This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Solution on HHS Mandate? | National Catholic Reporter

A Solution on HHS Mandate? | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I'm sure that the White House thought that Hobby Lobby would lose on standing issues.  Once they did not, it was really to late to address this further.  As you may recall, the web site launch was in process.  I am quite sure religiously includined employers in closely held companies will simply be treated like religious employers on this matter.  I doubt any "objection notice" will be required - the insurance companies will simply provided coverage automatically when told that the particular policy won't include contraceptive coverage.  I am curious, of course, as to whether Hobby Lobby's existing policy covered contraception with a co-payment.  I know CCUSA did because we used it.  The ironic thing is that the solution essentially says that after all of these objections, no blasocysts have been or will be saved by the Fortnight for Freedom and all of its related lawsuits.

Kate Gordon on Border Crisis | National Catholic Reporter

Kate Gordon on Border Crisis | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: A heart wrenching story that is undoubtedly repeated every day, although now Honduran children are added to the mix.  Unlike the tragedy of Isaac, there is now a law to at least consider the cases of these children, as signed by President Bush.  Still, more is needed, although I can't see this Congress (either side) doing it.  Sadly, the Democratic Senate bill is so draconian already that it does not include much room to make things worse.  The better answer is to simply drop all restrictions and get rid of right to work laws.  That will have the effect of Food, Inc. no longer hiring undocumented workers - because it can't keep them as slaves in the shadows of work camps or company trailer parks.  Immigration for work will decrease, but it will increase for humanitarian reasons - which is not a bad idea either.

Partisanship & the Courts | National Catholic Reporter

Partisanship & the Courts | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: If it were not for Republican blackmail in the Senate - and the lack of DC Senators, there would likely be no Republicans on the DC Circuit and certainly not enough of a majority on any panel that could have let this decision fly.  It will surely be reconsidered and therefore not rise to review by the SCOTUS (unless a more Republican Circuit, say the 5th, considers the issue).  It may get to the Court if there is not enough controlling law for the Circuits to use as precident.  Sadly, this case would not even exist (nor any potential cases on abortion) if the Republicans in Congress could proceed along tradition - which the Federalists venerated over liberty and equality but the Tea Party seems to have forgotten.  Corrective language on this issue and others, such as what is to be done when one worker in the household has insurance but does not cover the other spouse, who has a job that won't and a personal income that can't afford it, even though the combined income disqualifies any subsidy.  The judicial system may handle relief on errors to language, but only congressional action can fix subsidies in a divided marriage. While there is hope that few main stream Republicans were beaten in primaries, neither was there a wide-spread purge of sitting Tea Party reactionaries.  I would not advise holding ones breath until there is a change in the GOP.  Hopefully the general electorate will offer us relief.

Religious Liberty Abroad: Where is Obama? | National Catholic Reporter

Religious Liberty Abroad: Where is Obama? | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Let me warn you that this Journal is a bit of a right wing, anti-Obama, rag which I will not be joining the e-mail list of any time soon.  I did not spend too much time on what is a highly technical article, rather, this is a more free form piece on the need to have that post at all.  It is in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, except that none of my questions are satyrical.

Appointing a religious freedom ambassador is dicey for a mostly Christian nation with enlightenment roots (while God is mentioned in the founding documents, Jesus is not).  Would not such an ambassador have to stand up for the rights of the Muslim Brotherhood against the militarty and those in Egyptian society of a more, need I say it, Englightenment view?  Or are we only defending the rights of englightened Muslims who reciprocate by respecting the righs of Christians? Would a religious liberty Ambassador stand up for Gays being persecuted in Russia or the rights of the Patriarch of Moscow to initiate such a persecution?  What about the rights of the C Street Family to offer policy in Uganda to execute, or at least persecute, homosexuals?  Would the Ambassador stand for the freedom of the Oranges in Ulster to have marching season go forth as planned?  Or the rights of the IRA to bomb them? What about women is Saudi Arabia?  Do the Wahabi leaders deserve the religious support to keep them under the patriarchy?  One would think North Korea would be an easy case, but if the veneration of the Kim family is almost, if not entirely, religious (akin to Japanese Shintoism), should they have the right to persecute Christian interlopers - as Hobby Lobby has the right to not pay for contraception?  As you can guess, the answer is no.

We need to make sure that Americans are protected if they get into trouble, but even then, Christianity started as a religion of martyrs.  If our martyrs rely on CNN and the United States to not give their lives in witness to Christ, then maybe certain Wahabi are right, that Christians are really not longer able to witness for Christ with their lives.  If some people are expecting the Rapture at any moment - what sense is it to die for the Lord?  I suspect from reading my copy of Revelation that most, if not all, modern Christians will be subjected to that long period of trial and martyrdom if this really is the end times.  The Jews and Romany may be raptured, but the rest of y'all will have demonstrate your allegience to the Lord in ways a bit more uncomforatable than shouting down immigrant children (like that's not a mortal sin), gays, women and the President.

MSW on Marsden | National Catholic Reporter

MSW on Marsden | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: An interesting review of what is likely an interesting book.  Book reviews, of course, are dangerous because for some it is an invitiation to buy the book and for the rest it gives us enough information not to but to talk about it anyway.  That part of the Enlightenment - Encyclopedias, Journals and Cliff Notes lives on.  Indeed, every generation of political scientists, sociologists, historians and those who simply take those courses as an elective are exposed to the Enlightenment and will take from it what they find useful - especially if they study Grid Group Theory - which puts all political, social, economic and religious thought into perspective.  Indeed, the birth of sixties radicalism came in the fifties.  While some Evangelicals think of the Fifties as a Golden Age, I suspect that even outside of campuses, the roots of the Sixties were part of the Fifties.  Conservatives might have liked Ike, but Ike like the Autobahn - and when it was done the mobility of the Sixties were possible, as well as an expansion of the federal financial system that made Medicare and the Great Society possible.  FDR had a long run and he changed everything and Ike did not change it back.  Sadly Reagan tried is best in the 80s, but even those changes will not be permanent.  When Marxism was under attack under Senator McCarthy, his self-congratulatory witch hunts forever ended the chance of another Red Scare and made campus radicalism possible. More, not less, is possible on that front as we Occupy America.  As for Culture, let us not forget what was originally called "race music" and shortly became the dominant cultural form for self expression that we of a certain age call Rock and Roll.   Do I need to even mention that teens and collegiates really were having sex in the 50s?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

USCCB response to LGBT nondiscrimination order worse than expected | National Catholic Reporter

USCCB response to LGBT nondiscrimination order worse than expected | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Let us be clear that this is not from the USCCB as a whole.  As far as we know, there was no national call-in or e-mail vote on this position.  It is the work of two staff and two bishops and I suspect the RNC was contacted before anyone else in the Church was involved.  MSW deals well with the culture was issues these bishops seem to be dealing with, so let me hit some additional points having to do with the press release.  The release first opposes executive power over the bureaucracy.  This is simply ignorant.  They talk of opposing this order, but it is in final form.  While they can, of course, challenge any adverse actions against Church agencies or institutions, there is no place for a general challenge.  The USCCB has no contracts with the Federal Government, so they have no standing.

As I mentioned yesterday, most Catholic organizations are in compliance with this order, including not raising a stink when a gay staff member gets married.  I suspect that usually there is a gift involved.  While Fr. Larry of CCUSA is the servant of diocesan Catholic Charities organizations, he has no policy control over them. Still, knowing many of the directors, they are not likely to go on a witch hunt for either closeted or openy gay employees - and this bridge was crossed by Catholic hospitals long age.  Schools may be a problem, but they get little in federal money aside from grants from the U.S. Department of Education.  This will most likely affect grants not given or even not applied for and if there is a problem, the Order may be modified to deal with it before a law suit can be filed.  Even if it is, it would be a suit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which can also be repealed), rather than the First Amendment.  It is as likely that by the time any case would get to the SCOTUS, there will be a Democratic Congress and White House - a more liberal one than the last time, and ENDA will pass, with amendments to RFRA, cutting any suit off at the knees.

On the Church's central comment about the order not distinguishing between sexual attraction and sexual conduct is a head scratcher unless they want government employers to be come the sex police.  Some suggest this may be about the eventual nationalization of marriage equality and the right to deny benefits to gay spouses.  This is totally indefensible, because Church employers have, to date, not denied benefits to heterosexual employees married civilly - marriages that the law recongnizes by the law but doctrine does not.  This is about bigotry, pure and simple.  Of coruse, the other possibility is that they are making this distictinction to allow gay clergy to be counted as not discriminated against while they continue to reserve the rigth (which they don't use) to discriminate against gay laity.

The last bit is about transgendered employees and bathrooms.  It is hardly enough of a reason to oppose the Executive Order.  Such matters are usually worked out with those using the bathrooms in question, not by a lawsuit by the bishops against the White House.

'Wake-up call for Catholic hierarchs' | National Catholic Reporter

'Wake-up call for Catholic hierarchs' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: While Philadelphia and Kansas-City were clearly in violation of the Dallas Norms, this third strikes dots the i's and crosses the t's on whether they are enough or something more stinking is necessary.  Considering that Bishop Finn has not been fired (are they waiting for him to get a prison number?) and Cardinal Rigali seems to have disappeared, I think enforcement needs to probably start at the top.

On Immigration Crisis, Bishops Do Us Proud | National Catholic Reporter

On Immigration Crisis, Bishops Do Us Proud | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: They seem to be speaking with one voice and the correct voice - and at least those who dissent for their feelings on Obama remained silent our of respect for their brother bishops.

USCCB & LGBT Non-Discrimination | National Catholic Reporter

USCCB & LGBT Non-Discrimination | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: As promised, President Obama extended employment non-discrimination to gay employees of federal contractors. This is a Church issue because it gets contracts and grants from the Catholic Hospital to Catholic Charities to Catholic parish schools - although the last are a vanishing breed except among economically elite parishes - with poor parishes often becoming charter schools.  Also kept was the right of the Church to use religious membership in hiring decisions, although in hospitals and even Catholic Charities, it is not a right the Church often exercises.  I am hoping that the Church does not resist that form of employee non-discrimination - indeed, I doubt many hospitals and charitable organizations actively discriminate against gays and lesbians so this will change nothing on the ground.  Indeed, schools likely have their share of gay teachers and principles.  Indeed, some of them are priests and sisters.  It would be rather inconvient to reactively fire lay employees for a characteristic found among consecrated and ordained (they may even be dating).  I know that those who are reacting to the Church's child protection problems might look to a gay scapegoat - but that is simply not so.  Most abusers are, like most of the population, heterosexual.  I am amazed that MSW does not bring up the topic - however I suspect some in USCCB might.  That would be sad, because they have made clear for years that discrimination based on sexuality is wrong, from employment to housing (that would be the last frontier - but one the movement should work on harder). Its screed on gays being objectively disordered is hogwash, as was its teaching in the Council of Trent about concupescience (taking pleasure is sex).  If straigth and gay priests could marry, you would see both teachings quickly withdrawn.

As for the President's motives here?  I suspect this was written by the lawyers, who decided that repealing the Bush Order on religious hiring would be picking a fight.  Does the President care about the Catholic bishops?  Probably not so much, since he is not Catholic and because he has advisors from Catholic Charities, USA and Catholic Health Association whose members are much more directly impacted (the Bishops are titular heads of Catholic Charities - however these agenices are as much beholden for federal requirements and funds as they are to the Bishop - I for one would like to have the people in the pews demand that Charities organizations be indpendent - given how the bishops tend to mess up much of what they touch administratively). As for Obama on marriage - my bet is that he cares not at all what the Bishops think on this issue - constitutional law trumps that.  When he ran originally, he did not want to be seen as some Chicago liberal with a gay agenda, which would hurt his support with the black churches.  It was his Catholic Vice President who got him to publicly change his mind and it did not hurt that Mitt Romney was his opponent when it came time for black churches to turn out the flock for 2012.  Since the black churches have few federal contract dollars, this should keep their enthusiasm going for 2014 - else Valerie Jarrett would not have let him do this.  As for Obama replealing RFRA if the Democrats win the House?  I doubt it, although some corrective legislation might be in order.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

'Moral Scandal of Hunger' | National Catholic Reporter

'Moral Scandal of Hunger' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: That people are hungry is not the only problem - that the public solution gives both inadequate nutrition (especially for the obese who need to be off carbs, not forced to eat them, and that the process of seeking nutrition is humiliating and long goes to what the Church shoud be talking about in its social (ok, political) message.  Our society needs to make sure each child has an additional $1000 a month support over the base parental income - both for the poor and the better off.  Until then, hunger will have a stigma.

Wilton Channels Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter

Wilton Channels Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: No, he is channelling Christ and has been as long as I have known him, way before Francis was elected.  He also has the same humility.  He is one who would be a good Cardinal - maybe Phili's former red hat.

Time For Nienstedt To Go | National Catholic Reporter

Time For Nienstedt To Go | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Oh, yes, Niestedt is a hypocrite on dealing with Brokeback Mountain (my Aunt Peg is an old lady in New Ulm and I think she suspect she liked the movie), but that is no surprise when he is hiding.  We'd all like to see him get in line behind Finn to retirement and unless the question of jail arises, there is no reason to move either man (although it does for Finn).  When Burke was on the Council for Bishops, I could see him taking a Sedanoist line about Church prerogative.  That neither has been removed is probably due to that as anything.  Maybe new appointments in the conference will act more quickly, because I cannot imagine the Nuncio dragging his feet.  The question is likely what do do with them.  Sending them to Rome would be sending them to to join the ongoing orgy in the Curia.  That is no punishment.  Hence the delay.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mazzenga at CACG on Immigration | National Catholic Reporter

Mazzenga at CACG on Immigration | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Very comprehensive.  If you need source material, look here.

Great Profile of Richard Land | National Catholic Reporter

Great Profile of Richard Land | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: This is another one where I ask "Why?"  After that first paragraph on the Martin's murder by George Zimmerman, I found reading further to be a waste.  Unless he donates half his retirement savings to President Obama's library, there is nothing he can say that I wish to here - same for the folks he represented until they say Uncle on issues of equality and diversity.  When my ancestors helped found the Anabaptist movement, assuring him the right to continued error was not what they had in mind.

Meyerson on Anglo vs. European Economies | National Catholic Reporter

Meyerson on Anglo vs. European Economies | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Harold got it right, except for not noting the influences of W. and of Cameron on their fiscal houses, with Obama also embracing austerity - mostly because default was the other choice - and for not mentioning the influence of Social Democrats in Germany and Northern Europe and the occassional Socialist in France.  Workers have better compensation overall, as do families and the vacation is rather good.  Here, one whiff of socialism and the main steam media goes nuts, while FoxNews goes into full combat mode.  If we want the other changes, change this perception first.

The Pope Francis Haters | National Catholic Reporter

The Pope Francis Haters | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: The picture with the article says it all, with Mr. 1950s in his suit nursing a headache.  The Church does not look like that any more.  That according to Longenecker, some conservative prelates think that Francis is the false prophet of the end times demonstrates how widely St. Malachy is read in Rome.  They certainly don't see him as Peter the Roman, who is that false prophet - but Peter will lead a rump pontificate in counter-revolution and be killed as Rome crumbles (according to our Lady of Fatima's 3rd Secret).  Some are disturbed over Francis saying "who am I to judge?" while forgetting that the person he is not judging according the to reporters question, is a gay member of the Curia - who are legion at the Vatican.  So deep is their self loathing that they want aboslution, not understanding.

Longenecker would have the anti-Francis faction remember that the Pope cannot change doctrine or moral teaching.  We liberals would disagree.  We rather hope he would, in response to the moral sense of the faithful on certain issues.  Indeed, moral teaching is always for the moment - it is never exactly the same one generation to the next as the culture is always changing - even in Rome.  The current generation of educated Catholics do not concede that natural law is curial monopoly - indeed, it cannot be if it is the product of reason - which must change with new evidence - and the one thing that has changed the most is our understanding of ourselves.  Canon law must respond - as MSW notes that it has with time without admitting that change should probably be in the offing soon.

Longenecker's second point is to essentially insult Francis by saying he is not the equal to Benedict and John Paul.  Many of us on the left actually think Francis is superior.  It took a bullett and tumors to bring John Paul into the kind of personal holiness that is already apparent in Francis.  I suspect many conservatives gave Benedict a pass for his economic encyclical (or blamed it on staff) because of his remarks on gays being disordered while at CDF.  I suspect that many on the right, including in the Curia, really miss the time under both popes where they were infirm so that they had free reign to do things like move the goal posts on aid to the dying to try to back Jeb Bush's play to keep poor Terri Schaivo alive.  I don't think this Pope will stand for such nonsense - indeed, his group of nine (he counts himself as a member) is going to profoundly change curial authority.

Longenecker's thrid point is that Pope's come and go.  True, but changes to the Curia are permanent and the Curia will be changed by this Pope.

Longenecker's fourth point is that our faith is in Jesus, not the Pope.  I think Francis would agree. Which is what makes him truly dangerous to the egotists of the Curia.

Longenecker's fifth point is about the times - not the moral times but the Internet age.  He says that while some hide behind formal statements only, Francis does not.  A good thing.

Six, Longenecker reminds us of the media culture for our views on Francis to an extent.  Yes and no.  He needs to remember that he is part of the media too.  Luckily, much of the media speaks pretty acurately of Francis - which I suspect is why the right wing is going crazy.

Seven, he blames the Pope's origins in Argentia for his economics (I say that its about time) and about the Devil.  Yes and no on both - as his family of origin is from Turin, Italy.  This Pope is as Italian as most Popes in our history.  He also compares this pope's roiling of the hierarchy to Jesus. Interesting point in contrast to suggest number four.

Eight, Longenecker says we need not worry about everything Francis says.  This is true and applies to the other Popes as well - although the whole disorded thing about gays by Ratzinger is going to be hard to shake, but shake it we will.

Nine, Longenecker reminds us of the univerality of the Church - that it is a big place and the true Church.  Yes, but some will certainly feel the pressure when the Group of Nine concludes its deliberations and begins action.

Ten, Longeneecker asks conservatives where they are going to go.  Ironically, I know some liberal Catholics worshiping in living room Churches using the Norvus Ordo Mass in the old translation.  Egalitarian organizations are great at making sects and some likely will go elsewhere if we grow closer to Constantinople and adopt a more Orthodox governance structure.  There will be a rump Pontificate and that anti-Pope's name, again, will be Peter and that will be it for the Roman Church. But not because of Francis.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ain't Nothing the Matter with Kansas | National Catholic Reporter

Ain't Nothing the Matter with Kansas | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Brownback at least understood that the revenue boom of 2013 had its genesis in the capital gains and dividend tax increases of that year, which had investors cash out their gains in 2012.  He even got away with it the first year.  He thought it would keep going - but that is never the case with booms.  Indeed, most Republican governors had the same idea - rather stupidly and I bet the American Legislative Exchange Council put the thought in their minds.  Brownback forgot who he works for and that is what is the matter with Kansas and the rest of the ALEC states.  No doubt he thinks if the jumps through enought hoops, he is presidential material in 2020 (no one will be running against Clinton, possibly except Palin and Christie).  We would hope that Kansas puts Brownback out of our misery, but as red as it is, I would not bet the farm on it.