Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Must Catholics Withdraw from Public life?

Political Withdrawal?PrintE-mail
By James V. Schall, S.J.   

Recently, a Catholic healthcare official, when asked about the new Obama plans, remarked that we are now preparing to withdraw altogether from this business as incompatible with our faith.
This assessment of what these plans entail recalled two things in political philosophy. The Epicureans held that the good man had to withdraw from turbulent politics to live a quiet life. Epicurus saw the polity as an impediment to human perfection, not its natural context as in Aristotle.
Secondly, in Herbert Deane’s 1956 book on Augustine, we read: “Nowhere in the Gospels or in the Apostolic teachings is it ever suggested that Christians have any obligation to participate in the operation of the political system or that the activities of the state have any real relevance to the conduct of members of the Church or to their overriding concern – salvation and participation in the kingdom of God.” Such a passage seems shocking to generations of Catholics exhorted to “participate” in politics, as if that is their main task in this or future life.
Augustine considers the same problem: What to do with his promising political career? As a teacher preparing students for rhetoric and law, he trained them for such worthless projects as public affairs, which were dangerous to man in almost every way. 
In the famous scene in Book 8 of the Confessions, Augustine encounters theLife of Anthony, the African monk. Augustine sees that he must withdraw from involvement in public life. He cites Ponticianus who, in the city of Treves, on reading this Life of Anthon, asked himself:  “What do we hope to gain by all the efforts we make? What are we looking for? What is our purpose in serving the State? Can we hope for anything better at Court than to be the Emperor’s friends?” 
Saint Antony of the Desert (251-356)
This “being friends of the Emperor” looms mightily in the reasoning of contemporary Catholics who accept Obama’s thinking about the scope of state power. Suddenly, in the light of a state that now demands of its employees the price of their conscience and reason, such classic withdrawal questions again become pertinent to the well being of our souls. 
In Saint Francis of Assisi, Chesterton recalled this same Anthony and the monks of the Egyptian desert. The culture of the late Roman Empire was so distorted and corrupt, Chesterton thought, that one could no longer involve himself in it. The only alternative was to withdraw. In the following centuries, the Christian soul of man would be purified so that it could again see nature and man as God intended.
Various Catholic politicians, clerics, academics, and critics have tried to justify the substance of the Obama move to control the whole public order. It makes sense that withdrawal from politics may be in order. If doctors and nurses must, at the price of professional recognition, participate in abortions and all that goes with it, not to enter such professions at the risk one’s soul becomes rational. If Obama is reelected, such issues will immediately confront most good people, not just Catholics, but primarily them as they are the ones most clearly targeted.
The president apparently thinks that all wealth is produced by the state. The wealth of the citizens, thus, should pass through state hands to be redistributed to the citizens as a benefaction of the state. The state defines “the good” of the citizen in education, welfare, health, and well-being. 
The First Amendment no longer functions as a restriction to the state. Religion contributes to the state only in so far as it assists in carrying out state policies. If it claims exemption, it is imposing its values on the freedom of the state to define the good. 
No higher law exists by which we define what the state is. In the Catholic view, the current issues of health care, abortion, sterilization, euthanasia, fetal experimentation, and gay marriage are not primarily religious questions. The basic arguments about what these practices imply are from reason. 
Catholicism gets into the controversies as one of the last major voices of reason in the public order. Christian revelation is addressed to a reason that is itself intelligible. It does not tell reason what it is, though it does insist that reason be reasonable. 
The president seeks to define what constitutes religion. Those Catholics and other religious people who agree with him have implicitly accepted what this state demands of them. Their support basically entails a rejection of that natural reason found in the order of things. 
In this context, the victory of the Obama approach to public life means that reasonable and believing Catholics and other citizens will have little choice but to withdraw from the public life of a country that enforces these policies. Such choices, no more and no less, are what is at stake in these controversies.

James V. Schall, S.J., a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent book is The Mind That Is Catholic.

© 2012 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to:info@frinstitute.org
Retrieved February 21, 2012 from http://www.thecatholicthing.org/
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE          www.nationalreview.com           PRINT
The recent Health and Human Services mandate and the ensuing debate appear to have pitted religious-liberty claims against women’s health. But because religious leaders (rightly) focused on the need for a religious exemption, it may appear to some observers that they are unable to articulate a reasoned and weighty response to the administration’s claim that contraceptives are essential to women’s health and well-being.

The Obama administration is wrong on this score as well, and the substantive case needs to be made: The contraceptive revolution has failed to be the unmitigated boon to women or to society that it was hyped up to be.

For the past 50 years, the Pill has demonstrably assisted women — especially college-educated, career-minded women — in the timing of pregnancies and the delay of marriage. But the Pill also ushered in an era of unprecedented (and, as things turned out, unwarranted) confidence that sex could be pursued without risk — most notably, outside of long-term committed relationships.

The Pill, together with abortion as backup, appeared to provide full insurance against pregnancy risks. But as economists well know, full insurance tends to induce greater risk-taking: As people perceive sex to be safer, they pursue more of it. This applies especially to people who would otherwise be most vulnerable to the risks of unwanted pregnancy: the young, the unmarried, and those unable to care for a child. While a tight causal argument is difficult to make, correlations alone do not augur in favor of the Pill:

The rapidly increasing sexual activity of the Pill era correlates with a staggering increase in non-marital births — less than 5 percent of births in 1960 were to unmarried mothers, compared with roughly 40 percent today. A counterintuitive result, perhaps, but a fairly human one nonetheless.

And this points to an unresolved difficulty with the contraceptive revolution, which was supposed to serve women above all: Women on the whole disproportionately bear the burden of the new sexual regime. They are expected to dose themselves with a Group 1 carcinogen for approximately two-thirds of their fertile years. They sustain greater emotional costs from casual sex. They are at greater risk of contracting STDs and disproportionately suffer from their long-term consequences, such as cervical cancer and fertility loss.And even after 50 years with the Pill, as many as half of all pregnancies are still unintended. Women, not men, must make the heart-wrenching choice between abortion, reckoned a tragic outcome even by its supporters, and bearing a child with little to no paternal support. After all, since children were negotiated out of the bargain by the availability of contraception and abortion, men have secured a strong rationale to simply ignore or reject pregnancies that result from uncommitted sexual relations. Nobel-laureate economist George Akerlof predicted nearly two decades ago that this would lead directly to the feminization of poverty, as it ruefully has.

These traumas take their toll. A stunning paper by leading labor economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers documented recently that women’s self-reported happiness has declined both overall, and relative to that of men, since the early 1970s. Where women used to report higher happiness than men, they now report less. Stevenson and Wolfers ask, “Did men garner a disproportionate share of the benefits of the women’s movement?” Good question indeed. One may well wonder if the bargain advocated by the feminist elites has made much sense in the end: Were gains for elite women purchased with the currency of a new sexual ethic that has damaged women more generally?

Contrary to a popular misconception, the alternative to the contraceptive revolution is not to roll back the clock on women’s advancement, and certainly not to promote a physically and emotionally taxing outcome in which women have as many children as biologically possible. Rather, the alternative to contraception is to respect biological asymmetry, heal the wound between the sexes, and expect more from men.

The HHS mandate in historical perspective
Michael Pakaluk
Posted: 2/17/2012

The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception is intrinsically wrong, and that its wrongness is a matter of ordinary morality--"natural law"--which in principle a reasonable person ought to see, like the wrongness of theft, adultery, or murder.

So, although the HHS mandate does indeed violate religious freedom, more basically it is an attack on conscience. It is the state compelling citizens to endorse and cooperate with something which is intrinsically wrong.

Analytically, then, the mandate is similar to a commanding officer who tells a soldier to commit an unjust action on the battlefield. If the soldier were to refuse to obey, as we all know he should, his defense would properly appeal in the first instance, not to his religious liberty, but rather to his conscience.

It is important for Catholics to appreciate that from an historical perspective the Catholic Church's teaching is not the anomaly. The common, universal view of all responsible institutions in the West, until 1930, was exactly that contraception is wrong as a matter of ordinary morality. In that year, however, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops created an uproar by tentatively suggesting that some married couples might, in some limited circumstances, use contraception without doing wrong.

To see how anomalous the Lambeth view was in the context, one only need turn to the pages of the Washington Post, which in an editorial and article in 1931 gave its views on a follow up report by a committee of the Federal Council of Churches, which had reached a conclusion similar to Lambeth's.

"The Committee's report," the Post editorialized, "if carried into effect would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution, by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality." (Did Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, "Humanae Vitae," write anything stronger than this?) Also, an article in the Post quoted a Dr. Walter A. Maier, of the Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, a Lutheran institution, who said that contraception "is one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations, representing a twentieth century renewal of pagan bankruptcy."

Dr. Maier's well-informed opinion was simply the common view among Americans at the time. The Catholic Church is singular in being the only major institution which since then has preserved its moral sense.

The natural law never goes away. It niggles away in the back of one's mind or even at the edges of a society which has rejected it. I cannot tell you how many times after giving a talk on contraception some woman late in years has approached me and whispered in confidence, "I never felt comfortable, I always knew there was something wrong, when my husband and I decided to stop having children." Similarly, the uproar over the HHS mandate goes far beyond any reaction that could be predicted to an infringement, say, upon a religious dietary law -- which confirms indirectly that we are indeed dealing with a matter of "natural law."

So the first thing that Catholics need to appreciate is that we are living in topsy-turvy times, when the Catholic Church has remained consistent, while many other major institutions of our society--as they have as regards abortion and marriage--have become unbalanced and even inhuman. Catholics ought to love their Church more for this, and practice their faith with greater fervor and unswerving devotion. Dissenters ought to be recognized for the quislings that they are.

But the second thing Catholics need to recognize is how quickly things have deteriorated. As late as 1965, the moral sense that contraception is wrong was still affirmed by many American institutions and even echoed faintly in our laws. But in that year, in Griswold, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional -- not simply unwise or unwarranted -- to proscribe the sale of contraceptives to married couples, on the grounds, in essence, that marriage was a sacred institution prior to the state, which had a right to "privacy" into which the state could not intrude.

Only six years later, in Eisenstadt, this "right to privacy" was extended by the Court to individuals who wanted contraceptives for relations with other individuals--the Court's imprimatur on the sexual revolution. Two years after that, the Court imposed abortion on demand, so that babies had to pay the price for their parents' lack of responsibility.

Note the main contours of the change. As no society can endorse relativism as a public policy, always some definite view must in practice be governing. Before 1930, the governing view, enshrined in public policy, was that sex and procreation are intrinsically related, and that therefore sex should be confined to marriage. After 1965, public policy allowed and protected the detachment of sex from procreation, as a private option, for couples who wished to use contraception.

But the public policy now implicit in the HHS mandate is that sex and procreation are intrinsically unrelated, and that the linking of sex and procreation is merely a private option, which some couples may choose to undertake if they wish.

If the current HHS mandate prevails, other coercive mandates based on the same governing view are sure to follow quickly, such as that medical insurance will reimburse for the expense of only one or two births: and those couples who for special "religious" reasons want to have more children will have to pay out of pocket. Abortions and, predictably, euthanasia will of course always be fully covered.

Michael Pakaluk is a Professor of Philosophy and Chairman at Ave Maria University.

Retrieved February 21, 2012 from TheBostonPilot.com, http://www.thebostonpilot.com/articleprint.asp?ID=14338

"We Must Not Remain Silent Before Evil" - Lent 2012


"We Must Not Remain Silent Before Evil"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for Lent 2012. The message is dated Nov. 3 and was released today.
Ash Wednesday falls this year on Feb. 22.
* * *
"Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works"
(Heb 10:24)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favourable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.
This year I would like to propose a few thoughts in the light of a brief biblical passage drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works". These words are part of a passage in which the sacred author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. Embracing Christ bears fruit in a life structured by the three theological virtues: it means approaching the Lord "sincere in heart and filled with faith" (v. 22), keeping firm "in the hope we profess" (v. 23) and ever mindful of living a life of "love and good works" (v. 24) together with our brothers and sisters. The author states that to sustain this life shaped by the Gospel it is important to participate in the liturgy and community prayer, mindful of the eschatological goal of full communion in God (v. 25). Here I would like to reflect on verse 24, which offers a succinct, valuable and ever timely teaching on the three aspects of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness.
1. "Let us be concerned for each other": responsibility towards our brothers and sisters.
This first aspect is an invitation to be "concerned": the Greek verb used here is katanoein, which means to scrutinize, to be attentive, to observe carefully and take stock of something. We come across this word in the Gospel when Jesus invites the disciples to "think of" the ravens that, without striving, are at the centre of the solicitous and caring Divine Providence (cf. Lk 12:24), and to "observe" the plank in our own eye before looking at the splinter in that of our brother (cf. Lk 6:41). In another verse of the Letter to the Hebrews, we find the encouragement to "turn your minds to Jesus" (3:1), the Apostle and High Priest of our faith. So the verb which introduces our exhortation tells us to look at others, first of all at Jesus, to be concerned for one another, and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters. All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite: an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for "privacy". Today too, the Lord’s voice summons all of us to be concerned for one another. Even today God asks us to be "guardians" of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others. The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI stated that the world today is suffering above all from a lack of brotherhood: "Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations" (Populorum Progressio, 66).
Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual. Contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, yet there is a real need to reaffirm that good does exist and will prevail, because God is "generous and acts generously" (Ps 119:68). The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Responsibility towards others thus means desiring and working for the good of others, in the hope that they too will become receptive to goodness and its demands. Concern for others means being aware of their needs. Sacred Scripture warns us of the danger that our hearts can become hardened by a sort of "spiritual anesthesia" which numbs us to the suffering of others. The Evangelist Luke relates two of Jesus’ parables by way of example. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite "pass by", indifferent to the presence of the man stripped and beaten by the robbers (cf.Lk 10:30-32). In that of Dives and Lazarus, the rich man is heedless of the poverty of Lazarus, who is starving to death at his very door (cf. Lk 16:19). Both parables show examples of the opposite of "being concerned", of looking upon others with love and compassion. What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of "showing mercy" towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. "The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it" (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of "those who mourn" (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.
"Being concerned for each other" also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten:fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: "Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more" (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction - elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included "admonishing sinners" among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: "If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way" (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even "the upright falls seven times" (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.
2. "Being concerned for each other": the gift of reciprocity.
This "custody" of others is in contrast to a mentality that, by reducing life exclusively to its earthly dimension, fails to see it in an eschatological perspective and accepts any moral choice in the name of personal freedom. A society like ours can become blind to physical sufferings and to the spiritual and moral demands of life. This must not be the case in the Christian community! The Apostle Paul encourages us to seek "the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another" (Rom 14:19) for our neighbour’s good, "so that we support one another" (15:2), seeking not personal gain but rather "the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved" (1 Cor 10:33). This mutual correction and encouragement in a spirit of humility and charity must be part of the life of the Christian community.
The Lord’s disciples, united with him through the Eucharist, live in a fellowship that binds them one to another as members of a single body. This means that the other is part of me, and that his or her life, his or her salvation, concern my own life and salvation. Here we touch upon a profound aspect of communion: our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse. Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension. This reciprocity is seen in the Church, the mystical body of Christ: the community constantly does penance and asks for the forgiveness of the sins of its members, but also unfailingly rejoices in the examples of virtue and charity present in her midst. As Saint Paul says: "Each part should be equally concerned for all the others" (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body. Acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters – as expressed by almsgiving, a practice which, together with prayer and fasting, is typical of Lent – is rooted in this common belonging. Christians can also express their membership in the one body which is the Church through concrete concern for the poorest of the poor. Concern for one another likewise means acknowledging the good that the Lord is doing in others and giving thanks for the wonders of grace that Almighty God in his goodness continuously accomplishes in his children. When Christians perceive the Holy Spirit at work in others, they cannot but rejoice and give glory to the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).
3. "To stir a response in love and good works": walking together in holiness.
These words of the Letter to the Hebrews (10:24) urge us to reflect on the universal call to holiness, the continuing journey of the spiritual life as we aspire to the greater spiritual gifts and to an ever more sublime and fruitful charity (cf. 1 Cor 12:31-13:13). Being concerned for one another should spur us to an increasingly effective love which, "like the light of dawn, its brightness growing to the fullness of day" (Prov 4:18), makes us live each day as an anticipation of the eternal day awaiting us in God. The time granted us in this life is precious for discerning and performing good works in the love of God. In this way the Church herself continuously grows towards the full maturity of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13). Our exhortation to encourage one another to attain the fullness of love and good works is situated in this dynamic prospect of growth.
Sadly, there is always the temptation to become lukewarm, to quench the Spirit, to refuse to invest the talents we have received, for our own good and for the good of others (cf. Mt 25:25ff.). All of us have received spiritual or material riches meant to be used for the fulfilment of God’s plan, for the good of the Church and for our personal salvation (cf. Lk 12:21b; 1 Tim 6:18). The spiritual masters remind us that in the life of faith those who do not advance inevitably regress. Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the invitation, today as timely as ever, to aim for the "high standard of ordinary Christian living" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). The wisdom of the Church in recognizing and proclaiming certain outstanding Christians as Blessed and as Saints is also meant to inspire others to imitate their virtues. Saint Paul exhorts us to "anticipate one another in showing honour" (Rom 12:10).
In a world which demands of Christians a renewed witness of love and fidelity to the Lord, may all of us feel the urgent need to anticipate one another in charity, service and good works (cf. Heb 6:10). This appeal is particularly pressing in this holy season of preparation for Easter. As I offer my prayerful good wishes for a blessed and fruitful Lenten period, I entrust all of you to the intercession of the Mary Ever Virgin and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 3 November 2011

Attende Domine - Lenten hymn

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Debate We Need to Engage

Santorum vs. Obama: The Debate America Needs
By David G. Bonagura, Jr.   
On January 19, Pope Benedict XVI described both the core of the American experiment and the turmoil of the current political moment:
At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.
The new cultural currents hostile to Christianity, present for decades in various forms, have coalesced these last few weeks around the Oval Office, the point of origin for one of recent memory’s most heinous attacks on religious liberty in general and Christian religious practice in particular. 
President Obama’s deliberate challenge to the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion joins his abortion and marriage policies as his latest attempt to coerce the Judeo-Christian tradition back into its houses of worship, permanently concealed from public view, and isolated from public policy.
Jobs and economic recovery are very important, but ultimately Obama’s presidency will be defined by his use of executive power to push a sweeping social agenda contrary to the long held American consensus on the ethical principles that derive from nature and nature’s God. At stake in the 2012 election is nothing less than America’s vision of reality and the moral good.
Discussing this vision is neither a prospect that political consultants advise nor one that excites an electorate. Social issues, we are told, are divisive, indeed lead to culture war. And in the end many appeal to the relativism card – what’s true for you is not true for me – which usually seems easier than having a knockout fight with colleagues or neighbors. 
But it is the social issues – what our kids learn in schools, what we allow in discourse and entertainment, how we treat one another, how we worship – that shape America, the ideals she holds, and the way we live together. With so much at stake in this sphere in the coming election, the American people need a frank discussion about what America is all about.

Rick Santorum and his daughter Bella
Of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates, Rick Santorum possesses the greatest ability to steer this discussion back to the consensus of America’s founding. In the political arena, he has fought valiantly for pro-life causes. And at home he has heroically sacrificed himself and his family so that even the most sickly and vulnerable human beings may have their God-given right to life. 
He is a religious man who rightly sees his faith and the Judeo-Christian moral tradition as the source of his political actions, not the antithesis of them. He has consistently defended the family and traditional marriage, even when barraged by those who refuse to engage in a rational debate.
President Obama’s anti-religious social agenda must be confronted – and Santorum can stop it in its tracks. Santorum, unlike the other GOP candidates, has not just talked the talk on these core issues surrounding American life and liberty: he has walked the walk. The minions of the president’s social agenda in the media know this intuitively. Their hysterical reaction to Santorum proves his status as Obama’s most formidable challenger in this arena.
The intelligentsia’s furious attacks on Santorum coupled with is coddling of the Occupy Movement are just two indications that contemporary America may not be civil enough to discuss her identity and future. But President Obama has forced this conversation upon the nation by his callous mandate requiring Catholic employers to subsidize behaviors contrary to the Church’s creed. 
He wants more than universal contraceptive coverage: he wants the Church out of the health care business entirely so that government can take over. If he is given a second term, he may well try to remove all churches’ authority to witness marriages so that only the government can officiate, with the genders of the couples no longer withstanding.
Santorum’s life and political career remind America of what George Washington, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Benedict XVI each have expressed so clearly: the character and decency of America – and with them her greatness as a nation – depend on her citizens’ religiosity and commitment to Judeo-Christian morality. 
By extension, President Obama’s dismissal of religious freedom is an affront to America and her foundational ideals. Simply by being the GOP candidate, Santorum directs the campaign back to these ideals that matter most for our future.
This election will not solely be decided by social issues, and Santorum’s positions on the economy, government, and foreign affairs also have electoral appeal. Witness the way the media are always “surprised” by his primary wins. Yet the social issues remain the president’s greatest weakness – to Santorum’s greatest strength. 
Santorum need not waver on his past assertions, as he awkwardly did when recently discussing a passage from his book about “radical feminists.” Contrary to the New York Times and MSNBC, it is the president – not Santorum – whose policies and practices place him outside the American mainstream and the American tradition.
The Obama presidency has charted a course for America that departs from our foundational principles. A Santorum candidacy directly challenges this course – and presents a legitimate hope that the ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God may remain among us for future generations.

David G. Bonagura, Jr. is an adjunct professor of theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, NY.

© 2012 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to:info@frinstitute.org
Retrieved February 19, 2012 from http://www.thecatholicthing.org/

Friday, February 17, 2012

Catholic Social Thought and the HHS Mandate

By Francis J. Beckwith   
As almost everyone on earth now knows, Professor Obama has offered his “compromise” to the HHS regulations that require that all employers, including most religious employers, that provide health insurance to their employees must include coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients free of charge.  It was a faux compromise. The insurance company, not the employer, must inform the employee that these options exist, while the insurance company is required to provide these services “free of charge.” But, as one group of scholars stated, “it does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer. What matters is what services the policy covers.” And because there’s no free lunch, the insurance company’s cost undoubtedly will be passed on to the employer.
Nothing of substance has changed. The religious employer whose conscience forbids him to materially cooperate with acts he believes are intrinsically evil must purchase employees health insurance that includes services it believes are intrinsically evil.
Nevertheless, several individuals and groups have applauded this “compromise.” Washington Post writer E. J. Dionne, for instance, wrote a thoughtful column in support of the president. The Catholic Health Associationinitially praised the President, but now seems to be backpedaling a bit, whileCatholics United offers unwavering support.
Although each claims to be committed to Catholic Social Thought (CST), when one reads the relevant encyclicals, what emerges is not a theological brief for the HHS mandate and its faux compromise, but rather, something quite hostile to it.

         Pope Paul VI
In Humanae Vitae (1968), for instance, Pope Paul VI asks the “rulers of nations” not to “tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God.” Consequently, if the Church teaches that the state ought not to voluntarily introduce these practices to the wider public, it stands to reason that it is far worse for the state to coerce a Catholic employer or Church organization to introduce these practices to its employees.
If, however, a Catholic or Catholic organization were to acquiesce in this state coercion, it would not only be materially cooperating with evil, but it would cause scandal, for it would by its actions be teaching that it rejects Humanae Vitae’s command that “careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.”
Catholics United is correct that Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891), is “generally regarded as the inaugural document of the Catholic social tradition.” But the HHS mandate that Catholics United supports is inconsistent with the principles found in that encyclical.
In order to appreciate this, consider this question: Do religious-based organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, and Catholic-owned businesses, have the right under the HHS mandate either to sign an agreement with an insurance company or self-insure so that the policies they offer to their employees do not include contraception, abortion, sterilization, etc.?
The answer is “no” (except for narrowly defined “houses of worship”). HHS is in effect coercing the Church and some of its members to use their assets for the purpose of introducing into the lives of their employees and their families “those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God,” as Humanae Vitaeputs it.

            Pope Leo XIII
On the matter of the state conscripting the assets of the Church and its members for such purposes, Rerum Novarum lays down clear principles:
[E]very precaution should be taken not to violate the rights of individuals and not to impose unreasonable regulations under pretense of public benefit. For laws only bind when they are in accordance with right reason, and, hence, with the eternal law of God. . . .And here we are reminded of the confraternities, societies, and religious orders which have arisen by the Church's authority and the piety of Christian men. . . .In their religious aspect they claim rightly to be responsible to the Church alone. The rulers of the State accordingly have no rights over them, nor can they claim any share in their control; on the contrary, it is the duty of the State to respect and cherish them, and, if need be, to defend them from attack.
Pope Leo laments that in his own time “a very different course has been followed”: 

In many places, the State authorities have laid violent hands on these communities, and committed manifold injustice against them; it has placed them under control of the civil law, taken away their rights as corporate bodies, and despoiled them of their property, in such property the Church had her rights, each member of the body had his or her rights, and there were also the rights of those who had founded or endowed these communities for a definite purpose, and, furthermore, of those for whose benefit and assistance they had their being.
Thus, Leo asserts that the Church “cannot refrain from complaining of such spoliation as unjust and fraught with evil results; and with all the more reason do We complain because, at the very time when the law proclaims that association is free to all, We see that Catholic societies, however peaceful and useful, are hampered in every way, whereas the utmost liberty is conceded to individuals whose purposes are at once hurtful to religion and dangerous to the commonwealth.”
Catholic Social Thought, it seems, is as much about speaking truth to power as it is about not letting those in and close to power speak for truth.
Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Among his many books is Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010)
© 2012 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to:info@frinstitute.org

Retrieved February 17, 2012 from http://www.thecatholicthing.org/

Cornelius Sullivan on Caravaggio, Billy Joel, and the Marilyn-Elvis Syndrome

Caravaggio and the Marilyn-Elvis Syndrome

The Sacrifice of Isaac, Ufizzi Gallery, Florence

NAPLES, FLORIDA --  “Only the good die young.”- Billy Joel. Just back from Rome at my house in Florida, in the woods, thoughts and visions of Caravaggio were still fresh in my head.  At an impromptu party in the garage of my neighbor Eric, the conversation turned to a discussion of the fact that most of the long haired young guys of the Southern Rock band on the overhead video are dead, probably from drugs. That’s right an overhead video in a garage. It is a big garage with twenty foot high ceilings and a 1969 Mustang Fast Back Coupe, a 1957 Chevy pickup truck, parts of antique cars, some hanging from the roof, and vintage motorcycles. And when Police Detective Eric plays this music I know that a party is beginning. It is not far but I always go on my scooter, it is a tradition, but Eric tells his friends that it is so I won’t be bitten by an alligator.

Billy Joel, the famous American singer-songwriter, “The Piano Man”, bought a painting from me a few years ago in Gloucester, Massachusetts at my studio-gallery. It was seven in the evening and I was exhausted and hungry about to go home but I couldn’t stop painting. A couple looked in the door and a man said “Are you open?” I didn’t look up, and I said “No, but you can come in.” Then I recognized him, but I was in a strange painting mood and I said, “You are very famous, right?”  He shrugged. Then I said, “Oh no, you’re a celebrity look-a-like.” Then he handed me his American Express card, I said, “Billy, I was just busting …. … .”  We became friends at that point and it was comfortable because I viewed his fame as a burden that he carries that is separate from him.  I thought he was comfortable with his great abilities and think he still is.

In previous articles I tried to establish that Caravaggio was a great and revolutionary painter often rejected professionally and having a tough time in daily life. He killed a man and left Rome a wanted man, never to return.  Finally, I suggested that he knew how great he was.

At the Opera house in Paris after the debut of Carmen, the supposedly sophisticated audience laughed and shrieked. Georges Bizet went to the streets of Paris and walked. He was dead at thirty six years old.  George, we know how great Carmen is, and thank you. 

Van Gogh sold one painting in his life.

Modigliani threw his unappreciated limestone and marble sculptures into the Seine.

Caravaggio strides across both groups, the unappreciated ones, as well as the Marilyn, Elvis artists who were smothered by too much adulation.  His competitors while copying  his style and innovations often got the good commissions rather than him.

Raphael died young but his death and life were graced like his art. The pope allowed his mistress to stay with him in the papal palace while he frescoed the walls of the pope’s apartments. He died painting his Transfiguration, unfinished, but not looking so, now in the Vatican Museums, he was working on the Christ figure. The painting was carried leading his funeral procession through Rome. He is buried in the Pantheon.

Janis Joplin was a bright unexpected flame that burned for a short time, extinguished by drugs. I do not intend any disrespect but it is hard to imagine a great old Janis. Her gift was tied to youth.

I am amazed that Caravaggio could paint on the run, island and city hopping in the Mediterranean.  Most of his paintings were so big that they would not fit through the door of my studio. The support system of monasteries, convents, and palaces in the places of the four year exile must have been impressive.  The world was bigger or smaller then, depending on how you look at it.  He was not threatened by extradition.  Hollywood film director, Roman Polanski, is for his past crimes in the United States.

For Caravaggio the “price on his head” was literal. In other words if you could produce his head in a basket, you got the reward. He was comfortable enough on the run to continually paint masterpieces. The subject often would be whatever saint the monastery was named after. But then he would get paranoid about bounty hunters finding him, and he would move on.

There are paintings that have decapitations and blood. David and Goliath, Judith Beheading Holorfernes, Salome with the head of John the Baptist.  Because he lived in a different time we take the paintings as allegorical and historical.  They are in fact close to being autobiographical.
Judith Beheading Holofernes, Galleria Nazionale dell'Arte Antica, Rome

If Caravaggio lived today would we read about his quiet overdose?  That’s not nearly as interesting as sword fighting, the price on his head, his painting himself as Goliath, and running after the boat and dying on the beach.

When looked at closely, all lives can appear small and the same. They all have some greatness, some pain, some failures, rising youth, declining age, and death.  

Where does the self destructiveness of great creative talents come from?  Is it as simple as the fact that they become mad by failing to put the big round peg of great creativity into the small square hole of ordinary life?  We thank them even as they fail, because it enables us to live our lives bigger.

We drank cold beer and shook our heads because those Rock musicians died so young.
Beheading of John the Baptist, St. John’s Cathedral, Valetta, Malta

articles by Cornelius Sullivan

Michael Novak on Obama's Deceptive Hidden Premises

Michael Novak at NRO argues that the HHS attack on religious institutions rests on deception.  It is a power grab, based on four hidden premises, and “the grossest violation of the separation of church and state by any administration in American history.”
The most evil thing about the Obama administration’s recent violation of the separation of church and state is its deceptiveness. With his order requiring inclusion of contraception and abortifacient drugs in insurance coverage, the president is smuggling the hidden premises of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and other supporters of abortion into U.S. law, and doing so untruthfully. 
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instruction attacking religious institutions such as hospitals, universities, and programs for the poor rests on four hidden premises. 
(1) The first deception is that the president has issued a “contraception mandate.” It is not that; it is a presidential power grab. No state or other jurisdiction is trying to ban contraception. Neither the Catholic Church nor any other religious body is trying to ban contraception. The means of contraception are even more widely available than in drugstores; one can pick up condoms in restrooms, even in restaurants. The reason for this deception is to make opponents appear to be doing something they are not. They are not banning contraception. It is dishonest to focus on contraception instead of on the real issue, the attempt to extend presidential power into areas constitutionally forbidden to it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is NOT about women's health; it is about preventing and killing babies

Dr Rebecca Peck's forthcoming February 2012 Linacre Quarterly article, "Significant Risks of Oral Contraceptives (OCPs): Why This Drug Should NOT Be Included In a Preventive Care Mandate" (co-authored by Charles Norris, and incuding 72 references) will be a powerful tool for us. Her open letter (below) is a very practical extension of her Linacre Quarterly article that you have her permission to use as you wish.

Dear Friends,

I just wanted you to see this thread of a discussion on some points related to the HHS mandate.

Although the religious liberty issue is universally compelling, another crucial point is that birth control is NOT preventative care (see below). The current administration wants this to be about the Catholic Bishops denying women their "women’s health". This is why I feel our recent research article is so timely and important right now (1). The pill is not a warm little fuzzy harmless object. It causes significant harm and the American people have been deceived for long enough. As a practicing physician, I see the fallout every day—young women with blood clots in their legs, strokes, early breast cancer, HPV, and cervical cancer. This is NOT about women's health; it is about preventing and killing babies. The present administration will try to pit US Bishops against women and try to portray the bishops as a bunch of old men that don't want women to have their "women's health" options, but this has no credibility.

Every day, I, my husband Benjamin, and other doctors like us do TRUE preventative care. We do pap smears looking for cervical cancer, perform breast exams looking for breast cancer, refer for mammograms, order colonoscopies looking for colon cancer, and give immunizations to prevent pneumonia and influenza. These time-tested measures are very different from prescribing a pill to prevent a CHILD. A child is not a disease. Pregnancy and fertility are not disease states; they are normal physiological processes of the human body.

The point also needs to be hammered home that we are not just talking about insurance mandated contraception—we are talking sterilizations, “morning-after” pills, and abortions. Christians and Catholics can come together on the abortion issue. Accordingly, the way the pill causes abortions needs to be explained in a coherent manner (2). Manufacturers of the current birth control pill formulations have reduced estrogen content in an attempt to reduce some of the risks cited above. But, reducing the estrogen increases the likelihood of ovulation. The pill’s "backup" mechanism then comes into play by preventing implantation of the several day old embryo into the uterine wall. Since life begins at conception, the layperson can understand that this necessarily means that the new life is aborted.

Finally, regarding the recent decision of Komen to reinstate support for PP, the hypocrisy of this must be exposed. Birth control and abortion—PP's 2 major lines of business—INCREASE the risk of breast cancer (3).

All people of integrity want women to have options regarding their family planning, but why are the only discussed options those that are contrary to the Catholic Church's teaching? Fertility awareness and modern methods of Natural Family Planning—over a dozen distinct methods—cause NO harms at all! All have wonderful benefits for women that empower them, strengthen their families, and work with their bodies in the natural way God created them.


Rebecca Peck, MD

PS It should also be pointed out that HAVING children and BREASTFEEDING—a woman using her body as it is designed—actually protect a woman's health. Pregnancy is not a disease; pregnancy PREVENTS disease.

(1) Peck, R; Norris, C. "Why OCPs Should Not Be Part of a Preventative Care Mandate: Significant Risks and Harms of OCPs", Linacre Quarterly, Feb 2012 (forthcoming)
(2) Stanford, J; Larrimore, W. "Postfertilization effects of OCPs"www.polycarp.org
(3) Kahlenborn, C. http://www.polycarp.org/overviewbreastcanceroralcontraceptives.htm andhttp://www.polycarp.org/overviewabortionbreastcancer.htm