Friday, July 29, 2016

The example of Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day is one of my heroes, so I was happy to see that the latest issue of St. Anthony Messenger has an article about her. She may some day be recognized as a saint - something I would welcome.

Day was involved with radical secular causes in her youth, then, after converting to Catholicism, lived out the Gospel in a radical way. She also challenges the government, those in authority, the wealthy, the comfortable.

She believed that one had to live out one's faith without compromise - as uncomfortable as that might be, and with the risk of being viewed as a "failure" in the eyes of the world.

Indeed, she rejected much of our culture - including politics. She declined to vote, or to support candidates. She preferred to spend her time carrying out works of mercy, and standing up against the government when it oversteps its bounds.

One wonders how she'd react to out government's efforts to undermine religious liberty and conscience rights. I also suspect she would be critical of Catholic politicians who compromise the teachings of the Church on moral issues. (Tim Kaine?)

Here are some of her quotes:

“Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”  

“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

“People say, "What is the sense of our small effort?" They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”  

"Certainly we disagree with the Communist Party, as we disagree with other political parties that are trying to maintain the American way of life."

"The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?"

"We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists 'of conspiring to teach [us] to do,' but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York."

 "I too complain ceaselessly in my heart and in my words too. My very life is a protest. Against government, for instance."

"People say, 'What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that."

Makes me wonder about my own efforts.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Moral Development, Abortion, and Tim Kaine

When I was a senior in high school, I was in a theology class where we were discussing morality and one fellow senior declared “You’re not guilty until you’re caught.” That prompted a discussion during which a majority of the speakers agreed with that statement, and the young nun teaching the class could not offer a cogent response. (Confession: I had the sense the speaker was wrong, but I could not articulate why, so remained quiet.)

While that statement was made by a high school senior, the view of morality that student voiced is common among adults as well. Morality for many individuals is determined not by any higher level understanding of what’s right and wrong – Harvard’s Lawrence Kohlberg’s fifth and sixth stages of moral development (social contract and ethical principles) – but by the lower levels Kohlberg described, including a fear of being caught and punished, concern for “what’s in it for me,” desiring a good boy/good girl images, and conformity to what everyone else seems to be doing. In my experience, and according to studies, most people function at those lower levels – few advance enough in their thinking to reach or function according to those highest levels.

Which brings us to the issue of abortion, and Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine. Even though he is a stanch supporter of abortion, he is being described by the Democratic Party and the secular media as a “good” Catholic.

I’ve been involved in a social media discussion with a couple of friends, one of who argued that the approach of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin’s declaration that based on his views on abortion and same sex marriage he is supporting things that are contrary to Catholic teaching. “Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do,’” the bishop noted, “But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.”

Responding to a posting about the Bishop, one friend brought up the argument that fear and threats do not work and won’t work in the long run. He contends we need to change people’s hearts and minds when it comes to abortion.

I totally agree – but most people are not ready to listen, to understand, or to undertake the higher level moral thinking needed. In many cases, they simply have not been challenged to do so or supported when they undertake the effort. They are stuck in the level of acting based on what seems to be the easiest thing to do or what everyone else seems to be doing.

Plus, we are fighting a culture that promotes a different message – just look at the Democratic Party’s total embracing of abortion in its platform and rhetoric. Just look at the way the media portrays abortion – adopting the language and euphemism of “choice,” fostering a negative image of prolifers and ignoring the many pro-life programs and efforts to help women and children and to promote support for them long after the child is born. You see (or don’t see) that in movies, television, news coverage, fiction, and so on.

Frankly, many people need laws to help shape/control their behavior. And yes, sometimes fear of punishment or of social stigma are the only things some people will understand. We don’t want to look bad or stand out.

Fear is not the approach that I like best – I’d prefer that people would be convinced and converted because of higher morality. But that’s not realistic. Even Gandhi’s approach, while it involved appealing to others’ higher natures, also readily made use of attention through the media to shame others into changing their behaviors. The British did not give in just because they were converted, and if Gandhi had waited for that conversion India might have remained under British control for many more years.

Moreover, laws can in fact be a way of helping to change people’s hearts and minds because it leads them to thinking about the “whys” of moral beliefs. This needs to be done in conjunction with teaching about those “whys” (Kohlberg’s system notes that you grow when you have contact with higher levels.) So we need both kinds of statements issued by Bishop Tobin and the more catechetical one of Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo – Kaine’s own bishop - who reiterated church teachings about abortion, and who declared “It is the duty of all Catholics, no matter their profession, to decide through an upright and informed conscience as to their worthiness to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.” These two approaches work together. Pro-lifers also need to promote the good work being done to help and support women, and to do whatever we can to overcome the bias in the media and government policies.

Kaine is not an idiot. He “knows” what the Church teaches, even without Bishop DiLorenzo restating them. But Kaine has been allowed to slide. He is aware of what’s popular or at least accepted among the Democratic electorate. So it’s been easy for him to go against those teachings, and to twist the wording of those teachings to justify his actions. Having his own bishop remind him of the teachings is fine – though it’s the same sort of wording he’s been allowed to slip around for years. So Bishop Tobin’s stronger statement might give him pause. And if not Kaine, it certainly might get the people who have been watching him for years say he’s a good Catholic and go Communion to begin thinking what he is doing is wrong and his position is not right. Indeed, one of my responding friends first said there had been no “peep” from DiLorenzo, and then when it was pointed out he did say something, zeroing on the wording exploited for years to try to wiggle around the teachings.

To say that we need to focus more on the hearts and minds ignores human nature and current reality. We are fighting a coopted culture. And if this is our only response, then nothing is going to happen.  

I’m not foolish enough to believe that all people will achieve those higher levels of moral thinking. That’s why we will always need the laws. That’s why we do need “fear” as a factor. Nor do I believe that we will end abortion; it’s been there throughout human history. But we can reduce it, save lives, and create a climate that will encourage more support for the women and their children – not only through the birth of the child, but as long as necessary.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some of the speakers at the "all white" Republican Convention

Jamiel Shaw
Dr. Lisa Shin
Kentucky State Senator Ralph Alvarado
Pastor Mark Burns
Dr. Ben Carson
Pastor Darrell Scott
Senator Ted Cruz
Doesn't look all white to me. 
Pax et bonum

NBA - problem with bathrooms, not with murder, torture, imprisonment, etc.

The National Basketball Association has pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, because of the North Carolina law governing use of bathrooms.

The NBA announced: "Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2."

The law, HB2 (House Bill 2), says that people must use the bathroom appropriate for the gender listed on their birth certificates. LGBTQ activists and supporters says the law discriminates against transgender people and might put them in danger - though the law does say the transgender people can change the gender on their birth certificates, and that institutions can have single use bathrooms that can be used by anyone.

One can debate the wording of the law, as the North Carolina legislature may indeed do when it reconvenes, but it only affects a few people and bathroom usage.

The NBA believes it is taking a principled stand.

One word comes to mind.


Principled? It's more a matter of taking a stand that is a fad these days. Moreover, the NBA is just going to move the game to another city, so it will not lose any money.

And the NBA is about money.

Just look at it's decisions in the past to have games played in China as a way to promote itself and increase its market and advertising revenues.

China is a country that is on multiple lists for human rights violations.

The country has been accused of imprisoning, torturing, and even executing innocent people and human rights and labor activists. In fact, the country has been accused of leading the world in executions. The country has been accused of using inmates for organ harvesting. The country has been accused of carrying out millions of forced abortions. The country has been accused of limiting and attempting to control churches. The country has been accused of not doing enough - or even ignoring - wide scale pollution that has resulted in cancer clusters, high rates of other illnesses, multiple deaths, and shortened lives. The country has been accused of lax labor practices that have resulted in injuries and deaths for thousands of workers. The nation has been accused of censorship of the media, including not only print, television and radio, but also of the internet and social media.

Accused of these violations and much more.

Accused and in many cases proven guilty.

Yet the NBA has no problem conducting games in China.

But it is upset over bathroom usage in North Carolina.

The bottom line may indeed be the bottom line.

The NBA can take a "principled" stand in North Carolina because it won't hurt its bottom line. But it has no problem turning its head and ignoring the massive numbers of human rights abuses in China because by doing so it might increase its profits.

I, for one, will not be watching the All-Star Game, wherever it is.

Nor will I watch NBA games this year. (To be honest, I find the NBA style of play boring anyway.)

Maybe if enough of us do so the advertisers will take notice and NBA profits will decrease.

That's the only way to get the NBA to really think about its principles.

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 22, 2016

Notice what Trump didn't mention ...

I watched Donald Trump's speech last night.

He rambled on for well over an hour, painting an ominous picture of America, and citing plenty of red meat issues he will address as President.

But I noticed one issue he failed to mention.


Yes, this "prolifer" didn't even allude to the issue. Not once. The closest he came was mentioning the picking of Supreme Court justices, making sure they will be ones who uphold the Constitution.

Such justices might rule in favor of life, but this was really an appeal to the NRA.

And he did mention freeing clergy to bring up politics in church.

Ooo, let's see how that one goes over if priests start talking about immigration policies.

But nothing specific about abortion.

Which suggests that the issue is really not one that's all that important to him. It certainly does not seem to be one he thinks about all that much.

In that he would be like most Republicans.

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why most of us can vote third party

As I've noted before, we Catholics and pro-lifers are in a difficult position this year, if we limit ourselves to the candidates of the two main parties.

But only if we limit ourselves to those two main parties.

After all, we can vote third party.

The most frequently raised objection is that by voting third party we will be throwing the election to the candidate we don't like.

For Catholics who live in states where there might actually be a contest that might be a factor to consider. The old voting for the lesser evil - or voting to lessen the evil - arguments might come into play. (Though I still contend that the voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil - and this time around, both major party candidates are just so objectionable.)

But for most of us, that simply is not the case.

First, remember that it is not popular vote that decides who will be President. It is electoral votes, and how many such votes the states have vary based on population. One can win the majority of the popular vote , and even the majority of states, yet still lose the election.

Now if you look back at presidential elections over the last few decades, in the majority of states the candidate of one party or the other almost always wins the state. Take my state, New York. The Democratic candidate has overwhelmingly won the last 7 presidential elections. In California, the largest state with the most electoral votes, the Democratic candidate has won the last 6 elections. On the other hand, Texas has gone to the Republican candidate the last 9 elections.

There are realistically only a few states with enough electoral votes to be significant that could go one way or the other. Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are the ones most often mentioned. One's vote might make a difference in those states. For the rest of us, our votes basically don't count. In New York, I could votes 10,000 times for the Republican candidate - were I so inclined - and the Democratic candidate would still win. Heck, in 2012, I could have voted one million times for Mitt Romney, and President Obama still would have won!

So unless we live in one of the few swing states, for most of us, we are free to vote third party or for write-in candidates. We can vote our consciences freely.

There is now a party and candidates we can support.

The American Solidarity Party has nominated Mike Maturen for President and Juan Munoz for Vice President.

The Party's platform is very much in conformity with Catholic and Christian teachings on issues like abortion, the death penalty, economic justice, war, marriage, subsidiarity, and so on.

So, for many of us who live in states where our vote doesn't matter, we can vote for the  Maturen/Munoz ticket in good conscience. We would be voting for someone with whom we agree, and we don't have to worry about swinging the election to a candidate we find completely objectionable.

The good thing about the ASP is that it is new and has room to grow - a centrist party would be a welcome thing in this country, as opposed to the extremism of the two main parties or most of the third parties. Who knows, if one of the major parties does indeed splinter and essentially die as some pundits say might happen, the ASP could become one of the main parties - that's what happened with the Republicans just before the Civil War.

Again, if I lived in one of the swing states, I might be tempted to vote differently (though I suspect I would still vote ASP). But I don't live in such a state - and most Catholics don't. So we are free to vote for someone who is not the "lesser of evils."

We can actually vote for a good candidate.

Imagine that.

Pax et bonum

The Litany of Hugh Hefner

In light of Hugh Hefner's claim that his spreading of sexual immorality helped to explain the selection of Trump by the GOP, a performance piece that I wrote back in 2006:

The Litany of Hugh Hefner (Except for the refrain, all of the following are actual news headlines)

Fort Bragg Soldiers Charged with Sex Crimes
Vero Beach man held in Internet sex case
Pella man gets probation for trying to entice teen online
Las Vegas basketball player back at school following arrest on sex charges
East Bay teacher faces sex charges
STD cases on the rise in teens
Norman Wilson Rape Trial Begins
What's behind today's epidemic of teacher-student sex?

Let us say: Thank you Hugh Hefner

Teacher hit with sex act charges
Officer accused of having sex with girl put on leave
Coach pleads guilty to rape of teen
Loosened Family Ties Haunt Baby Boomer Vanguard Reaching Age 60
Teen Accused of Sex Abuse
Sexual Diseases Hit Record High in Minnesota: Infection Rates in Suburbs, Among Young People Fuel Rise
Ohio syphilis cases up
Aiken man sought for sex crimes

Let us say: Thank you Hugh Hefner

Young adults stuck in 'Generation Me'
Chesterfield Teacher Accused Of Sex Crimes Will Go To Trial
Douglas man arrested for molestation of 5-year-old
Artificial sex partners to become available
Lubbock STD Rates Are Chronically High Especially In Teens
University Of Akron's RA Charged With Rape
Nurse Appears In Court On Molestation, Porn Charges

Let us say: Thank you Hugh Hefner

Man wanted in rape of 14-year-old arrested
Statistics Reveal Worrying Trend of Births Outside Marriage
Farrell, ex-girlfriend settle sex tape dispute
Watertown man accused of rape appeared in court
Killer of former wife indicted in sex case
Bernard T. Youngkin of Lindenwold faces charges of restraining and molesting an 18-year-old woman
Deputies arrest Traskwood man for alleged rape
Record number of STD infections in Knox County

Let us say: Thank you Hugh Hefner (2006)

Pax et bonum

Here's the (revised) ticket - American Solidarity Party in 2016

Not happy about having "only" Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as your presidential choices? Consider the candidates of the American Solidarity Party.

On July 9, 2016, the American Solidarity Party nominated Dr. Amir Azarvan for President of the United States and Mike Maturen for Vice-President.
Dr. Azarvan is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Gwinnett College, where he teaches American foreign policy and American government. Born in Youngstown, OH, of Iranian parents, he is an Orthodox Christian. He is the editor of Re-Introducing Christianity: An Eastern Apology for a Western Audience. He has been married for over 12 years, and has three daughters. As a candidate, he is committed to the defense of life from conception to natural death, to an ethical economic system in which those who contribute to the wealth of their society enjoy a fairer share of it, to the traditional family, to educational reform that focuses on the cultivation of virtue, and to a just and humane foreign policy.
Mr. Maturen pursued a nearly 30-year career in sales and marketing. He is a professional speaker and the author of a weekly devotional entitled A New Dawn: Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life. He is also a professional magician and a District Deputy for the Michigan Jurisdiction of the Knights of Columbus. Mr. Maturen describes himself as a social conservative and a fiscal moderate. Formerly a Republican, his current views have been influenced by Pope Francis, who, in his words, "pointed out the need for Christians to not just talk about the poor, but actually to do something about it."
I know for whom I'm voting.

ADDED: Alas, Azarvan had to withdraw. Maturen is now the Presidential candidate, and Juan Munoz is the Vice-Presidential candidate.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Profession Anniversary - Five years!

It was a glorious day! Five years now.

Still learning and trying to be a good Franciscan.

Formation is indeed life-long.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Birth control and the priest shortage

At Mass today the priest preached about and prayed about the lack of vocations to the priesthood. He noted that he had suggested the priesthood to many likely young candidates, but they always said no. He reported that one of the main reasons they said they would not pursue the priesthood was because they were the only sons - sometimes the only children - in their families, and they felt an obligation to carry on the family line and have grandchildren.

He went on to another major reason they give - the loneliness, which he dispelled - but I was thinking about the first reason he gave.

So many Catholic families have just one or two children, just like the rest of the culture. There might be medical reasons, certainly. but I suspect the main reasons are delaying marriage and delaying having children, and using birth control. In this they would be like the rest of society in having smaller families.

In earlier times when families were larger and had several sons, it was easier for one to heed the call to the priesthood. But no more.

There are other negative consequences of birth control - increased sickness in women (including cancer), less respect for women, the undermining of marriage, and fewer workers and producers and consumers.

But for the Catholic Church, it is one of the factors that has led to fewer priests.

Pax et bonum