2012/08/25

Peace & Life Connections: Summer 2012

Dr. Catherine Meeks, Speech at Consistent Life 25th Anniversary conference, March 2012
Ugly thoughts and ugly projections are also sources of death. It just takes maybe a little longer for the person to die, if you're thinking ugly stuff, but after a while you've killed them in your heart, you've killed them in your thoughts, and you kill off parts of yourself with that. So I think to be consistent means that you have to be consistent yourself, and that is the hardest part for me. If I could just go out here and speak and write and toot along with all this and not ever be confronted with my own shadow, my own darkness and my own propensities to not love, then life wouldn't be too difficult. But it's pretty complex when it gets down to: so how're you going to get through the day? How peaceful are you going to be?

Serrin Foster, President of feminists For Life of America, Speech at Consistent Life 25th Anniversary conference, March 2012
As we continue to be inspired by incredible women from history, and women who are making history right now, we shine a light on this rich woman's rights history. And cheer this consistent life ethic with men and women around the world, who deserve so much better than trading one form of violence and exploitation for another. I'm going to echo Frederica Mathews-Green's words, but she said in effect, "no matter her age, no matter her ability, no matter her size, her parentage, no matter her location, whether she's in the womb or she's in the other side of the world, today women deserve better." May peace begin in the womb and spread throughout the world. All people are equal, all choices are not.

Dr. Catherine Meeks, Speech at Consistent Life 25th Anniversary conference, March 2012
The bottom line has always got to be "let's be humane." That is what being consistent in the way we approach life means, that you have a bottom line. For me the bottom line is "let's be humane."

Nick Neal, “Comparing Evils and Condemning Them Both: a Response to Scott Klusendorf,” posted June 26, 2012
Klusendorf is making an idiotic move in expelling consistent lifers from the pro-life movement. By advocating that in order to be pro-life you are not allowed to oppose other forms of legalized homicide, he narrows the movement. Especially by making support for an unpopular war a requirement to be in the movement...I've been concerned for unborn rights nearly all my life and I refused to be excommunicated from my own movement. The same goes for other consistent lifers.

Warren M. Hern and Billie Corrigan, "What About Us? Staff Reactions to the D & E Procedure," Boulder Abortion Clinic. Advances in Planned Parenthood 15(1):3-8, 1980
Two respondents described dreams which they had related to the procedure. Both described dreams of vomiting fetuses along with a sense of horror. Other dreams revolved around a need to protect others from viewing fetal parts, dreaming that she herself was pregnant and needed an abortion or was having a baby...In general, it appears that the more direct the physical and visual involvement (i.e. nurses, doctor), the more stress experienced. This is evident both in conscious stress and in unconscious manifestations such as dreams. At least, both individuals who reported several significant dreams were in these roles.

James Martin, S.J., America: The National Catholic Weekly, “Why Gun Control is a Religion Issue,” July 22, 2012
There is a "consistent ethic of life" that views all these issues as linked, because they are. All of these issues, at their heart, are about the sanctity of all human life, no matter who that person is, no matter at what stage of life that person is passing through, and no matter whether or not we think that the person is "deserving" of life... These shootings would not have happened if the shooter did not have such easy access to firearms and ammunition. So religious people need to be invited to meditate on the connection between the more traditional "life issues" and the overdue need for stricter gun control. The oft-cited argument, "Guns don’t kill people, people do," seems unconvincing to me. Of course people kill people; as people also procure abortions, decide on euthanasia and administer the death penalty. Human beings are agents in all these matters. The question is not so much how lives are ended, but how to make it more difficult to end lives. Pro-life religious people need to consider how it might be made more difficult for people to procure weapons that are not designed for sport or hunting or self-defense...If one protests against abortions clinics because they facilitate the taking of human life, why not protest against the largely unregulated suppliers of firearms...because they facilitate the taking of human life as well?

Rachel MacNair, Achieving Peace in the Abortion War, p. 139
The better part of my early adulthood was spent being an activist against the arms race, raising concerns about the bad health effect of nuclear weapons and their dangers of destruction. Suppose you had come to me in those days and told me the Soviet Union would collapse into its component republics, and the arms race would wind down as tensions decreased because of a popular pro-democracy upsurge in Russia. I would have told you that I enjoyed the impishness of that idea, but it wouldn't have struck me as realistic. Ideas seemed a little too entrenched to allow for that. But there were underlying weaknesses in the Cold War situation that led to the dynamic which, in hindsight, looks more like it was inevitable. History shows that many things aren’t as entrenched as they might appear.

"A New Ethic for Medicine and Society," California Medicine 113. September, 1970, p. 68.
Medicine's role with respect to changing attitudes toward abortion may well be a prototype of what is to occur...One may anticipate further development of these roles as the problems of birth control and birth selection are extended inevitably to death selection and death control.

2012/07/15

Talk of the Town: the economy


Anyone who has not already tuned out the charade of the 2012 presidential election will undoubtedly know that the only issue the American people care about is the economy. When Barack Obama became president, the national under/unemployment rate was 14.2% and right now it stands at 14.9% (compared to the same time in George W. Bush’s first term, increasing from 7.3% to 9.5%). Even though it appears that Obama’s policies have more or less stabilised the situation, 14.9% is still more than double the all-time low rate of 7.0% during the summer of 2000.

99% of Americans could not care less that Wall Street has recovered from the latest financial meltdown. 99% of Americans probably care more about the fact that three out of every 20 working-age persons who want a full-time job cannot find one. Furthermore, we have seen a decline in the real wages of working-class Americans over the past 40 years. How can we move forward as a society if workers cannot find meaningful employment that pays just wages?

In addition to more of the middle-class falling downwards socio-economically, recently there have also been attacks on workers’ rights to organise unions, most notably in Wisconsin. Labour unions are vital to the partnership between management and workers to build a more equitable workplace environment and should not (as some may want to) be tools to wage class warfare between capitalists and the proletariat. Unfortunately there are those in government and the media who think that labour unions hurt society and so they try to push ideas that attempt to make society hurt labour unions. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) that “[the repeated calls] for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past.” Even the opening verses of Chapter 5 in St. Paul’s Letter to James warns the affluent that it is a sin against God to abuse one’s workers, which is far too easy to do within an economic system that debases human beings to the level of mere resources.

Labour issues like the ones mentioned above are only one concern of the economic crisis. The other concern is our nation’s set of welfare policies. Proverbs 31:8-9 reminds us that we must speak out for the rights and needs of the destitute, not ignore them. The first of these needs concerns housing, namely the availability of affordable housing as well as the failure to address the causes and victims of the housing foreclosures. The government must work with non-governmental entities to increase the supply of affordable housing for the low-income as well as upkeep the current supply of affordable housing. Congress should also pass legislation like the Homeowner Bill of Rights Governor Jerry Brown just signed to take effect in 2013. The second example concerns hunger and food security in our society. At least one out of every five children in the wealthiest nation in the world goes hungry every day. Congress should not be proposing cutbacks on programmes such as the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (informally known as food stamps), but should be reinforcing it and other programmes that help Americans get out of poverty.

As with all concerns of government spending, the question is how are we going to pay for these welfare programmes. First of all, it is absolutely essential that the government is not the sole provider of social services. Religious and other non-profit organisations have a crucial role to play along with government agencies in provisioning these services. Unreasonable edicts that impose restrictions on organisations due to religious beliefs only exacerbate the problem by creating enemies out of allies. Second, we pay for these programmes with the surplus we generate during times of economic growth. Since we failed to generate a surplus in over a decade, we must now attempt to generate a surplus during a time of economic recovery. One of the biggest arguments against raising taxes on the wealthy is that such a policy is a job-killer. How does giving Kim Kardashian and Mark Zuckerberg tax breaks create jobs in fields outside of landscaping and housekeeping?

Ideally, we should completely overhaul our tax system to implement what Henry George called the Single Tax, but nobody in power is seriously suggesting such a utopia. The reality is that the chickens have come home to roost; politicians have been engaged in reckless spending and tax cuts for the majority of the past three decades. There is never going to be a “good time” to raise taxes. If we are to engage in a cuts-only approach, we will need to cut discretionary spending (including DoD) by 40% next year just to have a balanced budget for one year. That does not do anything to begin paying off the $15 trillion debt we currently have. If we are to assume that for every dollar cut, we collect an additional tax dollar, we would have to implement this plan for at least the next 15 years to pay off all our debt.

The government has asked the average American to bear the burden of fiscal irresponsibility in Washington DC for the past 30 to 40 years. It is time that we ask the wealthy to help the rest of us carry this cross as well.

2012/06/20

"Catholics" and "Marriage"

Secular media sources like CNN often attempt to present teachings of the Catholic Church in light of whatever hot-button topic is in the news. What always ends up happening is distortion of doctrine in order to nullify the moral authority of the Church. The latest offence is an article titled, "Can 'true Catholics' support same-sex marriage?"

First, I commend CNN for putting "true Catholics" in quotation marks, because often times this euphemism is used erroneously to refer to those who do not practise or do not agree with teachings of the Church. In reality, however, once one is baptised in the Catholic Church, one is formally Catholic. No ifs, ands, or buts. Too often I find myself deriding Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan for being quote-unquote-Catholics. Even though they interpret key teachings of the Church in a manner that is completely incompatible with the Church itself, they are nonetheless as Catholic as I officially.

My commendation does not stop there. I also wish to commend Jim Smith for understanding that he could no longer tend to God’s flock due to his disagreement with the Church on the issue of same-sex "marriage." It is unfortunate that Smith did not understand why same-sex relationships go against Natural Law and resulted in him working against the Church. It is better, though still unfortunate, for him to do so in the capacity of a lay person than in the capacity of an ordained leader in the Church. Doing so as a lay person means he takes on his misguided campaign as an individual without any misunderstanding that somehow the Church supports his efforts.

This whole article came about due to the ballot initiative in Minnesota this coming November that would amend the state constitution to recognise marriage as between one man and one woman, like the one that passed in North Carolina. What sets this initiative up for success is that there is currently no recognition of same-sex "marriages" in the state. Washington, while also voting on the legality of same-sex "marriages" this November, is in the same situation as California four years ago, namely, that the state government recognises these unions and voters are now trying to overturn the law. It is highly likely that when the United States Supreme Court rules that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, Washington’s ban (should it pass this fall) will also fall under the purview of the Court’s ruling.

The lesson here is this: all states that currently do not recognise same-sex unions must immediately pass constitutional amendments recognising marriage as between one man and one woman. Once the state government recognises such unions, even if it is for one day, it will likely be deemed unconstitutional, because of the flawed secular redefinition of marriage as a contract between any two consenting adults regardless of their sexes.

It always makes me uncomfortable to talk about same-sex "marriage" as an issue by itself, because doing so does not allow us as a society to see the larger forest in which the issue of marriage is planted. I have written blog posts in the past (here and here) that aim to examine the forest and not just the tree. The importance of seeing the bigger picture also debunks the myth that somehow being against same-sex "marriage" means one is homophobic. It is easy to mistake the two as directly related, because in our society we define the worth of a human being by what she does and not because she is a child of God, our loving Creator. Therefore, secular logic tells us that disapproving of how someone chooses to live is thus a disapproval of the person herself. This cannot be further from the truth. Regardless of whether a heterosexual person engages in fornication or a homosexual person engages in sodomy, they are at the same time children of God and sinners (like the rest of us). As such we are morally culpable if we discriminate against either one, but it also does not provide an excuse for us to turn a blind eye to moral wrongs. The key here is to distinguish between the person and the action. We should not live in a society in which homosexuals should lie to their families and neighbours about their attractions but at the same time we must transform our society into one in which we all help one another live lives that value sexuality for what it truly is meant to be: the spousal participation of humanity in the Creator’s ultimate gift of bringing forth new life through the complementarity of the sexes.