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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Catholics for Equality formed

Cross posted from Daily Kos, DC Examiner and Open Salon:

National Catholic Reporter reports that Father Joseph Palacios of Georgetown University, along with other Catholic leaders in the fight for marriage equality, have joined forces to add a Catholic face to the movement for marital rights for gays and lesbians. Fr. Palacios notes that 62 percent of Catholics favor such rights, even though the hierarchy does not. For more information, go to National Catholic Reporter's story at http://ncronline.org/news/politics/group-aims-mobilize-catholics-equality

Catholic bishops have been among the most vocal opponents of marriage equality - lending both their time and our treasure to ballot initiatives to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman - as it was defined in Genesis, a definition repeated by Jesus in his teaching about divorce. In other words, the Bishops are proof texting like they were Protestants. The spirit of both scriptures is the teaching that when two people marry, they are no longer members of their families of origin and are instead a new family. That is as applicable to gays and lesbians as it is to heterosexual unions. Indeed, the theology of marriage is that the Church and community are only a witness to the marriage. The parties themselves actually perform the Sacrament. Only an outdated understanding of human sexuality provides any reason to believe that this scripture should not apply to our wonderfully made gay and lesbian bretheren. Indeed, I would go further than legal equality - I would aver that the wedding ceremony is for families and that it is wrong to deny a Catholic wedding ceremony to the very heterosexual families of gay and lesbian couples.

The acting Executive Director of the group is Phil Attey. Among the other founding board members are Aniello Alioto, as well as a cascade of stars from the marriage equality movement, including:

Anne Underwood, a leader in Maine’s Catholics for Marriage Equality; Patsy Trujillo, a former state representative from Santa Fe, N.M.; Eugene McMullan, lead organizer of Catholics for Marriage Equality in California; Charles Martel, a clinical social worker and co-coordinator of Roman Catholics for Marriage Equality in Massachusetts; and Tony Adams, a resigned Catholic priest who writes for Queer New York and South Florida Gay News.


Their main strategy is to enhance their visibilty through "equality brunches" so that rank and file Catholic leaders actually break bread with gays and lesbians on the theory that it is harder to discriminate against someone that you know. Of course, the many of us with a gay and lesbian family member don't need a brunch to meet someone who is harmed by the Church's attitude to marriage equality, we need only gather for the holidays.

I suspect there will be blowback on this - however the more the hierarchy resists - indeed, the more forcefully they do so, the closer we are to winning the hearts and minds of the remainder of the Church.

The group's web page is http://catholicsforequality.org/

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Catholic Charities Centennial Mass

Last Saturday, I attended the Centennial Mass at the Bascillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (why it is not called the National Bascillica of the Immaculate Conception is beyond me). In 1910, the first national gathering of Catholic Charities agencies took place on the campus of the Catholic University of America. The first conference was called by the President of the University at the time, then Monsigeur (then Bishop) Thomas Sheehan - who also founded the National Shrine and is buried there. Cardinal Gibbons, who was the lead bishop in the Catholic hierarchy at the time, said the opening Mass. Cardinal George, who is the current head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, concelebrated the centennial Mass. In 1910, a picture was taken of the 400 participants in front of McMahon Hall. The thousand participants at this year's Centennial Conference posed for a picture at the same place.

You can see the picture on the conference website at http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/Page.aspx?pid=924 If you look very closely, my wife and I are in the extreme left in the front row. Not only is this gathering of progressive Catholics part of my beat as an Examiner, but my wife is the former Director of Membership for CCUSA and this was a chance to see many old friends, even though we are not attending the annual gathering. (I would include the picture here, but I don't see an open invitation to repost it - so I had best refer you to the site).

The Mass was particularly inspiring and Cardinal George's homily was excellent (I hope it is eventually posted) - although you can likely watch the playback on EWTN's web page (I never thought I would ever plug EWTN on this blog). The Cardinal was also the celebrant at the joint annual conference held some years back in Chicago with the Catholic Health Association, so he is not stranger to the annual gathering. He taught about the dichotomy between professionalism and ministry - and between service and evangelization. Both sides of the coin are essential to the Church. I would mostly agree, although it has long been dogma that if one acts charitably, one need not necessarily be a professed believer to attain eternal glory - although it is a more fulfilling experience to do so as an expression of faith, as long as one does not become self-satisified about it. Jesus can read our hearts just fine without our public proclamation. Indeed, He cautions us against doing charity where other people can see it - although that is a hard lesson for the institutional church to handle.

There is one place where being in public is justified - that is in spreading the news. Tomorrow, conference attendees are hitting the Hill to lobby for charity and social service. For more information, go to http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/capitolhillday I am sure they will appreciate an extra hand.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Republicans Latest Contract

Two issues come to the fore on the Republicans newest electoral blueprint: taxes and abortion.

The GOP promises on tax rates are a day late and a few hundred million dollars short, since any effort to keep the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in place must be done in the current term.

Including them in their list of promises is a bit cynical actually, since any tax policy changes will likely be made in the lame duck session if they are to be made at all. If the Republicans capture the House in the interim, having this happen detracts from the perceived legitimacy of government - which is what they are counting on.

It is the ultimate in cynicism, totally unpatriotic and likely fueled by campaign contributions from libertarians who want to destabilize the system - the Koch brothers (who are major Tea Party funders).

In no universe is their strategy not damaging to their oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

On the health insurance and abortion front, this little bit of social conservatism plays into the lie that abortion is covered under reform. Even now, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is maintaining that this is the case, rather than admitting that Sister Carol Keenan of the Catholic Health Association was right about this issue. One wonders why they are intransigent on this issue - at least until you look at which seats the Republicans are counting on to win back the House - the pro-life Democrats who voted in the end for the Patient Protection Act. That the Republicans and the Bishops are continuing this lie is shameful, and in the bishop's case, sinful.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Open Phones on Wednesday at 10 EDT

Call in at 646 200 3496

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tonite's show: Equity and Equilibrium: The Political Economy of Distributism by John Medaille

This week, John Medaille will be my guest to talk about his new book. Call in and talk with him at 646-200-3496.

From the publishers web page: Distributists have often argued their case on moral terms grounds alone; they have placed their arguments in the necessary connection between free property and free men; they have argued on agrarian terms, on the natural rhythms of life and social order often disrupted by modern capitalism; they have argued from Catholic teaching and the social encyclicals. But while the moral argument is necessary, it is not sufficient. We must be able to make the case on economic grounds as well. Distributism forms a superior economic theory, one able to give a rational account of actual economic conditions. But it is often the case that Distributists are not able to put the case in purely economic terms.

The theme of this book is simple: Economics, or more properly, political economy, cannot be a proper science unless it is a humane science; to be a humane science it must embody some notion of justice, and particularly of distributive justice. Indeed, as a practical matter, as well as a theoretical one, there can be no balance between supply and demand without distributive justice; the moral question and the economic question are, in reality, one question. Economic equilibrium cannot be divorced from economic equity, and the attempt to do so will lose both equity and equilibrium; the economy will be unable to balance itself, and so will fall either to ruin, or to ruinous government attempts to redress the balance.

The book is written in layman's terms, yet intended to enable the reader to stand his ground in debates with the Austrian, the Keynesian, the Monetarist, the Neoconservative, the Socialist, and all other contenders.

Friday, September 10, 2010

DADT Repeal, Not a Done Deal

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phelps overturned Don't Ask, Don't Tell after a trial, finding that allowing gays to serve does not damage military readiness. She used in her decision the practice of deploying people who were already under investigation and then moving with their discharges after they returned from battle. She will issue an injunction today enforcing her ruling.

Will that injunction be effective immediately? I doubt it. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network already has a case in progress. They argued that DADT is unconstitutional on First and Fifth Amendment grounds in light of Lawrence v. Texas, which made consensual sodomy legal. That case, Cook v. Gates, was unsuccessful and the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court because it found that national command authorities deserve great deferrance in the area of military readiness. Of course, the plaintiffs in Cook did not challenge the readiness aspect of the law, so yesterday's decision certainly upsets the apple cart for the United States Government.

Will the Department of Justice appeal this decision? Considering that there is a conflicting Circuit Court decision, it pretty much has to. Indeed, the Government did not challenge the readiness agrument (factually, it really could not, since the Pentgon does what the plaintiffs allege) because it relied on the First Circuit's jurisdicational ruling. If the Ninth Circuit agrees with the Government, the case dies and the only hope for repeal is for one Republican member to vote to allow the Defense Authorization bill to come to a vote in the Senate and for all amendments to the managers language (which mirrors the House language repealing DADT) remains intact. If the bill passes and is signed, the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs must certify that DADT repeal can go forward, with repeal effective 60 days later. Since nothing is certain, it would be better for yesterday's ruling to stay intact - if only as a safety valve.

If the Ninth Circuit affirms the District Court on Appeal, then two circuits will be in disagreement, which will fast track both cases for the Supreme Court. The Office of the Solicitor General is currently in opposition to having the Supreme Court hear Cook v. Gates, in an opinion signed by then Solicitor General Elena Kagan, however they will certainly change their minds if the Ninth Circuit disagrees with the First. Indeed, I suspect that all consideration of the Writ of Certiori, which is legalese for a decision to hear the case, will be held up while the Ninth Circuit hears the case. Cert takes four votes and because Kagan signed the motion to deny it in Cook, she will likely recuse herself - which is why the Ninth Circuit affirming the District is important if the Senate removes DADT repeal from the Defense bill. If DADT is not repealed and the Ninth Circuit affirms the First Circuit, then Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas or Kennedy must agree to hear the case. This is possible, but not likely.

If DADT is repealed in the bill and the President, et al, certify that it should be, the case would be moot. Indeed, before briefs could even be filed before the Ninth Circuit (and the timing is up to the Justice Department), the Defense bill will likely be passed with or without repeal language. If I were the Acting Solictor General, I would stretch that decision out as long as possible, while asking for a stay of the injunction until any appeal has taken place or until Congress acts. Indeed, I would expect all parties will move to dismiss all appeals in all courts, since DADT would then be gone.

The case is mostly valuable as leverage at this point, although it could also be used by weak Democrats to justify acting - so it is a double edged sword at this point. The focus now moves to the Senate, with the Ninth Circuit waiting in the wings.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The general election and Archbishop Chaput's views on JFK's speech

As Labor Day falls upon us, the general election campaign season begins and with it the question of faithful citizenship for Catholic voters and politicians. In the background this year are Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s reflections to Houston Baptist University on then candidate John F. Kennedy’s address to the Baptist Ministerial Alliance, where Kennedy asserted his independence from Rome in regard to the affairs of state. This address was reported in the Catholic media in April, when I blogged about it at the time at http://xianleft.blogspot.com/2010/04/archbishop-chaputs-comments-on-jfks.html and on my Examiner blog at http://www.examiner.com/progressive-catholic-perspectives-in-washington-dc/denver-archbishop-chaput-s-comments-on-jfk-s-legacy

Archbishop Chaput saw Kennedy’s speech as a beginning of the decoupling by Catholic politicians of their political duties from their political beliefs. In his mind, Catholic politicians who do not adhere to doctrine are “selling out” for political correctness and power – that they are morally cowardly where matters of faith are concerned. Catholic politicians, from Mario Cuomo to Joseph Biden, claim that because not everyone is Catholic, they cannot impose their moral teachings on the body politic.

In my blog posts, I criticized Catholic politicians for a different type of moral cowardice, not because they are selling out their religious beliefs, but because they are hiding behind pluralism rather than explaining to the hierarchy why the Church’s political position on abortion is untenable as a matter of constitutional law and public policy. Indeed, the pluralism argument would fall apart if every citizen were a professed Catholic, while the constitutional and policy arguments would not.

The Church claims that its doctrines are based entirely on natural law, however determining what is true in natural law is the province of every thinking person – it is not dependent upon the authority of position. In practice, that is not the natural law theory held to by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Rome grants itself a privileged position in natural law reasoning based on the grant of binding and loosening to St. Peter, even though in other places this power was granted to all of the Apostles, if not to the Church as a whole. In this formulation, both Catholic politicians and Catholic voters must adhere strictly to the teachings and interpretations of the Church, even when they are wrong on their face. In other words, the hierarchy still wants us to pray, pay, obey and vote their way – even when their way is bad public policy or based on faulty reasoning or evidence.

Four examples stand out. The first is in the area of homosexuality. A non-privileged theory of natural law would conclude that if a person was born gay or lesbian and that sexuality is a gift from God, that gays and lesbians are both wonderfully made and entitled to unitive sexual expression in a marital relationship. The hierarchy will never accept this unless the faithful demand it of them, which I believe is inevitable and scripturally based.

While a commitment to heterosexual marriage was radical in the early church, because it raised women up to equality with men, the equality of women in marriage is no longer in danger except in the most conservative circles, which brings me to the second example, women priests. Indeed, the current teachings of the Church are ahistorical in this regard, as St. Junia, an Apostle, was also a woman, as was St. Priscilla, the benefactor of the Church of Roman before the arrival of St. Peter (if Peter arrived at all).

The third example is with birth control and stem cell research. While we can’t determine necessary when ensoulment occurs, we can determine when it can’t have occurred – and both traditionally and scientifically that has been before gastrulation – when twinning can take place and when cross species blastocysts can still grow. Indeed, stem cell research itself shows that adult and embryonic stem cells are ontologically equivalent – so no human organisms are harmed when stem cells are harvested before gastrulation or when a blastocyst is prevented from implantation before that point.

A final example is the case in Phoenix when an abortion was authorized by the ethics committee at a Catholic hospital in order to save the life of the mother and the local Bishop declared the administrator, a Sister of the order that owned the hospital, excommunicate for her participation on the committee. Unbiased versions of natural law would recognize that a child who could never be born has no right to life at the expense of his or her mother. The Church view is that it would have been better had both died than the mother, the doctors or the hospital administrator – or the Bishop had he known in advance, consented to killing the child – indeed such consent would have put the soul of those involved in danger, as their conception of God would never allow such disobedience. In other words (as I have said before at http://xianleft.blogspot.com/2010/07/lessons-from-abortion-in-phoenix.html ) this case is as much about the underlying theological beliefs of the bishop and his fellows as his ethics. It is no accident that evangelization is becoming harder, as the conception of God being preached is entirely unlovable rather than Love itself. Until a different conception of God is advanced, the Church is in danger of continued decline.