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Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Couple Different Things

There could certainly be some value in simply stating, "Abortion is murder," but to my mind, St. John Paul II had no reason to condemn consequentialism, if the most difficult cases brought forth no sympathy. In other words, real people we would identify as non-monsters are tempted to do evil that good may result every day. Do you actually help anyone by identifying the Democrats as the party of baby-murderers? Does that serve to create space to discuss anything, though it may be factually correct? In fact, I believe you call that "virtue signaling," don't you?

In other news, I will go to my grave believing that Bernie Sanders is not really a socialist, because words mean things, and Bernie of today dropped in 1985 is a standard-issue Democrat. Reagan might call you that for effect, but he'd crack a smile at a 52 percent tax rate being described as "socialist." "Madam," he'd say, "You haven't seen high tax rates."

But then, nobody has a sense of proportion or balance these days. And yeah, you might spare a thought to recognize that saying some redistributive plan is counterproductive, unnecessary, or even unfair will never carry the same weight morally as, "Don't kill the innocent." Which is to say, if Bernie Sanders didn't advocate abortion, euthanasia, and the re-definition of marriage, I'd consider voting for him. Are you kidding? Any sane person dreams of the day when our political spectrum and space on all sides is freed from inhuman errors. Or are you so partisan that any member of your tribe, no matter how odious, is preferable to the other?

And that doesn't even consider the fact that Republican economic plans don't adequately encapsulate the principles of our Catholic social doctrine. Most people simply check the boxes next to the obvious indignities, and figure Pope Leo was a good libertarian.

I'm not the most patient person I know, but I long for days ahead, when smart people argue specific things, according to principles. Right now, we even discuss verbally with memes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Street Catholicism

I have friends who used to use this phrase to describe the world of numerous private revelations and popular devotions, in contrast to the "comfortable" Catholicism of the Bishop's Church and the Catechism. In the end, it was a good-natured joke for us.

Unfortunately, many dissenting voices are not joking. They disdain the "institutional Church" to promote whatever "real" practices they prefer. Fr. James Martin, SJ, is such a voice. He apparently believes that being "gay affirming" is the way to freedom. He also mistakenly believes that those of us who uphold all the Church's teachings are chained, fearful, or bigoted.

Let me tell you something. I don't merely assent; I lovingly and joyously assent. If what the Church teaches is what Jesus gave us, not believing it is rejecting Jesus Our Lord! I hope the thought of it causes you grief, as it does me.

We all struggle and fail. But as always, it's what we do in response that defines us. I got into pastoral theology to lead people to the truth. That's literally what it means. "Pastoral" could never mean, "lead people where they want to go." We are fickle, and often wrong. But if Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, it's to Him we must go.

Any father who doesn't tell his children the truth does not truly love them, no matter what he feels. And that's truth from the street.

The Greatest Band In The World

For sheer longevity, iconic songs and albums, social impact, and widespread appeal, it has to be U2. Here's a little cultural penetration experiment: take an LP that you don't own but is reputed notable. If you know all the words and can sing along, it's significant for music pop culture. [Didn't you do this with "Rumours," by Fleetwood Mac?--ed.] Yeah, truly creepy.

The reason I bring this up is that I know two people who have no idea who they are. I guess if you spend the '70s and '80s in Israel and Argentina training Catholic clergy, you might not know who they are. The rest of us, especially in the English-speaking world, well...

I'm actually looking forward to hearing entire releases I've never listened to.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

If People Speak The Truth, Believe Them (Even If It's Ugly)

I'm a proud Yankee, in the sense that I'd still be punishing the South for the Civil War, if it were my call. Lincoln wasn't perfect, but close enough. Especially for the time. I have sympathy for particular people, like General Lee and General Stonewall Jackson, who were not monsters, and had many fine qualities, despite fighting for an evil cause.

It's the revisionism about the causes of the war that's not only irritating, but dangerous. If we choose to ignore the plain words of the Confederates themselves, to the effect of black inferiority, or in challenge to the universal equality spoken of in the US Constitution, we delude ourselves.

It was about slavery, absolutely and unequivocally. Were other things also worthy of sympathy? Of course. I have no particular sympathy for self-interested Northern--nay, northeastern--factory owners, who didn't mind the European tariffs falling on the South. I think the utter destruction of the South was terrible and counterproductive. I think the courage of soldiers on every side of every conflict is worthy of honor in itself, provided they fought honorably.

But if Confederate sympathizers put up a monument to their alleged devotion to states' rights, and to remind blacks and Yankees they're still strong, I am calling it on the carpet. If South Carolina puts up the battle flag in the middle of the civil rights movement, only the willfully obtuse could miss the message, and it's not a good one. God bless Gov. Haley--the child of Indian immigrants--for having the brass to do the right thing, even if it was too late, and took a tragedy to make it happen.

I'm aware that people on the left like to erase anything that doesn't fit the narrative of "progress." Believe me, that's often ignorant as well. But in this case, I'd like to congratulate them for agreeing with me.

If this post grates on you, don't worry. I don't mind if you like Gone With The Wind. That's where the "Lost Cause" should stay.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

On The Other Hand

Setting aside the car accident, I want to return to an aspect of my daily experience. We're not the same. Most of you have no experience living with cerebral palsy. You don't think about moving an arm or leg; you just do it. If you had major orthopedic surgery in your youth, it'd be a story of an injury, not a rite of passage. So many things are different.

And yet.

The one thing we all want is to feel loved, understood, and valued as people. I believe we all share a common fear that we are alone, that no one understands, that no one really cares. If you really want to help me, don't fret the physical things; let me know that the lurking fear every human knows, at least for these moments, isn't true or real.

There are people who lay it on pretty thick, in terms of "demythologizing," in a sense, the life of disability. To paraphrase one speaker, I don't need an award for living.

And yet.

I must learn to live with the curious tension of desiring the ordinary, but living with something else. We all must negotiate together that appropriate level of sadness and awareness of defect, and the charge to live well. I think the disagreement I have with some disability advocacy is that, in fact, there is something wrong. Let's not beat up on ABs (let the reader understand) too much. Missing or non-functioning limbs (or whatever else) is not the way it's supposed to be.

Being a Christian clarifies much of this tension. While groaning in expectation for all to be revealed (Romans 8) we are simultaneously loved by God. It's God who has declared the facts of the resurrection of the body, and the new creation. I don't cry in my Coke at the unfairness of it all, true. But it would be absurd to look at His restoration on that day and say, "No thanks, I'm good."

The great American philosopher John Legend once said, "We're just ordinary people." Partly true. A cross is an opportunity to love extraordinarily inside an ordinary life. The saints are those who took the opportunity and ran with it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Will Not Become What I Hate

I think Dr. Haidt is really on to something. And that's with the evolution assumptions notwithstanding. I have not always been reasonable. I would like to be. Civility is not an end in itself, but it's a virtue that allows us the intellectual and relational space to hear each other.

I don't ever want to hate "The Left" as much as others hate "The Right". Let me know if you think the state of our political discourse is radically better than I think it is.

What can we do ourselves to make it better?

These considerations don't change fundamental moral values, and given the fact that politics eventually involves power, there are limits to the amity that can be achieved. But I would be willing to bet that most of us are exhausted, and hoping there's a better way.

If we Christians truly believe that all people are made in the image of God, they cannot in the end be "the other." How might that change our political engagement?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bless Us, O Lord

I have begun with the first four words of our most common Catholic meal prayer to let you know that I'm eating! Still liquids for a time, but I'm on my way to making this feeding tube superfluous!

Most of you who know me know that my tastes are simple. But Campbell's vegetable beef soup puréed is way better than you'd think. [Mom added some beef broth to thicken it, yeah?--ed.] Yep.

I'm drinking Gatorade right now. Technically, my eating status hasn't changed, but the speech therapist thinks it's safe, so I'm doing it. I have to pass what's called a "barium swallow test"--it's as radioactive and disgusting as it sounds--before the official change.

We give thanks, Almighty God, for these and all Thy gifts, Thou who lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever, Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Weird And Deplorable

Let me echo something said in a Catholic publication recently. Being Catholic in itself is unremarkable. Yet if you dive in with both feet, as it were, embracing all that the Church teaches, you're going to be weird. To believe firstly that a consecrated Host is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Savior is a leap, if we're being honest.

But I live in a world where it's absurd to doubt it.

The one thing religion does not do is provide comfort in this life. The true believers always suffer. You may have even noticed this. People ask why God allows such suffering. But God himself endured the cross. When we suffer, we are sharing in the cross. It is definitive proof that we are loved.

It's weird, I know. But I will take it. I might be crazy, but the way I see it, crazy beats boring, every time.