Saturday, December 29, 2012


The Bible is a family history. Genesis is the story of Adam and his family.  The Old Testament is the story of Abraham's family; the New Testament, of Jesus' family.  Jesus spent the night before he died with his brothers, at the supper table.  He was not working late at the office.

Jesus came as a "brother" to Israel - in the Aramaic of the day, he was part of their family, a relation.  The word "brother" was used for all male kin, not just the sons of your mother or father.  Jesus is the hope of his family.  He is the answer to our family of origin problems. 

In the Book of Matthew we begin with Jesus' Hebrew genealogy.  In the book of Luke the genealogy of Jesus is extended back to Adam.  Jesus is kin to each of us, our "brother," and his love and justice extend to all mankind.  We are his family.  We are not mere numbers, we are not "strangers" to him.  He expresses his care for us as his deeply loved brothers, mothers and sisters. 

Our hearts are comforted by knowing that He loves us with the unconditional love, mingled with absolute honesty, that is the very best that good families offer.  It is no accident that a society who denies Jesus, who denies God, becomes uprooted, bleak, despairing, and suicidal.  We have lost our family.  We have lost the bedrock of love and acceptance that we were meant to have.

Jesus was accused of spending too much time at weddings and feasts, eating and drinking.  He spent a lot of time with family and friends, being happy together.  Jesus had this to say about his family:
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
He did not exclude or deny his biological family by this statement.  Rather, He included in his family "whoever does the will of my heavenly Father."  We see this most especially at the cross, when he joined John and Mary together as son and mother.

Remember that when Jesus speaks, it is not just an assertion of fact.  Jesus' words are acts of power.  By His word all was created.  When he says we are his family if we do the will of God, it is not just "as if," or figurative, language.  We are by His word made His family.

Christmas is the day we begin again our worship of Jesus, who came to us as a new-born baby, to show us a new life.  We are all welcome to participate in his new and perfect life, because He loves us.  We are His sisters and brothers.

We all have our "family of origin" issues, as the psychologists tell us.  Jesus is the healing of our family of origin issues.  He is our "family of destination."  And our destination is a wedding banquet.

 Banquet of the Lamb

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Explain to me again, in simple words,
How we find ourselves, this Advent season,
weeping (once again) for children murdered 
by a young man run amok at a school?

The words and images come ceaselessly
With ads for jello, gum, Depends and cars.
The slaughter of innocents moves product.
We sure do talk a lot, to no effect.

How long until we see the substance, not
The accidents of motive, time and place,
Of opportunity, intent and act?
Maybe we could confess our ignorance?

So quick to question God, so slow to ask
Ourselves (in whom we trust, to whom we pray) - 
What have we wrought?  Why are we so broken?
Maybe we could murmur a contrite prayer?

Ah me, this glist'ning shunt, greased with the fat
dripping from the human sacrifices
We offer every day, every hour - 
Our children for our self-absorbed desires.

On we slide, a bloated, gassy torso,
Pus leaking from a dozen rotting wounds.
On we slide, a circus freak in lipstick,
Wedged in a coffin filled with our own waste.

We gorge on lust, pride, greed, and irony
And expect our children to find meaning.
We adulterate, abort and divorce
And wonder at their madness and despair.
"Ye wander, witless, in your wilderness
Refusing drink from the water of life.
Ye deaf, blind, dumb, ye lame, ye sore smitten -
Drink yet from the river of life and live."
Perhaps it is true we need a savior?
Perhaps we cannot find our way alone?
Perhaps in these tears we could kneel and pray
To the poor baby born on Christmas Day? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012


This is an optimistic time of year.  Today marks the end of "Ordinary" time, in the Catholic liturgy, and tomorrow marks the beginning of Advent, the four weeks during which we prepare for the Christmas holiday.  Or "Christ Mass" "holy day." 

Next time someone gets snarky about the Catholic Church, remember that it gave us Christmas and the concept of a "holiday." You might remind them, as well, that it is to the the Catholic Church that we owe Sundays off from work, the New Testament, the concept of universal education and health care for the poor, and the inalienable dignity and value of each human being, no matter how humble.  

None of these ideas had any currency in human society or government at the time of Christ.  It was Christ's Church in which they were nurtured and spread, in the face of extraordinary opposition.  

And to the Church we owe 2,000 years of fabulous art, music, literature, philosophy and theology.

I'm not bragging, I'm just pointing out facts for your consideration.

The liturgical readings of late have been consumed with last things, and have focused on the Book of Revelation.  

People usually think of Revelation with a certain amount of awe, since many of the visions described there are of enormously powerful alien creatures filled with malice toward the human race.  "Revelation," the movie, would far outstrip in intensity and pure terror any apocalyptic science fiction movie of recent years.

The Damned (from "The Last Judgment")
Hunter S. Thompson recognized the power of Revelation when he wrote
I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language.. . because l love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.
Of course, as with almost anything Thompson wrote, you must separate the flares of insight from the smog of peyote fueled megalomania and self indulgence.  For Thompson, Revelation was a book of madness. 

Thompson's words have the benefit of paying the book its due, in his typically perverse way.  Counting on the book being madness is one of two options.  If the book is even one-tenth true - in any sense, physically, spiritually or allegorically - we are in for a catastrophically bad ride.  

So dismissing it all as "madness" is perfect.  Unless, of course, you are wrong.

Little known by those casually familiar with Revelation are the passages of light and hope cast liberally throughout the book.  One of the readings from today's liturgy is from the final chapter of the Book of Revelation, speaking of the end of all things:

An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,
sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle of the street,
On either side of the river grew the tree of life
that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month;
the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.

Nothing accursed will be found anymore.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun,
for the Lord God shall give them light,
and they shall reign forever and ever.  

Who are these servants?  Jesus identifies them in his first sermon: "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."  

The Kingdom passes not to the powerful, not to the arrogant, not to the "wise" or smart or wealthy, nor to the cunning or the ruthless.  The Kingdom passes to the "poor in spirit," to the meek, the humble, those who mourn and those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness."  It passes to those spurned by this world, insulted for having believed in a King and his eternal, just and loving Kingdom.  

This hope is mocked and dismissed by the erudite as the "opium of the people."  Quite the contrary, this hope is "medicine for the nations," as the Book of Revelation says.  And my, my, the nations - including our own - certainly seem to be in need of some medicine right now.

So it is hard not to be optimistic as we embark again on the Church-wide retelling of the story of that Eternal King's love. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


President Obama and his Progressive brethren (and sistren) operate under a straightforward and attractive foundational principle: people's assets and income should be roughly equal, or at least more equal than they are now.  Call this principal "financial equality."  This principle is the necessary foundation for the Progressive assertion that wealth should be "redistributed" by the government.

Financial inequality is different than poverty.  If 99% of our society were suddenly given $200,000 each by the government, but the other 1% were given $1 million each, income inequality would have increased, but not poverty. 

It is possible for an entire society to get much wealthier, but at the same time, for financial inequality to increase. Conversely, it is possible for a society to become much more equal financially, yet for everyone to get much poorer.  For instance, perfect destitution for everyone would also mean perfect financial equality.  I am sure Mr. Obama does not seek perfectly distributed destitution, so the goal is likely lots of wealth distributed evenly.

Once you accept the principle of financial equality, Mr. Obama's policy choices become much easier to understand.  Even though tax increases on wealthy Americans will do very little to balance the budget deficit, and are likely to slow economic growth, they tend to reduce financial inequality, and are therefore desirable.

Financial equality makes sense, as a policy, when you believe that if everyone had roughly the same income and assets, we would all be happier, healthier, and more neighborly, provided the income and assets were enough to live on.

This is where I have my doubts.  Let me share just a few brief examples.

Would financial equality eliminate war?  Unlikely.   Plenty of very wealthy nations have gone to war over the years.  Think of Germany (4 times between 1867-1945).  Think of every colonial power during the 19th century.  These countries were not trying to gain financial parity. They were wealthier than the countries whom they attacked.

Neither would financial equality eliminate drug addiction, as anyone who has dealt with addiction can tell you.

Perhaps there is a point, when everyone has financial equality, where we would see drug addiction disappear or greatly diminish, but this seems wildly unlikely.  There was a huge problem with alcoholism in the former Soviet Union, which made far more progress toward financial equality than we have.

Joe Stalin encouraging people not to drink so much vodka, circa 1935.

Would financial equality eliminate greed and envy?  Not in my experience.  People in most American suburbs are very evenly matched financially.  They still suffer from lots of envy and greed.  College professors, some of the smartest, most financially equal and Progressive people on earth, are notoriously prone to envy and greed, fighting savagely with each other over seemingly minor financial issues. 

Getting more money can ease certain types of pain, but it doesn't make people happy.  If my getting more money doesn't actually made me a happier person, how does making sure I have the same amount as everyone else make me happier?

I don't buy the first principles of Progressivism. I don't agree with the notion that financial inequality is problem #1 with humanity.  Not by a long shot.  That doesn't mean I think poverty is a good thing, or irrelevant.  Remember that financial inequality and poverty are not the same thing.

So the basic premise of Progressivism is suspect, in my mind.  In addition, there is an unavoidably messy secondary problem.  It has to do with implementing the Progressive vision.

The difficulty is that people are not equal in their gifts and personalities.  They are spread all over the "bell shaped curve."  Some are very industrious, some are very lazy.  Some are incredibly aggressive, some very passive.  Some are smart, some, not so much.

All these differences translate into very different outcomes, when it comes to money.  If everyone is just left alone, some people will accumulate vast wealth and others will not.  This is a true even if everyone got the exact same opportunities at birth.

To get to financial equality, a government must apply force, not just once, but constantly, and not just in certain key locations, but over the entire society.  People who are economically maladroit will (by and large) have to be given regular subsidies.  The people who are economically adept will (by and large) constantly have to have their money taken away.

Progressivism, taken to its logical end, does not just welcome totalitarianism, it requires totalitarianism in order to maintain financial equality.  Thus, it becomes very difficult to keep Progressives from lurching over into totalitarianism. 

This is why Progressivism so often leads to totalitarianism. No other form of government can even begin to meet Progressivism's need to achieve and maintain financial equality.  This is why the Progressive "cure" is often worse than the "disease."  That is not to say the "disease" is a good thing and should be ignored.  It is just to say that a sick patient does not need an abusive "remedy" that makes the situation worse.

The Progressive's vision becomes almost impossible to translate into an individual's code of conduct.  If having some material possessions makes me happy and healthy, why wouldn't having more make me happier still?  And why should some hypothetically "equal" amount of material goods maximize my happiness?  So 73% of the population are content with their 1964 Dodge Darts and their lack of hot water.  This means I should be perfectly happy with the Dart and a cold shower?  Because most people are?  Because that's what the "average" is?

On the way to financial equality, Progressivism has to hobble at least half its population, the economically adept, and subsidize the other half, the economically maladroit. So it is that half the population, with far more than half the total potential for making wealth, must constantly be suppressed, lest they be too successful, while the other half must be constantly subsidized or they will fall behind.

All this is supposed to be managed by those notoriously thrifty and efficient bureaucrats in Washington.

This suppression of the economically adept makes the adept miserable and  makes it hard to generate the money to pay subsidies to the economically maladroit.  Once the adept learn that hard work will not get them any more goods than laziness, and that they are in effect serfs working to support the economically maladroit, they quite rationally opt for laziness.  The closer Progressivism gets to its goal, the more a society's productivity tends to erode. Instead of sharing more and more wealth, as Progressive societies mature they share more and more self-inflicted poverty.

In sum, Progressivism, for all its intended benefits, is an almost perfect device for the immiseration (noun: the act of making miserable) of a society.  Reason and logic suggest that this is so.  Many examples drawn from the last 100 years suggest that this is so. 

Nevertheless, the glowing promise that Progressivism will make everyone better and happier is such an intoxicating vision that people keep buying it, in the fervent belief that THIS time it will all work out.  Progressivism is a bit like rooting for the Chicago Cubs to win the Series, except that Cubs fans don't really believe the Cubs will win.

Right now the United States, the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind, is knee deep at Progressive Beach, preparing to wade further into the water with its cool Progressive surfboard.   

As the waves roll in, we may want to watch what is happening in Venezuela, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and the State of California.  All six are further out in the surf, paddling toward a shared Progressive vision of the perfect wave.  They are either having lots of fun, waving their arms and yelling, or else maybe they are drowning.  It would be important to know which one it is.

Watching them, we may want to get on our surfboards and rock on, or we may decide to gather up our stuff and head back to the boardwalk before things get ugly.

As for me, I find all six of those societies, and their governments, alarming.  I have no desire to emulate them.

In any event I am optimistic that we will all be much better informed on this issue by 2016.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I ran across a quote from St. Francis de Sales yesterday that struck me as a profound statement of a basic truth.

Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, 
only to pass on and plunge into eternity, 
there to remain forever what we have made it.

It is easy to get caught up in the great tumult that surrounds a Presidential election, but the truth is that for all the sturm und drang life's great river will roll down to the sea in its own time, no matter who is elected.  My election prediction is that after November 6, 2012, human kindness will still be in much demand and human folly in copious supply.

I recommend taking a "long" position in kindness and "shorting" folly.  It's a high percentage play.  See the link for more on the financial lingo. 

This is not to denigrate the gravity of making a choice about who will be our President.  In our Republic, we generally get exactly the politicians we want and deserve, which seems a horrible thing to say, but is entirely true.  Politicians tend to be a very accurate reflection of our own weakness and folly, as well as our strengths.

Here's a quote from Jesus of Nazareth about how we might make better use of the moments that are plunging into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made them. 

Think of these words as Jesus' "platform," except that He is not running for office and He really means what He says.  His words are true and filled with inexorable power.  Pretty heady stuff.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
     for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger 
and thirst for righteousness,
     for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
     for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart,
     for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
     for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted 
for the sake of righteousness,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
     Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
     Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


On September 11, 2012, Islamic terrorists attacked the American Embassy in Libya and killed our ambassador.  

Immediately after the attack, and until September 20, 2012, the Administration blamed an obnoxious internet video about Mohammed for the assassination, on the theory that a crowd, angry over the video, got out of control and burned the Embassy. 

This original assessment proved to be totally wrong. 

It turns out that leading up to the attack, our Ambassador and the security people at the Libyan Embassy were pleading for beefed up security.  The State Department officials in Washington denied the requests and were reducing security.  The State Department was pursuing a policy of "normalization" in Libya, despite the protests of the people at the Embassy that the situation was not "normal," but still out of control and quite dangerous.

At a minimum, the assessments of both the State Department, in the run-up, and the White House, in the aftermath, were critically deficient.  

In the immediate aftermath of the murder, it would have behooved the Administration to simply state that they were investigating competing versions of events.

I suspect that no one at the CIA was terribly interested in saying, bluntly, "right now we don't really know what happened or why, and we don't have a lot of high quality intelligence resources in Libya, so an answer is going to have to wait."

I suspect that the White House was not interested in saying this, either. 

I also suspect that the "video" explanation, however hedged with reservations in initial CIA reports, was manna from heaven for both CIA higher-ups and the White House, because the alternative - that a terrorist attack occurred on 9-11, and we did not see it coming - was too painful to contemplate.  One wishes the Administration would have been as dubious about the "video" story as it was about the merit of the Ambassador's plea for security.

That there were warning signs is now obvious, just as it was in the aftermath of 9-11 itself.  The pleas for additional security were ignored or overlooked by people in a position to prevent the disaster, that is, State Department officials in Washington.  They ignored these requests because their assessment was that it was good policy to "normalize" the Embassy's situation in Libya, even though our Ambassador there was saying that the place was not "normal," it was still crazy and dangerous. 

The State Department pulled out a significant military presence and sought to treat the Libyan Embassy like one would treat an Embassy in a peaceful and relatively well ordered society.  The goal of this plan was to avoid suggesting to the new Libyan government that we did not trust them to keep our Embassy secure, which might have given offense.

The killing of the Ambassador on 9-11 demonstrates that the Administration's assessment of the situation in Libya was very wrong.  The Administration's initial reaction to the Ambassador's murder makes the case even more powerfully.  The Administration's assessment of the situation was so poor that even after the Ambassador had been murdered on 9-11- a circumstance that would suggest a terrorist attack to a dull 8th grader - the Administration insisted on believing and reporting a "non-terrorist" version of events that turned out to be false.

This particular folly is not unusual for the Obama Administration.  After the failed bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, 2009, and an attempted car-bombing in Times Square in 2010, the Obama Administration in each instance initially said there was no indication of wider terrorist involvement.  It later became clear that the Christmas Day bomber was linked to al-Qaida and the Times Square bomber was trained by the Pakistani Taliban.  See here for more information.

This Administration has repeatedly seized on "non-terrorist" explanations for what turned out to be terrorist attacks, and pushed this narrative without waiting for the facts to develop. This does not inspire confidence.  Perhaps we could adopt a new paradigm, in which we presume that when a group of Muslims kill an American official on 9-11 it is a terrorist attack, until proven otherwise.  That is not unfair stereotyping.  It is prudence.

In this instance it took the Administration 9 days to acknowledge the reality of a terrorist attack, strong evidence of which was available the day after the attack.  Secretary of State Clinton attributes the lag to "the fog of war." 

Odd, since the Administration was so intent on explaining this event as a civil riot, rather than an act of war.  In fact, the "fog" was the Administration's ideological "fog."  It proved quite difficult to penetrate, but eventually, facts won out.  They are stubborn things.

In this case the facts compose a very sad reality.  It is the reality of an Administration's intelligence and policy failures, of an Administration so convinced of its superior wisdom, information and policy choices that it ignores facts.  It is the reality of Washington's arrogance, disregarding information from the people in the real world struggling with the consequences of Washington's bad decisions. 

It is the reality of the Obama Administration.

President Obama recently said in an interview "What happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up.  And you make sure you find out what's broken and you fix it."

I think we've identified what is broken.  I think we've identified what's screwed up.  We should fix it on election day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Standing in the rain outside an abortion clinic this afternoon with my two youngest children, praying.  People drove by, reading the signs we held that said "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Abortion Mata Ninos" (Abortion kills children). 

We were praying for our country, for the lives of children ended by abortion, for the mothers who had killed their children, for those in the clinic behind us who committed abortions, for those whose lives are haunted by abortion, for the lives of those who may yet choose not to kill their children.

Mostly people drove by, glancing up at us and then looking ahead.  Sometimes people would honk their horns and wave.  Sometimes they raised their "thumbs-up," for encouragement. 

Sometimes they would blare the horn and lean out the window, thrusting their middle fingers in the air.  One car full rolled down their windows, drove slowly by, and yelled "kill them all!" 

As we prayed I could not help thinking how appropriate it was that people so opposed to life and so in favor of killing children would curse us by saying "f*** you!"  The middle finger thrust at another human being is to wish upon them that they be forcibly raped.  It is an explicit perversion of sex, turning it from the most profound act of love into an evil expression of the dominance of a powerful person over a weaker one.

So like abortion.

Lord forgive them, they know not what they do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I  dreamed a dream last night.

I dreamed a dream in which our President put aside the politics of class warfare and delivered a wonderful speech about coming to grips with our fiscal irresponsibility.

I woke up and realized it was a dream, but imagine if it were real?  What would it sound like?
For the last decade, our national budget has been in the red. Year after year, the annual budget did not cover expenses. The effects of the recession made a bad situation even worse. It also made it clear that our budget has a structural problem, and that Americans have more government than they can afford.
This budget is about priorities, and this structural deficit is an opportunity to start shaping America's future.  It is time to take a fresh look at the federal government and ask the hard questions: What programs do we need? What services are essential?  How can we provide the highest quality services as efficiently as possible?
We must not put off these choices any longer. Our preliminary budget estimates for 2013 project a budget shortfall of one-third of our operating budget.  It is time to give Americans an honest, balanced budget that focuses on current needs while still investing in the future. We cannot protect the status quo by asking more from hard pressed taxpayers. It is time to reform government in a way that provides Americans with quality services and an affordable cost.
The 2013 budget proposal does not contain an increase in income taxes. It cuts taxes on employers to foster job growth. It makes tough choices about cutting expenses, while encouraging innovation and the reinvention of government. It also includes some revenue increases, without which it would be impossible to eliminate the deficit while maintaining and improving the vital services that Americans deserve.
Interestingly, these words are Rahm Emanuel's, the President's former chief-of-staff.  I took the liberty of plucking out references to Chicago and put in references to America, to make the rewrite easier for the President's speech writers.  Chicago's budget deficit is less severe, in percentage terms, than the federal deficit.

These words were contained in Mr. Emanuel's 2012 budget for Chicago, where, as the newly elected mayor, he inherited a fiscal disaster that could not be blamed on Republicans, since Democrats have run Chicago since 1931 (81 years).  Mr. Emanuel chose to try to fix the problem.  Most recently Mr. Emanuel had to deal with a teacher's strike triggered by his continued efforts to get Chicago solvent.

I wonder why having this conversation is "pitchforking the poor" when Republicans say it, but sounds like common sense when a Democrat says it.

Maybe because it is fundamentally true?  And an act of prudence and genuine responsibility for exactly the poor people we all care about, who need a non-bankrupt government much more than the rich?

Sadly, Mr. Obama cannot make this speech, since it rejects the direction he took during his first term in office, which was to hugely expand long-term government programs and debt.  For the past 3 years Mr. Obama has not been able to convince even Democratic Congressmen to vote for his budgets.  I find this unsettling, but apparently I am in the minority.

Like I said, it was a dream.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I see a federal judge in Boston just ruled that the U.S. Constitution requires that the State of Massachusetts must pay for the sex-change operation of a man in jail for life for murdering his wife.  To permit otherwise, the Court ruled, would be "cruel and unusual" punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

You can read about it here.

You may wonder how the People of Massachusetts are "punishing" this fellow by refusing him the surgery.  Or you may wonder how this "punishment" could possibly be "cruel" or "unusual"  You would be joined in your wonderment, I think, by the framers of the Constitution.

The framers were quite concerned about actual torture, like drawing and quartering, when they passed the Eighth Amendment.  They were, almost assuredly, not committing their "lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" to protect a felon's right to cut off his, ahem, and install an artificial, ahem, in its place.

I prefer to use "ahem" to describe the anatomical realities of this surgery.  Suffice it to say that, among other things, it involves a surgical severance of the male member, and a surgical installation of a make believe female member. 

As late as 1960 we universally would have thought that cutting off a man's, ahem, and then installing an artificial, ahem, was cruel and unusual punishment.  Now we have advanced as a society to the point where we understand that NOT paying $20,000 to have a surgeon cut off a man's, ahem, is (a) cruel (b) unusual and (c) punishment.  We know this because if we do not pay to have it done the prisoner will do it himself, or kill himself.

We are not entitled to morally compel others to satisfy our desires or needs by threatening to kill ourselves.   We cannot morally force someone else to violate his conscience by holding our own lives hostage.  This seems a healthy principle, but one which has escaped the judge.

The prisoner had the freedom to pay for this particular surgery, but he forfeited his freedom by murdering his wife.  There are many consequences to committing murder, most of which center on giving up freedoms you once had.

The fact that this prisoner is sick enough to maim or kill himself to enforce his own will does not require that we suddenly surrender our own privilege, as free moral agents, not to pay for his choice.  To say otherwise is to make the prisoner our jailer.  If he is determined to kill himself, he has that choice.  But I do not bear responsibility for his exercise of that choice, nor am I required by law or morals to accede to, or participate in, his immorality.

For instance, as a citizen I am not morally responsible for a prisoner who chooses to hang himself rather than face his life in prison.  I do not owe it to him to set him free, because otherwise he will try to commit suicide.
Framing this as a "medical" decision does not evade the moral question.  Medical science can give us diagnoses, and treatments, but it cannot, in the end, decide moral questions for us.  You can find qualified psychiatrists who would opine that almost any treatment would be "medically necessary," if the patient were sick enough to kill or harm himself for the want of the "treatment."

 Psychiatrist about to give opinion on medical necessity.

In this case, "medically necessary" means the patient will harm himself if you don't do this.  Yet this is morally quite different from treating a life-threatening microbe that has invaded the prisoner's body against his will.  Medically, the two problems may be interchangeable: they both threaten life and both can be addressed by a medical procedure.  Morally, the two situations could not be more distinct.

The fact that a person wants a treatment, or that the person will harm himself if he does not receive the treatment he wants, cannot be the final word on whether I have an obligation to pay for the treatment. The result of accepting "medical necessity" as an answer to moral objections is madness, not principle.

We have some experience of the outcome of this madness when it comes to abortion, and in particular, the Obamacare mandates that seek to force Catholics to pay for other people's abortions.

 I feel like the little kid in the famous New Yorker cartoon.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York prayed the benediction at the Democratic Convention the other night.

The moment of delivery came at the end of a difficult labor.  The Archbishop is the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  He had offered to pray at both conventions.  The Republicans accepted, the Democrats went into "crickets" radio silence, likely because Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB are leading opposition to several policies of the Obama Administration right now, and having him pray at the convention created some inner turmoil.

Eventually the Democratic party extended an invitation and Archbishop Dolan accepted it. 

You can see the benediction on video.  You can read the text here. 

One sees why the Church has always been on, at best, uneasy terms with both political parties.   The Archbishop's prayers for immigrants and the poor must have resonated deeply with Democrats, and been a tad unsettling for some Republicans, given the Church's disagreements with some Republican positions on both subjects.  Conversely, the Archbishop's prayers for the unborn and for religious freedom likely touched a nerve for Democrats, for the same reason.

It was a touching moment, and a reminder that even New Yorkers can be gracious.  Prayer is like eating a meal together.  It tends to beget peace and goodwill.

As the Archbishop said, at the end, "God bless America."

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Pretty interesting last night listening to the Democratic faithful - the core of the Democratic party - booing God. 

The Democrats had removed mention of God from their platform, where it had been since time immemorial.  They also removed reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel - again, something that has been a staple of Democratic platforms in the past.

This created a huge furor among those not at the convention, including Independents, Democrats and (as you can well imagine) Republicans.  Seeking to quell a political firestorm, President Obama insisted the references be put back in. 

The Chair in an uncomfortable spot.

An amendment to put the two references back in the platform was submitted to a vote on the floor of the convention.  It needed a 2/3 vote to put through.  It was quite obvious, based on the "ayes" and "nays," yelled from the crowd, that the amendment did not have a 2/3 vote of the delegates.  Nevertheless, the chair rammed the amendment through by stating that in his opinion there was a 2/3 majority. 

There was widespread booing.

 Delegate booing.

All in all a fascinating glimpse at the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

See the event on this link to YouTube.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


What makes people happy?


People are made to love and be loved.  That's just the way it works.  If you are not loved, you feel the loss keenly.  But even more disastrous is not to love.  Not to be loved marks a painful wound, but one that can heal.  Not to love is a cancer that results in death.  The eternally lethal aspect of not being loved is that it may kill off your capacity to love.  

Much of society operates under the belief - hidden or overt - that leasing the new BMW 528i will make you happy.  Substitute food, an Apple iPhone, sex, cocaine, nice clothes, a new house, or alcohol, and you pretty much cover the landscape of public opinion about happiness.  At least, that is the impression you would get from either watching TV or reading a magazine.

You can substitute a pile of money for any or all of the stuff we crave, but money itself is nothing much.  It is just an equalizer that allows us maximum flexibility when satisfying our wants.  You can substitute power for all that stuff, too, but power is a kind of universal remote that allows us to dial up the satisfaction of our wants. 

For some, the relentless pursuit of money and power becomes divorced from the satisfaction of wants, and becomes a perverse "high" in itself, generating a toxic anodyne that momentarily dulls the terror of mortality lurking deep in their souls.

This is not to denigrate the lovely - an interesting adjective - feeling one gets from a new car, or from sex, or from a BMW.  It is just to say that none of these things has any lasting impact on our happiness.

Love is a very curious thing, in the general tumult of life.  If you understand love as it has been most deeply understood, it involves a surrender of self in favor of the genuine good of another.  The true love of a mother for her children always involves a willingness, at the deepest level, to ensure the genuine good of her children, even if it means sacrificing her own life.  The true love of a husband for his wife always involves the same thing.

We go painfully wrong in relationships when we think of love as something less than this.  We often think of marriage as a kind of "deal," involving a contract for mutual satisfaction.  Sadly, this model does not work.  It does not work because it is mistaken. 

Marriage, when practiced in earnest and correctly, does involve profound mutual satisfaction.  Yet at the same time it also involves profound self-sacrifice, a willingness to surrender one's own life for the sake of the other.  This willingness is not hinged on mutuality, or reciprocation.  It is an act of will and devotion that springs from an inward conviction and commitment to the truth of love itself.

The willingness to lay down one's life for the other is a litmus test for fully mature love.  Absent this characteristic, one is dealing with something imperfect and incomplete. 

This is one reason why monogamy is so necessary to fully mature married love, and why adultery is so highly toxic.  If I have a relationship with two women, and I sacrifice my life for one, the other one is left out in the cold, to put it bluntly.  The one for whom I have sacrificed my life may appreciate and benefit from the gift, but the other woman is left with nothing but a dead mate, and worse, one who died for another woman's benefit.  This is not heart-warming.

"Well sure, I love you, but if it comes to a choice between me and thee, that's a little unrealistic, don't you think?"  These are words that everyone fears to hear from their most intimate friends and loved ones.  The fear that this attitude is at the core of a relationship will chill it and eventually kill it.  People refrain from absolute intimacy, even with their sexual partners, for fear that they will discover or confirm that this is at the heart of the relationship.  They would prefer living in a superficial world where the truth is left unsaid, because the truth is so painful it is death itself.

I live in a society that panders to falsehood and mocks the truth of love.  My society grovels before its idols of sexual satisfaction, limitless greed, and ruthless power, but does everything it can to strangle love.  And every notch of the garrote, pulled tighter on the neck of love, is a notch closer to the abyss for the murderer as well as the victim.

If you would like to know more about love, there is a great book on the subject called the "Gospel of John," which is a short account and meditation on the life of Jesus Christ.  You may read it on-line, for free (it is in the public domain), or purchase it at Barnes & Noble for $1.99.  Most book-stores also carry the Gospel of John as part of a collection known as the "Bible," which I see is about $13 via Kindle and $17 in paperback. 

It is difficult to put down, once you've picked it up.  I highly recommend it.