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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 2009: Waiting for the Lord

Today, (actually last night at the Saturday vigil Mass), we begin the season of Advent. The Christmas shopping season began before Halloween, which shows that merchants are desperate. Even my daughter thought that this was too early, and she is six.

In the season of Advent, we are waiting for the Lord. This, of course, has many meanings.

When we are children, Advent is the time when we are waiting for Christmas to come, in anticipation of presents and the coming of Santa Claus. We grow out of that fairly quickly, yet that type of sincere anticipation should not be lost in waiting for the Lord, who said you must become like a child in expectation of the Kingdom of God.

Another aspect of Advent is an expectation of the Parousia, the return of Jesus at the end of time and the Kingdom of God on Earth. For some, this makes Advent is penitential season, where people use the season as a reason to go to Confession and do some spiritual housecleaning. This is always a worthy activity, but escape for ones sins is only the first part of discipleship. If that is all you do in your Christianity, you are thinking too much about yourself.

While it is important to invite God into our hearts in this season (although he is already there as the result of our Baptism), me must also seek God in others, for Jesus said that when we act with charity for the least of His brothers, you give charity to him. We should, at the very least, contribute toward activities that aid the poor directly and if we can, we should volunteer our time and have the opportunity to meet Christ face to face in our brothers and sisters. You may find them a mirror to ourselves.

The Kingdom of God is also built on a societal level. This means letting our legislators know as they are home for the holidays, that part of any economic stimulus must mean giving more money to those who need it most.

Tax reform will be on the agenda next, so this is an excellent time to let them know that more should be done for poor and less for the middle class (who benefit anyway when the poor have money - and will also decrease abortions). It is not sacrifice if we don't feel it a little.

Health reform is coming up, so we must emphasize both our views on Life issues and our preference that some reform that helps the working poor get much needed insurance coverage pass. Adding a sick leave entitlement is also an essential aspect of reform, since without it the working poor must still utilize emergency room care so as not to miss work.

Reauthorization of Temporary Aid to Needy Families should also be on the agenda next year (and if it isn't already, we must insist that they put it there) and it is in much need of reform. At the very minimum, life time limits should be repealed, since these cause women to seek abortions because they have no alternative. Lessening work requirements and replacing them with participation in education programs should also be on the agenda. TANF has been used to create a class of working poor with job training rather than real education. It is time to shift its focus to giving people the tools they need to reach the middle class rather than securing low wage employers a stable and compliant labor pool.

This brings up the topic of immigration. This is also coming up next year and we must remind our legislators that we are bound to welcome the stranger, which includes a path to citizenship -and not the onerous path contemplated the last time this was discussed. Most undocumented workers came here and worked exploitative (and sometimes unsafe) jobs for lower pay than they were entitled to, with their employers keeping as profit funds which should have been paid out as wages. Making these workers pay fines and wait almost a decade for full citizenship is simply adding insult to injury. As Catholics, we must demand something better for these people, especially as some of us were the beneficiaries of these ill-gotten profits. If we do seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Advent, we must confess that if we are conscious of it. Seeking reform is part of our resolve to not sin again and make restitution.

If we truly seek the Lord, we will see him in the face of the immigrant (who looks more like Jesus than the images we see on most Christmas cards).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Feast of Christ the King

Today we close the liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King, including the triumphalist reading from Revelation (which was almost left out of the canon).

There are three ways to understand the kingship of Christ in our lives. The one we emphasize is telling.

The first is that our King is not of this world and we must not be of this world either. With this emphasis the moral imperative is to avoid the taint of sin at all costs. We must also not associate with the sinful. Those who feel this way seem to have strong negative feelings about Barack Obama.

The second is that the Kingship of Christ means that we must be Christ to others - that we must fulfill his mission on earth, primarily his mission of charity. In other words, we must bring about the Kingdom of God in both our personal lives and in our politics. Those who feel this way are more likely to support the President, knowing that his economic policies reflect the Christian message.

Of course, the answer is that both views are correct and that we must both avoid sin and do good works - as well as supporting a more just society. I lean more heavily toward the second side, as do progressives. As society evolves, hopefully that which divides us will be minimized and that which unites us will be increased. Indeed, this is the ultimate message of this feast, that we are all one under Christ, Jesus. It is ultimately a feast of communion and unity. Let us celebrate that promise. Happy Feast Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Must we witness to life?

As we prepare to execute the DC Sniper (which is a misnomer, since only one of the murders actually happened within the District), a debate about capital punishment and the Culture of Life. I addressed the issue of the sniper in my essay published yesterday in the Examiner, so I will now address the larger question.

The question is this, must one always avoid taking the life of another if that other poses a mortal threat. This question touches on many moral questions, from whether an ectopic pregnancy may be actively aborted, to whether preventative sterilization may be used (either by surgery or chemical birth control) when the pregnancy will lead to either danger to the woman or economic danger for the family, to whether one may execute a criminal who presents a mortal danger to other inmates or to himself, to whether war is ever just, to whether one may shoot an armed assailant who is posing an immediate danger to a schoolyard full of children. Add to this the question of whether one may use deadly force to repel an assassination or attempted coup (especially if doing so could lead to a murderous tyranny) and the similar question of whether people can arm themselves to defend their own lives (or their property) or have armed agents to do so. Even the arming of the Swiss Guard which protects the Pope raises the identical question.

It seems that in most, if not all of these cases, the Pro-Life office in the United States and in the Vatican is consistently coming up with no as an answer, although it has not yet taken the step of disarming the Swiss Guard, which is telling.

How this question is answered depends upon both the ground rules one sets. If you use the witness of scripture and the early Church, clearly it is better not to resist. This does not end the argument, however. Under pure (meaning non-theistic) natural law reasoning, one need not insist on resistance, indeed, in some occasions one must use deadly force to protect innocent life.

One may martyr one’s self as a free and faith filled choice. One does not have the right to make this choice for others, whether one is in a pluralistic society or even an entirely Catholic one. Martyrdom is an individual decision. It cannot morally be imposed upon another. Catholic hospitals treat non-Catholics. The logic of my argument is that, if an abortion or sterilization is necessary to prevent physical harm to the mother, this cannot be imposed. While we can encourage the mother to witness to life, we cannot demand that she do so or rig the game so such witness is her only choice (regardless of whether she is Catholic or not).

We certainly cannot require such witness to be mandated by law. This is the worst type of coercion, yet tragically it seems that some in the Church are seeking just that. Those voices do not speak for me or the vast majority of Catholics. While they may validly encourage individual witness and seek a society where such witness is no longer necessary, they cannot make the enactment of what would be a moral tyranny part of the Church’s political agenda. This is not because of relativism or to become popular in society, but because mandating the witness of another is an inherently evil act. This is why many are comparing some in the Church (and the Evangelical right), quite justly, to the Taliban.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Executing the beltway sniper

This week, John Alan Muhammed, who brainwashed John Malvo, a teen, and manipulated him into a murder spree that terrorized the Washington area, will be executed.

Personally, as one who lives there and lived in fear of death, I am not entirely displeased with this. Of course, this means that my opinion of the rightness of the execution is a bit clouded - much in the same way I would not seeing Osama bin Laden's head on a platter (although I believe he is already dead from kidney disease). Again, because I was within shrapnel range of the Capitol on September 11, having been evacuated from the Department of Labor two blocks away, my judgment on the issue of his fate is also clouded.

On Friday, a gunman went on a rampage and killed almost a dozen people at his former office, blaming the firm which fired him years before for his actions. He, the beltway shooter and bin Laden seem to have gone down a path of deliberate evil. The question is, does this evil merit execution?

While capital punishment is allowed under canon law, there is a condition. This can only occur if a suitable confinement is not possible - suitability including the risk posed to other inmates. This responsibity to make these decisions formerly rested with the sovereign. In a democracy, however, we are all sovereign so it is our call collectively - as well as our responsibility to protect innocent life (including the lives of other inmates).

In my opinion, murders are not altogether sane. If there is a reason for this insanity and it can be reversed with either medication or sobriety, it is not just to kill them. Indeed, after some period they should be released. Indeed, if there is no doubt about their guilt or their mental state, they should be allowed to plead guilty by reason of insanity and serve the penalty for voluntary manslaughter in a hospital setting.

Those who cannot be cured are another matter. I once read that those who are sentenced to life without parole consider themselves sentenced to death. Indeed, this is likely true, since their incarceration will indeed be the cause of their deaths eventually. If they are locked up alone in a "super-max" facility they will likely become insane before too long (if they were not already) and they are being killed by slow torture. It would be better to kill them quickly if they cannot be cured, not for the sake of justice, but as a form of permissible euthenasia. We should not be in a hurry to do so, so that they may have the chance to repent in time, although if they chose to be executed, we should not stop them. Indeed, many executions occur because the condemned decides to quit fighting. Perhaps this is a model of how this should be done.

What of Mr. Muhammed? I doubt that he has been given a real evaluation as to his sanity or his reformability and that is likely an injustice. If I were Governor of Virginia, I would at least try to find out and then bless my stars that the office is term limited.

The new Anglican ordinates and the question of divorce

Divorce is a sticky subject in the Catholic Church. The recent moves to allow certain Anglicans into communion with Roman in their own "Ordinates" will certainly make the issue more complicated.

In prior years, divorce in the Church was considered forbidden - however nowadays, it is not divorce which is sinful, it is remarriage until after the original marriage is annulled. The cynical would say that annullments are big business in the Church and they certainly complicate things when the Catholic party gets an annulment while a Protestant spouse who is divorced does not (and occassionaly the parish priest blessing the union after the fact looks the other way).

When one partner is abusive or alcoholic, it is obvious that this partner was incapable of forming or maintaining a marriage bond - even if this was not apparent when the marriage was made (often because alcoholism and abuse are related and middle or late stage alcoholism is not always apparent on the wedding day). An annulment in such cases is usually not complicated.

In the ancient Church, if someone was married to a pagan and converted, they could get married again in the Church for the very sound reason that staying married to a pagan would involve apostacy when the family made offerings to the pagan spouses deity or celebrated pagan feasts (in the days before the Church began coopting such events).

When the Reformation happenned, many Protestant sects read the scripture on divorce where it referred to immorality as adultery - although the Catholic Church has never endorsed this view. I can see the logic behind this, since this would seem to allow someone to cheat and then put away his or her spouse scott-free. This is hardly just to the wronged spouse.

Adultery, as the word is defined, is not about adulthood but the adulteration of the marriage. It was originally considered a property crime to be punished by death (as all such crimes were, but are no longer). Jesus teaching on divorce was actually meant to level the playing field between the sexes, since males could put away their wives but wives could not put away their husbands. Jesus solution was to restrict husbands from easy divorce. This lesson has not been learned in other monotheistic sects, where the man is still priviledged in divorce in Islam and some Orthodox Jewish sects (where the husband can object to the Gett disolving the marriage).

Once a marriage is adulterated, is this not the same thing as saying that it has been ended? Perhaps the answer to the question of adultery in divorce is to recognize the absolute right of the wronged party to decide if the marriage is to endure, while the adulterous party has no such right to resist their decision (and indeed would always have an impediment to marriage with the party with whom the adultery was committed). This seems entirely reasonable, especially given the meaning of the word adultery and the intention of Christ's teaching to level the marital playing field - raising women to equality from their status of property. While it is certainly virtuous to forgive a cheating spouse, it should not be required - especially if the cheating spouse is unrepentent.

What exactly is heresy?

In the last few weeks, the Bishop of Portland campaigned heavily, and even funded (probably at risk of the Church's non-profit status) the campaign to overturn the gay marriage law. This invited organized opposition from a group of organized Catholics, who campaigned against the referendum.

In prior years, this would have been considered unthinkable. Most believers were not well educated and took the bishop's word to be law. Nowadays, many Catholics have college educations and even training in the same philosophy programs most seminarians take. Quite a few others also have taken public policy courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels and find it laughable that theology majors are telling us how to vote.

We are required to act from well formed consciouses. However, in some areas, such as public policy, it could be argued that our conciouses have undergone better formation, especially in democratic societies. Some of us also know a bit more about human sexuality, (both the psychological aspects and the biological processes) through training and experience. Again, such knowledge is as much part of the formation of the conscious as the teachings of the Church, especially when in matters sexual teaching is developed by a celibate clergy whose celibacy evolved from the rather obnoxious belief that one could not engage in sexual intercourse and then celibrate the Eucharist too soon (a belief that the Eastern Church finds anethema).
The question arises, is disagreement with the Church in these areas really considered heresy when our information was better? Galileo was better informed. Did he have a right to be defiant when it was obvious that the Church was wrong?

Is it servant leadership to insist that you are always right? Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and commented how worldly leaders lord their position over their subjects, which echoes what he told James and John when Salome (Jesus big sister from Joseph's first marriage) goaded them into asking for seats on his right and left. Are the bishops acting in this spirit when or as secular rulers when they insist they must always be right - even when those that disagree with them have better information?

Perhaps we need to define heresy only in terms of theological belief - and even then we need to be careful that the belief in question is really essential. Esoteric beliefs about the Trinity (such as the Filioque, or even the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation) should probably be open for debate. Certain beliefs, such as the divinity of Jesus and the fact of the resurrection, are essential since without them there is no reason for faith. Let's keep charges of heresy to what is essential and keep an open mind about the rest.

I am not arguing here for relativism. Relativism says that you can make up your own mind about everything. Instead, I am arguing that there is such a thing as truth, but on occassion it must be sought outside the hallowed halls of the Vatican. As time goes on, I believe such perspective will be more widely expected. Indeed, the survival of the Church depends on it. Since the Church is promised to survive (although not necessarily the way it is governed from Rome), I think it eventually will come out alright, even if it is hard for some.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Election postmortem

As anyone with a television, newspaper or Internet connection knows, Republicans have captured governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, for the first time since the civil war, a progressive candidate has beaten the conservative in the 23rd congressional district of New York, and gay marriage was stopped by referendum in Maine (barely), while medical marijuana was enacted there.

In Virginia, the election was not even close as newly registered young and African American voters stayed home. Even though, at the last minute, the Catholic Church engaged in a full-court press on values issues, primarily abortion, this was not an issue that was highlighted by the winning candidate. Indeed, the Governor of any state has little to say about abortion, since Roe v. Wade quite correctly bars state action on this issue beyond regulating late term abortions (because who is and who is covered under law is quite properly a federal civil rights question under the 14th Amendment and because until someone is given legal recognition, their interests cannot constitutionally be considered by the state - which is why women have a right to privacy in obtaining abortion services in the first trimester until and unless Congress moves the date). Sadly, the voters that stayed home and the Catholics who voted for the Governor-elect will find that his economic policies will not benefit either them or the unborn.

In New Jersey, the result was surprisingly close, given the outgoing Governor's unpopularity. In both cases, the race was not decided on hot button social issues, but rather on the competence of the opponent. There was not victory for values based conservatism in either race. Indeed, in the only race where ideology and values were the focus of the race, the conservative candidate was beaten in a race which should have been an easy Republican victory. While that says as much about the nomination process as the race, it still provides a lesson on what the Republican Party needs to do to stay alive. From what I have heard about conservative preparations for 2010, however, this lesson seems lost on them. In the short run, what NY-23 means is another Democratic vote for health care. It almost makes me hope that this one vote is the margin of victory in the House of Representatives.

The fact that the election was close is actually quite telling. Five years ago, when citizen votes against gay marriage were more common and were largely a reaction to actions by the Mayor of San Francisco when he took constitutional interpretation into his own hands by performing gay weddings, the margins were much bigger. They are steadily growing smaller and as older, more conservative voters "age out," will likely go the other way.

More importantly, they show why it is not good for governments to put individual rights up to a vote. Luckily, the federal constitution can be used - and has been used - to overturn such folly - as it did when Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay rights legislation. This amendment was overturned by the federal courts because it was precipitated by malice towards gays and lesbians (such malice is hardly a Catholic virtue - indeed there is nothing in canon law which mandates or even allows legal discrimination against gays and lesbians). These precedents are being used in an effort to overturn California's Proposition 8 and I have every confidence that this challenge will succeed and be applied to all 31 instances where state constitutions were used to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. As I have said elsewhere, this misquote of scripture originates in the Genesis myth (and Catholics do now believe the story is mythical, not factual) and was used by Jesus not to condemn gay marriage but to affirm the equality of women within marriage.

When I was in marriage preparation with my soon to be wife, we were taught that neither the Priest nor the state make the marriage, rather the sacrament is performed by the two people getting married. It is only recognized by the state and witnessed by the Priest (and congregation). I was taught the same thing in Catholic High School. Aside from bigotry and a quaint (and unscientific) view of sexuality by a celibate clergy, I see no reason why this teaching does not apply equally to homosexuals. Indeed, if we wish homosexuals to listen to the Church regarding spiritual matters, we must listen to them when they inform us of how their sexuality occurs to them - especially if we are counseling monogamy. Telling young people that they are disordered leads many of them to suicide and equating promiscuous and monogamous sex leads some to situations where they acquire HIV. To a very real extent, our blood is as much on our hands as when society allows abortion (if not more so).

When (not if) the federal courts mandate gay marriage, I would hope that the Church celebrates them as a comfort to the families, since weddings (unlike marriages) are about the families letting go of their child (or parent) in favor of the new spouse. It is better that this letting go happen in the protective embrace of the Church, which can then use the occasion to counsel monogamy and fidelity in these relationships (which would be countercultural). Opting for gay marriage as a lesser thing actually damages marriage as a concept more than celebrating marriages would. Indeed, domestic partnership is not a good substitute for the Sacrament of Matrimony.

The Maine election also shows that, even if the public does not agree, the elected legislators in "blue states" are coming around to marriage equality. This has implications for when marriage restrictions are overturned by the federal courts. With Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco as Speaker of the House, I cannot foresee any amount of backlash that will lead to a congressionally initiated constitutional amendment overturning such a ruling. Such an amendment could only come by constitutional conventions called by the states. If blue state assemblies cannot be counted on to ratify such an amendment (or even call the convention), there is no stopping marriage equality.

This issue was also important in the Attorney General's race in Virginia. I still find it troubling that the Attorney General-elect has vowed to fight for the obviously federally unconstitutional amendment to the Virginia Constitution which prohibits legal arrangements which simulate marriage, since he must vow to uphold the federal constitution. Of course, I think the closest he will be able to get to such a defense is joining in an Amicus Curie brief when this issue finally gets to the Supreme Court. I doubt he will even be able to write it (although from what I have heard of his legal skills, I hope he is the one to write it since I do not wish him success in such an endeavor).

Lastly, the easy passage of medical marijuana in Maine is also telling on the general prospects for conservatism. With the sexual revolution, marijuana use was a harbinger of the 60s (which actually began in 1959 in terms of cultural transformation according to a new book on the subject). If conservatism were really on the march, this effort would have failed. As opponents of such measures rightly point out, this is a toehold on general legalization and the end of their war on drug users generally. Just thought I would point that out to take some of the wind out of their sails after last night.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Gay marriage and the Bishop of Portland, the Virginia AG race and the DC ballot initiative

National Catholic Reporter has an editorial about the stance the Bishop of Portland, Maine's support for an initiative to overturn gay marriage tomorrow and the activities of concerned Maine Catholics to oppose the initiative.

In a democratic society, we should elect the Bishops so that they don't take hair-brained positions such as this. God gives each of us free will and an informed conscience and the Bishop should first ask the faithful before he takes such positions. We are as much the Church as he is.

Of course, I can see what he is afraid of. If Catholic families with gay members get used to marriage equality they will begin to demand that these unions be blessed in the Church. Indeed, in much of the rest of Christendom, the legal and religious ceremonies are separated and over the history of marriage, the Church usually follows the lead of civil society. This would present a problem for the Church, as it would require a rethinking of its teachings on homosexuality (which has little scriptural support). Indeed, the whole one man, one woman theme in the Gospel, which echos Genesis, is not about homosexuality, but about the equal dignity of women in marriage.

Of course, conservatives don't believe in that much either, since to do so would be to concede to women the right to reject sex - which the Church did not believe they had until very recently (and still may officially reject on doctrinal and scriptural grounds - something about being submissive to one's husband). If conservatives really put the relevant scripture into practice, it would support women's equality in both civil and canon law and would ordain them to the priesthood and ministry. (Fat chance).

This is a local issue because the Republican candidate for Attorney General has vowed to fully defend the Virginia Constitutional Amendment which not only prohibits gay marriage, it also prohibits marriage-like contracts. Of course, such a stance is totally against the federal constitution, which limits state intervention in contracts. This has only escaped challenge due to the decency of most families of gays and lesbians in Virginia and because it was thought that the US Circuit Court of Appeals that would hear the case would not vote to overturn the amendment, so that it was better to wait for other Federal Courts to act and for a better Supreme Court.

I see this as another reason to vote for Steve Shannon, since the Virginia Amendment is beyond the pale. It is blatantly discrimatory against gays and lesbians, even prohibiting them to make arrangements on their own to protect their rights. Indeed, it could prohibit the ability to will another person property just because of their sexual orientation, even though unrelated friends who are not homosexual can leave property to whomever they chose. It is blatantly unconstitutional under federal judicial precident and won't stand scrutiny when it is finally challenged. We do not need an Attorney General who would ignore the federal constitution for ideological reasons.

On the DC front, the issue of the gay marriage initiative is still active. The Board of Electtions will not likely let this see the light of day and the Council is almost sure to pass gay marriage in the District. This issue will be overcome by events shortly, simply because it is an equal protection issue and not apt for referendum or initiative. It is directly related to Proposition 8 in California, which already had Domestic Partnership arrangments (like the District, although Cali's arrangements were better - BTW, many of the same people protested those for years and kept a rider in the DC budget prohibiting the District from enforcing the law - which in my view was tyrannical since we don't have a vote there). Former Bush Solictor General Ted Olson is bringing suit to overturn Prop 8 because it demonstrates malice against homosexuals as a class, since there is no other justification for not calling their identical situation marriage. There is precident for his argument - the Supreme Court overturned a Colorado constitutional amendment which attempted to overturn their gay rights laws. Whether you like it or not, this will be an easy win for Ted and will have nation-wide ramifications, including for the District (which is equal to other states in such matters due to Bolling v. Sharpe). The proponents are free to waste their money and their time, but make no mistake, marriage equality will be the law of the land sooner than later. It would take a federal constitutional amendment to stop it - and with a Speaker of the House from San Francisco, that just won't happen without a constitutional convention. Given the number of blue states which would never ratify such an amendment, going down that road would also be a collossal waste of time and treasure. My advice to the local Archbishop and the proponents of the ballot initiative is to quit while you are behind.

Abortion and the Race for Virginia Governor

As in most elections, there were homilies, announcements, prayers and articles in the Virginia diocesean papers over abortion in the last few weeks regarding the Commonwealth's gubanatorial election to be held tomorrow. There are those in the hierarchy who see abortion as the most important issue in any election. I must demure from their view.

With a few notable exceptions (New York and California), abortion rights were not conferred by legislation in the United States. Rather, they were conferred because state regulation of abortion in the first trimester was ruled unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, which does allow regulation by states of late term abortion. This was modified by the Federal Partial Birth Abortion, which ended one particular abortion method, but not others. Note that this law passed where state laws failed because defining who is, and who is not, a citizen or a person is a federal responsibility, not a state one. Unless and until the federal Congress grants personhood to the unborn at some earlier stage of pregnancy than birth, the states are powerless to say anything else (except within the confines of Roe v. Wade).

While many see Roe as tragic, it is totally in keeping with constitutional reasoning and should not be overturned by judicial action. The rule of law demands it be respected and, although the bishops and the Right to Life movement would like to pretend differently, it is not going anywhere. The only way to grant the ubon greater rights is by an Act of Congress under the Fourteenth Amendment. While the Right to Life Movement and the Bishops fixate on Roe, they can do nothing to actually move the issue forward in Congress, which is a pity.

Given that, the opinion of any politician or voter on the overturn of Roe v. Wade is absolutely irrelevant, whether they are Catholic or not (except as it involves their legal reasoning ability and their respect for the rule of law). Until there is a bill to grant status to the unborn in Congress (and none has been profferred of late by the National Right to Life Committee) the subject is totally irrelevant. You cannot excommunicate me for voting for a politician based on their opinion on settled law (given that four of six Catholic Justice agree Roe is settled - five of whom are GOP appointees) or on a bill that has not even been suggested - let alone introduced.

What is more important is how each candidate would deal with the factors that cause women to get abortions - which in 73% (according to Guttmacher Institute research) is an important factor in the decision to get an abortion.

One candidate is against greater social services, increasing taxes or accepting federal bailout money (even at an eventual annual cost of $4.60 per worker in increased unemployment insurance taxes - a pittance).

The other candidate will work with the Administration in expanding social services, including health care, which will make prospective parents feel more secure about bringing another child into the family.

What matters most is not the lip-service one pays to life issues, but how each candidate's views play out in the decision to keep a child or abort it. Since banning abortion is off the table, economics is the key, so there can really be no question.

As a Catholic voter, I know who I am supporting - and it's not Bob McDonnell.

Please join me tomorrow in voting for Creigh Deeds for Governor, Jody Wagner for Lt. Governor and Steve Shannon for Attorney General.