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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Syllabus of Errors by Pius X on Modernism

I have been in a running debate on the condemnation of Modernism by Pius X with another discussant on National Catholic Reporter who uses the word modernist for anyone who believes in a progressive viewpoint, including economically. It prompted me to do a response to Pius’s Syllabus. The numbered paragraphs are the Pope’s, or rather by his Cardinals in the Holy Office. Bad staff work. My comments are underneath.
1. The ecclesiastical law which prescribes that books concerning the Divine Scriptures are subject to previous examination does not apply to critical scholars and students of scientific exegesis of the Old and New Testament.
The scriptural scholars won this round. No more pre-approval since VII
2. The Church's interpretation of the Sacred Books is by no means to be rejected; nevertheless, it is subject to the more accurate judgment and correction of the exegetes.
Everyone is now empowered to interpret scripture, from scholars to the faithful.
3. From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against free and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching cannot really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian religion.
The faith is part of history, as is dogma, and studying that is no sin. I heartily recommend Diarmund McCullogh’s Christianity, the First 3000 Years. Yes, he is an Anglican Priest, but he gets the facts right.
4. Even by dogmatic definitions the Church's magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.
It can give it a shot, but its supposed monopoly on such sense is not absolute.
5. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.
The Church can certainly interject its views on natural law morality, but it has no advantage over others in the discussion. Anyone can use reason to uncover truth. It certainly cannot ignore scientific fact, such as what we know about gastrulation and how it makes dating life at conception impossible.
6. The "Church learning" and the "Church teaching" collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the "Church teaching" to sanction the opinions of the "Church learning."
Whomever he was quoting captured the insularity of Catholic teaching at that time.
7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced.
It depends. On Dogma regarding the Trinity and the Creed, the elected bishops in Council at Charledon and Nicea set these matters in stone on behalf of the faithful. It would be hard to overturn this, because it is our agreement rather than our knowledge that makes these things true for us.
8. They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman Congregations.
The Index was gone in Vatican II and the CDF rarely acts. Many times when the CDF acts, it is seen as arbitrary and actually helps book sales. Proposing new ways of seeing things is not sinful, just organizationally inconvenient except when it violates the Credal Dogma we agreed to at Chalcedom and Nicea, and even then such musings should not necessarily bar someone from Eucharist. Modern thought can handle dissent as long as it is expressed that way.
9. They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.
Any serious scriptural scholarship proves its human, though inspired, hand and cultural context.
10. The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament consists in this: The Israelite writers handed down religious doctrines under a peculiar aspect which was either little or not at all known to the Gentiles.
The scriptures were not codified in the Old Testament until the Exile. Their use of myth matched most other cultures, as did its doctrinal separatism (making things good or bad to distinguish local values).
11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.
All scripture is inspired but not dictated. They reflect the truth as understood, although we know that Exodus did not happen the way it said and the Torah condemnations of homosexuality are wrong. The point of the prophetic books was moral, not historical and Revelation was a condemnation of Pauline Christianty by a Jerusalem Church refugee who was sure God would restore the latter. It did not happen. Indeed, Paul was wrong on immediate return and this twisted his sexual teachings.
12. If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document.
Scriptural scholars honor the sacred natural of the teachings but also honor its historical and cultural context. Not doing so is idolatry.
13. The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the second and third generation, artificially arranged the evangelical parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the preaching of Christ among the Jews.
The Evangelists used Q to source the parables and teachings. Jesus himself knew how many of his own people would igore him. He wept over it.
14. In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more profitable for their readers.
Pius missed the point that the Gospels were written for different audiences. They also wrote about current issues, like the sacking of Jerusalem and the corruption of youth, not doctrinally (such things did not exist), but sexually.
15. Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ.
Quomron has settled this one. More interesting is the exclusion and condemnation of the Gnostics and the possiblity of gnosticism in the scriptures that survived. That there was such controversy is beyond dispute.
16. The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of salvation.
One can reasonably conclude that about John, including some passages that bornder on Gnosticism. Others believe that John had a better inside story due to his kinship with the Lord. All Gospels and Scriptures are salvation history rather than a factual account in the human sense. They are for belief, not certainty.
17. The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that the extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might become more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the Word lncarnate.
Some, like Jefferson, reject miracles. Most others do not. Miracles were worked by faith, not power.
18. John claims for himself the quality of witness concerning Christ. In reality, however, he is only a distinguished witness of the Christian life, or of the life of Christ in the Church at the close of the first century.
Whether John the Apostle penned the book or whether one of his followers did so based on his teaching (as Mark used the teachings of Peter), is not important.
19. Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.
A knowledge of history and culture can certainly provide a richer and more acurate picture than many in the Church provide. This is a misuse of Heterodox, which refers to credal orthodoxy, not a monopoly on all religious truth.
20. Revelation could be nothing else than the consciousness man acquired of his revelation to God.
Inspiration is a vital part of the writing of scripture. God does speak to us, as he spoke to scriptural writers, through a leaded glass.
21. Revelation, constituting the object of the Catholic faith, was not completed with the Apostles.
Pius should read the Fourth Gospel. Jesus promised the Paraclete because there was more to reveal. There still is.
22. The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.
Credal dogma was based on agreement about inspired (or revealed) reason about the Trinity after lots of argument. Inspiration can enter the human mind, particularly those who are confirmed (unless Pius is saying that knowledge is no longer a gift of the Holy Spirit). The Pope has no monopoly on this, although the current Pope uses his Confirmation well.
23. Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church's dogmas which rest on them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain.
We are most certain about what we don’t know but have agreed to because argument would be futile. As far as rejecting teaching, if it is based in error, particularly on birth control, homosexuality and women’s ordination,we are commanded to speak up by conscience.
24. The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves .
Copernicus was correct. So was Darwin. Wrong was Augustine’s interpretation of the creation story as fact rather than as allegory on blame as well as his misogynistic views on sexuality. Pius is wrong on what Dogma is. Whether women are ordained is about practice, not Dogma. The teachings on Onanism were about family obligation, not the sacerdotal nature of sperm, which anyone with a microscope and a willing donor can confirm.
25. The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities .
Correct and wrong. True faith comes from God, often through trial. Belief in the belief in God depends on the luck of the draw in chosing your parents or mate.
26. The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing.
Pius incorrectly understands Dogma, as most Trads do. Dogma is credal and orthodox. Teachings on morals are based on natural law (where the Pope’s authority cannot trump reason and evidence) and must indeed be practical in teaching how to live a life of love and peace. Natural law which demands belief because it flunks the tests of reason and human happiness is in violation of the Lord’s teaching that his yoke is easy and his burden light. It resembles what was laid upon the people by the priests and scribes.
27. The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of the Messias.
The historic fact is that our understanding of Jesus as the Son of God was not settled until Chalcedon. While the belief was there, there was a lot to fight about.
28. While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend to prove it.
The Father spoke of it at Jesus Baptism and Transfiguration. He made others say it, although his teaching on the road to Emmaus showed he both knew it and how he did (through the Scriptures).
29. It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.
If you¬ confine to non-Christian sources, only Josephus records his presence and some have called this doubtful. Christ in his life was a humble day laborer who became the Rabbi of Caphernum (with a house and a wife). He was unremarkable until his ministry and he came humbly, not triumphantly, save for Palm Sunday, which is designed as a provocation.
30 In all the evangelical texts the name "Son of God'' is equivalent only to that of "Messias." It does not in the least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.
Until Chalcedon, there was lots of debate on what Son of God meant. Remember as well that these Councils were under New Rome and that old Rome was not even present.
31. The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John, and the Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.
Paul was preparing the world for the imminent return. John’s writings were 60 years after the fact, probably by a disciple. They are clear on Christ’s divinity but not on what that meant. The Councils fully secured Orthodox agreement on these issues in Christianity, but after centuries of writing.
32. It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Gospels are not autobiographical about Christ’s thoughts, although Matthew’s nativity text about Mary keeping all these things in her heart and John relating Jesus’ teachings of how the scriptures related to him on the road to Emmaus give us an indication of his self-knowledge. Paul tells us that he emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Did he have all human and divine knowledge available to him in his life? No. If an alien spacecraft landed in Nazareth, he could not have repaired it because the engineer died in the crash. I doubt Rome could except the implications of any of this, though Francis might.
33 Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.
The doctrine of immediate return was Paul’s error. Jesus said the time was known only to the father. All or nothing thinking is an excuse to not believe. Some modernists may say it, although it is usually the atheists, but the idea that we must throw the baby out with the bathwater is intellectual immaturity and the fear of such reasoning is a sad feature of Magisterial teaching, especially about sex and women.
34. The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.
What Christ knew and believed about himself is an enduring puzzle. See my resposne to 32.
35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.
Christ knew of his destiny (he would not call it dignity and he would condemn the dignity of the Vatican) by the scriptures. See response to 32.
36. The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts.
This is true but stated disagreeably. The fact of the resurrection was not a public miracle. Christ did not reveal himself to the masses. It is known by apostalic witness and only after the witnesses were all dead did the Overseers (Pastors, later Bishops) take over the apostalic duties. Mary Magdalene is the first apostle, largely because as his wife she was at the tomb to further annoint the body.
37. In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not so much in the fact itself of the Resurrection as in the immortal life of Christ with God.
That sounds more like a gnostic belief than a Modernist one. Still, Pius gets this one right.
38. The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and not evangelical.
Paul wrote and died before the first Gospel was written. The Gospel shows that approach is wrong. Read together, the last words of Jesus in all the Gospels show that the Crucifixion was a vision quest where Christ was driven to despair by essentially telling his mother (the source of his knowledge of his divine sonship) that he was dead and not triumphant and telling his beloved disciple (either John his nephew or his brother in law Lazarus) to care for his mother (not baptize all nations). This led him to cry out to God. Having done so, he called for and drank the fruit of the vine, which indicates that we are saved not by his death but by his sharing of our despair at apartness from God.
39. The opinions concerning the origin of the Sacraments which the Fathers of Trent held and which certainly influenced their dogmatic canons are very different from those which now rightly exist among historians who examine Christianity .
Any Catholic High School student knows how the sacraments have evolved and how they started. If only confession were in the model of James, which it still may be, or Eucharist were still on the model of the last supper (which father’s lead, not priests). Baptism and Orders evolved as well. We should go back to the people electing Overseers at the Parish level and let them elect bishops and Patriarchs.
40. The Sacraments have their origin in the fact that the Apostles and their successors, swayed and moved by circumstances and events, interpreted some idea and intention of Christ.
This is literally true because bishops and popes are the successors of the apostles, meaning that they must witness to the Resurection. All else is detail, although Sacramental celebration should take stock of events (like the evolution of democracy for Ordination and the ordination of women).
41. The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man's mind the ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.
Agree with Pius on this. Instead, they are to bring the actual pressence of God to the mind of man.
42. The Christian community imposed the necessity of Baptism, adopted it as a necessary rite, and added to it the obligation of the Christian profession.
Agree partially with Pius. The original commuities spoke for Christ because he commanded it.
43. The practice of administering Baptism to infants was a disciplinary evolution, which became one of the causes why the Sacrament was divided into two, namely, Baptism and Penance.
History says that Modernists are right. Also in the division of Baptism and Confirmation.
44. There is nothing to prove that the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation was employed by the Apostles. The formal distinction of the two Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation does not pertain to the history of primitive Christianity.
This is essentially what they teach in Confirmation class. Modernists won this one.
45. Not everything which Paul narrates concerning the institution of the Eucharist (I Cor. 11:23-25) is to be taken historically.
Agree on the description of the meal, although on receiving worthily Garry Wills gets it right.
46. In the primitive Church the concept of the Christian sinner reconciled by the authority of the Church did not exist. Only very slowly did the Church accustom herself to this concept. As a matter of fact, even after Penance was recognized as an institution of the Church, it was not called a Sacrament since it would be held as a disgraceful Sacrament.
Penance evolved from confessing to another or to a commuity (in case of apostacy) to the scrupulous litany of sin adopted by use of the Irish Sin Books.
47. The words of the Lord, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained'' (John 20:22-23), in no way refer to the Sacrament of Penance, in spite of what it pleased the Fathers of Trent to say.
It is valid to infer this power to all the faithful, as this was how James dictated it be used. Trent blissfully ignores how the Church evolved.
48. In his Epistle (Ch. 5:14-15) James did not intend to promulgate a Sacrament of Christ but only commend a pious custom. If in this custom he happens to distinguish a means of grace, it is not in that rigorous manner in which it was taken by the theologians who laid down the notion and number of the Sacraments.
Agreed with Pius. James first demonstrates confession of sin. His demostration and history show it has evolved from a largely do it yourself Church.
49. When the Christian supper gradually assumed the nature of a liturgical action those who customarily presided over the supper acquired the sacerdotal character.
It is the role of the clergy that evolved. The meal was always about communion with Christ and eachother.
50. The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as priests or bishops to provide for the necessary ordering of the increasing communities and not properly for the perpetuation of the Apostolic mission and power.
The modernists did not go far enough. The office of apostle was different than being a member of the 12 and it was Paul that worked with the Churches of Rome and Asia Minor. He may have only helped the people elect their elders and overseers and essentially functioned, with Barnabas and others as an Archbishop or Patriarch without the egomania.
51. It is impossible that Matrimony could have become a Sacrament of the new law until later in the Church since it was necessary that a full theological explication of the doctrine of grace and the Sacraments should first take place before Matrimony should be held as a Sacrament.
The grace of Matrimony came before doctrine, before Church, before civilization itself. Indeed, it existed before Adam and Eve were born in Turkey, centuries after Homo Sapiens left Africa and mated with Neanderthals. Any time two humans commit to each other the Sacrament lives, whether churched or unchearched, gay or straight. Of course, this is more than Pius understood although most parish priests, especially the gay ones, would now agree.
52. It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a society which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together with the end of the world was about to come immediately.
Christ did not know when he would return, as he said. He did not know about centuries although he got the part about the likelihood of that Church becoming corruptly vain glorious right, turning the washing of the feet into an empty ritual. Paul and the Twelve were the ones focusing on imminent return.
53. The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.
Modernists got this so right it hurts. If you beleive in the prophesies of St. Malachy, you have to agree as well. My hope is for the contraction of the Roman Patriarchy to western Italy (Venice has its own Patriarch) and the election of national or linguistic patriarchies on the model of the Orthodox, with women priests in the America or Celitic (or for a biblical connection, Galatian) as well as male and female deacon admistrators running the parishes, holding office by election.
54. Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and reality, are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external series of additions the little germ latent in the Gospel.
Moderists are write again. The Pauline letters were comfort to Pauline churches, which were mostly parishes that grew with the Pastor keeping authority over multiple assemblies rather than encouraging the election of equal Pastors. See above for why we have Orthodox dogma and differetiated natural law based morality. That Sacraments evolve are so obvious to make me doubt the sanity and intelligence of the anti-modernists, or at least the competence of their teachers.
55. Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy in the Church to him.
James, the brother of Jesus, seems to have been Patriarch of Jerusalem when it was the only game in town. He was not one of the twelve but that did not stop him from taking over either before or after Peter went to Antioch. Regardless, the See of Peter was linked to the seat of empire. The Petrine See is therefore more likely identified with Constantinople (Barthalomew) then Rome (Francis), and Benedict and Francis have essentially healed the schism and dealt Barthalomew into the game, though without recognizing his historic primacy.
56. The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions.
Correct. It self annointed when Constantinople wasn’t looking.
57. The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the natural and theological sciences.
Until it examines the moral implications of gastrulation and evolution, the Modernists are right. The whole Galeleo thing was a bad stunt.
58. Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him.
Pius is right and misunderstands. Truth is objective, both superaturally and physically. The understanding of truth and man’s understanding of himself and existence in culture is constantly evolving.
59. Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.
Yes and no for Pius. He gave us the Spirit because we knew little, we meaning the Apostles. He taught the Kingdom of God, which if understood by the Vatican as it was meant to would shake them to the core (though JPI and Francis understand).
60. Christian Doctrine was originally Judaic. Through successive evolutions it became first Pauline, then Joannine, finally Hellenic and universal.
This error seems to be a pretty good summary of history.
61. It may be said without paradox that there is no chapter of Scripture, from the first of Genesis to the last of the Apocalypse, which contains a doctrine absolutely identical with that which the Church teaches on the same matter. For the same reason, therefore, no chapter of Scripture has the same sense for the critic and the theologian.
Sadly, not true. The Church proof texts like a bunch of Protestants on sex and divorce and the role of women, even without understanding the context or even the text.
62. The chief articles of the Apostles' Creed did not have the same sense for the Christians of the first ages as they have for the Christians of our time.
The Apostles Creed is a story of legend and true belief but an apochraphul story. It had lack that was fixed in Chalchedon, et al.
63. The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.
Advocates of women and priests would agree with the modernists, as would the victims of clergy sexual abuse. The Index was a travesty and is gone and the CDF cannot keep up with modern scriptural scholarship or the Internet. I would begin to trust it if it condemned the craven Republican politics of the pro-life movement.
64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.
Redemption must be adjusted, which leads to an evolved understanding of God and the Person of the Incarnate Word. These are not about science, but scripture and human nature. Creation is about science and until the Church changes its tune on Original Sin to take out disobedience as a historic fact and emphasize human nature as blameworthy because it blames others, then it will have a problem with reality.
65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.
Funny. Fundamentalist Evangelicals can be worse than the Curia in their mental stubborness. Being more like Anglicans or Disciples of Christ would be a step forward (though not the anti-gay Africans).


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Be perfect as your Father is Perfect

Today was the seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time.  The Scriptures for this week were about holiness.  Leviticus 19:1 was a call to holiness for the Jews in exile in Babylon.  In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul condemned factionalism by reminding the people that they are temples of the Holy Spirit and that all are in Christ rather than part of the flock of whomever converted them.  In Matthew 5, our Lord commands that we love our enemies, since even tax collectors love their own kin.  Our love must be perfect, as the Father's love is perfect.  That is holiness.

Jesus is clearly calling for us to love perfectly rather than behaving perfectly.  Not sinning is simply self preservation.  We are called to more than that.  As hard as it sounds, we are not allowed to hate the Alt Right just as they are not allowed to hate gay marrieds or couples who do not conform to traditional marriage customs.  As Christ calls us to love perfectly (especially the poor), we cannot be a Christian nation without accepting those we disapprove of.  Hating gangsta teens who feel empowered by anti-cop rap video is not allowed, nor is hating the cops who abuse them.

Hating people who need public assistance or who are disabled - or failing to provide for them if such assistance is their only income is particularly unholy.  Christ is found in these people, so give them fresh bread and meat rather than the expired stuff.  While it is convenient to donate food rather than toss it, it is holy to select a portion of the new stuff, just as Abel gave from his first fruits rather than the remainder.  Again, if we want to claim being a Christian nation, or be perfect as the Father is perfect, we must take care of this.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The culture warrior model on display

The culture warrior model on display: Distinctly Catholic: Last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput delivered another classic culture warrior speech, and his view of the church concerns me.

MGB: Bluster about cultural elites plays into the Fox News crowd.  Last I checked, the enjoyment of elite culture (whatever that is - it used to have something to do with Judaism) was voluntary.

The views of the Catholic Democratic elites are not a cultural phenomenon.  They come from a legal ethic that prizes individual liberty vs. the power of  mass bigotry driven by those seeking religious power.  That the bigots do not win the day is a good thing.  Sadly, we can't force aid to the poor in the same way we can stop official acts against minorities.

Sadly, the Catholic politicians in question have not spoken powerfully on how and why Roe works and is essential.  Then the mass of Catholics may understand it more clearly and we can end this debate - or transform it into a way to give parents the help they need to keep the child.

Acceptance of mainstream constitutional law is not a sin.  Until Chaput realizes this, most of us will simply ignore him.

If Chaput want to be relevant, he can excommunicate Catholic business owners who don't pay a living wage (varying with family size) - starting with Catholic institutions.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Happy Labor Day!

In 2009 I had a column with DC Examiner. Here is my inaugural Labor Day posting. In think it holds up.  http://xianleft.blogspot.com/2009/09/dc-examiner-blog.html

See also http://heymsw.blogspot.com/2015/09/labor-day-2015-national-catholic.html

Friday, August 05, 2016

Editing the Blog

I have created a new blog where I respond to posts by Michael Sean Winters and others at National Catholic Reporter, as well as some of his older posts at America Magazine.  I found that this was most of this blog, which buried my original content and earlier work.  To see up-to-date commentary from MSW, go to HeyMSW.blogspot.com  I will be posting more original content here as the election heats up.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Latest from Garry Wills

I am going to depart from the usual responses to Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter and insert a book review for your edification and enjoyment.  Of course, this will be cross posted onto Facebook, mainly because I am not sure anyone reads this blog anymore.  We actually have two books to review.  Both are by Garry Wills, who went to grammar school with my mother-in-law, the former Margaret Hayes at St. Mary's in Adrian, Michigan and who led her brother Bob in the the Jesuits (and after him, his cousin, Jim, who is chaplain of a Jesuit college in Boston).   I don't read Garry for the family connection, but because he is one of the major Catholic reform writers of our time, starting with Papal Sins and Why I am a Catholic, as well as What Jesus Meant, What Paul Meant, What the Gospels Meant and St. Augustine.  Reciting the litany of his works in this area (he is also a preeminent American historian) is necessary because over the years, he has developed themes that go from book to book.  You can find reviews of some of these works on this blog - although they are buried responses to MSW.  I may start a "best of  Bindner" blog to separate out the book reviews from the daily march through NCR, as well as from my now defuct column at the Examiner (which has been expunged from their site).

Why Priests? A Failed Tradition (New York, Penguin Books, 2013) is being reviewed now because I stopped going to bookstores for a while.  Better late than never.  Garry lays out his argument in six parts.  The first, Priest Power, goes after the Eucharist as a latter-day sacrament in the Church that did not exist at the time of the founding. While in the New Testament, there are no priests, but there are Overseers, which is commonly translated as bishops. The claim is effectively made that Communion existed in the larger common meal and that receiving communion unworthily had to do with bringing your own food to eat rather than eating from the common fair.  The idolotry of the Host in adoration and reservation in the Tabernacle also falls under his gaze. He explores the fastidiousness of Aquinas on the Eucharist, compared to Augstine who centered the Body of Christ in the community.

For my part, I have never experienced closeness to the Lord in the Monstrance, although I certainly do when taking Communion - either at Mass or privately in the hospital.  This is whether I go to Mass regularly or not and whether I am looking at questionable websites or not.  In my experience, there is something there beyond the unity of the community - there is a direct experience of God.  Whether that experience would occur or not if I consecrated my own matzos during Passover is an interesting question I have not tried.  Since Jesus instituted the Eucharist the first time at a Passover meal, then any such meal should include it - and by the father (or mother), not by a priest.

As for the bishops, I would render Overseer as Pastor, which does give us priests.  In Christianity, the First 3000 Years, (which I reviewed) Diarmaid MacCulloch relates that the bishop would control satellite gatherings by withholding consecrated hosts. Does that justify bishops or does that mean they were pastors of local city churches that used their role in consecration as a weapon of authority? I suspect that at this point, more priests were demanded and the Pastor of a flock became a hierarchical bishop and we are still sufferig the ill effects.  I would have probably called the book Why Bishops? instead,  It would have been nice if Garry had consulted Diarmaid's sources.

Part II reviews whether Jesus was the model of priesthood.  The problem was the Jesus was a prophet in life, not a member of the priestly caste (like his uncle).  He never offered sacrifice at the Temple.  While the Church calls him a priest in the line of Melchizedek, there is no historical evidence for such a priesthood or its relation to Jesus or the Church.  His treatment of this question is exhaustive, as if it were a doctoral dissertation in theology.  Of course, there are some things that dissertation committees will not countenance, even if true - especially at a Catholic university.

Part III reviews the Letter to Hebrews.  This letter has no attribution, although for centuries it was wrongly attributed to St. Paul.  Likewise, the author appears to write it to Judaizing Christians.  According to Elaine Pagels book on Revelation which I have also reviewed), the Judaizers held a grudge and wrote Revelation as a condemnation, not of Rome or some future Anti-Christ, but of the Pauline Christians.Of course, history shows that this sect of early Christianity was not rescued by Jesus, but has almost entirely disappeared (except among the Ethiopian Coptics).  Wills exhaustively reviews each section and then addresses the question of Jesus as the new High Priest.  Jesus being crucified outside the camp is examined, but I would respond that the outside the city metaphor is also applicable to his tomb, which is a metaphor for me of our suffering before entering into eternal life, both in this life and the next. We all die and rise with Jesus in Baptism, although each Mass commemorates that fact.

Part IV examines Jesus as Sacrifice.  Wills starts by addressing human sacrifice in general, which had been going out of style when Jesus before Jesus was alive (at least in the known world) and then addresses the question of who killed Jesus?  This question has bedeviled us, and we have bedeviled the Jews, for centuries. Wills offers the Devil, the Jews, Sinners, Justice, Honor and Perfection, citing the model of the transactional sacrifice to God from St. Anselm, which was echoed by Aquinas and still grips Trads in the Church.  For me, the answer is that Jesus killed Jesus. This death was not forced upon him.  He sought it for his own purposes, not for the purposes of either Rome or the Temple Priests.  It was certainly not in service to human ideals of perfection, which we are giving to God, rather than God imposing them on us or Jesus.

Part V outlines Jesus as Rescuer.  Wills uses the concept of God that Augustine held, which was neo-Platonic.  God is immovable. He then writes of how this affects how we view the sacrifice of Christ.  Human sin does not diminish him, it diminishes us.  Therefore, the sacrifice of the Cross is for us.  In my essay "The Death of Jesus and its Meaning to Us" sees the crucifixion as a vision quest where Jesus felt the full extent of human suffering, including his lost divinity when he have up the mother who told him of it and his his lost mission, when he gave Mary into to John's care, rather than having him baptize the world in his name.

Part VI criticizes the Monopoly on the Sacred, which is used agaist both non-Christians and non-Catholics, primarily through the sacraments.  Of course, the Church begrudgingly admits that all Christians can baptize, The distribution of the Eucharist is held closer to the vest, although my experience in taking Communion in the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches (which do have priests and bishops) is that the Lord is there in Communion, which is not the case in non-'real pressence' churches.  Wills reviews how the Church evolved each of the seven Sacraments, especially Penance and the question of whether one may only make one confession or many (or too many).  Of course, Marriage has always taken a back seat to the state definition of it, which makes state recognition of marriage equality so problematic.  My readers know my thoughts on this issue - the Church should not fear the state imposing gay marriage upon it, but of gay priests and the families of gay Catholics demanding it.  The history of all the Sacrements shows that the Church evolved them and will evolve them still.  Regardless of whether the Gospel writers intended for Jesus words in the Synopic Gospels to become a Eucharistic Sacrifice, the fact that the sacramets do evolve means that the evolution of the Eucharist is a legitimate phenomenon, although we can argue about idolatry toward the Host.

The second book by Wills just went into paperback (I got one of the last hardbacks, bad timing), entitled The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis (New York: Viking 2015). This work is in five parts.  Part I is The Coming and Going of Latin.  It traces how the Church evolved from using Greek to Latin and how Latin became a way to treat ritual and Gospel as provinces of the clergy and not the people, which ended with Catholic bibles being translated to keep up with Prostetant translations and the historic work of Vatican II. There is no mention of Francis here.

Part II, The Coming and Going of Monarchy traces what started as a martyr's Church through Constantine to the more regal papacy of recent memory to our more pluralist world, including how Pope Leo dealt with the "Freedom of the Church" and his attacks on Americanism, One can see this part as an updating of similar histories in Why I am a Catholic.  You can see that the battles over the Freedom of the Church are still going on, just from looking at events covering contraception and gay married Church employees.  Of course, this is not religious freedom we are talking about, it is religious power.  Luckily, the days of Catholic religious power are gone, although my friends in the Distributist movement would love to bring them back. Gary also talks about the City of God by Saint Augustine, which reflects his long study of the Bishop of Hippo.  There is not anything about Francis here, which stops at Vatican II.  I am not sure why not, because Francis has been the anti-monarch in the Papacy.

Part III deals with The Coming and Going of Anti-Semitism.  This is an updating and expansion of his work in Papal Sin, including how the Holocaust was a significant part of our change in tone toward the Jews.  Sadly, there is no mention of Francis here, although he has certainly reached out to several Rabbis (as did the two popes before him).

Part IV examines The Coming and Going of "Natural Law."  The three issues examined are contraception, female priests and abortion.  The papal misunderstanding (you could call it lying) about natural law is starkest in Piux IX's Casti Connubii and its condemnation of artificial birth control (this was even before the pill).  Sadly, the Church had a point in condemning the forced eugenic sterilization of the mentally ill, the ethnic and the mentally disabled.  These horrors impinged on human freedom.  To then extend this to resticting the ability of married couples to practice contaception is mind boggling, but more mindboggling is the demand for obedience to the Pope on these matters under the guise of natural law, which is a perversion of the concept.

As bad is the imposition of Aristotelean/Aquinian reasoning on sexual matters which are based on science that is as out of date as geocentrism in astronomy.  As a married (and soon to be divorced) Catholic man, I can assure you that the celibate priesthood has nothing to teach me on these matters.  I will spare you the analysis on rythem and natural family planninng, which is as bad.  No work on contraception has ever mentioned gastrulation - which has to be intentional because gastrulation is clearly the point where the blastocyst becomes an embryo and begins developing based on its own DNA, not the DNA of  only the mother.  Garry's analysis goes through to Humanae Vitae and stops.This chapter also has its roots in Papal Sin.   There is nothing here about either Evangelicum Vitae (also wrong) or Pope Francis.

The Chapter entitled "Male God" starts with always humorous analysis of St. Thomas on how babies are male and female.  This analysis starts with Paul VI's insistence that women cannot be priests because they do not appear to be like Christ. Garry looks to St. Paul to correct such ideas, including the fact that the original ministries of the Church, which we no longer see, were for both sexes.  He is careful to separate Paul for Pseudo-Paul and the latter's call for wifely obedience.  There are stains of Why I am a Catholic here and he does mention Pope Francis - both how he will not reopen the discussion on women priests (ask him again when Benedict dies) and how he treats women with equality (including washing their feet on Holy Thursday), including a friend from home who is a female priest.  Of course, there are now deaconnesses in the Greek Metropolitan Church.  This would be a good place to start.  I expect that eventually a division of the Roman Church into individual patriarchies will produce some new Great Churches, especially in America, where women will be ordained.

"Right to Life" examines abortion.  Wills quickly shows that there is no biblical prohibition on abortion.  I add that aborting a pregnancy is a test of adultery in Torah.  Of course, there are instances where Joseph and Jesus do not resort to it.  Joseph refused to use this procedure when Mary was pregnant, even before his dream annunciation), while Jesus followed suit with the woman who had been found in the act of adultery.  He did not condemn the law, but he did not follow it either. Wills continues with the natural law discussion of Aristotle and Aquinas, which is totally absent any science, save the fact that at some point babies kick. If scientists have a say in natural law, they have certainly done so by affirming a right to abortion. St. John Paul answered back with his sloganeering about the Culture of Death.  Wills then brings in embryology in terms of embryonic morbidity, although he does not mention gastrulation.  He then goes on to examine the question of when a fetus becomes a person and how uncertain we are, which should guide policy.  Of course, Aristotle does teach that if something could be a person, it should be protected, although he was not talking about the unborn.

I respond that the human soul is not mental, its energetic and begins at gastrulation.  That does not imply, however, that the law should treat the embryo or fetus as a person before it can be born safely (assisted viability, but only when the prospects for decent survival are assured).  First trimester embryos can certainly not be protected, because miscarriages occur at the same time - and these should not be treated as a public event.  That can probably be said for early second trimester fetuses as well. The pro-life movement has a problem.  Constitutional law says that personhood begins at birth and before personhood, privacy means that abortion may not be prohibited.  While the Congress can change when personhood begins, it cannot ban abortion without making it murder - and the country has no stomach for treating women who seek abortions as murderers, even though equal protection would demand it. We have come a long way since women were property, at least among most voters.  There is no mention of Pope Francis here, although Francis did say that we should not focus so heavily on this issue, instead focusing on the environment and especially the poor.

Part V is The Coming and Going of Confession.  Wills examines the recent history of Confession, including the belief that all sins must be confessed and that in the old days, one must fast before Communion even from water, and especially confessing mortal sins before receiving.  Of course, the most minor sexual thought was a mortal sin, rather than simply a normal part of being human.  The link of the "dark box" to sexual abuse by priests is also obvious and historical, including in convents. Of course, confession in the Reconcilation Room could be worse. There is some talk of not subjecting younger people to Confession.  My wife and I had my daughter go once, but have not focussed on it as  frequent thing, which is very different than how I was raised with the weekly question of whether I wanted to go to confession.  Confession has changed, first from only being baptism to being an end of life one-time sacrament to the frequent confessions prompted by the Irish monks.  The concept of confessors to Kings is also explored, which some thought as an encouragement to abuse.  Whether priests are necessary for forgiveness is debateable.  Garry indicates not, based on the Gospels, and I agree.  Wills says that Francis seems to as well.

It is in the Epilogue: The Future, The Church of Surprises really goes into deal about Francis. The Pope who asked "Who am I to judge?" regarding gay cardinals and priests in the Curia was more authoritarian when he was a Jesuit Provincial in Argentina.  He was certainly less of a social activist, although was charitable. He was a recognized failure when he went to Germany to work on his doctrate (in Chemistry). It was as a bishop that he came back and got the smell of the sheep. As all know, this humility has carried over to his papacy.  One need only look at how he dresses and does not dress.  He accepts popular piety in himself and the people, as Evangelii Gaudiium shows. At the writing of the chapter he had promised to continue investigating sexual abuse and spoke with an acceptance of change in the Church.  How much was a question and still is.

This book came out before the Year of Mercy was announced and its major event, the Synod on Marriage and the Family and publication of its Exhortation..  It would have been good to have this book wait until after this event - but perhaps this will be the topic of a new book.  The Exhortation spoke of changes in practice, but not in doctrine and did not include the language of infallibility.  The question that raises is whether these teachings are optional or whether that imperial language has been consigned to the past.  My bet is on the latter.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Abortion and Marriage Equality: It's about the sex

Yesterday, the Supreme Court suspended Trap Laws in Texas while thecase against them is being considered in federal court. As their effective date was tomorrow, theonly impact was anticipatory – and this action signals the likely outcome ofthe federal action – that the laws will be ruled unconstitutional under theundue burden test imposed by the Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.


As you can guess from my columns, I often debate Right to Lifers insocial media after they see what I write. Of late, I have been in a debate over whether their movement is a frauddesigned to win elections rather than save the unborn.

While trap laws theoretically would reduce the availability ofabortion, their value is mainly to direct yet another opportunity to overturnRoe v. Wade to the Supreme Court Docket. This is amply demonstrated by the conduct surrounding the Partial BirthAbortion Act, which has not really stopped any abortion from occurring (not thedearth of prosecutions), but as you could see from the Amici briefs, wasentirely about urging the Court to overturn Roe. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alitofollowed Justice Kennedy in ruling PBAA constitutional under the CommerceClause (which they were loathe to use on Affordable Care Act mandates). Justice Scalia was all set to get rid of Roeand two new Bush Justices were going to help him. No dice.

The Texas case is yet another opportunity, but with no new Justices onthe Court, one can only conclude that the possibility of this case will be usedas a campaign issue to select another pro-lifer to the Court – even thoughthese are in short supply. This does notmatter. What matters is that it coversthe National Right to Life Committees line that abortion is a relevant issueabove all others. This keeps volunteersworking and little old ladies writing checks.

Discussions with Right to Life true believers inevitably come around tothe fetus as innocent life. This isshort hand for them for pre-gastrulation blastocysts, post-gastrulation embryosand second and third trimester fetuses. It’slike arguing about killing puppies – all emotion and the resolution that thereought to be a law. Of course, the reasonabortion is legal is not due to innocence or the lack thereof, but to danger,both danger to the mother from a pregnancy that may hurt or kill her (and some chromosomalabnormalities will do that), that a pregnancy with no hope of a live birth isbest ended early or that banning abortion results in such danger to the motherfrom septic abortions by unqualified practitioners or self-performance thatrestriction is a danger itself.

There is, of course, a way out. Give a much larger Child Tax Credit, say $1000 per month per child – or more– so that having the baby is always a better option than abortion and adoptionis not necessary. Of course, if youpropose this the people who say that we are buying off women to not kill theirchildren – they can’t see it as removing a hazard. Other provisions for young families arenecessary too, like paying for the education of both parents, with maritalbenefits and a stipend, plus supportive day or night care. Then these same pro-lifers really hit theroof on incentives. These are the samefolks who want welfare benefits cut so welfare mothers don’t keep popping outbabies. Keep going and you will findthem talking about personal responsibility – and avoiding sex if you don’t wantto get pregnant – both teens and adult married and unmarried women.

The contradiction on personal responsibility regarding abortion andregarding money and sex is lost on them. It’s really about restoring a puritanical sexuality to women’s lives. Sorry, but that ship has sailed – either payadequate benefits or rest assured that God will hold you are responsible forabortion as anyone, not because you failed to enact restrictions but becauseyou failed to do what it takes without doing so, even though that was the best solution.

You can see the same view in their reaction to gay marriage. In reality, their objection to gay marriageis that it makes society complicit in sodomy. All the scripture they cite against gay marriage is on the sex. Indeed, the gospel provisions in Matthew,once you get past the restating of the Genesis passage on sexual diversity, iscompletely supportive of family autonomy – that is once a couple is married,they are one flesh and no longer members of their family of origin. This speaks exactly to what started the moveto marriage equality – the deplorable behavior of hospitals, particularlyCatholic ones (since reversed by policy) in kicking same sex spouses out anddeferring to surviving family members. There was not just a single incident, the problem was endemic and agreat many lawyers and justices, and now the Supreme Court, has solved it.

In reaction, there are is the predictable response about God reigning vengeanceon the nation for what it has done, but I don’t think God cares about oursystem of family law per se. Theybelieve it’s the sex. Of course, thatcase was settled ten years ago in Lawrence v. Texas and few think it’s a goodidea to put government back in the business of policing gay bedrooms, even ifthis rarely happened and was often due to some other circumstance. Of course, that such enforcement happened atall is what was really shameful – which is why the Reactionaries are attackingmarriage. Still, we all know it’s aboutthe sex.

If you read the reaction of Catholic bishops onthis and their focus on procreation – even though no marriage where the brideis older than her mid-forties – and such unions exist – will have nothing to dowith fecundity. The only Canon Lawimpediment is a lack of functionality (which again, for gays, they find icky –unless their gay – and they pretend by protesting loudly). It turns out the Sacrament of Marriage isbetween the couple, the celebrant is merely a witness. Gay marriage should be no different and ithas not been for a long time. Onemployees, the Church has never raised an eyebrow about employing heterosexualsin civil marriage, although it condemns such unions for Catholics. There should be no difference for civillymarried gay employees. Indeed, itsbigotry to treat them differently if neither form is morally acceptable. So in conclusion, it’s about the sex.     

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Divine Mercy

Sunday, I was on my way to St. Ann's Catholic Parish while putting together this column as I walked (so I got in during the first reading - should have walked faster).  Then I heard the Homily - it did not change what I said, but it did add a new perspective, which I share below.  We are a nice parish and you can find us online at www.stann.org.

Divine Mercy is an interesting phrase and a bit redundant.  Everything about the Divine is Mercy and all Mercy is sourced in the Divinity.   So what is mercy?  Is it a parent who comforts you after a good thrashing?  It depends.  Was the punishment really essential for you to remember or was it for violating some arbitrary rule?  Or was there no thrashing at all, but only hurt caused by bad behavior?

Mercy is not just forgiveness for breaking a law seen as coming from God (but in reality is from man instead).  It is mercy as the law – a law in keeping makes life better – the yoke is easier and the burden lighter.  The letter from John in the second reading talks about loving the Lord by keeping his commandments.  In other places, John talks about how the commandment is to Love one another.   This sounds easier, but in fact is much harder than going to confession and enumerating dirty thoughts and lapses in Friday abstinence.

To love one another was shown in the first reading from Acts, where the Church had no poor because the rich gave all their wealth for all.  Nowadays it is the poor who give and the mega church minister or Catholic bishop who drives the town care and lives in a palace.  While there are certainly some priests and a pope who are an example of what the Church of Acts did, they are notable as the exception, not the rule.

The Gospel from John is interesting – it’s the Gospel of Peace, where Jesus gives the apostles the power to forgive sin. The interesting question is, is this a function of office or it is given to everyone?  Of course, if the latter, it’s harder for bishops and popes to sell indulgences or claim a monopoly on forgiveness, shared grudgingly with priests and not at all for the people to exercise.  Now that would be radical – if sins could be confessed to each other and considered forgiven.  Indeed, it would be in keeping with the stories of forgiveness, where to be forgiven at all, we must forgive.  We say it every day in the Our Father.  The story goes on to the next week, where Thomas (really Jude, brother of Jesus – called twin because they looked alike) could not get over the grief of his brother’s death until he saw – which Jesus immediately forgives while giving a blessing to those of us who have never seen him but seek his mercy.

On Sunday, Monsignor Mosley, the Pastor at St. Ann’s, where I am now again a parishioner had an interesting take on John’s Gospel, focusing on the term “Peace be with you”.  Was it Peace, and where were you guys last Friday night?  Or was it peace – everything is fine – even the fact that you were not there Friday night.  In short, it’s the latter and the homily explained it wonderfully.  If you missed it, you missed it.


Of course, one cannot but think of the Synod on the Family.  Will the Mercy written about by Cardinal Kasper stick to forgiveness of non-canonical second marriages (but not the gay ones) or will it go beyond the original message by the Cardinal and rethink the doctrine – not to give a free pass but to correct it when it is not an instrument of mercy.  When doctrine creates wrongs from a puritanical bias rather than accepting people as they are, whether seeking solace after a bad marriage or gay seeking companionship for life. Will the Synod fathers put their faith in canon law, as Cardinal Burke would counsel or in divine mercy, going even further than Cardinal Kasper and the Pope dared dream at the prompting of the Spirit.  We will certainly see.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Hobby Lobby Case

This column, unlike most, is not a reaction to what Sean Michael Winters has said on the issue.  I may comment on his comments later on, but I need nothing to riff off of on this issue.

As most people know, Hobby Lobby et al have won the right not to pay for IUD or Plan B coverage for their employees.  I am not sure how they will go about doing this, since these are standard coverage items.  Indeed, the Secretary of HHS should not have been a party to the case - the person to be sued should have been their insurer and then the Secretary who mandated the coverage as a ministerial part of enforcing the Affordable Care Act.
The case was not decided correctly (unless you buy the argument that whatever a majority of the Court says is correct and constitutional).  For the want of an argument convincing middle voter Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Alito got to write the opinion of the Court.  Never a good sign.

The Petitioners argued that they had a religious right not to pay for what they believed to be abortion inducing birth control methods.  This is sloppy language and it has been since the Catholic Church began opposing the contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act regulations.   As I understand it, the majority shareholders in Hobby Lobby are not Catholic, but are part of a movement in the Evangelical Right to lock arms with the Catholic Church on the issue of birth control - due mostly to their common membership on the National Right to Life Committee and other organizations.  Apparently the Pope is only the anti-christ when not talking about abortion or birth control (if you don't get the joke, you know little of American history regarding the Catholic Church - although the reaction against Catholic Central American migrants getting fair treatment on immigration may have you think nothing is changed).

The point is that the owners of Hobby Lobby and Shenedoah are not alone but are part of a larger coalition to force their views on this issue onto as many people as possible (most of whom are women).  That is not religious freedom - that is religious power.  Freedom involves the ability to not be controlled by others on your personal (not your business) conduct and would even include speaking your mind about what you think others should do.  Power is taking away their options to act.  This case was not about religious freedom - it was about religious power.  Sadly, that case was not made on argument -if it had been Kennedy might have gone the other way.

Indeed, the ability to exercise power should have another restriction - that of reality.  In this matter, the contention is that the cited birth control methods cause the death of a child.  Setting aside the fact that under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, life begins legally at viability (and why this was allowed to happen is a mystery), the embyrologists who write the text books and the Encyclopedia Brittanica articles about Development will tell you that life beings at Gastrulation - and their position is both scientific and common sense.  Until St. John Paul II let a cardiologist write his encyclical Evangelicum Vitae, most Catholic ethicists would have agreed that life beings at about a week - essentially gastrulation.  Indeed, even if one is Catholic, if one is morally sure that life begins later than conception - but instead at gastrulation, then there is no obligation to preserve it - that is both E.V. and Aristotle.

Of course, if the whole no copayment thing were not part of the ACA, there would be no ethical or legal place to stand.  The Petitioners would have no claim that their money was solely responsible for these drugs - and if tax money or outside insurance money paid for these services, they would have no right to sue.  As it is, that is the one thing that Justice Alito got right.  The question is, will Congress be able to act?  (probably not).  Will the Administration and the insurance companies be able to devise a solution?  Most likely but nothing is for certain.

What is for certain is that this is going to backfire on the Republicans big time.  Justice Aliton has thrown the gauntlet back down in the War on Women during an election year.  I am quite sure that there is now room to make this an electoral issue and if Republican women get that this is about them (Democratic women don't work in Hobby Lobby) then this could be the biggest gift the Democratic Party has gotten since now Cardinal Dolan testified with four other men on birth control, Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut and Todd Aiken opined about rape victims rejecting embryos naturally.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A report from the field

If my precinct is an indicator of voter turnout in Northern Virginia, the Democrats are not only winning, they are running up the score and tearing Cooch's face off.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Anniversary Marches on Washington 1983-2013

A week ago, the 50th Anniversary March on Washington was commemorated in two events. The first event was organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton the Saturday before the actual anniversary. During the three hours prior to the actual program, a variety of groups were allowed to speak for a brief period of time, with a go-go music cut off once that period was reached. In the afternoon the focus seemed to be on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the honoring of some of the old timers from the original march. Rev. Al has still not let go of this issue and is treating it in much the same way he treated the Trawlana Brawley incident, which brought him to prominence. An actual procession followed, as occurred in 1963 - although starting it was like watching paint dry. I doubt no one was watching it at the end.
Prior to the March on Saturday, there was a rally for DC statehood, which was both well attended and well covered. The event at the actual anniversary was controlled by the King family, who maintain a tight control on their father's legacy. For the first time, President's were invited to speak. President's Carter, Clinton and Obama attended. The two Bushes passed due to recent hospitalizations and none of the Republican office holders invited bothered to attend - which was likely just as well, as the crowd may not have been friendly. President Obama said what Dr. King or Bill Cosby might have said during his remarks. He certainly did not come with a list of presidential promises. It was an interesting speech.
The first of the anniversay speeches took place during the Reagan term in 1983. (There was no March in 73 - indeed the anti-war marches had ended because US forces were out of Viet Nam - instead everyone was watching the Watergate Hearings)This march was partly in response to the economy and partly to pressure President Reagan to support the King Holiday, which he eventually did.
My first March was in 93. Clinton was not invited to speak, so inviting him in the recent march makes up for that. I particpated on the DC organizing committee, volunteering in the office and putting up march posters. I also coordinated the DC gathering and statehood event - although most people simply went to the Lincoln Memorial on their own. Still, as a marshal I had a good view working the perimenter. It was a very hot day.
The topic of the 93 March was Jobs, Justice and Peace, with a statehood undercurrent due to the participation of Sharon Pratt Kelly. Indeed, the quesiton of statehood did come to a vote that year, although it did not pass the House or be considered by the Senate. In my view the statehood bill was and is still flawed - both because it leaves too much of the federal core in federal hands (and outside the taxing authority of the new state) and because it does not include as part of the ratification process consideration by the Maryland General Assembly of retrocession - which they would most assuredly reject. If this were included, the main Republican objection, outside racism, would be dealt with and they could be pressured into voting Aye by playing the race card.
After the March I went to the Democratic Socialists of America reception at an Irish bar on Dupont Circle. At this event I met the local DSA chair at the time and Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Chair Lawrence Guyot. We had all been marshals on the front line, so we all had the same shirts on. Lawrence is gone rather recently, DSA is still there - but with younger leadership and I still have that blue shirt someplace.
In 2003 my daughter was only four weeks old when the march happened, so I took a pass on organizing and attending. Interestingly enough, Mark Thompson, who I knew from Stand Up for Washington DC! was the organizer and chair. Had I known, I might have gotten more involved, although that year family comes first - which is likely why we did not see him this year either as his parcel of kids has grown more than mine.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Suggestions for Washington, Baltimore, Richmond and Arlington bishops

His Holiness, Pope Francis I, while on his trip to Brazil for World Youth Day, urged the faithful to shake up their diocese.  Le me make a few immodest suggestions to that end:

1. Transfer parish and diocesan property to the laity and administer it by lay deacons and deaconesses, chosen by the parishes or organization boards rather than by the bishop or pastor (by the way, the office of bishop in the Bible seems more akin to a Pastor rather than a Medieval princeling).  The clergy should spread the Gospel, not the money, as per Acts.

2.  In Washington especially, cover all families with health insurance, including those with gay couples.  For a long time, the Church covered families created by a civil marriage, even though these were regarded as immoral.  It is only masking bigotry to suddenly object just because these marriages are now open to gays and lesbians.

3.  Perform these marriages - not because you are legally required to do so, but because Catholic families want the marriages of their children honored.  The Church got itself into this situation by having Catholic hospitals exclude long time companions as not next of kin, even though they obviously were, at the request of families.  If denying the dying the comfort of the person they love the most was done in order to pressure a death bed conversion, that is a most shameful misunderstanding of the mercy of God.

4.  The Gospel of Life still strikes a misogynistic chord coming from an all male clergy.  If you really want it to resonate for women you must also ORDAIN WOMEN!

5.  If you want people to not use birth control, advocate for a family wage adjustment of $1000 per month per child - so that two workers doing the same job would have that difference in pay per child depending upon the number of children (and dependent spouses) - and PAY THAT WAGE YOURSELVES!  Advocating natural family planning is missing Pope Benedict's point about the need for economic empowerment.

6.  Expand Catholic hospital care to include mental health care for all those locked up as non-violent drug offenders (and even violent ones) - with the Church as the prime contractor rather than leaving these people to for-profit prisons and government prisons.  Also, open Catholic vocational schools to start at age 16.  It is elitist to deny Catholic education to those who are not going to Catholic college.

7.  Go back to the ancient practice of electing bishops locally.  While it was necessary in non-democratic times to wrest this power from local kings and polit-bureaus, in most of the world the protection of the Vatican is not necessary to block local government interference with the Church.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Fortnight for freedom a bust

The Catholic Church's Fortnight for Freedom came and went with nary a media mention outside the Catholic press.  Likewise, the regulation on birth control that the bishops were protesting has been published with no fanfare at all in the media.  While the bishops preliminary analysis was discouraging, I would not expect otherwise, as it would have ruined their protest by prayer to say anything else.

The timing of the Fortnight, which ended on July 4th, seems to be another attempt by the Church to catholicize a holiday that has nothing to do with Catholicism.  Indeed, the founding fathers would be quite amazed at their attempt to turn a commemoration of their revolution into a protest about the institutional rights of the Catholic Church to prevent their own employees, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from having access to a full range of family planning choices.

This is not to say that the last 237 years have not been good to the Church in America.  Indeed, it is among the strongest of nations in Catholicism, given the general decline of church attendance in Europe.  The largest denomination in the country is Roman Catholic, with ex-Catholic being the second most common.

The freedom to be the latter, or to disagree with the Church on such matters as birth control, where they have the scientific and relational facts wrong, is why we celebrate Independence Day.  Frequent readers of this space know my arguments on this issue - that life cannot begin until gastrulation, where the embryo first acts under the influence of both parents and therefore its own soul or life force - before that point the mother's life force controls development, and therefore her soul.

Since all forms of birth control are effective before gastrulation, there can be nothing wrong with them in terms of life.  As for what using birth control says about marital love, I would prefer the celibate and all male hierarchy to stay out of my bedroom.  Indeed, the whole teaching on Catholic sexuality is suspect given its stand on ordaining women.  If women were ordained to the deaconate, priesthood and episcopacy, the Gospel of Life might be able to get some traction outside of the clergy and young people in Catholic school (who soon change their minds once they start having sex).

Be that as it may, the attendance at adoration at my very liberal parish was said to be sparse but intense.  The more conservative parish in Old Town Alexandria may have had more attendance, although I doubt it.  The idea of using prayer to bribe God to change public policy is either a cynical use of prayer as a grass roots organizing tool or simply a misunderstanding of the whole concept.  In spirituality, the purpose of prayer is to align oneself with the will of God.  It is, in essence to say "Bless him (in this case Obama), Change me."  I doubt that Cardinal Dolan had that in mind when he organized the Fortnight for Freedom.  The Church will be at war with itself over contraception until he does and that is truly sad.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA and Proposition 8 decision impacts

Congratulations to the people of California and to gay couples everywhere in the United States on this great day!  This is one of the reasons I like living inside the beltway (although the MS-NBC coverage would be the same no matter where I was).  In DC, Congress can now do nothing to hurt the rights of LGBT couples.  There are four remaining issues to address in the wake of these decisions.  


The first is that although it was not at issue in this case, the plain language of the Constitution in Article IV is very clear that states must recognize the actions of other states, including marriages.  The repeal of DOMA means that the provisions letting states not do so are repealed and any judge would be hard pressed to rule against a married gay couple seeking to file their taxes jointly or claim inheritance rights. They might even mean that gay couples can demand marital rights in all states based on the strong decision of the San Francisco Federal District Court in Perry.

The second impact is that by not ruling on the merits of Proposition 8, it is less likely that there will be a push to a national constitutional convention to nullify today's decisions, although it is still possible.  The dream of a right wing convention is dying as fast as the generation who would seek to dominate is, which takes a Human Life Amendment permanently off the table as well.  (Frequent  readers know that a HLA is not needed because abortion can be and is federally limited by statute, but not at the state level, because of the enforcement mechanisms of the 14th Amendment).

The third impact is on the Church.  The DOMA repeal makes it harder for the Church to discriminate against gay employees as employees (although their rights to regulate those in ministry are not changed).  It is quite illogical for the Church as employer to recognize heterosexual civil marriages and not homosexual ones - indeed, this shows that the impulse to do so lies not in morality but in bigotry.

The fourth impact is also on the Church.  The equal protection language and the spread of legal gay marriage makes it more likely that the nature of marriage will change.  As I have previously written, the Church's interest in preserving traditional marriage had as much to do with preserving its own patriarchy in relation to the people in the pews as it does the sexual relations of its gay members.  This issue also includes the practice of blessing marriages that would not otherwise be recognized by the Church formally in a private ceremony.  With a largely gay clergy, this will accelerate, especially as families demand such recognition.  Of course, the Church cannot use the preservation of its dominance over its own members as a legal reason the oppose marriage in Court - that is simply the Church's problem and this generation will not allow the patriarchy to hold sway much longer - especially with a Pope like Francis who puts humility over power.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The House abortion bill and a progressive Catholic response

Today the House passed a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks.  The Democrats have claimed the bill is unconstitutional and is a violation of Roe v. Wade.  Technically they are correct, however the right to privacy in Roe is conditional upon the fact that the fetus is not recognized as a person until viability - with the Court settling on viability because Congress had set no other time for the start of legal personhood so the default had to be the plain language of the 14th Amendment, which starts life at birth.

The 14th Amendment, however, also includes an enforcement provision.  If enforcement can reasonably include interpretation, Congress is certainly within its rights to set some time earlier than viability - although it would have to deal with any equal protection issues which arise by doing so.  By settling on 20 weeks, which is well past the point where most natural miscarriages occur, they avoid most of these issues, so the Bill would likely pass constitutional scrutiny, just as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban did at the federal level, even though the states could not do so on their own (just as they cannot go to 20 weeks on their own).

Still, the Republicans are not serious.  A more serious bill would have been 23 weeks and would have included an exception for the health of the mother when the child is diagnosed with a defect which will end its life before birth.  In such cases, the quicker the pregnancy is terminated, the less risk for the mother.

A serious bill would also make it easier to not only support women in having their children, but also support families financially regardless of the income level of the primary bread winner.  To do so would require a $500 a month tax credit for each child paid with wages or TANF benefits, with a matching state credit.  This would provide enough funding, especially if indexed for inflation, to afford an additional child, thus removing the main incentive for abortion, which is financial pressure caused by expanding the family.  Any abortion bill should also include this provision.

This would unify the pro-life and progressive wings of the Church. Indeed, the bishops should insist on such a provision.  To not do so would be heartless, as an abortion ban without such a provision would lead to more dangerous back alley procedures.  Indeed, there should be a provision that late term abortions be conducted in hospitals using induction.  Catholic hospitals should offer these services, as in such cases the child could be baptized at birth before being allowed to die without extraordinary measures.

There is another reason the GOP is not serious on this issue.  If they were to work out a deal with Obama their base would freak out, while the centrists would consider the issue solved.  The mushy middle on abortion would become solidly for the new status quo.  Most importantly, the ability to turn out the base on what is considered a settled issue (and to raise money from them) would be all but ended.  Indeed, there would be no reason for the fundraising and GOTV machine, which includes the Catholic clergy, that is active on abortion to continue its relationship with the Republicans.

Let me also point out that, although the President has promised to veto this particular bill, he did say in the third debate with Senator McCain in 2000 that he would be willing to revisit the Partial Birth Abortion Law so that other procedures might also be banned - however he might hold fast to a 30 week limit.

This is, of course, the wrong time for this legislation to be considered seriously.  If Obama were to keep is promise to revisit this issue and start negotiating with Representative Blackburn on details he would not only have a staff rebellion but would also hurt Democratic turnout in 2014.  This is the kind of legislation best passed in the final year of a presidency.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

The mind, neuroscience and the beginning of life

Tomorrow at noon, if you are a C-SPAN BookTV watcher, be sure to catch a rebroadcast of Afterwords with Sally Satel, "Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience," hosted by Dan Vergano, USA Today Science Reporter.  It contrasts nicely with a few of the episodes of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel, which talk about when life begins as well as what we have found out about the mind from neuroscience.  Both of these also relate to How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil.

I confess I have not read Dr. Satel's book, but can relate from the broadcast that she regards neuroscientists making conclusions about metaphysics as going a bridge too far.  This is the concluding chapter, however both the book and the C-SPAN program are worth watching and reading.  I would agree and disagree with her on this.  The finding that the actions of the brain occur before the reflections of consciousness have profound metaphysical impact - just not the impact that most neuroscientists, programmers or indeed ethicists have in mind. 

Both Morgan Freeman and Ray Kurzweil talk a bit about the beginning of life as well, with Morgan showing a few options, including life as beginning at conception, life beginning at the ability to be conscious and personhood beginning at about age five, when children become morally conscious.  He also talks about learning machines.  Kurzweil addresses the issue of the begining of life and abortion with the options of conception and the ability to be conscious.  Usually those who are pro abortion (not just pro choice) believe that consciousness in the womb is when life begins, while the pro lifers belive that fertilization is when life begins.  Kurzweil repeats this point.  

Kurzweil's main thrust is to describe the inevitability of machine intelligence which can be used to both supplement human intelligence and become conscious in its own right.  The book is also well worth reading, but take it in small chunks.  As an aside, in his Epilogue, he talks about the destiny of mankind in injecting human intelligence into the larger universe as an inevitability, especially if we can enhance ourselves with AI.  As a fan of Star Trek, it sounds to me like he is proposing we become the Borg.  I'm not sure I like that idea.  However, I don't think this will happen.  Let me explain why.

What neuroscience seems to show is that consciousness is not what it is cracked up to be.  Rather then being sentience itself, it is merely the experience of being sentient.  By sentience, I mean the ability to make moral choices, including the ability to choose evil.  In the world of artificial intelligence, I am fairly sure we don't want to give computers or the Web the ability to make such choices for us, which is why some of what Kurzweil and Freeman say will never happen.

Sentience happens in the brain.  Some would call such a contention materialistic.  I beg to differ.  The metaphysical implication is that the body and spirit are entirely intertwined - and not just in the brain.  Rather, the soul is the life force that stops the cells from entropy.  Once that soul is gone, entropy proceeds, starting with the brain (some organs life longer, so transplant surgery is possible).  
The beginning of life, then, would be that point where the life force begins to organize the human being - and that point is gastrulation.  Before that time, you can cut an embryo in two and make two people.  During the time between fertilization and gastrulation the maternal DNA (and therefore the maternal soul) entirely control the development of the child.  After gastrulation, the genes of both parents are equally responsible for development.  Until gastrulation, it is not possible to know whether the DNA from both parents is even compatible in that zygote, which is why most blastocysts die at this point.  Unless Heaven is populated with bad blastocysts, life cannot begin at conception.

This conclusion is both a defeat for the pro-life side and would be considered a victory if adopted - although it will only be a moral victory.  There is more to ending abortion than simply proving that post-gastrulation embryos have a soul.  Starting life at that point would turn each miscarriage into a public event - and that will never be allowed to happen in this country.  If abortion is to be decreased, the answer is economic - however that is the subject of a different column. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lets work together in 2013

As the new year and the fiscal cliff approach, various groups are calling for a solution which makes sure that changes do not occur that make the elderly and the poor worse off. Sadly, these groups do not talk to each other. As a Catholic Progressive, I am issuing a call for us to work together.

In the Catholic community, the Campaign for Human Development works for social justice - both within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and within parishes. While there is some diocesan activity, some bishops are better than others. Likewise, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association are players (with a close access to the President on poverty issues and health care).

There is also a large group of progressive Catholics who either are not concerned with what the organized Church is doing, even if they go to Mass weekly (I would be one of those) - or else they simply don't attend frequently - often because they disagree with the Church over sex (including the abuse of minors, its stand on birth control and even personal sexual sin and the ordination of women, gays and married people). Even then, these voters still take comfort in the belief in a personal relationship with God, even if they do not gather for worship as frequently as their more orthodox brethren. (As far as the Orthodox themselves, I am unsure of their politics on social issues).

On the Protestant side, there are mainline denominations of a more liberal bent or with an emerging liberal base, as well as the Emerging Church Movement which also is a more liberal brand of the Evangelical Church. Most importantly, the African American Church is strongly liberal on economic issues.

Then there are the non-Christian Churches, many of whom are strongly liberal on economic issues - from the Buddhists to the Jewish Community.

All of these groups share some degree of commitment to community activism and public charity to the poor. The Buddhists believe strongly in compassion and Torah and the prophets speak of a strong core belief in public systems to help the poor and the bad consequences on a nation that ignores these teachings. Both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel were exiled for this reason, according to scripture.

Secularists, also known as atheists, also bring something to the party. Indeed, the social service structure now under threat exists largely because the labor movement, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party were perceived as a threat to capitalism. Now that this threat is no longer apparent, with labor safely in decline, questions of religion and belief are used to divide labor from believers - especially on the abortion and gay rights issues (although there is an emerging group of Christians who are now very friendly to gay marriage and doubt the wisdom of governmental action to stop abortion, even if they are personally against it).

People of faith should not fear secularists, as many of them are opposed to religion for the same reason many Catholics no longer attend Mass on a weekly basis, because it is seen as corrupt and a tool of the ruling class. This is not a new view. Anti-clericalism has a long history in Catholic countries, especially where bishops make life worse for the poor.

The opposition to gay marriage and fixation on abortion without actually offering any program to stop it are just the latest act in a long history of the hierarchy of the Church supporting the rich and shameless who give them money. Recognizing this, secularists, atheists and Marxists should realize that some of their strongest potential allies are among those who go to Church, even those of us who go every week.

There is little danger of any comprehensive solution to the Fiscal Cliff happening in the next two days - more likely the parties that be will kick the can down the road on most issues. The enemies of the poor - the CEOs who sponsor Fix the Debt - will keep fighting. If we wish to counter them, and even find ways to use tax reform to shift ownership and control from the CEO/Investor class to rank and file workers, then we must work together - and soon. History is not necessarily inevitable given how adaptable capitalism is. People of Care, Unite!