Pope Francis is planning to do more than tweak the way the Vatican is organized. He’s going to make a major overhaul.
Pope Francis is planning to do more than tweak the way the Vatican is organized. He’s going to make a major overhaul.
The shut down continues.
The stock market responds to the shut down with a rumble, but basically keeps its head (so far), and people around the world are scratching their heads over the American shenanigans.
I hadn’t thought much about the response of non-Americans to all this. But for those who are wondering: We aren’t living in Mad Max land here in the USA. Our governance, and the powers that go along with it, is divided into so many pieces that it can clank along quite nicely, even if the money from Washington is cut off for a while.
In that sense, it is a misnomer to call this a “government shut down.” What it is, is a (hopefully temporary) stoppage in federal funding for select programs. I say select programs because Congress has evidently made a list of things that it will fund despite the fight.
The shutdown is entirely partisan in nature. The Ds and the Rs are fighting over who’s the boss. All the issues and rhetoric are just fluff. That’s what the fight is really about. I think it’s quite clear that the side that decided to throw down was the Rs. They initiated the fight. When they claim otherwise, that’s just spin.
The Ds, for their part, appear to be unwilling to talk with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Everybody hates everybody else, and nobody cares about much of anything outside their personal vendettas against one another.
What the Rs have in this battle is veto power. They control one house (the House of Representatives) in Congress. The Ds control the other house (the Senate) and the presidency. It takes all three of these bodies to make a legitimate law.
Legitimate laws are different from Presidential executive orders, which are end runs around the legitimate authority of Congress. Legitimate laws are also different from agency rules, which are not always, but can be, another end run around Congressional authority. These orders and rules amount to a kind of presidential fiat which, in my opinion, subverts the power of the people and turns the president into something akin to an elected dictator. For a list of President Obama’s executive orders, go here.
For instance, the First-Amendment-busting HHS Mandate is not a law. It is also not an executive order. It is an agency rule, written by an appointed committee and signed by the president. Congress has always had the power to reject this rule without even addressing the underlying Affordable Health Care Act. It simply has not — primarily because of blind partisan loyalties — had the will. It is interesting that this HHS Mandate has fed significantly into this budget crisis.
The Rs can’t pass anything into law without the support of the Democrats in the Senate and the signature of the Democratic President. The Democrats can’t pass anything into law without the support of the Rs in the House.
The Ds and the Rs both have enough clout to unilaterally stop laws from passing. Neither of them can pass a law without the other. The increasing abuse of executive orders by each subsequent president for the past several decades has shorn Congress of much of its legitimate Constitutional power. When Congress refuses to enact a law, the President often just writes an executive order and does whatever he wants, anyway.
Congress has also ceded much of its war-making powers to the president. In fact, Congress has ceded most of its power as a policy-making body to the presidency. I think the major reason for this is that members of Congress no longer act as individuals. They are entirely divided along partisan political lines, the country be damned. They have eschewed their rightful concern for the American experiment in representative democracy to promote party ideologies.
The battle of the budget is over one of the few major powers that Congress has not, in its blind party loyalties, ceded to the presidency: The power to fund government.
The Rs are using their veto power to stop the bulk of the federal budget from passing into law. But they are allowing funding for a select groups of agencies and functions. I believe this is largely determined by the political heat they feel when they don’t fund these things.
Congress has become so divided along partisan lines that it is no longer able to assert its policy making authority, except in these destructive partisan standoffs that damage both the country and the institution of Congress itself. This creates a vacuum of power that is increasingly being filled by presidential fiat.
I, for one, would support moves by Congress as a body to reassert itself and its rightful authority in the governance of this country. However, these party-loyalty bear and bull fights do not enhance Congressional powers. They make a mockery of them. Until the people we elect can see beyond party loyalties and begin to act on behalf of the needs of this country and its people, Congress is only going to grow weaker and the presidency will move further toward an elected dictator.
You can find contact information for members of Congress and the President here.
See shut down news from around the web. Keep in mind that even though one house of Congress passes a bill, it is not law until the other house passes it and the president signs it:
Will the shutdown end soon? It just might.
Is the communion burger in poor taste?
When I first saw that headline, (in which, I guess, the pun was intended) I was dumbfounded. I still don’t have a lot to say, except that we live in a post Christian world, and this is part of our new reality. Obviously, this restaurant does not care if Christians forego eating there, but I certainly hope that Christians will forego eating there.
The Real Reason for the Shutdown: They Hate Each Other
Republicans Blaming the Democrats
President Obama Blaming the Republicans
I’m going to take a couple of days off to tend to some personal concerns.
I won’t be gone long, and I already miss you.
In the meantime, keep up the excellent conversations. You are an impressive group of thinkers.
To join the discuss about What Are You Afraid Of?, or to order a copy, go here.
What Are You Afraid Of? by Dr David Jeremiah seeks to provide a workable life theology for believers who are facing the inevitable rough spots in life.
It is a fact of existence that some people skate through life without experiencing overwhelming tragedy. It is also a fact that other people suffer one tragic even after another. Another unwelcome fact is that the course of a person’s life can change from sunshine to tragedy in a moment.
You never know.
It is this not knowing that creates much of the fear we have to live with as we traverse our days. It engenders all sorts of fear in people. Dr Jeremiah focuses his book on some of the most common fears, beginning with one I’ve had some recent acquaintance with: Natural disasters.
Dr Jeremiah not only focuses on natural disasters, he uses a description of the May 20 tornado that flattened a large part of South Oklahoma City (where I live) just a few months ago. People I know are still rebuilding their homes, grieving their dead and trying to put themselves back together from this tornado.
So, why does one person skate through a disaster like this without so much as smudging their mascara and another come out of it permanently paralyzed, or facing the loss of home and loved ones? Is there a balance in the cosmos that makes this right?
I’ve read about people who respond to these things by turning their back on God. But I’ve only known one person who did this in my whole life, and he found his way back to God later. In truth, it’s the people who aren’t suffering who use the tragedies of life to make jibes at God. The ones who are in the throes of the pain are far too busy clinging to God with all they’ve got to find energy or time to denounce Him.
Dr Jeremiah retells the story of the Tower of Siloam, which fell on a group of people in Jesus’ time, killing several of them. Jesus tells his disciples that this didn’t happen to the people who were killed because they were sinful. “God makes his rain to fall on the just and unjust,” he said, which I suppose, was Jesus’ way of saying that stuff happens.
Does that mean that God is uninvolved in what happens to us?
Anyone who has ever walked with the Lord knows this is not true.
That leaves all of us with unsatisfactory answers to these things. I think this is primarily because our perspective is temporal. God sees things from outside time.
What Are You Afraid Of? is an interesting book that seeks to answer one of the deepest questions of humankind: How do we balance the innate, existential fears that are encoded into us with the certainty of God’s promises and eternal life?
I had a small discussion with one of Public Catholic’s most faithful — and interesting — readers the other day.
I had published this post calling for prayer for persecuted Christians. This particular reader said that we need to do something about this and not just pray. It made me smile when I read that because he’s right: We need to do something.
And we will.
If we pray.
Why would anyone recommend prayer in the face of this onslaught of slaughter? One reason is that the persecuted Christians themselves ask for prayer. Every time I talk to someone who lives in an area where Christians are subjected to violent persecution, I ask them how I can help them. Invariably, they ask for prayer.
You’d think they’d ask for a rocket launcher, or at least a few grenades.
I think the answer is that these people are people of faith, just like us, only they no longer carry around the burden of the accoutrements of faith that weigh us down. Every person I have ever talked to who has been through violent persecution for Christ has both a strength and a gentleness that sets them apart.
The things we think are so important have been stripped away from them as they come face to face with the question that we all wonder how we would answer: Will you die for Him?
I think that once a person looks into the reality of that question, not as a hypothetical, but as an actual life or death decision that they are making, they are changed. The fires of persecution seem to burn away the chaff of people’s lives and the ones who persist and do not yield learn what sustains in time of grave peril.
I think that is why they ask for prayer.
That is one reason to pray, because the people we want to help have asked us to pray.
Another reason is because entering into this arena of Christian persecution paints our faces on the devil’s dart board. We will be assailed and attacked, slandered and maligned for speaking out for persecuted Christians. This is the natural course of things when anyone defends God’s children. We need prayer for the strength it gives us as we do this work.
The next reason to pray is because we need direction. Not only that, but we need God to raise up Christians everywhere to fight this plague of violence. We need to pray and pray and let God work.
Prayer is the key to doing God’s will. Not that He is likely to put a burning bush that is not consumed in our paths. But that prayer keeps us in contact with grace. If we want to do something about persecuted Christians — and I hope sincerely that every one who reads this does — begin with prayer. I don’t mean one Rosary or some small bit of jingoistic something you learned as a child. I mean walking with the Lord in prayer day after day after day.
Just pray and wait. If God wants active work from you, you’ll know soon enough. If, on the other hand, He wants you to be a permanent prayer warrior, do that.
I was thrilled with what the reader said that day. Excited. Because I think he’s the kind of person who actually will do something. I do not want to stifle anyone in that. I only ask that in all the doing, we pray and wait on the Lord lead us first.
All work for God begins with prayer. That’s a truth of life in Christ as I know it.
To join the discussion about Just Married, or to order a copy go here.
Just Married, The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage is a how-to book for newlyweds.
What I mean by that is that it’s a real how-to book that provides usable, common sense, profoundly Catholic measures that married couples can take that will lead them into a holy, happy marriage that lasts all their lives.
If you think I exaggerate, read the book. The things it tells you are obvious, but you don’t see them. They’re easy, but you don’t do them. And over time the lack of this not seeing and doing can shred the fabric of your marriage.
It’s clear from the moment that you begin reading it that this is the wisdom of someone who’s actually walked the road. It is co-written by Dr Greg Popcak and his wife, Lisa. The two of them together provide candid cameos into their marital life at its different phases. They talk frankly about the things they had to do and learn to have a happy, long-lasting marriage.
Even though Dr Popcak is a professional psychologist, the book is not a psycho-babble world salad. It gives advice that is simple, direct and do-able. The first thing Greg and Lisa advise is the obvious one I was referring to earlier. They tell newly married couples to make a time of daily prayer together a fixture in their lives.
I say that’s obvious because telling a devout Catholic couple to pray should be as redundant as telling a fish to swim. But in truth, even private prayer gets lost in the busyness of daily life and it’s more difficult to make time for praying together.
The book leads readers through the various stages of early marriage and teaches a bit of what to expect and how to handle each one. My one word of advice on this is don’t be surprised if you and your spouse are a bit different from the stages in the book. I’ve been married 30 years, and I don’t remember going through these stages with my husband. However, I do remember some — not all — of the flash points. We’re all individuals and newly married couples should know that their marriage will be an expression of who they are and no one else.
I think the best component in the book is the emphasis it places on giving newly married couples the tools to communicate with one another even, or perhaps most especially, when they are arguing. It also gives guidance about how to learn to understand your spouse and his or her unique ways of doing things so that you can learn to accommodate one another and grow closer. The Popcaks wisely tell readers that changing yourself to accommodate your differences with your spouse will lead you into deep personal growth.
That is so true. But it’s something you can’t know at the beginning of a marriage. That growth you experience takes time to develop.
I think that Just Married would be a great book to give young people when they are engaged and actively planning their lives together as a married couple. If they read it and learn from it before they take their vows and begin their married life, its clear and practical advice will save them many pitfalls.
Pope Francis appointed a select committee of eight cardinals from around the world shortly after his election last spring. These eight cardinals, all of them Vatican outsiders, were charged with making suggestions for the reform of the Roman Curia.
Their first meeting is today.
From The Guardian: