Three Cheers for Cardinal Dolan!

In recent months, Dolan has been remarkably clear-headed regarding the HHS contraception/abortifacient mandate and the church’s necessary role in defending religious liberty.  Not only has he actively defended the Catholic position that abortion and birth control are harmful to women and that the government has no right to interfere with religious expression (that is just as much a piece of the freedom of speech as it is expressly protected by the banning of an established religion), but he appears to be a full-grown adult when it comes to arguing with a man who would normally be considered his political opponent.  Read these statements back and forth between Congressman Ryan and Dolan – who met and became friends when Ryan spoke at a Lutheran college in his home district – and you immediately get the impression that if Dolan were seriously probed on what he thought we should do to fix the deficit and tend to the needy, he would have different ideas than Ryan.  It does not sound like Dolan would vote yea on Ryan’s budget plan if he were in Congress (of course, Dolan is quick to point out that he’s not in Congress and for a good reason – it isn’t in his nature to go down that road when he’s got a higher calling).  BUT…what you also quickly realize is that he would be faster, even, than Ron Wyden to sit in with Ryan and try to work together on a solution with which both men would be happy.

You see…unlike the modern Progressive Democrat party, Dolan isn’t obsessed with proving that he’s absolutely right and the other side is absolutely wrong, and he isn’t motivated by power.  He appears to honestly want a serious debate and he appears to deeply admire men who have taken the big issues facing our nation seriously and put the interests of the American people ahead of political ambition.  Even the most aggressive of Democrat attacks on Ryan must concede that he’s a well-meaning, likable, hard-working guy with a lot of intelligence and no ulterior motives.  No matter how badly they want to see him as an evil genius, it just isn’t in him and they know it.  He really believes that what he’s doing will help the poor (and, FWIW, so do I, but that’s neither here nor there).  And so Dolan, who is not a petulant, overgrown baby, finds himself in heated debates with Ryan that both men truly enjoy and at the end of the day, he calls Ryan a refreshing figure with which to converse and heaps praise on him for taking his faith seriously and defending the core teachings of the Catholic Church in public, often at great political risk.

Dolan did once grace Stony Brook for a visit and delivered a crisp (and very concise) homily to a packed ballroom at the so-called “interfaith center” here – and his friend Father Jerry (as we call him) is obviously an admirer, since his own homilies have been filled with the same philosophical and political clarity and he, himself, has a similarly patient and loving temperament that’s ideal for working with a diverse student body like the one we have at Stony Brook.  Dolan and the hierarchy of priests he’s assembled in the NYC area have obviously taken John Paul the Great’s teachings to heart – and when you pair that with true open-mindedness and an earnest desire to work with your friends and your adversaries alike to find real solutions and do right by the people, you get something inspiring to behold.

Now…if Dolan would just sit down in a room with Pelosi and Kerry and their ilk and make them go through a retraining session…politely but firmly correcting them for daring to speak in the name of their faith and espouse ideals that are very much at war with those of the Church…perhaps we could make some real progress.

The Fortnight for (Religious) Freedom

Catholics, take note: The USCCB is launching a Fortnight for Freedom tomorrow night to pray for the restoration of our religious liberty. Click here to find out where and when Holy Hours and other activities will be held in your diocese, and click here for prayer cards and other resources.

I usually attend the Conservative Soiree at Bull Run Regional Park come the 4th of July, but this year, I will spend the 4th at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Fortnight’s closing mass. I’ll be sure to post a short report after the event!

Dear American Catholic Bishops:

Please excommunicate Nancy Pelosi.

We can no longer excuse Pelosi on the grounds that she’s pig ignorant regarding the teachings of the Church. She is pig ignorant, granted, but that is quite clearly a deliberate choice on her part. By now, she has been given plenty of opportunities to receive correct catechesis; indeed, she was recently chastised by none other than the Holy Father himself regarding the Church’s clear and ancient position on life issues. Yet despite this instruction, Pelosi persists in her heretical support of abortion, contraception, and sterilization. This is a scandal that wounds the American Church as a whole.

Pelosi emphatically does not have a right to publicly claim a Catholic identity. Such an identity must be earned by one’s obedience to the Magisterium. Our Church is not a country club in which you can choose to enjoy the pool but not the golf course. It’s a package deal — and if Pelosi can’t handle that, she should be encouraged to do the honorable thing and leave.

Stephanie S.

Mormons Are Awesome

Now that Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, we’re going to hear a lot more about “those crazy Mormons” and their “magic underwear.” So if you don’t mind, I’m just going to use this post to share my undying love for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — a love that persists despite my Catholic skepticism with regards to some (but by no means all) of their religious beliefs.

You see, I recently took a short trip to the Salt Lake City metro area to attend my maternal grandfather’s funeral, and the difference between northern Utah and northern Virginia is akin to the difference between night and day. Forget the different climates. Forget the different landscapes. Forget the different elevations. What sets Salt Lake apart is the social capital. While I was there, an unfortunate medical incident (which has since resolved, thankfully) necessitated hailing the ambulance, and the commotion attracted a flock of concerned neighbors who were, to a man, ready to drop everything and come to our aid. In contrast, when an emergency vehicle pulls up to a house in Dale City, VA, people keep their distance.

And what accounts for these divergent responses? Mormonism, in large part. The Mormons are very big on maintaining family and community ties. Indeed, when my grandmother’s Mormon friend heard that a few of the neighbors hadn’t yet brought over comfort food in response to my grandmother’s loss, she threatened to punish them in some way for not living up to The Code. Said Mormon friend, you see, takes it as a given that her co-religionists are obligated to care for others. And by the way, my grandmother is not a Mormon, so it isn’t just a Mormons helping Mormons thing.

Amusingly, the Mormons will jump at any excuse to have a block party. Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, a wedding — regardless of the reason, Grandmom’s Mormon friends will cheerfully spend an entire day rolling up hundreds of taquitos, baking tater-tot casseroles, and/or preparing big bowls of fruited green Jello to share with the residents of their ward. And no — I don’t think that’s creepy. I think that’s charming. I also think it’s charming that, in Utah, your plumber is likely to come to your funeral. True facts!  

“But Stephanie,” some may object, “you are only one person. How do we know your experiences are trustworthy?” In response, I shall direct you to John C. Wright’s Shout Out to the Latter Day Saints:

Once upon a time, my middle son flushed a toy down the toilet, and the toy, with a power far beyond that of ordinary toys, managed not only to clog the pipe running under my front yard, but break the pipe during the attempt to remove it, so that my front tree had to be hewn down as if [b]y the cruel Orcs of Orthanc, and all my yard ripped up and despoiled.

Next, the Home Owners Association sent a legal notice saying we had to restore the lawn to good and proper condition forthwith, or face legal penalties. At this point in time my wallet had moths in it, and echoes, but no money. I could not hire a landscaper no[r] do the work myself.

My wife prayed to her God (I was an atheist at the time) and within the same day, two young men, dressed soberly, and with good manners, approached her and said that they were walking the neighborhood looking for good works to do. At first she thought of turning them away, but then realized they were an answer to prayer.

Since they were conservatively and soberly dressed, and spoke politely, and had a shining of grace and good favor about their faces, I knew at once that they were either Agents of the Machine from the movie THE MATRIX or that they were elders from the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Or, if you’d like, you can trust my mother, whose childhood in Salt Lake resulted in an intimate acquaintance with the Latter Day Saints. Though she knows the darker bits of Mormon history – and I’m going to speak to those in a minute – her attitude regarding Mormons is still overwhelmingly positive. She’s a freshly minted convert to Catholicism (and was both a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian earlier in life), but she considers the Mormons to be our allies in the culture wars. She deeply respects their conservative family values and their dedication to community service — and by the way, so do I. Mormonism is a peculiar “Made in America” heresy, but its adherents often behave more like Christians than do their more orthodox brothers and sisters.

Which is not to say that the Mormon church doesn’t have its questionable facets — like every other human institution on the planet. As recently as the 1970’s, Mom couldn’t bring her black friend over to a Mormon household. But in that same time period, there were probably many towns in the (overwhelmingly Protestant) rural South in which people refused black visitors. Racism is a human curse, not a Mormon one. And as for the polygamy thing? That – like the claim that darker skin is demonic – is no longer endorsed by the official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (though, yes, it still exists in off-shoot groups like the FLDS).

Now, having said all of the above, I can understand to a certain extent why some people are wary when it comes to the Mormons. They are kind of mysterious. We who are not Mormons are not allowed to visit their temples and observe their most important rituals. But isn’t it the point of small-l liberalism to rise above our reptilian brains? If you’re confused as to why Mormons do the things they do and believe the things they believe, the proper course is not to mock them out of ignorance. The proper course is to turn to a Mormon and politely ask, “Hey, friend. Can you explain?” I’m sure any Mormon would be happy to engage in a good-faith discussion of his church and its traditions. 

Another Movie Plug:

This one is coming out in June, and it tells the story of the Cristero Rebellion, which took place in Mexico in the 1920’s after the radical Marxist government of the era began to actively persecute the Catholic Church. Should be pretty awesome!

GREAT article on Obama’s War on Religion

Here is a piece from the NRO that all of you should read:

Obama’s Two-Front War on Religion

This is the part that I find particularly apropos:

Many are asking: What comes next? The National Right to Life Committee makes a compelling case that the latest administration compromise on the HHS mandate paves the way for mandated coverage of “abortion on demand,” pointing out that such a move would be consistent with the administration’s prior logic. 

And a distinguished list of constitutional scholars has already concluded that the administration’s “so-called ‘accommodation’ changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.” Many religious believers have similar concerns and now foresee a future in which the rights of religious conscience are no longer welcomed in the public square and instead are being relegated to the tiniest of ghettos. 

Worse still, with the combined effect of the administration’s arguments in the HHS regulations and Hosanna-Tabor, people of faith see the real possibility of having religious protection relegated by one policy to the very ghetto scheduled for demolition by another.

The bottom line here is that the Obama administration is preaching its own kind of religion.  Americans need to be aware of the tenets of that faith – the faith in the church of Statism that gives him the moral authority to dictate to religious institutions what they should be allowed to do to hew to their own (clearly inferior) faiths. I don’t think Obama’s people are doing all of this in some cold, calculating manner to divide religious Americans and set them against each other just to win elections.  I think they’re doing this because they honestly BELIEVE that religious institutions, given free reign, are dangerous to the people.  They have FAITH that their mission to bring abortion on demand will make people happier and healthier.

Do we want an established religion in this country?  Because that’s what this is…the church of progressivism – and don’t ever let them tell you it’s not a faith.  They have ZERO data to back their beliefs…they have only a faith in their good intentions.  I thought we fought a war for our independence to avoid such things, but…maybe we’ve forgotten.  Maybe we’ve “progressed” so far that we no longer share the desire for absolute freedom of expression and thought that our founders codified in the representation of the American people of 1787.  If so…whoa be unto us all.

The Gospel According to Peanuts

The Gospel According to Peanuts
How A Charlie Brown Christmas almost didn’t happen

by Lee Habeeb @ the National Review

As far back as 1965 — just a few years before Time magazine asked “Is God Dead?” — CBS executives thought a Bible reading might turn off a nation populated with Christians. And during a Christmas special, no less! Ah, the perils of living on an island in the northeast called Manhattan.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is equaled only perhaps by the 1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in its popularity among young and old alike. Thank God the Grinch-like executives at CBS chose to air the special back in 1965 despite their misgivings. If it had been left to their gut instincts, we would have had one less national treasure to cherish come Christmas time.

So A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! are the two most popular Christmas specials, eh? Gee, I wonder why that is! Could it be that we Americans still enjoy wholesome entertainment that, oh yes, reminds us of the true reason for the season?

By the way, if you happen to live in the DC area – and are one of those individuals for whom department store ditties like “Santa Baby” inspire an urge to stab the nearest person in the eye with whatever’s handy – I recommend tuning your car radio to 91.9 FM. That (Christian) station actually plays Jesus music during the holidays. You know, songs like “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” and so on. I guarantee you’ll find the selection on that particular channel a welcome antidote to all the crap you hear while doing your Christmas shopping.

Sign This Letter!

CASE’s Letter to the President:

Recently, in the midst of the debt-ceiling crisis, a group calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” led by Jim Wallis of the activist group Sojourners, met with you and your staff to claim that biblical mandates preclude limits to federal programs for low-income people. The Circle includes representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wallis and the “Circle of Protection” do not speak for all Christians. However laudable their intentions, the consequence of their action is to provide a religious imprimatur for big government and sanctify federal welfare programs that are often ineffective — even counterproductive. Contrary to their founding “Statement,” we do not need to “protect programs for the poor.” We need to protect the poor themselves. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect them from the very programs that ostensibly serve the poor, but actually demean the poor, undermine their family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations. Such programs are unwise, uncompassionate, and unjust.

Somebody from our local Catholic parish recently emailed me some “Circle of Protection” propaganda, so I practically bruised my fingers in my eagerness to affix my name to this document.

And by the way, “CASE” stands for “Christians for a Sustainable Economy.” Darn straight!

More from Fr. Sirico

“The Circle of Protection, led by Jim Wallis and his George Soros-funded Sojourners group, is advancing a false narrative based on vague threats to the “most vulnerable” if we finally take the first tentative steps to fix our grave budget and debt problems. For example, Wallis frequently cites cuts to federal food programs as portending dire consequences to ‘hungry and poor people.’

Which programs? He must have missed the General Accountability Office study on government waste released this spring, which looked at, among others, 18 federal food programs. These programs accounted for $62.5 billion in spending in 2008 for food and nutrition assistance. But only seven of the programs have actually been evaluated for effectiveness. Apparently it is enough to simply launch a government program, and the bureaucracy to sustain it, to get the Circle of Protection activists to sanctify it without end. Never mind that it might not be a good use of taxpayer dollars.” — Fr. Sirico, The Church as the Bride of Caesar

It’s the Orphans, Puppies, and Kittens Effect rearing its ugly head again — and it’s completely ridiculous. Not only does it make good financial sense to “watch where the money goes,” but it makes moral sense as well. Christ will certainly not be impressed if all we do to fulfill our obligation to help the poor is throw billions in tax dollars at government programs that “sound good” — especially if those programs are ineffective.