First Vote on S 2578 is In. They Didn’t Stop a Filibuster.

The first vote on S 2578, the bill to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision by repealing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is in.

It was a vote on cloture. Cloture is a vote to stop a filibuster on a measure, or, as in this case, whether or not to debate a bill. It came within 4 votes of passing, which would have meant that the bill would almost certainly have passed the Senate. As it is, a filibuster can tie it up and keep it from going to the House, and no debate keeps it from coming to a vote at all.

The final vote was 56-43.

I’m going to put the vote below. It is a bit confusing, since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted “no” on the vote to stop a filibuster. That was one of those pesky procedural votes. A procedural vote means that he voted the way he did to achieve a goal within the Senate procedures, in this case to position himself to call the vote on cloture up again.

What that means is that there may be another vote on cloture.

With the exception of Senator Reid, a “no” vote below means that the Senator voted against S 2578. A “yes” vote means they voted for it.

Unless I am mistaken, it was basically a party-line vote, with Independent Senators Sanders of Vermont and King of Maine and Republicans Murkowski of Alaska, Kirk of Illinois and Collins of Maine voting with the Democrats. The opinion voiced by Senate Republicans is that the Senate Democrats see this move as a vote getter for the party in November.

I have no doubt that is the big reason why you see all the Ds lining up on this. I could probably tell you the exact things which were said behind closed doors about this particular vote. I’ll bet I could recite it almost word for word.

A number of senators who voted for this attack on religious freedom come from conservative states where traditional Christians comprise a sizable voting block. They are evidently counting on party financing and the media machine to lie for them so that the public will be so mis-informed about the Hobby Lobby decision that they can ride this vote to victory rather than the ignominious defeat it should garner for them.

Other senators, such as Senator Mary Landrieu, who comes from Louisiana, is up for re-election, and was elected on a pro-life plank, may face some choppy water because of this vote. I would guess that she can get away with it if she can convince the voters that it was a vote about birth control and not religious liberty.

The other factor — and it is enormous — is how the voters of Louisiana feel about her personally. If they like her and trust her, individual votes she cast won’t matter.

Here is the vote.

Grouped by Home State

Alabama:Sessions (R-AL), NayShelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska:Begich (D-AK), YeaMurkowski (R-AK), Yea
Arizona:Flake (R-AZ), NayMcCain (R-AZ), Nay
Arkansas:Boozman (R-AR), NayPryor (D-AR), Yea
California:Boxer (D-CA), YeaFeinstein (D-CA), Yea
Colorado:Bennet (D-CO), YeaUdall (D-CO), Yea
Connecticut:Blumenthal (D-CT), YeaMurphy (D-CT), Yea
Delaware:Carper (D-DE), YeaCoons (D-DE), Yea
Florida:Nelson (D-FL), YeaRubio (R-FL), Nay
Georgia:Chambliss (R-GA), NayIsakson (R-GA), Nay
Hawaii:Hirono (D-HI), YeaSchatz (D-HI), Not Voting
Idaho:Crapo (R-ID), NayRisch (R-ID), Nay
Illinois:Durbin (D-IL), YeaKirk (R-IL), Yea
Indiana:Coats (R-IN), NayDonnelly (D-IN), Yea
Iowa:Grassley (R-IA), NayHarkin (D-IA), Yea
Kansas:Moran (R-KS), NayRoberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky:McConnell (R-KY), NayPaul (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana:Landrieu (D-LA), YeaVitter (R-LA), Nay
Maine:Collins (R-ME), YeaKing (I-ME), Yea
Maryland:Cardin (D-MD), YeaMikulski (D-MD), Yea
Massachusetts:Markey (D-MA), YeaWarren (D-MA), Yea
Michigan:Levin (D-MI), YeaStabenow (D-MI), Yea
Minnesota:Franken (D-MN), YeaKlobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Mississippi:Cochran (R-MS), NayWicker (R-MS), Nay
Missouri:Blunt (R-MO), NayMcCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana:Tester (D-MT), YeaWalsh (D-MT), Yea
Nebraska:Fischer (R-NE), NayJohanns (R-NE), Nay
Nevada:Heller (R-NV), NayReid (D-NV), Nay
New Hampshire:Ayotte (R-NH), NayShaheen (D-NH), Yea
New Jersey:Booker (D-NJ), YeaMenendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico:Heinrich (D-NM), YeaUdall (D-NM), Yea
New York:Gillibrand (D-NY), YeaSchumer (D-NY), Yea
North Carolina:Burr (R-NC), NayHagan (D-NC), Yea
North Dakota:Heitkamp (D-ND), YeaHoeven (R-ND), Nay
Ohio:Brown (D-OH), YeaPortman (R-OH), Nay
Oklahoma:Coburn (R-OK), NayInhofe (R-OK), Nay
Oregon:Merkley (D-OR), YeaWyden (D-OR), Yea
Pennsylvania:Casey (D-PA), YeaToomey (R-PA), Nay
Rhode Island:Reed (D-RI), YeaWhitehouse (D-RI), Yea
South Carolina:Graham (R-SC), NayScott (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota:Johnson (D-SD), YeaThune (R-SD), Nay
Tennessee:Alexander (R-TN), NayCorker (R-TN), Nay
Texas:Cornyn (R-TX), NayCruz (R-TX), Nay
Utah:Hatch (R-UT), NayLee (R-UT), Nay
Vermont:Leahy (D-VT), YeaSanders (I-VT), Yea
Virginia:Kaine (D-VA), YeaWarner (D-VA), Yea
Washington:Cantwell (D-WA), YeaMurray (D-WA), Yea
West Virginia:Manchin (D-WV), YeaRockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Wisconsin:Baldwin (D-WI), YeaJohnson (R-WI), Nay
Wyoming:Barrasso (R-WY), NayEnzi (R-WY), Nay

Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop Lori to Senate: Oppose Bill that Attacks Religious Freedom

 

I received a blanket email from the USCCB last night, asking me to contact my United States Senator in opposition to S 2578.

S 2578 is the little ditty that Majority Leader Reid and his cohorts have dreamed up to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision.

The USCCB also has a notice on their web site that provides background and a clear-cut statement of reasons behind this opposition. As a member of the Democratic Party, I wish to apologize for this attack on religious liberty by some of my party’s leaders. I also ask all Catholics who read this to consider taking action at the grassroots level to begin to process of converting this party back to what it should be, which is the party of working people.

I’ll talk more about what Republicans need to change in their party in other posts.

Nobody gets off the hook here. We’re Americans. Government of, by and for the people, means that we are at least partly responsible for this mess, if for no other reason than that we haven’t used the power we have to set things straight.

I’m going to do my best to track votes on S 2578 for you. It’s a litmus test on religious freedom. If your senator votes for this thing, there are no ameliorating circumstances. R or D, it makes no difference. They have attacked our First Freedom.

In the meantime, here is the USCCB article, in full.

Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop Lori To Senate: Oppose Bill That Attacks Religious Freedom

July 14, 2014

WASHINGTON—In a letter sent July 14 to all U.S. Senators, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore stated their “strong opposition to the misnamed ‘Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014’ (S. 2578).” Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively.

“Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision, potentially attacking all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom regarding health coverage mandates,” they wrote.

The two bishops identified several areas of concern with the bill, including its unprecedented curtailment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993; its potential for overriding other federal conscience protections, including the Hyde-Weldon amendment on abortion; its application to coverage mandates beyond the HHS contraceptive mandate; its application to employers beyond for-profit businesses; and its denial of religious freedom for employees and their minor dependents, not just employers.

“In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether. We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it,” they wrote.

Full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/07-14-14-S-2578-Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-to-Senate.pdf


Keywords: USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. bishops, Pro-Life Activities, Religious Liberty, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop William E. Lori, U.S. Senate, HHS mandate, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, religious liberty, religious freedom, S. 2578, #HandsOffRFRA

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Kids Who Won’t Mind. What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Waroftheworlds182171m

I’m under the weather today, so I’ve spent the afternoon watching the Spielberg version of War of the Worlds.

Every time I watch this movie, I end up losing interest in it because the kids are such totally messed-up people. Here they are, running for their lives, and they refuse to do what their father tells them to do. In fact, they are as difficult, obstructionist and consistently bratty as two kids can be.

I see this sort of thing in movies all the time. Parents will tell their kid or kids — movie families are always tiny — to “go home” because they are in a dangerous situation and the kid ignores them as if they hadn’t said a word. Maybe in the filmmaker’s world this is the way things are. Maybe in most of the world, this is the way things are.

But I homeschooled my kids and I can say without hesitation that I never saw this in my kids or the children of any of the other homeschooling families.

Take, for instance, the night of the May 3 tornado. This particular tornado went through Moore and South Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999. I woke up that morning aching all over. The cats got in grain barrels we used for storage in the garage and would not get out. (This was the first and only time they ever got in those barrels.) A friend of mine told me her chihuahua got under the sofa and wouldn’t come out.

I cooked supper while we watched the tornado form outside of Apache, Oklahoma on our television. I remember remarking, “We’ve been expecting you,” to the screen.

We watched that thing grow and stay down on the ground as it cut across the state and headed for us. When it got to Chickasha, I told the kids to put their shoes on. We pulled the cats out of their grain barrels and stuffed them into their cat carrier. When it came time to get the heck out of Dodge, we did just that.

The point?

The kids did exactly what my husband and I told them to do. No argument. No questions. No hysteria. No debate.

I don’t give my kids direct commands now that they’re grown. But they still come to me for advice which they don’t always follow, but do take quite seriously. If I flat-out give them an order, such as, bring my vacuum cleaner back – I didn’t give it you – It was a loan – they tease me, then do it. For that matter, I have a hard time ignoring my 89-year-old mother when she asks me to do something, even now with her dementia.

So, what’s wrong with these movie kids? Do other people’s children really ignore their parents the way movie kids do? Do they argue about every thing they’re told to do and even refuse direct commands from their parents?

I never encountered this in all my years of child raising. Neither did any of my homeschooling friends. The teens weren’t terrible, and the rebellions didn’t happen.

The poor children in The War of the Worlds come from a broken home. Their mother is expecting a baby with her husband, who is much wealthier than their father. Their father seems to have a family reputation for being inconsistent and unreliable where the children are concerned. They end up left with this untrustworthy father who they clearly know but don’t respect or trust, not even to love them unconditionally.

I guess, when you look at it through the lens of their messed up family, it’s understandable that they talk back/don’t obey/get hysterical when things are tough.  After all, if Daddy has exhibited a long-term pattern of not being there, why should they feel safe relying on him when aliens are killing everybody in sight? They’re running for their lives, with Daddy Every So Often as their only protector.

If they’ve been raised in a home where Mama — who is the only present parent — clearly does not completely trust Daddy to care for them properly, even for a weekend — as she clearly does not — then why should they believe that they have any hope of good decisions and protection from him when the chips are down?

These kids feel safer with their stepfather than they do with their natural father, and he’s just their mother’s husband who they call by his first name.

There are lots of reasons for kids who won’t mind. But our fractured families and terrible home lives have to be high on that list. Even if you give your kids a stable home with their own mom and dad, if you send them to the public schools, they are going to be spending most of their waking hours with peers who are growing up in bad homes.

They are going to encounter the full blast of politically correct education which trains them very deliberately in ideas about family that are antithetical to accepting the authority of their own parents. In fact, much of things they are taught in areas like sex education and social studies seem to be designed to break down parental authority in the key areas of moral, social and spiritual formation.

Kids who won’t mind in dangerous situations can quickly become kids who don’t survive. They can also lead to dead families.

If, say, an F5 tornado is heading your way, and the kids refuse to do what you tell them, the whole family can get caught out and killed. Ditto for many other situations.

I find it difficult to watch Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds because the children are so damaged. It is a horror tale inside of a horror tale, watching these totally messed-up kids and this total failure of a father try to struggle through the mayhem of an interplanetary attack on Earth. If Spielberg had looked a little closer at what he was saying here, he could easily have created an allegory for the social deconstruction our culture is undergoing.

But he didn’t do that.

War of worlds

Instead, he leaves it there, in front of us, without any real meaning. That’s the way destroyed families with their damaged children are routinely presented in film. We are shown these hideously messed-up families as if they were normal, when they are anything but normal. They are, in fact, dysfunctional to the point of being suicidal.

I don’t spend more time than I have to around ruined families. It’s too unpleasant. These people are too angry, their thinking processes too distorted and confused. People from ruined families don’t seem to be able to process reality. They are easy pickings for the next new thing. Their memories seem to go back to yesterday and not one minute further. No matter how high their native intelligence, they are profoundly stupid and gullible due to the damage that has been inflicted on their psyches.

I simply do not like to spend time with people who can’t think and process; who have no memory and are liable to rages and random contradictory behavior. I understand that they have been hurt and that they are profoundly disabled on an emotional and intellectual level by what their parents and our society has done to them. But they are untrustworthy, hurtful people to know.

There are many challenges in this for today’s Christians. The first and most of important is how we can protect our own children from becoming as damaged as the rest of our society. It’s important, it really, really maters to the future of your children, for you to love their father if you are their mother, and for you to love their mother if you are their father.

It is essential that you commit to the person you make babies with and spend your life working together with them to build your babies into productive, loving people who can form families and raise children of their own.

Do I make that clear?

You need to get married to the mother or father of your children and you need to love the mother or father of your children and you need to respect and treasure and cherish the mother or father of your children for the rest of your life. The two of you must be a team that is dedicated before God to raising the souls that He has entrusted to you. Nothing else you can do with your life matters as much as this.

You have to protect your babies from this poisonous anti-child culture and, as important as an intact family is, protecting them will take even more. This is a society that sacrifices its children in a wanton and uncaring fashion to every false god it sees. From manufacturing them before conception, to murdering them before birth, to destroying their bonds with their parents and subjecting them to social experiments to promote the latest politically correct fantasy, our society has organized itself into a child-sacrificing machine.

If you want your kids to come into their own adulthood undamaged by all this, you have to keep them out of it when they are little. If you do that, they will have the tools to handle it once they become adults. If you don’t, they will be overtaken by it.

That’s why I recommend homeschooling. It works academically. And, given the homeschooling groups and the many organizations available, it also works socially. Your kids will form life-long friendships with the other homeschooled kids. What will be different is that they won’t be forming relationships with kids who are from such damaged homes that they cannot function as whole people.

The second thing we have to do as Christians is to decide how we will convert this sick society of ours. How do we minister to ruined people who are so damaged they cannot form families and raise children of their own? How do we explain a loving God to people who have never been unconditionally loved by anyone in their lives? How do we help them to learn to live Christian lives after they convert?

These are huge questions that I am going to save for another post.

However, I am interested in what Public Catholic readers suggest as remedies.

Talk it over and let’s see what you come up with.

Senate Democrats Move to Overturn Hobby Lobby Decision

 

Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, is leading the charge to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision.

From The Washington Post:

“One thing we’re going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Tuesday. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we’re going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think it’s — they’re going to have — be treated unfavorably come November with the elections.”

Senator Reid can make this audacious claim because Hobby Lobby v Burwell was adjudicated on a statute, The Religious Freedom Act. What Senator Reid, and, according to him the rest of the Senate Democrats, wants to do is basically repeal the Religious Freedom Act. I only have a few points to make at this juncture.

  • As a lifelong Democrat and an 18-year veteran as a Democratic elected official (I’m still in office until November) I am ashamed of my party for doing this.
  • We need to convert the Democratic Party. If we do not, this kind of back and forth will continue until it destroys our Republic. We will never build a culture of life unless we convert this party.
  • I wish those who oppose the HHS Mandate would mount the same kind of of fearless and passionate offense against it. One thing that has been abundantly clear to me for well over 30 years is that pro life politicians do not have the same fearless commitment and willingness to do what’s needed for our cause as the other side’s politicians have for it. Where is the pro life Wendy Davis? Why hasn’t the House taken on the HHS Mandate with the same fervor that we are seeing in this attack against Hobby Lobby v Burwell in the Democratically-held Senate?

We are trapped between our own wishy-washy advocates who make speeches, gather votes based their “stands” and then do nothing, and these passionate, committed opponents who are willing to stake their careers on attacking religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. It is simply not an effective tactic for us to continue demonizing our opposition while we settle for nothing but empty promises and political grandstanding from our supporters.

We are being used.

Meanwhile, the other side of this fight has real political warriors with fire in their bellies who are willing to stake everything on defending their viewpoint

I am going to suggest you do two things today and one thing tomorrow.

For today, write both your United State’s Senators and demand that they fight publicly and behind closed doors to stop this re-write of the The Religious Freedom Act. It does not matter if they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents, they need to hear from you. Second, write your member of Congress and demand that they stop sitting on their hands and take action against the HHS Mandate.

That’s for today.

For tomorrow, check with your state political party about when precinct meetings will be held next spring. Put the date on your calendar and plan to go.

For Republicans, Google “(name of your state) Republican Party” or (name of your state) Republican Committee. For Democrats, Google, “(name of your state) Democratic Party”.  Examples: Oklahoma Republican Party, or, Oklahoma Republican Committee. Oklahoma Democratic Party.

The Church and the Cultural Acceptance of Sexual Violence

 

 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, made the statement below  at a 4-day meeting hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy Angeline Jolie.

Cardinal Nichols’ comments address a several  issues that I think are important ones for the Church to take up if we want to end sexual violence.

He deplored the de facto cultural acceptance of sexual violence. This is a key component in the issue everywhere on the globe, including here in the United States. Rape is treated as entertainment in this country. The signals our culture gives about sexual violence, are, at best, mixed. We sometimes go into a frenzy of indignation over a particular crime of sexual violence. But more often, we attack the victims and treat rape as entertainment.

There is a reason why young men video themselves committing gang rapes and then put those videos on the internet to brag. There is a reason why girls are cautioned to be careful what they drink at fraternity parties or to stay away from the jock dorms on campus. There is a reason rape victims don’t talk to their pastors or tell people in their churches what has happened to them.

It all circles back to this one thing: The cultural acceptance, including the direct promotion and exploitation of, sexual violence against women and girls.

He also said — although not nearly strongly enough —that sexual violence is a sin. Potential rapists and their victims both need to hear this. I once put together a meeting of the heads of the various religious groups in Oklahoma for the express purpose of asking them to call sexual violence a sin. My reason was simple: I had been going to church, sitting in pews, for decades, and I had never once heard this preached. This is a moral black hole on the part of the churches, and it has fed into the cultural acceptance of sexual violence.

Finally, Cardinal Nichols gives one of the most accurate descriptions of why sexual violence is such a fundamental crime against the humanity of its victims. Here’s what he said,

Human sexuality is a strong and vital component of our humanity and of each person’s nature. The exercise of that sexuality, in sexual relations, is something that touches the deepest aspect of our identity and personhood. A fundamental aspect of the Church’s teaching about sex is that sexual acts must always take place within the context of authentic freedom. This is because, properly understood, human sexuality has the capacity to unite two people, body and spirit, at the deepest level, in a completeness of self-giving that has within it the call to a permanent commitment between them and which, of its nature is open towards the creation of new human life. What is most relevant in this teaching for us today is that there is no place in sexual relations for brutality, aggression or any kind of de-humanisation of a person.

This Initiative is concerned to highlight that the use of sexual violence is always and absolutely a violation of human freedom and of every rational standard of human decency. And what is more, its de facto cultural acceptance in many places and in so many circumstances contributes significantly to the degradation of women in particular. Sexual behaviour is so often the key litmus test of the honour and respect given to women either in conformity to moral standards or in defiance of them.

I can say without equivocation that the church’s (I am speaking here of the entire body of Christ in every denomination) easy acceptance of sexual violence and its willingness to condemn the victim while harboring the perpetrator led me directly into 17 years of defiance against both organized religion and God Himself. It made me into an ardent advocate for legal abortion.

I do not think I am unique in this.

It literally took an act of God to change me about this. I was so damaged by what I had seen in the churches that I asked God in all sincerity if He hated women. I don’t often get direct answers to my prayers, but I got one then. That answer bound me to God in a way that nothing else could have. It has also made me fearless about speaking out about clerical disregard of sexual violence. I know — know — that this indifference is not only wrong, it is deeply sinful.

It means a lot when a Prince of the Church speaks out against sexual violence. We need to see a lot more of it. His remarks are directed at the use of sexual violence as a weapon against cultures and societies in warfare. I apply them to all sexual violence in every circumstance.

I’ve highlighted a few points in the text below.

From Vatican Radio:

Please find below the full text of the address by  Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, to the conference, delivered on 12th June 2014:

Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative

“I am privileged to have this opportunity to speak at this most important Initiative and to be invited to do so from the perspective of my Catholic Faith. In doing so, I offer my fullest congratulations to the Foreign Secretary in particular, for his dedication to this crucial cause.

The unbelievable surge of sexual violence against both women and men in parts of our world is manifested in the shocking facts well documented in this Conference. I doubt though whether even the most graphic accounts of this evil are capable of conveying the sheer horrors which are generated by sexual violence in conflict and warfare. The damage which is done to the human dignity of the large numbers of victims of sexual violence is so radical and so permanent that it defies description.

It is not the random act of men who have, for a while, lost all sense of decency, which defies description but the deliberate and ordered tactic of oppression, domination and destruction which is at the noxious heart of sexual violence. It is to the shame of our world that the systematic use of sexual violation is still today, in some places, considered as a duty of soldiers, an order that they must carry out. This horror is further compounded by the fact that the stigma attached to sexual violation often falls on the victim and not on the perpetrator. What terrible collusion is indicated by that fact! The public tolerance of sexual violence leads to the inversion of human decency; it reinforces other forms of oppression and undermines the morals which uphold the rights of the human person.

I wish to make three points regarding the moral and religious framework which, I believe, can strengthen this fight against Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The first is the clear principle that every human activity is subject to moral principles and judgment if it is not to lose its truly human character and sink into the realms of the amoral, the dark hole of a subhuman wilderness. This principle applies to situations of warfare and conflict. No declaration of war – whether arguably legitimate or not – excuses those who fight from their obligation to observe fundamental moral principles.

In Catholic teaching this is described as ‘jus in bello’, that just principles must be observed even in warfare. The teaching states: ‘the Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law in armed conflict. The fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties (CCC 2312). It refers explicitly to ‘non-combatants, wounded soldiers, prisoners’ who must be respected and treated humanely.’ It continues ‘Actions contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out’ (2313).

History has many examples of the pursuit of war criminals. It is also has many instances of the failure to do so. In this Initiative, the measures being proposed and pursued to strengthen the legal frameworks for the pursuit and prosecution of all war criminals are fully supported by the principles of morality and social justice and must be given widespread support. War is no excuse. The demands of justice remain in place. A crime is a crime, whether committed in the context of conflict or not.

And sexual violence is always a crime; it is always an immoral act.

The second point I draw from Catholic moral thinking and teaching is this.

Human sexuality is a strong and vital component of our humanity and of each person’s nature. The exercise of that sexuality, in sexual relations, is something that touches the deepest aspect of our identity and personhood. A fundamental aspect of the Church’s teaching about sex is that sexual acts must always take place within the context of authentic freedom. This is because, properly understood, human sexuality has the capacity to unite two people, body and spirit, at the deepest level, in a completeness of self-giving that has within it the call to a permanent commitment between them and which, of its nature is open towards the creation of new human life. What is most relevant in this teaching for us today is that there is no place in sexual relations for brutality, aggression or any kind of de-humanisation of a person.

This Initiative is concerned to highlight that the use of sexual violence is always and absolutely a violation of human freedom and of every rational standard of human decency. And what is more, its de facto cultural acceptance in many places and in so many circumstances contributes significantly to the degradation of women in particular. Sexual behaviour is so often the key litmus test of the honour and respect given to women either in conformity to moral standards or in defiance of them.

What is clear, therefore, is that the Church wholeheartedly backs every initiative to prevent sexual violence being perpetrated against anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances. The justice at the heart of human sexual relations must be respected as integral to all justice, even in conflict and warfare.

I am proud today to be able to point to the significant work carried out by many religiously motivated people in the fight against sexual violence in warfare and its dreadful consequences. I salute especially the work of religious sisters, in many countries, who for decades have dedicated themselves to this work, without seeking reward or praise. They do so as part of their commitment to justice in our world today. And we are richer for their efforts, along with the efforts of many others, too. This enterprising work generates the kind of wealth without which our world cannot survive. They are, in my view, at the top of the world’s rich list!

The third point I wish to make flows directly from this notion of integral justice as our greatest wealth.

In the efforts of this Initiative to prevent sexual violence, we rightly speak of wanting to protect the human rights of everyone, especially the most vulnerable and the victims of this terrible form of abuse. In order for this language of human rights, and the framework it offers, to be robust, I believe we are helped by clarity about its foundations. The entry of human rights into the international legal framework is largely welcomed. But human rights themselves do not derive from a legal system, nor a political authority, or a state. The dignity of every person, and the pattern of rights which flow from that dignity, are inherent in the person, herself or himself. They are inalienable. Often, of course, there are choices to be made between competing human rights and difficult decisions ensue. But some rights are more immediate, more fundamental than others. I believe that this priority of human rights can best be seen when they are understood in the light of their ultimate origin.

The dignity of every person arises from within their nature and that nature is most clearly understood as deriving from its Creator, from the mystery of God. Here the light of faith sharpens our rational understanding, it deepens our sense of who we are and the dignity which is properly ours. And in this God-given dignity, the right to life itself and the right to bodily integrity are fundamental, as is the right to religious freedom. The violation of that bodily integrity in sexual violence is therefore a most fundamental denial of human dignity and a most gross breach of a person’s human rights. It is a crime which ought to be eradicated with all vigour.

Sexual violence as an instrument of warfare and conflict is a deep wound in the body of humanity, to borrow a phrase of Pope Francis. That it is as old as humanity is a cause for our lasting shame. That this Initiative is daily growing in strength, that it is beginning to engender a common will to say ‘no more, never again’ is a source of real encouragement. That it is producing the statutes and instruments by which perpetrators will be prosecuted and punish is a measure of its initial success. That it will in time challenge and change the cultures which tacitly support these crimes and heap the stigma of shame on its victims is a cause for real hope. I congratulate all involved and I assure you of my full support.”

Meriam Ibrahim: My Baby is Physically Disabled Because I Gave Birth in Chains

 

Maya Ibrahim

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death when she was eight months pregnant for refusing to recant her Christian faith.

She is still unable to leave Sudan, due to what I consider to be trumped up charges by local officials.

She gave birth to her baby girl, who she named Maya, while she was in prison. Her captors forced her to give birth in chains.

Hopefully, Mrs Ibrahim and her family will be allowed to come to the United States soon and we can provide Maya — and Mrs Ibrahim as well — with the medical care needed to repair the injuries that were inflicted on them by this barbaric government.

From The Telegraph:

“I gave birth chained,” she said, in her first description of the May 27 birth.

“Not cuffs – but chains on my legs. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table. I wasn’t lying on the table.”

When asked whether she was frightened that giving birth in such conditions could harm her baby, she said: “Something has happened to the baby.”

She explained that her daughter had been left physically disabled – but the extent of the disability would not be clear until she was older.

“I don’t know in the future whether she’ll need support to walk or not,” she said.

 

Rush Limbaugh is a Cigar-Chomping Idiot

 

I know. I tell everyone not to call people names.

But there comes a time when “idiot” isn’t a pejorative; it’s an excuse.

Mr Limbaugh is doing his the-pope-is-a-marxist-communist-not-a-corporatist-like-me thing again. After reading this latest rather bizarre attack against the Holy Father, I am faced with three possibilities.

1. Mr Limbaugh has relapsed into his drug problem.

2. He’s an idiot.

or

3. He is deliberately baiting the Vicar of Christ for ratings, despite the fact that a grade-school child could read the interview he’s referencing and know that he’s misquoting and miscasting what the Holy Father said.

Given the choices, I’ve decided that, in charity, I will give Mr Limbaugh the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s an idiot. I don’t, for instance, think that the fact that he makes at least $70 million per year in salary, or that his net worth is approximately $400 million, has in any way messed with his mind.

What set Mr Limbaugh off on another of his attack-the-Holy-Father spiels is an interview Pope Francis gave to Il Messaggero on Sunday. Rather than try to untangle the web of misquotes and confabulation that Mr Limbaugh has spun, I’m going to quote a couple of highlights, then put Pope Francis’ entire interview below and let you read it for yourself.

Here are what I think of as the lowlights from Mr Limbaugh’s latest attack piece on my spiritual leader, Pope Francis. 

“The 77-year-old pontiff gave an interview to Il Messaggero, Rome’s local newspaper, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a Roman holiday. He was asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform.”

Oh, yeah, some obscure blog post in the Economist said he sounded like a Leninist, that got everybody riled up.  We remember that.  Don’t you?  I don’t remember.  Anyway, he said, “I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel.  Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian’,” he said, laughing.

I don’t know if the pope is saying that Jesus was a communist.  I mean some people could read it that way.  He says the communists stole our flag, and if our flag is rooted in solving poverty, and the communists want to claim that’s what they did, I mean, you connect the dots if you wish.

What Mr Limbaugh is doing here is quoting a misquote from an article headlined “Pope Says Communists are Closet Christians,” and then responding to it with the assessment,  I don’t now if the pope is saying that Jesus was a Communist. I mean some people could read it that way.”

Ok, so he doesn’t know if Pope Francis is saying that Christ the Lord is a Communist? Are we supposed to believe that he’s serious?

Maybe he’s an idiot.

Or maybe this was an attempt to be sly and clever by  attacking with innuendo.

You decide.

Me, I’m going with idiot, because, as I said, it’s the kindest interpretation I can come up with.

Here, for those of you who would like to see it, is what the Holy Father actually said. It’s the whole interview, without cuts or edits.

I highlighted the part about Communism so you can want go straight to it if you want. If you can find the place where the Pope Francis said or implied that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a Communist, let me know. Frankly, I think that all you have to do to understand what Pope Francis is talking about is to remember that he’s from a country where children live in garbage dumps and scavenge for survival; a country where Communists have tried to take over by appealing to these poorest of the poor and offering them help.

That, and read the interview yourself instead of miscasting misquotes in order to make a coarse point.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) The Rome daily “Il Messaggero” on Sunday published an interview with Pope Francis made by journalist Franca Giansoldati. In his responses to questions on a wide range of issues, the Holy Father focused, among other things, on the challenges of change in the current “era” and “culture,” which has consequences for political, financial, and social life. The Church, along with various civil and social institutions,  must respond to these challenges by protecting the common good and defending human life and dignity.

“Always protecting the common good, which includes “defending human life and dignity” is “the vocation of every politician,” the Holy Father said. Today, the problem of politics – which Pope Francis called a “worldwide problem” – is that it “has been devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery.” This “moral decay, not only in politics but also in the financial or social” sector, is driven by “change of epoch” that we are experiencing today, which is also “a change of culture.” In this context, our anxieties about poverty are not concerned solely with material poverty.

“I can help someone who is hungry, so that they are no longer hungry,” the Pope said. “But if someone has lost his job,” he is involved in another kind poverty. He no longer has his dignity.” Helping families in need, then, requires a “joint effort.” Pope Francis recognized that this is an “uphill” journey, but insisted it must be undertaken, working above all for the good of children. “Starting a family is an effort,” he said, because of economic difficulties that “social policy does not help.” Commenting on the very low birth rates in Europe – which makes it seem “as if she were tired of being a mother, preferring to be grandmother,” the Holy Father noted that the causes of this phenomenon lie not only in a “cultural drift marked by selfishness and hedonism,” but also in the current economic crisis.

Pope Francis was asked how he would respond to being called “a communist.” “I would only say that the Communists have stolen the banner… The banner of the poor is Christian; poverty is at the heart of the Gospel.” The cause of the poor is pre-eminently a Christian cause.  The Gospel cannot be understood “without understanding real poverty.” At the same time, the Pope said there is also a “very beautiful ‘poverty of the spirit’,” being poor in the sight of God because God fills you up. The Gospel, in fact, is addressed indiscriminately to the poor and to the rich and “does not at all condemn those who are rich,” but rather condemns their riches when they become the objects of idolatry.

To the question “Where is the Church of Bergoglio headed?” Pope Francis replied, “Thanks be to God, I don’t have any church – I follow Christ. I didn’t found anything.” He went on to say “my decisions are the fruit of the meetings before the conclave. I have done nothing on my own.”

The Church in Asia “is a promise,” he said, turning to his upcoming trips to Korea, in August, and to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in January. He also spoke about China, saying it represents “a great, a very great pastoral challenge.”

During the interview, Pope Francis also took up a number of other themes already addressed during his pontificate, such as the place of women in the Church. Without an understanding of femininity, the Pope said, one “cannot understand the Church herself.” Women “are the most beautiful thing God has made. The Church is a woman.” He said that in doing theology, one must take account of this “femininity,” and that the Church must continue to work on and develop a “theology of the woman.”

Pope Francis spoke also about the corruption and the economic and sexual exploitation of children. The Pope speaks of incidents of child prostitution that were reported to him when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, involving even elderly men. “For me,” the Pope said, “people who do this to young girls are paedophiles.”

Finally, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome, Pope Francis spoke about the everyday life and traditions of the City of which the Pope is the bishop. This role, the Holy Father said, is “the first service of Francis.” Pope Francis said Rome shares many of the problems of other cities “such as Buenos Aires.” He said a conference dedicated to the theme of “the pastoral care of the great cities” will take place in Barcelona in November. Pope Francis expressed his hope that the citizens of Rome, the inhabitants of a city “that should be a beacon in the world,” would not lose “joy, hope, confidence, despite difficulties.”

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

The Greens of Hobby Lobby: One Family with Courage is a Majority

 

There is no getting around the fact that Jesus offends some people. Nevertheless, He is too important in my life for me to cower in fear of mentioning His name. David Green, owner, founder Hobby Lobby

The Green Family (who are Okies, by the way) risked everything they had worked for all their lives.

They put everything but their lives on the line by refusing to accede to the HHS Mandate’s requirement that they pay for insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs. The Greens, who are Southern Baptists, already provided insurance coverage for contraceptives for their employees.

But they would not be participants in the evil of abortion. It conflicted with their faith in Jesus Christ.

So, they took a stand that was, in terms of business, totally stupid. They refused to abide by the HHS Mandate. What’s more, they put the name of their company, which they had built themselves from a $600 dollar investment, on a lawsuit.

This wasn’t a roll of the dice. It was an act of faith. The lawsuit was turned back, then resurrected in other rulings. When it was first turned down, the Greens said they would not abide by the Mandate, even if it meant paying millions of dollars a day in fines to the government.

This was not grandstanding. It was a reality of their lives at that time. They were facing ruinous fines for following Christ. It would most likely have put them out of business.

Another court overturned the earlier ruling and they were granted a stay.

Their lawsuit made it’s way to the Supreme Court, and today, the Court ruled that the Green family, as well as other owners of privately-held corporations, are exempt from the contraceptive portion of the HHS Mandate.

I’ve been watching and reading a bit of the reaction to the news. It’s totally predictable claptrap about how this ruling allows corporations not to follow “the law” and how it “endangers women’s health.”

My reaction to this is give me a break. First, the Supreme Court’s ruling is the law, which is something the HHS Mandate has never been.

The HHS Mandate is an agency rule which has the force of law. It was never passed by elected officials. It was created by an appointed committee. To call this thing a law violates the underlying principles of government by representation on which this nation was founded.

Second, women’s health is not endangered by not being able to get insurance coverage for abortifacients. What endangers women’s health is allowing things like the morning after pill to be put on counters where everyone can buy and use them as many times a month as they want. The health consequences of using the morning after pill for birth control could be terrible for women’s health.

Also, as I just said, the stuff is available over the counter. If a woman uses it the way it’s intended, it would be a once in a lifetime deal. If they are using it repeatedly, they are endangering their health. Period.

I’ve read all sorts of comments attacking this ruling, but I think the ruling is wonderful.

It puts a couple of teeth back into what has rapidly been becoming a toothless concept of religious liberty in this country. The government — the government — does not have any business requiring people to violate their faith under threat of government penalties. The government also does not have any business passing draconian agency regulations that infringe on American liberties by the fiat of a hand-selected back-room committee and calling it “law.”

The Green family saved our First Amendment freedoms today.

They did it as an act of faith in which they put their entire life’s work on the line based entirely on their faith in Jesus Christ.

May their tribe increase.

Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision. Today the nation’s highest court has re-affirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s founding principles. The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey. Barbara Green, co-founder/owner of Hobby Lobby

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From the Guardian: Meriam Ibrahim Is at United States Embassy

 

The Guardian reports that Meriam Ibrahim is safe at the United States Embassy in Sudan.

Her husband, Daniel Wani, spoke with Agence France-Presse by phone.

The Guardian story does not make it clear whether the charges against Mrs Ibrahim have been dismissed. It says that she was released from police custody on the condition that she remain in Sudan. That sounds to me like she is still not in the clear.

She was charged with forgery because she attempted to leave Sudan using a passport that was issued by South Sudan. I am guessing that this passport was obtained based on the fact that her husband has dual South Sudan/American citizenship. Sudan does not recognize her marriage because her husband is a Christian and she was, at least legally, a Muslim.

Mrs Ibrahim was originally charged with apostasy and sentenced to be flogged and then executed by hanging because she refused to recant her Christian faith. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. She gave birth to her baby while she was in prison.

The Sudanese court overturned her apostasy conviction and she and her family were trying to leave Sudan when she was re-arrested.

According to the Guardian article, the envoy for the United States state department met with Sudanese foreign ministry officials to obtain Mrs Ibrahim’s release from jail. Hopefully, this means that the family will be able to leave Sudan soon.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband said that the motive behind the initial attack on his wife was a desire to steal her business interests. He said that Mrs Ibrahim owns a hair salon, a mini mart and agricultural land.

All in all, it sounds as if this family would make a wonderful contribution to the United States. I hope they can begin their new lives of freedom here soon.

Meriam Ibrahim has Been Charged with a New Crime. Faces 7-Year Sentence.

 

Meriam Ibrahim has not been freed. The story I posted earlier was incorrect.

She was arrested once again while she and her family were at the airport, awaiting a flight to leave the country.

According to The Independent, the new charge is that she was using a passport obtained from South Sudan. Sudan does not recognize her as a South Sudanese citizen because it does not recognize her marriage to her Christian husband. Her husband has South-Sudan/American citizenship.

Mrs Ibrahim is being charged with forging her passport, a crime that is punishable by up to seven years in prison. She is being held in a Khartoum police station. Her family has refused to leave without her.

From The Independent:

 

The US and South Sudanese ambassadors have been summoned to Khartoum by Sudan over the rearrest of a Christian convert accused of apostasy trying to flee the country after being released from death row.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was freed on Monday after an appeals court cancelled the death sentence imposed for having converted from Islam to marry her Christian husband, after the government came under what it called unprecedented international pressure.
But she was detained again on Tuesday for trying to use documents issued by the embassy of South Sudan to fly out of Khartoum with her American-South Sudanese husband and their two children – deepening the diplomatic wrangle over her case.Sudan does not recognise her as a South Sudanese citizen because, despite lifting her sentence, it does not recognise her marriage to a Christian, something not allowed under the Islamic laws applied in Sudan, where most people are Sunni Muslims.South Sudan, with a majority Christian population, became independent from Sudan after a public vote in 2011 that ended years of civil war between the two states.
“The airport passport police arrested Abrar after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa,” Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services’ media department said on Facebook, referring to Ibrahim by her Muslim name.


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