The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Monday, June 29, 2009

Welcome to the new America

My, oh, my. Our new president seems to have gone over the edge. And I'm tired of giving him a pass. He's been president for almost six months now and in that time has certainly shown his true colors.

First of all, he's a certified baby butcher. There's no other name for it given his voting record and public support for killing unborn babies through all nine months of pregnancy and even afterwards if they happen to survive an abortion. How odd for an African American to support an evil championed by Planned Parenthood (just read it's founder, Margaret Sanger) primarily to curb population growth among those less desirable races. Go figure. But then I've always thought that modern liberalism was really a suicide pact.

Second, his knowledge of foreign affairs could, it seems, be etched on the head of a pin with a jackhammer. Either that or he's actually cheering for our enemies; and that's something I refuse to believe...at least for now. So rather than label him a traitor, I'll take the more charitable path and just call him weak, perhaps stupid. He seems to think we shouldn't show support for those who strive for liberty and freedom while resisting oppressive regimes. Such support might be construed as less than positive by the totalitarian dictators of the world. I especially like the way he called the Iranian ayatollah, the "Supreme Leader." Maybe its an Islamic thing, like a US president bowing to the Saudi king.

And what about North Korea? Well, he gave them a good talking to, and they, in return, threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the US. Oh, yeah, what happened to that Korean ship that our intelligence indicates is carrying weapons and possible nuclear material? Last I heard one of our destroyers was following it, but could not board and search the ship without North Korean permission (that thanks to the UN). Seems to me, if a hostile nation threatens us with nuclear attack, we should not have to get the UN's permission to board one of its ships we suspect of carrying illegal weapons.

And then there's the latest...Honduras. Their president, a little far-left dictator who has ignored his nation's constitution and supreme court, was grabbed by the Honduran military and exiled to Costa Rica. The Honduran congress then named a new president. Unlike his reaction to Iran and North Korea, though, President Obama didn't delay in responding to this one. Indeed, he and Cuba's Raul Castro, along with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's little neo-Marxist dictator, all seemed to join together to condemn the exile of this despotic little twerp. It's good to know what side were on isn't it?

And how about those economic policies? They seem designed to accomplish just two things: (1) to destroy the free market system that has been the engine of our success for over 200 years; and (2) to bankrupt the federal government. In truth, his policies are really not about economics at all. It's all about power, and moving that power into the federal government and away from the people. You see, our odd president is a socialist, an elitist who simply can't stand the idea that the people are sovereign, not the government. And socialists are really no different than fascists, because both, after all, always gravitate toward totalitarianism, their logical end. When it comes to their impact on the average citizen, there's little difference between a Marxist and a fascist government.

To all this I could add the foolishness represented by the left's environmental legislation (e.g., the so-called Cap and Trade bill) that increasingly seems to be based on junk science or, at best, science that has been overcome by more recent research showing that global warming actually appears to be something quite different, like global cooling. Once again, the legislation really has very little to do with science or the environment, and has everything to do with expanding the power of the federal government.

This highlights one of the more interesting political developments since the fall of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe: the almost overnight transition of the radical left from Marxism to environmentalism. It was a strange transition since the former Communist nations were among the biggest polluters on earth; strange, that is, until one realizes that a major goal of radical environmentalism is strong, centralized governmental control of all elements of society -- not much different than Marxism.

Wow. He's done a heap of stuff in less than six months. Can't wait to see what his government health care plan will be like. In the meantime, take heart. We survived Jimmy Carter. We'll probably survive Barack Obama.

Bishops, Jews and Evangelization

Our bishops have come out with a clarification of their teaching on our religious relationship with the Jewish people. (See the US Bishops' website.) In effect they state we shouldn't proselytize but should not fail to witness our faith and welcome Jews to join us as Catholic Christians. I'm not really all that sure what they mean by that. How does one witness and welcome without proselytizing?

Actually, though, this revision to their earlier (2002) document presents us with a clearer approach to the unique aspects of evangelization among the Jewish people. It emphasizes the Church's teaching that the covenant with the Jewish people is fulfilled only in Jesus Christ. In that sense it asks us to recall that the Church began with St. Peter converting 3,000 Jews on that first Pentecost. Indeed, the early Church always focused first on converting Jews. After all, St. Paul always went first to the local synagogue before he preached to the Gentiles.
St. Peter preaching in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost

How can we claim to possess the Truth who is Jesus Christ -- "I am the way, the truth, and the life" -- and yet be unwilling to share that Truth with all people? And did not Jesus command his disciples to "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."? I would think that "all nations" would also include the Jews.

Personally, I will continue to talk about Jesus, the Messiah, with my Jewish friends.

Click here to read the bishops' complete document.

Shalom.

Interestng News Items

I woke up early this morning. Of course, there's nothing new about that; I wake up early every morning these days. Fortunately my aging brain tends to function a bit more effectively after sleep, so I usually spend those early hours reading or preparing my next homily. But this morning, feeling a bit lazy, I just sat here with my little netbook browsing a few favorites websites where I came across the following interesting items.

Remains likely those of St. Paul. The results of a recent and rather detailed scientific analysis of the sarcophagus which traditionally has been thought to hold the remains of St. Paul seem to confirm the authenticity of the remains. When the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome was rebuilt in the 19th century (the earlier 4th century basilica had been destroyed by fire in 1823), two ancient plaques indicating the presence of the saint's remains were discovered beneath the confessio altar. Then, just a few years ago, the sarcophagus itself was rediscovered under the altar. (I took the above photo of St. Paul's tomb in September 2008.)

To minimize damage, researchers drilled a small hole in the sarcophagus through which they inserted a probe. They discovered the presence of fine, purple linen fabric lined with gold, grains of incense, and bone fragments. Carbon dating of the bone showed that they originated in the 1st century. All of this is in keeping with the site having been the traditional shrine visited by pilgrims since the earliest days of the Church. In the words of Pope Benedict, “This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.”

It's especially interesting to me that in recent years science seems to confirm what Christians have long believed, proving that science and faith are not the natural enemies so many think them to be.

Last September Diane and I made a 10-day pilgrimage to Rome during the Year of St. Paul and included a visit to the Basilica where we too paid homage to the Apostle. That's me in the photo, standing in front of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. I look forward to our next visit. A few related links:

The Telegraph (London)

The Times Leader (Scranton & Wilkes-Barre, PA)

Pope Benedict signs new Encyclical. It seems that today, on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI will sign his latest encyclical, Charity and Truth (Caritas in Veritate). The long-awaited encyclical reportedly went through many drafts before it finally reached its final version, one that satisfied the Holy Father. It was also apparently delayed due to translation problems. It seems that translating the encyclical into Latin was the greatest challenge. I suspect that there are fewer Latin experts in the Church today with the linguistic skills necessary to translate modern technical terminology into Latin.

Now that the encyclical has been signed by the Holy Father, we can expect it to be published within a few days. I look forward to seeing how Pope Benedict views our responsibility as Christians with respect to society and the economy. I anticipate that it might force some Christians to reevaluate how they view economic issues. We'll see. For more info: EWTN Story.

Pope Benedict grants audience to President Obama. The Vatican confirmed that President Obama will meet Pope Benedict for the first time on July 10 when Obama is in Italy to attend the G-8 summit. Should be interesting. Wouldn't you like to be the proverbial fly on the wall during that meeting? More: EWTN Story.

No prosecutions for attacks on Indian Christians. An Indian archbishop has come out publicly questioning why there have been no prosecutions in the widespread attacks on Christians and their property that took place two years ago in Orissa. The attacks, perpetrated by Hindu fundamentalists, have led to no arrests, no charges, no detentions and lead one to believe that the authorities are simply unwilling to prosecute. In explaining why Christians were attacked Archbishop Rafael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar stated that, “Christians were attacked above all because of fundamentalist Hindu ideology, which challenges the way in which a Hindu nation should be founded. So the fundamentalists looked for an opportunity to do this. The main reason for the attack on Kandhamal is because it was an area where a large number of conversions have taken place over the last ten years.” Well, Jesus never said that following His command to "make disciples of all nations" would be easy. More here: Catholic News Agency Story.

Is it really the Ark of the Covenant? Now here's an odd one right out of an Indiana Jones story. The patriarch who heads the Ethiopian Orthodox church has announced that he will reveal the actual Ark of the Covenant which he claims has been safeguarded by the Orthodox church for centuries. The patriarch stated that the Ark will be put on display in a museum in Axum. He revealed all this while in Rome for an audience with Pope Benedict. I wonder if the subject came up during their subsequent meeting. Here's the story: World Net Daily Story.

Ah, yes, an interesting morning. God's peace.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson RIP - Weirdness Overdose

I was not a fan. Before this week you could have tortured me and I still couldn't have named a single Michael Jackson song. OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe deep in the recesses of my slowly deteriorating mind a few cells might have retained a song title heard in passing back in the eighties. Maybe a few water boardings would have brought it to the surface.

But all that has changed. Since Michael Jackson died earlier this week, he has forced his way into my consciousness in an unprecedented way. The media -- every outlet imaginable -- has inundated us with all things Jacksonian: the squeaky, girlish voice; the moon walk across the stage; the odd proclivity to grab his crotch while singing; the personal and family life so bizarre it is likely unmatched among our so-called celebrities; his apparent morphing from youthful African American to adult, well, something else...it's all been very strange. For the first hour or two, the non-stop coverage was mildly fascinating. But after several days of this almost indecent exposure to the weirdness that was Michael Jackson, I think it's time to leave the poor man alone and let him rest is peace.

I suppose its a generational thing, but we seem to have raised celebrity worship to a whole new level. I can clearly recall that February morning in 1959 when I heard that Buddy Holly has been killed in a plane crash in Iowa. My friends and I were teenagers and enthusiastic fans. We enjoyed his music and were truly saddened that he had died so tragically at such a young age. But even in our youth we realized that death comes to everyone, and it comes in all guises. Buddy Holly's death came as a surprise; after all it was an accident. But we got over it fairly quickly and waiting for the bus the next morning were complaining once again about the sad state of the NY Rangers.

But Michael Jackson's death, although no accident, seems to have caught the media totally by surprise. And that's what surprises me. Did they really believe this man would long survive his self-destructive lifestyle? Remind you of someone else? One cannot easily ignore the similarities between Jackson's life and death and that of Elvis Presley. One was the "King of Pop" and the other the "King of Rock n Roll." Both rose to the top of their profession but lived progressively destructive lifestyles that ultimately took their lives. Sad. A kind of death by celebrity.

Let's hope that Michael Jackson's fans don't let their adulation blind them to the lesson his life and death offer. And pray that a merciful God may welcome Michael and all who have died this week into His Kingdom.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Odd Thieves Who Target a Soup Kitchen

Although I didn't intend to mention this particular incident on the blog, today I thought it might be worth sharing. And perhaps someone can give me some insight into the psychology of thievery. First a little background.

I'm president of the board of the Wildwood Soup Kitchen, an ecumenical ministry located in Wildwood, Florida, a few miles from our home here in The Villages. We have upwards of 150 volunteers from approximately 30 different local churches, and serve a full, hot meal Monday through Friday to anyone who comes through the door hungry. We also deliver a little more than 100 meals daily to shut-ins and others who, for any number of reasons, are unable to come to the Soup Kitchen to eat. Last year we served or delivered over 62,000 meals. The total number of meals has increased every year since the Soup Kitchen opened 15 years ago.

All of this is accomplished solely through volunteers. We have no paid employees. And we are blessed that the First Presbyterian Church of Wildwood has, for over a dozen years now, let us use their fellowship hall and kitchen every weekday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is by no means a "mega-church"; indeed it is a small community church with about 100 members.

When it comes to operating expenses, we rely completely on donations. We receive money from individuals, local churches, local businesses, community and neighborhood groups, and civic organizations. We take no government funds. We are also blessed to receive frequent donations of food from these same sources.

Although our donors are very generous, we certainly don't have a lot of money. And neither do we keep much cash on the premises. We did, however, have a small safe, which we used to store the occasional check that someone might drop off or the small donations made by some of our guests. It was usually emptied every day or two. We like to keep the money we have in the bank.

Last week someone broke into the soup kitchen and stole the safe. The safe contained no cash or checks, just a few receipts from local grocery stores. So the thieves got nothing. Presumably, by forcing open the safe they also made it useless and would be unable to resell it. To our knowledge, nothing else was taken, not even any food.

Now I've thought about this all week and just can't imagine the kind of person who would break into a soup kitchen and steal a safe. You'd think there would be far more tempting targets in town. But then I suppose the average thief isn't all that bright. It still bothers me though. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

And there have been some other ramifications. Because of the possible involvement of one or two community service people, we will no longer allow people sentenced to community service to complete their hours by working at the soup kitchen. This was a decision beyond my control, and it saddens me that we won't be able to help these folks, most of whom have been good workers just trying to get their lives straightened out.

Ah, well, we will continue to do as Jesus instructed us -- "When I was hungry you gave me food..." -- and trust that He will continue to guide us and support us in doing His work.

God's peace...it's there for the asking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Neat NASA Photos - Volcano Erupting

As you might know, I was involved with NASA some years ago (OK, many, many years ago) during the Apollo program as a Navy helicopter pilot. As a result I became a bit of a NASA junkie and tend to follow the Space Program rather closely. I have particularly enjoyed NASA's photos of the earth and some of the unusual geologic and climatic events observed from space.

Among the most interesting recent NASA photos are some taken by the astronauts on the International Space Station. Earlier this month the station's orbit took it over Russia's Kuril Islands in the North Pacific just as a volcano began erupting. The photo below is one of several taken by the astronauts. It's especially interesting to note how the volcano seems to have blown a hole right through the clouds covering the island.

Click on the photo for a high resolution view. And click here to visit NASA's site describing the eruption. Neat, huh? God certainly gave us an interesting planet to live on.

I'm especially looking forward to checking out the latest photos taken by the Hubble telescope since its recent repair by a shuttle crew; just haven't had time. But if I find something interesting, I'll share it with you on the blog.

Blessings...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

I just read that Pope Benedict XVI has named Fr. Augustine DiNoia as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Our congratulations to Fr. Gus, an eminent theologian and a wonderful priest. The Church is fortunate to have him in such a position. Fr. DiNoia has served the Church and his order in a variety of positions, including serving as undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; so he is no stranger to the Curia. He will, of course, be made an archbishop as he assumes his new position.

Fr. DiNoia and Pope Benedict XVI
Back when I was a new deacon in my parish on Cape Cod, I occasionally assisted at Sunday Mass concelebrated by three visiting Dominican priests: Fr. Peter Cameron, Fr. Romanus Cessario, and Fr. Augustine DiNoia. They spent part of every August in our little seaside town where the Dominicans have a residence. What a wonderful privilege it was to meet and listen to these three remarkable theologians. We could always look forward to an exceptional homily.

Click here for more on Fr. DiNoia.

By the way, you can't go wrong reading anything written by Fr. DiNoia and his colleagues, Frs. Cameron and Cessario. Check them out on Amazon.

Blessings...

Bishops Doing Their Job

Obviously I'm not a bishop, so I don't have to make the hard decisions facing our bishops today. And I realize too that many bishops struggle to fulfill their responsibilities to articulate Church teaching, to remind their flock of their obligation to follow these same teachings, and to lead those who stray -- particularly those who stray publicly -- to acceptance and repentance. It's not an easy task, which is why it is always refreshing when bishops carry out this responsibility well. Here are a few examples:

In New York, Thomas Suozzi, the Nassau County Executive (and a Catholic), wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times on June 12 in which he declared his support for same-sex marriage. Mr. Suozzi had earlier come out publicly in support of abortion, so it's apparent he pays little or no attention to the teachings of his Church. He even made a point of mentioning his religious affiliation "as a practicing Catholic" which only increased the scandal associated with a public figure who openly defies Church teaching.

To address Mr. Suozzi's public declaration, Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre issued a statement in which he enunciates Church teaching, counters all of Mr. Suossi's weak arguments, and reminds us all of our obligation as Catholics to accept all the truths taught by the Church through its bishops. I found the final paragraph of the bishop's statement to be especially effective:

"There is a further consideration that, as his bishop, I have to raise to Mr. Suozzi because he publicly identifies himself as a practicing Catholic. By so doing he certainly admits that he knows he is contradicting some basic moral teachings of his own faith. This is not the first time he has done this. He has already placed himself publicly in the category of “pro choice” on abortion. While homosexual orientation is a neutral reality on a moral level, homosexual acts are not morally neutral. They are wrong and they are sinful. Abortion is wrong and it is sinful. We bishops, the authentic teachers with the Pope of the Catholic faithful, have made this abundantly clear. Our teaching is unambiguous, faithful to the Lord and binding on all Catholics. No Catholic is free to ignore or disregard this teaching. It is normative in the formation of the conscience of every Catholic who seeks to be faithful to the Lord and qualify as a “practicing Catholic”. In saying this, I am not singling out Mr. Suozzi. I am speaking to all Catholics in our Diocese and beyond, reminding them that what we bishops teach is not “another opinion” among many that Catholics may choose or not choose. Instead, such truths are “non-negotiable”, binding on all of us who claim to be “practicing Catholics”. Otherwise we are not faithful to our Lord, to His Church and to the ultimate truths about the human person which alone can bring us freedom, justice, joy and peace. "

Click here to read Bishop Murphy's statement in its entirety.

Why does it seem that, for many of these Catholic public figures, to be chastised by their bishop is viewed as a badge of honor?

Another example comes from Spain where in recent years the current Socialist government has been waging a war of words and ideas with the Catholic Church. The most recent issue relates to legislation that would allow abortion on demand through week 14. It would also allow abortion through the 22nd week in the case of birth defects, and unrestricted abortion if the mother's life is threatened. As we know from our experience in this country, that phrase about the mother's life being threatened effectively permits unrestricted abortion throughout pregnancy. But regardless of when in a pregnancy it occurs, abortion is always inherently evil.

And so the Spanish Bishops Conference has risen to the occasion and instructed Catholic legislators that they must vote against this legislation. To do otherwise is to conspire with evil. Here's a fairly even-handed report on the bishops' declaration on the abortion bill. And be sure to check out the report on the blog, Deacon for Life. Finally, you can read more about this ongoing moral battle in the Times (UK).

Another example comes from Colorado Springs where Bishop Michael Sheridan issued a pastoral letter On the Duties of Catholic Politicians and Voters in which he instructed Catholics that they put their salvation at risk when they vote for candidates who favor abortion rights, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual “marriage” or euthanasia. He also instructed those who voted for such politicians not to receive communion. The letter, issued five years ago in May 2004, has caused Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, along with several other anti-Catholic groups, to ask the IRS to investigate whether the Diocese of Colorado Springs somehow violated the law by “endorsing political candidates.”

All of us -- bishops, clergy and faithful -- can expect only more of this in the future. As the moral decline of our nation accelerates, so too will the attacks on the Catholic Church. I believe that, eventually, these attacks will evolve into full-blown persecution, under which we will see bishops and others jailed for failing to worship at the altar of political correctness.

Send a letter of thanks to Bishop Murphy, Bishop Sheridan and the bishops of Spain for their courageous response to those who would remove the Church's voice from the public square. And pray for all the bishops of the world.

God's peace.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Big Business, Small Business, Big Government

Just a few thoughts that crawled (all my thoughts crawl these days) through my mind this afternoon as I listened to some auto company executive drone on about how helpful the federal government has been...

Based on my own experience working for both small and large companies, as well as my many years consulting for dozens of companies of every size, I will risk making some gross generalizations.

  • Small companies are growth companies...not all of them, but enough that they are the primary engines of economic growth in the country.
  • Large companies expand more through acquisition than from internal growth. By doing so they remove growth companies from the economy.
  • When large companies acquire small, growth companies, the businesses they acquire become less efficient and less profitable than they were prior to the acquisition.
  • Small companies hire new employees as they grow; large companies grow by acquiring small companies and then lay off those employees whom they believe to be redundant. And so when a large company acquires a small company there is usually a net loss of employment. And because they often don't fully understand the technology they have acquired, more often than not the future development of that technology stagnates.
  • Small companies love competition because it is the primary catalyst for innovation and growth. It drives them to realize greater efficiencies in all aspects of their business.
  • Large companies hate competition for the same reasons small companies love it. Strong competition forces them to try to function at levels of efficiency and innovation that are usually well beyond their capabilities. Large companies prefer monopolistic or well-regulated "competitive" environments.
  • When it comes to their true business needs, small companies are smart and big companies are dumb. Indeed, business smarts tend to be inversely proportional to business size.
  • Government, particularly big government, loves big business because big business willingly uses its money to fill the campaign coffers of politicians. And big business loves big government because politicians happily repay campaign contributions with legislation that favors big business.
  • Big government doesn't understand the competitive marketplace because it functions in a monopolistic market of its own making. It is, therefore, more sympathetic to the needs of big business, which it understands, than to the needs of small business which it neither understands nor trusts.
And so this is why I believe that auto executive was so happy to take all that taxpayer money from the federal government; and why the federal government was so happy to provide it. This is just a natural result of the relationship that has developed over the years between big stupid companies and big stupid government.

A smart government would look for ways to encourage the development of small, innovative growth companies and order their policies accordingly. Governments will do some of this as window dressing designed to provide legislators with photo ops and campaign talking points, but it's always in a relatively small way compared to the mammoth assistance provided to big business.

Now, somewhere in here there are moral issues that should probably be addressed. But I am not enough of a moral theologian to take on this task, at least without giving it more thought than I gave the above.

I shouldn't watch TV news. It leads to too many of these "crawling" thoughts.

God's peace...

Happy Father's Day

I was assigned to assist at one of our vigil Masses yesterday, and so find myself in the unusual position of being able to do virtually nothing on a Sunday morning. The fact that it's also Father's Day partially mitigates my sense of guilt for such slothful behavior. But despite this less than sincere mea culpa, I am enjoying the morning which inexplicably began for me at 5:45 a.m.

Adding to my happiness, my dear wife, Diane, gave me two wonderful, if unusual, Father's Day gifts: a selection of 10 international beers; and a rather fancy hummingbird feeder. Much like G. K. Chesterton and several other of my heroes, I enjoy an occasional pint of good beer. I have decided to pace myself and sample only one bottle per week, thus extending my enjoyment of this thoughtful gift throughout the summer. Diane also knows how much I enjoy watching the hummingbirds that occasionally flit about it our backyard searching for nectar. They are remarkable little creatures and I trust the addition of this feeder will cause them to flock to us in large numbers. Perhaps I'll be able to capture them digitally with my trusty Canon SLR and telephoto lens. I feel a challenge coming on.

One of my daughters gave me a gift certificate to the Olive Garden. (For those of you from other planets, this is a chain of Italian restaurants.) And so the other evening we and some good friends went to the local Olive Garden where I devoured several bowls of my absolutely favorite soup, Zuppa Toscana, along with a nice salad and glass of relatively good house wine. By any standard, it was a delightful evening.

Finally, on this Father's Day it is good to turn our thoughts and prayers to our Heavenly Father, whose love for us far exceeds that of any earthly father. It is He Who gave us our very being. It is He Who sent His Son to suffer and die for our redemption. And it is He Who has prepared a place for those who love Him and do His will. Thank Him!

Being is good. And a Happy Father's Day to all fathers out there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Tall Tales

I was browsing a few favorite websites when I came across a link to a speech Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave a few weeks ago at the unveiling of a statue of the late President Ronald Reagan. The statue will be included among the many others on display in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, and will be one of two representing the state of California. At the unveiling, attended also by Nancy Reagan, Speaker Pelosi, referring to the late president's widow, made this comment:

"Mrs. Reagan, with your presence here today, I hope you know that we honor you. Not only for your support of the President, but for turning that support and love into action. Your support for stem cell research has made a significant difference in the lives of many American people. It has saved lives, it has found cures, it has given hope to people." (Click here to read her complete speech.)

Now what Ms. Pelosi was really talking about was Nancy Reagan's support for embryonic stem cell research. There would be no reason to praise Mrs. Reagan for supporting adult stem cell research, since it is something almost everyone agrees is morally acceptable. We don't praise people for saying or doing what everyone else is saying or doing. And so Ms. Pelosi's comments show how little she respects the truth. Embryonic stem cell research has made no difference in the lives of Americans,except, perhaps, the lives of those bogus researchers who have been cashing in on all those government funds released by our current president. It has not saved a single life. It has not found the cure to anything, nor offered any real hope for cures. The only stem cell research that has brought real results is adult stem cell research.

Of course, for Ms. Pelosi and her colleagues, it's all about abortion and nothing else. As long as the pro-abortion crowd can keep on repeating the lie that embryonic stem cell research is saving lives, they can use this lie as another reason to keep abortion legal.

The lies keep piling up but they're not a solid foundation and will eventually crumble.

Aren't you happy that God's in charge? I sure am.

Blessings...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran and other stuff

Well, President Obama certainly has his hands full. Here he is trying to remake American society in his own image and then those pesky North Koreans and Iranians create these little distractions. Maybe if he just ignores them, or says some nice things about them, or issues a stern warning or two, they'll go away and let him get on with the really important work.

We can already see what the administration is doing to the economy. Why do I get the feeling that this new executive team of ours is in even deeper waters when it comes to foreign policy?

If you want to read an insightful commentary on what's happening in Iran, check out Wesley Pruden's column in today's Washington Times. It's worth a read.

Another under-reported story is the continued governmental persecution of minority religious groups in Iran. Iran Press Watch is a good place to get the latest information on the subject. The site is aimed primarily at documenting persecution of the Baha'i community, but also includes information on Christians.

Unlike most Muslim nations, Iran had a history of relative tolerance toward its Christian population...until the mullahs took over. It's not as bad as Saudi Arabia but it's getting there.

Another good site to get an encapsulated view of how Catholics and other Christians are treated in various nations is Aid to the Church in Need. This is a link to their Middle East page.

Instead of telling the Islamic world how wonderful they are, it would be nice if our president spent a little of his Muslim capital encouraging these despotic, murderous theocracies to allow a little religious freedom. Maybe some day we'll see a Catholic church in Riyadh, but I'm not holding my breath.

By the way, if you want to get a sense of what government run health care will be like, you don't have to go to Canada, or the UK, or Costa Rica. You need only check out the VA, a government organization that ostensibly has been providing health care to our veterans for decades. Just beware. Looking too closely at the VA can be a very scary experience.

Interesting times we live in...

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Sadness that is Mexico

Apparently events in Mexico are continuing to spiral out of control. Mexico is experiencing what can only be described as localized anarchy brought on by that nation's inability or unwillingness to deal with those who run the criminal drug organizations that have literally taken full control of parts of the country. Of course, how can we expect anything else from a nation whose citizens try to cross its borders in huge numbers daily? I think I can say without much fear of contradiction, that when a nation's people flock to its borders to leave, the nation is corrupt to its very core.

Indeed, this has always been one of my unanswered questions about the illegal immigration problem faced by our own country. We seem to focus on the problem's symptoms and its manifestation on our side of the border. And yet we never seem to ask the truly important question: Why are these people flocking to our country? What is wrong with their native country that causes them to take all the risks associated with illegal immigration?

This leads me to pose a related question to the U. S. Bishops. Why do you expend all your efforts attacking US immigration policies but not the unjust, corrupt policies of the nations from which the immigrants come? I never hear anything from the USCCB addressed to the Mexican and other Latin American governments discussing the reasons for illegal immigration. After all, if these nations were governed well and would rid themselves of the corruption that robs the poor of any opportunity to advance themselves, the poor wouldn't want to leave.

As if to highlight the nature of the problems in Mexico, today a priest and two seminarians were brutally murdered in an area of western Mexico plagued by drugs. They were on their way to organize a retreat. The Archbishop of Acapulco, Aguirre Franco, referring to Catholic clergy, stated, "We have become hostages in this violent confrontations between the drug cartels living among us."

And while innocents are murdered the corruption just continues. Not long ago 53 prisoners escaped from one of Mexico's prisons, and now 51 prison officials, including guards and the prison's director, have been charged with crimes. And that's not all. A large group of Army officers were also arrested for passing information along to the drug cartels. It's good to see the government cracking down, but I think it's too little, too late.

Pray for our southern neighbor and its people, that they can rid themselves of the corruption that is tearing their nation apart. And while we're at it, let's pray for our own nation as well. We also have a few corrupt folks running around in our government. And pray for the souls of the priest and seminarians who were so brutally murdered. Perhaps their deaths will wake some people up.

Oops! Our Best Laid Plans

The other day Diane and I had decided to take one day a week and together go somewhere interesting and do something we both enjoy. Yesterday, our first attempt at this new venture in retirement living, took us to Lakeland, Florida.

Sadly our trip to Lakeland didn't turn out quite as expected. The one-way trip is a bit less than 100 miles and as soon as we arrived we found a local restaurant and enjoyed a very nice seafood lunch. After eating we drove the few additional blocks to the Polk Museum of Art, the primary reason for our trip. But when we walked up to the main door, we discovered the museum was closed. It was 1:15 and we had expected it to open at 1 p.m. since that was the time listed on their website. But right there on the door was a handwritten sign informing us that the museum is closed on Sundays during June, July and August. Arrggggh!

We were a bit miffed but it wasn't a total loss. We spent a very pleasant hour together over a fine meal and also got to see Lakeland which is really quite a lovely small city. We also enjoyed the drive and the sights along the way. We are, of course, determined to try again. We shall return...the next time when the museum is open.

And so we climbed back in the car and headed home, making one brief stop to do a little shopping at a pottery store. And that was the full extent of our day. We drove a total of 200 miles for a pretty good lunch.

Naturally, I had to check the website again after we got home. As it turned out, in addition to posting their normal hours, the website also included an additional notice about summer hours. I just hadn't noticed it. So I guess I have to take the blame for our mildly disappointing outing...well, part of the blame. I'll find some way to blame the museum.

I'll have to be a little more attentive as I plan our outing for next week. One change: it won't be on a Sunday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day.

Early this morning I placed about a dozen flags along the street in front of our house and was pleased to see that most of our neighbors had already done the same. A very impressive sight. Our generation at least (we live in a Florida retirement community) still has some respect for the flag of our nation.
Flag Day: our street early this morning


I see they're still burning US flags in Iran as the people of that nation take sides over the results of the election that supposedly gave our good friend, Ahmadinejad, another term as president. It seems President Bush was pretty close to the truth when he labeled North Korea and Iran as part of what he called an "axis of evil." Too bad he didn't do much about it. And our new president seems to be following the same, or an even more dangerous, course. One thing we should have learned from the 20th Century: talk has absolutely no impact on totalitarian regimes.

Enjoy flag day, celebrate the nation our flag represents, and remember those who died for the USA over the past two centuries.

Diane and I are heading off to Lakeland to enjoy a visit to the Polk Museum of Art and maybe have a nice lunch at some out of the way little cafe. Should be a nice day if we can avoid thunderstorms.

Blessings...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Random Thoughts

Israelis and Palestinians. Isn't it interesting that all those smart people at the UN, and now all those equally smart people in the Obama administration, seem to want Israel to get rid of those Jewish settlements in the West Bank in preparation for a future Palestinian state? Apparently they want to ensure that any new Palestinian state will be Jew-free. After all, we couldn't possibly allow any Jews to live among those Muslim Arabs. Having Jewish neighbors would just be too much for the Arabs to handle. And yet, there's no mention of the fact that many, many Muslim Arabs live in Israel. They vote in Israel. They have representatives in the Knesset. And they enjoy a much higher standard of living than those who live in Gaza. I don't hear the Israeli government calling for an Arab- or Muslim-free Israel.

Hmmm. An interesting double standard, don't you think? Gee, do you think that there might be a touch of anti-Semitism behind it?

Of course, there can never be a Palestinian state until the Palestinians publicly accept Israel's right to exist. So far they haven't. Their only declared goal is to toss Israel into the sea. How can anyone expect the Israelis to negotiate seriously with a people whose only goal is the destruction of Israel?

Unemployment Soars. When the new administration proposed its "recovery plan" and new spending legislation it released a graph (below) showing what unemployment would be like with and without the plan. The dark blue line is the administration's predicted unemployment with the recovery plan, the light blue line shows predicted unemployment without the plan. The red data points, however, show the reality. Source: click here.

Looks like a trend to me. Any bets on what the June figures will be? Makes you think it might have been better had the government done nothing and just given the economy the room it needed to find its own way to recovery. Active, intrusive government action in the economy is always taken with the best of intentions and always leads to unintended consequences that end up damaging people's lives.

Clueless: Next Supreme Court Justice. Apparently Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's choice to be our next Supreme Court Justice, will be just one more pro-abortion voice on the court. This assumption is based on her reply to a questions asked by pro-life Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

When the Senator asked Sotomayor if the unborn child had any rights, she gave a most surprising response: She said she had never thought about it. Isn't that remarkable? She's been a judge for almost two decades and she's never thought about the core principle involved in the most contentious moral, political and legal issue facing this nation. The only conclusions one can draw from her response is that she (1) lied to provide political cover during the upcoming conformation hearings; or (2) is completely clueless, an intellectual and judicial lightweight of the first order. Certainly any pro-life judge, indeed any pro-life human being, would have thought much about the rights of the unborn child.

...not that her opinions or her intellect will make much difference. She and her future colleagues on the Supreme Court will not be the ones who stop abortion. That will come only when the American people decide in their hearts that no more unborn babies will die. When that happens, the plague of abortion will end.

Read more here.

Book Recommendation. As I prepare to teach a parish course on Church History, I've done a lot of extra reading on the subject. Among the more interesting new books is one written by Father Walter Brandmuller, the Vatican's chief historian and president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. The book -- Light and Shadows, Church History amid Faith, Fact and Legend -- was published just this year by Ignatius Press. It's a wonderful read and casts much needed light on many of those shadowy events and issues that have led so many people to misinterpret the history of the Church.


God's peace.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

He did it again...

In a recent post I criticized our president for his undue praise of Islam and historical inaccuracies in his Cairo speech to the Muslim world. Like so many liberal relativists, the president seems to believe there is some sort of moral equivalence between Western civilization (Dare I call it "Judeo-Christian?) and the barbarians who brought us 9-11 and those who support and encourage them. It's actually a prevalent attitude among the elite, especially the inside-the-Beltway elite: you know, the attitude that these poor, sweet babies wouldn't have done those nasty things had we Christians been more diplomatic in our dealings with the Muslim world over the centuries. Anyway, what bothered me most about the speech was his apparent disregard for historical truth. And now comes another...

I didn't have an opportunity to hear the president's address at Normandy the other day, so I made a point of reading it. It actually wasn't a bad speech, and I'm sure he delivered it well. But like the Cairo speech, there was no reference to the challenge we face today -- the War on Terrorism -- which I find a bit odd. Indeed, the name of the current conflict seems to have disappeared from most Washington rhetoric in recent months. And there was one part of the Normandy speech that bothered me. It always seems to be the president's religious references that lead to questions. Here's the quote:

"The nations and leaders that joined together to defeat Hitler's Reich were not perfect. We had made our share of mistakes, and had not always agreed with one another on every issue. But whatever God we prayed to, whatever our differences, we knew that the evil we faced had to be stopped. Citizens of all faiths and no faith came to believe that we could not remain as bystanders to the savage perpetration of death and destruction. And so we joined and sent our sons to fight and often die so that men and women they never met might know what it is to be free."

I'm not sure what to make of the "But whatever God we prayed to..." line. I think I can say with a high degree of certainty that those men on the Normandy beaches in June 1944 all prayed to the same God. And the "Citizens of all faiths and no faith" phrase causes me to recall how many Muslim leaders in the Near East actually thought Adolph Hitler was a sweet guy who, coincidentally, would also remove those pesky Jews from the world stage. Hey, Eisenhower called his mission a "crusade" but I suspect we won't hear that word used again on any future June 6. Ah, well, as I've said before, a little moral confusion and hyperbole are to be expected in politicians' speeches. It's so hard to be all things to all people when there are so many different special interests and so little time to pander to them.

And did you catch the White House comment about Judge Sotomayor, confirming that she is, indeed, a Catholic: "Judge Sotomayor was raised as a Catholic and attends church for family celebrations and other important events." Hmmm, doesn't sound like that attendance is very regular.

Pray for them all: presidents, judges, terrorists, and for the conversion of all Muslims. After all, He did command us to "make disciples of all nations..."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Obama's Praise of Islam

I found President Obama's speech to the Muslim world more than a bit odd in that it seemed to distort so much of what I knew about Islam. While I realize that a touch of hyperbole can be an effective rhetorical technique, many of the president's comments far surpassed the usual exaggerations found in political speeches. The best brief coverage of the speech I've found is on one of the First Things blogs. The article, by David Goldman, is interesting reading. Click here to read it.

And if you dislike subtlety, you can read Ralph Peters' take on the president's speech. He provides some interesting perspective on Obama's blind praise for the "religion of peace." Here's a link.

One gets the impression that our president believes he can talk anyone into anything, that he still sees the world through the eyes of a community organizer. I get the feeling he actually believes that nations like North Korea and Iran can be "domesticated" and brought around to his way of thinking through a steady stream of talk. For our sake I hope he soon discovers the reality of the world and the true nature of some of its bad actors.

Pope2you - New Site

Just in case you haven't seen it yet, you have to check out the Vatican's latest move into cyberspace: http://Pope2you.net.

Among other things, the site is a portal to Pope Benedict's Facebook page and YouTube channel. It also includes video and audio applications for all you iPhone and iPod users out there. All in all, a great site and one I'll be visiting frequently.

It's a wonderful way to keep up with Pope Benedict's activities and certainly worth a daily visit. Enjoy it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Greater love...

A long day today -- Saturday, June 6 -- but certainly not the "Longest Day" of the sort experienced by another generation of Americans 65 years ago when they found themselves scrambling up the beaches of Normandy under heavy fire on D-Day. We owe these men --- many of them forever young in their graves -- and the others who stormed the beaches of the Pacific, North Africa, Sicily and Italy, a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. The best we can do is to remember them and their heroism.


I suppose that for most of us, history, and in particular recent history, is essentially personal. We automatically make mental connections between the events of history and the people who took part in them, especially when those people also entered into our lives. My father, who died a few years ago at the age of 95, was a veteran of the war in Europe and, although he didn't take part in D-Day, he did play a role in that horrible war. Perhaps more importantly, John McCarthy played a very active part in the restoration of postwar Europe, especially in the rebuilding of a free Germany. Whenever I see or hear anything about that devastating war, I reflexively think of him. Just as when I encounter anything about the Boxer Rebellion or the Spanish American War I can't help but think of my grandfather, another John McCarthy, who served in both conflicts. In the same way, as a veteran of the war in Vietnam, I cannot think of that conflict without also calling to mind the many friends who died there.

A few moments ago I heard a news report stating that almost 900 WW2 veterans die each day. This great generation of selfless heroes is disappearing before our eyes, and as they leave us their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are instead focused on the latest iPhone release or ranting about the results of the American Idol vote. Given the state of our educational system, I suspect many of these young people don't know why or who we fought in World War II.

If we know nothing of the totalitarian regimes of the past, it's unlikely we'll be able to recognize those we must confront today or will face in the future. Unless we learn to act like grown-ups, unless we grow up just as those young men on the beaches had to grow up, unless we change, and change quickly, I'm afraid we are doomed to join the countless other nations that make up the debris of history.

Blessings.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Too busy to write

I've been procrastinating, and have consequently paid the price. We returned from our extended trip up north last weekend and I found myself facing immovable deadlines on two very incomplete projects.

The most pressing is a course I'm scheduled to teach for the diocesan religious education office this weekend at a nearby parish. The course is one of many that make up a diocesan certification program for catechists and Catholic school teachers. Over the past five years I've taught a number of these courses, but this is the first time for this particular course. And so I've been immersed in preparation to the tune of 10 hours/day for the past four days...except for a pleasant six-hour break today working at the soup kitchen. Ain't retirement grand? Actually, it is.

The course addresses Catechesis and Social Ministry, and I've just now completed the last of 108 PowerPoint slides that I hope will lead my students and me through 10-hours of classroom time together. It's a worthy subject and there's certainly an abundance of material to draw from. I'll let you know how it turned out later.

The other deadline also relates to course preparation. But this time the course is aimed at our own parishioners. I suspended our Bible Study for the summer since so many of our parishioners are "snow birds" and I hate to continue the program when so many would be unable to take part. So I decided to offer a "summer school" course on Church History for the brave folks who stay here in Florida during the steamy days of June, July and August. It will start two weeks from now and run for ten weekly one-hour sessions. Let's see...if I cover 2,000 years of history in 10 hours, I'll have to cover 200 years during each session. Arrrghh! I think we might have to gloss over a few events. Either that or I'll have to talk really fast.

New subject. Have you ever been surprised to discover that someone you respect had died perhaps months or even years before and for some reason you didn't know it? It happens to me all the time. And it always bothers me. I actually feel guilty. I should have known and can't understand how I missed it. This happened to me yesterday.

I was glancing through several of the magazines and journals that had piled up during our absence, when I came across an obituary for Father Stanley L. Jaki, OSB, who died almost two months ago on April 7. Father Jaki, one of my heroes, was a prolific author, a theologian and physicist, and a wonderful Benedictine priest. I encountered his writings far too late in life when I picked up a copy of his Genesis 1 Through the Ages a few years ago. This book, along with seven or eight other of his books I have read since, have all challenged and enlightened me. I highly recommend them. You can obtain his books directly from Real View Books and, of course, from Amazon and other online booksellers.

Other than the above, nothing is really new. The politicians continue to lie, cheat and steal and drive our soon-to-be-poor nation into oblivion. Oh, and speaking of oblivion and politicians and gullible voters, did you catch the opinion piece in, of all places, Pravda? If you're over 40 you should remember Pravda, the former official newspaper of the Soviet Union. The old joke back then related to Pravda, which means "truth", and the Soviet news agency, Izvestia, which means "news". Russians used to say, "There's no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia."

My, how things have changed! Today Pravda is an independent news source and their online version carried an interesting piece by someone named, Stanislav Mishin, in which he says unkind things about our political leaders and calls the American people, "sheeple". (Click here to read it. It's two pages so don't forget to read page 2.) I suppose we'll soon find out how accurate a prophet he is.

And don't forget to mark your calendars for June 19, the beginning of the Year for Priests called for by Pope Benedict XVI. Make an effort this year to pray for priestly vocations and that the Holy Spirit will support priests in their saving work.

Man and Gull at Chatham Light on Cape Cod (May 2009)

Oh, and you might enjoy this photo (above) I took in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod early one morning a week or so ago. The man was enjoying his before work cup of coffee and taking in the view near the Chatham Light when the gull landed a few feet away. I happened to have the camera in hand. I like the photo.

God's Peace.