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, October 22, 2012

Surprising Stories

Most news stories today are hardly news. By this I mean that they really don't surprise, but instead only confirm what one already knows or suspects to be true. For example, let me share a few of this morning's news stories. Here are the headlines...

Security draft would force agencies to share cyber-threat information. If you've ever worked for or with the federal government, the fact that US intelligence agencies haven't been sharing such information with likely targets 11 years after the 911 attack won't surprise you. Government entities -- Congress included -- tend to be reactive, unwilling to anticipate problems. Rather than take what might be the politically unsafe path, they prefer instead to wait until they are forced to act in the midst of a full-blown crisis. This executive order from the White House will, of course, fall far short of what's needed.

Gun industry going gangbusters. Again, no surprise here. Whenever he lets his guard down, the president clearly shows he is no friend of the Second Amendment. Many Americans, concerned about possible restrictions should the president win a second term, have been visiting their local gun shops to buy handguns, shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Those of you who prefer not to own a gun, can always buy stock in the industry. The stocks of many gun manufacturers have more than doubled in value over the past four years. 
Gun Sales Booming under Obama

Unemployment drops in seven swing states. Oooh...surprise, surprise. The administration's Bureau of Labor Statistics, three weeks before the election, has suddenly presented us with the lowest unemployment rate -- 7.8% -- since the president was elected. Not addressed was the fact that the vast majority of all these "new" jobs were part-time jobs held by people still looking for full-time work. 

TSA workers at Newark face firing or suspension. This is one of those stories that generates a yawn tempered by some mild surprise. The surprise is that TSA finally got around to firing anyone. At this one airport (Newark) TSA fired 25 of its employees and suspended 19 others. That's a rather large number, don't you think? They were fired because of "improper screening of checked luggage." Let me translate this little snippet of bureaucratic speak: they were stealing items from passengers' luggage. No surprise there.

Swapping real freedom for perceived safety

Occasionally, however, I come across news items that really do surprise. How about this one:

Hunting buddies hug
Justice Kagan says Scalia is game hunting partner. In a recent interview Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, one of the most liberal members of the court, stated she was taught how to hunt birds by none other than Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the court's most conservative members. The two now plan a hunting trip to Wyoming in search of larger game. Justice Kagan said she hopes to bag an antelope. This is not a story I ever expected to read.

Vocations Boom. This is another headline one doesn't see too often these days. But it's true, and it relates to an order of Cistercian nuns near Madison, Wisconsin, the only community of Cistercian nuns in the English-speaking world. Over the past ten years this community of cloistered contemplatives has doubled in size to 20 women and they expect this growth to continue. They are building a new monastery designed to house 35 nuns. This story shouldn't have surprised me since the "boom" in religious vocations is occurring only in those orders in close communion with the Church and its magisterium. The photo below is an artist's rendering of the proposed monastery, a design based on traditional Cistercian architecture. To help defray the costs, click here.

Pope believes Christianity will rekindle in Europe. Again, this headline surprised me, although it shouldn't  have. On many occasions, and in several of his books, Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the sad state of Christianity in once-Christian Europe. And my own experience, including five trips to Europe during the past 12 years, has left me less than optimistic regarding a rekindling of Christian faith among Europeans. But Pope Benedict understands, far better than most, that ideologies always leave a void. They never fulfill. They never satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart, the desire for God. In his words, “The Gospel…is true and can therefore never wear out. In each period of history it reveals new dimensions…as it responds to the needs of the heart and mind of human beings, who can walk in this truth and so discover themselves...It is for this reason, therefore, that I am convinced there will also be a new springtime for Christianity.” We can only hope and pray he is correct. Read more here.

Joe Biden on Ash Wednesday
Bishop to Biden: No Communion in Colorado Springs Diocese. Another surprise: a bishop who teaches what the Church teaches and acts on it. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs has instructed Vice President Biden (a Catholic) not to present himself for Holy Communion in the Diocese of Colorado Springs when he campaigns in Colorado. As the bishop stated: "There must be no confusion in these matters...Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance." Read more here.

Catholic Colleges Outnumbered by Other Christian Colleges Suing HHS. This headline took me by surprise, because I truly expected more Catholic colleges to follow the University of Notre Dame's lead and join in the lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. (See my post, Who's Suing the Obama Administration?) This hasn't happened. Instead a growing number of Protestant colleges have come aboard, to the extent that these non-Catholic Christian schools now outnumber the Catholic schools involved in the lawsuits -- a bittersweet turn of events. It's good because it destroys the administration's claim that this is strictly a Catholic issue derived from the Church's so-called anti-women teachings on contraception. And not so good because it makes one wonder why so many Catholic colleges in the country have chosen to ignore this serious threat to religious freedom. Read more here.


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