on their own. Open and honest communication between these two groups could only help. For our part, we intend to reach out to representatives of the Catholic Conference and continue the discussion that began in 2008 on this issue. We hope they will agree to meet with us.”

Today Covers Fight for Religious Liberty in Ct.

Today Show reports on fight against Ct. 1098:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ct. Lawmaker Defends the Liberty of the Church

This is from my friend and Fairfield Prep classmate, Jason Perillo, who is a Ct. representative. Write him and let him know how greatly you appreciate his work.

“Why the legislative majority of the State of Connecticut think it’s ok to dictate how the Catholic Church must govern itself is beyond comprehension. The legislature has no right to interfere in the structure of the Church and though this bill is directed only at the Catholic Church today, it could be forced on other denominations in the future. This is, at best, unconstitutional. At worst, it’s an underhanded attempt to silence the Catholic Church. The state has no business controlling religion.”

Jason Perillo (R-113)

State Representative

113th District

Representing the residents of the City of Shelton

Get the word out, folks!


From the Bridgeport diocese website (check there often):

The public hearing will be held at 12:00 noon in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building of the State Capitol in Hartford.
Please note: it is imperative that you arrive early.
Parking is extremely limited, so coming by bus is the best option.
Buses will leave Fairfield County locations (to be announced) by 8:30 a.m.and will leave Hartford around 3:30 p.m.
However, the hearing could go on for several hours, and well into the evening. Please be prepared for a long day.

Monday Roundup

I have been listening to a series of lectures and discussions given at the Act One Storytelling Symposium, which I found via The Weight of Glory. Among the participants are Peter Kreeft and Bobette Buster. Good food for thought, and available for free download.

The Mulier Fortis is musing about things Lenten and fishy. She also links to Fr. Longenecker, who has his own considerations on the Friday abstinence. The Mulier does not mention it, and Fr. Longenecker gets to it after listing three or four other reasons for the Friday abstinence, but he does get there - I mean to what has always seemed to me to be the primary reason for the Friday abstinence - the official, corporate penance of the whole Church, a sacrifice offered in reparation for the world's sin. Go read their excellent blogs, and their posts about fasting and abstinence, in which they both offer some helpful reminders.

We'll be monitoring the Ct. 1098/2009 anti-Catholic power grab. Check that post and the Bridgeport Diocese website for updates throughout the day and the week. Go there now, as a matter of fact, and see video of Bishop Lori discussing the bill with some of the faithful. There is also an updated list of J.-Com. members' contact info., and a letter from the Bridgeport Diocese's legal counsel to the J.-Com. There are also Spanish-language versions of the texts. If this bill gets out of committee, I'll eat my hat. If it passes, the bishop ought to anathematize any Catholic who attempts to form a diocesan or parish corporation.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Church Liberty Under Attack in Connecticut

The Bishop of Bridgeport, Ct., William Lori was in Rome for one day this week, and I was wondering what brought him here. Now I believe I may have an answer (hat tip to the Papist):

From the Bridgeport Diocese:

This past Thursday, March 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, which is chaired by Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven, introduced a bill that directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.

This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes. This is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and the Bishop would be effectively excluded.

This bill, moreover, is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.

The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.

The Pastors of our Diocese are doing an exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners.

For the State Legislature — which has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year — to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense. The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever.

We reject this irrational, unlawful, and bigoted bill that jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church.

We urge you to call and e-mail Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor:

Senator Andrew McDonald:
Capitol phone: (800) 842-1420; Home phone: (203) 348-7439
E-mail: McDonald@senatedems.ct.gov

Representative Michael Lawlor:
Capitol phone: (800) 842-8267; Home phone: (203) 469-9725
E-mail: MLawlor99@juno.com

We also ask you to come to Hartford this Wednesday, March 11, to be present at the public hearing. Details on bus transportation will be available on Monday. If you would like to attend, contact your Pastor.

It is up to us to stop this unbridled abuse of governmental power.

It is time for us to defend our First Amendment rights.

It is time for us to defend our Church!

Link to the Bill (1098/2009)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Problem(s) with Douglas Kmeic's Latest

Let me preface this by saying that I agree with Douglas Kmeic when he says that it is possible for a Catholic to support a pro-abortion politician in good conscience, even one as radically pro-abortion as the current President of the United States.

I also think that the Catholics who voted for Obama were gravely mistaken, that they made the wrong decision, based on a faulty moral calculation, and that their failure is likely to aggravate the unspeakable moral calamity and human catastrophe of legal abortion in the United States.

There is a difference between being making a mistake in prudential judgment - even an appallingly grave one - and commiting a mortal sin.

I am firmly convicted of the wrongness and wrong-headedness of the rationale behind a faithful Catholic's casting of his ballot for Obama, but I do not think Catholics who voted for Obama are necessarily going to hell for it.

That said, I move to criticize Prof. Kmeic's recent remarks in Time magazine.

The basic premise of his argument is improbable, indeed incredible. The Pepperdine professor argues that "the Vatican" has changed its position vis a vìs the tension between Catholic judges' moral responsibilities as human beings and citizens, and their responsibility faithfully and correctly to execute the duties of their office. "The Vatican" has not spoken to this specific point in a binding manner, and so cannot change what it never had, i.e. an official, binding position on the matter. Even supposing "the Vatican" should have such a position, it is beynd cavil to suggest they would make it known by applying it, unannounced, in a press release.

To show that the Vatican has changed its position, the professor quotes from a 2001 First Things article by Justice Scalia, thus raising the question as to when, precisely, Justice Scalia's personal opinions became an acceptable proxy for, or evidence of, or grounds for inference regarding real or supposed official positions of "the Vatican."

Prof. Kmeic seizes on the term, "jurists", arguing that, perhaps, the authors of the English translation of the release did not know that the term refers to judges. This line is not only false in fact - "jursits" refers to legal professionals at the bar and on the bench, and I cannot bring myself to believe that a lawyer and law professor does not know this - it also tends to defeat, or at least severely weaken his earlier argument: professor Kmeic would now ask us to believe that an inaccurate translation of a press release effected a change in official Vatican policy, praeter intentionem legislatoris.

If this were not enough, let us for a moment suppose that there were nothing exceptionable and everything credible in prof. Kmeic's expressed understanding of the term and the process by which it came to appear in the English translation. Now, let us revisit the operative section of the press release:

His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.

This language in no way requires Catholic judges to abandon restraint and embrace activism from the bench. Enjoining all Catholics and especially legislators, jurists, etc., "[T]o work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a system of laws, etc.," simply repeats what the Church has always taught. Essentially, while Justice Scalia is correct in saying that judges bear no moral responsibility fo the laws that society has failed to enact, it were also correct to say that judges are citizens and therefore members of society.

Then, since judging the law is different from creating a system of laws, the entire line of argument is utterly fatuous, anyway. There are dozens of ways in which people who are judges may help in achieving the latter, without misusing their power to do the former.

Since these things are so, there is no other word, but, "idiocy" with which I might faithfully and honestly describe my estimation of Prof. Kmeic's thesis, no other word but "imbecilic" to convey my consideration for his arguments therein presented as supports for his thesis.

I wish to make it very clear that I have chosen my terms with scientific exactness, and in a spirit utterly devoid of polemical intent: the idiotes is the private man, the one unfit for or incapable of participation in public life; the imbecile is one without power, force, strength, and lacking in all energy. I do not think that prof. Kmeic is an idiot or an imbecile: I mean only to say that his Time remarks are utterly devoid of persuasive power and entirely unworthy of public consideration.

Amy Welborn Has A New Blog

It is called via media.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Spoudaioi or Douloi?

No people may long remain free if they do not enjoy the respect of other peoples; no people can hope to have other peoples' respect, so long as they do not respect themselves; so long as a people remain in ignorance, they shall be neither capable nor worthy of self-respect.

The question is one of education: either we shall teach our children to be free, or failing in that enterprise, condemn them first to ignominy and then to slavery.

Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, adn grammar-schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, and good humor, and all social affections and generous sentiments, among the people.

From the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, principally drafted by John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

I Love my Country

I do. I think that, after the Catholic Church, the United States of America is the greatest force for good in the world.

I, too, expect to meet God as an American.

There, I said it.

You see, I stumbled upon this site, and downloaded a series of the speeches, starting with Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor address to Congress, through Gen. MacArthur's farewell speech, to Reagan's 40th anniversary of D-Day remarks and his Brandenburg Gate Address.

Then I downloaded Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech to the civil rights marchers on the mall in August, 1963, and right after that I listened to Bobby Kennedy's extemporaneous remarks to the gathered crowd in Indianapolis, when he told them Dr. King had been murdered.

I know the "I Have a Dream" speech by heart, and have heard it upward of a thousand times. I am not in the least ashamed to say that I was already weeping at the "vaults of opportunity".

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. - Attr. Alexis de Tocqueville

My thoughts are tending in this direction, and there will be more.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Can a Constitutional Amendment be Unconstitutional?

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California's constitutional amendment (you read that correctly) has reached the California Supreme Court.

Apparently, the challenge is based on a claim to the effect that Prop 8 introduced a substantive change to the California constitution and therefore needed to be introduced by the legislature.

I have never lived in California and I do not know the law on the matter, so I am going to enlist the aid of some folks on this one.

Just a hunch: was there no legislative oversight in the process of getting the initiative placed?

This whole mess has raised a number of questions that go to the heart of what it means to live in a republic of laws, under a constitution; it makes me wonder what some folks think government by consent is.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

RIP Paul Harvey 1918-2009

The great radio legend, Paul Harvey has gone to his reward. For 5 generations of American radio listeners, Paul Harvey's ability to see the perfect reflected in the good, and love it with us, to talk good moral sense without moralizing, and to tell it like it is in a way that always raised and cheered us (to borrow Emerson's depiction of the action of the hero) was something to which we looked forward as to the much-needed reminder that it brought every time: life is rarely easy, and often seems wrong, but it is always good - and you know it deep down, and can even see it if you can see through to its end.

Now he has the rest of the story.

Paul Harvey loved his late wife, Lynne, and their son, Paul jr., by whom he is survived. They reciprocated his devotion.

He was the kind of radio broadcaster I would like to be.

Rest In Peace, Paul Harvey.

The Hard Thing about Thinking

Some points that came up in a recent correspondence (I am the writer):

  • You want some straight answers and unambiguous teaching from the bishops, you say. I want the same thing. Straight and unambiguous, however, does not necessarily mean simple and penetrable to the uninstructed. Most of the practical aspects, and a good deal (the best part) of the theoretical/speculative aspects of the sacred sciences grew out of the act and process of thinking about real-life controversies. In this day and age, awareness of the practical usefulness of the sacred sciences is virtually non-existent among the laity; among the bishops, even among those who are aware of the practical usefulness of the sacred sciences, there is little knowledge of how to use the principles of moral inquiry informed by faith to gain an understanding of a given situation that would allow the bishop to make a straight, unambiguous statement regarding it.

  • Per (1), bishops have to be careful they do not get it wrong, because this is worse than not saying anything at all - it erodes their credibility in general and makes them look foolish in the eyes of the faithful. Suppose Bp. ______ in the present case decides to excommunicate Sen. ______, and suppose Sen. ______ does not deserve excommunication - maybe he hasn't even done anything wrong. In that case, you will agree that justice were not served (unless you are also going to say that meting out undeserved punishments is something a bishop ought to do).

  • Legislators (and public persons generally) have an extremely complex job to do, and very often, they are faced with impossible situations. I think of St. Thomas More, who, when confronted with his son-in-law's judgment, "It [the letter to Rome asking for a decree of nullity] has been done badly," responded, "Have you not considered that what has been done badly might have been done worse if it had been done by others?" Lawmakers, especially, have to walk a thin and often barely visible line between preserving their effectiveness - basically their ability to work with other lawmakers, their duties to their constituents, and the dictates of their conscience. It is a terribly risky business to go judging a lawmaker's progress along that line without being able to see the line - and you can only see the line from up close. From afar, what looks like a flailing misstep might have been the only move that would keep the jumper on the line.

Now, reader, please pause a moment and pray for your bishop and your elected representatives.

A Sunday filled with blessings for all.