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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Silk on Morals, Bias & Media | National Catholic Reporter

Silk on Morals, Bias & Media | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: Interesting way for Silk to plug his book (although you have to read to the need to see what he is doing). Religious freedom is the issue of the the year.  The questions is, how do you separate real religious freedom from the act of moral scorn (which is when you use your faith to attempt to interfere with the moral rights of others).  This is true in gay marriage, was true with Don't Ask, Don't Tell being repealed (and neither had any real societal effect on either marriage or the military).  Indeed, moral scorn seems to be the stock in trade of the Taliban, as there is nothing wrong with educating children, including and especially girls.  Of course, the right wing Catholic press will never hit that angle.

Good News, and Bad, on Health Care | National Catholic Reporter

Good News, and Bad, on Health Care | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: In many states, the government is strong enough over the doctors to make sure immunizations were free - although now they come with a real well baby appointment and that is good news.  Vermont's failure of single-payer is sad, but I expect the opposition was fierce.  This is one of those things the that powers that be in health insurance don't want to ever succeed here.  My idea (aside from scrapping comprehensive insurance and giving people funds for the regular care - the one McCain ran with) is to slowly expand the Uniformed Public Health Service, staring with them seeing Medicaid patients for free instead of other doctors.  Then creep over into pre-existing condition patients and the elderly and soon we will have real socialized medicine, the British kind.  Having been treated by these folks for an adrenal tumor, that is not a bad option.

Cyber Warfare, Sony Pictures & Censorship | National Catholic Reporter

Cyber Warfare, Sony Pictures & Censorship | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: Breen, the Legion of Decency and some within the Church loved having power over Hollywood.  Frankly, government standards would not have been so bad (although they can be as venal as the Catholic Church - for example in policing vulgar language (although profanity - Oh G_d, has always seemed OK) and the nipple on the Big Game (calling it by name is considered a copyright violation at times).  The government seeks to avoid problems while the Church wants to look powerful.  It is good that censorship is over, even though movies are a bit raunchier than they sometimes need to be (no one needs to ever see as much of Cedric the Entertainer as we did in Top Five - even if it was burlesque).  As for the Rogan Film, its still on schedule where I work, so I would not put all this hype about Korean Hackers into the serious threat box - it could all be a stunt.  The other option, of course, is that its a bad movie and this is an excuse to shelve it - although once the President said anything, the term staged comes to mind.  This says nothing about Obama save that he has a sense of humor.  Still, an April 1st opening would be a nice indicator that this is all fake, but I am unwilling to go for headlines and use that as my lead.

'Migrants leave behind everything but their faith' | National Catholic Reporter

'Migrants leave behind everything but their faith' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: I hope that the Pope watches these films on the flight over here.  There is, of course, the very real truth that those who employ workers in the shadows do so to control labor costs in terms of both safety and wage.  I hope the films highlight this.  Of course, if these folks were unionized (no more right to work laws) and the restrictions lifted all workers who come would have full dignity and only enough would come for the available work.  As to Francis saying Mass at the fence, it would be a bit more political than when the bishops of the USCCB migration committee did it - that and it would lead to such a mass of humanity that the fence would be toppled (not a bad thing), but also that people would be hurt or killed.  If Francis wants to address the Latino part of the problem, he needs to visit Mexico and Guatemala, et al. Except he does not, for he knows.  He also knows that he is not issue, he simply carries the message from He who is.

Anticipating WPFMTS Syndrome | National Catholic Reporter

Anticipating WPFMTS Syndrome | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: To state a few counter-objections and their responses, the Pope is not an expert in scientific questions, indeed the more the Holy See relies on science the bigger the chance for error, whether this be how the cosmos operates, the mysteries of embryology or climate science.  These things must be taken in flux by the scientific community, but he can and must deal with the social consequences.  He can most definitely teach on population control and eugenics - not from fetishizing blastocysts, which are not yet moral objects, but to affirm the rights of people, especially poor people of color, to procreate as they see fit.  Criticizing the free market response to warming is also quite alright with me - although any act by a capitalist individually has little impact on the whole of the issue, much as we all like to pillory the Brothers Koch and China.

The place to criticize capitalism is in how  its benefits are uneven or absent for people who work or cannot work and live in those areas prone to change, whether that be Bangladesh or the lower 9th ward of New Orleans. Most importantly, the Church can call for governmental action, and the funds to pay for it, to make sure these people are moved with opportunity where they seek refuge and the condemned land kept fallow.  As for the national rights of all concerned - that is a political, not a moral question. The Holy See is a sovereign state as well.  It can speak as one among the community of nations.  On the moral authority, recognizing current and past scientific errors would certainly make the world take notice and would enhance the authority of the document.

The Cuba Deal | National Catholic Reporter

The Cuba Deal | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: This is a good thing, although sadly Obama had to wait until the midterms were over to do it - not because it is inappropriate but because he does not want to be blamed for the backlash by Cuban-American Exile voters (who like the rest of the GOP old white male club, are dying out.  More then Castro, their exit was necessary for full relations and no embargo.  How sad is it for a group to have progress have to wait until they are dead.  Its as bad as being Castro.  This is precisely when Obama had to do this.  Any closer to the election and the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, reaps too many benefits - just as his brother did when Bill Clinton did the legal and proper thing and sent Elian Gonzalez back home with his father - essentially costing Al Gore the election (no, it was not Nader).  Like young Elian, this action cannot really be undone and there is no reason to do so.  More trade, not less, will change the economic equation and that will free people to begin to chaff politically (which I am sure IS happening in China under our radar).  Trade with Eastern Europe certainly began the the process of overthrowing the USSR, although frankly we now know that they never were all that - and we had an interest in keeping it that way, just as some do with Cuba.  We have taken a step in ignoring these interests - making their continued reliance on Castro as a scape goat to keep the Exiles in the GOP less and less reasonable with time.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Meme of the Year, from St. Paul to Vienna | National Catholic Reporter

Meme of the Year, from St. Paul to Vienna | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: I know the Pope likes this meme of the older brother, but it has limited applicability.  It may apply to failed marriages, but in this case the older brother is not the Curia, but the spouse who may have been wronged in the divorce who sees his wife or her husband married again in the Church.  Of course, if he were alcoholic, abuse, etc. (in my case insolvent and working at a job beneath me) then he also has something to be sorry about.  In some cases, like abuse, the wife has nothing to forgive - sometimes, however, though not necessarily an obligation (although if she wishes forgiveness, it may be), is the better path.  As for gay marriage, no sin is being forgiven so the older brother needs to be scolded for homophobia and it is the gay couple that must bring forgiveness.  I am sure that would go over nicely with Ray Burke - someone forward him my remarks.  Maybe I should forgive him?  Maybe, if he seeks pardon.  Not holding my breath.

Torture & Evangelization | National Catholic Reporter

Torture & Evangelization | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: The poll is interesting, because it seems that the non-religious are more humane on torture than Catholics.  This does not reflect ethics but the group dynamics of a Church with a hierarchist leadership and followers who have in their Catholic DNA a willingness to treat non-group members (Muslims and Protestants) with justifiable malice (at least in their eyes).  This has nothing to do with the New Evangalization (although not hating the Protestants might help) or Humanae Vitae (which is an ethical issue - one that the Mitered Ones get very very wrong on the biology and relationship sides - although they are correct on the Eugenics).

What the empty tomb points to is not just salvation for individuals - but JUSTICE!  That is the place where we must go on birth control (starting with who talks about it) and torture.  Jesus did not come as a law giver, he came to preach justice.  He sides with the gay married for that reason, not with the prudes who think their moral world will collapse if they must hire a gay married -or even perform the ceremony.  Natural law is about human reason, not the empty tomb, and it is time for the Mitered Ones to cede the fact that every person, especially those with Confirmation, have all they need for natural law reason.  Of course, that voids the religious liberty argument as anything but organizational politicking - which should be for an after-Mass meeting, not a homily (if this inane thing is continued at all). This applies as equally to gay marriage and ENDA issues which are linked to the GOP backed National Right to Life Committee - it seems that some of the bishops have a group favorite, which also interferes with their stand on immigration.

As for Torture, there is a great deal of natural law experience - not the Catholic body, but the real stuff.  It is entirely for intimidation of an enemy or peasant - it does nothing to prevent future operations (unless you think you can break the instigator and send him back a broken man to do your bidding - since we want to kill Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the torture had no value at all. As individuals, we must forgive, but as a nation, KSM should have been done in long ago. That may have made him a martyr, but gong free keeps his danger value at unacceptable levels.

Going back to the Church, will personal style and humility make the people more compassionate about torture?  Probably not, nor should we expect it to.  Actually having the natural law conversation on torture - using standard natural law, the Curial variety, might help.  Of course, public opinion does not make torture right or not right, nor legal or illegal.  I don't care how many people love or despise Dick Cheney, we do not prosecute war criminals based on how much they are loved or how much compassion they deserve.  I would give the average heart transplant patient lots of compassion - but that does not mean that Citizen Cheney should be allowed to escape justice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Personalist Communitarianism | National Catholic Reporter

Personalist Communitarianism | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: Mr. Christian needs to read the book on Cultural Theory co-authored by his Department Chair, Dennis Coyle.  He will learn about Grid-Group Theory, which puts the terms he uses - and uses for the Church - into better perspective. Indeed, any article on Catholics and their participation in politics that does not mention the Hierarchism of the Church itself (Pope Pius XII called it the natural state of man) or its belief that the third world is best served by an enlightened Despotism is missing a few things.  When I studied under Professor Wildavsky at American (who also taught Coyle), he noted that people can mix cultures based on location (what you are at work may not be what you are at home).

That applies to politics as well and certainly to the Church.  That Francis is not the Hierarchist that many of his bishops are is telling. It would be so convenient if he were regarding change in the social views of the Church (a more apt term than the political views).  Sadly, i is also the case that some hierarchists, like Burke and Chaput, take their views into America politics and interact well with some of the GOP hierarchists.   The problem for the Church is that such hierarchism is foreign to America's founding political culture - as well as personalist communitarianism (a JPII catch phrase if there ever was one).  Such conflict is why Archbishop Chaput is trying to walk back the whole culture warrior thing in order to get a Red Hat (the best hierarchical job besides the Pope).

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Koch Brothers & CCHD | National Catholic Reporter

The Koch Brothers & CCHD | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: David also supports legalizing pot.  He is a libertarian - its a stock answer for us - even if we think life exists at conception or gastrulation (a better answer), putting the police power of the state in the mix does no one any good - including the unborn who die with their mothers in a botched abortion.  The puritanical Catholics who want to be more Catholic than the Pope need to look at why we have these positions, not just whether we agree with them or not.  I wonder if the influence of David's money, rather than his logic, will cause Fr. Z and his ilk to re-examine their views on CCHD.  Likely not.  The whole abortion and gay marriage thing is not the objection - its the association with governmental measures to decrease policy and the implicit socialism that really bothers the EWTN crowd - and David Koch and the Pope won't change that.

'But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them....' | National Catholic Reporter

'But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them....' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: To a large extent, the Holy Father's daily homilies are like any others - that of a priest sharing his faith with his flock.  I am sure that by now he knows that the world is watching and it would be a nice bit of underground revolution if this is how he got messages out.  It is not, however, the forum for propounding doctrine for the whole Church.  That he mentioned the Synod is interesting, but whether that is a message remains to be seen.  As far as Burke goes, he is definitely a rigorist although I wish someone would tell him no more interviews with web pages. Watching right wing sycophants give him an interview that they think helps their side, but really helps the other side, is like watching train wreck.  Still, Francis treats people like Raymond Burke as colleagues - he is one of the insiders and this pope takes collegiality seriously, even as they fight over content.  That was and is the problem of sex abuse of minors being covered up, and Francis was no better at it in Argentina.  Expect no doctrinal purges this year or the next.

Chaput: Still a Culture Warrior | National Catholic Reporter

Chaput: Still a Culture Warrior | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: The reality is if he thought he could (had Jeremiah Wright not been disowned by the President), he would tell Dr. Wright to ban Obama from Communion.  He may not be a culture warrior, but he plays one nicely on TV and if he thinks he has hid his Republicanism well, only he thinks so.  I can understand why he is taking a sabbatical.  They are giving Red hats out in Rome in two months and he wants his, the one generally reserved for Philly.  Anyone want to take bets on whether he gets it?

Sorry, Fido: Pope Francis did not say our pets are going to heaven | National Catholic Reporter

Sorry, Fido: Pope Francis did not say our pets are going to heaven | National Catholic Reporter Mediums will tell you that dogs (never heard anything about cats) are sentient spirits who do move on - but that is a matter of the occult, not the Catholic religion.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan cuts ties with anti-abortion crusader Frank Pavone | National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal Timothy Dolan cuts ties with anti-abortion crusader Frank Pavone | National Catholic Reporter This confirms what I have long thought - that the pro-life movement is organized for both personal gain and for Republican Party politics.  The difference here is that Pavone seems to have been very sloppy in covering this up.  It also shows that Dolan wants to be more like Cardinal O'Malley of Boston, who no one would accuse of carrying water for the GOP - indeed, in doing funeral rites for our friend Teddy, just the opposite.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gerson on Liberal Arrogance | National Catholic Reporter

Gerson on Liberal Arrogance | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: That they will read it is not a question - if only to rebut it.  Anyone listening to the debate in 2009 (I was listening to the wrap up on the way home from NIH after surgery - so if I could, anyone could) would know that if your health plan did not cover all the required element - especially if it was substandard in terms of what was covered in a year - then you were going to lose that policy, whether you were in the individual or corporate market.  As for taxes on the non-wealthy, they were considered fees for not following the mandate - although anyone who knew tax precedents knew that that Commerce Clause was a tough sell (although the Chief Justice talked a lot about the expanding Commerce Clause in his confirmation hearing) but tax was not.  Either way, an unpaid fine was going to your tax bill if unpaid - now it just starts there.  As for Republcans being fooled - none I know were fooled, nor any Democrats who were active in the debate.  Those who were not may be surprised - but that's because they were watching something on the Entertainment Channel (aka E!) or some other non-news item.  We can't force every citizen to pay attention - even to their own side.  NOt sure, of course, what this has to do with Catholicism.

WPFMTS Syndrome is Back | National Catholic Reporter

WPFMTS Syndrome is Back | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: The extent to which the Pope's newest letter depends on science is the extent to which views can be changed, because scientific knowledge changes - both with better measurement and discovery and with the process of scientific communication.  Still, the message must be that if you are sure that something is afoot with climate change and that something has bad effects for other people - then action is not optional - no matter how many scientists the Koch Brothers and their industry try to buy.  This encyclical should ideally cause those Catholics who take money for climate denial to take a second look at what they are doing - and if they agree, to stop - and maybe even publicly denounce those who funded that denial (paying back the money if possible - which is the ultimate witness in the Koch Brothers world.  Of course, if you think warmth is good then you are probably not a scientist - although all human adaptation to climate is not bad if it is slow enough - but Florida washing away cannot be pretty - if only the Kochs lived there.

Is Pope Francis Right about the Synod? | National Catholic Reporter

Is Pope Francis Right about the Synod? | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: Francis has a wonderful outlook - one that sees debate, not division, among his bishops on these issues, as well as a unity of purpose.  Whether the bishops or the commentators share that is another story.  While Francis does not see factions, many of the rest of us do - both inside and outside the Synod. We are each entitled, by the way, to our points of view - first about the facts and then the points of view themselves.  This means that all can be right - because they are as they see it.  Francis is taking a larger view and will finally have to put his foot down about the concluding doctrine - that is unless the Second Synod can establish some consensus without his having to do so.

About the Church and modernity - I once watched a piece about the Middle Ages.  Guess what.  They were modern by their POV and their Church was the modern Church.  The Renaissance Church was also modern, as was the Church of the Enlightenment.  The Church cannot, of course, avoid dealing with the ambient culture in every age.  It has, in fact, changed with each generation - as the hierarchy, curia and theologians bring their language and ideas to the Deposit of Faith.  Note that reading a Bible in English will no longer get you burned at the stake. It is likely that marriage after divorce and taking Communion will not longer be considered a sacrilege in the very near future - however that may change that whole system of thought on when Communion can occur.  Including while being gay and not celibate, or a pro-choice politician at the Communion rail. This recognition of continuing modernity, of course, is what the Burke faction hates - but they are arguing with the rain and wind.  Will the gay marriage faction get these unions blessed?  Maybe not just yet - but the voice of the people will speak on that anyway.