Category: news commentary


I once heard an astute (if snarky) remark to the effect that “conservatives believe the heart of the Constitution resides in the Second Amendment, while liberals believe that the heart of the Constitution resides in Roe v. Wade“; I am reminded of this by the laughably out-of-all-proportion remarks like:

“The best intentions of those recent popes who have presumed to dispose of these precious gifts [papal tiara and other honorific articles] do nothing to mitigate the nature of their offense. While one may wish to see a Church that is arguably more accessible to the common man, no one, not even a pope, has the right to render the Church impoverished.”

and

“The anguish that this breathtaking episode [of the Pope blessing journalists without invoking the Trinity or making the Sign of the Cross] engenders in the faithful Catholic defies description, and yet, I have discovered that many among us have grown so numb to such unthinkable acts of disregard for Our Blessed Lord that the mere retelling of this event is often treated as little more than an invitation to shoot the messenger.”

I can take fancy papal vestments or simple episcopal vestments, I can take the Sign of the Cross or a simple “God bless you,” but what I cannot take is Catholics caterwauling like Chicken Little over a holy shepherd whose tastes and prudential judgment simply differ from their own (“Horrors!” to quote the disgusting and unapologetic anti-papal Rorate Caeli site, which I will not link to), but whose theology and charity seem rock-solid and worthy of emulation.

It amazes me that any of us, struggling even to cultivate our little square foot of the vineyard, has the audacity to crack-open a papal history text, sit behind the computer, and easy-peasy tell the Pope how he should oversee the vast vineyard — and that all it takes is a puff of incense here and a verse of Latin there to right the wrongs! There’s a place for all these deeply-meaningful “little t” traditions, but it is demonstrably silly and highly inappropriate to spew forth everywhere about how awful Pope Francis is because he — with one week of experience! — doesn’t wear this and doesn’t chant that like his predecessors did; our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict did all these things and so much more, yet there is more work to be done. Let’s watch what Pope Francis’ husbandry will do for God’s Vineyard and not presume to virtually plop the papal tiara on our own heads or, as one blogger recently put-it, : “don’t you dare ‘give Pope Francis a chance’!”

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Sometimes, I am amazed that God’s Mercy doesn’t send our world up in smoke for the evils and injustices perpetrated — with our leaders’ approval and funding, no less! — by Planned Parenthood alone.

Bill Diss is an American hero every bit as much as our men who fought the Nazi dehumanizers and murderers when they were in vogue — and it sounds like he’s an exemplary high school teacher, too, bringing high-level college-prep skills to underprivileged kids to whom others just want to dole-out condoms and Pills as if they were dogs in heat. But, we can’t have them gettin’ good learnin’ and breakin’ free, now can we?! Disgusting.

One of my favorite — and most convincing! — Catholic bloggers, Mark Shea, utterly decimates the tired line about how the Church should sell its unspeakable wealth to feed the poor. As a friend of my husband’s used to say “If the Vatican sells all its art to buy everyone in the world lunch, what happens when it’s time for dinner and everyone is hungry again?!”

Shea explains what our critics are really saying and why it’s so stupid (with some help from Vatican expert John Allen):

” … ‘Why are art treasures, specifically dedicated to God by the artist so that any Roman beggar can see them for free to uplift his heart, not made the private property of one rich man and hidden in his villa?’ … One often hears of the proverbial wealth of the Vatican. An interesting comparison was made of the operating budget and the ‘patrimony’ of the Vatican by John L. Allen, Jr.:

Operating Budget: (Vatican) $300 million; Harvard ($3.7 billion)

Endowment/Patrimony: (Vatican) $1 billion; Harvard ($30.7 billion)

… We are now the corrupt rich Byzantines whose ruling class hordes its wealth to buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes. The spectacle of watching some manicured Talking Hairdo ‘confronting’ the Vatican about its wealth while investing in Goldman Sachs and being paid a gazillion dollars to pontificate on he knows not what is one of the more sick-making pieces of hypocrisy on display in our media culture. We Americans pay 1/300 of the Vatican’s annual operating budget to cover two nights of Joe Biden partying in Paris and London. Joe, meanwhile, gives a whopping $369 to charity.”

I’m praying that 2013 won’t be for marriage and family what 1973 was for babies and parents: the start of legally-protected destruction on a mass scale. I am not optimistic, but there is always hope, even in America.

Under our present laws, you are free to have sex with any consenting adult you wish. You are free to give him or her access to your heart or your house, your children or your legal rights. What you are _not_ free to do under our Constitution is force Catholics, or anyone else who does not share your moral values, under penalty of law to call what you have chosen “good” or “marriage,” or — even less — to force them under legal penalties to “marry” you or accommodate your choices in their business decisions (from wedding cakes to hotel rentals to insurance benefits). This is how freedom works in most parts of America, for the time being.

Of course, under our Constitution, I am free to say that thousands of years of societal misery have shown that sex and childbearing outside of a marriage ordered to protect spouses and their children is unhealthy and even dangerous to your body, mind, heart, and soul, and even more so to those of your children. I am free to conclude therefore that choosing to have sex and children outside of marriage is a colossally bad idea, one that I disapprove of and will not allow to be modeled to my children. You are free to disagree, even if it offends me. I am free to pray for all of those caught in unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles, that they will find their way to health and happiness, with whatever help I can offer. You are free to do what you will, even if it makes you miserable. That is how freedom works here and how it should work.

May it remain so.

This post was originally my post on Facebook during the arguments before the Supreme Court. Below are some excerpts of my responses to others’ negative — and, dare I say, stereotypical and Web-ubiquitous — comments in reaction to my post, including one from a childhood friend who is in a gay relationship with children:

Not surprisingly, I am also wholeheartedly against throwing marriages away; I believe that marriage is indissoluble and that abuse is one of the few reasons for legitimate separation (not divorce) between properly-married spouses. As for your second comment, race is wildly different from sexual choice. There is nothing biologically or morally different about people of different races, and so there is no impediment to marriage, but there are obvious differences between men and women that make true same-sex marriage impossible. (Of course, the race issue is a very emotional red herring in this debate. Unsurprisingly, I personally know no traditional marriage advocates who would have any problem with interracial marriage, and I know of many who are in fact in such marriages themselves.)

Regarding Prop 8, which is much closer to home, I agree that it is complex and unlikely to yield a clear resolution. Abortion law as we know it now (virtually no restrictions at any time) is the result of at least three Supreme Court cases (Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey), so I have good reason to believe that even if this case doesn’t work the destruction to traditional marriage I dread, a decision or two down the line will finish the job.

[Friend], though I clearly wouldn’t make the same choices you’ve made (or vice versa, I’m sure!) and we always had our disagreements, I respect your right to live as you choose, and wish you and your loved ones well. I also support gay people having the same individual legal rights/protections as anyone else — just not special protections that infringe on my rights, such as to fine/imprison me if I peacefully speak against the gay lifestyle, or my friend if he refuses to accommodate it in his business, or my priest if he refuses to perform a wedding or arrange an adoption. We’ve seen in other places that this is where gay rights are headed. I’d like to live and let live; is this possible? If you lived next door to me, I’d chat with you or your partner at the mailbox and bring a plate of marzipan at Christmas. I have closeted and out gay family members — my gay cousin and her partner caught the bouquet at my very Catholic wedding! — and we are all friendly. They don’t force their sexuality on me, nor do I force mine on them; that’s private, just like it is with my straight friends and family. I know many family and friends disapprove of my large/homeschool family lifestyle and would never choose it, and of course I wish that weren’t so, but they have those rights; all I ask is that my family’s religious rights be equally respected and that our choices not be a source of enmity. Have a good evening.

I’m torn between being shocked, amused, and angry about this. I’m shocked because, as low as I cynically place the bar of my expectations, my government always manages to shimmy under it. I’m amused that anyone would look at me or any of the Catholics I know and be terrified, or even mildly anxious. There is vastly more danger that I will get distracted and inadvertently sit on someone and hurt him than that I will ever willingly harm anyone. I’m angry because the greatest force for good on earth — the Church that Christ founded — has just been placed in the same category as people who strap bombs on their babies and send them into marketplaces full of innocent people. It takes an extreme kind of stupidity and malice to equate such evil with good in that way, and apparently, that extremism has infiltrated our military, the people who have guns and missiles and stuff. That’s disgusting — and dangerous.

This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.

I’m not a resident of Wisconsin and am not incredibly familiar with the issues involved in the Scott Walker recall, but, based on what I do know, I’m very much rooting for him to survive tomorrow’s recall vote – precisely because of the union issue.

Now, there is a place and a role for labor unions, and there were times in the Industrial Revolution era when they were really the only practical means for workers to escape what was outright exploitation. But, while our economy has changed, too many unions have responded by essentially acting as little more than interest groups whose ultimate goal is self-enrichment (or, to be more precise in many cases, the enrichment of the union leadership and not necessarily the rank and file!). Private-sector unions (which, in some cases, have been allies of Governor Walker) have to keep their demands somewhat realistic and practical, knowing that their own welfare depends upon the financial solvency of their employer. But, it seems to me that the growth of public-sector unions has removed this check of “reasonableness”, for they don’t look at the financial solvency of government in the same way that a private-sector union must view the financial state of a company. It really does seem, here in CA as well as in WI and probably many other states as well, that the public-sector unions often do view government as an entity that is ALWAYS able to grant what they demand (and that if government doesn’t do this, then it is simply because anti-union people are in charge).

When I hear of teacher unions here threatening strikes against districts that simply and objectively don’t have the money to give them what they want, it makes more clear to me that these unions really do need to accept the fact that public resources are NOT unlimited and that no government can simply raise taxes, sell bonds, or divert funds from some other function in order to give them what they seek. I also have a HUGE problem with public-sector unions engaging in partisan political activity and donating large sums of money – collected largely from union dues – to political campaigns or causes, especially in states that don’t have right-to-work laws. If I am forced to join a union in order to have a particular job, then should my union leadership take my dues and donate them to, say, the Democratic Party without giving me any say in the mattter? Unfortunately, this is commonplace.

Personally, I would support requiring public-sector unions to abstain from partisan political activity, just as we have laws that regulate the political activity of individual civil servants, for such unions are comprised of people who work on behalf of the public as a whole and are paid from public tax revenues.

So, I am hoping that Walker survives, if only to send the message that public employee unions have a responsibility to protect and promote the public trust and cannot count on being able to manipulate the system to protect their own interests at the expense of those of the public who employs them.

I say all of this, of course, as a public employee myself.

This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.

I have never liked NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, and it is already painful to watch this time around as well. It is practically tailor-made for people with severe ADD or who only care to watch athletes from other nations when the top foreign athletes make major mistakes. They can’t stay on one event for more than a few minutes, and I am already quite tired of the fact that they have once again hand-picked a group of American athletes to turn into this year’s media darlings, complete with biographical videos and heaps of swooning praise from the commentators even before these “darlings” have won any medals at all. We have plenty of athletes who qualified for these Olympics by working just as hard to get there, but who apparently don’t make such good stories for NBC and hence are pretty much ignored. I keep hoping that Olympic coverage will some day return to sanity and fairness (and, ideally, more respect for the sports themselves and for the actual competition, even though I’m not sure that a few of these “sports” are worthy of much respect), but the John Tesh phenomenon that we were introduced to in 1996 (when we were practically forced to give all of our attention to a small group of athletes who each overcame some newsworthy obstance in a heart-wrenching struggle to get here) is still obviously NBC’s coverage mode of choice.

Back in 1996, NBC’s Bob Costas really annoyed me after one of our media “darlings” was defeated in a swimming final by immediately suggesting that the winner must have been using drugs. To me, that was a ridiculous lack of sportsmanship and journalistic ethics on Costas’ part. Because one of NBC’s favorite athletes lost, the winner must have been doping? Well, about two minutes ago, I heard Costas do the exact same thing again, suggesting explicitly that the Chinese winner of the women’s 200M individual medley may have been “doping” in order to achieve such a fast time (he presented no other warrant for his statement). Oh, he did say that we need to keep an open mind and not rush to judgment, but why did he even raise the possibility – something which he knew would create suspicion despite his disclaimer? Terrible journalism. What I can’t figure out is why NBC plugs Costas into its coverage of literally every sport it covers, despite the fact that he a) isn’t really an expert in any of them, as far as I can tell, and b) doesn’t exactly serve as a very good example of sportsmanship or fairness.

This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.

It blows my mind that Michigan, of all states, may pass a right-to-work law. I hope that it does, of course, just as I wish that California had such a law. At times in our history, unions have done great things for workers, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when most legal protection for workers did not yet exist. But I really do believe that we need to get over this notion today, left over from those earlier years, that unions are somehow sacred, like churches, and that their moral virtue and necessity are thus dogmas that cannot be questioned. Any objective study of unions easily reveals that they are often led by people who are personally corrupt and whose own agendas clash with the real interests of their rank-and-file members. And, of course, their unabashed and aggressive political partisanship – regardless of the views of their individual members – shows a basic lack of respect for who their members are and how they think.

I work in an occupation that is largely unionized, and it sickens me to see teacher unions in other districts in this area openly preferring that cash-strapped districts lay off large numbers of younger teachers rather than make what are actually small cuts in benefits for those teachers who keep their jobs. How does that constitute the kind of defense of workers that unions claim to universally support? It seems to me that, while they serve some useful function today, unions have largely become a new sort of oligarchic elite, comprised of people who wish to restrict further entry into their field (lest the “pie” of wealth have to be split too many ways) and who are led by political activists who often enjoy rather lavish lifestyles as they steer union policy towards whatever will most benefit themselves and their political bedfellows (see: the Hostess collapse). Activists who oppose laws like the one that Michigan may soon pass couch the debate in terms of moral struggle, but what the union leaders are really afraid of is a dramatic drop in their personal clout and status.

Apart from all of these considerations, what Michigan is doing is simply a matter of practical sense. The fact is that states with right-to-work laws are doing a better job of attracting and keeping businesses (and hence jobs) than those without, and states like Michigan need to join the former crowd if they wish to catch up.

This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.

People complain that the cheating policies of schools like Harvard are too strict, but the real problem is that our high schools have policies regarding academic dishonesty that are moving further and further away from the policies students will encounter in college and which don’t really teach the students much at all.

Here at [my school], a student who cheats, on the first offense, gets a zero on the assignment (which, in most classes here, doesn’t have a huge effect by itself on the student’s final grade) and some detention (which consists of eating lunch in a classroom where one can socialize with the other inmates – unlike at [my previous Jesuit school], students in detention here need not complete any work whatsoever). On a second offense, students are supposed to be suspended, but enforcement is iffy and suspension is basically a vacation. California law requires public schools to give suspended students the opportunity to make up all missed work for full credit, so there really is no “bite” to it at all. Most public high schools out there have similar policies. And then these same students end up at universities where a first offense can mean forced withdrawal from school for a semester or more.

Students who have reached adulthood should certainly know better than to cheat and should know what “cheating” is, and so I have little sympathy for those who are busted for this at the university level, but I do believe that our high schools need to do a much better job of preparing students for this sort of thing and of sending a clearer message regarding the gravity of academic dishonesty. Granted, we don’t have the same ability to kick students out as a university has, but certainly there should be some punishments with a bit more “kick” to them.

This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.

This is one of the worst-written editorials I have seen in a while, but it illustrates one of the problems that we see when most American journalists try to cover issues related to the Catholic Church.

First, most of them just aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable about it. They don’t understand its doctrines or practices, and so they make quick, uninformed presumptions that are often flat-out wrong. If a journalist who is not Catholic and doesn’t know much about how the Church works is assigned such a story, I can understand how that would be a tricky and difficult story for that person to write. But, in that case, good journalistic practice would dictate being very careful in drawing and stating conclusions. What we see instead in most of our media outlets is journalists who are anxious to make bold and dramatic statements, even at the expense of accuracy.

Second, American journalists – like many other commentators throughout our society – see the Church (and often religion in general) through a set of very narrow American lenses. So, we have editorials like this one, which evaluates the papacy of Benedict XVI as if he were a presidential candidate. The kinds of changes that this editorial talks about – changes which the author blames Benedict for not making happen – are ones which can take decades, and the Pope is not someone who can wave a wand and change what others believe anyways. We Americans listen to our presidential candidates promise quick solutions to huge problems, and we expect them to make those happen. We start scoring them on their success almost immediately. And, we expect lots of glad-handing, lots of photo opportunities with a perfectly orchestrated appearance, and plenty of touchy-feely moments where our leaders engage in token interaction with groups of people that warm our hearts. Leaders who don’t do that here are often considered disappointments or worse, and this editorial seems to be applying those very same standards to Benedict XVI.

Some of the general issues he raises are ones we can certainly discuss. What was the real progress of ecumenism? What was achieved in terms of healing schism? But that requires actually study and perspective, not a quick “He failed!” like this author impulsively states. Seriously, if we are so disappointed with our quality of leadership here, as so many are, why should we so reflexively apply those same standards to religious (not political) leaders from other (not the U.S.) nations? But that won’t stop a torrent of American journalists from evaluating Benedict XVI the same way one would evaluate a candidate for the Oscars.

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