Thursday, July 31, 2014

Solidarity with Iraqi Christians THIS Saturday in San Francisco

On Saturday, August 2, at 10AM in Justin Herman Plaza, Bay Area residents will join people around the world in demonstrations of solidarity with the suffering Christians in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians have been given an ultimatum by the ISIS terrorists: convert to Islam, leave Iraq, or die. (They had originally been “offered” the alternative of paying the jizya, a tax levied on non-Muslims, but that was later withdrawn.). Many are fleeing the place that has been there home for 2000 years. Men are being killed, women raped, churches far older than the United States are being destroyed. Last Saturday, ISIS blew up the Church of the Virgin Mary in Mosul:

They have also destroyed the tomb of the prophet Jonah, and even blown up mosques belonging to members of the Shia sect of Islam, with whom they disagree.  The U.S. Bishop have urged our government to take action to help our brothers and sisters in Christ: 

“The Islamic State has taken control of large swaths of territory in northern Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction, burning and looting ancient churches and mosques, homes and businesses...Thousands have fled with little more than the clothes on their backs, often being robbed of their few personal possessions as they ran.” -Bishop Richard E. Pates, the U.S. bishops’ chairman of International Justice and Peace, letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, July 25.

The worldwide protest includes London, New York, Los Angeles, Australia, many places. In San Francisco, the demonstration of solidarity will take place at 10AM, this Saturday, August 2, at Justin Herman Plaza. —here is our chance to show our support. Details may be found here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Planned Parenthood 'waging a less-than-truthful PR campaign''

An edited version of this article appears in today's California Catholic Daily.

'A less-than-truthful PR campaign’
SF’s Planned Parenthood claims ‘harassment’—but where’s the evidence?

On Sunday July 27, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on complaints from the proprietors of San Francisco’s largest abortion business. The Chronicle’s article “Planned Parenthood gripes about S.F. Protestors” covered the latest fallout from the Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley ruling, which defended the First Amendment rights of pro-life activists. The article began:

“Planned Parenthood executives say San Francisco police and the city attorney aren't doing enough to protect patients and staff from ‘harassment and intimidation’ at the organization's health center on Valencia Street.

‘Each week, as the harassment and intimidation escalate ... the city's ordinances are violated ever more flagrantly,’ Planned Parenthood's Bay Area chapter leader, Heather Saunders Estes, wrote in a July 22 letter to City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

And when center staffers call police, they are told that ‘there is nothing they can do,’ Saunders Estes wrote.

The latest protest rift was brought on by last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Massachusetts' 35-foot no-protest zone around clinics.

The protesters now ignore San Francisco's 25-foot buffer zone as they pass out literature, and film staffers and patients entering the building, clinic reps complain.

While other California cities ‘have come out in strong defense of their ordinances,’ Saunders Estes told Herrera, ‘your office continues to dither.’

In response, Herrera said his office shares ‘some of the understandable bitterness and disappointment’ over the Supreme Court ruling and is working with legal experts elsewhere to figure out how to respond.

The real fear, according to insiders, is that defending San Francisco's 25-foot zone could invite a suit by antiabortion activists - which could leave the city on the hook for big legal expenses if they win.”

The Chronicle also reported that San Francisco’s Supervisor David Campos is weighing in. Campos made national news in January on another free speech issue: he introduced a resolution officially opposing banners carrying the “Abortion Hurts Women” message of the Walk for Life West Coast. The banners were hung along the City’s Market Street in preparation for the Walk. Although Campos’ resolution passed—a foregone conclusion with the SF Board of Supervisors-- it was opposed by editorials in both the liberal San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco’s ABC affiliate, KGO TV.

The Chronicle reported that “Supervisor and Assembly candidate David Campos - who showed up at the clinic Thursday to see the situation firsthand - said police are awaiting a city ‘policy decision on how to proceed.’

‘I hope we stick as close to the (existing) ordinance as possible, because I think the only way to protect women's access to the clinic is to continue to enforce a buffer zone," Campos said. ‘Even if there are legal risks involved.’ ”

An obvious point was made in the comments section to the article: that if harassment really was occurring, it would not be difficult to prove. One commenter wrote: “Get the cameras rolling. As soon as one of them commits obvious battery, show it to the da/cops. If they STILL drag ass, make a citizens arrest.”

To which another commenter responded: “Trust me, they are. The cameras are rolling constantly, by both sides, at abortion clinics. The fact that you aren't seeing damning videos posted, by either side, shows that whoever is crying to the press is waging a less-than-truthful PR campaign.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Archbishop Cordileone: "At the heart of marriage is the spiritual-sexual relationship between husband and wife"


The following is an excerpt from His Excellency's speech given at the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, in Hanceville Alabama, July 8-11, 2014.

You can listen to his full speech here.

Marriage as the Key to the New Evangelization 

The virtue of chastity is absolutely necessary for persevering in any vocation, no matter what your vocation may be, because it is necessary in order to arrive at true love, in which one makes a gift of oneself to the other, and so attains the true happiness that God created us for; this is living the way God designed it to work.

For married couples, this is lived out by the spirituality of responsible parenthood, the complete, unreserved gift of each one to the other, in conformity to God's design for marriage, all the way to the most intimate dimension of the marital relationship. The point of all this, though, is not only for the good of the couple themselves; it goes far beyond that.

How does an individual grow into a person capable of this great of love? The obvious answer, as challenging as it is in the times in which we're living, is chastity. Today's world sees this as a negative, as a deprivation, as a suppression of the sexual appetite. Chastity, though, essentially means living according to the personalistic norm in our relationships.

If you think about it, the formula is quite simple and clear: healthy societies are built on healthy, united families; healthy, united families are based on healthy, happy, harmonious marriages; and at the heart of marriage is the spiritual-sexual relationship between husband and wife. It all really comes down to that. The whole point is the plan of God for our happiness: it is clear that in the plan of God marriage is meant to be a faithful, fruitful, life-long union between a man and a woman.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dutch euthanasia supporter now says he "was ‘wrong – terribly wrong, in fact’"

Gee, who could have foreseen this?

From the Daily Mail:

"Don't make our mistake"

"A former euthanasia supporter warned of a surge in deaths if Parliament allowed doctors to give deadly drugs to their patients.

‘Don’t do it Britain,’ said Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases. ‘Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again.’

His native Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, has seen deaths double in just six years and this year’s total may reach a record 6,000.

Professor Boer’s intervention comes as peers prepare to debate the Assisted Dying Bill, promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor. 
The bill, which has its second reading next week, would allow doctors to prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.

Professor Boer, who is an academic in the field of ethics, had argued seven years ago that a ‘good euthanasia law’ would produce relatively low numbers of deaths....But, speaking in a personal capacity yesterday, he said he now believed that the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure...

Euthanasia is now becoming so prevalent in the Netherlands, Professor Boer said, that it is ‘on the way to becoming a default mode of dying for cancer patients’. He said assisted deaths have increased by about 15 per cent every year since 2008 and the number could hit a record 6,000 this year.

Professor Boer admitted he was ‘wrong – terribly wrong, in fact’ to have believed regulated euthanasia would work. ‘I used to be a supporter of the Dutch law. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a very different view.

(In about 12 years I expect to see supporters of counterfeit "marriage" saying the same thing.)

Whereas in the first years after 2002 hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise.

‘Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved.

‘Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients’ – or in some cases relatives’ – wishes can be intense.

‘Pressure from relatives, in combination with a patient’s concern for their wellbeing, is in some cases an important factor behind a euthanasia request. Not even the review committees, despite hard and conscientious work, have been able to halt these developments.’

The latest euthanasia figures for the Netherlands show that nearly one in seven deaths are at the hands of doctors.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hobby Lobby's "Landmark victory for freedom" clarifies sides in Culture War

More positive fallout from the Hobby Lobby ruling are being noticed. Dennis Saffran, writing at City Journal calls it "a landmark victory for freedom" and notes that it may be used to defend "creative professionals" (read: bakers and photographers who do not want to be forced into supporting counterfeit "marriages").

Saffran writes:

"In sum, the immediate impact of Hobby Lobby—providing a religious accommodation to a handful of covered employers who object to a handful of covered contraceptives—will almost certainly be negligible. No hands will 'reach into a woman’s body,' and no one will be denied their free IUDs. Yet the decision may nonetheless prove a landmark victory for freedom, especially if it helps bring an end to other coercive efforts, such as the cases involving the creative professionals. At the least, Hobby Lobby carves out space for objections to modern political orthodoxy, thus infusing real meaning into the progressive mantras of 'tolerance' and 'diversity.'” 

Saffran seems to be correct--or at least some people are acting as if he is.

Yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle reported:

Alarmed by Hobby Lobby, LGBT groups dump job-rights bill

"Several leading gay advocacy groups said Tuesday they are abandoning the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly known as ENDA, following the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision last week."

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are moving to pass a bill that would reverse the Supreme Court's ruling, according to Talking Points Memo:

The legislation will be sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO). According to a summary reviewed by TPM, it prohibits employers from refusing to provide health services, including contraception, to their employees if required by federal law. It clarifies that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the basis for the Supreme Court's ruling against the mandate, and all other federal laws don't permit businesses to opt out of the Obamacare requirement.

The legislation also puts the kibosh on legal challenges by religious nonprofits, like Wheaton College, instead declaring that the accommodation they're provided under the law is sufficient to respect their religious liberties. (It lets them pass the cost on to the insurer or third party administrator if they object.) Houses of worship are exempt from the mandate."

Catholics who support the Democratic Party face an irreconcilable conflict between being Catholic or a member of that party. In my opinion, that's been the case for a long time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Growing state absolutism" leaves "no room for the moral authority of the Church"

The great James Kalb nails it, over at Catholic World Report:

"Carrying on the Battle"

To deal with the current situation we must abandon comfort, mediocrity, and the habit of blurring our views on fundamental issues 

"The issues that now put Catholics in opposition to secular public thought are too basic to ignore. The Church accepts God as our reference point, and views freedom to develop our relation to Him and act by reference to it as basic to our good and our dignity. In contrast, secular society has made our own outlook and desires our reference point. Those things make us what we are, or so it is thought, and freedom to follow them is considered the key to a good and dignified life.

That opposition leads to views of morality and justice in which drastically different claims and authorities carry weight. The Church values conscience, and accepts 'this is right'—in general, this expresses the moral nature of a world that after all is God’s creation—as a claim that normally overrides other considerations. Today’s secular world values individual autonomy instead, and prefers the authority of claims such as 'I want this' or 'this is part of my identity as I define it.'

The contradiction is sharpened by conflicts in institutional loyalty. The Church accepts its hierarchy as the authority that defines, protects, and furthers the most fundamental human concerns. Secular society rejects that authority in favor of that of the state, with its courts, constitutional law, experts on human rights, and system of education and social welfare. At one time it was possible to reconcile the two by saying that they dealt with different matters, the Church hierarchy with fundamental spiritual and moral principles and the state with worldly practicalities and standards of conduct generally accepted as a matter of vernacular natural law (otherwise known as common sense).

That view no longer works because of growing state absolutism resulting from the decline of transcendent religion and the sense of a natural moral order. All social institutions, including the family, are now viewed as state creations, so that determining what they should be in light of ultimate values such as equality and personal autonomy is considered a basic function of government. On such an understanding there is no room for the moral authority of the Church...."

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Everyone has to undergo his own exodus"

From Pope Benedict:

"When it comes down to it, everyone has to undergo his own exodus.  He not only has to leave the place that nurtured him and become independent, but has to come out of his own reserved self.  He must leave himself behind, transcend his own limits; only then will he reach the Promised Land, so to speak — the sphere of freedom, in which he plays his part in creation.

We have come to recognize this fundamental law of transcendence as being the essence of love..."

Pope Benedict XVI. "Transcendence vs. Isolation." from God and the World: Believing and Living in Our Time (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2002).

Posted on Catholic Education Resource Center.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yuval Levin on the Hobby Lobby Case

Lots of commentary is being written on yesterday's Hobby Lobby ruling. The learned and always interesting Yuval Levin, writing at National Review, places part of the decision in a context he has written about before: how religious tolerance developed in this country and how it applies to institutions (not just individuals). This, of course, ties in to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which is in complete opposition to the totalitarianism implicit (& explicit) in today's Democratic Party. 

Here's a long excerpt from today's column (emphases added):

"The element of the Court’s decision that most perturbed many liberals—the suggestion that corporations could effectively be bearers of rights—was actually the least controversial question among the justices themselves. Only two of the nine justices, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, argued that for-profit corporations could not be considered legal persons capable of exercising religion for purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The other two liberal justices, Breyer and Kagan, declined to join that part of the dissent written by Justice Ginsburg (though they articulated no view of their own on the question), and the remaining five justices affirmed the view that rights could indeed be mediated, and so in effect put into practice, through and by for-profit corporations. .

In one sense, this is a rather obvious point. As Justice Alito argued forcefully in his majority opinion, there is no reason why people should be expected to give up their basic rights when they incorporate a business. And Justice Ginsburg’s attempt to distinguish between profit-seeking and non-profit corporations on this front, made necessary by the fact that the administration did recognize the religious-liberty claims of some corporations and not others in this case, was the very model of a muddle. (It wasn’t as disturbing as her shockingly thin idea of what constitutes religious practice, though, and of what religious institutions are for.)

But in another sense, the standing of institutions, as opposed to individuals, as bearers of rights in our civil society is a complex and much-contested question, and a very important one. This is particularly so with regard to the exercise of religion, where we are the inheritors of a long tradition—the English common-law tradition of religious toleration—that has a very mixed record when it comes to protecting institutions rather than individuals.

I’ve taken up this question a couple of times around here in recent years, but to put matters very (very) simply, that tradition was born of efforts to find a way to provide protection for Jews and protestant dissenters in a nation with an established church but specifically not to provide much protection for Catholics. It did this in large part by distinguishing between individuals and institutions. Catholicism is an exceptionally institutional religion, with massive charitable and educational arms that are Catholic but are not houses of worship and that not only employ but also serve non-Catholics. Such arms are much more rare in other religious traditions, and used to be even more so. This distinction therefore in effect once allowed for broad toleration of just about all religious minorities in Britain except Catholics. It was supported by a line of reasoning evident over centuries, and given expression even in John Locke’s great Letter Concerning Toleration, which is one of the foundational documents of the intellectual tradition of liberal toleration.

The American offshoot of this tradition of toleration has tended to think a little differently about this question, above all because we have not had an established church in the United States. We have tended to take the absence of an Anglican monopoly on legitimate religiously-rooted social institutions to mean not that there could be no such institutions at all but rather that different communities of faith could build out different institutional forms and stake out for themselves a variety of roles in civil society and the private sphere. This has meant seeing some groups of people working together, and not just individuals alone, as protected by the various forms of the right of conscience and accepting as legitimate the idea that groups of people, as well as individuals, should whenever possible be protected from forms of coercion or restraint that violate their religious beliefs. And the extension of this attitude to corporations owned and run by people with religious convictions and in the service of those convictions has been perfectly natural.

The Obama administration has been pushing up against this American form of the tradition of religious toleration (which, being Americans, we tend to call “religious liberty”) in an effort to establish a public monopoly on the aims of social action. American progressivism has always wanted to clear out the space between the individual and the state and to confer rights only on individuals, rather than encouraging people to form complex layers of interacting institutions with diverse views of the good that each pursues with vigor and conviction. The HHS mandate, like so much of the administration’s domestic agenda, is intended to turn the institutions in that space, including private corporations, into arms of the government, carrying out the will of those in power."