Monday, October 31, 2005


Go In Peace Mr. President, Your Sin Has Been Forgiven

One element in the theology of forgiveness that is often overlooked in our "non-judgmental" culture is that for forgiveness to be efficacious, the sinner must acknowledge his sin and display a willingness to make restitution for any harm done.

Thankfully, President Bush's nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court in the aftermath of the Harriet Miers debacle seems to be an indication that the President indeed understands that.

Granted, he needed the fraternal correction of the conservative base to help him see the light. But as Proverbs 17:10 says: "A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. "

And the Alito SCOTUS nomination demonstrates that the rebuke was not wasted on the President.

Deo Gratias!

Go in peace, Mr President. Your sin is forgiven.

But don't think this means you can nominate Alberto Gonzalez when the next SCOTUS vacancy comes up.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Pope Benedict XVI on Celibacy

" It is not a dogma. It is a form of life that has grown up in the Church and that naturally always brings with it the danger of a fall. When one aims so high there are failures. I thnk that what provokes people today against celibacyis that they see how many priests really aren't inwardly in agreement with it and either live hypocritically, badly, not at all, or only in a tortured way... People need to get straight in their minds that times of crisis for celibacy are also times of crisis for marriage as well. For, as a matter of fact, today we are experiencing not only violations of celibacy; marriage itself is becoming increasingly fragile as the basis of our society. In the legislation of Western nations we see how it is increasingly placed on the same level as other forms and is thereby largely 'dissolved' as a legal form. Nor is the hard work needed really to live marriage negligible. Put in practical terms, after the abolition of celibacy we would only have a different problem with divorced priests. That is not unknown in the Protestant Churches. In this sense, we see, of course, that the lofty forms of human existence involve great risks.

The conclusion I would draw from this, however, is not that we should now say, 'We can't do it anymore', but that we must learn again to believe. And that we must also be even more careful in the selection of candidates for the priesthood. The point is that someone really ought to accept it freely and not say, well now I would like to become a priest, so I'll put up with this. Or:I'm not interested in girls anyway, so I'll go along with celibacy. That is not a basis to start from. The candidate for the priesthood has to recognize the faith as a force in his life, and he must recognize he can live celibacy only in faith. Then celibacy can also become again a testimony that says something to people and that also gives them the courage to marry. The two institutions are interconnected. If fidelity in the one is no longer possible, the other no longer exists: one fidelity sustains the other. ...

In both cases a definitive lif decision is at the center of one's own personality: Am I already able, let's say at age twenty-five, to arrange my whole life? Is that something appropriate for man at all? Is it possible to see it through and in doing so to grow and mature in a living way--or must I not rather keep myself constantly open for new possiblities? Basically, then, the question is posed thus: Does the possibility of a definitive choice belong in the central sphere of man's existence as an essential component? In deciding his form of life, can he commit himself to a definitive bond? I would say two things. He can do so only if he is really anchored in his faith. Second, only then does he also reach the full form of human love and human maturity. Anything less than monogamous marriage is too little for man.

The point is that, in any case, it has to be free. It's even necessary to confirm by an oath before ordination one's free consent and desire . In this sense, I always have a bad feeling when it's said afterward that it was a compulsory celibacy and that it was imposed on us. That goes against one's word given at the beginning. It's very important in the education of priests we see to it that this oath is taken seriously....

I think giving up this condition basically improves nothing; rather it glosses over a crisis of faith. Naturally, it is a tragedy for a Church when many lead a more or less double life. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that has happened. In the late Middle Ages we had a similar situation, which was also one of the factors that caused the Reformation. That is a tragic event indeed that calls for reflection, also for the sake of the people, who really suffer deeply." (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Salt of the Earth Ignatius Press 1997 pp. 196-198)

To take this opportunity to put in a shameless plug of my own (after all it is my weblog), my own meager contribution on the subject can be found HERE.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


The Miers Nomination Part 2: To Pull or Not to Pull, That is the Question

This morning on her radio show, Laura Ingraham said she believes that since the conservative pressure is mounting on President Bush to pull the Miers SCOTUS nomination, that he will, in her words, "do the right thing, pull her nomination and reenergize the conservative base." She said that's her "gut feeling".

I hope she's right, but, unfortunately, my gut tells me something different. My gut agrees with Robert Bork that while he should withdraw the nomination, he won't because he is "too stubborn."

She spent most of the morning polling callers as to whether or not Bush should yank the nomination. Predictably, most of the callers agreed that he should, while some came up with the interesting conspiracy theory that Bush floated this nominee as a ruse to energize the base, pull the nomination, then nominate the person he had wanted to all along, and that because the base is so riled up, the Democrats in the Senate won't dare fight it lest they face the fury of the base.
If there's a conspiracy theory I would like to buy into, it's that one. But, sad to say, I don't.

Of course, there were a few "we're standing by our man" kool-aid drinkers who oppose the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination.

Again I don't believe he will yank this nomination, regrettably, unless he has serious doubts about her prospects for confirmation, which is, although by no means a slam dunk, probable, sorry to say.

I mean why would Bush pull this nomination? He's got some of the greatest minds out there making an irrefutable case for him. He's got Ed Gillespie and Ken Mehlman out there claiming a whiff of sexism and elitism among the conservative base. He's got Alberto Gonzalez saying Miss Miers is a friend of his. Best of all, we have Laura Bush telling Matt Lauer she's an extrordinary woman.

June Cleaver is an extraordinary woman too. Does that mean she's in line to become the next Supreme Court nominee when the next justice steps down?

Bush clearly misoverestimated the loyalty of the conservative base. How dare they choose loyalty to their core principles over loyalty to him?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


My Thoughts On the Harriet Miers SCOTUS Nomination

In addition to other objections already raised against the nomination of Chief White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court (e.g. no one, including the President himself{1} knows squat about her, that she has no judicial experience, and there is no evidence that she has both the intellect and the will necessary to help move the Court in the direction it needs to go), I have a few additional takes of my own.

The first is an amplification of the lack of judicial experience issue. In response, defenders (all of which can hold a convention in a phone booth) will surely point to the fact that recently deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist had no judicial experience prior to being nominated and subsequently seated on the High Court. I would say two things in response to that. One is, as Laura Ingraham points out, Rehnquist was a known expert on Constitutional law and his philosophy was long-known matter of public record when he was nominated. But we don’t know what, if any, expertise Miss Miers has in that regard.

The second (and I believe most important) point is that the times in which Rehnquist was nominated are different than our own. While the Court was full of (in Richard Nixon’s words) “senile old bastards” and “fools”, it was not at the critical crossroads that it is at now. There may be a time when it is a good idea to nominate a non-judge to the Court; but now is not the time.

Some have expressed shock at the lack of “faith” the conservative base has in Bush vis-à-vis this pick. After all, hasn’t this been the one area that Bush has been solid thus far? What about all the other good Federal Circuit and Appeals Court picks he has made? To this objection I would pose the following question: yes, they were good picks, but how much political capital did he invest in coming to their defense when the Senate Democrats torpedoed their nominations with the filibuster? Answer: none. They were all left basically twisting in the wind by both the Senate Republicans and the White House (Can anyone say Miguel Estrada? That poor guy was left hanging so long he got fed up with both the abuse and lack of support he withdrew his name from consideration. Now, if Bush wanted to go with a non-judge for a pick, Estrada would be the guy. But Estrada would probably refuse the nomination based on the previous experience of Bush and the Senate Republicans not supporting him when the confirmation process got ugly.)

This president’s unwillingness to go to bat for any of his nominees (except maybe Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney General. Can anyone say cronyism?) seems to be genetic. His father George H.W. Bush left Clarence Thomas to fend for himself. If Thomas hadn’t of taken matters into his own hands and took the fight to the gang-banging leftist thugs on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he would have met the same fate as Robert Bork.

So, I would say that conservative mistrust here is well-founded.

It is Bush’s over eagerness to back down from a political fight with the Democrats that lies at the heart of all this. Make no mistake about it boys and girls.

I don’t for a minute buy into the “It’s the weak-kneed Senate Republicans’ fault” defense. As president, he’s the leader of the Republican Party. If he wanted to, he could have twisted enough Republican arms to get them to fire up the Enola Gay and drop Little Boy on the filibuster rule. After all, he was able to twist enough Republican arms in the House and Senate to get them to pass that Ted Kennedy-authored sorry excuse for an education bill.

It would be great if we could change the direction of the courts in this country without a knock down, drag out fight. But the sad reality is we can’t.

By avoiding this necessary fight we just kick the can even further down the road…perhaps to 2006 when we hear those dreadful words Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Need I say more?


{1} Now Bush claims he knows Miss Miers although he admits to not ever having one discussion with her regarding Roe v. Wade, the case that the battle for the Courts hinges on in large part. He also said he could read Vladimir Putin’s soul too. (Move over St. Padre Pio).


Words Of Wisdom

"The problem with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant. It's just that they know so much that isn't so. (Ronald Reagan circa 1964)

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Understanding The Difference Between Doctrine and Prudential Judgments: Essential to the Formation of The Catholic Conscience

The formation of the Catholic conscience in regards to issues like abortion, euthanasia, contraception, out-of-wedlock sex, and homosexuality is easier than forming the same with issues like capital punishment, the decision to wage war, certain acts that take place in a just war {1}, and economic policies. Why is that?

The reason is that the former are intrinsic evils and the latter are not. To deliberately kill innocent life viz. abortion and euthanasia are not morally licit under any circumstances; nor is rendering the human reproductive organs unable to function naturally viz. contraception, engaging in the marital act outside the bonds of marriage, and sexual activity that contradicts the male-female sexual complimentarity written into human nature.

The latter, however, do not fall in to the same category. For example, it is morally licit to execute dangerous criminals when the physical safety, public order, and moral health of society require it. It is also licit to wage war when national security necessitates it. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in his official capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated such in an communiqué to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops {2} in September of 2004:

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. (Worthiness to Receive Communion-General Principles Emphasis Added)

What makes it even more difficult for some to form their conscience on war and capital punishment are the stated policies of the Holy See and the late Pope John Paul II opposing capital punishment outright and most decisions to wage war.

Out of all papal prudential judgments, John Paul II stating that, due to modern penal systems the need for capital punishment is “rare, if not non-existent” in Evangelium Vitae #56 and his calling capital punishment “cruel and unnecessary” during a visit to St. Louis in 1999 has caused the most confusion.

If you read USCCB literature on the death penalty, statements from individual bishops, and programs in many dioceses across the country, one would think that a Catholic must oppose the capital punishment. Exacerbating this confusion, there are normally very trustworthy Catholic thinkers like Dr. Robert George of Princeton University saying things like, "Nevertheless, he [the pope] has taught authoritatively that the circumstances in which the imposition of the death penalty could possibly be justified are today so rare as to be "practically non-existent." (Clash of Orthodoxies pg. 241)

Pope John Paul II based his stated opposition to the death penalty squarely on his belief that the efficacy of modern penal systems are such as to render the need for capital punishment “rare, if not non-existent”; and since determining whether or not penal systems are efficacious in that regard falls within the competence of the State, and not the Church, such a statement from the pope can in no way be considered authoritative. Dr. George, just on the basis of being a legal scholar, should know that. Besides, the “rare, if not non-existent” statement is obviously speculative in nature, and no authoritative statement of any kind, much less one coming from the Church, is NEVER couched in speculative terms.

In any event, I hope that the statement from the future Pope Benedict XVI quoted above clears up that confusion on the issue of capital punishment.

It seems to me that, despite the best efforts of some, the same degree of confusion does not exist in regards to the issue of waging war.

The importance of knowing the difference between doctrinal statements and prudential judgments cannot be stressed enough. The former deal with matters entirely within the Church’s competence to speak on authoritatively and the latter involve making assessments that are outside the Church’s competence to pronounce on (e.g. efficacy of penal systems in regards to the death penalty and analyzing military intelligence and security concerns in regards to waging war.), although such assessments are to be done within the parameters of Catholic moral principles. In other words, the Church’s competence with regards to the latter issues extends only in so far as to define what those moral parameters are.

This is not to say that the prudential judgments of the Church hierarchy on such matters should be dismissed out of hand. The faithful should carefully, and respectfully, consider such judgments.

But this respect should never be understood as an impediment on the freedom of conscience (or as then-Cardinal Ratzinger put it a “legitimate diversity of opinion”) a Catholic enjoys to arrive at conclusions based on his best understanding of the facts involved--even if it contrasts with the opinion of the pope. As one is bound to obey a certain conscience, it can be said that a Catholic would be bound to disagree with the pope in such instance.

It would seem to me that this would apply all the more to a Catholic who has expertise in the pertinent secular matters (e.g. juridical, law enforcement, military intelligence, and geo-politics). I believe they have a duty to do all they can to make their views known to Church officials; and Church officials, likewise, have a duty to carefully consider such opinions.

To ascribe magisterial status to the prudential judgments of a given pope is conducive to creating a view of the papacy that is sort of a Ceasaro-Papism in reverse. For those who don’t know what Ceasaro-Papism is, it is where secular heads of state try to usurp the authority and prerogatives proper only to the pope, as what occurred in the Fourth Century after Christianity became the state religion in the Roman Empire.

Such a distorted understanding of the papal office makes it vulnerable to politicization where the pope, vis-à-vis his opinions on secular matters, becomes the vehicle of someone’s political or social agenda. This would also play right into the hands of those who wish to undermine papal authority by claiming that the papal office is no different than that of a democratically elected secular ruler. Following this logic (i.e. the power enjoyed by a secular ruler is held in check by other human elements and whose laws can be changed or repealed, and can be voted out of office), the pope’s magisterial authority can be subject to the whims of a majority.

Furthermore, since misconceptions about the papacy represent a major stumbling block for many Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians, blurring the distinction between magisterial pronouncements and prudential judgments are an impediment to Christian unity and evangelization.

Above all, distinguishing between doctrinal imperatives and prudential judgments is nothing more than obedience to our Lord who commands us to "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods." (Matt. 22:21 RSV)


{1} The most hotly debated ius in bello subjects is the use of nuclear weapons. Atomic weapons have only been used in war twice, when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. I deal with the moral ramifications of those atomic bomb drops viz. Catholic principles HERE and HERE.

{2} Although contraception, homosexuality and economic issues are not dealt with in Cardinal Ratzinger’s communiqué. Everyone knows that the Church brooks no dissent in regards to the first two and that, like the issues of capital punishment and war, determining correct economic policy involve making assessments outside the Church’s competence as well as staying within the moral parameters defined by the Church.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


In Defense of Bill Bennett

During the "Morning in America" radio talk show hosted by former Education Secretary and Drug Czar-turned radio talk show host Dr. William Bennett, the following exchange took place during the last segment on Wednesday 28th:

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?

CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Predictably, the left took one sentence (But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.), out of context to paint Dr. Bennett as some knuckle-dragging Nearderthal racist who wants to exterminate blacks.

After getting home from work Thursday morning, I happen to come across a CNN segment dealing with the story during my morning ritual of T.V. channel surfing. And guess who they had on to give his view on the matter? Al Sharpton. And of course, Mr. Sharpton (I refuse to call him Reverend) railed about how racist Bennett's comments were. But there was nothing racist about them. All Dr. Bennett was doing was drawing a hypothetical sceanario following the twisted logic of the "abortion lowers crime" crowd and said that if we were to "abort every black baby in this country and your crime would rate would go down." And you know what? Bennett's right. If we were to follow the aforementioned sick logic, the crime rate WOULD go down if we were to abort every black baby. That's right! In proportion to population, the crime rate amongst blacks is the highest in the country with black on black crime having the highest per capita crime rate and black on white having the second. Where is Shapton's outrage (or Jaaaaaaaaaaacksonnnn's, or Mfume's, or Maxine Waters' etc. for that matter) over that fact? Where is their outrage over the fact that about one third of the unborn children slaughtered every year in abortuaries in this country are black when blacks make up only 10-12% of the population? No wonder black pro-life leaders call legal abortion genocide. And why in the hell doesn't any of the info-babes (Thank you Rush) or empty suits in the liberal media ask them that question? But we already know why they don't ask those questions, don't we? Rich Lowery, editor of National Review tried getting a straight answer from Democrat strategist Michael Brown (a black man himself) on the question of blacks and abortion while filling in for Sean Hannity on Hannity and Colmes and Brown danced a Bojanglesque jig around that question.

The fact of the matter is this: the so-called black civil rights leaders have become the Uncle Toms doing the bidding of the white liberal slave master. And legal abortion, as well as keeping as many blacks as possible a permanent underclass, is foundational to the white liberal ideology. It's that simple, boys and girls.

Just as I thought things couldn't get worse...well...they got worse. On my way home from work Wednesday morning, I hear local (San Diego) talk show host Rick Roberts lambasting Bennett for his comments. Those of you who listen to Michael Savage are familiar with Rick Roberts because he often fills in in Savage's absence. So Roberts is no liberal by any stretch. In fact, I like him. He has been a great force for good in the San Diego community. He has done the Lord's work, so to speak, on championing the cause of keeping the Cross/War Memorial on Mount Soledad. He has also been tireless in his efforts to draw attention to problem of our porous southern border. I've met him in person and have talked to him on the air several times when he was previously with a different San Diego radio station. So, listening to him go after Bennett the way he did was a real disappointment (not to mention a shock) to say the least when he should have been sticking up for him.

But even worse than that was the White House and RNC chairman Ken Mehlman joining the criticism of Bennett chorus, calling his remarks "regrettable and inappropriate." Of all people, they should know better. They know Bill Bennett. They know he is not a racist. They know that he is a stand-up guy. They should have at least given him the benefit of the doubt and checked with him before joining in on the criticism. Of all people, they should know that the left has made a cottage industry out of twisting the statements of conservatives out of context for political purposes.

I would like to say that I am surprised by this, but unfortunately, I am not at all surprised by it. The present republican leadership and this administration is so terrified in the face of any pressure of these race-baiting thugs that they are willing to sacrifice even a staunch ally like Bill Bennett to appease them. If I were Dr. Bennett, I would be offended by this.

Setting a "new tone in Washington" was one of the pillars of the Bush presidential campaign. Memo to the President: if you want to set a new tone in Washington, it's real simple. Cut the B.S. That'll set a new tone in Washington!

You can start cutting the B.S. by denouncing those "race-pushing poverty pimps" (thank you J.C. Watts) who do nothing but cash in on the misery of those whom they claim to speak for and who do everything in their power to bring about your political destruction, not those who go to the matt defending your policies like Bill Bennett {1} when Bennett did nothing wrong to warrant any criticism.


{1} In fact, Bill Bennett, like the rest of talk radio, has been far more articulate in defending Bush policies than anyone in the administration has.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?