In Their Own Words: Inside the Synod

Synod Fathers discuss the Synod on the Family, 2014.

Cardinal Willem Jacobus, Netherlands

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Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, USA

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, USA

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Cardinal Caffarra, Italy

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Final Report Projections

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Pope Adds African Cardinal to Synod Drafting Committee. Cardinal Pell Says ‘We’re Not Collapsing in a Heap’

Public Catholic reader Ken alerted me to the fact that Pope Frances has added another member to the drafting committee for the final report from the First Synod on the Family.

This report will not directly affect Church teaching. It will be used for further discussion during the next year.

The new member is rather interesting, considering Cardinal Kasper’s foot in mouth comment about African bishops a couple of days ago. He is Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, of South Africa.

The Holy Father also added Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne to the committee.

In the meantime, Cardinal Pell has given an interview to Catholic News Service in which he says,

We’re not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic Churches in one or two countries, and going out of business.

The midterm report was ‘tendentious, skewed; it didn’t represent accurately the feelings of the Synod fathers. In the immediate reaction to it, when there wa an hour, an hour and half of discussion, three-quarters of those who spoke had some problems with it.

It promises to be way past interesting, reading the final report and seeing what the “Synod fathers” have done. I imagine that this “final” report will be drug around, cut apart, analyzed, applauded and attacked until we get to the “real” synod and the whole things starts over again.

Between Terrorism, Ebola and Ebola Hysteria, Staycations are Looking Good

I don’t have the money to take a cruise right now, anyway.

I’ve got to hire a plumber to fix some drippy leaks and figure out why water backs up into the vents on my house when the yard is soaked. That, and not airline tickets and cruise ships, is where my money is going.

But even if I was full up on cash and aching to roll, I think I’d settle for a car trip and a family picnic. Since 9/11, travel has been punishing at best. Now it’s looking more and more like a nightmare waiting to happen.

ISIS and their desire to blow us up/behead us/take us prisoner/rape us and sell us into slavery is like the ubiquitous elevator music of our travel. We know, as we are wanded, patted down, searched and yelled at by airport personnel that this little bit of medicine is for our own good. We take it in hopes that it will ward off having us end up like the Passengers of Flight 93, careening into the earth to save the nation’s capital from attack, or like James Foley, kneeling in the sand to recite some bit of ISIS dogma before we are murdered by a satanic braggadocio.

We’ve got a handle on all that.

We’ve learned to tune the noise down low and go about our business, semi-secure in the law of averages and what has so far been well-placed faith in our government to ferret out these murdering dirt bags before they get to us.

Then, along comes Ebola, which will not show itself to the wands and metal detectors and which can not be bothered to telegraph its intentions with email and cell phone calls. Ebola travels from human to human in the silent stealth warfare of life against life.

Disease knows no faith, nationality or cant. It does not announce itself by shouting slogans and waving weapons. In the famous words from Terminator 1, “… it can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.”

Ebola is the latest in an endless line of attacks humanity has faced from other life forms. The virus, with its magnificent simplicity, and its half-life/half-not-life status, is particularly difficult to manage. Unlike bacteria, a virus can’t even breed itself. It cannot, as the scientists say, “multiply” on its own.

It needs a “host” and when that “host” is us, and the virus in question is a killer, you’d better, as Okies say, get back Loretta. Because things are going to get crazy. Each virus has its limits, and we, being the smarter of the two in this battle, can size up those limits and figure out how to take the thing on by getting it on our turf instead of its turf.

The turf of the Ebola virus is literally hand to hand. As in, it passes from hand to hand. So far (and hopefully from now on) it doesn’t pass by breath. An Ebola victim can’t exhale on you and infect you. It also can’t pass from one person to the next until it has reached the stage where it shows itself. When it demonstrates its presence with a fever or a headache or nausea, then it is powerful enough to reach across the divide between persons and jump, on a touch or a shared bit of bodily fluid, from one person to the next.

It’s far more infectious than HIV, but it’s not contagious like, say, the flu. However, it is deadly, and I don’t mean deadly in years the way HIV is, but deadly in days. And the death it gives is agonizing.

We don’t understand Ebola. And we haven’t been so good at doing what we don’t admit we do with these deadly diseases, which is to “contain” it among what we appear to regard as the riffraff of the world. From the nightly news to daily conversations, the horror of Ebola is not that it is laying waste whole countries in Africa. It is the all-too-human fear that it’s going to leap the fence of national borders, rivers and oceans and get to us.

The best single disease vector on our planet today is the commercial airline, which is also the vector for the social disease of terrorism. A jet plane can do in a matter of hours what once took months or even years, and in the case of isolated areas of the world, what, in centuries past, didn’t happen at all.

Plague of any type can now spread at the speed of a jet engine. And it goes everywhere on this planet. Thus we have a man from Liberia, dying of Ebola in Dallas, and a health care worker from Dallas ending up in quarantine in Belize.

That’s the latest story, you know. A poor health care worker from the same Dallas hospital where the Liberian man died and a nurse contracted the disease, went on a cruise and ended up in quarantine because she got sick. Does she have Ebola? Given the length of time since she handled the specimens (she’s a lab worker) it’s unlikely, but possible.

Her exposure, if there was one, occurred long enough ago that Ebola has almost run out its string with her. All living things, including somewhat living things like the Ebola virus have an amount of time it takes them to reproduce. In the case of disease, it takes a lot of these reproductions, these multiplications, before symptoms develop. We can measure it and predict it within parameters that allow for individual variations. If this health care worker has Ebola, her body is keeping it down well enough that it’s taken a long time to manifest.

All this raises questions. Government questions. Health care questions. And what are you and I gonna do questions.

The what are you and I gonna do questions are actually the easiest because they’re the ones we have complete control over. Holiday season is coming, and a lot of people will want to hop a jet and go to Grandma’s house. I like to take trips in October because the weather is pleasant and the tourists are thinned out. The answer for me about what I’m gonna do is largely academic. I don’t have the coin to go gallivanting. I’ve got plumbing to fix. I

may load up the car and take a couple of day trips around Oklahoma. But that’s about it for me. However, given the various complexities that are being heaped on travel, a staycation is looking more and more like the smart move, and not just for me.

I mean, who wants to go on a cruise and end up quarantined? Who wants to go on a flight and end up alerted that they have to watch themselves for symptoms for the next three weeks? Who wants to be patted down, wanded and yelled at? And I’m not even talking about squeezing yourself into those tiny seats and hauling luggage through airports.

I love to travel. But, fortunately for me, I also love to be at home. I’ve got plumbing to fix and things are in a roil on the travel front. I see a staycation in my future.

Four Londoners Charged with ISIS-Related Terrorism

Four men have been accused of plotting a terrorist attack on police officers and soldiers in the streets of London.

According to the Daily Mail, the men had sworn oaths of allegiance to ISIS and were scouting a London police station and an army barracks. They had photos of four officers. I assume these were photos of their intended victims.

They had managed to arm themselves and had “jihadist materials, including videos of beheadings.”

From the Mail Online:

Four men have appeared in court accused of plotting a terror attack on police officers or soldiers on the streets of London.

 

Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, Nyall Hamlett, 24, and Momen Motasim, 21, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism.

 

The men allegedly swore allegiance to extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) and scouted out Shepherd’s Bush police station and White City Territorial Army Barracks.

 

They allegedly kept Instagram images of two Scotland Yard police officers and two Metropolitan Police community support officers, as well as a trove of jihadist material including videos of beheadings.

 

In addition, they are accused of having a Baikal handgun, silencer and six rounds of ammunition.

 

It is alleged the men discussed getting hold of and stashing a moped as part of the terror plot and are said to have used codewords over secret communication channels.

 

A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, also appeared in court charged with firearms offences.

Nigeria, Boko Haram Agree to Ceasefire and Release of Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria’s chief of defense, Alex Badeh, has announced a truce between the Nigerian government and Boko Harma and the possible release of the 200 school girls that Boko Haram abducted six months ago.

From BBC Africa:

Nigeria’s military says it has agreed a truce with Islamist militants Boko Haram – and that the schoolgirls the group has abducted will be released.

Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.

The military has struggled to defeat Boko Haram, which has been fighting an insurgency since 2009.

Boko Haram sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls.

The girls were seized in the north-eastern town of Chibok in Borno state, and their continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government’s efforts to secure their release.

The hostages are thought to have been taken to the vast Sambisa forest, along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign said in a tweet on Friday: “We are monitoring the news with huge expectations.”

Cardinal Kasper and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview

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Cardinal Kasper says he didn’t say it.

The reporter says he’s got it on tape.

It” is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview that Cardinal Kasper gave yesterday. I can understand why Cardinal Kasper is doing his best to unsay what he said. He truly did open his clerical mouth and insert both his priestly feet.

His terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview began with a few off-the-cuff remarks about how the bishops from Africa were opposing what Cardinal Kasper wants the Synod on the Family to do. If the quotes are correct, the Cardinal came across like a grand dame sniffing her titled nose at the effrontery of serving salads on warm salad plates. He might as well have said, It is, you see, just not done, but then, you know these colonials; all feathers and drums with no class.

He ended that little riff with a snippy comment to the effect that, while African bishops had to deal with their reality, that didn’t mean that their opinions should be taken seriously by the bishops from the more enlightened parts of the world.

If you want to listen to the interview, go here. If you can read German (I can’t) I’m told you will find the Cardinal’s denial of the whole thing here. If you’d like to read intelligent commentary — as opposed to the big nnnnhhhh I’ve giving you here — check out Deacon Greg Kandra and The Anchoress.

I punted on “the interview” and didn’t write about it yesterday because I’d already decided that Cardinal Kasper was a few cards short of a full theological deck.

I know. Who am I to say that? The answer, of course, is that I’m nobody. I am a pew-sitting convert from Oklahoma, of all backward places.

But I can’t help thinking with my backward little Okie brain (which I’m sure would rank considerably below an African brain.) What I’ve been thinking for a while now is that Cardinal Kasper’s recent spate of press conferences sound like an interview for the position of Catholicism’s answer to Episcopalian Bishop Shelby Spong.

Cardinal Kasper seems to like being interviewed, at least most of the time. He’s been running to the press on a regular basis to engage in an unseemly spite fight with his brother bishops. The quotes from his foot-in-mouth interview were a bit of a face-palm moment for some people, but I was, by the time I read them, all done with paying attention to Cardinal Kasper and his press peccadilloes.

Cardinal Kasper’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview doesn’t, in my opinion, reveal him to be a racist so much as it pinpoints him as a self-important snob. That’s pretty much the message I got from Cardinal Kasper’s comment.

Those “Africans” and their backward countries just can’t be expected to exercise the enlightened Christianity of the Church of What’s Happening Now. Poor things. They can’t help it. We need to be nice to them, but certainly not let their third-world hang-ups get in the way of our first-world compassion and tolerance.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview has boiled itself down to a he-said-it-and-I’ve-got-him-on-tape-saying-it/I-didn’t-say-it-and-I’m-not-that-kind-of-guy deal between Cardinal Kasper and Edward Pentin, the reporter who told on him. I can’t see any way that is going to end well for the Cardinal. My advice to him is just belly up to the bar and tell the truth, which is most likely “I didn’t mean it the way it came out.” He can follow that by saying “I denied it because I was embarrassed to admit it.”

That would be humiliating, especially for someone as much in love with himself as the Cardinal appears to be. But it might also end up being spiritually edifying to him.

As for me, I have no desire whatsoever to flog the poor Cardinal for his foot in mouth disease. It really does happen to all of us from time to time. The truth is:

Things often look all different in print than they sounded in your own ears when you were saying them. That’s just a fact.

Anybody who talks to the press a lot is going to, as we Okies say, come a cropper at some point. That’s another fact.

I don’t want to keel-haul Cardinal Kasper for his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview.

I don’t even want to scold him for it.

My beef with the Cardinal is more fundamental. It’s about that Jesus guy.

You know. The One Who said What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

 

 

 

Note: The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview is a play on the title of a book by Judith Viorst.

6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now

I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.

I had hope that it would find ways for the Church to support and strengthen traditional marriage, that it would address the real problems of children of divorce who grow up with half their souls amputated by the constant roiling.

I had hope that it would take a look at ways to help people who are trying their best to follow Catholic teaching in a hostile world where one McJob won’t support a family, so both parents end up with with two or three jobs, leaving the children to raise themselves.

I had hope that the Synod would address the clanging juxtaposition of overprivileged kids in too-expensive Catholic schools staging walk-outs from their fine educations while inner city kids are forced to share textbooks and don’t even feel physically safe.

I had hope that the Synod would find ways to strengthen the family, not abandon and destroy it.

In truth, I not only had hopes for the Synod, I had trust in it. I believed in it and in the men who were participating in it. Now, I’m afraid of what they may do.

Here are 6 things I wish the Synod on the Family would consider that it doesn’t seem to be considering now.

 

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1. Poverty and its deleterious effect on families. As I mentioned above, even here in America, poverty grinds families to bits. American children aren’t forced to scavenge in garbage dumps for food. But they spend most of their lives being raised by everything and everybody except their parents.

There is such a divide between the elites and the rest of this country that I honestly don’t think they know or believe what their policies are doing to ordinary people. Low wages and a stagnant economy caused by exporting our industrial base has led to the need for mothers and dads to work two or three jobs apiece, just to put a roof over their kids’ heads.

There’s no nanny or au pair for these kids. They end up raising themselves, and being raised by other kids and the second-rate schools they must attend. As soon as the law allows, they get McJobs of their own, often working long hours to help support the family. The resulting exhaustion often ends their education.

Too many of them opt out altogether. Their real family, their real parents, are the gangs and the other kids. They have no moorings to make decisions, so they fall into early and promiscuous sex, babies without dads, drugs and gangs.

That’s in America.

I’m sure it’s much worse — by powers of ten — in developing countries. After all, the reason our corporations shipped our industrial base overseas was to be in places where it could treat people any way it wanted.

Divorce among the working class and lower classes in America is a plague; as is shacking up and having kids out of wedlock.

It destroys families. And the destruction of families destroys lives.

Perhaps the Synod should look at what it can do to help Catholics who want to have families and raise them well but are crippled by poverty that makes living out their vocation a desperate and losing fight. How can the Church support families in the face of poverty and corporatism? I wish they’d look at that.

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2. How the Church can actually teach its teachings to the people in the pews. Re-writing the Gospels to fit the times is not the correct pastoral answer. The correct pastoral answer is to take a look at why the Bishops have been such abysmal failures at teaching Church teaching.The arguments these men are having now are a direct result of their failure to teach in the past.

The Church leadership has gotten soft and disengaged. It has lost its missionary fervor. Its operating ethos is build-a-church-building-then-wait-for-the-parishioners-to-come. Follow that by preaching fine homilies that are nonetheless removed from the fact that ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are out there without ammunition or support on the front lines of a cultural war.

I don’t think that Catholic clergy really “get” what the Catholic laity is facing every single day. I don’t believe they understand the many social martyrdoms that many devout Catholics endure.

My hope is that the Synod could address this failure as it applies to the family and actually talk about how to help Catholic laity be the Light of the World that Jesus calls them to be.

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3. Stop speaking in indirections and obscure language. I would love to see our religious leaders take the marbles out of their mouths and actually communicate in a straightforward manner. The flap over the relatio is a case in point.

I’ve heard comments that people are “stupid” for not understanding that the document is just basically minutes of the previous meetings and nothing official. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the public, it’s that if you say it, and they don’t get it, it’s on you to fix that. Leadership is mostly a matter of being understood.

This inability to speak in simple declarative sentences may be a large part of why the bishops have failed so disastrously these past decades in their job as teachers of the faith. If I could make one reform of Catholic clergy it would be to teach them to talk to people about the faith from the heart.

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4. Bring Catholic education back in line with Catholic belief, and provide it to the poor. Catholic education is losing its Catholic savor. It is also more and more the inaccessible privilege of the privileged. It smacks of hypocrisy to preach about “the poor” while shutting the doors to a good Catholic education in the “the poor’s” faces.

Catholic families of every social strata need the Church’s help in raising their children to be Catholic. If Catholic schools fail in this mission — and many of them are demonstrably failing horribly — then what are parents to do? By the same token, if access to a Catholic education is denied to parishioners who are trapped in the McJob syndrome, that will only quicken and deepen the destruction of their children.

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5. Address the plague of drug addiction that destroys our families. Drug addiction destroys the personalities of the people who suffer from it, and it also destroys the homes and happiness of everyone they love. It is a plague that is filling up prisons, destroying families, leaving children damaged and too bereft to become functioning adults, and hollowing out whole societies.

It leads to corruption and massive violence on a governmental scale. If the Synod wants to help families, it needs to discuss ways the Church can aid them in their anguished fight against drug addiction.

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6. Talk about Jesus, not one another. The priesthood is not supposed to be all about the priests. From the sex abuse scandal to some of the things I’m hearing from this Synod, the trouble stems, not from a lack of leadership, but a lack of followership.

Many of our religious leaders seem to think that their world is the whole world and that they have no need for the humble reliance on Christ that is the mark of true Christians the world over. My hope for this Synod is that its participants will follow Christ, and not each other. My number one wish is that our religious leadership would preach Christ. If they would do that, everything else would follow.

Second Dallas Nurse Diagnosed with Ebola had Just Completed Cross Country Flight

A second Dallas nurse has been diagnosed with Ebola. She had traveled on a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas a few hours before she became ill.

She is the second person to contract the disease after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the Ebola.

I’m not sure how emergency room personnel, who make the first diagnosis, are going to protect themselves from potential exposure to Ebola. It may lead to masks and gloves all around, even when dealing with removing splinters and from a toddler’s toe.

From ABC News:

A second Texas nurse who has tested positive for Ebola was on a commercial jetliner from Cleveland to Dallas the night before she arrived at the hospital with a fever and was later diagnosed with the deadly virus, officials said today.

The nurse was part of the team at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who took care of a Liberian man who died of Ebola. She is the second member of the hospital staff to contract the virus and a Dallas official warned today that additional cases among the hospital’s health care workers is a “very real possibility.”

“The fight against Ebola in Dallas is a two-front fight now,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, speaking at a morning press conference.

Authorities said they are now tracking 75 people following the second hospital worker’s diagnosis. The unidentified health care worker reported a fever Tuesday and was isolated at the hospital, authorities said.

The preliminary Ebola test was run late Tuesday at the state public health laboratory in Austin, and results were received at about midnight, authorities said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun confirmation testing.

The woman was put into isolation within 90 minutes, and she is dealing with her diagnosis “with grit and grace,” Jenkins said.

Authorities said this may not be the last case to be found among the hospital’s staff.

“We are preparing contingencies for more and that is a very real possibility,” Jenkins said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also suggested additional people may get sick.

“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” the mayor said.

Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources defended practices at the hospital, which has faced criticism amid the Ebola diagnoses.

“It’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in our treatment of Duncan. Let’s be clear we’re a hospital that serves this community extremely well,” Varga said at the press conference.

“We’re the first to diagnose and treat this insidious disease that has attacked two of our own.”

City workers went to the neighborhood of the second patient early this morning to knock on doors to alert people to the news and to be alert to possible symptoms. They handed out flyers and later began robo calls to the area, Varga said.

Rawlings said the community remains vigilant.

If You’re a Christian and They Know it, Hire Your Lawyer

On the one hand, we have the Freedom From Religion boors, sending off lawyer letters like a Gatling gun with the purpose of intimidating Christians — their target always seems to be Christians — into silence about their faith in public places. And on the other hand, we have that same FFRF, suing the federal government to force the IRS to “monitor” pastors for possible violations of the law in their sermons.

Enter Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, stage left.

Mayor Parker is embroiled in a fight with Houston residents over an ordinance the city council passed last spring. The ordinance is reputed to provide rather extensive legal “protection” to homosexuals and transgendereds.

That’s all well and good. Mayor Parker is Houston’s first lesbian mayor. Houstonians evidently like the job she’s done up until now. She was re-elected to her third and final term a year ago. Maybe she wanted to do something splendiferous for her mayoral swan song, and this new ordinance is it.

Politicians on the way out can become extraordinarily touchy about their “legacy.” I would guess that the first lesbian mayor of a large city would find no better legacy for herself than passing a land-mark gay rights act.

The trouble is political life is never a gimme. It’s always rough and tumble and, if you’re in office, you have to accept that. From the moment you report to work, the fight is on. Nothing ever comes easy in governing a democracy. Which is part of why it’s the best form of government there is; because elected officials do not get their way by proclamation. They’ve got to earn their victories in the political trenches of getting the votes and then defending the decisions to the pubic.

It appears that Mayor Parker forgot all that when she passed her legacy ordinance. She evidently shut down her ordinary thinking capacities where this ordinance was concerned and went into full-blown this-is-my-precious-legacy mode. I say that because it appears that she thought she could pass what was bound to be a controversial ordinance and there would be no flashback. How a three-term mayor could be so silly, I do not know.

So far, all this falls into the category of a seasoned mayor tossing everything she should have learned about governance aside and deciding to go all simple-minded and addle-pated over her pet mayoral victory. It looks for all the world like Mayor Parker entered the political arena over this ordinance — which was unavoidably going to draw serious push back — like a private citizen holding a dinner party in her own home. If the guests displeased her, she reserved the right to ask them to leave.

Here’s how it played out.

Opponents of the ordinance responded to its passage with a referendum petition to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow the citizens of Houston to vote on it. The petition garnered 50,000 signatures, which is a lot more than the needed 17,269. However the city threw it out, based on claims that it was “invalid.”

The petition’s backers responded to this with plans to take the city to court. 

The city responded to that with subpoenas, demanding to see the all sermons and speeches given by pastors who had opposed the ordinance that mention Mayor anise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity.

Now, the pastors’ attorneys are seeking to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that, among other things, they request material relating to activities protected by the First Amendment.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” their attorney, Christina Holcomb said.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” the city’s spokesperson responded.

There is a problem here that goes a lot deeper than one mayor who’s let her office go to her head. Regardless of the overweening ego delusions elected officials held in the past, no elected official before, say, 2005, would have even considered stepping all over the First Amendment and America’s most cherished freedoms to criticize our government like this.

Now, it’s become a palm-slapping, fist-bumping coup in certain circles to use the law to harass and bully Christians. The underlying problem here is the permission that Christian bashers give themselves to use the law to harass, badger, bully and deliberately try to limit the freedoms of American citizens who happen to be Christian.

Mayor Parker is mis-using her powers big-time on this. She’s also directly violating the Constitutional right of all American citizens to criticize their elected officials and public policy in public forums.

Are these subpoenas an attempt to use governmental power to quash pubic debate about this ordinance?

Or course they are.

Has Mayor Parker abandoned her responsibilities as Houston’s chief governing officer to play gay rights advocate? Perhaps. She certainly appears to have lost every last bit of her political and governing smarts over this issue. She has embroiled the city in a needless lawsuit by refusing to allow citizens the use of their rightful tool, the referendum. She followed that with a ham-handed attempt to silence her critics through government intimidation in the form of outrageous subpoenas.

She has also created another avenue to use government power to attack Christians. Now that the subpoena box has been opened, you can bet that other goodies are going to come out of it.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” the pastors’ attorney tells us. I would go a step further and say that political and social commentary are one of America’s greatest gifts to the world. Our forefathers created a government that ran right in the face of those that had preceded it. They grew up in a world where people could be hanged for criticizing the king or his policies, and they turned that on its head.

Americans have the right to criticize their government, their elected officials and public policy pretty much however they wish. There are a few caveats concerning elected officials, but the limits to redress through the courts for slander are so extreme that it’s close to impossible to do it. So far as I know, it is truly impossible to slander a policy or an idea.

The mayor of Houston, whatever her overwrought feelings about a particular ordinance, does not have the right to use her office to intimidate and bully her critics into silence. She can not, as Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have done, sit in a pew of the church of offending pastors and yell out “By God sir, I will not have this!”

Or rather, I suppose she could do that, but if she did, the pastor would be more likely to fall down laughing than to shake and shiver with fear.

We fought a whole war over this stuff.

And we won.

Now, American Christians are having to fight that war again, this time in the courts. To paraphrase the children’s song, If you’re Christian and they know it, hire your lawyer. You’re probably going to need one.

 

WHO: Ebola Cases Could Reach 20,000 by Nov, Killing 70% of Victims

Ebola is the disease that won’t be contained.

Today, the World Health Organizatin issue its more dire prediction so far. Unless huge improvements in control measures, the number of victims could reach 20,000 by November. WHO also revised the mortality rate, saying that 70% of those who contracted the disease will die from it. This is an increase from the previous estimate of a 50% mortality rate.

The paper, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine also says that its possible that Ebola may become “endemic among the human population of West Africa.

Ebola is pared by close contact with an infected person or with their bodily fluids. It is much easier to catch the flu from another person than Ebola.

The usual first symptoms are fever and fatigue. The disease has a incubation period of 11 days and people are not infectious until they begin to have symptoms.

From NBC News:

World Health Organization researchers issued a dire new forecast for the Ebola epidemic Tuesday, one that sees 20,000 cases by November, much sooner than previous estimates. And 70 percent of patients are dying.

That’s a big increase over the previous estimates of a 50 percent fatality rate.

“These data indicate that without drastic improvements in control measures, the numbers of cases of and deaths from Ebola virus disease are expected to continue increasing from hundreds to thousands per week in the coming months,” the WHO Ebola Response Team, led by Dr. Christopher Dye, wrote in a report rushed into print by the New England Journal of Medicine.

This projection includes nearly 10,000 people in Liberia alone. WHO said earlier Monday that more than 5,800 people had been infected with Ebola and more than 2,800 had died of it since the virus first broke out in Guinea in December.

And it’s likely far worse, especially in Liberia, WHO says. “The true number of deaths will likely never be known, as bodies in the notoriously poor, filthy and overcrowded West Point slum, in the capital, Monrovia, have simply been thrown into the two nearby rivers,” WHO said in a separate statement.

Freedom from Religion Foundation Hits Oklahoma City School

 

 

Kathy Schiffer brought this to my attention.

Then I discovered that the Blaze had also covered it.

It seems that the Freedom from Religion Foundation is not only opposed to praying in schools, it also opposes pictures of praying.

In one of their usual trivial harrassments of ordinary people going about their lives, the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent one of their lawyer letters to an Oklahoma City school, demanding they remove a poster of two toddlers with hands clasped in what appears to be prayer. According to the Blaze, no one filed a complaint with the school district. However the FFRF claims that a parent contacted them.

The FFRF is just doing its regular thing of harassing, intimidating and badgering people in the name of atheism. The local ACLU, headed by my former colleague, Ryan Kiesel, is joining the party. Former Representative Kiesel says he’s doing this to “protect” the students of “other faiths and no faith.” Since no particular faith is specified in the poster, I would assume that the students are being protected from the sight of toddlers with what appear to be praying hands.

The poster has hung in Riverwind School for about 18 years. The FFRF sent their lawyer letter a year ago. The school, which is in Putnam City School District, has no plans to remove the poster.

For my part, I’m bored with the boorishness of these Freedom from Relgion Foundation theatrics. It must be terrible to be them, roaming around the country, looking for something to be outraged about so that they can threaten and bully other people.

Their claims of how they are defending the Constitution stink with self-righteous hypocrisy. If they want to defend the Constitution, they should be working against the HHS Mandate and its intrusion into First Amendment rights. If they’re concerned about education, they might take a look at our two-tier public education system with good schools for the rich and lousy schools for the inner city. That seems like a possible Constitutional issue to me.

Frankly, I’m bored with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They’re wasting their lives on hate. I don’t feel like letting them waste part of my life by being angry with them.

Synod on the Family: Were the Episcopalians Right All Along?

The Vatican is already trying to calm things down.

The Synod issued a summary document of the speeches and debate which have taken place in the Synod so far. They called it the Relatio post disceptationem, which probably added to the confusion. If they had just titled it the Official Minutes of the Synod Thus Far, it would have gone a long way toward keeping reactions from going off like bullets in a campfire.

But they didn’t. They called it the Relatio post disceptationem, and now the word is out that the Synod has decided that the Episcopalians were right all along; marriage is a civil contract and entirely flexible and, oh yes, it’s not even all that necessary to sexual liaisons.

Seeing the mess they’d made, the Vatican issued a “caution” or whatever they call it saying:

Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.
The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning.

What the Vatican is trying to communicate in that painfully indirect paragraph is that the document the Vatican issued yesterday is NOT a final draft. In fact, it’s not a draft at all.

It’s just a summary of the speeches that the cardinals made during the first week of discussion. The Vatican had to issue this comment today because the relatio (my shorthand for the document) which is a ramble, summarizing a lot of speechifying, has lit a lot of fires.

Releasing it was a bit like emptying a feather pillow in front of a fan. Since it was just a summary of the speeches made by Synod participants after the Pope told them to be unafraid to say whatever they thought, and since, at least based on how they sound in their statements, the cardinals are almost as polarized in how they view the Gospels as our larger culture, it has something in it to scratch everbody’s itch, but is flat-out scandalous to the average pew-sitting Catholic.

Which is why it should have been published with a warning label — at the top, in big, bold letters — saying that it was not Church teaching but just, basically, minutes of the meeting.

The reason this matters is that the Synod is treading dangerous ground. It is trying to move bricks in the wall that forms the Church’s foundation: The sacraments.

The relatio is not Church teaching, but it’s being taken as Church teaching. Even worse, nobody’s going to read it. 

The media and those with agendas are the only ones who will read this thing all the way through, and they are looking for things they can pull out to advance their own ideas. With a document like the Relatio, that’s short work.

It is not a problem for anyone who wants to find it to pull out verbiage that could be used to convince people that the Synod has decided to continue proclaiming Holy Matrimony as a sacrament between one man and one woman, but to only do it in speech-making and sermonizing. It’s easy to assert from the relatio that the Synod actually sees Holy Matrimony as an arcane, “official” ideal and not something to actually live.

In the meantime, it would be equally easy to produce verbiage supporting the idea that the Synod is moving toward allowing divorce-remarriage, divorce-remarriage, divorce-remarriage, shacking up and sleeping around, with an inevitable gay marriage/polygamy chaser as its actual practice. In other words, the Episcopalians were right all along, but the Synod won’t admit it. They just plan to live it.

That, and not the nuances, are what the larger culture is going to teach from the relatio.

Meeting minutes are not official documents. I’ve been in a lot of meetings. The most productive of them included discussions that wouldn’t play well in the press. That’s the way of human nature. People think best when they’re free to be foolish and say stupid things.

I’m going to link to the relatio here. Read if it you want. But don’t mistake it for doctrine.

Let’s give the Synod time to finish and see what it produces.

Dueling Bishops: The Synod in Their Own Words

I’ve put together a set of comments from the various cardinals about the on-going Synod of the Family. I think it’s best right now to let them speak in their own words, rather than try to interpret what they mean.

One thing that seems apparent is that there is a wide gap between the Cardinals of the developing world and those from the wealthier nations.

 

Cardinal Burke

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German Bishops

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Cardinal Napier on Polygamy

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Cardinal Tagle Poor Families Need Synod’s Help

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Cardinal Wuerl on Who May Receive Communion?

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Cardinal Nichols on Marriage and Fidelity

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Why I’m Not Writing About the Synod

 

I’m haven’t been writing about the Synod on the Family because I don’t have a clue what’s really happening.

The quotes from various bishops are confusing, to say the least. They’re also disturbing.

That’s what happens when the press gets their hands on public statements. It isn’t usually a deliberate thing on their part. It’s more a function of what occurs during a game of gossip.

Did you ever play gossip?

The way we did it when I was a Brownie Scout, is that we’d all sit in a circle and the Scout leader (who was usually my mama) would whisper something to the first girl, who would then whisper it to the next. By the time it got all the way around the circle, a simple statement like “the sky is blue” would have become “Godzilla is attacking at dawn.”

Scout leaders used the game to teach little girls the inaccuracy of gossip. As I often tell people, “If you don’t believe the garbage that’s said about me, I’ll return the favor and not believe the garbage I hear being said about you.”

Many of the quotes coming out of this Synod are not only enough to chill a faithful Catholic to the bone, they are flat-out stupid. I’ve read a couple of them and thought, either this is taken totally out of context and probably misquoted a bit on top of that, or this bishop is an idiot.

I decided, not in the name of charity, but in the name of common sense, to take all these quotes as background noise and wait and see what the Synod actually says and does in an official capacity. Even if all our worst fears are realized and the Church does decide to rescind marriage as a sacrament and allow what it has always taught us is sacrilege and begin performing gay marriages and basically drop kick Jesus Christ off the altar, even if every bit of that turns out to be rock-hard true, there is no percentage in wringing our hands over it now.

Besides, how likely is that?

It looks to me like various factions among the bishops and cardinals are trying to lobby the public through the press to exert public pressure on other bishops and cardinals in other factions to go along with what they want. Ergo, we have been treated to blabbermouth bishops and cardinals, (mostly cardinals, from what I’ve seen) running to the press to spill their stuff.

What does this mean in the bigger picture?

All I can say for sure is that it appears that some of the cardinals and bishops have a problem with their big mouths. It also appears that they have the mistaken notion that they can control a story once it’s out there.

I wish they’d asked me about this first. I could have told them that once you say something in a public forum, it’s like launching a handful of helium balloons. Where it goes, or if it even flies at all, is entirely out of your control. You can’t call it back. You can’t unsay it. And you can’t dictate how it will be presented or how people will react to it.

What these bishops and cardinals have accomplished with their talk is scaring the tom fool out of faithful Catholics who are really trying to follow Church teaching. They’ve also got a whole lot of people who have already demonstrated that they don’t care at all about Church teaching by the way they live their lives, slavering at the post, ready to take the bit between their teeth and run with whatever the final outcome is, claiming that it validates their sinfulness.

Just for the record, let me say the obvious. Even if the bishops rescind the law of gravity, I would not recommend jumping off the side of the Grand Canyon. That goes double for things like sleeping around and engaging in serial marriages with this person and the next person.

Jesus made marriage a sacrement. He also put the kibosh on divorce.

If the bishops try to undo what Jesus said, if they try to limit the sacrament of marriage and make it conditional, they will also pretty well do away with their own authority. The Catholic Church is built on the sacraments. If marriage is conditional, then so is Holy Orders, which means that bishops who step all over marriage as a sacrament are also setting up the end of their own authority.

Things roll down hill from the marriage-is-conditional theory of sacramentality pretty quickly, and the Church itself comes unraveled in the process.

So, are the bishops going to do all the things that their quirky statements which are coming to us through the press filter seem to say?

My thought is don’t hold your breath.

If the Eucharist can be had by cultural force, and the sacraments can be watered down to fit the times; then what is the Church?

How likely is it that the bishops are going to do such a thing?

This Synod is not going to overturn 2,000 years of Christian teaching. I think we can trust that. However, it may very well develop ideas for new ways to reach out to those who falter in following those teachings. After all, the business of the Church is bringing people to Jesus, not casting them into hell.

That’s why I’m not writing about the Synod. Because all I know about it is coming from one-sentence quotes coming from bishops and cardinals who are obviously using the press to hit at one another. That, and the garbled commentary that the Synod itself releases.

There appear to be factions within the bishops and cardinals, and they appear to be playing to the press.

Things said to the press never come back around sounding even vaguely like what the speaker thought they said in the first place. It’s like playing that children’s game of gossip in real time and to a wide audience.

My advice, brothers and sisters, is go to mass this weekend. Pray a Rosary for the Synod. And live your lives.

As to what the bishops are really intending, we’ll find out soon enough.

Ebola: The 2014 Outbreak Explained

 

This video is a couple of weeks behind the curve, but it still contains information that we need to know.

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The Crazy People File

 

Note: I published this post a few years’ back. It seemed apt to republish it today. 

 

“Crazy People”

The folder with this name sits on my hard drive.

Whenever I get an email that merits the title, I drag it into the “Crazy People” file. After 16 years in public office, the file has swollen to gigs of nutty emails that most likely would embarrass their senders if they read them today.

I have a theory that people don’t know how they sound in the emails they send to elected officials. They forget that other people are on the opposite end of these nasty diatribes; that they read them, react to them and file them away.

Several years ago, members of the Oklahoma House were spending what seemed like an endless day on the House floor. We were hearing one bill after another. Since it was close to the end of session, we’d voted on all these bills many times before; in committee, in the full House the first time, then again in the full House when they came back from the Senate, and now, in the full House again after they came out of conference committee.

We spend a lot of time together in the House of Representatives, kind of like people locked on a ship that’s adrift at sea. We’d heard each other’s speeches on these bills until we could all recite them together.

On that day, we were tired, over-stimulated and stressed; all combined with an almost numbing boredom. It gets like that late in every legislative session.

Mainly due to the boredom, we started talking about the emails we get. Now there are certain people who evidently get up every morning and fire off a nasty email to all the members of the legislature before breakfast, kind of like some people go to daily mass and others run on their treadmill. Their names and the names they call us become familiar to all of us. We started trying to figure out whose district these emailers were from.

Finally, I emailed the one who we all felt was the most flamboyant and asked what part of the state he lived in. Nobody answers these kinds of emails, and I think it was the first time any of us had clicked “reply” on one of his. The person responded and asked why I wanted to know. I said that we’d been talking about him and were wondering whose district he lived in.

If it’s possible to sound abashed in an email, this person did. I really don’t think he realized that people read the stuff he was sending. In all the years since, he has never sent another blanket email to the Oklahoma House.

Of course, this person, hateful and goofy-sounding as his emails were, did not rise to the level that gets someone into the “Crazy People” file. It takes a special kind of venom, and usually a couple of threats, to land there.

The point I’m making is if you’re writing your legislator in support of Christian values, remember that someone will read what you send. Do your best to sound like a follower of Christ and not an escapee from a wingnut radio talk show. You can make your point just as well without calling people names or attacking their intelligence, beliefs, children, parentage or appearance.

Remember: When you say your are a Christian, other people judge Christ by you. Don’t be a negative witness for Christ just because you think it’s clever and witty to degrade other people with your speech. Civility will not only make you a better witness for Christ, it will make you more persuasive about the positions you are advocating.

It can also keep you out of the “Crazy People” file.

Stop Inflicting Your Inner Crazy on Other People

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta published a post concerning a couple of ominous notes received by an atheist leader at an “atheist church.” Public Catholic reader Lark brought this to my attention and asked me to comment on it.

I have zero problems saying that the nutso practice of putting threatening letters in people’s mailboxes is not only a federal crime, it is wrong.

There’s a lot I don’t know about this note-in-the-mailbox scenario. According to Mr Mehta’s post, the recipients of these missives are leaders in a local Louisiana “atheist church.” Leaving aside the whole question of “atheist church,” which, to be honest, sounds more like a community gathering than a church, let’s take up the two notes.

So far as I can tell from Mr Mehta’s post, these notes were placed anonymously in the family’s mailbox. The photos of the notes show them to be typewritten. I can see how someone who hasn’t experienced this before might find them threatening. Evidently, the family in question is taking them very seriously indeed. Most of the family has been moved “somewhere safe.”

Speaking as someone who has been a public figure for a long, long time, I can tell you that morons say a lot of moronic things, and that a good number of those moronic things are threatening.

Looking at the photos of these notes, I can make all sorts of conjectures about where they came from, ranging from teens playing a joke to a seriously disturbed nut, to — and this is reaching, but it could be true — a small group of militia types. That’s how vague my understanding of this is.

Frankly, I think our society gives people far too much leeway for inflicting their inner crazy on the people around them. I have a file on my hard drive, called the Crazy People file, where I put the threats and insults I got from the public (never from the district I represented) during my tenure as a legislator.

I’ve had people follow me around the state, showing up at every speaking engagement to heckle me. I’ve had my house broken into and my political records riffled through. Some idiot even stole my garbage right out of the can. I’ve had my tires slashed — repeatedly — and my brake lines cut. They even killed my dog.

My delete file here at Patheos gets steady incoming from the moron side of every issue we discuss. Most of these are just snipes and barbs and nutty diatribes. I get batches of the same insult that come in waves, which are obviously the result of a post by another blogger out there somewhere, flogging me for my opinions. After public office, this is pretty tame stuff. Blogging doesn’t seem to raise the same level of hate as political office.

I mention all this because I think we need a bit of perspective in the matter of these two notes. I don’t know if the notes were the only thing that happened, or if there have been other things, as well. Assuming that the notes are the whole deal, I repeat: They were wrong. Placing them in a mailbox is a federal crime.

If someone who claims to be following Christ put them there, they’ve got their heads on backwards. Hatred and attacking other people is sinful. It can keep you from going to heaven.

I think the solution to this situation is for both sides to try a dose of live and let live. Atheists have every right to think as they think and believe (or disbelieve) as they believe. However, that does not include the practice of continuously attacking, insulting and badgering other people. It’s wrong for everybody, including atheists, to behave this way.

Hopefully, these notes were a prank of some sort. If they were not, I hope that the perpetrators are found and punished.

Public life has good things about it, not the least of which being the many wonderful people you meet.

But the morons are out there.

And they say and do moronic things.

My advice to everyone, whether they are atheist or people of faith or just done care, is to stop inflicting your inner crazy on other people.

Don’t give yourself permission to be a jerk.

Book Review: Trusting God with St Therese

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You can buy a copy of Trusting God with St Therese here

 

Does news of ISIS, the Ebola virus and the Synod on the Family fill you with anxiety?

Are you downcast and disheartened by the unraveling of our society and its descent into amoral self-destruction?

Maybe your problems are closer to home.

Do you worry about your children’s friends? Are you caring for a sick child or an elderly relative? Does it seem that you’ll never make enough money to get ahead? Do you fear for your job? Are you faced with a scary health problem?

Is life beating you to the ground on a daily basis?

Trusting God with St Therese is for you.

Connie Rossini does a good job of teaching St Therese’ “little way” in a comprehensible manner that makes it easy to apply to our daily lives. Since reading the book, I’ve been reminding myself to say “Jesus I trust you,” whenever I consider the problems that face me. It helps me a great deal to remind myself that I am not in this life alone. I have a companion who will never desert me, and who, ultimately, has already claimed the victory over all that assails me.

St Therese practiced a life of sanctity based on living each day for Him and through Him. She did not focus on being sinless, but on trusting God for her salvation. She did not attempt great deeds, but entrusted her every action to Him on a daily, and even momentary, basis.

It’s so simple, really. When my mother interrupts me for the 50th (I’m not exaggerating when I say 50; over the course of a day it’s accurate) to ask me something she’s already asked me 49 times and I snap at her, What do you want? St Therese reminds me to turn to God and ask Him for a kiss, or a bit of comfort rather than falling into guilt and despair.

She teaches us to view God as a loving parent, which, for me, is a good analogy. In that way, my own imperfect Daddy is a good model for God. I understand unconditional love because I had it all my life from my Daddy and from that elderly Mama I now care for.

St Therese teaches God as that same sort of loving parent, only writ eternal and almighty.

Think about it for a moment. Is there anything you can do, any accomplishment you can accomplish, that will make God love you? Conversely, is there anything you can do that will make Him stop loving you?

Too often, people come to the conclusion that the answer to the last question is yes. Yes, you can make God stop loving you.

But that simply is not true. Hard as it is to fathom, God loves the murderers of ISIS as much as He loves you and me. They have rejected Him, and sadly, they’ve done it in His name. They are running away from Him and from salvation as hard as they can, and they are laying waste whole areas of the world in the process. They have made themselves the servants and the disciples of satan.

But that does not cancel out God’s love for them. It does not change His willingness to forgive them and change them from sons of darkness to children of Light. The message of the Cross is that no matter what we’ve done, Jesus has paid the eternal price for it. All we need to do is say “yes” to His offer of forgiveness and newness of life.

God’s love lets us roam free, even of Him. We can do our worst. He will still love us.

And if we turn back to Him, the rejoicing in heaven will fill us with love and peace enough to change our souls.

For those of us who do not commit the ghastly barbarisms of ISIS and their fellow mass murderers, this may seem like an odd example. After all, what does me, speaking tartly to my Mama when she interrupts me repeatedly to ask me what day it is or where she put her cane, have to do with the destroyers of life and civilization?

Nothing. And everything.

God’s love for them is the same as His love for me. It is, in both cases, unconditional.

Which is why St Therese and her little way are true. The Bible tells us that God remembers our frame, He knows that we are dust, which is a poetic way of saying that He knows our weaknesses, our tiredness, our sadness; our anxiety and our fears.

He knows us. All the way through. And He loves us with an everlasting love.

We can go to Him like disobedient children because that is exactly what we are.

Connie Rossini has written a fine book, explaining how to live the Little Way in our daily lives. I recommend it.


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