If You Think Hobby Lobby’s Owners Don’t Deserve Constitutional Rights for Trading with China, What are You Gonna Do About Your Cell Phone?

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The argument gets repeated a lot these days.

It’s a one-two-three punch that goes like this:

1. Hobby Lobby imports its wares from China.

2. This is absolute evil and means that Hobby Lobby supports forced abortion, the one-child policy, slavery and probably the mass slaughter at Tianamen Square and the Cultural Revolution, as well. It may even mean that Hobby Lobby’s owner are Communists.

3. So … Hobby Lobby’s owners do not deserve and should not have Constitutional Rights under the Constitution of the United States of America.

ta da.

I have a question for those who make this argument. That question is not based on the fact that they don’t know anything about who sells Hobby Lobby its wares. The question doesn’t even address the highly tenuous assertion that people are guilty of the sins and crimes of everyone they associate with in the business world. (That would make all of us guilty of some pretty ugly stuff, you know.)

My question is simpler: What are you gonna do about your cell phone?

I am speaking specifically of Samsung cell phone owners, but that could apply to just about every one of us who owns a cell phone. I mean, Apple’s been in the news a lot because of its China connections.

In fact, whenever someone wants to create a faux moral outrage, or damage a company, they trot out the China connection.

The real outrage — and the one we need to address or die as a  global power — is that we’ve moved our industrial base to China so that our manufacturers could use slave/child labor. This isn’t about one company or another company. It’s about moving our entire industrial base to a Communist regime.

The trouble is, that’s an issue that falls under the corporate control of our government, which, sad to say, removes it from moral discussion for a lot of people. We’ve been sold the rapacious lie that money and how it’s got is outside morality for so long that many ordinary people think it makes sense.

Anyone, up to and including the Pope, who dares to question this money-is-outside-morality cant will be called a Communist by the corporatist-owned media and their talking heads. That’s particularly rich, since what the corporatist media is protecting are corporations who’ve gone to bed with a Communist regime.

But I digress.

Let’s get back to your Samsung cell phone. And your Samsung smart watch/camera/Chromebook/tablet. If you are really truly sincere when you say that about Hobby Lobby’s owners don’t deserve Constitutional rights because you are sure they trade with China and trading with China is anathema, then you need to toss those babies today.

It seems that Samsung has done a bit more than import from China. They’ve been manufacturing their wares there, which means they have a direct contractual relationship with the plants that employ egregious and exploitative labor practices.

It probably also means, given Samsung’s size, that they are the sole proprietor or customer of these plants. We’re talking big money here. Samsung has money power (the only power that matters in a corporatist world) to change what happens in these plants.

This has led to repeated claims by China Labor Watch that Samsung has been using child labor to manufacture its products.

Of course, Samsung is a publicly-held corporation whose stocks are traded in the open market. That means the Hobby Lobby decision doesn’t apply to them. They’ve got to provide abortifacients in their insurance plans for their stateside employees.

So, what about the folks who’ve been jumping up and down like apes in a cage over the Hobby Lobby decision?

If you think they are going to go all moral and righteous over Samsung and its corporate child-labor-using brethren, raise your hand.

Nobody?

Me neither.

From China Labor Watch:

New York – China Labor Watch (CLW) has once again exposed the employment of child labor in Samsung’s supply chain, this time at a factory called Shinyang Electronics in Dongguan, China. This revelation comes nearly two years after CLW first revealed the exploitation of children in a Samsung supplier factory.

The production orders of Samsung are seasonal, and suppliers like Shinyang will alter the strictness of hiring practices in order to adapt to Samsung’s demands. During the busy season and in urgent need of labor, Shinyang hires child labor and underage student workers. These minors will usually only work for a period of three to six months, toiling for 11 hours every day without overtime pay, and the factory does not purchase social insurance for them as required by law. These young workers usually leave when the factory as it enters the off-season, and the factory does not need to provide any sort of severance pay.

On June 30, Samsung published its 2014 sustainability report titled “Global Harmony”. Within, Samsung says that it inspected working conditions at 200 suppliers in 2013 and “no instances of child labor were found”.

After allegedly inspecting hundreds of suppliers, Samsung did not find one child worker. Yet in just one Samsung supplier factory, CLW has uncovered several children employed without labor contracts, working 11 hours per day and only being paid for 10 of those hours.

CLW’s investigation of Shinyang revealed at least 15 sets of labor violations. In addition to child labor, unpaid overtime wages, excessive overtime, and a lack of social insurance, the investigation exposed a lack of pre-job safety training and protective equipment despite the use of harmful chemicals; discriminatory hiring; overuse of temp workers; workers made to sign blank labor contracts; illegal resignation requirements; potential audit fraud; broad company regulations that establishes the pretext to punish workers for almost any behavior; a lack of any union; and poor living conditions.

Confession, the Courts and Going to Hell

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If a priest reveals what he’s heard in confession, will he go to hell?

I’ve read that a priest who violates the seal of confession suffers automatic excommunication which only the Holy See can remove. So, I would guess that a priest who reveals what he hears in confession is, at the least, in danger of hell.

That’s a serious question, for the simple reason that, in this anti-Catholic climate, we’re going to see more and more attempts to coerce priests to break the seal of confession. That would be a great triumph for Satan, since it would destroy the confidence of Catholics and break what has always been a powerful bond between them and their Church.

Catholics know that whatever they do, they can be forgiven by God. All Christians know this. But Catholics have the benefit of being able to actually confess their sins out loud and hear the words of absolution, applied directly to them. It does not matter what the sin is, they can do this in the confessional.

They also receive incredibly healing graces in this sacrament.

There is something about the cleansing power of the Sacrament of Confession that can make people who would not otherwise be able to approach communion feel worthy to do so. Confession heals, in and of itself. The sinner does not have to wonder if they’ve had the right attitude or if they’ve really been saved. All they have to do is confess and mean it. They can then draw a line under those bad things and walk out of that confessional, safe and secure in God’s grace.

All this is based on two things: The fact that Christ uses the priest for a conduit of His grace in this sacrament, and the fact that Catholics can trust that whatever they say in that confessional ends there.

I don’t know how priests deal with this burden, but I can say from my years of listening to non-sacramental confessions from thousands of constituents that God probably gives them the grace of forgetfulness. I know that I never remember the things my constituents have told me unless I need to in order to do something for them. I don’t mean I forget, exactly. I just mean that those things are not, ever, in my thoughts.

When I see the person the next time, I don’t think about or even remember what they’ve told me. It doesn’t stay in my thoughts at all. But if I need to remember for a legitimate reason, I do. I believe that is a grace that God bestows on office holders, an anointing, if you will, that allows them to keep the secrets their constituents share with them. From what I’ve seen, elected officials, no matter what rubes they may be in other ways, are very, very good at not talking about their constituents’ private matters.

I am guessing that priests experience something similar. If God gave me this grace, as an elected official, I can’t imagine why He wouldn’t give something like it to His priests who hear confessions.

That’s a good thing, because priests are more and more going to be the objects of assaults of various types in the courts. The underlying reason is that the devil is pretty much running the show in a large segment of Western society, and the devil hates priests.

If Satan can break a priest, if he can use a priest to his ends, the damage he can do to those of us in the pews is enormous. The single best way to wound the Body of Christ is to turn His ministers into weapons against the Church and the people of God.

If Satan can break the seal of the confessional, then he will, in one swoop, destroy the sacrament that bestows God’s cleansing healing on scarred and hurting souls. Of course, he can’t destroy the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Jesus is perfectly capable of reaching into people directly. I have experienced this myself. But he can destroy the safe, reliable source of healing and forgiveness that is the sacrament of confession.

I think that’s the real reason behind the attacks on the confessional through the courts that crop up from time to time. I would guess that every priest knows that he can be drug through protracted court battles aimed at trying to get him to divulge something someone said to him in confession.

It happened a few years ago in Oregon when a prosecutor secretly taped a jailhouse confession and tried to use it in court. It’s happening in Louisiana right now as part of a civil lawsuit.

Father Jeff Bayhi is stuck between the Louisiana Supreme Court, a girl and her family who are suing for money, and going to hell.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana recently ruled that Father Bayhi must testify in court about the particulars of a confession that he may have heard in 2008. A girl, who was 14 at the time, says she confessed to him that she was being abused by a relative who is now dead. The girl’s parents are now suing Father Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for failure to report the abuse.

This particular case has all the lightning rods in place: Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report.

The trouble, of course, is that the failure to report — assuming that the allegations that the girl made this confession are true — is that the lightning rods aren’t aligned the way they usually are. This isn’t about a bishop who failed to report an abusing priest. It is about a priest who — I repeat: if the confession took place as the girl claims — did not break the seal of confession.

The priest sex abuse scandal has given these particular lightning rods such drawing power that just putting the words out there in a row elicits all sorts of rage, disgust and dismissal. Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report. That’s a litany (if you will excuse the word) of betrayal that has been seared into the minds of everyone who hears it.

However, the Confessional is inviolate. Father Bayhi can not testify.

I can tell you that every time God has given me a chance to suffer for Him, I didn’t want it. I am not the stuff martyrs are made of. I’ve been kicked around quite a bit for my faith, and I’ve wailed and moaned and been angry about every single bit of it.

So, my heart goes out to Father Bayhi. He’s been given the awful gift of suffering for Christ. I can only imagine how terrifying and miserable all this is for him.

My grandmother used to talk about being “stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Father Bayhi is literally stuck between the devil and Jesus. The two things he’s got going for him are that he knows absolutely what he must do, and he’s not alone. Every faithful Catholic, everywhere, will stand behind him.

Will Father Bayhi have to go to jail? I doubt it. At some point, saner courts will probably prevail. But that’s not a sure thing. Not in today’s world.

When the New York Times can keep running ads openly attacking the Church in a manner that I can only describe as religious bigotry, and when large portions of the media are willing to publish vitriolic and categorically bigoted attacks on prominent Catholics for being Catholics, then anything is possible.

Father Bayhi and all our priests need our prayers. We need to stick together and stand up for one another.

Book Review: If Daddy is a Cipher, Who is God the Father?

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To join the conversation about How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization or to order a copy, go here

How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization, is an important book. It’s the kind of book that is bound to provoke discussion. It will be lauded and excoriated.

That’s because it deals with important issues and advances an argument for a new explanation of much-discussed social trends. A lot of people have a social or professional stake in the old-school explanations of why secularism has taken hold in the West. Many social scholars have based their life’s work on the gradualist explanation of secularism.

Social scientist gadflies, such as Dr Richard Dawkins, are attempting to base new socio/political movements at least tangentially on those same explanations. When someone comes along and advances a new theory about what has become a kind of social science cant, the reactions will be strong and varied.

This is exactly what has happened with Mary Eberstadt’s fine book, How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization. Ms Eberstadt’s premise is that the rise of secularism is linked to the demise of the family. She does a good job of establishing a historical correlation between these two trends, going back hundreds of years.

The theory she advances in her book is that this is more than a correlation, that the destruction of the family leads directly to a lessening of religious fervor, specifically as it relates to Christianity. In other words, she’s saying that strong families buttress the practice of religion and the loss of family weakens it. She is saying that the loss of family, which began with the industrial revolution, is the primary cause of the rise of secularism.

I am not sure exactly what I think about this. I agree that the correlation between the loss of family and the rise of secularism is there. I also agree that single people go to church less.

I do think she Ms Eberstadt is correct that the loss of family is a real factor in the rise of secularism. But I tend to think that there are economic forces at work here that underlie the loss of family that are probably the true, root, cause. I also think that the two things feed on one another. Declining religion also leads to a decline in family.

My opinion, which is not based on research, but is just my opinion, is that one of the main reasons that a smaller percentage of single people than marrieds go to church in today’s society is because they feel compelled to engage in sexual activities which the church forbids. Notice I said “compelled.” Sex is a powerful, even overwhelming, drive in young people. Young human beings go through a period of years in which their hormones are running so strong that no matter what they’re doing, sex is in their minds somewhere.

However, much of the sexual behavior they engage in today is being pushed on them by adults. Sex education, the media and even their own parents push them toward sexual awareness before they want it and then toward sexual activity before they are ready for it. They are often coerced into sexual activity at a point when they are actually scared of it and would, if allowed to make free choices, much rather just talk and giggle about it for a few years.

They are also forced, by the way adolescent social life is currently constructed, (again by adults) to engage in sexual activity whether they want to or not in order to be one of the group. At that point, their sexuality is no longer their own and it is not so much a response to raging hormones as it is a coerced situation.

Progressive churches often fail to offer a bulwark or any sort against this, while traditional churches, just tell young people to stay pure and not engage in sex outside of marriage. Church does not give kids, even those in intact families, the resources to deal with the cultural landslide of influences pushing them into early sexual activity. What churches do is make them uncomfortable about what they are doing. They are betrayed by progressive churches who are actually part of the problem. They are simply given mandates with no real comprehension of what they are facing or support in facing it from traditional churches. It is easier, once they reach the age where they can decide, just not to go.

Once they are married, they usually find it possible to comply with church sexual teachings and their social group, both at once. The dissonance is removed. They can go to church again.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. All this sexual activity weakens or even destroys the bonds that sex forms between spouses. It contributes to the rise of unwed births, and once people are married, their prior sexual promiscuity makes it easier for them to break their vows.

People aren’t as committed to their husbands and wives because they’ve left too many pieces of themselves with their priors. They find it easy to think of divorce in times of trouble. They also find it easy to engage in extramarital sex. Divorce is just as easy as sex for people like this, and for the same reasons.

The upshot of this is that more and more children grow up in partial families with only one distracted and overwhelmed parent. They may never have seen their father. They may not know who their father is. They may grow up in homes wrecked by divorce with absentee fathers or parents who hate one another and are constantly dragging one another into court over custody and child support.They can’t form families of their own when they grow up because they don’t have any idea what a family is.

This is more than the loss of family. It is the destruction of normal child parent relationships and the introduction of acute insecurity, abandonment and isolation on a primal level into children’s developing years. It leads to partially dismembered adults who cannot form normal permanent relationships or commit to any other person.

Meanwhile, the Church tells them that God is their heavenly father, the church is their home, and heaven is their ultimate home.

The best reaction those metaphors are going to get from children who’ve grown up in one of today’s chaotic, shattered and almost non-existent families, is huh? More likely they will respond with a rejecting anger.

After all, if Daddy is a cipher — or worse — then who is God the Father?

How the West Really Lost God, a New Theory of Secularization is an important book. It dares to break step with the accepted explanations for how we got here. The fact that it also raises questions as well as answers them, is a mark of its relevance to today’s world.

I think anyone interested in discussing why Western Civilization has turned toward an increasingly totalitarian form of secularism should read it.

 

The Church and the Cultural Acceptance of Sexual Violence

 

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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.”

Minors Crossing the Border Illegally. Figuring it Out.


I don’t know what to make of the story of thousands of minors surging over the borders into the United States from Central American countries.

I haven’t written about it because I’m still trying to understand it. I do know that Ft Sill in Oklahoma is being used to house some of these young people.

What I don’t know, on the other hand, is elemental.

I don’t know how long this has been going on. I don’t know how much of what the media is reporting is hype of one sort or the other that is being generated because of the upcoming election. I don’t know why these young people are choosing to do this. I don’t know what is happening in their home countries that compels them. I don’t know if this is organized. I don’t know how many of them have families already in the US. I don’t even know what the United States government is doing about it.

Given all that I don’t know (which every salient fact) I can’t write about it. What would I say?

I’m putting three videos below which discuss the situation.

The first video is from Catholic News Service.

The second is from Univision, which is a Spanish language television station. They’ve interviewed me numerous times down through the years, and I’ve found them to be very willing to let people have their say without editing. They do have a bias — which they state honestly — toward the concerns of their target audience.

The third video comes from Fox News. I chose them because they seem to give a good round-up here, and because they also have a clear bias, one which somewhat balances Univision.

I would advise against any of us thinking that we understand this situation or know how to address it effectively, based on these videos, or any of the news coverage I’ve seen.

I am guessing that an effective way of dealing with it lie in answers to questions that deal with the situation in the countries from which they come.

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

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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.

 

Family: I am Sister Lily’s Granddaughter. Where I’m From, that Counts for a Lot.

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Where I’m From: Daddy worked here.

I don’t remember if I told you this, but my grandmother was a Pentecostal Holiness Preacher.

She had a radio show (this was back in the 1940s and early 50s) that covered several states. She was what they called a “church planter.” She went from place to place, starting churches, getting them up and going, then moving along to the next place. She planted several of the churches in the house district that I represented for 18 years.

I remember back when I was running for office the first time — this was in my anti-God period, when I was pro choice — many of the preachers in that district dedicated their Sunday morning sermons to excoriating me from the pulpit. If they’d stuck with the truth — I was pro choice and pro ERA — they might have beaten me.

But they didn’t.

The attacks got crazy and crazier, as they called me everything but a nice person. I was a communist, a lesbian, a slut, a this and a that, a deez and a doz.

Finally, one Sunday, individual congregants in more than one church just spontaneously, without any coaxing from me, stood up in the middle of these sermons and started yelling at the various preachers. They said that they had known me since I was a baby, and the preacher was a liar.

You see, I was from there. These preachers were not.

02205 CattleAuctionBarn2010

Oklahoma National Stockyards. My mother was a weigh master here. 

I was Sister Lily’s granddaughter. I was Charlie and Bessie’s granddaughter. My Daddy worked at the Stockyards and they all knew him … and his brother. My uncle was in the Masons. They’d gone to school with my mother, me, my sister, my cousins.

That is the power of family.

I don’t mean family connections. I mean the power of identity that comes with being connected by blood to a particular group of people.

Family is identity.

It is also home.

I remember (this post is going to be a series of reminiscences, so get ready) when I told my cousin, my Daddy’s brother’s kid, that I had converted to the Catholic Church. He told me, “It doesn’t matter. Nothing you do matters. I love you.”

When I was anti-God, it didn’t matter.

When I was Oklahoma Director of NARAL, it didn’t matter.

When I met Christ in a profound conversion experience and became a Christian, not one thing changed with my family.

When I started my life as a pro life advocate, it was still the same.

When I was in office, a stay at home mom, now, there was no difference.

My friends dumped me, accused me of “betraying” them for my followership of Christ. In fact, many of my bestest buds turned 180 hard about and began attacking me and lying about me the same way those preachers had done years before. The people who had attacked me and the people who had supported me switched places.

All except for family. Nothing changed with them. Nothing has ever changed. Nothing will ever change.

I remember when another cousin of mine decided to come out to us as gay. He got us together; was hyper tense when he called and told us to be at my aunt’s house at a certain time and date. We were scared. We all thought he was going to tell us he had cancer or something.

When he did his big reveal — I’m gay (sniff) — we were dumbfounded. I mean, was he telling us that he thought we didn’t already know???

Duhhhh.

That’s family.

Families are where people who are for gay marriage and people who are opposed to gay marriage, where drug addicts and tee-totalers, Republican and Democrats, all love one another because, at bottom, they don’t care about that stuff. Not when you’re family.

My same cousin who told me he didn’t care if I was Catholic had been a total male chauvinist pig back in the days when I was an all-out feminist activist. Didn’t matter to either of us. He supported the Viet Nam war, I demonstrated against it. No problem.

Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”

Home, in that sense, is family. And family is the people who don’t care about your disgraces and aren’t impressed with your successes. You don’t have to clean up the house before they come. It’s ok if you’re overweight and you’re still welcome to be there even if you’ve just been caught — again as we say in these parts — in bed with either a live boy or a dead girl.

I am well aware that there are families who spend all their time picking each other apart, who compete with one another and criticize one another and who actually are anything but comforting. That’s not my family. My family is the “it doesn’t matter” crowd who just sticks with you, even when they all flat-out know you are wrong.

But even those other sad families, the nit-picking, pretend-perfect families, still usually stick with one another against the outside world.

I could go on and on about family as a social construct or whatever.

But family is both more and less than that. Family is personal. it’s about us as people. It’s who we are, whether we want to be that or not. Divorce is a disaster because it shears family from itself. It atomizes these broad extended tribes of safety into us and them and takes away the only real emotional security to be had from other people in this life.

I can tell you for a fact that friends will throw you away like leftover fish because of your politics, religion or anything else they consider to be the elemental you. There are a few — I had three, now I’m down to two — friends who will stick, even when I go from anti-God to Catholic, from pro choice to pro life — but the rest of them will not.

Friends can become enemies in the time it takes to say Get Out!!

Friends, however much fun they may be, are not family.

And family, if it is torn asunder with betrayals, is not family, either.

The tragedy of our times is that we have atomized and particularized family to the point that many families provide no more loyalty and emotional safety than friendship. Families turn on one another now, too.

When that happens the world is a cold place where the winds of isolation and aloneness howl through people’s lives and warp them into less than who they are meant to be. We become vicious and cowed, like a society of stray dogs. Like those stray dogs, we run in packs and we become dangerous to the order and safety that surrounds us.

Family provides security and safety. It keeps us safe and gives us confidence to go on adventures and take healthy risks, secure in the knowledge that succeed or flop, family is there for us when we want to venture back.

People without family truly are like stray dogs. The packs they form are destructive to the larger world and straight-jacket limiting to those who run in them. No one goes on adventures or takes risks that run against the rules of the pack, because that would result in expulsion. The pack would turn on them and attack them.

That is the source of the crazy viciousness I sometimes see — and delete — in the com box commentary on this blog. It is the cause of the hive mind thinking that is driving our society to the brink of self-destruction. It is the cultural anomie of a society that has torn family from itself and is now running loose and lost in mindless packs.

Family, real family, is the antidote to all that. Family is the most freeing thing possible, because it gives you the safety to try and fail and then try again with the certainty that no matter what happens, you will have a place in this world and you will be loved.

Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in. I’ve never read a better definition of family.

Message to Internet Venues: Stop the Internet Death Threats and Deliberate Attempts to Incite Violence

Finger pointing at raised hands

I’m going to do something that I said I would not do.

Less than 24 hours ago, I was involved in a behind-the-scenes discussion of the vile reactions to the Hobby Lobby decision that were taking place on the internet. I said — and I meant it — that I was not going to write about this trash.

The reason? Satan brought this beast to life, and I, for one, don’t want to feed it.

Now, I’m going to do a 180 and do that thing I said I wasn’t going to do. I am going to talk about the satanically-inspired things being said.

The reason?

I read a call for help from Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. I have worked with Mrs Lahl on legislation. She is publicly involved in fighting commercial egg harvesting and surrogacy. Evidently, Mrs Lahl has been receiving what amount to death threats.

I’ve decided to write about these threats. I can’t let this go unchallenged.

There were, at least in some dirty little corners of the internet, comments directly inciting violence against Hobby Lobby. What I saw was one person after another calling for specific acts of violence.

I want to make this clear. These were calls to commit crimes of violence against this business. They were explicit and repetitive. They were direct calls to do violence with specific types of violence being named. Every action these commenters were calling for was both a felony in itself and potentially murderous to large numbers of people.

The threats directed against Jennifer Lahl were also explicit. In fact, they were even more explicit, naming the weapon and the method. They were implied death threats, made in graphic terms.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that you have to take people at their word about these things. Words precede actions. My advice to the police is that if anything happens in either of these situations you already have your “persons of interest.” Just look at the people making these threats.

Slander and personal excoriation have become so rife in our society that we no longer recognize them for what they are. We’ve gotten to the point that we think this kind of verbal debauch is normal. Are death threats and calls for violence against persons the downward trend toward a new normal?

I am writing this post to call on other bloggers and people who publish on the internet to accept that they are responsible for what they allow on their publications.

I am not talking about a random comment that got through by accident. I am referring to one call to commit violence, one death threat, after another. If your outlet has become a venue for issuing calls to commit crimes of devastating violence, you need to do something about it. 

Do not wait until a tragedy occurs and then make sanctimonious statements to the press to excuse yourself. Because if that happens, I, for one, won’t be buying it.

Vatican: Archbishop Kicked Out for Sex with Minors

O ARCHBISHOP JOZEF WESOLOWSKI facebook

It’s about time.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of he Faith has ordered Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski to be stripped of the priesthood. This order came after a canonical trial.

According to an article from Reuters, the Holy See has indicated that “criminal proceedings by Vatican judicial authorities would begin once the sentence was confirmed. If found guilty in a criminal trial, Mr Wesolowski could risk extradition to the Dominican Republic.”

Mr Wesolowski is the former Vatican nuncio to the Dominican Republic. He is accused of child sexual abuse. This alleged abuse includes buying sex from minors while he was in the Dominican Republic and an unspecified connection with a Polish priest accused of sexually assaulting at least 14 underage boys.

He has two months to appeal this decision. Authorities in the Dominican Republic are investigating Mr Wesolowski, but have not filed charges against him.

According to Polskie Radio, “accusations against Mr Wesolowski went public when television footage appeared in which the nuncio was seen visiting areas in the capital known for child prostitution.”

It is interesting that child prostitution is so widespread and acknowledged in the Dominican Republic that local television knows where to go to photograph it in action. But it’s not a surprise. I would imagine that they could do the same thing here in Oklahoma City.

The Dominican Republic is well known as a sex tourism destination, as is New York. This is not something that is hidden. It is big, highly-publicized business. Dominican authorities only recently started to crack down on the practice. Gay sex tourism, including tourism aimed at sex with children, is rife throughout the area, including further south in Brazil.

I have personal knowledge of a woman who was kidnapped from her apartment in the Dominican Republic, brought to the United States and sold by sex traffickers. Her pimps used the threat that they would go back and kidnap, rape and sell her young daughter if she did not cooperate with them. This brave lady testified in court against her pimps, who are now in prison.

The thought that a Vatican Nuncio is participating in this human rights violation is, sad to say, not surprising. I’ve thought for a long time that the scandal the Church has endured because of the behavior of her prelates as regards child sex abuse was necessary. This behavior had to stop. It was as if the Holy Spirit said Enough!

The Church must be cleansed of this evil. It. Has. To. Stop.

I, for one, am glad that the Vatican has finally taken this action against a pedophile prelate.

I do not want to see innocent men persecuted because of false charges. That is why due process is so necessary. But when the charges are proven true, these men must be laicized and turned over to the authorities.

I want a priesthood of genuine Christians who wear that collar because they have given their lives to Christ. I want a priesthood I can be proud of.

That cannot happen in an institution that tolerates sexual depravity among its members.

Pope Francis: Torture is a Mortal Sin

Pope Francis says that torture is a mortal sin.

For those who might be confused, a mortal sin is a willfully committed transgression against the law of God that deprives the soul of divine grace. In other words, a mortal sin can send you to hell.

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