When Is Military Spending ENDANGERING America: Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial Complex Speech, 1961

A commenter in The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America? referred to President Dwight Eisenhower’s military industrial complex speech. Here is the full text of the speech. I had never read it completely through before tonight. I think it was prescient. We owe this old warrior a great deal, not the least of which is what we owe him for the honesty and love of his country exhibited by this speech.

 

Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

 


Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040

My fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

II.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

III.

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology — global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle — with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research — these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs — balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage — balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.

IV.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present

  • and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

V.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

VI.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war — as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years — I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

VII.

So — in this my last good night to you as your President — I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I — my fellow citizens — need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation’s great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

The Debate: When Does Military Spending ENDANGER America?

Is President Obama going to unilaterally take this country to war in Syria against the wishes of the American people and without the support of our greatest ally, Great Britain?

Before I write about the situation today, I’m going to do a little re-wind and take us back to late October, 2012, and the presidential campaign debates. If you will remember, Governor Romney (the Republican nominee) was all agog about going to war with Iran. It didn’t take much of a seer to know that if he won the election, he was going to lead us into a war with them.

I think that was one reason why he lost that election.

Slowly, and painfully, the American people are beginning to get wise to the fact that these wars aren’t for us and for our protection. The reason why papa’s always gotta have a new war is to feed the demand for profits from those who make money off war.

I wrote this post back then, and I’m going re-post it and one other today to give you something to chew on before we dive into talking about Syria and why we’re being told that young Americans need to die there.

American military cemetery Omaha Beach.

The first presidential election I actually remember in any detail was between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

During that election, then Senator Kennedy complained about a missile gap that America needed to fill with more military spending.

In every presidential election since then, there has been one reliable “issue.” Both candidates say we need to spend more money on the military. It was a little different last night, in that President Obama was talking about not raising the spending so fast while Governor Romney chided him for this. Obama’s defense? Military spending had gone up every year of his presidency. That was the brag.

The reason is always the same. We are told that we need to spend, spend, spend on ships, planes, bombs and guns (never, notice our troops) to “keep America safe.”

We have reached a point where military spending on top the table comes to over 50% of our budget. And that’s just the money we know about. A lot of military spending is under the table and off the record. How much of our treasure are we really putting into the military? No one knows.

Let me repeat that: No one knows.

This nation has been at war economically since Pearl Harbor in 1941. What I mean by that is that we have been maintaining a wartime military capable of defending us in an all-out world war on multiple fronts against massive enemies for 70 years. Not only that, but we have set ourselves up as the guardians of the world. Our many military bases around the world are a critical part of the economies of a large number of countries. We are draining our economy and sustaining their economy to maintain a vast network of military bases and installations all over the globe.

Is it any accident that we have also found reasons to actually be at war for most of the past 70 years?

Look back in history at the effects that decades of war has on the economies of the nations who engage in it. Consider the 100 years war and what it did. So far as economics are concerned, America has been in a 70-year war, so that’s not an outrageous analogy.

My question: What are the dangers to the people of America if we continue to blindly believe that we have to keep on increasing our military budget year after year, election after election, into perpetuity? Where is this kind of thinking leading us?

I would like to offer you a few thoughts on that matter. These are not absolutes. They are just thoughts. But I do think we need to at least start a conversation about these things. We are Americans. This is our government, and since it is a democracy, we have a responsibility engage in the questions government raises. We are tasked with thinking things through rather than just blindly accepting the rhetoric of political candidates and pundits.

1. Would we have invaded Iraq if we had a universal draft? When we went to war in World War II, President Roosevelt had sons in uniform. Wealthy and powerful men like Joseph Kennedy had one son who was killed in combat and another who was permanently disabled as a result of injuries from combat. Who does our fighting now? My kids. Your kids. The people who are making money from these wars are totally disconnected from the cost in terms of human life and suffering that our children pay for their profits.

This began in Viet Nam. I came from a poor school. It seemed for a while that all I did was go to the funerals of my friends who a few months before had been driving their cars down the strip every night and now were soldiers killed in action. I didn’t realize at first that this was not happening at the wealthier schools. No one was dying who went to those schools. No one was even serving in the military at all. And this was a time when we did have a draft. But it had become corrupt. If you had money, you could get out of it.

A few years ago, I was at a meeting about how to help the kids in my district. It was convened by then Father, now Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock. People from many walks of life were there. One of them was a recruiter for one of the military services. He said to the kids who were at the meeting, “Would you rather join the military and go to Iraq and die a death with honor, or die on the streets here with no honor?”

What he said resonated with these kids. They saw it as true.

Is that the America we want? Is the new American dream a dream where the “opportunity” we offer a large segment of our population is a choice between death with dishonor on our streets or a death with “honor” in an unnecessary war that was started under false pretenses?

2. How can we spend so much on “defense” and still not provide adequate care for our troops? Our soldiers tell me they don’t have adequate equipment in the field, such as body armor, that many of the sophisticated weapons they are given malfunction in actual combat conditions with dust, rain, heat and cold. They fight one war over there and come home to fight another war for treatment for their injuries here. How can we spend so much money and not take care of our troops?

3. Does “privatizing” military services amount to graft and corruption; to giving contracts to your pals so they can make even bigger bucks off our wars? I know what my answer to this will be. I believe emphatically that this is what is happening.

4. How can we balance the budget if we won’t even talk about cutting in the area where we’re spending over half of our money? How much are we willing to impoverish the American people to finance our military? When does the money we’re spending on it start doing us more harm than good?

5. Does all this vast expenditure of our capital on war making actually keep us safe, or does it endanger our economic survival while keeping us at war with somebody all the time? The young people I represent are fighting our wars. They are not getting rich. But somebody is making money beyond the dreams of avarice out of their service.

I am not advocating that we disarm. I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense, both for individuals and nations. But I do not want to see my sons killed and my country bankrupted for wars of empire that serve to advance the interests of multi-national corporations.

That is not self-defense. It doesn’t keep my country safe. It endangers us all.

I haven’t discussed the moral issues involved in all this. But they are some of the most important and least discussed of any moral issues facing this nation.

Last night’s debate was predictable in that no one talked about or was even asked if being economically in a world war for 70 straight years might be harming our economy. No one suggested that wars which are fought by kids from the poor neighborhoods while everyone else sits home safe, fed and fat are not democratic wars. I didn’t hear a peep about the graft and corruption involved in military contracts.

Not one word.

All I heard was the usual electioneering blather about who was spending the most to “keep America safe.” Maybe it’s time we at least asked other questions that demand different answers.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 5. Women’s Health = Slogan Voting

I am a Jesus-loving, Catechism-following, pro-life feminist. 

It appears that by simply being my own contrary self, I have done something most people regard as impossible. I have brought the polar opposites of our cultural divide together.

The polar righties see pro-life feminists in much the same way bumper stickers describe pro-choice Catholics: as Vegans for Meat. The polar lefties agree with them. To polar lefties, feminism is abortion. In their myopic view, abortion equals human rights for women in an exact and all-encompassing equation that admits no exceptions.

I am a feminist, and I am pro-life. I believe what my Church teaches. I love God and Jesus and I have yet to find anything in that which requires me to hate myself because I was born female.

It would follow that I must, by definition, be in favor of “Women’s Health.” What kind of feminist would not favor women’s health? In fact, what kind of Christian would oppose women’s health?

The truth is, I do favor women’s health care. It took me two years to pass a bill requiring insurance companies to cover pap smears for women. I spent five years passing another bill to make it a crime to beat up a pregnant woman. I got yelled at by members of both parties for advocating prenatal care for illegal immigrants.

I could go on. And on.

However, none of these things qualifies as “Women’s Health” according to those who have taken this noble concern and co-opted it for their own purposes. I believe their misuse of the term is deliberate.

It took decades for “I Vote Pro Life” to become just another way for party power brokers to encourage blind allegiance to a political party, even when that party killed pro-life legislation. Most pro-life people side-stepped into it because they felt morally blackmailed; unable to see any alternative. I think that the people who push for “Women’s Health” knew what they were doing from the get-go and actively chose it.

“Women’s Health,” as they use the phrase, never meant women’s health. It never pretended except in the most obvious we-don’t-care-if-you-see-what-we’re-doing way to be anything more than what it is: A synonym for abortion on demand and a funding slogan for Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood has become one of the most avaricious of the big-money Welfare Queens. Any attempt to reduce funding for Planned Parenthood is met with wild and inaccurate claims that these moves are, in fact, an attack on women and “Women’s Health.”

This article from Huffington Post is an example. It describes a vote in the United States House of Representatives to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Rhetoric similar to this is routinely used against those who try to de-fund Planned Parenthood. It says in part:

House Republicans voted on Friday to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, cutting money for contraceptives, HIV tests, cancer screenings and reproductive health services as part of an attempt to weaken the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood does not currently spend federal money on abortion services.

… In a statement, Planned Parenthood called the amendment “radically out of step with mainstream American values” and called on the Senate to restore their subsidies “Ensuring that millions of women can obtain health care from their trusted provider … (emphasis added)

I will write other posts talking about whether or not I think the claims concerning Planned Parenthood’s services are accurate. The point here is that the article equates government funding for Planned Parenthood with preserving “Women’s Health,” and that it implies that the only possible way that the government can make contraception, cancer screening and HIV tests available to the public is by funding Planned Parenthood. I believe that both these claims are untrue on their face.

“Women’s Health” as a slogan rather than a concern for actual women’s health took a major step forward with the Affordable Health Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) and the HHS Mandate attacking religious freedom that came from it.

In my opinion, the Affordable Health Care Act could be re-named the Planned Parenthood Government Dole Act. The only flaw in that name is that the word dole brings to mind the caricature of a welfare recipient; someone living in government housing, watching tv all day and eating junk food. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, is a powerful organization whose board members are usually drawn from among the most wealthy and powerful members of our communities. The “dole” that it’s on amounts to 100s of millions of dollars, all flowing into coffers that are linked to abortion on demand.

The Affordable Health Care Act provides funding for Planned Parenthood in many ways. One of the most lucrative for the organization will almost certainly be the provision for grants of government monies to “health care providers,” including grants for health care education. I believe it is inevitable that this will funnel hundreds of millions of tax-payer dollars into Planned Parenthood coffers. This greed for more and more government money on the part of Planned Parenthood appears to be one of the driving forces behind the HHS Mandate.

Many people do not understand that the HHS Mandate which attacks our religious freedom in this country is not a law. It was not passed by any legislative body. I do not believe that a majority of elected officials in any legislative body in this country could have been persuaded to vote for this mandate.

The HHS Mandate is an agency rule which was promulgated by the members of a committee of the Health and Human Services Department. The members of this committee were appointed, not elected, and as such were not answerable to the people of this country. Many of the members of the Health and Human Services committee that gave us the HHS Mandate are supporters of Planned Parenthood. It is, as most things in politics ultimately are, about money.

If this mandate succeeds in forcing the Catholic Church to close its hospitals, universities and social welfare clinics, that will inevitably lead to a huge rise in “need” for money-hungry organizations to target and then demand funds for. It is standard practice for corporate welfare queens to go to legislative bodies and demand “reforms” that will force their small business competitors to shut down. I view this mandate as something akin to that. The only snag in the plan is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

As usual, the organizations and the politicians who are backing the HHS Mandate claim that all they care about is “women’s health.” How shutting down hospitals, forcing the closure of many of our finest institutions of higher learning and closing the doors to social welfare agencies who aid women will accomplish this, they do not say. After all, in their narrow lexicon, “Women’s Health” is Planned Parenthood, and little else.

Planned Parenthood and their allies in the media and politics have so warped the issue of women’s health that they have cast the debate entirely around what is good for Planned Parenthood. Anything that is deemed bad for Planned Parenthood is immediately characterized as an “attack on Women’s Health.” In fact, in the current presidential election, this has been broadened to mean that anything that is bad for Planned Parenthood or that even disagrees with one of their objectives, is part of a “War on Women.”

I am not a Republican. I emphatically do not agree with the way that the Republican Party has sold out to corporate interests. In fact, I think Republican corporatism is a danger to our Republic. But I think the so-called “War on Women” is a bogus accusation. I am starting my 17th year as a pro-woman legislator and I can tell you that both parties are indifferent to women’s concerns. However, if anybody is waging war on women, it’s the group of people who have decided that anything that is done to women in the name of funding for Planned Parenthood and the preservation of the “right to choose” is, in fact, “women’s rights.”

When you have people who claim that they own the whole question of “women’s health” but who don’t report sexual abuse and rape of minor children or human trafficking, you know you are dealing with a callous and deliberate lie. When you see people who won’t “judge” attempts to buy an abortion to kill a baby simply because she is a girl, then saying that anyone who wants to reduce their government funding is “waging war on women,” you should be able to see that the real issue is not women and their well-being but government money.

I know that there are good people who support “the right to chose” out of a humanitarian concern for the welfare of women. I believe that many of the issues they raise, such as the horror of rape, legal discriminations against pregnant women, and the health and security of children in our society are actually well-taken. Where I disagree with them is in their assumption that abortion is the best, and maybe even the only, solution for these problems. The answer to legal and social discrimination and violence against women is NOT to give women the right to kill their own child. The answer is to address those problems as the evils that they are and do something about them.

However, an approach like that would also shine the light of reality on the argument that organizations that make huge amounts of money from abortion are in fact the guardians of “Women’s Health.”

The truth of the matter is that Planned Parenthood has become the sole voice for “Women’s Rights” within the Democratic Party, despite the fact that it was never a women’s rights organization. From its founding to the present day, Planned Parenthood has focused on issues of population control to the exclusion of what is in the best interests of women.

While the ability to limit family size clearly can benefit women, Planned Parenthood has focused on methods of contraception that are often dangerous or, in the case of abortion, dehumanizing to women. Dangerous birth control includes drastic chemical interventions in women’s normal body processes such as depo provera, dangerous contraceptive devices such as IUDs and the mass marketing of large-dose hormone interventions such as the so-called morning after pill.

Here in Oklahoma, some of the most vociferous supporters of Planned Parenthood’s so-called “Women’s Health” are former Planned Parenthood board members who also engage in making money by farming women’s bodies for eggs. The fact that these are prominent people is, in my opinion, why the Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma has played a large part in killing pro-life legislation in the Republican-held legislature.

Real women’s health issues are subverted and essentially buried in a focus on funding things that can destroy a woman’s reproductive health in real life. I have a cousin (now deceased) who suffered repeated blood clots as a result of taking birth control pills. I have personally talked to women who forfeited their own fertility to egg harvesters, and I know women whose menstrual periods ceased and did not re-start after taking depo provera.

Where in any of this is women’s health? And why is the government required to spend hundreds of millions of dollars funding a single organization in order to provide for “Women’s Health?”

I think one of the reasons why is that if they don’t, they will be accused of waging “war” on half the electorate.

I am a feminist. But I believe that “Women’s Health” as it is being used in today’s electioneering is nothing more than slogan-voting. As slogan-voting, it not only doesn’t make women healthier, it endangers their welfare.

The equation is:

Women’s Health = Slogan Voting

 

 

Do Pro Abortion Catholics Lack Essential Integrity?

It represents a lack of integrity for a public official to expect others to accept the premise: “What I do publicly contradicts who I say I am religiously, but that doesn’t make any difference.” 

 Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greenburg Pennsylvania, issued a pastoral letter recently in which he raised an important issue about Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Aside from the question of whether or not these politicians should take communion, (he thinks they shouldn’t) he raises the a more fundamental question, at least for non-Catholic voters, which is Can we trust them?

His reasoning here is simple. If someone will play false with something as basic as their faith, how can we believe them about anything else?

It’s an interesting question. The point of this question is not whether or not they are pro abortion. It’s also not whether they are Catholic. It’s their stubborn insistence that they are Catholics in full communion with the Church when even a cursory reading of the Catechism would tell them that they are not. The point is the arrogance and the lie.

What line of reasoning leads people to this? Cradle Catholics are among the most devout people I know. However it’s been my experience that converts are far less likely to be pro abortion Catholics than those who were born and raised in the faith.

This makes sense. After all, converts chose the Catholic faith, usually after a period of discernment and education about what it means to be Catholic. Most cradle Catholics have a good understanding of their faith as well, but it’s easier than it would be for a convert for some of them to just fall into their Catholicism without understanding or choosing it actively.

I wonder if there is something in that which predisposes them to this kind of wrong-headed view of their faith. How do they manage to see themselves as wholly and fully Catholic, even while they ignore the teaching authority of the Church on an issue like the sanctity of human life?

I have a theory that, in some way that makes sense to them, they see being Catholic as more genetic than religious.

I know quite a few Jewish people who feel this way about their Jewishness. I know Jewish people who have never been to Temple in all the decades I’ve known them and who have even less knowledge of their faith than I do, yet they are confident that they are, in fact, Jews.

I wonder if these pro abortion Catholic politicians see themselves the same way. If they do, I think they are basing their belief on a mistaken assumption about what it means to be Catholic, or Christian of any denomination. Christianity is not a genetic faith.

I believe that true Christianity always involves an active assent, a personal “yes” to God. It is that essential “yes” that we give voluntarily and from our hearts that shapes our faith and our subsequent actions.

Somewhere, in all the haze of being cradle Catholic and the many pressures to conform their faith to their politics, these politicians have lost that understanding of their faith. Rather than seeing it as a core commitment which will determine their values and actions, they see it as a social obligation which requires that they show up for mass and answer the responses. They are cultural Catholics rather than religious Catholics.

It appears that their understanding of themselves as individual human persons who must stand before God alone one day and account for what they did with their time in this life is lost to them.

They seem to have slipped right past that and into a sort of corporate we’re-catholic-as-a-group-and-that’s-all-the-fidelity-we-must-live view of their Catholicism. Instead of becoming part of a body of believers, they see themselves as part of an ethnic designation. Instead of a Community of Faith, they have defined their church as a consortium of adherents.

Whether it happened because of political accommodation or daffy religious formation, these people have lost the meaning of faith, and with it the meaning and the charge of what it is to be Catholic.

Bishop Brandt asks us if we can trust such people, not just with abortion, but with anything. I think this is a question we should consider carefully as we approach next week’s election.

Here is what he said on this matter:

“Any individual who says he can advocate for and enable the practice of abortion and claims that he can still be a Catholic in good standing, has a very serious problem with integrity which any community can ignore only at its own peril.”

Politicians who live in such a disintegrated way are a matter of concern not only to Catholics, but to “society itself,” Bishop Brandt said.

“It is a cause of very serious concern for all the citizenry about a matter of integrity. It is a very serious concern about placing public trust in a person who has demonstrated public misrepresentation.” (Read more here.)

Fiscal Cliff: Obama wants more than just taxes on rich folks …

Are we heading for a future where the only non-profits will be those with government blessing and government funding?

A move by the Obama administration to limit tax deductions for charitable donations could lead this country in exactly that direction. The administration has made this part of the package it is bargaining for in the so-called “fiscal cliff” imbroglio.

A December 13 Washington Post article discusses the lobbying efforts concerning the move to cut charitable deductions to non-profits. It says in part:

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.

In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.

In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.

But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.

“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”
(Read more here.)

If the government cuts off deductions for charitable giving, where will that leave the many non-profits out there? Where, especially will it leave those non-profits who have the temerity to oppose the ruling powers in government?

I think it will leave them in a position where they either have to go to the government itself for additional funding, or curtail their activities. This, of course, would mean that those non-profits which please government leaders, particularly politicians, would become powerful and that their relationship with these politicians would tend toward a kind of political/social/financial incest.

Those non-profits with the temerity to oppose these powerful people would see their influence wither and weaken. NGOs have been the voice of conscience in far too many situations around the world for moves to constrict their funding to be a benign act.

That is where I think the administration’s ploy to reduce charitable tax-exemptions by the wealthy is heading. I’ve been hearing behind-the-scenes rumbling about plans to bring non-profits under the government heel for over a year now. This move makes me think that they are more than rumblings.

By linking the idea of reducing deductions for non-profit donations with the very popular idea of having the wealthy pay more of their fair share of the cost of government, the Obama administration has been able to slip this by the public with very little attention.

That’s great news for Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood seems to have the President’s unwavering commitment. The Affordable Health Care Act is a plenteous bounty for Planned Parenthood. The administration has been willing to go to the wall in moves to attack organizations that Planned Parenthood regards as enemies. It’s even gone so far as to take on the First Amendment to attack the Catholic Church.

Based on all that, I’m not inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt about this move to limit deductions for charitable donations. I think, given recent history in these matters, that would be almost childishly foolish.

 

Finding Normal

It’s still Advent.

Christmas is right around the corner.

We have to pull ourselves out of the grief cycle and find normal again. This isn’t easy. It’s never easy. But after a season of repeated tragedies layered on top of a tumultuous political campaign, it’s even harder.

Finding normal is the work in front of us.

Advent is a holy season of self-examination and repentance. Those activities seem especially fitting in this week after Sandy Hook. We need to use these days of prayer to draw closer to our God and seek His comfort and His direction.

At the same time, we have the work of preparing for Christmas. We have presents to wrap, food to buy and houses to clean. If we have little children, it is our responsibility to create Christmas for them. Remember that Christmas is more than presents and feasting. It is the birthday of our Savior.

Once more Americans have to find normal and live normal after a national tragedy has taken normal away from us. We will find normal in everyday things; in the cleaning, wrapping, praying and confessing of real life.

Healing comes from loving and living. It is in the warmth of our friendships and families; the safety of our homes. The dailiness of life will heal us, if we let it. Our resilience is in our faith and our ability to trust that even when things go wrong they are somehow also going right.

It is still Advent.

Christmas is coming.

And America is trying to find normal, once again.

The Supreme Court Should Leave Marriage Alone

Same-sex marriage is a compelling issue for many people on both sides of the question. Public support for traditional marriage eroded rapidly in the past two years, while nationwide support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high.

For the first time, several states have passed voter referendums allowing same sex marriage, politicians are moving to endorse same-sex marriage and there’s even talk about whether or not conservative Christians and the Republican Party should abandon opposition to it.

Meanwhile, lower courts have struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, both of which were designed to protect traditional marriage.

It is at this juncture that the United States Supreme Court has announced that it will hear challenges to these lower court rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8. Since lower courts had struck down the two laws, the Supreme Court could have allowed those rulings to stand by simply not hearing the challenges. For this reason, many people who favor traditional marriage, including those quoted in the CNA/EWTN article excerpted below, are hopeful about what the eventual Supreme Court ruling might mean. At the same time, supporters of same-sex marriage are voicing concerns that the Supreme Court might overturn lower court rulings and let the laws stand.

I believe it would be a mistake for the Supreme Court to step in at this juncture and federalize marriage. I also think it would be a mistake to define homosexual people as a protected class under the 14th Amendment. I would have this opinion even if I supported same-sex marriage.

It appears to me that the people of this country are in the process of working through a decision on this issue of their own and they are using the ballot box to do it. Even though I do not support same-sex marriage, I know that the voters in the states who legalized it this fall were acting within their rights to do so. I also believe that this is almost always the best way for social change to come about.

My answer to the question of defining homosexual people as a protected class of citizens under the 14th Amendment, is that I do not think this is necessary. Discrimination against homosexuals is rapidly going away without this drastic measure and all its unintended consequences.

One of the most damaging decisions the Supreme Court ever made was in a situation analogous to this one. Roe v Wade came at a time when the various states were liberalizing their abortion laws and public support for legal abortion was on the ascendant. By stepping in and federalizing something that had always been under the control of the states, the Court stopped this normal Democratic process in mid act. What happened instead is that the Court, rather than ending the discussion, radicalized it and set this country on a destructive course of increasingly polarized public debate and politics which continues to this day.

Of course, my opinion about what the Court should do doesn’t mean a thing, just as the opinions of both those who favor same-sex marriage and those who oppose it don’t mean a thing. The question about these two laws is now in the hands of seven people and they can do pretty much whatever they want with it. The Court has the freedom to rule in a narrow fashion that only affects these two statutes, or it can make a whole new Constitutional definition of marriage in whatever fashion four of these seven people want.

We the people have very little to say about what happens at the Supreme Court. And that is why I think that everyone on both sides of this debate should hope that they don’t go off on a law-making binge. I hope that they rule narrowly instead.

The CNA/EWTN article discussing reactions of traditional marriage supporters to the Court’s decision to hear these two cases reads in part:

Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2012 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Supporters of marriage and family welcomed the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will review both state and federal cases about the definition of marriage in the coming months.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear these cases is a significant moment for our nation,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who leads the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“Marriage is the foundation of a just society, as it protects the most vulnerable among us, children,” he said in a Dec. 7 statement. “It is the only institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers together.”

The archbishop said that he is praying that the court will be “guided by truth and justice” in order to affirm the true meaning and purpose of marriage, written in human nature as the union of one man and one woman.

On Dec. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear two cases regarding the definition of marriage in the next year.

A federal case, Windsor v. United States, involves a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law passed with overwhelming bilateral support in Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. The case challenges a section of the law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal policies.

A second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, concerns Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment adopted by California voters in 2008 to protect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay unions must be recognized as marriages.

Critics of the laws argue that they amount to unjust discrimination against gay couples and an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause. Proponents contend that the government has a legitimate interest in recognizing the union of man and woman because it is the fundamental building block of society and plays a critical role in bringing up the next generation.

While lower courts have struck down both laws, marriage advocates say they see hope in a Supreme Court ruling. (Read more here.)

Pro-Life Advocates Urge GOP to Stay the Course on Pro-Life

Pro-life advocates are asking the Republicans to stand strong on their party’s pro life position. Here’s hoping they listen.

So far as I’m concerned the recent comments from various Republican leaders are just them, going public, with what they’ve been doing in private for quite some time. As an elected official, I see these things before they go public. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it until I don’t think it’s true. Many of the money people who really run the Republican Party are pro choice.

I believe we are seeing a public manifestation of that in these comments from Republican leaders that the party should stand down on its pro life position. More on this Republican post-election soul-searching here.

CNA recently published an article concerning the steps pro life advocates are taking to try to persuade the party to stay the course on pro life. It reads in part:

Sen. John McCain speaks Sept. 24, 2012 on campaign finance at USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. Credit: Rosa Trieu-Neon Tommy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2012 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- Top pro-life advocates are calling on the Republican Party to maintain its pro-life stance despite calls from some to back off from the position in the wake of the presidential election.

“A real soldier doesn’t stay on the defensive,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to promote pro-life candidates and policies. “You go out and state your best case.”

“The folks that have taken the stand on this issue have taken it because we’re talking about defending vulnerable human life,” she told CNA on Nov. 30. “If it’s not about that, it’s not about anything.”

Dannenfelser was one of several pro-life leaders who responded to suggestions by some Republicans, including Arizona senator John McCain, that the GOP should drop or mitigate its pro-life stance in order to broaden its appeal after losing the presidential election.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” on Nov. 25, the senator – who unsuccessfully ran for president against Barack Obama in 2008 – suggested that while “I can state my position on abortion,” Republicans should “other than that, leave the issue alone when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation that we’re in.”

When asked by host Chris Wallace whether his suggestion to “leave the issue alone” meant allowing “freedom of choice” to abort, McCain responded, “I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions.”

(Read more here.)

Someone’s Coming, and We Need to Get Ready

Today is the first day of Advent. A time when we prepare to meet Our Lord.

I’ve read in books and seen on television a number of first person stories from people who were faced with imminent death. Many of them relate how, when the gun is pointed at their heads or the bear was chomping at their skulls, they asked God to forgive their sins and receive their souls. Then, almost invariably, they say they thought about their families.

Not once in any of these tales of survival in the face of death have I heard anyone say that they were worried about missing a meeting at their office or whether or not they would get their next promotion. Preparing to meet the Lord strips away all the little things that take up our days and leaves us with the stark reality of who we are in light of His justice and who we love in this world. When we are face to face with eternity, eternal things — love and the state of our souls in relation to God — are what matters.

One striking element of these narratives is that these people are, even in the face of their great peril, hopeful. They don’t just bemoan the ugliness of their sins as they compare to God’s justice, they ask, with certainty of His love, for forgiveness. They ask, with expectation that it will happen, for Him to receive their souls. They even ask Him to take care of the people they are going to leave behind.

The reason they have this confidence in God’s love, this hope of His forgiveness and that He will take them home when they die is that God become human in the form of a helpless little baby. That is what we are awaiting in Advent: The hope and the promise of the only One who can save us, the beginning of the end of death.

Advent is a door opening on our eternal salvation. It is the pathway that leads us to eternal life.

Someone’s coming. And we need to get ready.

Like everyone who knows that someone’s coming to their house, we need to sweep up the dust, straighten the pillows and stock the fridge with goodies. Only in this case, the house He is coming to is the real and eternal us: Our souls. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, we need confession.

All this is somewhat symbolic, of course. Jesus is already born. He has already suffered, died, been buried and rose again. The promise of Advent is reality for us already. But at the same time, this promise is also coming and on its way. We are battered, buffeted, chip, stained and pitted by the battles of our daily lives. We are embittered by our losses, defeated by our failures and enthralled with our victories.

We are, in short, too much of this world to be ready to receive our King. We need to pause and take stock of ourselves and we need to do it now. To paraphrase a soft drink commercial, we need that pause of humility and honest self-examination that refreshes. We must, if we are to be any use to Him at all, acknowledge our sins, look honestly at our failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and conversion of heart.

We are His instruments in this world. But before an instrument can be used, it must be cleaned, tuned and brought into good working order. After this election season and its many evils, after the struggles of our lives these past few months, we need this cleaning and tuning up.

We must prepare our eternal houses, our souls, to receive our Lord once again. That is what Advent is all about. If you would be His servant in this world, it is imperative that you not miss it.

Giving Up the Fight: Should Republicans Drop Pro Life; Should Evangelicals Give Up on Traditional Marriage; Should Everybody But the Catholic Church Run Away?

Losing. Sucks.

There has been a spate of articles and interviews, including one with no less a personage than former Presidential Candidate John McCain, expressing the hand-wringing dismay of defeat that many right-wing politicos and even some socially conservative Christians seem to feel because they got slam-dunked in the November 7 election.

I’ve ignored most of this, for three reasons.

1. It’s natural to go a little nuts after you get beat in an election. It’s a humiliating experience all around and it makes anyone who goes through it a little bit crazy for a while.
2. I’ve never taken the Republican position on social issues all that seriously in the first place. I know there are many sincere people who have an R on their voter ID card who believe in traditional moral values right down to the ground. But I have thought for quite some time now that these people are being tolerated, patronized and used by the party power structure. I think the Republican Party is really all about corporatism and is just using social issues to get votes to push for corporatism once it gets power. I’m basing this on what they’ve done when they do get power.
3. I’ve assumed that after the clothes-tearing, ashes on the head, woe is me, I wuz robbed, post getting beat emotions pass that most people will settle down and go back to thinking more carefully again.

One of the miseries of the internet is that it makes it too easy for people to pull down their own pants in public. There was a time when we confined our crazy grief from the getting whupped times in life to the safety of our homes, families and close friends. We kept our embarrassments within the circle of people who would never tell on us, and who, out of the blindness of love, would soon forget it as if it never happened.

Losing. Sucks.

But the internet makes it all to easy to spew out a bunch of hyped up, grief-ridden angst onto the screen and then, by hitting send, memorialize all our crazy stinkin’ thinkin’ for the ages.

My totally unsolicited advice and equally unsolicited but sincere admonition to all these woe-is-me sayers is to calm down, slow down, take a breath and wait. Give yourself the space to feel and think this through before you jump in there and start saying things you’ll have to explain away later.

If, for those of you this may happen to, somebody sticks a mike in your face and asks what you think, tell them you’re still too close to it to have thought it through and you’ll get back with them. They may argue. They may accept it. But who cares? The press doesn’t have subpoena powers. You don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to, and my advice is that when you’re feeling as shook up as a lot of people appear to be about this election, you shouldn’t want to.

As to the questions I posed in the title, Should Republicans drop pro life; should evangelicals give up on traditional marriage; should everybody but the Catholic Church run away, I have an answer for you.

No.

If you believe it, and you know it’s right, then why would you be dropping out and giving up and changing course?

If, right now, you’re too frazzled and frizzled and just plain scared to face the fight head-on, take a breather. Tomorrow is Advent. Go say your prayers. Take an honest look at yourself. Go to confession. Get right with God.

And also, clean up your house, hug your kids, tell your spouse how much they mean to you, go to a movie, read a good book, and spend an evening with your friends.

Losing. Sucks. Life is beautiful anyway.

Live. Breath. Get over it.

After the New Year is plenty soon enough to start gearing up for the next political war. I know that the boys and gals in DC are already threatening to push the whole country and the entire world along with it into economic catastrophe. If you’re going to do one political thing, I would advise you to send your Congressman and Senators an email telling them to stop show-boating and just do their jobs, at least until after Christmas. The New Year is soon enough for them to start whamming each other.

There. I’ve said my say.

If you’ve got any thoughts on any of this, feel free to chime in. I’ll even allow wailing and moaning and we wuz robbed complaints just this once.


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