Critiques & Controversies: November 2004 Archives

Iraq--An Irony

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I'm sorry so little posting of recent date. Hope that it will pick up shortly. Today just a moment for this short note.

I heard that some Sunni Clerics are calling for a boycott of forthcoming elections in Iraq. I don't suppose they stopped for a moment to consider that now they can call for such a boycott without consequences. What would have happened in the days of the Ba'athist regime had a similar call taken place against the pseudo-elections of Saddam and Ba'ath?

But being involved in it they cannot objectively see--blilnd hatred has indeed made them blind and they cannot know how far they have come in little more than a year.

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JCecil3 Called It Early On

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Whatever one might conclude from Mr. JCecil3s varius arguments about Kerry, he hit the nail right on the head so far as the dedication to pro-life of the present administration. It strikes me as window-dressing. If they stand idly by and allow Arlen Specter to chair the judiciary committee, we are very close to "all is for nought." Specter, as you know, has as much as promised that there will be a pro-abortion litmus test for Supreme Court Judges. Under those circumstances, doesn't much matter what the rhetoric was all about. It appears that the republican dedication to the pro-life cause is a public face. It ends once the family begins its conversation.

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A Pro-Life Democrat

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I'm cautiously optimistic.

With all of the "bad news"--the Spectre of Specter and such like--the elevation of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada to the seat of Senate Minority Leader vacated by Tom Daschle sounds like wonderfully good news. He sounds like fiscal democrat (we can debate the merits of that elsewhere) but a social republican. NPR reported that he is pro-life (what that means in their parlance might require some investigation) and anti-gun-control (not one of my favorite positions). But if Mr. Reid can begin to work with Republicans on some of these issues we might be in a very good place on life issues.

He did say that he didn't think much of the elevation of Clarence Thomas to Chief Justice, but that he would be much more sanguine about Scalia. I'm not keen on Scalia since he announced himself a better interpreter of Church doctrine than our current pope. But from what I've seen of his decisions, they seem well-reasoned and usually on "our" side.

Anyway, it's wait and see time.

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I heard the remarkably vacuous remarks of the recipient of National Book Award distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters. "I never dreamed my books would be the object of censorship."

How idiotic, how robotic, can one set of remarks get? Judy Blume has never been censored. No government agency has ever prevented the pressing of ink to paper in her name (though heaven knows, arts and letters would be better off had one done so.) Judy Blume has been the object of boycotts. Well-deserved completely self-earned boycotts. It is the solemn responsibility of all parent to carefully patrol and circumscribe the reading of their children. It is a necessary function of protecting childhood innocence and of nurturing one's child with the appropriate set of values and ideals.

Censorship is a government prohibition of the distribution of material. And don't get me wrong, I am not at all certain that I oppose all censorship. I don't think the news should be able to report details of murders or lavish loving attention of the lives of serial killers while said serial killers are fighting their convictions. Censorship comes from a government agency with the power to repress--and I do think that some "expressions" are imminently worthy of repression. The problem becomes, of course, who decides what those might be--but that's an argument for another day.

Judy Blume's books have been taken off the shelf because she is a substandard hack writer (some of her very early works are pretty good) who peddles adolescent smut under the guise of talking about "real issues of the day." Parent have told schools to remove these books from the library. It is not the school that has taken it upon itself to remove the works--but the pressure of boycotts. This is not censorship--this is the free market in action. If your ideas are repugnant to the free market, then expect that they will be rejected. Go get yourself published by a vanity press and stand on the street corners distributing your work. It isn't censorship.

Nor is the rejection of sacrilege, blasphemy, and other sundry invasions of personal space perpetrated by talentless people whose sole ambition is to produce enough "shock" to make their half-brained "works-of-art" worth purchasing.

Let's get it straight--censorship stems from authority. If a press refuses to print your book because it won't sell, if people refuse to buy it and even protest it because it is trash--that is not censorship. If the government says that it may not be printed--you've been censored and under our current federal guidelines you have a right to complain.

But I've said it more the once and will say it again in the future. Any person may have the right to freedom of expression (whatever that means) under our constitution. No one has a right to an audience

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Publishing Politics

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You know, every time I write about politics, I just become more confused about the whole point. I really think Jeff Culbreath, the Amish, and the Mennonites have a really keen idea.

However, until I live in a separated community, I really don't have much choice but to participate. Or is that true? The Church teaches that it is a moral obligation to work within the system, and yet I cannot but wonder if it isn't at times a moral obligation to turn your back on a system that consistently fails you.

The withdrawal from the affairs of politics offers harmony, peace, and good-living without extensive argumentation on either side. I do not have to support someone engage in dubious battle, and even less someone who would countencance the slaughter of the innocents.

Well, what is a blog for but thinking aloud? I think I'll return to things my mind was made for--literature and spiritual writing. I am always distressed in writing even remotely about politics and while I try to persuade myself that I have no convictions, what i actually discover is a mass of self contradictory convictions on which no reasonable person, let alone party, could build a platform for living. Better just to travel the gospel way.

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In light of yesterday's post "Mixed Feelings," I felt it important to make certain provisional statements.

My personal credo, whether I acknowledge it or not, is "Always question authority." It turns out to have been how I have lived my life. This goes for Church teaching as well as anything else.

But my questioning of authority does not start with an automatic bias against authority. The questioning of authority is more about elucidation that it is about rebellion. "Why should that be the way things are?" is an important question to me.

As a result, I often struggle to come to terms reconciling personal experience with Church teaching in certain areas. One of these is the subject of homosexuality and homosexual expression of love. While I do not necessarily by the "genetic predisposition" argument, I also do not completely by the "matter of choice argument." It appears in the characterization of the upbringing of a great many homosexual men there are similar elements. These environmental factors appear to shape as irreconcilably as genetics. That is not to say that there is no alternative; however, it does mean that alternative paths are extremely difficult to take and people being the fallen creatures that they are, it is exceedingly easy to step off the straight and narrow. It is this fact, among others, that makes reconciling Church teaching with appropriate attitude extremely difficult. Compassion tends to overwhelm and reason tends to take a back seat. If I truly believe such conduct is a sin (and I do) then real compassion would dictate that I would confront it in the same manner as I would any sin. However, for some reason, perhaps because of past experience and wide acquaintance with the homosexual community, this is very, very difficult.

So, this is a very long-winded way of saying, please understand that I am not trying to say that the Church is wrong or that the Church should change its teaching to accommodate me. I am only saying that it will take a while for me to internalize and truly accommodate Church teaching. I will need to strike a balance between recognizing and reproving the sin and welcoming the sinner. In the meantime, I'll let the heart struggle and I will be true to the feelings of it. They may be wrong (in this case, my reason grants that they are wrong) but trying to wrestle them into line with reason never works anyway, so I'll let them be and continue to have mixed feelings even as I recognize that those feelings stem from misplaced compassion. Better misplaced compassion than misplaced anger--compassion can at least usually be persuaded to do what is really best for a person--anger is much more difficult to reason with.

So thanks to all who have responded so far. And to those who were uncertain of what I intended by the post yesterday--it was merely an expression of feeling. It was not intended to cast doubt on present or past Church teaching or to call into question the wisdom of the Church. But I do think it salutary to share the difficulties one has encountering the teaching as well as the triumphs. Most of us struggle with one point of doctrine or another somewhere along the line. It's okay to struggle so long as we always hold in mind that long-held, traditional teaching of the Church is always correct. The teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium bears the same seal of infallibility that the teaching ex cathedra does. I know that and I am thankful for that above a great many other wonderful things the church offers. The guidance is clear on the matter. I have a lighthouse and I have the various tugboats of St. Blogs that will assure that I do not find myself wrecked in the shoals. My thanks to God for His Church, and to all of you who heed His word and help those who struggle (myself included) find their ways.

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Mixed Feelings

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I rejoice in the fact that 11 states voted to recognize the traditional, sacramental definition of marriage. It is likely that there will be a great deal of legal wrangling over this, but the people have spoken unequivocally on the matter.

I am a good deal more conflicted over the fact that 8 of these states apparently also voted to outlaw gay civil unions. I suppose the matter is merely semantic. At least in my mind that is how I have drawn the boundaries--marriage is between a man and a woman--a union recognized both by the Church and by Law. But a civil union? Why should I oppose the legal recognition of a long-term relationship.

Why, for example, should it be possible for a spouse to inherit with or without a will in most states the estate of a spouse upon the demise of the spouse, but such cannot happen without a will in place for persons of the same sex.

I see justice-of-the-peace marriages as simply a legal recognition of a bond between people. While I may be required to insist that such a bond cannot and does not exist sacramentally, what sense does it make to say that it does not exist legally?

I think the bishops have said that we should certainly fight to preserve the sanctity of marriage. And I suppose one could reasonably make the slippery slope argument with regard to the legalization of civil unions. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the heart is entrained in the strict line of reason. In this case, for me, it is not. Yes, I regard homosexual practice as a sin, but is it not possible for the homosexually attracted to live in a committed, non-sexual relationship? I suppose the temptation is always present, but temptation is not sin, and it is, frankly, none of my business and certainly not within my purview to regulate it.

In this case I will say, "The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know." I don't know why I am saddened by this turn of events, but I am. I feel that in some sense justice has been denied even while truth has been reaffirmed in the main statement.

So, I rejoice in the 11 states that have defined marriage traditionally, but I am saddened that the two issues seem to be one in at least eight of those states.

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Although, they tend to turn a deaf ear to these causes.

(1) I heard on NPR that the number 1 issue above all others in the majority of states was Moral Decline. (Not that I think Bush is particularly an exemplar of moral stability.) But of those who stated that morality was an issue 80% of them voted for Bush. Thought provoking numbers.

(2) Again from NPR, Kerry's strongest showing was in young people. I forget the age range, but something like 24-29. The NPR commentator's statement was, "But there just weren't enough of them to carry the day." Well, as someone else pointed out (and I wish I could remember the article) these are the consequences of aborting your constituency. If the 1.2 million people who might have been born each of those 5 years were voting, perhaps there would have been enough to make a difference.

I certainly hope the Democratic party begins to wake up. [Before: Republican economic policies simply do not reflect Catholic social justice teachings no matter what they may claim to the contrary.] [Amended: because Ell is right in intent] Republican policies that have been enacted have not evinced any particular interest in a "preferential option for the poor" or support for the underprivileged or disenfranchised. This seems less in tune with Catholic Social Justice than does the RHETORIC of the Democratic party. However, if you do not have a constituency because you have killed all of your children, there can be no social justice at all. As it stands, Life is the ultimate social justice issue and on that alone, the Republican party still holds the upper hand. I don't know what it will take for this to sink in for democrats, but I hope they can learn not to ignore the vast red heartland that cries out for morality and justice in government.

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. . . it will be too soon.

Those of you who live in states that were "already decided" should heave a great sigh of relief. Over the past five days, I've received more than forty automated "informational" calls for George Bush, John Kerry, and a plethora of others supporting Bush or Kerry, and then one or two for Sheriff, Dogcatcher, Soil Conservator, Groups supporting one or another constitutional amendments.

Traffic has been meesed up one way or the other nearly every day since last week with huge rolling roadblocks that parade the candidates from one place to another.

I will be glad at the end of this day regardless of outcome. We have to live with it anyway, so we simply pray for the best and move on.

I was, of course, outraged that Kerry attended Mass here in Orlando this morning and presumably received communion (on the other hand, I would have to admit that refusal at this point amounts to political grandstanding and really bad judgment.) But I'm appalled at the gall of the man continuing to flout the Church's teachings and presenting himself--he ought to be ashamed of himself.

All I can hope is that we do not repeat the election of 1800. This has been the most polarizing election to date and the divisions become deeper and more injurious with each passing day. Whoever wins, I plead with the other side saying, "Relent and learn to live with what God has wrought. Heal the division and stop the partisanship that is so relentlessly destructive."

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El Dia del Muerte


Does it strike anyone else as ironic that this year's elections shall be held on the Day of the Dead? I think the only other more appropriate election day might have been in the "intercalary days" of the Mayan Calendar. Those 5 doomed days between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Critiques & Controversies category from November 2004.

Critiques & Controversies: October 2004 is the previous archive.

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