Monday, June 30, 2008

Solidarity and Equity

1) Reading an article, “Social Charity: A new virtue for moral theology”, from the May 2008 issue of the magazine Homiletic and Pastoral Review—available by subscription from Ignatius Press—I came across this regarding solidarity, a foundational concept of Catholic Social Teaching:

“..solidarity also represents a moral relationship between man and his fellow man…Even if the downfall of one’s fellow man were to one’s advantage, one is not permitted to wish for this let alone help bring it about.”

“The essence of an awareness of this interdependence throughout society, up to and including the international level, constitutes solidarity as explained by Pope John Paul II in Part V of Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [On Social Concern] “When interdependence becomes recognized in this way, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a "virtue," is solidarity.” (# 38)

2) The corresponding concept in the field of public administration is equity, and it is the administrative tool that Grover Starling (2005) notes asks the following questions in terms of the distribution of public resources:

“Are benefits distributed equitably with respect to region, income, sex, ethnicity, age, and so forth? To what degree do those using the service pay directly for its benefits?” (Managing the Public Sector, 7th Edition. p. 256)

While equity primarily concerns itself with the temporal, solidarity concerns itself with the eternal, and it is why it is important Catholics become more active in the public square.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

AIDS, Catholic Charity & Catholic Military

1) This article from the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal focuses on the importance of maintaining directed charitable funding to direct treatment of AIDS sufferers in Africa, but it also reminded me of the ancient role the Church has played in charitable works.

2) The pagan world preceding the Sinai Covenant was not one that leaned towards taking care of others less able to take care of themselves but tended more to slavery. It was not a world where the dignity of human life was held high.

From the beginning the Catholic Church helped the poor, the sick, the injured, the imprisoned, and the book by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., Ph.D. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, states that the Catholic Church virtually invented charity as known in the West, as Woods (2005) noted:

In the early fourth century, famine and disease struck the army of the Roman emperor Constantine. Pachomius, a pagan soldier in that army, watched in amazement as many of his fellow Romans brought food to the afflicted men, and, without discrimination, bestowed help on those in need. Curious, Pachomius inquired about these people and found out that they were Christians…

“Even Voltaire, perhaps the most prolific anti-Catholic propagandist of the eighteenth century, was awed by the heroic spirit of self-sacrifice that animated so many of the Church’s sons and daughters…

“It would take many large volumes to record the complete history of Catholic charitable work carried on by individuals, parishes, dioceses, monasteries, missionaries, friars, nuns, and lay organizations. Suffice it to say that Catholic charity has had no peer in the amount and variety of good work it has done and the human suffering and misery it has alleviated. Let us go still further. The Catholic Church invented charity as we know it in the West.” (pp. 169-170, italics in original)

3) Finally, let me share information about one of those Catholic organizations that is doing wonderful work, Catholics in the Military, whose work helps those who do the most for all of us in meeting our responsibility to protect others, and so many of whom pay the ultimate price.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

American Archbishop to Head Vatican Supreme Court

A significant appointment to—what is in effect—the supreme court of the Church, was made yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI in making Archbishop Burke, the archbishop of St, Louis, prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

Archbishop Burke has been one of the most steadfast of the American Bishops in calling his flock to account when the doctrine of the Church is challenged, most notably in refusing to allow communion to politicians who support abortion, and excommunicating women who claimed to have been ordained as priests.

His elevation is a great boon for the canonical strength of the Church.

Here is his autobiography from the website of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Peace Research & Heresy

Fr. James Schall has written an excellent essay on the subject of Peace Research, which reminds us that wars are as much a part of human history as crime and violence and the attempts by the historical unwary to develop a pattern of thinking and behavior that they assume will result in world peace are not the best way to spend one’s time, for the kingdom of heaven is not of this world.

A characteristic that appears to be present in the folks who spend their time resisting those social institutions in our country that are largely operating under the mantle of our society’s responsibility to protect —whether their resistance involves working to shut down military installations, ban capital punishment, or release most criminals from prison—is a clear unawareness of the reality of evil, and for Catholics, who have at their fingertips, within the deep well of the magisterium, the most developed intellectual and spiritual resources concerning the work of the prince of this world available anywhere, that is inexcusable.

The article also reminded me of a historical fact in the book, The Great Heresies, by Hilaire Belloc, that so often heresy occurs when dissenters try to create absolutes when contingency is needed and create contingency when absolutes are needed; or they just go backwards, as did the Albigensian Heresy, noted by Belloc:

“The propagation of mankind was attacked; marriage was condemned, and the leaders of the sect spread all the extravagances which you find hovering round Manichaeism or Puritanism wherever it appears. Wine was evil, meat was evil, war was always absolutely wrong, so was capital punishment; but the one unforgivable sin [from the Albigensian’s perspective] was reconciliation with the Catholic Church. All heresies make that their chief point.” (p. 91)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Catholics, Politics & Abortion

Any Catholic able to support a politician who supports and actively calls for abortion is either unaware of the teaching of their Church or consciously acting against it.

Abortion is defined by the magisterium of the Catholic Church—since its very beginning—as a moral evil resulting in excommunication for those involved in either direct abortion or formal cooperation in abortion.

Here are the relevant sections of the Catechism regarding abortion:

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.

"This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.

"Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.

"God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves.

“Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.

“The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.

"A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," "by the very commission of the offense," and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.

"The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy.

"Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Responsibility to Protect

With a focus on the tragedy that is—and has been for so long—Africa, this article from the Wall Street Journal examines the reasons why an international responsibility to protect might apply in that continent most of all, yet most politicians shy away from it.

It is at the heart of the Bush Doctrine, undergirding our invasion—and changing of regimes—in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is a founding concept articulated by the United Nations, in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2001 United Nations report, The Responsibility to Protect, and commented on by Pope Benedict in his speech to the general Assembly during his visit to America earlier this year.

Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“The principle of “responsibility to protect” was considered by the ancient ius gentium as the foundation of every action taken by those in government with regard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereign States was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightly considered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and the result of an international order whose task it was to regulate relations between peoples.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Catholics & Politics

A conference at the Vatican focused on politics and the role the Church plays, not as being active in politics, but as helping in the formation of those who are, and for this reason the tool recently developed by the Church—the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church—is very helpful.

An excerpt from the article from Zenit:

"It is necessary to give new impetus and hope to politics," the Vatican official affirmed "A politics is needed that puts the human person at the center, respecting his fundamental rights, especially that of life; a politics that serves the common good, inspired in an integral and solidaristic humanism, which is subsidiary to the intermediate social bodies, especially the family.

"A politics is necessary which pauses when it discovers values that precede it, that is transcendent and that is enriched by the values of truth, justice, liberty and charity."

Social doctrine

“In this connection, the cardinal invited Christian politicians to become familiar with the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published by his dicastery in 2004.

"Social doctrine is a fundamental 'strategic instrument' in the political task of Christians," as "it links politics to charity, in a network of theological, spiritual, ethical and cultural connections," he stated.

Likewise, the cardinal invited local Churches to consider politics as a "pastoral priority," which must be "enlightened and evangelized." He encouraged Catholic universities to give greater priority to education in politics.

"The Church does not engage in politics, is not part of politics," he affirmed, "but must form and educate for the social and political task."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Spreading The Word

In the elegant simplicity with which Pope Benedict expresses complex eternal truths, he recently spoke, as a Vatican News Release summarized, with those who work in the apostolate of Catholic radio, and reminded them that their work is directly connected with that begun in a small village over two thousand years ago; and reminds us that all of the work emanating from Catholic institutions is so connected and has an immense responsibility and joyful opportunity to spread the Word.

Here is an excerpt.

"As you work in Catholic radio stations you are at the service of the Word", the Pope told the more than 100 delegates from 50 countries. "The words that you broadcast each day are an echo of that eternal Word which became flesh. ... The Incarnation took place in a distant village, far away from the noisy imperial cities of antiquity. Today, even though you make use of modern communication technologies, the words which you broadcast are also humble, and sometimes it may seem to you that they are completely lost amidst the competition of other noisy and more powerful mass media.

"But do not be disheartened!" he added. "The words which you transmit reach countless people, some of whom are alone and for whom your word comes as a consoling gift, some of whom are curious and are intrigued by what they hear, some of whom never attend church because they belong to different religions or to no religion at all, and others still who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ, yet through your service first come to hear the words of salvation. This work of patient sowing, carried on day after day, hour after hour, is your way of co-operating in the apostolic mission".

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tim Russert, Subsidiarity & Taxes

1) Tim Russert was a great newsman, sitting in one of the iconic newsmaker seats in American media, and he was a Catholic, formed—and living by—those sensibilities he learned from the nuns while being educated in Catholic schools.

Here is an excerpt from a recent post at First Things by Fr. Neuhaus:

“From his Catholic faith and from Big Russ, Tim Russert learned the “lessons of life” that enabled him, and can help the rest of us, to survive the follies of life with a measure of equanimity and with uncompromised conviction. John Meacham [in Newseek] writes that Russert believed that there are three really big things: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two surpass human understanding, so in our humbled state we should make the most of the third.”

2) If anything represents the core ideal of the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, it is keeping as much of what you earn as possible—think low tax rates—so that you and your family, the smallest unit of society, can do those things proper to its health and prosperity rather than always asking that of the state, the largest unit of society.

Subsidiarity is defined in the Catechism as:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. the teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

In this excerpt from an article in the Wall Street Journal about the views of Robert Mundell—a Nobel Laureate in economics—we are reminded of the history of tax rates in America since the early 1900’s:

“Should taxes instead be cut again, I ask him, to stimulate the sluggish economy? Mr. Mundell replies that he favors a ceiling of 30% on marginal rates (the current top rate is 35%). He recounts how the past century experienced a titanic struggle over whether tax rates are too high or too low: from a 3% income tax in 1913; up to 60% during World War I; down to 25% before Congress and President Herbert Hoover raised taxes back to 60% in 1932 and "sealed the fate of our economy for a long, long time"; all the way up to 92.5% during World War II before falling in three steps, reaching 28% under President Ronald Reagan; and back to nearly 40% under Bill Clinton before George W. Bush lowered them to their current level.”

Saturday, June 21, 2008

An American Theologian

Avery Cardinal Dulles might be our greatest American Catholic theologian, and once you begin to experience his writings you will see why. He writes with a depth of spirituality that expresses itself clearly and simply, the mark of theologians of the first order.

A recent article about him by George Weigel, is a wonderful testament to one of our true American Catholic treasures—now mostly restricted to his bed from post-polio syndrome—who was very pleased by a visit from Pope Benedict during his recent trip to America.

Here is an excerpt from Weigel’s article:

“That adherence to the truth of Catholic faith has been the organizing principle of his extensive theological work -- more than 20 books, and over 700 articles. Avery Dulles has been a theologian of the tradition, explicating ancient truths, stretching them a bit, exploring their implications, but never seeking cheap originality or sound-bite fame.

“That modesty of purpose has gone hand-in-hand with an evangelical modesty of person. One does not often see cardinals of the Holy Roman Church repairing their shoes with duct tape, or walking across campus in cheap blue windbreakers; the cardinal's sartorial style would cause pain at Men's Wearhouse (not to mention Brooks Brothers).

“There is no affectation here, though; Avery Dulles took a vow of poverty when he entered the Society of Jesus and he has kept it, as he has kept his vows of chastity, obedience to superiors, and that special obedience to the Pope which is the distinguishing hallmark of classic Ignatian life.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Church Developing Africa

An article in Chiesa comments on the extraordinary work being done by the Church in the training and education of future diplomats who live in Africa, which is also the continent with very productive Catholic missionary activity, and the missionary’s are armed with the great encyclicals of social development.

Here is an excerpt:

“In presenting the course, the director of the Gregorian Foundation, Jesuit Fr. Franco Imoda, responded in this way to three connected questions:

"Why Africa? Because, except for a few exceptions, these are countries where millions and millions of disinherited human beings live, where globalization has not yet brought any benefits, but instead has brought only negative effects, where the looming worldwide food crisis will have the greatest repercussions in terms of death, disease, social violence.

"Why the Catholic Church? For more than one reason: first of all, because the Church is by its nature on the side of the dispossessed; then because the Holy See has for some time identified the African continent as the 'preferred' object of its foreign policy activity, and finally because today, at the fortieth anniversary of Paul VI's encyclical 'Populorum Progressio', [On the Development of Peoples] the Magna Carta of development from the Church's viewpoint, the selection of this theme seems more appropriate than ever”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Responsibility to Protect

In this article from First Things, the emerging international concept, which Pope Benedict ties to Catholic natural law theory -- and which in many ways grounds the recent intervention in Iraq -- and with recent natural disasters overwhelming local governments, or those not being responded to by recalcitrant local governments, the need for the international community to respond is examined.

The author defines the responsibility to protect (R2P) from the several different perspectives in this excerpt:

“So, what is R2P? Proponents such as the U.N. secretary-general’s new special assistant for R2P, Edward Luck, take a political constructivist view and call it an emerging international norm ripe for codification. Pope Benedict recently called it a fundamental principle of the international order based on the natural law. Critics have called it everything from a license for Western imperial aggression to a ruse for curtailing American power.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Europe, America & the Sacred Mountain

An excellent analysis of the deep ideological divide between Europe and America by Natan Sharansky, the great Soviet dissident, in light of European response to the recent visit by President Bush to the Continent, which helps reveal that the strength of our country is connected to the congruence it maintains to the deep values which have informed it since its founding, and which President Bush exemplifies perhaps more than any other recent American president.

In northern Italy the first and largest of the Sacred Mountains of the Church is due to be restored to its fifteenth century glory for the faithful to see the recreation of a Holy Land pilgrimage, through the works of art and the sacredness of the 45 chapels, because, as the article from Chiesa notes:

“After the fall of Constantinople to Muslim domination, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land had become too dangerous. It was practically impossible. The response was to reproduce, in Italy, the routes and stations of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For a pilgrimage that could be made without leaving the country. Many little Jerusalems were reproduced in scenographic form, for the devotion and edification of the faithful.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

England & Charley’s War

An interesting article from Zenit regarding a report from England that the lack of connection to their religious tradition is harming civil society, and it points to the Catholic contention that religious faith underlies moral and social values.

Without the rock of religious faith, the values drift unencumbered, rootless, and rarely are able to exert the kind of influence on the behavior or citizens to enhance the civil society, especially regarding the treatment of its poorest and most vulnerable members.

For many years novelists have aspired to write the ‘Great American Novel’, to capture in a book the vast imagined world from American eyes and within America’s heart.

Many were offered as candidates—from most of the great fiction writers of the age—but few made the mark, and it is no longer even mentioned much, mainly, I think, because we have the movies and the ‘Great American Movie’ gets made regularly and the latest is Charley Wilson’s War.

It is a true story of how very fallible people, imbued with the promise of the American Dream—freedom for all—took on repression in a country far away and won, then as quickly lost it all to the whirlwind of the terrorists of 9/11.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

President Bush & Pope Benedict

This article from the American Spectator, written prior to the visit between President Bush and Pope Benedict at the Vatican on Friday the 13th, is a wonderful analysis of their growing relationship.

A provocative excerpt:

“Although Bush is not especially articulate, sometimes he finds poignancy in his lack of verbosity. He gave an interview to EWTN's Raymond Arroyo just prior to the Pope's visit. Arroyo referred to Bush's quip that when he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes, he saw his soul, and asked what the President saw when he looked into Pope Benedict's eyes.

“Bush responded, simply, "God."

“WHAT DOES SUCH A striking statement say about the Bush and the Church? Some, like Daniel Burke of the Washington Post, believe that Bush's disposition towards the Pope indicates that he is likely to follow in the footsteps of another good friend, Tony Blair, and seek confirmation in the Catholic Church once his term is finished. His brother Jeb, the former Governor of Florida and a convert to Catholicism, has also modeled that path for him.”

An article from Catholic World News—after the meeting was held— and the photo of President Bush with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, and the accompanying article, from Reuters, describing the atmosphere surrounding it, certainly does conjure some interesting thoughts regarding the possibility of a post-presidency conversion.

And the Catholic News Agency, responding to a story in the Telegraph, follows up on the conversion concept with some more telling details, including this great quote from Catholic and former Senator Rick Santorum whose has called President Bush a Catholic President: “I don't think there's any question about it. He's certainly much more Catholic than Kennedy."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

First Church & Original Sin

The BBC report that an archeological site in Jordan may be the earliest Catholic Church, used from 33 AD to 70 AD, reminds us of many things.

The photo really shows the limited confines of the first Catholics when celebrating the mass—which during that period was done in homes—and reminds us of the wondrous growth of the still small voice raised in Israel two thousand years ago, into the Church Universal we are blessed with today.

A book review of a new book on original sin appears in the Wall Street Journal. The reviewing of the many responses to humankind’s dark side—over the centuries—reveals a response that, when kept within prudent bounds, has accomplished a lot of good and brightened the life we all share; but when going to extremes with the utopian schemes which continue to plague us, well, then the wheels seem to fall off.

The reality of God is not in the earthquake of revolutionary change, but in the barely heard whisper of our hearts responding to the best in us, steadily, steadfastly, over a lifetime of devotion, charity, and working for justice.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Slavery is Still a Scourge

Around the world, slavery still persists, as this editorial regarding an annual report on human trafficking from the US State Department reveals.

“The annual report, released last week, documents sexual exploitation and forced labor in 170 countries. It is always a tough read. This year's edition records the appalling abuse of men, women and children in brothels, factories and farms – often while government looks the other way – and spots trends. Every country receives a ranking based on its record in prosecuting exploiters, protecting victims and preventing abuses.

“Oil-rich Russia, for instance, is now more likely to import prostitutes and forced laborers, often from Central Asia, than to export them. India, which has taken welcome steps to protect prostitutes and child laborers, has done little to help bonded workers, usually of lower castes. China is cited for, among other things, a recent scandal involving the relocation of children from the interior to work in electronics factories in coastal Guangdong province. It's also criticized for its treatment of tens of thousands of North Korean refugees, who are sold as brides or into brothels or forced to work under brutal conditions in logging camps.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

President Bush & Pope Benedict

Many Catholics feel agree that much of what President Bush believes in is very congruent with Catholic teaching and it is wonderful to hear that Pope Benedict may feel the same way; as this extraordinary quote from a recent article by Fr. Joseph Fessio regarding the recent visit to the White House by the pope, in which he notes:

“Nowhere has the congruence of their thinking been clearer than at April's welcoming ceremony at the White House, when Bush cited Benedict's denunciation of the "dictatorship of relativism," and the pope noted the importance of American religiosity as inspiration for abolitionism and the civil-rights movement.

“To which Bush replied, "Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech."

"They could pretty much have given each other's speech," said William McGurn, Bush's former head speechwriter and a Catholic, who was present at the ceremony (but did not write the president's remarks).

“Fessio agreed. "In terms of authentic, normative Catholic teaching, I don't see any area in which the pope and President Bush disagree," he said.”

The visit this Friday, June 13th, of President Bush to the Vatican is being especially prepared for, as this article from Zenit News Service notes:

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2008 ( Benedict XVI will welcome U.S. President George Bush on Friday with something of the same unprecedented cordiality the president showed when he received the Pope in the United States last April.

“The Holy Father is leaving aside the typical protocol that prescribes receiving heads of state in the pontifical apartments, and will have his meeting with Bush in the Tower of St. John within the Vatican Gardens, the prefecture of the pontifical household announced today in L'Osservatore Romano.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Politics & Public Policy

Politics and public policy—and how they blend—has been difficult for the Catholic faithful for years, and the current presidential political campaign will continue that difficulty.

The documents of the magisterium, because they have been written for the Church Universal are couched in intellectually subtle terms that are widely embracing, while still revealing to the attentive reader the narrow path.

Consequently, the documents can often lend encouragement to those who find support to conflate being against capital punishment (which the Church is not) to being against abortion (which the Church is).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recognizing Evil

It has always been very difficult for an advanced and comfortable culture—as that of the industrialized and technological world—to recognize the raw brutality of an evil they rarely experience within the relatively soft confines of modern urban and suburban life; and that difficulty is what led to the immense damage the tyrants of the last centuries, through two world wars, were able to inflict upon us.

This article from the Wall Street Journal looks at the tyrants of this century, some of whom make the same rants as those of the last, and ask if evil will again be allowed to grow to a much more destructive level before we act.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Maritain & Pope Paul VI

Maritain’s role in the writing of the Credo of Paul VI was only recently revealed publicly and it validates what many have come to know about the great French Catholic philosopher.

Jacques and Raissa Maritain are an inspiring Catholic couple—who made a mutual suicide pact, before they became Catholic, to act on if they could not discover a true and honorable way to live in a world they saw as deeply corrupted—and the book about them, Jacques and Raissa Maritain: Beggars for Heaven, is wonderful.

Jacques' long correspondence with Saul Alinsky, captured in the book The Philosopher and the Provocateur: The Correspondence of Jacques Maritain and Saul Alinsky, reveals the incredible balance Maritain reached between his orthodox Catholicism and social change, which Maritain notes in one of the letters:

"Saul Alinsky does not share in my religious faith. His religious philosophy seems to me rather inconsistent. Yet I would wish that many Christians may exhibit, in their approach to social matters, as deep an understanding of the moral implications of our basic temporal problems, as bold a courage in fighting for the dignity of the people, and as ardent a thirst for justice and freedom as Alinsky does." (p. 20)

Alinsky represented, from another side of the social equation, the type of change based on human needs from a material perspective that Maritain did from the spiritual and their deeply warm thirty year relationship was of great benefit to both, and wonderfully revealing for us in how men of good will can work together even when apparently so far apart in their philosophic view of the world.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Catholic Social Teaching in Practice

An excellent article from America magazine about how a Catholic educator and theologian became mayor of a small town and was able to bring her knowledge of the social teaching of the Church into her public service.

She essentially asked the questions the Church has been asking for centuries and was able to influence public policy to generate some answers.

One of the conclusions I particularly liked, was her first proposal: "1. Bring services to the people; do not make people come to the services." This rings true on more levels than the immediately apparent.

Service delivery to service resistant populations is being used by many organizations to get the help people need—but often will not be able nor inclined to travel to get—directly to them.

It also breaks down the concentration of services in certain neighborhoods, usually poorer or commercial areas, with the attendant increase in crime and decrease in property values that can occur.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

War & the Responsibility to Protect

An excellent article from America magazine about the responsibility to protect in relation to the tragedy in Myanmar, and while this is relatively new ground in modern international relations; it has long been part of Catholic social teaching.

At the creation, the great cry of the first murderer Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was answered clearly and affirmatively by God, as Cain was banished for the killing of his brother Abel.

This is why we are in Iraq, though the initial reasoning centered around the protection of ourselves from future terrorist attacks that might come armed with nuclear or biochemical weapons supplied by the tyrant; it soon become clear that there were no weapons to disburse but the oppressive yoke our intervention removed from the neck of the Iraqi people will long justify this war.

In the Wall Street Journal Fouad Ajami reminds us that we went to war in Iraq to defend the innocent against the aggressor, that the aggressor is still there, that we have a lot of work left to do.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Communion Politics

The denial of communion to public figures or politicians who support abortion is an issue that will continue to resonate as the clergy in the United States attempt to reassert their pastoral congruence with the social teaching of the Catholic Church in light of their dismal—and sometimes horrible—performance during the sexual scandal, which is still degrading the honor and faith clergy once held almost as a matter of course.

This recent column looks at one such case of communion politics and poses several questions all Catholics will struggle with over the next several months of the political season, but it is a debate well worth having,

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Subsidiarity in New Orleans

One of the great principles of Catholic social teaching is the principle of subsidiarity, which teaches:

“1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. the teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

And with the help of Brad Pitt, Harry Connick Jr., Habitat for Humanity, and the stimulus of the attempt by the local government to dictate how the houses in New Orleans could be rebuilt, the principle is thriving and the city is rebuilding.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lest We Forget

A Man in Full
June 3, 2008; Page A20

"Next week on Flag Day, Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis would have turned 21 years old. Yesterday, President Bush presented his family with a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for courage in combat. It was the fourth time the Medal has been awarded for those who have served in Iraq.

"In the gunner's hatch of a Humvee driving through Baghdad on December 4, 2006, Private McGinnis saw a grenade fly through the hatch, rolling to where it could have injured the four other soldiers inside. In easy position to leap and save himself, McGinnis instead jumped to cover the grenade with his body to shield his comrades.

"The four men he saved were all at the White House yesterday to pay their respects. They and his parents, Thomas and Romayne McGinnis, knew Ross as one who, at 137 pounds and six feet tall, had barely outgrown his boyhood when he joined the Army on his 17th birthday, the first day he was eligible to enlist. The Knox, Pennsylvania native was known not to take things too seriously, the soldiers said – and yet in an instant he displayed the self-sacrifice that defines heroism in battle across generations. Although he didn't grow while he was in the Army, "he seemed to stand a lot taller," his father said. "He was a man."

"All of America's men and women in uniform today are volunteers, and they have answered the call knowing they may be put in harm's way. "Supporting the troops" has become a mantra in our politics, but the true heroism of our soldiers goes beyond the slogans and politics to countless individual acts of courage under fire. At the moment it mattered, in a war worth fighting, Ross McGinnis honored America's finest traditions and our own better natures."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Philanthropy and Happiness

Research from Harvard has validated what most people, especially the philanthropic, already know, that service to others, whether through donating to worthwhile causes or direct giving to individuals, is good for the psyche and good for the soul.

Most of us probably know someone who has spent a lot of time trying to acquire money and then once doing so, rarely have they become really happy; often still trying to either earn more in pursuit of the elusive bluebird, or sidetracking into the pursuit of power, believing it may hold the key.

But neither does and the old saw that “the harder you pursue happiness the harder it is to catch”, still rings true.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Spiritual Professionalism

One of the greatest moments in my life was when I became a Catholic and a most significant step towards that communion was learning of the work of Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, who is now St. Josemaria Escriva.

It was from the writing about Opus Dei, initially Uncommon Faith, which tells of the early development of Opus Dei, which then led me to his writings, and I acquired the Centennial Edition, a collection of all of his published work in nine volumes.

I also acquired the original multi-volume edition of the Catholic Bible, seven volumes for the Old Testament and 12 for the New Testament, which is the best modern translation and commentary I have found, and a project initiated by St. Josemaria and completed by the faculty of the University of Navarra.

This grounding in the precepts of the approach to work and faith—they are forever joined—has been the greatest blessing to me, and with liturgy and contemplation, propels me toward the ever developing work of perfecting my service.

An excellent new book, Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence, by Alexandre Havard, Director of the European Center for Leadership Development, addresses this in a focused way, informed deeply by the work of St. Josemaria, and opens his introduction thus:

“Leadership is only superficially about what we imagine. Hearing the word, one thinks of heads of state or government moving nations to action, captains of industry bringing products to market that change our lives, generals leading armies into battle. One supposes it to be an amalgam of ambition, charisma, cunning, know-how, access to money, and a gift for being in the right place at the right time.

“These are talents and qualities and resources leaders can use to advantage, but none of them constitutes the essence of leadership.

Leadership is about character.

“No, leadership is character.

“There are those who think one must be born to lead—that some have a knack for it and some do not, that leadership is largely a matter of temperament combined with experience. Not everyone can be a Roosevelt or a de Gaulle or a Churchill, they think.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Leadership is not reserved to an elite. It is the vocation not of the few but the many.” (p. xiii, italics in the original)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Power of Narratives

Certain narratives get started—regardless of truth—and once they take hold, they become truth, like a famous line from the great western movie (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, starring James Stewart and John Wayne) "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Great movie and here’s a review.

There is an important narrative that can have impact on the upcoming presidential election—that of the reasons for going to war in Iraq—were they honest or manufactured, the subject of a new book.

Among the early days of Protestantism a favorite narrative was the identification of the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelations, and this narrative has staying power as revealed in recent reviews of it in connection to pastoral endorsements of presidential candidates, and it continues to be referenced in books.

The major narrative of today however—in terms of our country’s international standing, in terms of our country’s ability to be the one superpower capable of protecting smaller, weaker nations and capable of protecting the innocent even in countries far away from us—is the narrative that the left keeps trying to float, that we are losing the war on terror, that we should bring all of our troops home, that we should not interfere—even to protect the innocent—in the affairs of other countries.

Fortunately, this president and much of the country, has refused to accept that narrative, and the results have become very visible and success just keeps right on happening, as this article from Weekly Standard recounts.