Pro-Life Turning Point + Pro-Choice Hysteria

President John Tyler
President John Tyler

Many people seem to be talking about state-law ‘challenges’ to Roe v. Wade. You might remember how we talked last Independence Day about how this turning-point in our history was coming.

We acknowledge: Many people fear such a significant change in our national way of life. We have to sympathize with that fear. We commit ourselves to vindicating the rights that every expectant mother has. Those don’t include having someone kill the baby. But they do include: support, without judgment; the best medical care; a helping hand.

Maybe a lot of the pro-choice hysteria of the past couple days springs from fear. Fear of change and fear of the unknown. But we can hardly hope that the Supreme Court would ever turn Roe v. Wade completely on its head and make abortion illegal in all fifty states. Rather, it seems like we’re headed towards: red-state/blue-state regional variations in abortion law.

Which means, of course, that here in purple Virginia we will have the pro-life fight of a lifetime on our hands.

unborn…Why are we pro-life? Do we have a ‘religious conviction’ that life begins at conception? Actually, we have airtight scientific evidence that it does.

Do we want to ‘impose our religion’ on others? Well, did the slavery abolitionists of two centuries ago intend to ‘impose their religion?’ Plenty of people said that they did, including US President and native Virginian John Tyler.

Does prohibiting abortion by law mean ‘going backwards?’ Hardly. It means keeping the unfilled promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Maybe some people call themselves ‘pro-life’ out of sexism or prudishness. If so, that doesn’t mean that innocent and defenseless unborn children should face death with no legal protection, just because some of their advocates have imperfect motives.

No one thinks that the slaves in the South should have stayed slaves because some northern abolitionists were hypocrites, or because Abraham Lincoln himself had confused–and not altogether humane–ideas about blacks.

Whatever happens in the statehouses and courts, we have a clear mission. Serenely to love every human being. We do that out of religious conviction. That’s our way of ‘imposing’ our religion—loving our neighbors selflessly, unconditionally, and generously.

We can and should hope that the turning-point for which we have prayed for two generations will come. And January 22nd won’t mean anymore what it has meant since 1973. And the Pro-Life Movement will step into a new phase.

In the meantime, our job is to pray and stay close to The Life, Jesus Christ.

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At the Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream

Lord Jesus gave the homily in his hometown church. At first they loved and praised Him. But then He brought up some painful facts. [Spanish]

‘Our prophet Elijah did not save one of our widows from starvation. He saved a pagan widow–a Gentile foreigner. And our prophet Elisha did not cure the leprosy of one of our Jewish generals. He cured a Syrian who didn’t even want to wash himself in our Jordan River. He thought of it as a muddy creek. But our Elisha healed him in those very waters anyway.’

So the Nazarenes got mad at their countryman for pointing out that God loves the Gentiles as much as the Jews. As you will likely get mad at me, before I’m done here.

Most of the world now knows that there’s a Catholic boys school in Covington, Kentucky. At least everyone with a smartphone knows it. And everyone knows that a group of Covington-Catholic boys traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to march for life. To stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn children—the most vulnerable class of people in contemporary America.

After the March ended, the boys visited the Lincoln Memorial. In hindsight, they now think to themselves—and all those who know and love them think—they should have stayed inside the Memorial, quietly reading and meditating on the Gettysburg Address. It’s chiseled into the marble wall.

MAGA hat.pngInstead, the boys stayed outside. And mixed it up with some strange characters.

A dishonest person made a cellphone video, and accused the boys. ‘They surrounded a Native-American man beating a peace drum! Then mocked him and threatened him! An aggressive racist mob!’

Once the video hit the internet, another aggressive mob took over. The social-media mob. A bandwagon of moral indignation. ‘These boys should be expelled from school! They make us Catholic pro-lifers look bad! They stand for everything racist and unjust in this country!’

I myself first saw the “viral” video late that Saturday evening, when I “checked my Twitter.” I did not at first notice the “Make America Great Again” caps that some of the boys wore. I just saw high-school kids making more noise than they should, as high-school kids often do. And a Native-American man beating a drum endlessly for no immediately apparent reason. And a staring contest that made no sense.

I watched the video with my own particular interest, because I know that spot very well, as I imagine many of us do. One of my college jobs involved giving tours of the National Mall. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech right where the famous video was shot. The east staircase of the Lincoln Memorial, at the western end of the Reflecting Pool. A uniquely beautiful place, a place for quiet reflection—not for beating drums, or school chants, or staring contests.

But, like I said, when I watched the video, I didn’t notice the MAGA hats at first, because I’m not a particularly observant person. But a lot of people did notice the hats. That’s why they jumped to unreasonable conclusions. As they checked their Twitters and facebooks that Saturday, they saw the caps, and they immediately suspected the boys of harboring ill will towards non-whites.

lincolnNot fair. Not fair to judge the morals of a high-school boy, based solely on his cap. In the ensuing days, the truth emerged, about what happened between the boys and the Native-American with his drum. The boys had not mobbed anyone. The original viral video had a context. Other cellphone videos, recorded at the scene, revealed the full sequence of events. Then some people in the original social-media mob faced up to the truth and admitted their serious mistake. They looked in the mirror and realized that they had done to the boys what they had accused the boys of doing. Forming a cruel mob.

But, we’re not done here yet, fellow Israelites. We cannot simply say: Vindication for the good, pro-life boys; episode over. No.

The political life of our president began years ago. That is, it began when he claimed that our previous president, the first non-white President of the United States, actually came from Africa, not the USA.

Then Donald Trump began his campaign for president with a particular premise: Namely, that Mexicans steal, rape, and murder.

The social-media mob saw MAGA hats and over-reacted. Over-reacted big time. But: Had someone given them cause to over-react? Had someone given the MAGA hat a particular meaning? Namely: This country is primarily for white people. Yes, someone did give the hat that meaning. Donald J. Trump gave the hat that meaning.

Ok. The whole business at the Lincoln Memorial upset a lot of people. And I probably upset you, by even bringing it up. Do what’s the antidote?

Guess what? Ain’t hard. The antidote is: Going to Mass.

Some people think the internet is pure evil. Some people think it’s where we can finally find true democracy. One thing is for sure: Everything on the internet gets put in perspective when we come to Mass.

Yes, we can learn beautiful things that we never knew, over the internet. And we can join cruel, irrational mobs from our own couches, over the internet.

But the fundamental social network—it’s not on the internet. It’s at the holy altar of Jesus Christ. Where people actually know each other, and give each other the benefit of the doubt, and recognize each other not as “legals” and “illegals” but as: fellow sinners in need of God’s loving mercy.

I have probably said something that makes you mad. But I’m just trying to do my job as a priest–whose main job is: to say Mass. Holy Mass is the opposite of a viral video causing a “Twitter storm.” At the altar of Jesus Christ, dear reader, we can actually find peace with each other.

Wall History

border fence rainwater damage
border fence rainwater damage

Tuesday evening President Trump addressed us regarding the “border crisis.” He accomplished a significant rhetorical success.

His previous spoken references to “The Wall” came in the context of his emotionally heated appeal to a sense of national identity (“Make America Great Again! …Who’s gonna pay for the beautiful wall? Mexico!“)

But on Tuesday night, he successfully changed the frame of reference. He situated his insistence on a wall in the context of: This is a perfectly reasonable, and morally necessary, national-security matter.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He still employed his usual trick: Handpicking certain crimes from among the many that sadly occur in our large nation every day. Solely to tarnish the reputation of an entire class of people, the overwhelming majority of whom have never committed a crime, and never will. Genuinely despicable.

But, in addition to using that maneuver, the President also claimed to have a proposal on the table, one that comes from experts. Experts in border-security strategy.

In their answer to the President, the leading Democrats in Congress did not have the necessary knowledge or skill to confront the President’s rhetorical stratagem. They did not give his speech the kind of answer that they should have.

President Trump signed an executive order about “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” almost two years ago. It ordered the Secretary of Homeland Security to produce a comprehensive report on, among other things, “all geophysical and topographical aspects of the southern border.”

The world still awaits that report. If we ever get it, it will certainly indicate:

Despite all of our modern surveying tools and careful planning, the earth will still surprise you. This part that you thought was boring and simple and easy to predict is actually totally complicated. Look at any major excavation for a subway system, any major bridge construction, any large tower complex; all of them had intense surveys beforehand, extensive design phases, and still had to modify while building. Earth doesn’t forgive sloppy. Ignore geology at your peril.

(The words of a geologist interviewed about The Wall.)

And:

Over the years, border walls and fences have exacerbated flooding in both the US and Mexico. Environmental advocates and local activists in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas now fear their communities will also face increased risk of flooding.

(from a Texas newspaper in August, 2018)

In 2006, Congress mandated that Homeland Security build 700 miles of border fencing. That had to be revised the following year, because the agency could not manage to build 700 miles.

Engineering difficulties because of mountains and riverbeds, Mexico treaty obligations, rainwater management issues, lack of co-operation from landowners with property abutting the border–all these problems got in the way. Even after all the environmental-protection and eminent-domain rules were suppressed.

If the President actually had a “serious proposal,” produced by experts, it would necessarily take all this into account. It would involve something immeasurably more complicated than the absurd sophistry of Tuesday night’s speech. The idea that we can “lock the house.”

That analogy simply does not work. We cannot secure the US-Mexico border like you lock your house at night. It’s not a matter of whether or not doing so would be immoral. It’s simply impossible. Mother Nature herself forbids it.

 

Trust: Philip Roth, Donald Trump, James Grein

Roth Plot Against AmericaHistory buffs: Imagine that Franklin Delano Roosevelt only served two terms. Then Charles Lindbergh became president.

Yes, the Missourian aviator after whom a highway and a high school in St. Louis are named. Who addressed an “America First” rally a year after Hitler had marched into Poland. He insisted that the USA must stay out out of the war. “British and Jewish interests seek war, ” Lindbergh argued. But America’s “tolerance” for Jews will “not survive” such a war.

Lindbergh really said that. Two months before Pearl Harbor brought to an end any debate about the US entering the war, and the “America First” movement disbanded.

Lindbergh never actually became president. But Philip Roth gives us an imaginary 1940-1942 USA, in which Lindbergh did. In this novel, the USA allies itself with Hitler. A nine-year-old Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, tells the story.

Little Philip rides city buses with a wild school chum, discovering strange non-Jewish neighborhoods. He worships his older brother Sandy and his orphaned cousin Alvin. The family listens every Sunday night to the radio broadcasts of anti-Nazi journalist Walter Winchell, like all their neighbors do.

Philip’s social-climbing aunt marries a prominent Newark rabbi, who had shocked most of Newark’s Jews by aligning himself with the Lindbergh administration. Sandy goes to live on a Kentucky farm for a summer, as part of a program to “mainstream” the Jews–over his father’s strenuous objections. Alvin joins the Canadian army, determined actually to fight Hitler. He loses a leg.

Early in the novel, the family takes a vacation in Washington, D.C., leading to a stark contrast: Philip’s father rhapsodizes about the Lincoln Memorial, then he encounters hostility at a local cafeteria–for talking while Jewish.

Roth manages the nine-year-old-boy point-of-view with masterly brilliance. Little Philip collects stamps, worries about when and where people will get to go to the bathroom, dislikes a neighbor boy for being a clingy drip, and feels guilty for bad things that grown-ups have done.

Above all, he has a heroically devoted mother. Her calm clarity, under extreme pressure, produces a scene that brought tears to my eyes. Worth reading the whole novel just to get to it.

Roth sets the USA’s devolution into anti-Semitic violence in Kentucky. I, for one, do not think that, as a state, Kentucky deserves that.

But let’s leave that quibble aside. Roth moves the story to its conclusion by changing narrative style in mid-stream. From his calm narration of neighborhood and home events, he suddenly shifts his cadence to a rapid-fire, newspaper-like recounting of catastrophe.

Little Philip finds himself surrounded by adults who do not know whom to trust for reliable information. Meanwhile: martial law, riots.

The final chapters reverberate with the sense: What is going on? What is really happening? Whom can we believe?

…Which brings us to: President Trump’s claim that we have a state of emergency at our border with Mexico.

Now: If the man had shut down the federal government in order to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn child, I would cheer. If he had declared: Congress can count on me to veto every appropriations bill. Until we, as a nation, acknowledge that every procured abortion involves the taking of a human life!

You can be sure that I would be leading the rosary at a prayer rally supporting the president right now, if that was the situation we faced.

But it is not.

President Trump has brought us to the brink of the state that Roth evokes in his novel, in his imaginary 1942. America, untethered from facts. America in a haze.

Trump has chosen this hill to die on: A wall, technologically incapable of succeeding at its appointed task, enormously bothersome to neighboring men and beasts, erected for the sake of keeping at bay an enemy that does not exist.

…We also live in Roth’s 1942 USA in the Catholic Church. With no one to trust.

Vatican insiders supposedly say:

Pope Francis will laicize Theodore McCarrick through an abbreviated penal process, before next month’s sex-abuse meeting. The overwhelming evidence against him, compiled by Church investigators, makes a full trial unnecessary.

Meanwhile, the only accuser known to the public gives two ninety-minute interviews on a supposedly reliable Catholic podcast.

He accuses McCarrick not just of specific acts of sexual abuse, but of willfully and maliciously participating in a century-old conspiracy to destroy the Catholic Church. The conspiracy supposedly emanates from an otherwise unremarkable Swiss city. It involves bribes given by Italian-American businessmen and taken by popes for decades.

(In other words, Dr. Taylor Marshall has given James Grein a platform. But he has not done him any favors. Because 90% of James’ two interviews, conducted by Dr. Marshall, consist of incoherent nonsense.)

Meanwhile, the Vatican officially says: No Comment.

…I feel like little Philip. Don’t know whom or what to believe.

Migration, “Legal” and “Illegal”

Genesis Illegal Alien cd

Most people never migrate from their native land. It takes more courage, and more resourcefulness, than most people have. It involves risks. Most people avoid risks.

Some rationale moves every migrant. A rationale found on a wide spectrum, stretching from “I must leave this country, or I will perish in the war going on around me,” to “Let me get out of this lawless, desperate land, and seek a home where the streets are safe,” to “I’m bored here. I heard they have nicer weather there.”

Granted, there can be an evil rationale for migrating: “I’m on the run from the righteous law in my own land, so let me get out of here!” Such an evil rationale deserves an evil welcome, so to speak. Extradition. But that rationale accounts for very little of the migration in the world.

So some reason moves every migrant. Many of us can say that our forebears migrated here to the US because their native lands had stultified social structures, poorly organized economies, a hopelessly meager way of life.

flag-mapThey sought the means to travel to the US. They likely did not pause to consider “illegal” vs. “legal” immigration. They simply came here, however they could.

What greeted them? A relatively well-organized and expeditious means of entry, with few technicalities and fewer expenses. Also: a fair promise. Live an honest, hard-working life, and you will be an American.

The USA offered such a welcome to our forebears because she could, and because it served her interests to do so.

We still could; we have plenty of room left. And it still would serve our interests to do so.

In Franklin and Henry counties, Virginia, employers desperately seek able-bodied workers. To the point of calling the priest to help them find people. Many employers in the USA desperately seek workers.

But we do not offer the same welcome that we did in the old days.

The migrants of the past forty years have come for the same general set of reasons as the migrants of the preceding three centuries. They have come with the same hopes, and willing to live the same hard-working, honest lives.

But the USA has not greeted most of the recent migrants with the same well-organized and expeditious means of entry. And instead of making good on the basic American-immigrant compact (work hard, obey the law, and become a citizen) the America of our generation has welcomed a chosen few, while leaving millions to languish in a second-class, non-citizen status.

Not an alien mass, estranged from our social life. To the contrary: the parents and grandparents of many of the friends and spouses of our children and grandchildren.

Migrants migrate, for the reasons that move them to do so. If they migrate imprudently, incorrectly measuring the prospects in the land to which they choose to travel, then they have to live with the consequences of such a mistake.

But if someone migrates for a good reason–somewhere on the wide spectrum mentioned above–to a place where there are good prospects (like the USA, right now), then… Well, only a foolish, self-destructive people would try to shut the door.

As wise teachers like our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Paul, Socrates, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., have taken pains to point out: A higher law determines whether human laws are just or unjust.

The tens of millions of undocumented, law-abiding immigrants, dedicated to honest work, currently living in the US–we cannot in any just sense call them “illegal.”

They took the risk of migrating here for solid reasons, just like the American immigrants of old. And they have blessed and enriched our land, just like the immigrants of old.

They did not receive the welcome that our forebears received, which is our fault, not theirs.

They deserve exactly what we deserve. Equality under law. Basic human rights. The benefit of the doubt. Respect and courtesy.

[I offer this, dear reader, by way of an answer to some questions and comments that I got about my homily at Mass today.]

The Border Wall is Illegal

Walk the Border

No one asked me who TIME Magazine’s Man/Person/People of the Year should be. But if they had, I would have said: Isn’t it obvious? Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch.

They started walking a year ago at Friendship Park in San Diego, California. They walked the entire US-Mexico border. They reached the Gulf of Mexico in August.

Two thousand miles, the same length as the Appalachian Trail. (That’s where they met, the two brave young ladies–hiking the Appalachian Trail a few years ago.)

…Some American Catholics cling to an “it’s all about respect for the law” position, when it comes to US-Mexico immigration.

This school of thought, as I understand it, runs like this:

“I am no racist. But I believe in respect for the rule of law. Would-be immigrants to the US must abide by our laws. If they enter the country ‘illegally,’ we have the right to deprive them of their liberty and deport them.”

Similar line of thought, when it comes to the military action ordered by the late, lamented George H.W. Bush in 1991:

“We Americans believe in the territorial integrity of sovereign states. Saddam Hussein violated international law by attempting to annex by force the neighboring sovereign nation of Kuwait. Therefore, the USA legally and rightly made war against Iraq, to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.”

Makes sense because: The territorial integrity of sovereign states is one of the fundamental principles of international law. Our own assertion of the right to deport “illegal aliens” is based on that very principle.

Problem is: The current US-Mexico border is the legacy of a gross violation of that legal principle.

Mexico City occupation by US

This has everything to do with Our Lady of Guadalupe, because the treaty establishing the current border was signed, under duress, in the shadow of the basilica housing St. Juan Diego’s tilma.

And it has everything to do with human rights and morality since we, the United States of America, re-imposed slavery in Texas by annexing it and taking it away from Mexico. We took Texas away from the country that had abolished slavery there in 1829–nearly four decades before we abolished it.

Yes, this is what I am saying: The USA does not have a legitimate claim to the current US-Mexico border. The current border is not legal, according the principles of morality and international law. It is simply the result of the disproportion of military strength between the USA and Mexico 170 years ago.

Christians believe in the rule of law. We do not believe that might makes right. Therefore, we have to recognize that the USA does not have the right to build walls or use military or paramilitary force along the Rio Grande/Sonora Desert/San Diego border.

If we want the rule of law to prevail, we should insist that the US-Mexico border be the subject of bi-lateral negotiations, facilitated by a disinterested mediator. Such negotiations could result in a confrontation with the wrongs of the past, and could lead ultimately to reconciliation and peace.

On the other hand, the position of the current presidential administration with respect to that border does not have a genuine legal or moral basis. We Catholics cannot legitimately appeal to a “rule of law” justification for supporting the border policies of the Trump administration.

Journalists and Bishops

Before Buffalo diocese whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor spoke on 60 Minutes, she worked extensively with Charlie Specht. The man has given our Church a tremendous gift of dogged truth-telling.

One important point Specht makes, which diligent readers here have heard me make before:

Beware a bishop who says, ‘We’ve had no claims of abuses occurring since Dallas in 2002! Look how great we are!’

Minors rarely, rarely report abuse at the time. It usually takes decades for the Gospel of You-Didn’t-Deserve-to-be-Treated-that-Way-and-You-Deserve-Justice to penetrate the huge edifice of manipulative lies that the abuser constructed in the victim’s mind.

A reasonable bishop would admit that some Catholic official in his diocese is probably building just such an edifice of lies right now. But: “When I learn about it, I will kick that manipulative bas-d’s a-s myself!” Or something along those lines.

…As the PA Grand Jury pointed out in their August report, one particular institution brought about the reforms which the bishops enacted in 2002. That institution is The Boston Globe.

Not sure if the Globe intentionally chose the feastday of 16th-century reforming hero St. Charles Borromeo. But they nonetheless published a magnum opus this past Sunday.

Their report demonstrates the hollowness of the bishops’ actions of 2002. This time the Globe co-operated with The Philadelphia Inquirer, and both newspapers published the same article simultaneously. It is long, detailed, and devastating.

(You and I, dear reader, have registered the hollowness of the ‘reforms’ of 2002 for months now, of course. Since the King of the 2002 “Reform” was… Theodore Edgar McCarrick.)

The best line quoted in the report comes from a sex-abuse victim of former Wyoming bishop Joseph Hart. Hart’s successor made a trip to New York to apologize personally. The anonymous victim told the Globe/Inquirer:

I remember thinking, ‘What the f— am I going to do with an apology?’ And then you realize it actually means a lot–to be believed.

…Three bishops have responded to the Globe/Inquirer report. 1. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput published a pointlessly tendentious and defensive op-ed in the same edition of the Inquirer. 2. Newark Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Tobin wrote a letter to his people. In which he could only manage to refer blandly to “the resignation” of Theodore McCarrick. 3. Sean Card. O’Malley of Boston expressed to the Globe his disappointment that evil still exists in the world.

Brothers: This is not going to work. I mean: Euphemisms. Defensiveness. Invoking 2002. Crocodile tears and words and blah blah blah blah.

We’re praying for a miracle in Baltimore. To be honest, I think the beautiful miracle might wind up looking ugly, at least on the surface. That is: open disagreements and recriminations.

Holley yelling at Wuerl and Wuerl yelling at Holley. Dolan yelling at Malone and Malone yelling at Dolan. Tobin yelling at Chaput. Kurtz yelling at Holley. Holley yelling at DiNardo. O’Malley and Cupich cowering behind the coffee urns, as the fur flies.

Bring it on. We need to break this thing wide open.

Bring in Charlie Specht from Buffalo, and give him a microphone. Bring in McCarrick’s victim James–from Michael Voris’ nearby rally–and give him the microphone.

We don’t need bella figura. We need hard-nosed journalist types who get in your face to learn the truth.

Click HERE for a pretty reasonable satire about the choice we American Christians face in the voting booth today.

The One Real “We”

Donald Trump from the back

We have to do our best to follow the Commandments. Love God and seek Him above all. Honor Him. Mass every Sunday. Respect for those who have the authority to guide us. Be kind, gentle, pure, and honest with others. A peaceful life with a clear conscience. [Spanish]

We can do it. We can live prayerful Christian lives. Because God loves us with tender mercy and showers us with grace through the sacraments.

No one follows God’s commandments without God’s help. Knowing that is where a real relationship with Christ begins.

Now, politics has become a kind of religion for a lot of Americans. With a big Us-vs.-Them aspect to it. In the Us.-vs.-Them scheme, We are righteous. And They are not.

I don’t want to get bogged down in a whole lot of political details here. But here in the USA these days, the Us.-vs.-Them political scheme tends to revolve around one person. He’s either The Devil or The Savior, depending on which Us you fall into. Talking about a certain orange-haired gentleman.

The thinking goes like this: We’re right, because They cling to the orange-haired Devil. Or it goes like this: We’re right, because They hate and want to destroy the orange-haired Savior.

earthNo. Christians brothers and sisters. No. There’s only one real We. Only one real Us. Us sinners. We sinners who have no hope, but Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ looked at us with love. He saw that we had misunderstandings among ourselves, petty resentments, and self-righteous blind spots the size of Texas. He saw that we desperately wanted to attain righteousness, and truth, and inner peace. But we actually have no earthly idea how to do that. He saw us constantly shooting ourselves in the foot in our very efforts to attain godliness. He saw that we have emotions that run away with us to places like Las Vegas. Where we tend to make a colossal mess of even our best intentions. He saw that we human beings have a habit of hurting the people we claim to love the most.

He saw this one, united screwed-up human race. Perfectly united in this one thing—being sinners. Perfectly united in having wrecked our friendship with the one, true God Who made us. He saw us here on earth, perfectly united in making one pilgrimage together. A pilgrimage straight to the grave.

He saw all this—saw it all with perfect clarity. And He loved us. We were in the middle of taking His precious gifts for granted and squandering them. He loved us while we were in the middle of lying about each other and stabbing each other in the back. He loved us while we were in the process of making a mockery out of the very idea of justice. He loved us as we nailed Him to the cross.

Then: everything changed. Because He, Jesus Christ, the one and only Messiah and Savior—He brought righteousness to the human race. He brought the heavenly gift: Now we can live better. Now we can have a clear conscience. Now we can quietly aim for heaven. And make our way there, one step at a time.

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the ChristWe can keep God’s Commandments because God has given us the gift of faith and the sacraments. Because we believe in Jesus, we know God loves us with a merciful fatherly love, patient and ready to forgive everything.

Because we have the sacraments, we receive supernatural wisdom from heaven. We receive superhuman strength to do good. The Heart of Christ beats in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. By the power of His Heart, we can love.

We can love our neighbors. We can love our enemies. We can love our persecutors. We can forget everything that isn’t God, and let it go, and live like St. Francis of Assisi—totally free, because we have nothing and want nothing except God Himself.

Now, I’m not trying to be Pollyannish here. We are living through extremely uncertain, fearful times. The institutions that should preserve peace and decorum among men—those institutions are visibly failing.

Again, I don’t want to get bogged down in details. But it seems to me that both the orange-haired gentleman, and the man in the white robe–even though they are sworn enemies of each other—seems to me like they will both go down in history with the same distinction: Being a householder who spent long days talking to himself in the mirror, while the termites ate the main support beams of the house.

So we face tough times. The younger we are, the more rough time we have ahead of us. But Christ came, and He did His work, and He gave us His Gospel—precisely for times such as these. The grace of Christ shows forth its sublime beauty most intensely in uncertain, dangerous times. Jesus Christ can make people righteous. Jesus Christ can unite the human race. Jesus gives hope. And He gives the gift of a quiet, godly life.

I Stopped Believing Him…

…when he wouldn’t answer the question: “How many beers is too many?”

A hostile Democratic Senator had not asked him this question. Rather, the Arizona prosecutor deputized by the Republicans asked, “How many beers is too many?”

The appropriate answer is a number. Three. Maybe four–for a big guy.

Judge Kavanaugh said: ” I don’t know. You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.”

Every young person on earth needs to hear a clear and decisive answer to such a question. Three is too many. We need to hear it especially from someone sitting where Brett Kavanaugh sat at that moment.

…I have prayed for the end of Roe v. Wade every day for twenty-five years. This has nothing to do with politics. I am simply imagining myself in Twelve Angry Men. We just finished listening to the witnesses. And we now find ourselves in the jury room.

She told the truth.

He lives in terror–that he might actually have done it. He can’t remember, because he drank way too much in those days.

The irony is, both of these following sentences are true:

1. Brett Kavanaugh is a basically decent man who doesn’t deserve what he is going through right now.

2. He is guilty of the charge.

When I say that he doesn’t deserve what he is going through right now, I mean:

He deserved a long talk with a police officer and at least one night in jail. He deserved to sit beside his dad in the car, as they drove over to the young lady’s house, for him to apologize personally. Then ask her what he could do to make it up to her. Then give her time to think about it. Then do whatever she asked.

He deserved to have his father tell him that he could not play football that fall, that he was grounded for a year. And that if caught with a beer in his hands, he was going to rehab.

(And of course: Confession and penance at Little Flower.)

Then, by February, the whole thing might have been behind them all. Not that I am blaming her for not saying anything at the time. God knows it took guts for her to say it now.

If he would just admit: It might very well be true. And I’m sorry, and that isn’t really me–redemption is close at hand. And he can join in praying for the next pro-life nominee. And find some peace.

…Let’s not forget that dudette nailed this “#MeToo” thing back in ’02, long before there were such things as hashtags.

The Place Where Abortion is Illegal

Ireland voted to nullify its constitutional amendment protecting the unborn. Most people see this as: Huge victory for modern liberal ways. Huge defeat for traditional Catholicism.

cathleen-kavenyProfessor Cathleen Kaveny wants to see it differently. She has written a brief essay in Commonweal magazine that 1. lays out some moral realities about as clearly as you can and then 2. neglects to face them with real love.

Kaveny thinks that Roe v. Wade framed the moral issue in the wrong way. The court based its decision on the idea that the unborn child is not a person, at least not in the eyes of the law. To summarize Part IX of Justice Blackmun’s opinion for the Court: The unborn are not “persons,” as the word is used in the US Constitution. If they were, then the case arguing a right to abortion would “collapse.”

Kaveny thinks focusing on the personhood of the unborn child warps the argument, like this:

Pro-life = Yes, the unborn child is a person with the right to life. Therefore, abortion is homicide.

Pro-choice = No, the unborn child is not a person. Therefore, the mother’s right to make decisions about her own body can include a decision to abort a pregnancy.

Kaveny wants to frame the issue differently. In my book, she makes an enormously helpful set of points. First, let’s all, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” concede the following:

1. Abortion involves taking the life of an individual human being.

2. That individual depends completely on the mother. Providing for a totally dependent unborn child imposes great burdens on the mother.

Amen.

All the pro-lifers I know would agree: We don’t want any pro-life ‘allies’ who do not sympathize with the difficulties faced by pregnant women. Yes, the child has a right to life; no doubt. But that “right” has no meaning without the sacrifice of the mother. The real pro-life movement has no interest whatsoever in getting ‘in between’ the baby and the mother. As the old slogan has it: Love them both.

unbornCareful Catholic bio-ethical thinking long ago fully grasped this at its depths. Turning the “right to life” of the unborn child into some kind of absolute value leads you to an unpleasant place: Mother Nature Herself does not respect this right.

Many pregnancies end in miscarriage, a.k.a. spontaneous abortion. Many fertilized eggs never implant in the uterus. That means countless human beings in the first stage of life who disappear into a dark oblivion, with only God and His angels ever having known that they existed.

Kaveny gets it wonderfully right here. The problem of procured abortion is not, ultimately, a metaphysical matter. We have to focus solely on the simple moral question. Can it be right to choose to have an abortion?

At this point in her essay, Kaveny leaves us with only a handful of dust. She suggests that the Church, without having a ready answer to the question above, should rather “accompany” our contemporaries who think the answer is Yes. We should take the risk of “having conversations.”

Now, I am confident in saying that most of us priests with some years of experience under our belts have had quite a few conversations. ‘Father, the child will be born with a handicap.’ ‘Father, I’m pregnant with my boyfriend’s baby, but I want to go to college.’ ‘Father, he ran away with the hygienist. But I’m pregnant with our fourth.’

Now, if we (priests and all Christian believers) don’t patiently listen, sympathize, and offer support and helpful proposals, we s**k. But, by the same token, no honest moral calculus exists which could include a proposal that aborting the baby might be the right thing to do.

Because the baby is, manifestly, a baby, and not a Volkswagen. And it is this mother’s baby. The mother’s life, and the baby’s, are already entwined in such a way that violence against the one is ipso facto violence against the other.

To countenance the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–that would involve a failure of charity towards both baby and mother. Just like refusing to sympathize with the burdens faced by the mother would involve a failure of charity towards both of them.

Kaveny rightly points out that the law fears to tread into the territory where blameworthy homicide and justifiable withdrawal of life-support come so close that they almost touch each other.

But she misses the one absolutely certain thing, the principle that can and does lead in the direction of a resolution of all the problems involved in any pregnancy: Intentionally killing the baby is not the right thing to do.

We human beings cannot see into the future. We can only make decisions based on our best lights right now.

I have argued for most of my life that we do not need faith in order to know that abortion is wrong, since sonograms clearly show us that is is.

But, on the other hand, it is faith that protects us from the hubris that justifies abortion, based on uncertain predictions about the future. Every line of thinking that leads to the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–all of them start with fear of the future. From that fear of the future comes the compulsive attempt to control it, through violence.

If you read my review of Ross Douthat’s book about Pope Francis, you know that I deeply reject the distinction between “modern liberal” and “traditional Catholic.” But Kaveny’s essay actually leads us to a place where that distinction touches something real and stark.

Holding the faith of the Church means believing that God will provide. Abortion offers a false promise about controlling the future. In the Church of Christ, we must have the courage to say, in every case: God has a real future for you and your baby.